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Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact rumor roundup and preview: more of the same?

Normally, we’d not even dare tackle potentially game-changing Android devices such as Sony’s Xperia Z2 and Z1 Compact sequels collectively, in just one preview post, sending the message they’re not really important as standalone products. No matter how little we know (as in truly know) about them, and how distant their releases may seem.

Xperia Z2 Z1 Compact

After all, the Z1 Compact remains to this day the single most disruptive mini-flagship the mobile world has ever seen, and the Z2… oh, if only Sony had launched it earlier. Wider. With stronger marketing.

But sadly, based on the fairly credible rumors floating around these past few months and increasing in intensity the last week or so, I’m afraid the Xperia makers are leaving us no choice. The purported Z3 and Z3 Compact look like the kind of pithy, unnecessary spin-offs that even Samsung head honchos would reject as way too similar to previous spearheads.

Sony Xperia Z3

More of the same? The clichéd idiom can’t begin to encompass the frustration and stupefaction Sony fans will feel if the Z3/Z3 Compact pair materializes in the form so far speculated and authenticated by a bundle of legit-looking live photos. But let’s start from the beginning:

Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact preview – the why

Look, I get times are a-changing and all, and rolling out a high-end bad boy every 12 months doesn’t cut it anymore. I understand the advertising angle, and once in a blue moon, a, say, six-month upgrading cycle makes sense from a development and innovation standpoint as well.

Xperia Z3

But we’ve reached a point where even Qualcomm, the king of swift updates, is hitting the brakes until the “next big thing” is here. As in, you know, 64-bit processing power, which will become available on a wide scale for Androids in the first half of 2015.

Of course, speed and performance isn’t all about chips, however we’re not seeing worthwhile improvements in the display, camera, battery or memory departments on the horizon either. Unless you count Quad HD screen resolution as a worthwhile improvement. Which is not.

Xperia-Z3-slim

Bottom line, the why of the equation, the logic of Sony’s haste to replace the Z3 and Z3 Compact with something (barely) better is hard to find. Wait, I got it. Everyone else is following the same strategy, so why not Sony? Yeah, no, that ain’t going to boost profits and prominence in the long haul.

Z3/Z3 Compact rumor roundup – the when

In a nutshell, timing is the least mysterious thing about an overall perplexing duo of top-notch smartphones. There’s no smoke without fire, no churning of the rumor mill sans reason, and the magic 8-ball says September. 2014. Full stop.

Xperia Z2 introduction

Both for the Z3 and Z3 Compact. Both for their formal announcements and commercial rollouts. Makes little to no sense, but let’s just go with it, mmkay?

Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact – the how and the what

Close your eyes, free your mind, and let’s play a little word association game. I’m going to spit out a few specs, and you’ll write down the first gizmo that pops up in your brain. Quad-core Snapdragon 801 CPU, 3 GB RAM, Full HD display, 20.7 MP rear-facing camera. Got it? How many of you have the Z2? Everybody?

That was to be expected, yet I was actually thinking of the Xperia Z3. And in case you’re wondering how it is any different from the Z2, well, the S801 inside the “next-gen flagship” is clocked at 2.5 GHz, not 2.3. Are… you… frigging… kidding us, Sony? That’s it? A whole 0.2 GHz upgrade just for us? No extra megapixels, no 4 GB RAM, not even a gimmicky boost to a 2,560 x 1,440 pix res panel? Forget it, no one will be buying.

Xperia Z3 system

To add insult to injury, the exterior is refined at best, with slightly slimmer bezels, more rounded corners (though you need a magnifying glass to see the contrast), and dual front-facing speakers. No one knows for sure how large the screen will be, but my guess is it’s going to be a 5.5 incher capable of fitting in the old chassis that only allowed a 5.2-inch usable piece of glass inside. Big whoop.

Now, granted, we don’t have the full picture yet, and key pieces of the puzzle (battery, storage, sensors) are missing. But by the looks of it, Sony needs an entirely new puzzle.

Xperia Z1 Compact

The Z3 Compact? Despite what the name suggests (a two-generation step forward compared to the outstanding Z1 Compact), the “unapologetic” high-end midget rumored at this time is an upgrade just as disappointing as the full-sized Z3.

Namely, we’re allegedly looking at a 4.5 incher with 720p display res, quad-core Snapdragon 801 SoC, 2 GB RAM, 20.7 MP main photographic unit and, of course, Android 4.4 KitKat running the software show. Sooo, a slightly larger Z1 Compact with an infinitesimal speed bump and, likely, a wee bit of added battery juice. Facepalms, facepalms everywhere.

The what the f…, Sony?

I can’t stress enough we might be getting worked up over nothing, and the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact could end up as the game-changing phones we once envisioned. Or they may simply not be real. Not like this, and not headed for market this fall.

Xperia Z2 G Lens

But if they are all the tipsters claim, then Sony has some serious soul-searching to do. Question one on the agenda: are we in this business to mindlessly mimic others or set the pace at which others will follow? Food for thought, eh?

Amazon Fire Phone: Top features and key weaknesses

Every gadget, no matter how carefully prepared, thought-through and well-groomed, has flaws. The iPhone 5s fell short of perfection, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 likewise, and even LG’s G3 is underwhelming in some respects.

amazon_fire_phone

The key to success is in most cases to cover a device’s imperfections with a greater number of assets. More important than their count, these have to stick and make you forget all about the obligatory pitfalls.

On that note, we intend to explore in the following lines the sum of the just announced Amazon Fire Phone’s strong and weak points. Clearly, pitting it against other top dogs of the Android market is impractical, since it’s really a unique piece of mobile tech, so in a way, Amazon’s mission to seize the attention of everyday users is that much more difficult. Not to mention risky.

Jeff Bezos

Without further ado therefore, here’s what could make or break the Fire Phone:

3D interface, aka Dynamic Perspective – the good and bad of a cutting-edge technology

Before sinking our teeth into the ingenious but somewhat gimmicky 3D effects and their real-life usefulness (or lack thereof), a vital remark: the Fire Phone has nothing to do with the clunkiness and frivolousness of past 3D phones. Remember the LG Optimus 3D? HTC’s Evo 3D? Oh, gawd, they were horrendous.

Meanwhile, the petite (by today’s standards) Fire may not be perfect, but it’s obviously a step forward for 3D tech. What it does is basically track your every move, motion or gesture when near the handheld (scary, huh?), via four front-facing cams (separate of the selfie-dedicated 2.1 MP snapper).

Then, depending on exactly what it detects, it essentially enables touch less interaction at a whole new level compared to Motorola’s Moto X or recent Samsung flagships. Forget buggy, rudimentary Air Gestures, this is like their future, smoother counterpart.

Dynamic Perspective

Technically, Dynamic Perspective will work with an array of Amazon-developed apps and third-party titles and game, as well as every tidbit of the pre-loaded UI. But simply flicking through photos or installed apps with no hands is likely to get old soon, so Jeff Bezos & co. need vigorous support from outside devs to keep things diverse and interesting.

Firefly, Mayday, Amazon Prime – the true must-buy features

Look, I realize these might be considered gimmicks too, maybe more so than the 3D effects, but damn, are they neat. A service that can recognize everything you put in front of the phone, from DVDs to books and household appliances, plus that can identify songs and whatnot, and then provide links for online purchasing? Brilliant.

