Line is building its own digital assistant called Clova

Japanese-based messaging app Line is wildly popular in other parts of the world and the company has even expanded from a simple chat app to a full-service mobile carrier. According to a new report from the Financial Times, Line is branching out again and developing its own digital assistant called Clova to compete with the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant, complete with its own line of smart speakers.

Clova isn’t scheduled for release until sometime in “early summer” of this year, but Line views the platform, which is being developed with help from Sony and LG, as the next logical step for its messaging service. The platform will include the sort of features you might expect from a digital assistance in 2017 — like easy access to news, weather, calendars and online purchases — but Line is also promising Clova will be able to handle “complicated questions” and include a facial recognition aspect similar to Apple’s rumored iPhone features.

Outside of phones, Clova is designed to work in third-party apps and hardware, but the first devices to support it will be a standalone Clova app, a smart speaker called Wave and a “smart display” called Face. Although Wave looks like a direct knockoff of Google Home, Line didn’t offer any information about what sets Face apart except from its small, cartoonish face display. According to the Financial Times, Clova could eventually find its way into headsets and other third-party hardware.

Given Line’s target markets in Asia, the company hopes to beat Google, Apple and Amazon on its home turf. The Clova app and Wave speaker will see a release in Japan and South Korea this summer, followed by a roll out to Line’s other major markets in Thailand and Indonesia next.

Via: The Verge

Source: Financial Times

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LG G6’s dual cameras are good, but far from perfect

Dual cameras are now the standard option when it comes to flagship phones and LG has already put the setup to work in previous models. With the G6, the company opted for two 13-megapixel Sony cameras instead of one larger and one smaller like it did with the modular G5. The combination of the dual lenses, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon zoom technology and LG’s existing camera features help the G6 make a compelling case, especially in terms of imagery.

Sure, the main attraction on the G6 may be its unique 18:9 display, but the dual cameras and the ability to transition smoothly between regular and wide-angle shots is also a big selling point. As a refresher, the phone’s rear-facing cameras can capture 71-degree field of view photos while employing optical stabilization and f/1.8 aperture. Those wide-angle images bump to 125-degree field of view — an increase that works best when capturing things like landmarks and landscapes. The front-facing camera also features a similar wide-angle option capable of 100-degree field of view shots. For all three sensors, LG chose a 1.12um pixel size, the same used on both the G4 and G5.

While we’ve seen them before, LG brought back handy photography tools inside the stock camera app. These include a Food Mode with it’s own white balance slider so you can ensure that your colors are accurate. There are also skin tone, lighting and filters for the front-facing 5-megapixel f/2.2 camera to help you fine-tune those selfies. Meanwhile, a new app just for Square photos lends a hand to Instagramers for previews, compositions and collages. It’s useful, but we’re not convinced it will become a staple just yet.

In good lighting and outdoors during the day, the G6 performs on par with some of the best phone cameras we’ve seen. Overall, colors really pop and the images are crisp and clean. Performance does suffer in low-light situations, though, as the photos are noticeably grainy outside at night or in other environments where lighting isn’t stellar. Even though we were already familiar with the selfie features, those software tools help the front-facing camera capture images of your face that also crisp and feature vibrant colors.

One place LG where has improved camera performance from its previous phones is the transition between regular and wide-angle shots. There used to be a bit of a stutter when you switched back and forth, but that change is much smoother now. While the G6 doesn’t pack a Snapdragon 835, LG did work with Qualcomm to bring the chip’s camera zoom transition feature to the new flagship. It certainly makes a difference, and the switch between views doesn’t have a noticeable stutter like it does on the iPhone 7 Plus and other devices.

To take advantage of that extra screen real estate, LG has added a handy photo gallery along the side of the camera UI. It offers easy access to your last few shots and if you used a setting like Food Mode, the photo will be labeled with a tiny icon to remind you. Unfortunately, the G6 we tested wasn’t running final software, so tapping on that in-camera gallery sometimes caused the app to crash. That’s the only big issue we experienced and it’s one the company will likely remedy before final devices launch.

