08/03/2014 - We're live from SXSW Interactive 2014!
We're live on the ground at South By Southwest (#SXSW for short), the annual event that brings together everyone and anyone who's invested in the interactive arts. Those artists include the minds behind emerging startups (like Twitter was here in 2007), as well as established innovators like Mark Cuban and even Grumpy Cat.
We're already off to a great start: we've seen a man get stunned by the Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept Drone and had a chance to punch virtual sharks with the Oculus Rift and Leap Motion. But, there's more to come over the next few days, including riding MarioKart in real life, separate virtual conversations with Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, Shaq and much more.
Here's how to keep up with us at SXSW, after the break.
07/03/2014 - The Engadget Podcast is live at 12PM ET!
The last five days were, in a word, bedlam. Newsweek may or may not have found the man who created Bitcoin (which subsequently led to a car chase -- yes, seriously); the head of PlayStation US, Jack Tretton, stepped down after just shy of 20 years; and Apple's finally got an official service for bridging iOS to cars: you'll never guess what it's called (okay, you probably will).
With co-hosts Terrence O'Brien and Joseph Volpe scattered across Austin for SXSW 2014, we're playing "who are these new people?" with two new staffers -- Chris Velazco and John Colucci. All that and more, live at noon ET, just below!
02/03/2014 - HTC shutting down its Watch movie service in the UK
When HTC pulled the plug on its Watch service in a number of European countries last year, it told us that it was merely streamlining its efforts, and that movie rentals and purchases would continue to be offered in places with the "highest engagement." But now it looks like the closures are spreading to those areas too, with UK users receiving an email warning them that the Watch store will close on March 31st, by which point any purchased movies must be downloaded to a device in order to remain accessible. We've asked HTC for a fuller explanation, but in the meantime we're left with the feeling that the company's in-house streaming platform may actually have been dying a slow death this whole time, due to a lack of popularity. Either that, or the name "HTC Watch" has suddenly become very inconvenient.
01/03/2014 - Mobile World Congress in 14 lines
It wasn't long before the show had ended
And we'll be back next year, our livers mended.
(image credit: Getty Images)
Now that Mobile World Congress is behind us and we've left the sunny Mediterranean to go back to our rainy or snowy abodes, it's time to reflect on the show that was. We walked through miles and miles of hallways and battled thousands of roller bags and suits to find the show's best and worst. There were Nokia phones running Android, 7-inch phones, new wearables with curved displays and even a couple connected toothbrushes. We also saw zero Windows Phones, very little Tizen and a whole lot of Firefox OS.
You'll be able to find the fruits of our labor through our Events page, but we wanted to take a quick look back at some of the biggest companies that we covered throughout the past week. How well did they do at the most important smartphone show in the world? Who was the big winner of MWC, and how good was the show itself? We've put together a report card that discusses the overall performance of each major company, so read on to get our take on the week that was.
Of all the phone manufacturers out there, Samsung seems to have a particular talent for creating an anticlimax. Our first thought when holding the Galaxy S5 was that we'd been through all this before a year ago, with the equally underwhelming launch of the GS4. Our disappointment jibed with the reactions of other bloggers around us at Mobile World Congress and with many readers' comments on our hands-on article. Folks seemed to forget about the phone after five minutes and switch their attention to Samsung's new smartwatches, especially the delectable Gear Fit.
First impressions aren't everything, however. A phone's charm can take a while to sink in, and you only have to look at the Galaxy S3 for proof of that. (I reviewed that handset many moons ago, and must admit that I never expected it to do as well as it did.) As add-ons go, the swipe-based fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor may not be astounding now that we've had the HTC One Max and fitness gadgets like the Withings Pulse, but they might prove their utility in time. Even if they don't, the GS5 has other redeeming features, such as its 1080p AMOLED display, phase-detection autofocus and basic water resistance, and it comes at just the right time to win over GS3 owners whose contracts are coming to an end.
