Trump’s chief of staff reportedly used ‘compromised’ phone for months

John Kelly, the White House’s chief of staff, spent months using a “compromised” personal cell phone, according to a new report from Politico. Despite noticing limited functionality on his personal device — it wouldn’t update its software correctly, for one, Kelly didn’t contact the White House’s tech support team sometime this summer. That was months after the strange behavior began, leading officials to believe the attack on his phone could’ve happened as far as back as December 2016.

Of the many questions this situation raises, two stand out: Was any data on Kelly’s personal phone obtained, and if so, was it in any way sensitive? Since the affected device was Kelly’s personal phone, it’s possible that there was no valuable information on it to obtain. The chief of staff mostly used his government-issued phone for official communications since joining the Trump administration, though it’s clearly not impossible for senior White House officials to use their personal phones for official business. Still, a White House spokesperson told Politico that Kelly hadn’t used his personal phone “often” after taking over as chief of staff, implying that it did happen from time to time.

The report raises the possibility that Kelly kept information pertaining to his previous gig as the Secretary of Homeland Security on the phone, but neither he nor anyone else related to the incident has commented on what’s actually on the device.

Still other specifics remain similarly vague. Despite “several days” of testing, there is currently no word on how the attack was carried out. It’s also unclear what kind of phone Kelly was using as a personal device, though he has been seen using an iPhone in the past. This matters more than you might think: older devices are eventually dropped from manufacturer support schedules so they typically don’t get new software and security updates, making them more vulnerable to attacks that new phones would better resist. The exact timing of the hack also remains unclear, and while a memo detailing the incident was distributed to administration staff, no one within the White House seems ready to assign blame just yet.

Source: Politico

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Apple Watch Series 3 review: A good watch, a so-so phone replacement

With each generation, the Apple Watch’s purpose has seemed to shift. The first one demonstrated what Apple thought a wearable should be, and the second tried to be the perfect workout companion. When it came time to build the Series 3, though, Apple took everything it got right with the fitness-friendly Series 2, polished it up, and threw an LTE radio inside.

And lo, the $ 399 Apple Watch Series 3 became the first of a new breed of Apple devices — it straddles the line between smartwatch and phone, with a dash of iPod thrown in for good measure. For those who’d rather play it safe, Apple also built a $ 329 Series 3 with just GPS and no cellular connection. In fact, that safe bet will probably pay off for most people — the cellular Series 3 is a little too inconsistent for my taste.

Hardware and design

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Despite what some redesign rumors suggested ahead of the big event, this year’s Apple Watch looks… just like an Apple Watch. Shocking, I know. As ever, the Series 3 comes in 38mm and 42mm sizes, so earlier bands will continue to fit just fine. And, as with the Series 2, all versions feature a built-in GPS radio and 50-meter water resistance. Don’t let that classification fool you, though — you can take the Watch for a swim, but you almost certainly shouldn’t take it 50 meters underwater. (Why the watch industry continues to use such counterintuitive terminology is beyond me.)

Not much has changed with the display either — we’re still working with a tiny OLED screen running at 390 x 312, covered by a plate of Ion-X glass. (The stainless-steel and ceramic models instead use tougher sapphire crystal, but this Watch’s glass face was very good at resisting nicks as I accidentally banged my hands into walls and fixtures.) Max brightness still tops out at 1,000 nits, which is more than enough to keep notifications and apps readable under bright sunlight. More interesting is the way the screen doubles as the Watch’s wireless antenna; it’s a nifty feat of engineering that seems to get the job done well.

In any case, I’ve been wearing a 42mm Apple Watch on and off since the first version launched in 2015, and the fit and finish of my 42mm cellular review unit is first-rate, as always. It’s impossible to tell that the Series 3 is slightly thicker than the models that came before it, and thankfully, it’s just as hard to feel the difference when it’s strapped to your wrist. That’s because the Watch’s aluminum squircle of a body hasn’t changed — the ceramic hump around back housing the heart rate sensor is, according to Apple, two sheets of paper thicker than it was before. The 42mm body’s weight hasn’t changed either, which is pretty impressive considering the extra stuff needed to turn this wearable into a tiny, functional phone. Throw in an improved, dual-core S3 chipset and a slightly bigger battery, and we’ve got a remarkably snappy little package.