Customer service support accessible every day, every night, via Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G and where operators answer your questions in 15 seconds tops? Where do I sign up? And the icing on the cake may just be the one-year free membership to Amazon Prime, Netflix’s feistiest rival nowadays. Mind you, that’s a $99-worth freebie, so on-contract pricing basically drops to $100 and outright costs to $550. Sweet!

AT&T exclusivity – the beginning of the end?

So far, so good for the Fire Phone (or at least so far, so adequate), but launching the 4.7 incher on just one US network is a big, big mistake. Parallels with AT&T’s latest exclusive flop, the HTC First, aka “Facebook Phone”, are inevitable, and while this thing is clearly better than the First both software and hardware-wise, addressing a target audience of merely 100 million or so is, put simply, amateur hour.

amazon-fire-phone-att

Don’t kid yourselves, no one will migrate from Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile to Ma Bell for a phone. Especially one that’s got multiple minor weaknesses, which combined, result in pretty major qualms.

Specs – not great, not terrible

Amazon is exposing itself to one more unflattering comparison with this whole “specs aren’t important” marketing strategy. Namely, the semblances with Motorola’s Moto X are striking. Good thing Bezos didn’t order a “customized” homebrewed processor, instead going the safe and smart route with Qualcomm’s aging but bitching quad-core Snapdragon 800 unit.

amazon-fire-phone-specs

The 2 gigs of RAM are sizzling hot too (for a device that doesn’t care about specs), but sadly, the 4.7-inch 720p display is simply too small and low-res for most power users. Personally, I dig it and especially appreciate its outdoor visibility performance, but I can understand why you’d be let down. Also, no microSD card slot? That may work for Google, because it’s Google, but you’re no Google, Amazon.

Software and design – swing and a miss

Yeah, yeah, we knew what to expect and got just that – a carbon copy of the Fire OS found inside Amazon tablets, theoretically based on Android, but looking like anything but Big G’s platform. Seriously, it’s probably closer to iOS than vanilla Android.

amazon-fire-phone-OS

And so annoyingly connected to Amazon’s Appstore, and its proprietary services. Plus, Here Maps, which I’m actually fine with. The rest? Not so much. I mean, I’m no Play Store addict, and Amazon’s Appstore has its value, but offering the choice between the two would have really been the best of both worlds.

Aesthetically, the Fire Phone is no winner either, although certain build elements will be greatly appreciated. Aluminum buttons, steel connecters, a few extra metallic accents, they all give the 4.7 incher a sense of robustness and durability.

Amazon_Fire_Phone_Design

Still, at the end of the day, a bit of elegance would have gone a long way in differentiating the handheld from, say, Google’s Nexus 4. Yeah, the two-year-old N4. Now I’m not accusing anyone of stealing, as the Fire Phone has enough to set itself apart from the crowd. But 9 mm in depth? 160 grams in weight with a skinny 2,400 mAh battery beneath the hood? Someone from the design team is going to get fired.

13 MP OIS camera and stereo speakers – too little, too late?

Aside from the four cams used solely for tracking purposes, the Amazon Fire also features a top-notch rear-facing shooter with 13 megapixel sensor, optical image stabilization, LED Flash, autofocus, HDR and a bunch of other add-ons.

amazon_fire_camera

Impressive feat once again for a non-spec-buster, and the dual stereo speakers, as well as the Dolby Digital Plus sound system, also help paint the gadget a much flattering picture than maybe we expected a while ago. Enough to break new ground in the landscape, launch trends and lay the groundwork for a fresh race of high-end smartphones? I think I’m going to go with no, thinking back to the restricted OS, AT&T exclusivity, scanty battery or lackluster design.

How about you, dear readers, are you inclined to play with Fire? Sound off below and tell us why.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 vs Apple iPad Air – Specs comparison

Top-shelf Samsung Galaxy smartphones have been dominating Apple iPhones in raw speed, software smoothness, multitasking, accessibility and usability for years now, and that’s no longer just the biased opinion of an Android fanboy (which I am).

samsung-galaxy-tab-s-10-5-vs-apple-ipad-air

Supported by sales numbers, as well as many nonpartisan critical reviews, Sammy’s superiority over Cupertino is on the verge of a major breakthrough and unexpected transition to the tablet décor. Yeah, Apple, you may still have the upper hand financially, but the iPad mini Retina is no match for the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 hardware-wise.

Nor is the iPad Air for the Tab S 10.5, the other high-resolution Super AMOLED slate introduced last week. And sooner or later, people will become aware of your disadvantage, laziness and self-sufficiency, migrating en masse to Android.

It’s really just a matter of time. For now, all we can do is prove to tech-savvy folks the Tab S 10.5 is the (much) better slab. Not with words, but numbers. Here we go:

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 vs iPad Air – design, build quality and dimensions

Numbers don’t lie, try not to forget that, and sink your teeth in the following figures: 10.5 inches, 467 grams, 6.6 mm. Now compare them with 9.7 inches, 469 grams and 7.5 mm. Granted, Samsung can’t really call its latest flagship tablet “lighter than Air”, as Amazon hilariously did last year.

Samsung-Galaxy-Tab-S-10.5

But it’s amazing how the Koreans pulled off a gizmo with plenty of extra screen real estate, yet just as light and, most incredibly of all, thinner than the iPad Air. Look at those bezels. They’re simply flawless.

True, Apple prevails in the build quality battle with ease, thanks to extra-premium, extra-robust, extra-sleek aluminum. Meanwhile, Samsung’s plastic is chintzy, though less so than before, and the perforated rear pattern, “borrowed” from the Galaxy S5, somehow works. And I was never a fan of it on the S5.

Display face-off

Numbers don’t lie, I can’t stress that enough, and so it’s basically pointless to try to find fancy, bombastic adjectives describing the greatness of the Super AMOLED panel found on the Tab S 10.5. It’s great, and let’s leave it at that.

Galaxy-Tab-S-10.5-display

Far greater than iPad Air’s IPS LCD “Retina” unit, which boasts a now humble 2,048 x 1,536 pixels resolution and 264 ppi pixel density. Humble when compared to Tab S 10.5’s digits, that is – 2,560 x 1,600, 288 ppi.

Looking beyond cold, objective, inexpressive numbers for a second, the superior pixel count of the GTab S and its using of an AMOLED display shall no doubt translate into better viewing angles, brighter, more vibrant colors and improved contrast.

Processing speed, RAM and storage

Offered in alternate Exynos and Snapdragon configurations, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 packs eight and four cores respectively, but 3 gigs of RAM either way. Ergo, multitasking is so much breezier on the Android bad boy than the iOS-running, 1 GB RAM-featuring heavyweight contender, which also has to clear software limitation hurdles to access two or more apps at the same time.

samsung-galaxy-tab-s-10-5-vs-ipad-air

Tragedy for Apple, whose dual-core (ew) homebrewed A7 chip is a sorry excuse for a Snapdragon 800 or Exynos 5 Octa rival. Storage? The iPad Air comes in four variations, not just two, as the Tab S, technically being the wiser choice for memory hoarders.

Only if you think about it, the 32 GB Tab S can accommodate up to 160 gigs of data when adding a microSD card in the equation. iPad Airs max out at 128 GB in lack of expendable storage support, so I guess you can put another one in Samsung’s hefty win column.