But the anticlimax is there nonetheless, and it most likely stems from a suspicion that Samsung's vast scale and manufacturing strength isn't being fully exploited. Like Apple, but unlike most other phone makers, Samsung has control over many different technologies that go into a smartphone, including the memory, display and -- most importantly -- the processor. It showed us glimpses of this cross-discipline expertise with the global versions of the Galaxy S2 and S3, whose in-house Exynos processors brought extra speed and graphics just when Android needed it, and it did something similar with the big-screened, stylus-equipped Galaxy Note series. But the GS5, like the GS4, seems much less distinctive, and so perhaps what we should be asking is this: Why isn't Samsung able to muster its in-house resources to create something truly different? And that, at least, is a question we can begin to answer.
28/02/2014 - The Engadget Podcast is live at 12PM ET!
On this week's episode of the Engadget Podcast, Terrence sits alone in a
closet studio piled high with ancient gadgets that no one will ever use again. Palm Pres, Kins and Zunes appear to be his only friends -- Joseph and Ben have "more important things to do." But, when all hope seemed lost, two valiant riders came rushing to his rescue. Brad Molen decided to fight through his MWC hangover to join our intrepid host, and the always soothing Richard Lawler will be rounding out this week's trio as they tackle the big news of the week (and probably talk some smack about those other hosts).
It all happens at 12PM ET, right after the break.
This year, Windows Phone 8 users can watch all 67 NCAA men's basketball games too, now that the March Madness Live app has arrived (there's also a new app for Windows 8, if the browser doesn't cut it). The streaming app was previously available on iOS and Android only, and long ago, it even cost $10 a pop to download. Now the app is free, but any game aired on TNT, TBS or TruTV still requires a cable TV subscription for viewing. There is a brief preview period before users need to log in, and anyone can stream games aired on CBS.
As a bonus for cable subscribers, each semifinal round will have three different feeds that viewers can choose from: the game coverage itself and team-specific presentations. Other than these new features, the apps also got a new interface that make them more suitable for phone and tablet screens. The March Madness Live apps aren't exactly available yet, but as the name implies, they're slated to hit the App Store, Google Play and Windows Marketplaces sometime this March.
27/02/2014 - Mobile World Congress 2014: Oppo Making a Big Splash
It's been a long time coming, but Skype's revealed that folks can finally sign up for service using a Microsoft account. Skype believes this feature is perfect for users who perhaps want the least amount of logins possible, and it also points to Microsoft's two-step verification as a benefit for having such an account. Meanwhile, the Windows Phone app has been updated with a number of security improvements, plus an indicator which lets you know when the person on the other side is typing. As part of the integration with its parent company, Skype will now require a Microsoft account (like the one used to set up your WP device) when registering for a new account through the application. This new version is only available for Windows Phone 8, however -- as you might recall, support for the app on earlier versions of the OS was cut off months ago.
Via: The Next Web
26/02/2014 - Twitter and Vine: coming soon to a theater near you
Silence is golden, reads your local theater's pre-film PSA: please turn off your mobile device. It's a courtesy to other moviegoers, of course, but a deal between Twitter and theater advertising firm National CineMedia could tweak this gold standard. According to Variety, the pair are working on a one-minute weekly pre-roll show that culls movie-focused content from Twitter and Vine, featuring a stream of hashtagged tweets from viewers. The initiative is set to launch this summer, giving viewers what NCM reps are calling "an original look inside the world of movies." It's no marquee billing, but if you're dying to put yourself up on the silver screen, you'll soon have an official, easy route. Seriously though, turn your phone off. The movie's starting.
T-Mobile's efforts to transition customers from MetroPCS' aging CDMA network to its own GSM and LTE frequencies is going quite swimmingly. The company has been bragging that it's well ahead of schedule, and in some markets it's already begun repurposing the smaller carrier's spectrum to deliver faster Wideband LTE connections. Things are going so well, in fact, that it will begin shutting down the slower MetroPCS network this year, instead of waiting until 2015. The first three cities on the chopping block will be Boston, Philadelphia and Las Vegas. Though, considering its accelerated transition we wouldn't be surprised to see others join the list before the end of the year. Around 40 percent of MetroPCS users have already switched to phones that will work on T-Mobile's network, and the carrier plans to offer more aggressive upgrade options to push more customers over. Those that have yet to upgrade won't suffer a complete disruption of service, however, thanks to roaming agreements. The next step, of course, will be "refarming" that newly cleared spectrum to deliver even faster wireless speeds.