Until you start talking into your wrist, there’s only one way to tell if a Watch is LTE-enabled or not: You need to spot the red dot. This red highlight serves no technical purpose; it’s purely for looks, and if you’re the type who likes visual metaphors, you’ll notice a certain symmetry with the Watch’s red notification dot. I get the need for some sort of visual signifier, but fashionistas, beware: That red flourish clashes with a lot of Apple Watch bands out there.

As a traditional smartwatch

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The original Apple Watch gave shape to the company’s vision for wearable computing, but, man, it was frustratingly slow sometimes. Fast-forward two years, and we finally have an Apple Watch that feels as fast as it should. Swiping between watch faces is smoother than before, and launching apps seems to take considerably less time, all thanks to Apple’s updated S3 chipset. Series 1 and 2 owners might not find the difference that pronounced, since both devices have dual-core processors of their own, but the fractions of a second I’m saving every time an action works more smoothly becomes time I get to spend doing something else that matters to me.

One of the best ways to see all this power in action is by talking to Siri — and, for once, the experience won’t make you want to tear your hair out. Siri can finally speak to you on the Series 3, and it uses the same natural-sounding voice you’d hear it use on an iOS device running iOS 11. I never really used Siri on the Series 2, because it required me to glance down at my wrist all the time. This year, Siri’s audible responses and generally spot-on voice transcription meant I could ask it to send a message or email for me and not worry too much about what happened next. Yes, this eventually bit me in the ass, but never too badly. Beyond handling messages and tasks, Siri has also been helpful for navigating to hole-in-the-wall restaurants and answering various random questions.

As useful as Siri is now, it still has its limits. For one, you need to be careful with how you ask for things — “open News” does what you’d expect it to, but “show me the news” kicked me out to external search results. Oh, and don’t forget that the Watch’s screen has to be on to get Siri’s attention with a voice command. A version of Siri that constantly listens for commands would be ideal, but that’d probably wreak as much havoc on battery life as, well, a cellular radio would.

The Series 3’s new watch faces sure are… interesting.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Beyond just Siri, Apple’s new watchOS 4 offers a few other new features as well. There are new customizable kaleidoscope watch faces, along with a handful of faces starring characters from Toy Story. The music app has been updated with a new look and slightly more seamless syncing — some playlists, like “New Music” and “Favorites,” are transferred over by default while the Watch charges for the first time. Individual tracks and playlists can be moved over easily enough too, but literally any support for podcasts would’ve been nice. To make the most of the Watch’s music player, though, you need to be an Apple Music subscriber; the Watch still offers media controls for whatever audio is playing on the iPhone, but you’re out of luck if you’d prefer to interact with Spotify’s superior playlists.

The Series 3 technically works as a standalone device, but let’s be real: We’re so attached to our phones that the Watch will spend most of its time connected to an iPhone anyway. I’m not complaining either, mostly because the Watch has very good battery life as a result. I usually pull my Watch off its charger at around 8AM, and I’ve routinely seen it chug along until midafternoon the next day if I didn’t make many voice calls on it. Over the weekend, when my phone was gloriously quiet, I got nearly two full days of screen-on time before needing to charge the Watch again. Apple bumped up the Series 3’s battery capacity to maximize cellular usage time, so while I’m pleased that tethered battery life has improved, I’m not surprised.

As a standalone device

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The connection between the Apple Watch and an iPhone is the core of Apple’s wearable experience, and for the first time, the company gave the Watch the tools to function independently. Seeing the Watch hop onto an LTE network and use your same phone number is undeniably neat, but honestly, it’s not something I’d want to do very often.

First off, yes, you’re going to have to pay your carrier $ 10 a month for the privilege, not to mention an activation fee once this first wave of promotions dies down. Setting up the Watch with my AT&T phone plan was mostly a breeze, but some reviewers have experienced issues getting everything squared away, especially when older rate plans were involved. Your mileage may vary, but I suspect most of you won’t need to worry much.

Actually using the phone is easier than expected — you can either punch in a number or select one of your contacts — and call quality was generally very good. In a majority of conversations I had, the people on the other end couldn’t even tell I was talking into a watch. That can change suddenly, though. Earlier this week, I parked myself outside the office to take a few phone calls, and the signal indicator bounced between two and four dots of coverage while I was just sitting there.