Galaxy Tab S 10.5 vs iPad Air – software and battery life duel

There’s no such thing as a perfect ecosystem, operating system, smartphone or tablet, so not even the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 can win all its bouts against the iPad Air. In addition to build quality therefore, the Achilles’ heel is software, on account of Google Play still including way too few tablet-dedicated apps.

GalaxyTabS10.5

Also, many that are just too clunky to take into account. Samsung is trying its best to fix the inconveniences through Touchwiz-specific tweaks, a user interface called Magazine UX and so on and so forth, but at the end of the day, the Android skin has its upsides (improved productivity) and flaws (bugs, lag, you name it).

As far as autonomy goes, I’m afraid the iPad Air could come out victorious as well, since it boasts the more frugal processor, the lower-res screen and the slightly beefier battery (8,820 vs 7,900 mAh). But that’s where optimizations and Ultra Power Saving Modes come in, so don’t be surprised to notice similar autonomy results in real life.

Cameras, connectivity and others

Look, there’s no point sugarcoating it, if you’re one of those guys that takes pictures at concerts using a 10-inch “laptop replacement”, you’re a douche. But hey, even douches have standards, so if you fit the profile, go for the Tab S. It’s got an 8 MP rear snapper with LED Flash and autofocus, while the iPad Air comes a bit short photo-quality wise, due to an inferior 5 megapixel sensor.

Galaxy-Tab-S-10.5_back

What else? Naturally, 4G speeds can be accessed on both pads, though LTE Tab S versions may be a little scarcer and hard to come by than iPads the next few months. On the bright side, Samsung took the risk of incorporating fingerprint recognition tech in something larger than a phone, unlike Apple, which saves Touch ID for iPhones.

Pricing, availability and wrap up

Charging more than an iPad for an iPad killer is usually a mistake punishable by oblivion, but the Tab S is a pithy $70 or so north of the cheapest Air. And that’s after several iPad discounts. Also, need I remind you how much zippier, sleeker and vibrant the 10.5-inch Galaxy Tab is?

ipad-air-vs-galaxy-tab-s-10-5

What remains to be seen is which of America’s big four operators will be carrying the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (AT&T is already confirmed) and how much they’ll be asking with LTE. I’m guessing more or less in iPad Air 4G’s ballpark, in which case the final takeaway is easy to guess. Move over, iPad Air, the large tablet world has a new ruler. All hail the king! 

Asus flaunts international PadFone S hybrid ahead of Computex

With precisely a week left until the debut of Computex 2014, Asus is beginning to find it hard to keep its cards close to the chest. The June 3-7 technology fair in Taipei will no doubt see a host of new Asus-made gizmos come to light, including several LTE-enabled Zenfones.

Asus PadFone S-2

Also, a fresh entry into the booming PadFone franchise. Another one? That’s right, though the PadFone S may look a little familiar. That’s because it’s basically the international counterpart of the AT&T-only PadFone X, unveiled way back in January, but for some reason not yet available for sale.

Well, don’t be surprised if X and S deliveries start simultaneously, perhaps immediately after Computex wraps up. The thing is the expo appearance is pretty pointless right now, since a Taiwanese website has already got one-on-one time with the PadFone S, previewing and thoroughly detailing it in a high-res photo gallery.

The focus is on the white flavor, although the black model makes a short cameo too, and both hybrids are elegant, sleek and, most of all, versatile. The use principle is the same old, same old, and the keyboard dock is yet to make a comeback, so you still get a smartphone seamlessly capable of transforming into a tablet.

Asus PadFone S

A 5-inch smartphone with an 8.9-inch PadFone Station, each sporting Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 and 1,920 x 1,200 pixels respectively). Inside the hood, a quad-core 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 800 chip takes care of raw speed business, aided by 2 GB RAM, and a mid-sized 2,300 mAh battery keeps the lights on in handheld mode.

When used as a slate, the PadFone S naturally increases its juice, with an extra 4,990 mAh cell, bringing the ensemble to a total weight of 514 grams and total waistline of 11.6 mm. Like on AT&T’s X, you get 4G LTE support and a microSD card slot, whereas on-board storage clocks in at 16 GB.

Asus PadFone S-3

Slapped to the rear of either the phone or tab, there’s a top-notch 13 MP camera, while a modest 2 megapixels are in charge of selfies. All in all, the PadFone S can best be described as an upper mid-range cross-breed, and rumor is Asus won’t go overboard when pricing the “convertible”.

Namely, expect the thing to cost TWD 20,000 when it starts selling on Taiwanese shores, which is the equivalent of $660. Or €480. On the old continent, it can’t go for north of €500, albeit it’s still unclear exactly what markets will get it and when. Stay tuned for the full story, set to unravel soon enough.

Via [Sogi]

Moto X+1 or Droid Ultra sequel? Motorola XT912A surfaces with Snapdragon 800

It’s no secret Motorola means business in spite of an impending Lenovo acquisition with still hard to guess ramifications, as an eclectic blend of ultra-affordable Moto devices and high-enders have been tipped of late for 2014 introductions.

moto-x

The leathery X+1, LTE-enabled G and dirt-cheap E are among these forthcoming potential box-office hits, with Droid Ultra, Maxx and Mini follow-ups also implied. And let’s not forget the 360, Motorola’s first foray into the booming wearable market sector and one of the first smartwatches built on Android Wear.

Also, the XT912A handheld. Wait, what XT912A? Well, the XT912A revealed in a GFX Bench test moments ago. Now, it’s virtually impossible to guess the phone’s future market name based solely on that confusing model number, but looking at the specs disclosed I think I’ve narrowed down the list of suspects to a couple.

My hunch and nothing but my hunch tells me the XT912A is… drum roll, please… either the X+1 (which I secretly hope will end up being called something else), or some kind of Droid Ultra sequel. Or who knows, a flagship device part of a different family and set to roll out internationally.

Nah, my money’s on the X+1. I mean, the hardware is high-end, but not too high-end, just like with the first-gen X. The 5.2-inch display sports 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution, which is an obvious progress from 1,280 x 720, but nowhere near Oppo Find 7 and LG G3’s 2,560 x 1,440.

Motorola XT912A

The chip taking care of the speed business is a quad-core 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 800, not a 2.5 GHz S801. Then you have 2 GB RAM, not 3, a 12 MP rear-facing camera, not 16 or 21, and finally 32 GB built-in storage (24 user available), signaling the absence of a microSD card slot.

On the software side of things, this X+1 prime candidate runs Android 4.4.3 KitKat, which is yet to roll out in an organized fashion to a single gadget out and about. One more reason to doubt we’re dealing with a Verizon-exclusive Droid Ultra Plus, Droid Ultra 2 or whatever.

Back to the cryptic XT912A designation, let’s mention it smells a bit fishy, as last year it was allocated to a Moto X test build that, as far as we know, never became reality. Digging even further, we can track an XT912 model number associated with Verizon’s 2011 Droid Razr, meaning this XT912A might be part of the Droid family after all. Or a very complex hoax. Or another prototype doomed to never see daylight.

Damn it, there are just too many variables to the equation! But the bottom line is Motorola is alive and kicking. 

Via [GFX Bench]

LG G3 for Sprint shows up in User Agent Profile with Quad HD display, 3 GB RAM

And just like that, LG’s next-gen flagship device, probably dubbed G3, is as good as confirmed. What, you didn’t really think the creators of the sensational G2 would sit idly by while Samsung’s Galaxy S5, Sony’s Xperia Z2 and HTC’s One (M8) got all the media and user attention, did you?

