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All New HTC One All Over Again?

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Did you wait with bated breaths for the HTC One M8 to be released amidst the slew of leaks and renders posted amongst social media and tech blogging sites? After the critical acclaim of the 2013 HTC One, the tech world anticipated a flagship that had the potential to take control of the Android smartphone market out of the hands of Samsung with superior build quality, friendly UI, and unparalleled audio performance. Once April came around, we witnessed HTC unveil a phone that improved on every aspect of its previous iteration, but still left a little more to be desired from the M8.

It would appear that HTC has plans to release a second flagship phone later this year to compete directly with the iPhone 6 and the Galaxy Note 4 being called the HTC One M8 Prime (let’s hope they don’t name it this for brevity’s sake). The ever-accurate @evleaks has revealed that HTC will be adding a supercharger to the already top of the line device. According to the leak, the processor will be upgraded to a quad-core Snapdragon 805 processors clocked in at 2.5GHz from the 2.3GHz 801 and adding an addition GB of RAM (3GB total).

Photo of @evleaks 360 degree render of the M8 Prime

It’s debatable as to whether or not users will be to fully utilize the Snapdragon 801 on the current M8 so bumping to the 805 wont make a noticeable difference besides improved battery performance. A more efficient use of power might be negated with what @evleaks disclosed the alleged display.

If true, the M8 Prime will be one of the first major smartphones to be sporting a 5.5-inch Quad HD display, equaling a pixel density of 534. Nothing has been leaked on battery size yet, but given a half inch bump in display size and increasing resolution from 1080p to 2K will almost force HTC to include a larger battery if they hope to have create a phone that lasts more than a couple hours away from a wall charger.

Take away the next gen processor and incomprehensibly crisp display, one of the most compelling leaks is the camera. The past two One models have used the same four megapixel shooter utilizing larger than normal pixels. HTC has stuck by their “Ultrapixel” camera as the larger pixels take in more light, allowing for greater low light performance. While low light performance is top notch, the camera has otherwise been the most criticized feature on both models.  Rumors on the M8 Prime peg the M8 Prime sporting an 18MP camera, as outlandish as it sounds. I’d be more opt to believe an 8 or 13MP camera, utilizing their Ultrapixel technology, but we shall see a fall draws nearer.

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Could this raised lens be the rumored 18PM camera?

We know very little as of yet, but given @evleaks history, there is merit to these rumors. As with most smartphone manufacturers, HTC has not announced this phone and likely won’t until sometime in the fall. Despite less-than-stellar profit margins on previous flagship devices, HTC is a company that creates innovative and critically acclaimed smartphones while withholding the oft-overdone software gimmicks . We just hope that HTC can employ a marketing campaign worthy of the One’s brilliance. 

Source: PhoneArena

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Google Nexus vs Android Silver: What will Change?

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The five generations of Nexus smartphones from the Nexus One, Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, and Nexus 5

The Google Nexus program is a line of smartphones and tablets that run Google’s stock Android operating system. Unlike every other Android smartphone that flood the market such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One, Nexus products are designed, developed, and marketed solely by Google. The only thing that Google outsources is the manufacturing of the products, which have been made by LG, HTC, Samsung, and ASUS. What’s most enticing about these devices is that they’re fully supported by Google and receive updates faster than any other Android device.

The beauty of Android is that Google released it under open source licenses that allow technology companies to run it as their platform’s OS that is very cost effective and highly customizable. One of the biggest downfalls to Android is with this highly customizable and open source platform, comes the ability for manufacturers to put their own UI on top of the pure OS that Google intended. While not inherently a bad thing, the added UI often serves to bog down the device, take up precious storage space, and creating lag during use. This is where the Nexus line truly shines, as they do not come with any manufacturer or wireless carrier modifications to the OS, similar to Apple’s iOS platform.

With a device that has been all but manufactured by Google, comes a piece of hardware that supports Android the way Google intended: vanilla and unrestrained. The near uninhibited customization that Android allows has attracted many developers to use the open-use code to create custom ROMs, new features, and a slew of apps that have grown to rival what iOS has to offer.

Apart from having a device free from third party modifications and being the first to receive updates, the Nexus line offers top of the line software that won’t break the bank. Google’s latest smartphone offering, the Nexus 5 retails for $349.00 off contract, whereas a device with near identical specifications (LG G2) will add another $250 to the price tag.