As a result, call quality got really strange — I could hear the other party just fine, but I sounded like a mess to them. This happened only one other time, in a completely different location, and I’m at a loss as to why. In any case, if you’re interested in taking calls on a Series 3, a Bluetooth headset is a must. It’ll also help in situations where the Watch’s speaker just isn’t loud enough, which is most of the time, frankly.

Messages rolled in quickly too, but here’s the thing: Not all messages are treated equally. As long as you have some kind of wireless signal, iMessages will be delivered just fine. Text messages are usually subject to a delay, since they’re routed through your iPhone, but this also means that SMSes won’t come through at all if your iPhone is dead. Emails running through Apple’s Mail app worked fine but took longer than usual to pop up on my wrist, so I wouldn’t advise going watch-only when urgent business is in the offing. And most of the Watch apps I installed worked normally, though a few — like Slack and Twitter — either did nothing or force-quit when I tried to use them.

Early review models also seemed prone to connectivity issues stemming from a Wi-Fi bug — in a bid to conserve battery life, the Series 3 tries to latch onto wireless networks your other Apple devices have flagged as being suitable for use. The problem was, not every network was flagged correctly, so captive portals (like those used at, say, Starbucks) would get the OK and the Watch would try to connect, with no way of getting past whatever interstitial screen popped up. It’s not that the Watch was going out of its way to jump onto unfamiliar networks — it’s that some of the networks it thinks are kosher actually aren’t.

This is a major goof, but I can see why it might have escaped detection — I have had precisely zero issues with my Series 3 attempting to latch onto bum networks. Then again, I’m one person, and I find it hard to believe that not a single engineer testing the Series 3 prior to launch ran into this. I’m fairly sure you won’t run into this very specific kind of trouble, but it remains a risk; Apple promised a fix after catching some well-deserved flak, but it still hadn’t materialized when we published this review.

Really, my biggest concern is much more mundane: Going completely iPhone-free means the Watch’s battery life will take a huge hit. After an early-morning run while listening to music and using the GPS, followed by a couple of test calls, the Series 3 was on its last legs by early afternoon. Apple has always been clear that the Series 3 is more of a temporary phone substitute than an actual replacement, so this probably won’t seem shocking to you. Still, if this morning routine sounds like your idea of a good time, remember to have a charger handy.

I don’t mean to make the Series 3 sound terrible at this stuff — when everything works properly, it makes for an adequate untethered companion. It’s just too bad that those moments weren’t as common as I expected.

As a fitness tracker

Chris Velazco/Engadget

With the Series 2, Apple decided the Watch should be a serious fitness wearable, and its focus on getting people out of their chairs clearly isn’t going away. Thankfully, the Series 3’s blend of capable hardware and thoughtful software make it a great choice for people who take their workouts seriously, but not that seriously.

The Series 3’s step counts were in line with other wearables I tested it against, though accuracy is a weird thing to look for in cases like these. Every fitness tracker I’ve ever worn seemed to interpret my steps a little differently, but the Series 3 was consistently within +/- 10 steps of my own counts (in my head, up to 250). Strangely, I guess I define “a flight of stairs” differently from how the Watch’s new barometer does, since it consistently underestimated me on days when I decided to avoid the office’s elevators. Meanwhile, the updated Workout app packs support for new workout types (perfect for you crazy high-intensity interval people) and easier controls for setting time or calorie burn goals for your swim, walk or run.

Speaking of running, I’ve had no issue with GPS accuracy either — I run the same route a few times a week, and the distance was basically bang-on every time. Granted, I don’t precisely know how long that makeshift course is, so hardcore runners (like Engadget marathoner-in-residence Dana Wollman) may be better served by more purpose-built wearables that can more accurately measure one’s pace. Now, once I get moving, I don’t have too much trouble powering through to the end; the real trouble comes in getting off my ass to start with. For better or worse, Apple’s three-ringed activity app now offers more proactive notifications, the most effective of which tells me roughly how much longer I’d need to walk to hit my goals at the end of the day. It’s just enough of a push to get me where I want to be, and I’m surprised Apple didn’t implement this sooner.