LG-G2

True, they already rolled out a top-tier handheld in 2014, however it’s obvious the G Pro 2 was always envisioned as something to help pass the time until the real spearhead came to light. Like a prelude. An appetizer to precede the big, juicy steak.

And here she is, detailed quite thoroughly by a User Agent Profile sighted on Sprint’s website after a bit of digging. Of course, we can’t be sure this is G2’s legitimate heir, though the model number leaves little room to doubt.

LS990 is the logical follow-up to LS980, the alias of the G2 available on America’s Now Network. And no, there’s no way this LS990 is a G Pro 2 or another half-assed spin-off, since display resolution is listed at, wait for it, 2,560 x 1,440 pixels.

LG LS990

Otherwise known as Quad HD, QHD or 2K, the breathtaking pixel count has so far been adopted by Oppo’s Find 7 and the Vivo XPlay 3S. No Samsung, no Sony, no HTC. I know, it’s overkill, but then again, what if isn’t?

What if LG finds a way to put the extra pixels to use? Their screens have always been amazing, and if there’s anyone capable of pulling Quad HD off splendidly, it’s them. The UA Prof makes no clear mention of size, yet if the G3 is to up the res ante beyond Full HD, I reckon they’ll go over the 5-inch mark too. Maybe stop at 5.5 inches.

Meanwhile, on the raw speed side of things, 3 GB RAM appears to be taking care of multitasking business, and a quad-core Qualcomm MSM8974AA of processing power. Wait, that can’t be right. MSM8974AA is Snapdragon 800’s designation.

LS990

And with a few months still left to LG G3’s introduction, you’d think at worse a Snapdragon 801 would run the hardware show. Maybe an S805. Or who knows, one of those unique homebrewed Odin thingies.

Bottom line, I presume it’s a typo. Or hope, hope sums it up better. The camera sensors don’t look so hot on paper either, at 13 and 2.1 megapixels, so it’s entirely possible this G3 variant is a (very) early, unfinished, unrefined prototype.

The last few tidbits the UA Prof reveals is Sprint’s LG LS990 runs Android 4.4 KitKat, offers 32 GB built-in storage and a microSD card slot for 64 GB expansion. That sounds legit, but for everything else I’d expect further confirmation. Probably soon to come.

Via [Sprint]

Top five reasons why Samsung’s Galaxy S5 can’t please us all

It’s almost here. Yet there’s still so much about it we don’t know. Or rather, we’re unsure of. At least two primary Samsung Galaxy S5 versions (not counting sub-varieties like the Zoom or Mini) will presumably roll out at some point, but no one’s certain if both the “Standard” and “Prime” are due for announcements next week.

Galaxy S5 concept

Probably not though. Then there’s the crucial question of hardware, as the puzzle got more complicated yesterday instead of easier to solve. The possibility of a 64-bit “true” octa-core Exynos chip powering one of the multiple S5s is not only back on the table, but actually appears plausible for a change.

Snapdragon? Of course the S5 will offer that choice too. S800 or S805? I’m beyond trying to find such answers. Nor do I think I can crack the metalplastic case. The design altogether. You see, we’re worse than back to square one after months of rabid rumor-mongering. We’re back to square zero.

Galaxy S5

But hey, is patience so obsolete we can’t give it three more days? Let’s all take a chill pill, world, and for once, look forward to an intro without knowing too much beforehand. Besides, whatever Samsung has in the pipeline, we’ll still hear bitching and moaning. Here’s why:

Plastic vs metal – no way out

Unless Samsung discovers a new element between now and Monday, their options for S5’s build materials are limited. They can go with plastic or metal. Or both. But here’s the thing. Samsung can’t win this argument, just, best case scenario, limit the negative criticism.

htc-one

If they choose plastic, well, we all know how that goes down. Ewww, it looks cheap, it’s fragile, schlocky, blah, blah, blah. Aluminum? It’s probably a better choice in the long run, yet you’ll still hear voices accusing Samsung of ripping off HTC or Apple. Like anyone can patent a chemical element.

Samsung-Galaxy-S4

Both? Not a bad idea either, but it could fuel the rip-off squabble even more. I mean, a plastic Galaxy S5C and metal S5S to take on Apple’s iPhone 5C and 5S? That could be truly disastrous for Samsung. Bottom line, the only way out is kryptonite.

Spec wars – can’t live with them, can’t live without them

Look, I enjoy looking at hollow numbers all day and trying to compare them like they still mean something as much as the next (lifeless) guy, but you have to draw the line somewhere. 3 or 4 GB RAM? Are you friggin kidding me, I own a laptop with 4 GB RAM, and probably don’t use that at its full potential.

Exynos-Infinity

Quad-core this, octa-core that, 32-bit, 64-bit, they’re gimmicks. And to understand how silly things have gotten, Samsung is allegedly considering to come out with a 64-bit phone when Android only supports 32-bit. Of course, you can call that thinking ahead of the curve. I call it running out of ideas.

Then again, what’s the alternative? Voluntarily exit the spec wars when you’ve spent so much time building them up? You can’t do that, because not everyone reads The Droid Guy, so there are plenty of non-geeks out and about under the illusion number of cores matters.  

Saturation

The number three reason why Samsung’s Galaxy S5 can’t possibly please us all ties nicely with reason #2. Basically, it’s like this: smartphones have evolved at such a tremendous pace these past few years, the market has become oversaturated, and there’s no room for further development. Innovation. Real, palpable upgrades.

Cell phone

Until genuinely flexible devices become reality, or someone actually comes up with something new, we’ll pretty much be getting rehashed versions of the same gadgets year after year. With less lag, a little bigger, brighter, more colorful, but the same gadgets. And the Galaxy S5 can’t be any different, fingerprint recognition or no fingerprint recognition, invisible camera button or no invisible camera button.

Competition

As Apple mulls over an “iPhablet” (or two) for summer releases, LG and Sony continuously bolster their reputations as competitors to be taken seriously, and HTC, well, shouldn’t be ruled out yet, any misstep from Samsung is bound to get the Koreans in quicksand. Dangerous, dangerous quicksand.

iphone 6

And as we’ve seen already, it’s practically impossible for Sammy to not make a couple of mistakes, or what some will interpret as mistakes. There’s just no way out. Too bad LG isn’t ready to take the wraps off a G3, and Sony’s Xperia Z2 doesn’t look like much, or the Galaxy S5 would be in very deep trouble.

It’s just a phone

Think the Galaxy S5 will be revolutionary, alter your life, make everything better, brighter, rosier? Ready to cough up a month’s pay on the 5.2-incher as soon as it’s out despite doing the same last year, with the S4, and the year before, with the S3?

Reckon you’ll die a little inside if Samsung does the unthinkable and manufactures it out of plastic while putting a “passé” 32-bit quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU and “modest” 3 GB RAM beneath its hood?

samsung-s-evolution

Newsflash, you need to get out more (unless you live in Ukraine, in which case stay indoors). Find a hobby, erm, a different hobby, smell the flowers, forget about Facebook and Flappy Bird for one lousy day. And ultimately, sure, buy the S5 if you can afford it and think it’s worth it. But remember, it’s just a slab of silicon, a tool, not the answer to life, the universe and everything.

