Friday, August 18, 2017

What’s New in Android O: Everything You Need to Know

This is what’s new in Android O for those enjoying the beta, and what you need to know when Android 8.0 Oreo is released on August 21st. The fourth beta arrived in July, and now Google has confirmed they’ll unveil the latest software on Monday, just minutes after the solar eclipse.

There are lots of new Android O features that you can use to do more with your phone and tablet. Users will enjoy bundled notifications that are easier to manage or the new picture-in-picture mode for video. There are changes to the icons, an easy text selection tool, and auto-fill in apps like Google Chrome. Not to mention faster performance and changes to make your battery last longer.

Read: How to Install the Android O Beta Right Now

Many other changes are behind the scenes that you won’t see right away but will make a big difference. We expect Google to unveil some more exciting new features on August 21st. Until then, users are able to download and install the 4th developer preview, which was released on July 24th.

As long as you have a Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, Pixel XL or the Pixel C tablet and Nexus Player, you can try Android O today.

What’s New in Android O

Below is a breakdown on new additions specific to Android O for all smartphones, tablets, and some for Android TV. Not to mention you’ll enjoy new features soon from Google Assistant and the new Google Lens app.

  • System Optimizations: Google worked hard across the board to make apps run faster and smoother. System optimizations will enable phones to reboot twice as fast, and potentially deliver twice the performance for apps and games.

  • Background Limits: A power saving feature in addition to “Doze” that will restrict app battery usage while in the background based on priority. In Android O this will limit how often apps check your location, scan WiFi or access data. (Some apps may need to reload when you re-open them) More info here.

  • Smart Text Selection: Android O will recognize an address, URL, telephone number, and email addresses. Double-tap and copy/paste will highlight the entire line, then offer apps you’ll need next. In addition to the usual copy, paste, or copy all commands.

  • Notification Dots: The notification system on Android is powerful, but it is getting even better. Small colored dot can extend notifications and app activity to a visual level. Being visible right on icons and viewed by long-pressing any icon with a dot.

  • Picture-in-Picture Mode: Android TV has PIP mode with Nougat, and now all Android will have it with Android O. This is picture-in-picture video. Imagine watching Netflix and YouTube at the same time. Or a YouTube video while looking up project instructions in Chrome. There is also support for multi-displays. So watch something on a phone and cast another stream to your TV.

Android O picture-in-picture mode, and Notification Dots
  • Auto-Fill: Just like how our web browsers on desktops and mobile auto-fill information like email or physical addresses, we will now be able to do this in apps. Android O brings auto-fill in a more advanced method to the entire OS.

  • Adaptive Icons & Badges: At-a-glance notification number bubbles or information right on home screen app icon badges. Similar to iOS. Not to mention adaptive icons. Imagine the clock icon always showing the right time, the calendar showing the date, etc. Not to mention neat animations.

  • Notification Channels: The notification system is changing a little bit, again. Bundled notifications thanks to a new API will let developers have more control over what we see, and how often. We could see cross-device sync later too. More details here. There will also be an option to snooze notifications.

  • Wide-gamut color for apps: Android developers can now take advantage of new devices that have a wide-gamut color capable display. Like the Galaxy S8. Apps will be more colorful and amazing.

  • Keyboard Navigation: We already have this to some extent in Android Nougat, and it will be better in O. Allowing swipes and gestures to navigate with the keyboard and text while typing.

  • Audio Improvements: New low-latency audio, Bluetooth aptX, and other things.

  • New Android O Emoji: The blob and robot-style Android emoji are dead. Google redesigned every emoji for Android O. In addition to being the first vendor to fully offer Emoji 5.0 support. Including the vomit face, dinosaurs, more hearts, and more faces.

Rounder emoji throughout Android O.
  • Android O Vitals: A big talking point for Google is Vitals. This project will improve battery life, startup time, graphic rendering time, and device stability.

  • Downloadable Fonts and XML: Developers and manufacturers will have more control over the font and color they provide on devices or in apps. Each app can easily have its own font that won’t interrupt our devices.

  • Fluid Experiences: This allows users to do more with Android. These experiences consist of picture-in-picture mode, notification dots, and adaptive icons.

  • Project Treble: A new project to make the base of Android modular. The goal is to make Android updates easier for manufacturers and carriers, by keeping the base the same and working across all devices and software versions.

  • Android Go: Similar to Android One, Android Go is a new initiative for budget devices. The entire operating system, Google Apps, and Play Store have been rebuilt for devices with 1GB of RAM or less. Bringing premium Android to every budget smartphone.

  • More Fingerprint Gestures (Moves): Google will be adding more moves and accessibility features to Android O.

Above is an image provided by Google that teases a few more feature that didn’t make the developer preview changelog. Some include a split screen launcher, Instant Apps in the app tray, new screen animations and auto brightness improvements, work profiles, and much more. Many of these are not in the beta but will arrive with the final software when it’s released in August or September.

We did notice a few small visual changes with the 4th developer preview, but nothing substantial changed. We’re assuming Google is holding any big new features for when the software makes its official debut around the globe.

Android O Release Date & Updates

So when will you get Android O? Google released the fourth developer preview on July 24th. It is available for most new Nexus or Pixel devices. The fourth beta is very stable, has hundreds of bug fixes and stabilization, and the final API’s for developers to build apps for Android 8.0.

This week Google confirmed Android 8.0 “O” will get announced on Monday, August 21st, just moments after the solar eclipse ends. Google titled the teaser video “Oreo” so most likely that’s the official name. Get excited.