[Image credit: Jim Carroll, Flickr]
25/02/2014 - Motorola: 'We're working on (another) a watch too'
Well, well well. Guess who's back in the watch game? Motorola. Of course, it already did the watch thing, but Rick Osterloh, SVP of product at the firm, has just confirmed that the company is working on another smart watch, and it will be coming in the next few months. At a press conference at MWC, Osterloh commented that the problem with current watches is that no one wants to wear them (hear that Samsung?), and it's a problem they are tackling head on. It also might not just be another straight up sports watch this time, with Osterloh asserting that "it'll solve some real user problems." Good looks and brains? Surely not.
25/02/2014 - Motorola confirms Moto Maker service coming to Europe in Q2, starting in the UK and Germany
We've seen and heard plenty from most of the main players here at MWC, but one company has remained eerily quiet, until now. Motorola's situation has changed significantly in recent weeks, and that change of plans has taken attention away from hardware releases, and back onto how it plans to reinvent itself post-Google. But, there is news. Rick Osterloh, SVP Product Management has just announced that its popular Moto Maker service will be coming to Europe in Q2. First in the UK and Germany, but more countries to follow. Mark Randall, SVP Supply Chain & Operations also revealed that while its Texas plant will continue to handle the US side, they are exploring options for Europe. This could involve a mix of local sourcing, or order merging with standard orders from Chine. At the very least, if you weren't happy with the default color options it launched with, there's hope for you yet!
25/02/2014 - Yahoo launches UK edition of its News Digest iOS app
With MWC in full swing, CES seems but a distant memory. It was at last month's trade show that Yahoo debuted its News Digest app for iOS, which serves up twice-daily dumps of important news bites. It launched with a US audience in mind, but as of yesterday, Brits can now download their very own UK edition of News Digest. In principle, it delivers exactly the same kind of curated content -- quick-to-read news nuggets that summarize the takeaway using various types of media -- just with a greater focus on UK-centric stories and, we assume, with everything spelt correctly.
So that's Samsung's new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5. The company makes the majority of the components itself, but what happened to those home-grown Exynos processors? Well, Samsung tells us that the GS5 will come in two variants, one with the 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon chip (the model that we tested out at MWC), and another with a 2.1GHz octo-core Exynos. Samsung did the same with the Galaxy S4 last year, but we didn't pick up any huge differences in performance when we compared the two phones. The LTE-capable GS4s never left Korea, however, so we'd predict a similarly limited roll-out for any Exynos-powered GS5s.
Samsung's new Galaxy S5 doesn't skimp on battery power, with an expected 10 hours of web browsing and 12 hours of video playback on a single charge. When you're on hour 11 of watching cat videos with no charger in site, the handsets new "ultra power-saving mode" will keep your handset purring along by making the screen black and white and turning off all the non-essential services on your phone. Even better, Samsung says if you put your phone in standby mode with only 10% of the battery left, if you still last "up to 24 hours" before running out of juice.
SanDisk just took the wraps off of its new 128GB Ultra microSD card. On sale today for your favorite microSDXC-enabled phone or tablet, the card offers twice the storage of current cards, making it the largest-capacity microSD card on the market. Doubling up the storage space wasn't easy, in fact SanDisk used custom manufacturing to stack 16 memory dies -- each thinner than a human hair -- within each card. It's an impressive engineering feat, but let's be honest, we really only care because it will let us store 24 hours of those HD cat videos that help us make it through the day.
Spreadtrum certainly isn't a household name in the US, but Mozilla is less concerned with brand recognition than it is with delivering an ultra-cheap handset. The two companies have announced a new partnership that will see Spreadtrum building reference designs for Firefox OS phones with a target price of $25. (And no, we're not missing a zero there.) The heart of the effort is the SC6821, a Cortex A5-based chipset that supports WCDMA and EDGE networks, but not LTE. The platform includes WiFi, Bluetooth, cameras and FM radio, though touchscreen support appears to top out at 3.5-inch HVGA panels. The lack of 4G connectivity, older CPU design and low screen resolutions clearly mark this as a low-end initiative, but its one that will give it a major leg up in emerging markets like India where feature phones still rule supreme.