Ah, forget it, you’re never going to listen to me anyway, which is why this is probably the main reason Samsung is screwed: pressure and unrealistic expectations. Thoughts?     

LG G Pro 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – Specs Comparison

Emboldened by its fruitful collaboration with Google for arguably the best Nexus phone yet, the N5, always underdog LG has last year turned the page to a new, exciting chapter in the company’s evolution, strengthening its position as potential future Samsung rival thanks to the outstanding G2.

LG G Pro 2 official

And now they’re at it again, taking the wraps off the most robust bidder for Galaxy Note 3’s phablet crown. Meet the G Pro 2, a beast that looks to up Optimus G Pro’s ante by leaps and bounds in each and every specific department.

There’s an obvious, striking design makeover, employed basically to cut all ties between the G Pro 2 and first-gen G Pro, instead emphasizing family connections with the G2. Then you have a massive hardware upgrade, though it was easy to foretell since, well, it’s been 12 months.

Galaxy Note 3

Lastly, LG continues to put a lot of work into software, both by ensuring the early adoption of fresh Android versions and the spicing up of the bland, “vanilla” OS with a silky smooth custom UI. Enough to confiscate Note 3’s world heavyweight title? Only one way to find out – pit the two against each other in an epic specs battle:

LG G Pro 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – design comparison

Remember the Optimus G Pro? It tried so hard to ape the GNote 2, it was almost impossible to pick it out of a lineup. Which wasn’t a bad thing, mind you. It was horrible. Who wants a sleazy copycat when they can have the original? Who wants a $600 – $700 gizmo with no identity?

Luckily (for them), LG learned their lesson, and the G Pro 2 is nothing alike the Note 3. Well, you could say the bezel thickness is around the same mark, but that’s clearly one similarity we’re willing to overlook.

LG G Pro 2

Both obscenely large, yet somehow grippable, sturdy yet elegant, the rivals ultimately send off fairly different vibes, courtesy of a curvy exterior on the G Pro 2, and a more industrial feel to the Note 3. Oh, and the rears. What spectacular rears!

Textured faux-leather to replace conventional glossy plastic on the Note 3, and physical buttons on the G Pro 2 for distinction and uniqueness (unless you’re comparing it to the G2). How can one pick a winner? Maybe the product dimensions will help settle this?

Galaxy Note 3 back

Nope, sorry. The G Pro 2 rocks superior screen real estate (5.9 vs 5.7 inches), the exact same waist as the Note 3 (8.3 mm), and measures a tad more in height and width (157.9 x 81.9 mm vs 151.2 x 79.2 mm). Bottom line? No way to choose a victor.

Display face-off

5.9-inch IPS LCD panel with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution and 373 ppi vs 5.7-incher Super AMOLED with 1,920 x 1,080 pix res and 386 ppi. Shall I even say it? Im-pos-si-ble to single out a champ. I mean, yes, G Pro 2’s screen is larger and that goes a long way with some, but Note 3’s is technically the crisper, thanks to superior pixel density.

LG_G_PRO_2_01

Also, AMOLED trumps LCD on paper in response time, brightness and viewing angles, though you’ll need X-ray vision to tell the differences in real life.

Processing speed, RAM and camera duel

Initially expected out later this month, at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress, LG’s G Pro 2 debuted early for two reasons. One, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 will be on display in Catalonia, and you don’t want to mess with the advertising juggernaut by scheduling a release the same day as their “next big thing”.

More importantly, there’s a very tight window of time Android OEMs can still dish out Full HD, Snapdragon 800-packing handhelds and claim they’re the bomb. So the timing is good so far, but LG also desperately needs a quick commercial launch. As in two, three weeks from now, tops.

LG_G_PRO_2_02

Back to our comparison, once again we’re dealing with an incredibly evenly matched bout. The on-board chips are identical (2.2 GHz quad-core S800), as is the memory (3 GB RAM). Cameras? Not quite two peas in a pod, however it’s unclear who comes out on top without seeing G Pro 2’s snappers in action.

LG is raving about OIS+ (improved optical image stabilization), which sure sounds nice, and is completely missing on the Note 3. Yet we know better than blindly buy into marketing propaganda. What do the cold numbers say? 13 and 2 MP sensors for both, but 4K Ultra HD and 120 fps HD video recording only for the G Pro 2. So we have our winner.

LG G Pro 2 vs Note 3 – software and battery life

If LG rolls the G Pro 2 out tomorrow, Samsung may be forced to play catch up for once from a software standpoint. But not for long, as the Note 3 is steadily moving up to Android 4.4 KitKat around the world. The G Pro 2? It’s chocolaty out the box.

As far as unique little perks go, Sammy is still ahead, with LG however continuously raising the bar. You got Knock Code, Mini View, a Dual Browser, Content Lock and so on and so forth, whereas on the other side of the fence air gestures and S-Voice lead the pack.

LG_G_PRO_2_02

The autonomy, like the camera performance, is hard to rate with no G Pro 2 reviews to rely on, so patience is advised. If you want a guesstimate, Samsung will take this with ease, due to G Pro 2’s bigger display and, especially, software optimizations. For the record, the tickers are exactly the same size – 3,200 mAh.

Connectivity, ports, audio and others

Kudos to LG for finally paying attention to little details, such as speakers. Don’t get me wrong, Note 3’s audio is decent enough, but it’s hardly a match for G Pro 2’s 1W Hi-Fi sound system. I can almost hear the 5.9-incher causing raucous in my apartment building. It’s just a phone, neighbor.

Samsung_Galaxy_Note_3

Too bad the underdogs still have no answer for S Pen support and Note 3’s high-speed USB 3.0 port, or else they’d jump in the favorite seat. Anything else to influence the final outcome of the duel? Not that I can think of, as there’s microSD support on both giants, 32 GB built-in storage, 4G LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, etc., etc.

Conclusion

I’ll keep it short. The LG G Pro 2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 are tied all in all. They each have their little upsides and flaws, but ultimately choosing one or the other is a personal preference matter. Or maybe a pricing matter, since LG is yet to reveal that particular tidbit. Stay tuned.

Oppo Find 7 debut set for March 19, benchmark lists Full HD display, not 2K

Little-known China-based electronics manufacturer Oppo made its first waves in the Android landscape by partnering with CyanogenMod for the swiveling camera-toting N1 handheld, but it became clearer and clearer over the past few months that the 5.9-incher was just the beginning.

oppo-find-7

Oppo’s next step in its quest to world domination? A little big thing called Find 7, rumored to go official later this month, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and heavily teased by the company’s very apt social media team of late.

And when I say teased, I don’t mean the usual vague bs-ing Western mobile players can afford to employ, but a much more precise hype-building campaign, which reached its peak when Oppo confirmed Find 7’s size and display resolution: 5.5-inch, with 2K, aka QHD, aka Quad HD.

Only the beast popped up in GFX Bench’s database less than 24 hours ago, and, surprise, surprise, its tested screen res was 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. Aka “run-of-the-mill” Full HD. Now, this particular benchmark is not just fairly renowned and prominent, it’s also extremely reliable.

So I highly doubt the info revealed is phony. It’s not very likely the GPU performance test has trouble detecting the new, improved, futuristic resolution either, since Vivo’s Xplay 3S, the world’s first 2K handheld, is listed with 2,560 x 1,440.

