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During last week’s CES, I had a chance to sit down with Motorola executives Steve Horowitz (SVP software engineering) and William Moss (director of corporate communications) to talk the year that was, what they took away from all that happened in 2013, their thoughts on wearables, and where we are headed in 2014. Our chat was a brief 30 minutes, but we managed to cruise through all sorts of topics including how they managed to update the Moto X to Kit Kat in under three weeks.

I think you’ll notice a theme quickly emerging throughout that most of you will all be fans of:  Motorola wants to do more of the same, which means continuing to provide value and choice with a stock Android experience anchoring it all. While they wouldn’t give up their roadmap for 2014 (don’t worry I tried to get it), I think it’s safe to assume that we’ll see MotoMaker stick around, new choices of materials will be a part of the scheme, new features will be added onto their suite of Touchless Control and Active Display, and prices will remain as good as ever.

Let’s run through it. (Sorry for the delay, but man, do I have new love for professional transcribers.)

Question:  As far as 2013 went, do you have a favorite moment whether it be Moto X or something else?

Horowitz:  It’s been very interesting to see people start to understand the value in doing less and not focusing on the spec wars and escalations of bigger screens, how many cores, etc. We really are pleased to have seen a shift – by no means are we done – and a momentum that’s really picked up with the products we’ve launched. X and G, not only do they have their legs under them, but we’re really pleased with how things are doing, Moto G in particular. It’s hitting a price point for performance that is really resonating with consumers. Everybody learns, so we’ve learned a lot, but we’ve learned that our core tenants of choice, value, and a nice pure, simple experience, really are starting to win over consumers. We’re very happy with that.

Question:  Goal going forward with core experience, to add on top of Touchless Control and Active Display?

Horowitz:  That’s exactly right. We started off a year ago and started from scratch. We’ve got years of legacy built up in our codebase – we’re getting rid of all. We’re literally going to start with a fresh drop of Android, and we’re going to simply add in the minimal things we need to be carrier, legally, and geographically compliant, which is a small set of things if you really boil it down, and then we’re going to add experiences that are complementary of Android, not in competition with Android.

I know the [Android] team very well, I was an engineer there for 3 years when we first built it. I know the talent. I’ve always been a believer in a pure Android experience and the basics. I don’t think anyone’s ever sold more phones because their calendar had a better search box than the stock calendar or their launcher was just a little bit better. Instead of focusing on differentiating and competing with Android, we focused on things that are complementary to it and getting out of the way. That’s been one of these kind of virtuous circle things, that by taking that fresh approach with our code base we’ve been able to execute on upgrades at a pace I think nobody really expected. In addition to that, we’ve also done things with our experiences to make them market upgradable, Play store upgradable. And again, all these things are enablers for us to move really, really quickly.

Moss:  You were asking for single moments for us from the past year, and I think being the first OEM to come out with a Kit Kat device was a huge moment for us. As you may recall, our reputation, say a year, year and a half, two years ago – was such a turn-around in how we were able to approach the software experience and the upgrade experience. Members of the public feel differently about that, but there is definitely a core for whom that is super important and we had heard from a lot.

Question:  On that note, when you guys announced that Kit Kat was rolling out for the Moto X, it was under 3 weeks (19 days to be exact according to Horowitz), how did you guys do it?

Horowitz:  There really are two fundamental things that enabled us to do that. When I say “two things,” I mean two categories. One is this core Android experience that is just fundamentally more pure and less modified than anything we have ever done. And I would argue anything that any other OEM has ever done. So we started with a true pure Android approach. That is a facilitator, and that coupled with challenging the team to think really hard about making as few modifications as we possibly can enabled us. We then had to go to our partners – because it’s not something we can do on our own – we had to work with Qualcomm and Verizon, AT&T and Sprint and say, “Guys, let’s take a different approach to this. Let’s not treat this as business as usual where cycles happens in the following way with the following deadlines. Let’s rethink this from scratch.” And so they were great partners for us in doing that. As you said, it did require these two fundamentally different things to happen. But we proved to our partners as well as to consumers that it can be done. And I think we set a new bar and can be even better.

Question:  Moto X specifically – wood or natural backs – initially when you first announced them there were other materials. Still plans to do those?