Your author really needs to chill out.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Even though I’m not the exercise nut I used to be, I appreciated Apple’s enhanced focus on your heart. The Watch tries to get more accurate readings of your resting heart rate by checking it when it knows you haven’t been moving, and it plots your heart rate readings on handy graphs to show you changes over time.

It’s especially helpful for tracking your recovery after intense exercises, but that’s one of the few areas where the Watch offers a little more data than casual users are probably interested in. All told, this a wearable best suited for generalists. Good thing for Apple, then, that there are a lot of them out there. Hardcore athletes may get more mileage out of a wearable that measures even more, like blood oxygenation. (Curiously, the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor works in such a way that it could also function as a pulse oximeter, but the feature has never been activated.) What’s more unfortunate is that two features that should be great for exercise buffs — Apple Music streaming over LTE and integration with gym equipment through GymKit — won’t be ready for a few more weeks.

The competition

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There haven’t been too many Android Wear 2.0 watches released this year, which leaves the LG Watch Sport at the top of the proverbial pack. Chatting with Google Assistant is mostly a pleasure, and it uses a rotating crown button for navigation, just like the Series 3. One of Android Wear’s biggest assets has always been its visual flexibility, and I’ve spent more time than I care to admit sifting through watch faces in the Play Store in hopes of finding the perfect look for my wrist. The Sport can also jump onto cellular networks, but LG’s approach is problematic: There’s an actual SIM card inside, so the watch’s body is huge, and the antennas extend into the watch’s unremovable bands. It’s a solid option if you’re a smartwatch shopper who doesn’t care for Apple, but beware of its compromises.

Samsung’s Gear S3 Frontier comes to mind too, since it also packs an eSIM and an LTE radio for truly phone-free use. It’s a bigger, more masculine-looking watch than the Series 3, and it’s a little less comfortable, but its rotating bezel remains one of the most inspired interaction methods I’ve ever used on a smartwatch. It’s effing excellent, and so is its Spotify streaming support. The Frontier can also tell when you’ve started to work out and will track your movements accordingly, an intelligent touch that (sadly) doesn’t always work as well as it should. The biggest knock against the S3 Frontier, however, is its Tizen OS. Who cares if you can install apps in the woods if they’re mostly apps no one cares about?

Wrap-up

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The Apple Watch Series 3 often feels like two devices in one. When it’s connected to a phone, it’s an improvement over its predecessors in just about every way that matters. More important, the tight integration of improved hardware and more thoughtful software give the Series 3 a very notable edge over its smartwatch competition. It’s that good. As a standalone device, though, the Series 3 can be maddeningly limited. Over time, I’m sure apps will grow to take advantage of persistent data connections, and still other kinks will be worked out entirely. For now, though, the kinks remain and the overall experience suffers as a result. Apple’s vision of a wearable that remains forever connected to the things that matter to you is an enticing one, and the Series 3 is an important first step down that path. Here’s hoping Apple’s next step is as consistently good on its own as it is when connected to a phone.

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ZTE’s latest big-screen phone packs dual cameras for $129

While the rest of the tech world gets ready for the return of Samsung’s Galaxy Note line, ZTE continues its quiet takeover of the budget phablet market. Every year since 2014, the company has released a low-cost handset with a large screen, generous battery and surprisingly modern features (think: fingerprint sensors and USB-C ports). This time is no different. The 6-inch Blade ZMax is now available for pre-order via MetroPCS, and will be in stores on August 28th, starting at $ 129.

What stands out about this year’s model is that it has dual cameras — an unusual feature at this price. A slew of $ 200 phones unveiled at CES all featured the same iPhone 7 Plus–like setup, but the Blade ZMax is the first to offer it for less than $ 150. With the pair of sensors on the back, you can take pictures with artificially blurred backgrounds to highlight your subject. The Blade ZMax’s 16-megapixel RGB sensor captures color information, while its 2-megapixel monochrome counterpart takes care of details. During my brief time with the new handset, this system worked, blurring out chairs and desks in the background while keeping the man in the foreground crisp.

The Blade ZMax’s images fall short of those taken with iPhone 7 Plus, though. Apple’s software delivers cleaner, sharper pictures with better-defined edges between the subject and the background. Upon closer inspection, I also noticed a halo effect around the subject in shots taken with the Blade ZMax. It could be because I was using a defective unit, although ZTE hasn’t responded to my question as to whether this was the case. Still, the artifact was minor enough to overlook, and I’m not going to nitpick about a device that costs less than a night out with friends.