Oppo Find 7 benchmark

But I wouldn’t throw myself in the arms of desperation just yet. It’s entirely possible Oppo examined several different Find 7 hardware configurations before settling on the one they’re to offer for sale. Or maybe they intend to beat Apple and Samsung at their own games by rolling out a “Standard” Find 7 version (think iPhone 5c) and “Premium” model (a la iPhone 5s).

Either way, don’t take GFX Bench’s “word” for granted. Just to cover all bases, let’s mention a couple of other specs have emerged via the benchmark, namely pre-loaded Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and a quad-core 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 chip.

No 4.4 KitKat? No S805? Sorry, but that’s actually believable, and in line with multiple recent reports.

Back to timelines, it appears the MWC debut gossip was, well, baloney, as Oppo took to Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo a little earlier to post the latest in their long string of teasers. Of course, they’re not spelling anything out for us, but one of the images seems to (not very subtly) suggest the release date: March 19.

Oppo Find 7 teaser

The “where” of the equation remains unclear, though a Western-located event after MWC doesn’t make much sense. So China it is.

One extra tidbit before wrapping up, as surging rumble has Find 7’s rear-facing camera pegged as a top-notch 13.1 MP snapper with, get this, F/1.8 aperture. To my knowledge, that would be the lowest ever number for an Android, nay smartphone period, which would translate into the largest aperture and thus the highest exposure.

In layman’s terms, despite the somewhat average megapixel count (compared with, say, Sony’s Xperia Z1), the Oppo Find 7 could very well deliver the crispest photos around. Not too shabby for an OEM that no one knew existed until maybe six months ago.

Via [GFX Bench], [My Drivers], [Weibo], [GSM Maniak]

Samsung Galaxy S5 Rumor Roundup: What to Believe, What Not To

It’s become a year-opening tradition, nay ritual to sift through countless rumors, reports and hearsay on whatever “next big thing” Samsung has in store for its ever-growing Galaxy smartphone family. But I think we can all agree “insiders” and “tipsters” have gone a little overboard this time around, with the Galaxy S5 rumor bonanza.

Galaxy S5

Not a day goes by without some fresh speculation emerging, the irony being that most of the times the new reports debunk old ones in an endless cycle of flourishing malarkey.

Instead of answering questions, each round of gossip gives birth to fresh dilemmas, leaving us scratching our heads in disbelief as we no doubt close in on the official announcement without knowing anything for sure.

Galaxy S5 concept

But at least we can make a series of solid educated guesses. Here they are, based on our imaginary bullshitometer:

Plastic and metal? Never say never

It’s fitting to kick things off with a 50-50 situation, as the odds of the GS5 landing in both plastic and metal flavors are virtually identical to those of the flagship rocking just a polycarbonate exterior. But here’s what I’m absolutely, completely, 100 percent sure about: if an aluminum-clad S5 is due, it’ll be awfully difficult to score.

Galaxy S5 metal

Maybe even an experimental device, like the Galaxy Round. Definitely expensive, and definitely limited to certain markets upon launch.

Exynos 6, Snapdragon 800, Snapdragon 805? Why not all?

Call me crazy, call this unsubstantiated gossip, but I have a hunch we’re going to be seeing an even grander Galaxy S brand dilution than in 2013. Active, Mini and Zoom versions are nearly guaranteed, plus metal and plastic, Exynos and Snapdragon and, possibly, Snapdragon 800 and 805 variants.

Qualcomm-Snapdragon

So in the processing power department, here’s how I predict things will go down. First, an S800 model not much zippier than the S4 is to roll, to ensure competitors like the Sony Xperia Z2, LG G2 Pro or HTC One Plus don’t get the early upper hand.

Then, the metal-clad, “true” octa core Exynos 6-packing beast debuts, to limited audiences. Finally, around May or maybe June, an S5 Plus, or Ultra, or Max, or something, comes with a Snapdragon 805 to fend off rivals that might hold off until then to launch their first top dogs of 2014.

Exynos-6-Octa

As a result, tech journos will bitch and moan about cannibalization and similarly vague terms, and Samsung will again comfortably rule over the mobile world. End of story.

Display, battery, RAM, cameras – certainties and assumptions

The Samsung Galaxy S5 will sport a display made of glass, pack a battery lasting a day or so between charges, a couple of cameras with photo-snapping abilities and tiny, punchy memory modules. Jokes aside, to cover all your bases, you’re probably better off trusting nothing specific you hear in these departments.

Depending on the source, the screen is either a 5 or 5.2-inch unit, with Full HD or Quad HD (aka 2K) resolution, the battery is 2,900 or 3,000+ mAh, with or without rapid charging, the RAM can clock in at 2, 3 or 4 gigs and the main snapper could feature a sensor anywhere between 13 and 20 MP, with or without optical image stabilization.

Samsung-Galaxy-S5-Concept-2

Confusing stuff, I know, but if you really insist on me going on a limb and make a prediction, it’d sound a little like this:

Curved display? Downright bendable? Big design makeover? Puh-lease

I’ll admit, it’s weird being one or two months max away from the thing’s formal unveiling and there being no legit-looking renders around (not even close). Yet I don’t think there’s any chance Samsung will go all bendy with the S5. Especially if they go metal.

galaxy-s5-concept

Like it or not, truly flexible phones are still a long way from mass production, whereas curved handhelds such as the Galaxy Round will remain quirky, little, limited experiments. Meanwhile, some sort of aesthetical rehash is most definitely in the cards, but I don’t buy the rumors saying Sammy is to scrap S4’s looks altogether and build something else from scratch.

They have too much to lose, and the risks are ginormous. So yeah, I expect something along the S4 lines, with slim bezels, a rectangular, industrial overall vibe and everything.

February, March or April intro? Call Nostradamus

You know what, forecasting an ETA right now is pretty much like rolling a dice, so why not take an actual dice, pick two faces for each of the three possible outcomes and knock yourselves out? Sure, a presentation next month seems like a stretchtoday, after recent rumors and “leaks”, but so did an April timeline, say, a few weeks ago.

samsung-teaser

And don’t tell me you believe all these Samsung execs are contradicting one another by chance or due to sheer stupidity. They’re doing it on purpose, people, to confuse us all, and boy, are they successful.

So there you have it, nothing’s certain until it’s certain, regardless of “rock-solid” intel and surefire “confirmations” of specs. Here’s a wild idea: let’s kick back, relax, stop with the nonsensical rumor-mongering and simply wait. Would it really kill us? No, don’t answer that.   

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact vs Moto G vs Galaxy S4 Mini vs HTC One Mini – Specs and Benchmark Comparison

Finding a niche for Sony’s fresh new Xperia Z1 Compact, formerly known on the down low as the Z1 Mini and wrongfully assumed to be one and the same as the Z1s, is no easy task.

Sony-Xperia-Z1-Compact

On the one hand, though Sony’s marketing department was much craftier than Samsung’s or HTC’s by evading the meager-sounding “mini” moniker, the Compact is for all intents and purposes a diminutive version of the 5-inch Z1. Hence, the 4.3-incher belongs with the GS4 mini and One mini in the mid-sized, mid-range section of the smartphone totem pole, right?

Not so fast. Because while it’s small (by 2014 standards), the Z1 Compact packs quite the punch. In fact, if early benchmarks are to be trusted, it’s about as zippy as the Z1. Besides, it’s much too pricey to start a battle against fellow Mini contenders on even ground.