For the past four years, Nexus devices have been essential components for developers who require frequent software updates and minimal third party modifications. While still considered a budget device, the Nexus 5 took the biggest step towards flagship status by offering a phone that could only be knocked on their camera quality and battery life. But despite CFO Partick Pichette acknowledging that the Nexus 5 being a very strong performer, Google will be canning the Nexus program for a new line of devices under the Android Silver name.

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The new look for Android?

Google is company that can sell mobile devices at cost and still make a mint. According to their annual earnings report, Google “generates revenue primarily by delivering relevant, cost-effective online advertising,” with as much as 96% of its revenue coming from AdWords and AdSense. So why would Google cancel the Nexus program for Android Silver if the user experience will be the same?

There are multiple reasons why Google would want to create a more premium line of Android devices besides increasing profit margins. The most apparent reason would be for Google a chance to command greater control over the android market. Despite the success of the Nexus line, the Android market has been dominated by several third party manufacturers over the past few years.

While the source code for Android is open source and members of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) agree to abide by the standard set by Google, there are manufacturers that take liberties to their software that don’t adhere to Google’s standards. Back in 2012, Google ceased production on a device Acer manufactured that ran Alibaba Group’s Aliyun OS, as it was regarded as an incompatible form of Android.

Currently, Samsung manufacturers the majority of mobile devices running Android and while they do abide by the OHA, their UI, Touchwiz, creates an user experience that only slightly resembles true, stock Android. This poses a problem for Google because as much as Samsung propels Android to a larger market share every year, more of the market is growing to understand Android as an OS that Google didn’t intend it to be. Regardless of increased profit margins, if Google can amass greater sales with their Android Silver program, it can regain control over what the Android OS is supposed to be: reliability with a buttery smooth interface that doesn’t rely on gimmicks. This will also allow Google to prevent update delays that users often experience with third party Android smartphones and better compete with Apple and their immediately available updates.

With Android Silver aiming to deliver premium handsets to the general consumer, Google could be aiming to lead a full-fledged campaign to bring Android Silver to the top of the mobile phone market. With the power and disposable income to run marketing campaigns that rival the likes of Samsung and Apple, Google may also set up kiosks similar to the Galaxy Experience that floods the mobile sections of Best Buy and other retailers to help expose customers to the Android experience.

One of the pitfalls of Android is that it takes patience and ingenuity to master, especially to first time smartphone users. This is where Apple cleans up. The intuitive UI and unrivaled reliability make it leading choice for many users, leaving an opening in the market for Google to take advantage of. According to AndroidPolice, Google plans to bring more unity to the Android experience by providing a 24/7 customer service experience via Google Hangouts similar to that of the Mayday service provided by Amazon on their Kindle Fire tablets. With a service not provided by any other mobile provider, Google could entice casual users and smartphone junkies alike with a top-notch customer service to go along their ever-encompassing ecosystem.

While we don’t understand the full vision Google has for the new Android Silver program apart from speculation, we do know that it plans to pair up with multiple companies such as LG and Motorola for manufacturing these devices. With the strict guidelines Android Silver will require, these companies will collaborate with Google to develop a more premium handset that will deliver the stock Android experience we’ve come to love with the Nexus devices. This, along with an aggressive marketing campaign could provide a flagship handset that could take its place amongst the top of the Android smartphone ranks over Samsung, HTC, and even LG to regain regain full control of Android.

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Will we see a focus on build quality with Android Silver that we could only dream of with the Nexus line?

It is unfortunate to see an end coming to the Nexus program. For the past few months, we’ve seen countless rumors and leaks of Google making the final Nexus iterations coming by way of the Nexus 6 and Nexus 8. These two allegedly being made by LG (6) and HTC (8) were awaited with bated breaths after the success of the company’s previous Nexus 5 and 7 smartphone and tablet. But according to the ever-accurate @evleaks, Google will not be unveiling the Nexus 6 at all this year, working with LG to bring the first Android Silver phone in early 2015 instead. While sad news, rumors have it that the new phone will run Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 810 processor, which would be Qualcomm’s first 64-bit processor to compete with the likes of the 64-bit one found in the A7 of the iPhone 5s.