There’s really not much else to say about the Blade ZMax. Its rear is covered with a grippier dotted texture than its predecessor’s matte cover, while its battery is now 4,080mAh, up from 3,400mAh on last year’s model. Impressively, the phone is ever so slightly (0.03 inch) slimmer than its predecessor, despite that larger cell inside. But I still prefer the older handset’s aesthetic, which featured a blue rear with rose gold accents. The new rubbery cover feels comfortable, but it looks dull.

ZTE also opted for Japanese company Asahi’s Dragontail glass on its display instead of Corning’s Gorilla Glass. We’d seen this material on the Neo Reloaded as well, but Dragontail hasn’t shown up in other phones yet. From my time with the Blade ZMax, the different glass had no noticeable impact on the screen’s quality; colors and text on the 6-inch full HD display looked about as rich and sharp as on competing devices I’ve tested.

Although it has a more rugged aesthetic than its predecessor, the Blade ZMax is a well-rounded device for the price. In fact, it’s the only 6-inch phone around with relatively modern features for less than $ 150. There are some compromises you’ll have to tolerate in exchange for the savings, but people looking for a new handset with a large screen will find the Blade ZMax a promising option.

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Microsoft officially ends support for Windows Phone

It’s official: for all intents and purposes, the Windows Phone era is over. Microsoft has ended support for Windows Phone 8.1 just over 3 years after its April 2014 debut. From now on, your WP8.1-toting device won’t get software updates or technical help. This doesn’t mark the end of Microsoft’s mobile ambitions (Windows 10 Mobile is still hanging around), but it does finish a long, sad story in the company’s history that reflects the tech giant’s shifting priorities.

Windows Phone 7 was launched in 2010 as Microsoft’s formal response to the iPhone and Android. This was the release that was going to prove Microsoft could make a truly consumer-focused mobile platform instead of catering primarily to the business crowd. The tile-based home screen and other interface elements were breaths of fresh air, but the so-so device lineup (HTC Surround anyone?) and lack of feature parity (it launched without copy-and-paste text) set the tone. It was always a bit lackluster compared to what Apple and Google were doing, even if there were occasional bright spots.

Case in point: Windows Phone 8. It was a huge upgrade, but no Windows Phone 7 device could run it. Millions of users were faced with the prospect of having to upgrade their handset early to stay current, erasing a lot of Microsoft’s hard-earned good will. Windows Phone 8.1 finally provided a truly complete answer to Android and iOS, but it was still a little bit behind and never got the sustained big-name app support that Microsoft had tried so hard to cultivate. And we can’t forget the ill-fated partnership between Microsoft and Nokia, including the eventual purchase of Nokia’s hardware business. It was supposed to be a match made in heaven (Microsoft got a huge, reliable partner while Nokia got a modern OS), but it mostly led to a lopsided Windows Phone market where third parties always played second fiddle to the latest Lumia.

That Microsoft ditched Windows Phone entirely in favor of Windows 10 Mobile says a lot. Just as Microsoft shifted from a dependence on Windows sales to a focus on apps and services, the pocket-sized Windows is no longer intended as an iPhone-beater — it’s more an extension of the desktop PC experience. Even then, it’s fading away as Microsoft cuts its former Nokia staff and has been winding down its mobile plans. Windows Phone produced many fond memories, particularly stand-out devices like the Lumia 1020, but it largely represents a missed opportunity to adapt to an industry where phones, not PCs, are the center of the computing universe.

Via: The Verge

Source: Microsoft

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Verizon’s first LTE-only handset is an LG flip phone

When Verizon finished rolling out its LTE network for calls, it became apparent that it also plans to drop its CDMA phone service altogether. Now, the carrier has begun offering its first LTE-only handset to subscribers, and it’s obviously an attempt to lure people who prefer basic feature phones over smartphones away from the legacy network. The LG Exalt LTE is a flip feature phone, and even though it looks much nicer and sturdier than its plasticky counterparts, it’s still far removed from the advanced devices we’re used to today.