Moto-G-Galaxy-S4-mini

So where does that leave prospective Z1 Compact buyers who’d like to make the most informed choice possible? Ultimately, I’d assume size and portability will play the key part in your decision, so fair or unfair, here’s how the Compact stacks up against the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, HTC One mini and… Motorola Moto G. You didn’t really think we’d forget about the best budget option, did you?

Z1 Compact vs. Moto G vs. S4 mini vs. One mini – design comparison

A tough nut right off the bat. All four have their aesthetical flaws and strong points, though in the end eclipsing HTC’s iconic aluminum unibody layout proves too much for the three other featherweights. The One mini is just too darn elegant and robust to suffer defeat, albeit its extreme tallness (132 mm at a 4.3-inch diagonal) certainly makes the victory bittersweet.

HTC-One-Mini

Meanwhile, the bulky figure (11.6 mm profile and 143 grams weight) costs the Moto G dearly, the thick bezels don’t do the Z1 Compact any favors, and the S4 mini is, well, overall lackluster, with no wow elements and a “healthy” plasticky vibe.

Display face-off

The four-way battle is quickly narrowed down to a three-way duel, as the S4 mini is the sole competitor to boast sub-720p resolution: 960 x 540 pixels.

Xperia Z1 Compact

But it’s downright impossible to pick a victor from the HD triad, as the Z1 Compact and One mini basically tout identical screens (4.3-inch with 1,280 x 720 pixels), while the Moto G keeps the res intact, going a little higher on the real estate (4.5 inches) and thus slightly lowering the ppi bar (326 vs. 342). Decisions, decisions…

Processing speed, RAM and camera smackdown

It’s a no contest. Actually, “no contest” doesn’t even begin to describe it. The Z1 Compact is so far ahead of its rivals here that I don’t know why I’m still bothering to go ahead with this masquerade of a comparison. Oh, right, there’s a huge pricing gap that eventually balances things out.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Back to the bout on hand, let’s let numbers do all the talking: quad-core 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 SoC, 2 GB RAM, 20.7 MP rear-facing camera, 2 MP front snapper. Mmkay?

Software and battery life

In theory, packing such a beast of a CPU like the S800 should take quite a toll on autonomy. Only Sony thought of everything and equipped its 4.3-inch flagship with a monster of a battery, tipping the scales at 2,300 mAh.  

That’s 230 mAh more than Moto G’s ticker, and 400 mAh and 500 mAh leads respectively on S4 mini and One mini’s cells. On paper therefore, Sony has the upper hand, thanks to a hypothetical 18-hour continuous battery life in 3G talk time. Moto G’s numbers are pretty much in the same ballpark, with the One mini and S4 mini coming in behind, at roughly 13 and 12 hours.

kitkat-versus-jelly-bean

As for software, despite Sony’s big little guy breaking cover the most recently, it’s actually the G that wins, thanks to an unusual and almost unbelievably swift Android 4.4 KitKat upgrade. The next best thing, 4.3 Jelly Bean, is found on both the Z1 Compact and S4 mini, whereas the One mini is dead last, with on-board 4.2.

Benchmarks

No commentary is really needed here, as the cold numbers do a splendid job in painting a complete and unequivocal picture:

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact – 20,500 points in Quadrant, 33,000+ in AnTuTu, 54 fps in GFXBench Egypt HD 2.5 Onscreen, 1,200 Vellamo Metal, 740 Sunspider

Moto G – 8,000 in Quadrant, 16,000 AnTuTu, 27 fps GFXBench, 540 Vellamo Metal, 1,400 Sunspider

Benchmarks

Samsung Galaxy S4 mini – 7,000 in Quadrant, 14,500 AnTuTu, 33 fps GFXBench, 600 Vellamo Metal, 1,200 Sunspider

HTC One mini – 6,000 in Quadrant, 11,000 AnTuTu, 24 fps GFXBench, 600 Vellamo Metal, 1,200 Sunspider

Note: All tests work on a higher is better principle, save for Sunspider, where the lower scores signal faster devices.

Via [Phone Arena], [Fone Arena], [Expert Reviews], [GSM Arena], [Hardware Info], [Pocket Now]

Pricing, connectivity and others

We can’t stress enough there’s a big, big price difference between the Z1 Compact and One mini and S4 mini, and another one between the three and the Moto G. Don’t ignore it, take it in, think things through carefully and meticulously and then and only then make your final decision.

Starting from bottom to top, the G goes for $180 off-contract (with 8 GB built-in storage and no microSD card slot, mind you), the GS4 mini is $350 give or take, the One mini $430, and the Z1 Compact, which is technically not up for grabs yet, should cost around $500.

Moto-G-price

Something else to consider? Maybe that the G doesn’t support 4G LTE connectivity. Or that the Z1 Compact is water and dust-protected. You get NFC only on Sony and Samsung’s contenders, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 across the board, and storage expansion again on just the S4 mini and Z1 Compact.

Hoping I haven’t made your call even more complicated, I bid you farewell for the day and pass the mic to anyone pondering the purchase of one of these beauties. The comments section is open, don’t be shy. 

CES 2014: Day 1 Roundup (Samsung, Sony, Asus and ZTE Say Viva Las Vegas)

Nothing meaningful in the long haul ever happens at CES, blah blah blah, the expo lives in MWC’s shadows, yada yada yada, tech journalists only go to Vegas to socialize, drink and gamble. Be honest, you’ve heard one or all of the above at least a dozen times this past week or so, am I right?

CES 2014

Meanwhile, day 1 of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (or should I say day 0, since technically the trade exhibition gets underway today, on January 7?) brought to light Samsung’s four proudest tablets to date, a heap of exciting new Asus products, Sony’s highly anticipated “uncompromising” mini flagship, a super-slim, dirt-cheap “true” octa-core phone from Alcatel and another from ZTE that tops Motorola’s innovative Moto X in voice recognition technology.

Bottom line, your argument is officially invalid, dear CES haters, and that’s just looking at things from an Android perspective. Because the show is not only about gadgets running on Google’s mobile OS, and if we add curved 4K and 5K TVs, wearables and Windows machines in the equation, the resulting picture is even more incredibly flattering for a “second-tier” consumer electronics press event.

Las Vegas

Paying no further attention to biased criticism and pointless debates therefore, let’s recap all things Android that went down in Sin City yesterday, January 6:

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, 10.1 and 8.4

Sammy fumbled and tumbled and struggled to keep the new four-member slate roster a secret, ultimately failing miserably and spilling the beans early. Yet everybody was still looking their way when actually introducing the Notes and Tabs.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro-Note Pro

And even without the surprise factor, no one was really disappointed. How could you be as long as these are by far the strongest Android-based iPad contenders in history, from a design standpoint, as well as in terms of hardware and software?

They all run 4.4 KitKat, sport mind-blowing screen resolution and pack quad-core Snapdragon 800 heat in 4G LTE variations and octa-core Exynos oomph with Wi-Fi and 3G. Their exteriors are clean and sleek, and the Note Pro 12.2 is an absolute productivity beast. Be afraid, Cupertino, be very afraid!

Sony Xperia Z1s and Z1 Compact

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat. We were expecting more from Sony. After all, they stole the CES show a year ago, wowing with the world’s zippiest smartphones (at the time), the Xperia Z and ZL.