Whether or not we see a Nexus device again, Google has no plans on leaving Android to be run by third party manufacturers compromising the OS for their own software additions. Expect to see big things from Google in the coming months as they attempt to regain control over Android and make a push into the premium smartphone market.

Source: The Verge; International Business Times

Net Neutrality and What it Means for Our Internet Consumption

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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler during his news conference on Thursday regarding his proposal to allow ISPs to charge for “fast lane” internet access. Photo by ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

Outrage ensues amongst social media outlets after the FCC voted on net neutrality this past Thursday. This will allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to charge Internet content providers at their discretion. Many people have heard the phrase ‘net neutrality’ but few understand the possible implications the new proposal has on our Internet consumption and rights to freedom of speech.

What is net neutrality?

With the current Open Internet Order passed by the FCC in 2010, rules were set to prevent ISPs from putting restriction speeds on any Internet traffic and threatens violations against any ISP that allowed a payments from content providers for increased quality of service. Newly appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal aims to undue these rules and allow for ISPs to limit some traffic over others and set premiums for certain

Have you ever been to Disneyland? Do you remember those horrendous lines and agonizing wait times until you could ride Space Mountain while those jerks in the FASTPASS lane leisurely stroll pass you and ride it a half before you?

Well imagine that you’re Space Mountain and the regular line is the brand new Jenna Marbles video with the FASTPASS lane being Tom Wheeler’s twitter feed. This is the new Open Internet Order that Tom Wheeler is proposing.

Under this new plan, the FCC will allow ISPs to have free reign over who gets the best service. This means that Comcast or Verizon could strike a deal with Hulu to allow faster streaming than Netflix if they’re willing to pay a higher premium for priority service. Obviously Netflix has the funds to match whatever Hulu could pay given their market share, but (insert ISP) could potentially provide Hulu with the highest streaming capability available and bring Netflix’s to a grinding halt, regardless of what content providers are being charge.

How do we know this?

Because Wheeler said it. Though not directly, the Chairman wrote in his blog post that prices for fast lanes will be “commercially reasonable.” The issue lies in his attempts to calm down objectors, as his proposal offers no definitive rules regarding rates or protection from discrimination.

Back in December, Wheeler addressed questions regarding his stance on net neutrality and how he believes it needs to be fixed. Starting off with a history lesson on how human networking evolved form the Gutenberg Press to the Internet we use today, Wheeler affirmed, “ As our networks evolve, so should government oversight.” Being a former lobbyist for the cable and wireless phone industries, the newly appointed FCC chairman acknowledged that he is a “rabid believer in the power of the marketplace. But I have seen enough about how markets operate to know that they don’t always, by themselves, solve every problem.”

If this proposal is enacted, the consumer will be the one week pays the price. Content provider giants such as Netflix and Amazon have already released statements opposing this proposal, stating that this could legally enable ISPs to practice discrimination. While directly affecting internet giants by cutting into profit margins, which will inevitably result in higher prices for the consumer, imagine the implications for smaller companies with similar services who can’t foot the bill. If this was 2008 Facebook would have never had taken over Myspace and we’d be stuck checking our bulletin boards, instead of our news feeds.

Luckily, all is not lost yet. Since voting on this proposal, there will be a 120 day period where the FCC will be receiving input and taking replies. This is the time to voice your opinion by sending your comments to the FCC’s website. You can access the form here.

Source: Recode; BGR

Beats acquisition and what it means for iOS 8

Apple-Beats

On May 9, Dr Dre allegedly confirmed selling Beats to Apple for the premium price of $3.2 billion during his “first billionaire in hip-hop” video. Not known for making public purchases of companies, this is an abnormal move for Apple. If rumor be true, this will be it’s largest buyout ever, having never spent more than $400 million on a company.  Given iTunes Radio offering a similar music streaming service that Beats Music provides and selling Beats headphones on the iTunes store, what will Apple get out of this deal?

A revamped and sexier media player UI

Apple has been a leader in music playback since the release of the first generation iPod back in 2001. For years, iTunes has been the top online music store, registering 1 billion songs sold by 2006. Growing frustration over the limitations iTunes has allowed for other music streaming services to gain traction in the market. Services like Pandora, Spotify and Beats Music are still growing, despite iTunes launching its free iTunes Radio service to directly compete with them. Despite acquiring 20 million users within the first month of its release, Pandora still holds 31% market share to iTunes Radios’ 8%.