Its specs underline that it’s definitely not something for those expecting everything an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S8 can offer. The Exalt has an unnamed 1.1 GHz Snapdragon processor, a 3-inch WQVGA screen, a 5-megapixel camera, text-to-speech function, up to six hours of battery life, 8GB of storage and support for microSD cards up to 32GB. For people who just want a phone that makes clear voice calls, though, it could be more than enough. Since its calls go through Verizon’s LTE network, it takes advantage of the carrier’s HD Voice feature that delivers high-resolution sound.

LG’s Exalt LTE is available from Verizon’s website right now for $ 7 a month for two years or $ 168 up front. If it successfully entices feature phone lovers into upgrading, then the carrier can finally dedicate its CDMA network to powering internet of things devices.

Source: LG

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Google might bring curved screens to its next Pixel phone

Google, which has taken a hands-off approach to Android hardware until recently, may be getting more involved in smartphone production. It’s reportedly investing up to $ 875 million in LG Display to develop a stable supply of flexible OLED screens for its Pixel phones, according to reports from Korea’s Yonhap News and Electronic Times (ET). That would help ease supply problems for the next-gen device, as the current model has been nearly impossible to find.

The search giant would invest a trillion won ($ 875 million) and possibly more to secure a production line dedicated to its own smartphones. It may also reserve some flexible OLED screens for other devices like a rumored pair of “Pixel” smartwatches. LG display is reportedly mulling the offer, which would be a strategic investment and not just an order deposit. If it signs on, curved screens for the Pixel would likely be built in LG’s $ 1.3 billion flexible OLED line in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province.

With its Nexus phones, Google let partners Huawei, LG and HTC control all aspects of the devices and hardware. However, with the Pixel and Pixel XL, Google actually took charge of the design and thus, to some level, the hardware. That was both a good and bad thing — the phone was generally acknowledged as the best-ever Google device, but was only released in the US, UK, Australia, Germany and Canada. Even in those nations, it was pretty damn hard to find.

If the news is accurate (and with supply rumors, that’s a big “if”) then Google would be playing favorites with one Android supplier, LG, over another, Samsung. On the other hand, Samsung might be quite okay with that, considering it’s about to launch its own curved OLED Galaxy S8 smartphone and possibly supply the flexible OLED display for Apple’s next iPhone 8. With OLED tech seemingly the only thing that manufacturers want, it makes sense for Google to cut a deal with LG, which isn’t faring so well with its own devices.

Via: Techcrunch

Source: Yonhap, ET News (translated)

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Huawei finally has a phone worthy of the Leica brand

From super-slow-mo cameras and bezel-less displays to banking on the power of nostalgia, smartphone makers have tried almost every trick they can to stand out. Huawei’s latest strategy is to partner with color authority Pantone to come up with a variety of eye-catching hues for its latest flagship. The Huawei P10 (and the slightly larger P10 Plus) will be available in a slew of colors and finishes. But while that’s nice for people looking to personalize their phones, it’s not particularly useful.

What’s actually useful about the new flagship is its powerful camera and reliable performance wrapped in an understated, elegant frame. And although the phones won’t officially be coming to the US for the time being (they’ll sell in Europe starting at €649), they’re still a tantalizing preview of what Huawei might have in store.

Huawei has already proven itself capable of building premium, good-looking handsets, and the P10 is further evidence of that. Its slim 6.98mm (0.27-inch) profile and gently curving edges aren’t just pleasant to look at, they’re a pleasure to hold as well.

Many of my friends have pointed out the P10’s resemblance to the iPhone. And indeed, that’s true of the basic white/gold version I tested. If you aren’t feeling the Apple-esque look, you can opt for one of the many customization options that Huawei offers. Pick a different color — there are seven hues to choose from, including Pantone-approved “Dazzling Blue” and “Greenery.” Or try a different finish. You can get a smooth, sandblasted back, a glossy coat or a gritty texture that’s reminiscent of ridged, holographic lenticular cards. That last option is popular with a couple of my coworkers, and it does help the P10 stand out. The colors and textures available vary between countries, though, so you might not be able to get the exact combination you want.

The P10’s 5.1-inch full HD display is sharp and colorful, and while it won’t wow you with richly saturated images or deep blacks like Samsung’s flagships do, it’s good enough for my Instagram and Netflix binges. The same can be said for the P10 Plus’ 5.5-inch WQHD panel, which offers more space for gaming and reading. I just wish both phones were a tad brighter so I could read more easily in strong sunlight.