Playing it a little safer this time around, the Japanese look to be holding off their “next big thing” announcement for when Samsung, LG and HTC do the same. Still, the Z1 Compact can very well campaign for the title of “best of CES 2014”.

Sony Xperia Z1s

Heck, if we didn’t know it was coming for so long and if a Japanese version wasn’t official since last fall, the crown would probably already be in Sony’s camp. As for the Z1s, it’s a couple of months or so late, however it’s more than welcome to help Sony’s bid of once and for all becoming relevant stateside. Too bad T-Mo has exclusivity rights, which doesn’t exactly help the company’s cause and isolation.

Asus PadFone X for AT&T, Zenfone line, Intel-powered PadFone Mini and Transformer Book Duet

The details are scarce (to say the least), but one of those quirky PadFones is at last heading to America. Check that, two PadFones, albeit probably only the X will be subsidized by AT&T, whereas the PadFone Mini is on its way carrier and contract-free.

asus-zenFone

The Zenfone series includes three handhelds, a 4, 5 and 6 incher, neither of which plans to break any kind of speed records. But you can bet they’ll be cheap, plus they’re looking hot. Finally, the Transformer Book Duet keeps the Android/Windows dual-boot computer sector alive for some reason, though it has slimmer chances of breaking into the mainstream than, well, the PadFones.

Alcatel One Touch Idol X+, Pop C9, Pop 7 and 8

I know, I know, you don’t really trust Alcatel as you’ve probably heard very little of the brand. And I don’t blame you. But they’ve been making huge strides of late, including in the US, and the OT Idol X+ is the icing on the cake. It’s a “true” octa-core phone with a 5-inch Full HD panel, 7.9 mm waist and 13 MP rear-facing camera that, get this, is rumored to cost no more than $330. Crazy, huh?

Alcatel One Touch Idol X Plus

The Pop C9 phablet and Pop 7 and 8 tabs are far less exciting, although Alcatel has a way of pricing such products so low that it’s almost impossible to say no to them.

ZTE Grand S II

Marketing focused on software add-ons and “user experience” didn’t exactly work for the Moto X, whose sales numbers paled compared with advertising investments, yet ZTE takes a similar promoting path with the Grand S II.

zte-grand-s-ii

The difference? This spanking new 5.5-incher is actually quite special in the hardware department too, as it touts a state-of-the-art S800 Soc, Full HD panel and 2 GB RAM. Also, the voice commands on the Grand S II are more evolved and complex than on the Moto X. Interested? You damn well should be.

Huawei Ascend Mate 2

It’s as if the competing China-based OEMs made a deal to hit Las Vegas with the most unusual sales pitches. Well, if that was the case, Huawei may just trump ZTE, as it focused its Ascend Mate 2 propaganda on the phablet’s ability of charging… other devices.

Huawei-Ascend-Mate-2

But hey, who can blame them for grasping at straws as there wasn’t much else to flaunt about the Mate 2. I mean, a 720p 6.1-inch screen and 1.6 GHz quad-core Qualcomm CPU? What is this, Huawei, CES 2012?

HP Slate 21 Pro AiO and Lenovo ThinkVision 28 4K monitor

Sorry, HP, Lenovo, but your Android-powered CES guns are so… odd and hard to market they don’t deserve their own sections in our recap. Of the two, the ThinkVision 28 screams vaporware, as it’s pricey and pointless, while the Slate 21 Pro all-in-one PC is, well, at least fairly cheap, at $400.

HP-Slate-21-Pro

Alright, that’s a wrap, but be sure to continue keeping your eyes peeled on The Droid Guy for the most epic CES coverage around. Remember, there are still three days to go.   

Galaxy S4 Active LTE-A with Snapdragon 800 CPU and 13MP camera launched in South Korea

s4-active-lte-a-sk

We’ve heard about an upgraded Galaxy S4 Active quite a few times over the past couple of months, and now Samsung has made the revamped S4 Active official in its home country. The Galaxy S4 Active LTE-A is now available in South Korea, with support with SK Telecom’s LTE-Advanced data speeds of up to 150 mbps and a Snapdragon 800 processor under the hood.

Unlike the Galaxy S4 LTE-A, the Galaxy S4 Active LTE-A sports more than just a faster processor and network speeds – Samsung has upgraded the camera on the device as well, and it now sports a 13-megapixel camera as the Galaxy Note 3 and S4, though it remains to be seen if it’s exactly the same in image quality as well. Other specs remain the same as the standard S4 Active – the device is still IP67-certified for dust- and water-resistance, has a 5-inch 1080p LCD display, 32GB of storage and a microSD slot, hardened home, back, and menu keys, and a 2,600 mAh battery.

The Galaxy S4 Active LTE-A will be a South Korean exclusive for now and is priced at 900,000 won (around $855). An international launch could happen somewhere down the line as it did for the Galaxy S4 LTE-A, but it would be best not to be too hopeful about that.

Source: Samsung (Korean)

HTC M8 Scores Wi-Fi Certification, First Concept Renders Also Crop Up

HTC needs to put one in the win column and it needs to do so yesterday if it’s to survive past next year, so there’s a lot riding on the box-office success of the upcoming “M8” flagship smartphone. But will the “One Two” have what it takes to give Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and Sony’s Xperia Z2 a run for their money?

HTC-M8-concept

Only time will tell. What’s crystal clear right now is the M8 is indeed real and looming large on the horizon. The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place one by one, with the latest being a Wi-Fi certification of a handheld dubbed 0P6B10000/0P6B20000.

There’s no question this is the M8, with one SKU probably designating the standard, international version and the other a region-specific, dual-SIM, microSD-enabled flavor. Or who knows, maybe HTC has a surprise in store, and the basic M8, like the basic One max, will carry expandable storage. In any case, one SKU is most definitely for the Dual SIM One Two.

Anything else the Wi-Fi Alliance reveals? Not exactly, but we expected that much. The agency has always been discreet about the specs and features of approved devices, spilling the beans only on M8’s Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac support.

HTC M8 Wi-Fi

Luckily, we have a number of recent reports to guide us through the beast’s list of features, allegedly headlined by a 5-inch Full HD (not 2K) display and quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU. On the software side of things, Android 4.4 KitKat shall be seasoned with Sense 6.0 UI spices, with 2 GB RAM and a mystery “UltraPixel” camera filling the rest of the blanks so far.

Expected in the year’s first fiscal quarter, including on all four major American carriers, the M8 is destined to break cover at CES, in January, or MWC, in February. As far as design goes, we oddly don’t have any solid prototype leaks as of now, albeit there are two concept renders circulating around the web.

HTC-M8-concept-2

The first is an Ancel Lim sketch and actually rings true, being essentially a slightly larger, thinner, flatter, more rectangular HTC One with tremendously skinny bezels. Now, I for one would usually be an advocate of aesthetical overhauls rather than rehashes, but in this particular case why fix what’s very obviously not broken?

Well, one way to go if HTC ultimately decides to drastically change something could be Christof Gruber’s way, pictured above. The designer envisions a silky white One Two with red stripes for personality, a chunkier chassis, blocky overall vibe and massive battery beneath the hood. Nah, I still think I prefer Lim’s concept. Don’t you?

Via [Wi-Fi Alliance], [Concept-Phones] (1), (2)