Horowitz:  Yeah, I think you’ll see a lot of additional things in the domain of consumer choice, and new materials, and things like that in Moto X. I think one of the things you’ll see that’s consistent in this area is we also want to be careful and not try to do things that will lower the quality bar. We want to make sure we do fewer things really well. We started off with Bamboo so we could make sure – even then, Bamboo is technically not even a wood, as I learned myself – but each material has its own set of challenges both in terms of how you ensure the quality level, the manufacturing, the drop testing, the rigidity, the antenna. There are a lot of different factors. And then there is also the sourcing. We also want to make sure we’re responsible on the sourcing and making sure it’s sustainable and things like that. As we’ve learned – because again these are all learning processes for us – we have wanted to just do this carefully. But you’ll definitely see some other materials come into play.

Question:  MotoMaker – here to stay?

Moss:  Rolling it out from – you know it started on AT&T – to all the other carriers was a very big step for us in the last couple of months. That really helped to drive adoption of broad customization to a much bigger audience and we were really glad to be able to roll it out more. It’s going to be a big priority.

Horowitz:  The way I would characterize it is I would say it’s part our bigger story of consumer choice and options. We really expanded that beyond just carriers. Our direct to consumer channels and some of the sales we’ve had for some of the unlocked devices over the holidays were incredibly successful for us. Even if you look at Moto G – which isn’t a MotoMaker product – has choice. You can still have backs. It is arguably even more customizable than X because, my daughter can have 3 different backs – what’s her outfit look like today – “well I can use my blue back or my purple back or my yellow back.” Consumer choice is important, so I think you’ll really see us accelerate in areas like that.

Question:  Touching on price – Moto X is now $399 – is that another focus going forward? Initially, phones launching at a reasonable price point that people can get off contract?

Horowitz:  The way I would begin characterizing that is it’s about value to consumers. Really our goal here is very aligned with Google – we want to get phones and information access to billions of people out there that don’t have it. The first thing you have to do is get devices at a price point that can reach different kinds of consumers. Really what you’ll see us is us focusing on value. And that isn’t just value in terms of cheaper or lower cost phones, it’s value at every segment. Moto X we think is a great value at that price, and you’ll continue to see more of that with us.

Question:  Project Ara – how are things coming there?

Horowitz:  Things are going well – we don’t have anything really new to announce in that domain. As you might expect it has generated a lot of talk. Even internally we were surprised at the way that that’s resonated with – obviously not the broader consumer population – but it just goes back to choice. Consumers, ultimately there is not a one size fits all, and something like a Project Ara will allow people to specify not only at order time, but even dynamically. Like, I’m going out on vacation and maybe I want to rent a super high-end camera module or maybe I need to optimize for battery, so I put 4 batteries in the various slots so I can have extra long battery life. So consumer choice not just at product conception but depending on the individual use case is incredibly possible.

Moss:  I bumped into the technical project lead for Ara yesterday in the office before I left and had a quick chat with him. They are definitely making progress – stay tuned – there will be more to come.

Then things got interesting for a moment when Moss asked me a question, basically giving me the power to tell them what they can do better. He wanted to know what it would take to get their product into my pocket as a daily driver, since I showed up to the interview with a G2 and Nexus 5 (Whoops!).

Question (from Moss):  You have a couple of different devices out here (on the table). Where do you see where we are at now? When you look at our devices and how they fit into the competitive environment – as somebody who follows Android closely – where are we good and not good? What would it take so that you are carrying our devices around as a primary device?

Me:  I basically told them to do more of the same, but that some people do still care about specs as much as the Moto X helped slow down the spec wars. I also told them that we focus a lot on cameras these days because the camera on your phone often times is all you have and it needs to be awesome. It’s the little things that make a smartphone great, since almost all smartphones are good these days. And last, I told them that the Moto X (with Bamboo) is actually my daily phone, but that I was using the G2 in its place for the extra battery life while hotspotting during CES. They joked about me being one of the few that are buying Bamboo.

We then moved casually onto Moto G. Both shared some thoughts.