While we’re on the subject, the P10 and P10 Plus come with screen protectors out of the box. It didn’t bother me but might annoy people who want direct access to the display. The trouble for these folks is that it appears the protector was applied in lieu of an oleophobic coating on the screen, which other phones have in order to avoid fingerprint grease and water damage.

When we asked about the reported lack of this coating, Huawei said, “The P10 is the world’s first smartphone with capacitive under-glass fingerprint sensor for seamless navigation.” In layman’s terms, that all but confirms that Huawei did away with the coating to prevent interference with its under-glass fingerprint sensor. The company also said, “For screen protection, we have used premium materials such as Gorilla Glass 5 and include a screen protector as part of the integrated product.” Basically, if you want to remove the screen protector (which, by the way, is incredibly difficult), do so knowing you risk damaging the display.

Below the screen sits a pill-shaped home key that houses the fingerprint sensor. Think of this as an etched-out touchpad. It doesn’t depress or click; it simply senses your touch. There aren’t separate Back and Recent Apps buttons on its sides; you’ll have to tap once on the sensor to go back, hold down to go home and swipe sideways to multitask. This takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s worth learning now, since Huawei is not the only company implementing this method (the Moto G5 uses a similar format).

If that’s too much trouble, you can still opt for a set of onscreen navigation keys, which is the default setting for the larger P10 Plus. This feels more intuitive, but it makes the physical sensor redundant and confusing, since I still keep hitting it instinctively to go to the home screen.

Just as it has with the recently released Mate 9, Huawei has integrated artificial intelligence into the P10’s system. Thanks to the company’s custom octa-core Kirin 960 processor, the smartphone can learn your habits over time and divert resources like RAM and power to preparing the apps it predicts you will next open. During my month of testing, I most commonly used the P10 for taking pictures, looking at them in the gallery, and sharing them either on Instagram or to Google Drive. Switching between these apps is zippy, which could be a sign that Huawei’s algorithm is working well here (or, you know, that the processor and RAM are more than adequate for how I used the phone). Like I noted when I reviewed the Mate 9, though, this isn’t something you’ll notice until it doesn’t work. And it’s not as if the phone stuttered when I pulled up apps I didn’t use as frequently; in general, the P10 is responsive and multitasks well.

Capable performance and pleasant aesthetics are important basics to nail, but Huawei has come far enough that their delivering those is no longer surprising. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was the P10’s ability to take stunning pictures. When Huawei first teamed up with Leica to co-engineer the P9’s cameras in 2016, the result was underwhelming. Now the collaboration finally seems to be paying off. I’d actually reach for the P10 over my iPhone 6s every time I want to snap a pretty picture (or a gratuitous selfie). The P10 Plus has newer Leica sensors and a larger f/1.8 aperture than the regular P10’s f/2.0 setup, but I didn’t notice a significant difference in image quality other than more-saturated colors on the larger handset. Both cameras performed similarly well.

The P10’s rear features a 12-megapixel RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, similar to the setup on a handful of Android phones from ZTE and Xiaomi. Together, the cameras capture crisp, colorful photos with pretty bokeh, thanks to software that applies an artificial depth-of-field effect to pictures. From my experience, though, the iPhone 7 Plus is more accurate when it comes to identifying outlines of faces, while the P10 tends to be more muddy with its boundaries. It causes parts of my head, like my hair, to be blurred out along with the background. Still, the pictures look lovely, and the accuracy is already an improvement over the P9. Plus, it could easily be fixed with a software update.

What the P10 does that the iPhone can’t, though, is apply that same soft focus to selfies. I was won over the instant I saw the results — they’re almost pretty enough to make me switch to Android. It sounds vain, but the front-camera integration makes getting the bokeh effect much easier, and is a bonus for anyone who wants better selfies.

The P10’s front camera also has a handy tool for group selfies that detects faces in the shot and zooms in or out to accommodate them. This feature was finicky in my testing and didn’t always work. When it did kick in, it did a good job of providing enough room for everyone in the picture, but it’s too unreliable right now to be useful.