Chart shows Pandora's stronghold over the streaming music market (source: 9to5mac)

Chart shows Pandora’s stronghold over the streaming music market (source: 9to5mac)

With such a recognizable name in the headphone game, Beats Music has experienced rapid growth since its launch in January 2014. In a mere four months since its launch, Beats Music has added nearly 50,000 individual users and another 62,000 family accounts that allow up to five users. This type of growth to match the marketability of the Beats brand is an intriguing prospect for a company like Apple.

This growth is due in part to the Beats name, as well as subscription deals with AT&T offering the family plan for $14.99 a month, but the user interface of Beats Music is much more attractive and easier to find new music than what iTunes Radio has to offer. While I do prefer the UI of Beats Music to iTunes radio, I do not believe this to be a main proponent to the purchase. Beats Music is built on MOG service, which was purchased back in 2012. One of the highlights of MOG is their commitment to providing music in the 320-kilobit format, but given the ability of Apple, this is something they could achieve on their own without paying the steep price of $3.2 billion.

Lower Royalties

One compelling reason for the purchase could come down to the royalties that Beats Music pays for each song playback. According to reports, each song play costs Beats Music $0.000126, which is significantly less than the reported $0.006-0.0084 that Spotify pays. Apple, on the other hand, pays $0.13 per play. If Apple can retain the royalty fees that Beats Music plays, that could pay dividends for it.

Possible HD audio playback and headphones that no longer require a 3.5mm headphone jack

Is this going to be the new look for Apple's stock headphones?

Is this going to be the new look for Apple’s stock headphones? (source: electronista)

Amongst the rumors for iOS 8, there has been talk of Apple prepping for high-definition audio playback. Currently, iOS 7 can’t handle audio playback for 24-bit audio files and the purchase of Beats make this possibility seem even more plausible. With the acquisition of Beats, Apple could start developing HD audio playback using custom, Beats made headphones that utilize the lightning port instead of the 3.5mm headphone jack. This is particularly interesting as the 3.5mm headphone jack is old technology and with the rise of Bluetooth headphones, it makes sense create headphones that use the same port one charges from.

Of course, this is all speculation as the acquisition isn’t official yet and Apple hasn’t made any comments regarding it. What do you guys think? This is a particularly interesting topic as Apple has never made a purchase like this before. If you have any other ideas or theories as to why Apple would purchase Beats, please leave some comments, as I’d love to read them and continue this conversation.

Source: TheGuardian; CNET

iPhone 6 Camera Rumors – Super Zoom and Improved Low Light Performance?

Apple arguably uses one of the best cameras in the mobile tech industry in the 5s with their 8MP iSight camera, but they may be looking to improve it for its next iteration. Rumors indicate that Apple will retain the same number of megapixels for the 6’s shooter but increase the pixel size instead. From 1.5 micrometers in the 5s, the 6 might see a jump to 1.75 micrometers, which will allow more light to enter each megapixel, providing improved low-light image quality. Drunken bar selfies will look better than ever.

Patents shouldn’t dictate what we predict new technology will provide as Apple has many patents that we likely will never see in fruition, but one of the latest filings published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has many photo junkies salivating. This patent is called “Super-resolution based on optical image stabilization” and from the looks of it, it will incorporate a process similar to the Oppo Find 7/7a’s camera to produce high-resolution images from a lower-resolution camera.

Source: USPTO Via: AppleInsider

Source: USPTO
Via: AppleInsider

If you’re unfamiliar with Oppo’s Super Zoom setting, it essentially takes 10 burst shots in succession with its 13MP sensor and combines them together to create a 50MP image. Of course this is a software feature and won’t actually create a real 50MP shot, but the resolution ends up being much higher than the original with Super Zoom on.

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Picture highlights the 7’s Super Zoom feature and its ability to zoom much further with its 50MP software adjustment than with its original 13MP shot (via Engaget).

This is an interesting patent for Apple, and one that I am reluctant to believe will be available for the iPhone 6. The 5s currently uses software-based image stabilization for their iSight camera for two possible reasons: they believe that software-based image stabilization will become better than OIS once the software is better optimized or Apple could not fit OIS in their current camera because the phone was too thin. I’m inclined to believe that both factors play a part in the decision, but the latter being the main reason OIS was left out of past models.