The LG G6’s dual cameras make a great first impression. Of course, we’ll need to spend more than a few hours with the handset before we can make a final call, but we’re planning to do just that during our full review. You can bet we’ll put the dual cameras through their paces in a full day’s worth of capturing photos in the near future.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from MWC 2017.

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The hunt for Windows Phone

MWC — the world’s biggest phone show — is happening all around me. Nearly every new phone that’s been announced here in Barcelona is Android-powered, while the ever-influential iPhone keeps other halls filled with cases, add-ons and every color of Lightning cable imaginable. But where is Windows Phone? We know it still exists, somewhere between dead and living. If you browse through Microsoft’s Windows Phone store online, you’ll see HP’s Elite X3 take pride of place (with a tiny Lumia footnote) … but that’s about it. A Microsoft spokesperson told me that the company “remain[s] committed to our universal Windows platform. We will continue to support and invest in these types of mobile experiences for Windows 10.” But c’mon, this is MWC. There must be something here, right? Here’s what I could find.

Nokia has nothing to do with Windows Phone now


Yes, the return of the 3310 as nostalgia-bait scored some early headlines at MWC, but the company’s return as a global smartphone maker made one thing clear: It’s all-Android now. When I talked to Nokia and HMD execs about its new smartphones, they were careful to be diplomatic, saying that Android “is a brilliant mobile platform for us” and that it would be focusing on Google’s mobile OS at this time. Also, alternative options are scarce when it comes to phone operating systems. Just ask BlackBerry.

Niche phone makers are distancing themselves from Windows Phone

One of the last Windows Phones to appear, NuAns’ Neo came from Japan, a country with a strong tradition of businesses buying into enterprise hardware. The device was also one of the prettiest Windows Phones ever to surface, with interchangeable backs of various materials, textures and colors. Sure, it was a little chunky, but it also handled Continuum, one of Microsoft’s mobile trump cards. The phone is apparently still on sale, but its Kickstarter campaign failed to reach its funding target for an international launch last year.

That brings us to MWC 2017 and the company’s new phone: the NuAns Neo Reloaded. It sounds like a Matrix sequel, and it looks just as charming. The team behind the Neo has upgraded almost everything: There’s a faster Snapdragon processor, a 1080p 5.2-inch display, and dustproofing and water resistance as well as a faster, Sony-made camera sensor. The biggest “upgrade,” however, is Android 7.1. It also keeps the quaint recess under the two-tone covers for your contactless payment (or metro) card of choice.

It’s not for you

Late Monday afternoon, I got a lead. HP’s Elite x3 was the last big Windows Phone launch, built for power users and those tempted by Continuum. It launched at last year’s MWC, and this year it’s back. Well, kind of. HP has added a companion bump for its Windows Phone: a chunky high-end bar code scanner for … scanning bar codes. It’s an enterprise accessory aimed at health care workers and retail. HP teamed up with Honeywell to make a bar code scanner that, while useful, is unlikely to interest mainstream shoppers.

Windows 10 is an increasingly mobile OS

Here’s the rub: MWC had plenty of tablets running full-fat Windows 10. There were convertible, detachable Windows devices, and many of them had LTE radios built in (including the 12-inch Samsung Galaxy Book and Lenovo Miix). This is Windows 10’s current mobile form — even if the resulting devices don’t generally fit in your pocket.

The irony, of course, is that this new wave of devices reduces the need for the Microsoft faithful to invest in a dedicated Windows Phone. You’ll have less desire for Continuum and a completely portable desktop experience when your ultraportable notebook is thin and light enough to carry around everywhere anyway. Windows Phone as we know it is gone. What comes after this? Only Microsoft knows, but for its sake, it will have to stick the landing.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from MWC 2017.

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