Moss:  You also asked about things from the past year that had been big moments for us and I think the other thing (other than software upgrades), when we put G out and we saw the reception to it – we were optimistic about the product and we felt that there was a good strategic case for it – I think we were pleasantly surprised by how positive the reaction to it was from reviewers but also just from people who appreciated somebody putting out an affordable phone that wasn’t crappy. And you know, the response from consumers has been very good and we have been very, very happy with that. I think that was a big lesson for us – Steve talked about choice before, in terms of how we bring different kinds of choices to people and I think that formed very much our decision to do off-contract Moto Xs for $399 and give people more choices around value and around options that aren’t driven by contracts. So that was a very big deal for us.

Horowitz:  I think Moto G really shows – you talk about specs, and there obviously is as you say, is going to be core group of folks [who cares], which is fine, great, because the world needs variety – but what Moto G, we’re hoping it shows, is that by doing less, by having a more pure experience – again this is part of my Android championing part that says the product can do great things if you don’t get in its way. And that’s what we think we have done with Moto G. We have created the kind of experience that is – there are still some great Motorola experience stuff in there – but it’s a pure Android experience on a phone and it shines, given the relatively [lower] specs. I would put even the Moto G up against some of the highest end smartphones today and I would challenge you to tell the difference in many cases.

Question:  2014 – plans?

Horowitz:  Well, our product roadmap is… (jokingly)

I think thematically you’ll see just more of the same which is, we want to continue to do fewer things and do them very well. We want to offer things that are of value to consumers and increase the accessibility of the internet. We want to have more and more choice. We want to build things that we feel have resonated. We have done a lot of things over the last year, made a lot of changes, and we have been surprised in a lot of cases. Like anybody will learn with what resonates with consumers we’ll see more of – I know I’m being very generic here – nonetheless, themes of choice and value will be accelerated.

Question:  Wearables – the hot topic right now – you guys at one time did the MotoActv, so any plans to think about going back in there?

Horowitz:  As you can imagine, we’re not going to announce anything, but really it’s an area that we’re [thinking really hard about]. When we do something we want to make sure we are careful about and don’t want to just do it for the sake of doing it. Clearly it’s an area that we think is resonating with a certain subset of consumer. Even though the bands and the fitness part is a broad consumer thing, I think having a more interactive experience with wearables is still a much smaller market as people learn to integrate.

And that was our chat!

As you can tell, they weren’t about to give up dirty little secrets or specific plans for the future. However, if you were a fan of what Motorola did during 2013, I think you should be excited to know that they are going to continue to focus on using stock Android, giving us great pricing (hopefully out of the gate this time), bringing customization, looking into wearables, and updating phones faster than they did last year.

Jordan0113

The Samsung Galaxy S 4 gets a leaked Android 4.4.2 KitKat build! That and much more news is covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is the announcement that Sony Xperia M got an unofficial Android 4.4.2 KitKat Release and the Sony Xperia TX has a leaked version of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean! That’s not all that’s covered in today’s video!

Jordan talks about all the videos released on XDA Developer TV this weekend from CES 2014 including the a hands-on video with the Samsung Note PRO 12.2, Tab PROs and Galaxy Camera 2, Huawei Ascend Mate 2 4G, and the Omate TrueSmart smartwatch video by XDA Developer TV Producer TK. Check out our whole CES 2014 Playlist. Pull up a chair and check out this video.

Links to stories mentioned:

Check out Jordan’s YouTube Channel and Jordan’s Gaming YouTube Channel

In Brief: Android-related accessories announced at CES 2014 (Volume 1)

Posted by wicked January - 13 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

ces 2014

This edition features smartphone-related products and accessories announced for CES 2014.

In Brief is a compilation of notifications, rumors, and Android-related news tidbits which, for whatever reason, did not end up with a post of its own on HelloAndroid. These are things that we still feel are worth knowing, even if in a passing manner. Consider it a grab-bag of Android goodies. If you have something that you think is worth a mention on HelloAndroid, be sure to reach out to us via our contact page.

For the sake of this article, we will use excerpts from press releases.

read more

International CES 2014 Wrap Up – What Got Announced?