Software is a big reason the P10’s pictures are superb. Its camera app features a trio of color profiles — standard, vivid and smooth — that let you take richer, more saturated images that are Instagram-ready without any edits. These sometimes result in slightly overexposed photos because of the high contrast, but you can always shoot in standard mode to avoid that. The P10 is also impressive in low light. Pictures of buildings at night displayed almost no noise — details were clear and colors were vivid. Portrait mode can introduce noise, but even there it’s minor.

There is very little to dislike about the P10 — even its battery life is satisfying. The regular P10 has a 3,200mAh cell, while the Plus packs a 3,750mAh one. During my testing, both phones easily lasted about for a day and a half of average use. But anytime I started playing games or watching videos on YouTube, that runtime dropped to a day at best. That’s still impressive, though, and recharging the phone is speedy enough, thanks to quick-charge support. I was surprised to see the P10 go from zero percent to 25 percent charged in a mere 15 minutes.

Ultimately, the P10 and P10 Plus are good-looking, responsive phones with excellent cameras. But they’re not perfect. I’m not a fan of the home key navigation, nor do I like the limited availability of Huawei’s unique color options. Plus, the handsets won’t officially be coming to the US. If you get your hands on one and stick an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM card in there, the phone will work, though you may not get full LTE speeds, since the radio isn’t optimized for US spectrums. Huawei has only just begun bringing its popular handsets stateside, so hopefully the P10 will make its way here soon.

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China says Apple isn’t cloning a local phone maker

Did it seem ridiculous to you that Beijing officials ordered a ban on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus over a dubious design patent claim? You’re not the only one. A court has reversed the ban (which was suspended during a dispute process) and declared that Apple isn’t violating the patents of Shenzhen Baili Marketing Services, which insisted that the iPhone 6 riffed on the look of its 100c smartphone. Regulators issued the ban without real proof of wrongdoing, according to the ruling, and the iPhone has traits that “completely change the effect” of its design versus its (frankly very generic-looking) rival. Customers haven’t had a problem telling the difference between the iPhone and 100c, the court says.

This is water under the bridge for Apple given that it stopped selling the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus a while back — it wasn’t going to lose much money even if the court upheld the ban. However, the win could serve as a shot across the bow of other Chinese companies that might try a similar move in the future. If they want future claims to stick, they’ll have to show that there’s more than a passing similarity between devices. Otherwise, they may not get much more than a brief burst of publicity.

Source: SCMP, Reuters

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This iPhone case is basically an Android phone

iPhones have a reputation for being user friendly, but ultimately, Android can do a lot of things iOS can’t. Aspects of Android could be useful to all phone users, but straying from the Apple ecosystem can be intimidating. Now, there’s a new way for iPhone users to easily access Android features like expandable storage and multiple SIM cards. Entrepreneur Joseph Savion and his company ESTI Inc. decided to (almost literally) strap an Android phone to the back of an iPhone. That sounds like a strange idea, but that’s basically what ESTI’s Eye phone case does.

The case, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, adds a 5-inch AMOLED display, a 2.3GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU, a 2800mAh battery, up to 256GB of microSD storage, dual SIM slots, a headphone jack and wireless charging, among other features. There are two versions of the case: one with cellular connectivity and one without. A comment from Savion on the Kickstarter page says that the Android device can make use of the iPhone’s internet connection. While there is some other integration between the devices — they share the iPhone’s speaker, microphone and cameras — they pretty much function as their own machines.

The case runs Android 7.1 Nougat, and if Eye is starting to sound more like a standalone phone than an iPhone case, well, it’s priced like one too. It’s expected to retail for $ 189 (or $ 229 for the 4G version), although early Kickstarter backers can get theirs for $ 95 ($ 129 for 4G). That said, $ 95 for a phone is pretty cheap.

The main question is, who this product is even for? Most iPhone users seem happy with their devices, and probably don’t need a product like this to “improve” it. Even for users wanting to test the Android waters, there are plenty of non-Apple devices available for under $ 100 that could satisfy their curiosity without adding bulk to their current phone.

Ultimately, Eye seems a lot more interesting than it does practical. As of this writing, the case has raised over $ 84,000 of its $ 95,000 goal with 32 days to go. So, it might not be necessary, but it will probably come to market anyway.

Via: The Verge, 9to5Google

Source: Kickstarter

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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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