As compelling as this feature could be, don’t expect anything to come of it. If the rumors hold merit of Apple unveiling a phablet sized 5.5” model to go with the 4.7” one, it may include more features similar to this to provide a more premium experience without compromising hardware (ala the iPhone 5c). But considering Apple’s struggles fitting a battery inside the 6’s thin design, don’t keep your fingers crossed on this one.

Source: AppleInsider; iSource

The LG G3 – The device to best the Galaxy Line?

Rumors have been gathering the past couple months regarding the G3 and while LG doesn’t have the clout that Samsung has in regards to selling smartphones, the touted specs of the G3 are noteworthy. Of course these are merely rumors, but if achieved, LG could take mobile technology to the next level of innovation; a level that Samsung and HTC failed to achieve with their latest flagships.

G3 brushed shell from @evleaks

The highly accurate @evleaks providing a glimpse of a back that mimics the brushed aluminum of the HTC One M8

Will we finally see a 2k display?

Scheduled to drop May 27, the G3 will be unveiled merely 8 months after it’s predecessor, to better compete with the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8). If the rumors hold merit, the G3 will become the first smartphone (with exception to the non-yet released Oppo Find 7) sporting 2k-resolution display. On a 5.5” True HD-IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, this will give the G3 roughly 534 ppi.

What can we expect from internals?

Underneath the display, the device will house Qualcomm’s newest chipset, the Snapdragon 801 with a Quad Core CPU clocked at 2.26 GHz and Adreno 330 GPU. These are along the lines of the S5 and M8, but the G3 is rumored to come with 3 GB of RAM on its 32 GB version, which top the formers’ 2 GB. The camera will be a 13 MP shooter with OIS and rumored to shoot 4k video, similar to the S5 and Note 3.

Is it enough?

Will these specs be enough to compete with the Galaxy S5 though? Having owned the G2 myself, I will say that LG deserves more recognition than they received for it. The power and volume rocker located on the back was a risky move, but proved to be as ergonomic as advertised in my experience and this allowed for a bezel smaller than any I’ve seen before. It’s difficult to comprehend by reading reviews, but having owned the 4.7” HTC One (M7) and 5.2” LG G2, they took up roughly the same hand real estate, despite have a .5” larger display.

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Most recent shot from PhoneArena show a more clear image of a polycarbonate back and not aluminum.

The one thing I could not stand on the G2 (and the reason I ended up returning it) was the polycarbonate shell. Despite being a large guy who perspires easily, I’ve never had issue with slippery phones from my experience with iPhones, the HTC One, or the Nexus 5. But without a matte finish or aluminum body, the polycarbonate finish (much like the Galaxy S4) would take any moisture from my hand and act as a lubricant, making the device feel cheap and grimy.

From the renders and new commercial launched, it appears that LG heeded the complaints and took a page out of HTC’s book in resolving the issue. The pictures leaked leads us to believe the G3 will use a similar brushed aluminum uni-body like the M8, but given alleged specks, it seems much more likely it’ll be a brushed polycarbonate finish that mimics aluminum.

What I’m most interested in seeing how the 3200 mAh battery will handle the 2k display. The G2 was a beast when it came to battery life, utilizing a slightly smaller 3000 mAh battery, but it also a smaller 1080p screen. My guess is that the new, more efficient Snapdragon 801 will use less battery life and the difference between the two devices will be a wash, but we will have to wait and see.

The G3 likely won’t beat the S5 in sales, but that has more to do with Samsung’s marketing monster than it does the G3’s possible shortcomings. The only thing the S4 had over the G2 was a removable battery and micro-USB expansion (both of which are available with the G3). Take away Touch-Wiz and LG’s UI, install a custom ROM, and these devices are very similar, with the G2 besting the S4 in internal storage, processor speed, screen size, battery size, and a better chipset.

The reality is that top end specs and superior hardware won’t be able to compete with the marketing department with seemingly unlimited funding (look at sales of the beautiful and acclaimed HTC One M7) that is Samsung. But at the end of the day, that’s okay. LG Electronics division is very profitable on their top of the line TV’s, home appliances, and lighting technology so they can afford to take risks with their mobile technology. It is this push for innovation that will drive the market to compete and improve and, ultimately provide the consumer with the absolute best it can offer.

 

Source: PhoneArena; GottaBeMobile