Posted by wicked January - 13 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

CES-Logo

The spectacle that is the International CES show has come to an end for yet another year. While there are bound to be more Android announcements at the upcoming Mobile World Congress, there are still some things announced this week to look forward to—and some things that were announced that you won’t look forward to.

Huawei

Let’s start with the unexciting. The mobile device manufacturer with a name that is not pronounced how it is spelled, Huawei, released an updated version of the Ascend Mate phone. Adding in 4G LTE connectivity, the creatively named follow-up, Ascend Mate 2 4G sits squarely in the middle of the road. With a Mediatek chip running four cores and sporting a 6.1” 720p screen, this device won’t be making the list of juggernaut phones for 2014. As a favor to you, we got hands on with the device to show you what you won’t be missing.

LG

To follow in this pattern, let’s talk about the LG G Flex. While the G Flex has been announced and available internationally for a while now, LG announced US carrier versions. As the name implies, this device is flexible and sports a curved design. This devices still disappointingly rocks Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, and is really nothing more than a bent LG G2. However, we can’t blame LG, as they were not the only ones who think the future of consumer electronics is bending your old products.

Sony

To be honest, we are a little disappointed by this company’s announcements. Sony has made some great devices, and unfortunately they are content with just making some small tweaks. This year they released a duo of phones: the Xperia Z1S and the shrunken Z1 Compact. If you shorten the name, you could call it the Z1C—though Sony won’t call it that, and you have a familiar naming convention.  Not only is the naming convention similar, so is the approach to product design: Take an existing device and tweak it. The Z1S is Sony’s attempt at capturing some of the delicious US market share. The device will only be available with T-Mobile. The Z1S is basically a Z1 made of plastic with pre-installed Sony apps, like the PlayStation app. The Z1 Compact is the Z1 only smaller. And since it also features a 720p resolution on its smaller screen, the screen density goes down. Some say the screen is better than the bigger brothers, but that’s in the eye of the beholder. If you want to know more about Sony’s devices check out our video.

Samsung

Sony is not the only one to announce a hardware “refresh.” Android device powerhouse Samsung released newer versions of the Samsung Galaxy Camera, a new big Note, and a trio of new Galaxy Tabs. The tablet updates are all Pros: The Note Pro 12.2, the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, 10.1 and 8.4. These tablets introduce a new navigation idea called Magazine UI, which reminds us of Windows Phone live tiles. There was a lot of information about these devices. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, check out our video to learn even more.

Nvidia

Perhaps the most exciting announcement of CES 2014 turned out not to be a device at all, but rather a mobile chipset. Nvidia announced their new 192-core Tegra K1 chip. This Tegra chip features the same architecture as Nvidia’s desktop GPUs, while sipping only 5 watts. This allows for some tremendous eye candy. To check out some of that eye candy, check out the video.

Smartwatches

A big thing this year was the so called wrist revolution. There were many smartwatches at this year’s event. From the LG LifeBand Touch, which is a better fitness tracking device than smartwatch, to the stylish new MetaWatch and huge Neptune Pine; smartwatches might be the next big thing. Our favorite from this year is possibly the svelte all-in-one smartwatch, the Omate TrueSmart. Check out our videos to learn more about the different type of smartwatches.

Omate TrueSmart

Neptune Pine


Video Courtesy of Twildottv

MetaWatch


Video Courtesy of Twildottv

LG LifeBand Touch


Video Courtesy of Twildottv

Conclusion

Another CES has come and gone. And while there was some news of impending mobile devices, nothing really stands out and the must have device of this year. However, don’t think that means there will be no good smartphone releases this year. You will just have to wait for them. They may be announced at Mobile World Congress or some other event. We wait eagerly for the next must have device to be announced, so save your money, and join us. Just don’t hold your breath.

Omate TrueSmart Hands On and Interview with Laurent Le Pen at CES 2014 – XDA Developer TV

Posted by wicked January - 12 - 2014 - Sunday Comments Off

omatebooth

This year at the International CES 2014, XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan saw a lot of smartwatches—everything from the Neptune Pine to the new MetaWatches, and much more. You can see all of this on his channel. However, he wasn’t the only person in attendance, nor are these the only Smartwatches on display.