The Y300 marks Huawei's first entry into the world of Firefox OS. But unlike ZTE's Open C, this device runs FFOS 1.1 -- not the latest 1.3 build with its focus on stability. Regardless, the Y300 looks like much like its sibling FFOS devices in software and general build quality. The 4-inch handset has a WVGA display, 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon 8225 processor paired with 512MB RAM, 1,950mAh battery and is the first FFOS device to include dual cameras: a 5 megapixel module on back and VGA up front.
As we mentioned earlier, the build is nothing special, but that seems to be the common thread for FFOS devices. The Y300 has a black, all plastic hull that's marked by a power button up top and alongside the headphone jack, volume keys on the right edge and a micro-USB port at the base.
The FFOS UI appeared mostly unchanged on the Y300, but a Mozilla rep did confirm Huawei had made subtle tweaks including the addition of a rotation lock amongst other minor changes. Again, as we spent very little time with the handset, we weren't able to get a real feel for its overall performance, but the experience still centers around HTML 5 apps and the adaptive search bar powered by everything.me.
There's no specific release date for Huawei's Y300 yet, but we've been told to expect a retail launch within the next couple of months. Pricing as well is still yet to be disclosed, but given this is FFOS we're talking about, you can bet on it being affordable.
We knew the Open C was coming before the start of Mobile World Congress because, well, ZTE spilled the beans on it early. And here at Mozilla's press event, we're finally getting a first look at the diminutive 4-inch device and the 1.3 build of Firefox OS it runs. But before you judge its modest specs too harshly, bear in mind these FFOS devices are geared towards emerging markets and are priced accordingly.
Owing to its budget nature, the Open C sports a chunky plastic build and, from the looks of the two models we saw on display, will be available in Mozilla's two signature colors: orange and blue. The handset's equipped with a 4-inch WVGA display and runs FFOS 1.3 atop a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 with 512MB of accompanying RAM. There's also a 2-megapixel fixed focus camera on back and 1,200mAh battery powering it.%Gallery-slideshow181230%
23/02/2014 - Microsoft: Windows Phone 8.1 will come with more hardware support and is backwards-compatible
Microsoft has made a few announcements related to Windows Phone 8.1 this afternoon in Barcelona. While we don't expect to see the new update in its entirety until April, we got at least a few satisfying nuggets of info today. First, we're going to see a lot more flexible support for hardware: 8.1 will be able to support more Qualcomm chipsets, such as Snapdragon 200, 400 and 400 LTE; it will come with TD-LTE, TD-SCDMA and SGLTE support, the ability for phones to use dual-SIM, apps on microSD and virtual softkeys instead of capacitive keys. Devices won't be required to have a hardware camera shutter key anymore, either (but it's still offered as an option anyway). Additionally, we've been told that devices currently on Windows Phone 8 will be able to get an update to 8.1, so it's fortunately backwards-compatible to some degree.
With the new update, Microsoft is going to introduce support for dual SIM devices, which is huge in developing areas of the world. As part of this support, WP8.1 will offer Live Tiles for each SIM, as well as the option to link messaging tiles together for both. Microsoft is also going to be compatible with Qualcomm's Reference Design (QRD), and VP Joe Belfiore brought a Snapdragon 200-powered Windows Phone reference device to show it off. Unfortunately he couldn't show it off to us personally, since there were a few things he didn't want us to see, but it's refreshing to see such sweeping hardware opportunities; this opens up more ability for growth in global market share.
If history is any indication, then we have a sneaking suspicion Sony could be using this year's Mobile World Congress as a showcase for its next, great Xperia Tablet. More specifically, it could be this fella right here, the Xperia Tablet Z2 -- a minor spec update to its waterproof, "omnibalanced" Android slate. But that might not be the only Xperia flagship waiting in the wings here in Barcelona. Recent leaks have us fairly convinced Sony's planning yet another Zed Part Deux debut, but this time it's for the company's rumored Xperia Z2 smartphone. Lucky you, we'll be live at Sony's MWC press event to report on the news as it unfolds and count how many times Kaz says, "Wow!" So make sure to tune in here tomorrow at 2AM EST / 8AM CET to catch your (Xperia) Zzzs.