XDA Developer TV Producer TK was on site, and he got his hands on the Omate TrueSmart. This watch is not just a notification panel for your smartphone. It, like the Neptune Pine, is a standalone mobile device. TK sat down and talked with the Laurent Le Pen at Omate. In the video below, you will see this interview and a demonstration of the Omate TrueSmart. Check out this video to see what the Omate looks like.

Relevant Links:

Be sure to check out more CES 2014 coverage:

Check out Jordan’s YouTube Channel and Jordan’s Gaming YouTube Channel

Huawei Ascend Mate 2 4G Hands On at CES 2014 – XDA Developer TV

Posted by wicked January - 12 - 2014 - Sunday Comments Off

huaweibooth

We will be the first to admit that when it comes to desirable phones for XDA community members, Huawei devices are not on the top of the list. Last year at CES, we took a look at the Huawei Ascend Mate, and honestly, we were not impressed. Well, at this year’s CES, Huawei announced the Ascend Mate 2 4G. Is this device any good?

XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan was on site and got his hands on the Huawei Ascend Mate 2 4G. Jordan sat down and talked with the folks at Huawei. In this video, he shares what he learned and shows off the 4G LTE enabled Huawei Ascend Mate 2. Check out this video to see what the newest Huawei looks like.

Be sure to check out more CES 2014 coverage:

Check out Jordan’s YouTube Channel and Jordan’s Gaming YouTube Channel

Samsung Note PRO 12.2, Tab PROs and Galaxy Camera 2 Hands On at CES 2014 – XDA Developer TV

Posted by wicked January - 11 - 2014 - Saturday Comments Off

samsungbooth2

Samsung was at this year’s CES in a BIG way! They have advertisements on just about any of the many shuttle buses circling the Las Vegas Convention Center, they had ads all over the Convention Center itself, and that got the location into trouble, as the ads announced their releases before the actual press event. At the press event, Samsung announced a new Samsung Note Pro 12.2, three new Galaxy Tab Pros—coming in the sizes of 8.4, 10.1, and 12.2 inches—and the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2.

XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan was on site and got a chance to get his hands on the Note PRO 12.2, the Galaxy Tab PRO trio, and the Galaxy Camera 2. Jordan sat down and talked with the folks at Samsung. In this video, he shares what he learned and shows off the Note PRO 12.2, the Galaxy Tab PRO 10.1 trio, and the Galaxy Camera 2. Check out this video to see what the newest Samsung looks like.

Be sure to check out more CES 2014 coverage:

Check out Jordan’s YouTube Channel and Jordan’s Gaming YouTube Channel

What was best of CES this year? What will you remember a year from now?

Posted by wicked January - 10 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Friday Debate aa (1)

In this edition of the Friday Debate, we look back at an eventful week filled with product announcements ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Yes, it was the week of CES and (almost) everything and everyone in the tech world revolved around Las Vegas. We’ve seen exciting new smartphone and tablets, dozens of wearables, and a variety of Android-powered gadgets and gizmos, from cooking stoves to Full HD projectors.

Now that the show is winding down, what’s your takeaway? What were the products that really impressed you? What will you remember a year from now?

Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!

Derek Scott

This is my second year attending CES and like last year I’m left bored with the lack of Android. I can’t say I’m surprised though, device manufacturers prefer to launch their heavy hitters strategically during the year at their own events.

My favorite Android related launch is the Asus ZenFone smartphone lineup. Priced at $99/$149/$199 these phones are bargains for what you get. The phones feel great in the hand, not like some cheap plastic $99 phone that you’d expect. The build quality is excellent and the switchable coloured back plates are a fun addition.

Joe Hindy

What impressed me was the increased focus in home automation. Shortly before CES LG unofficially announced HomeChat, a service that lets you text your appliances and tell them to do things. Then at CES, Samsung Smart Home was announced which lets users control various things in their house.

What impressed me was how simple and easy they made home automation look. With the LG HomeChat all you need are appliances that can accept text messages and you automatically have a smart house. Samsung took it a step further and allows you to simply control everything from your devices in your home using a central server style interface (everything is connected all the time and you just tell it what to do).

Obviously there are cons to this. I’m sure Samsung Smart Home only works with Samsung products (lame) and the LG HomeChat is bottlenecked by only being controllable by certain text input but it moves the home automation forward (and it uses Android…mostly) so I’m okay with it. Growing pains, as they say.

But some other stuff that would be cool. If Smart Home became a reality, the Galaxy Gear would actually be useful for a change. Anything Samsung can do that makes that watch desirable is impressive and if I had Smart Home in my house, I’d love to control it with a watch. So I’m excited to see what Samsung does with this down the road.

Robert Triggs

There have been lots of little unveilings at CES, but there hasn’t been a product which has blown me away. If I had to pick something, the Galaxy TabPRO seems like a very strong product. On the other hand I really don’t care for wearable accessories, so most of that went over my head. Instead I’m much more intrigued by the future direction that some companies appear to be taking.

Dual boot tablets and laptops, for instance, could definitely shake up the manufacturing market and propel Intel to the forefront of mobile processing. I expect a decent consumer appetite for these products, especially with business clients who are all probably using multiple operating systems for workstations, smartphones, etc. It also leaves the OS developers in a strange situation. Without hardware to separate their consumer bases they’ll have to find even more ways to draw punters into their own ecosystems. This could turn out to be a really big deal.

As Joe said, home automation is intriguing, and Intel’s little Edison chip could spark some new products.

Hardware continues on its steady upward path. The Snapdragon 805 and Adreno 420 look good, but we’ll have to wait to see what products they eventually end up in. The Tegra K1 tries to shake things up with some serious gaming horsepower, but is Android ready for “hardcore” gaming?

I’m neither underwhelmed nor overwhelmed. CES has been a nice start to 2014, but no doubt there’s some juicier tech to come.

Darcy LaCouvee

I’m very pleased to see that both high end smaller devices are coming to the fore, and that there is so much focus on the things that matter most: build quality, the camera, battery life, and having reasonable prices for hardware. The Moto G is just the beginning, folks. 2015 will likely herald the year of the awesome $99 Android smartphone, which is absolutely amazing for so many reasons.

4K, augmented reality, contextuality, and ever improving technological standards are what consumer electronics are all about. There’s no industry more fiercely competitive than the mobile technology industry, and it’s great to see industry leaders push things forward with beefier batteries, higher spec’ed 2560×1600 displays, and faster, more robust power sipping processors.

Manufacturers take what they do very seriously, and the pressure the competitive forces at work are putting significant pressure on industry incumbents to do better. No one company is good enough to remain at the top if it doesn’t continue to do right by consumers by offering better tech at even better prices. Companies that are doing right in this regard, to me, are ASUS, Huawei, Alcatel, and more.

All in all, CES 2014 has been a whirlwind. Mobile processors are starting to become ridiculously powerful – see NVIDIA Tegra K1, Snapdragon 805 (which promises to nearly double the memory bandwidth over the behemoth that is the Snapdragon 800), and much more. It will take some time to digest it all….

Oh, and the Xperia Z1 Compact is one heck of a device. With near legendary build quality, an absolute beast of an Soc (Snap 800) and the very excellent 20.7MP Image sensor – all packed in a tight waterproof, svelte frame are sure to impress. Too bad it won’t come to the US for at least another 6 months.

And finally, Intel has really taken the plunge towards Android. Chromebooks took 10%+ of all PC shipments in just one quarter. While Microsoft’s Windows isn’t going anywhere – the frequency and intensity of advertising that major markets (like the US, Canada, the UK) are receiving would suggest that Microsoft indeed feels threatened by the onslaught of Chromebooks, Android tablets, and other phablet and hybrid device that are going to continue to redefine the mobile experience. The whole ability to run Android and Windows 8 on a single device at $599 courtesy of ASUS is absolutely epic. I have a feeling though – that if one were to buy this device that they would use M$FT Windoze 8 about 1/10 the time.

My thoughts. Thanks for all the great contributions guys, tons more videos and great images courtesy of +Joshua Vergara are coming soon.

Take care guys!

Adam Koueider

The products that most impressed me on the Android side of things were the ZenFone lineup and the Xperia Z1 Compact.

As an owner of the Xperia Z1, and a person who hasn’t quite enjoyed the increase in screen size over the years, and I’ve been constantly searching for a smaller Android smartphone, which maintains the high-end specs of its 5+ inch flagship brethren. Enter the Z1 Compact. It maintains the high-end specs of the Xperia Z1, while improving upon the display by adding an IPS display instead of the sub-par TFT display on the Z1. Now people might complain about the 720P display, or the fact that it’ll no doubt carry a high price tag, but it’s the flagship mini Android smartphone that we’ve waited for, and therefore deserves to be priced alongside other flagship devices (although I wouldn’t say no to a little price difference).

The ZenFone lineup is also interesting in that they’ve got a solid lineup of smartphones for cheap. Following in the footsteps of the Moto G, they’re providing a great Android experience at a bargain basement price. Just a few months ago people were claiming that we’d never get a $99 Android smartphone that was actually good, and it’s amazing how quickly things change.

What do YOU think?

Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.

What impressed you the most at CES 2014?

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Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 powered by Verizon’s LTE service hits the FCC

Posted by wicked January - 10 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Samsung 2014 Note Pro

Samsung made a pretty big deal of its upcoming Galaxy TabPROs and NotePRO tablets at CES this week, but that’s no reason to ignore the LTE-powered Galaxy Note 10.1 which should be released in just a few months.

The tablet passed through the halls of the FCC this week and all signs are pointing to a release on Verizon in the US.

The LTE edition of Samsung’s hit tablet has LTE bands 4 and 13 (which are used by Verizon). The Wi-Fi version is currently being sold by Samsung for $599.99— expect the LTE variant to come with a pretty hefty price tag.

Source: FCC

Come comment on this article: Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 powered by Verizon’s LTE service hits the FCC

AT&T Says Its Sponsored Data Program Does Not Violate FCC Net Neutrality Rules

Posted by Kellex January - 10 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

As you can imagine after coming under fire shortly after being announced, AT&T is defending its new Sponsored Data program, claiming that it does not violate the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said within hours of AT&T making it official that his organization would take a deep look at the program to make sure there are no reg flags being raised. Should they see something that would raise an eyebrow or two with companies paying for customers’ data, they are prepared to intervene. AT&T issued a statement in response through Jim Ciccioni, AT&T senior EVP of External and Legislative Affairs (holy title), and has said that they are “completely confident” that they comply and that the program is meant only to benefit customers. 

Analysts and pundits across the industry are taking stances on both sides, with some even arguing that because AT&T’s program is being sold as one that saves customers money, that they may be in the clear with the FCC no matter what. Others argue that this is simply a way for AT&T to control what you can and cannot see on your phone.

Ciccioni had the following to say on the matter:

“AT&T’s sponsored data service is aimed solely at benefiting our customers,” he said. “It allows any company who wishes to pay our customers’ costs for accessing that company’s content to do so. This is purely voluntary and non-exclusive. It is an offering by that company, not by AT&T.”

I have yet to weigh in on the subject since I’ve been walking 8 miles a day at CES, but here is my take. AT&T’s Sponsored Data sounds like a terrible thing for consumers in the long run. AT&T is going to sell this as a benefit to consumers, since it’ll save them on data costs. The problem is that we don’t know the deals made by companies to get their products in your face, to be listed first, to be sped up when accessed, etc. We also don’t know how this affects the rest of the crowd that hasn’t paid to be promoted or to provide “sponsored” data. I think it’s safe to assume that anyone paying expects to be held above someone who isn’t, so the big dogs with plenty of money will continue to be in your face at all times. In other words, AT&T will essentially be able to limit whatever it is that you access on their network because it has been bought, even though they won’t admit that.

AT&T is selling this as a way to build brand loyalty, as a program that will “transform” mobile marketing, and offer advertisers “compelling solutions” to get their products in your face. Are we talking pop-up ads when I’m at the movie theater? Are we talking a slower experience when using an app from Pizza Hut over Domino’s?

The beauty of the internet is that it’s wide open. If AT&T is allowed to sell parts of it, this is only the beginning. Verizon will be right behind them. Who knows who will then be next. Your data experience will be bought. It will no longer be yours. You ready for that?

Take a watch of the video below to get an understanding at how bad this is going to be.

Via:  CNET