Google promises Android O will arrive in Q3 2017, and it sounds like they’ll be right on time. Additionally, this also suggests the LG V30 and upcoming Google Pixel 2 will both launch with Android 8.0 Oreo.

Read: 9 Things to Know About the Google Pixel Android O Update

It’s important to remember that these early builds of Android O are for developers to use as they prepare for the release date. Some of these features are subject to change, get better over time, or removed at any moment. Not to mention missing from early beta software. Google claims the 4th preview is stable and a “release candidate of O, but users could still run into problems. At this point, we recommend just waiting for the official software come Monday.

This is what we know about Android O so far, and we’ll update as we learn more in the coming days.

Google Home’s Bluetooth support is here. For real this time

I know, I know – fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, right? But it looks like Google Home is really getting Bluetooth pairing support this time.

Google’s been such a tease with Google Home’s Bluetooth pairing functionality: we all knew that the search giant’s AI-powered speakers came with a Bluetooth chip from the beginning and that it was only a matter of time before the company enabled that connectivity feature via a software update. We saw a glimpse of that update back in July when select users got it by accident, which was promptly disabled by Google. Well, it looks like Bluetooth pairing has started rolling out to Google Home devices for real this time.

According to some users, firmware version 93937 brings an option under Device settings to pair your Google Home with other Bluetooth-supported devices. Whether or not you are enrolled in Google’s recently announced Preview Program for Google Home shouldn’t matter. Although Google Home already supports major music streaming services as well as certain music players that allow casting, Bluetooth support is great for those of us who have a lot of local files.

Although Google Home already supports major music streaming services as well as audio casting, Bluetooth support is great for those of us who have a lot of local files.

The new firmware update should be rolling out in waves, so be patient if your device doesn’t have it yet. However, as Android Police points out, some Google Home owners who have already received the update report audio lags and muffled voices, which indicates that this may not be a finalized version, or it may just be a stock Android problem – something that’s been an issue for a while.

Have you received the Bluetooth update on your Google Home yet? Do you prefer playing local files over streaming music? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

LG V30 Leak Takes Aim at Galaxy Note 8

The LG V30 release date is quickly approaching and we already have a good idea of what to expect thanks to a brand new leaked photo. And while we’ve heard and seen plenty about it already, this latest leak reveals a sleek phone that looks to take on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.

If you needed any more confirmation on what the LG V30 looks like, its features, or the big screen, this is it. As the August 31st launch event nears information continues to surface. The latest of which is a brand new photo from famed leakster Evan Blass showing it off from nearly every angle.

Read: LG V30 vs Galaxy Note 8: What We Know So Far

We already knew the LG V30 will come with a large 6-inch OLED display, as the company announced the details earlier this month. However, we didn’t have a clear picture of the design, or how small the bezels would be around the screen. This is the new and improved LG V30.

This image clearly shows a completely redesigned smartphone. It looks nothing like the older LG V10 or last years LG V20. Instead, the company ditched the second screen completely and increased the size to 6-inches.

LG confirmed this will be its first P-OLED display in a flagship smartphone. The P stands for plastic, which should make it more durable than most smartphone displays. However, LG will still add a strong Gorilla Glass 5 on the top of the screen for added durability.

You’ll also notice the screen has rounded corners like we saw with the LG G6 earlier this year. Additionally, LG states this phone will have a curved glass edge similar to the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S7 Edge. We can see it slightly in the leaked image, and reports suggest LG won’t curve the screen as much as Samsung’s recent devices.

For those wondering, the Galaxy S8 has a big 5.8-inch curved display. The upcoming Galaxy Note 8 is rumored to have an even bigger 6.3-inch Quad-HD screen. That puts LG right in the middle at 6-inches, a perfect middle ground for potential buyers.

We can also see the phone features two cameras on the back, something LG has offered for years. That said, the LG V30 will be the first smartphone with a f/1.6 aperture camera. Allowing for faster photos that take in more light. This should result in an improved photography experience and crisp, clear photos. Additionally, the second rear camera is also 13 megapixels but has an f/2.4 aperture wide-angle lens. Rumors believe the Note 8’s secondary camera will feature a 2x optical zoom. Potential buyers need to decide which camera feature they prefer.

Other specs include a powerful Snapdragon 835 processor with 4 or 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a microSD slot for expansion. Leaks also suggest the LG V30 will offer an IP68 dust and water-resistant rating, wireless charging, and potentially debut LG’s mobile payment system to take on Samsung Pay.

From everything we’ve seen and heard so far, this looks like LG’s best smartphone to date. We expect both the Galaxy Note 8 and LG V30 to get announced in August, then arrive a few weeks later. If this photo is accurate, the Galaxy Note 8 could be in for some tough competition.

Thanks to ZTE’s carefully-planned US strategy, it could soon overtake LG

ZTE’s smartphone shipments increased by 36 percent this past quarter, and if its growth continues, it might soon overtake LG to become the third largest smartphone manufacturer in the US.

Even just few years ago, ZTE had essentially no brand recognition in the US – nobody bought it, and nobody knew what it was. However, the Android world has changed drastically since, with Chinese OEMs rising rapidly against more established brands like Samsung and LG. And ZTE is no exception. While its presence in China isn’t as strong as that of Huawei or Vivo, its carefully-planned US strategy seems to be paying off in what is arguably one of the most difficult markets to penetrate.

ZTE’s US smartphone shipments increased by 36 percent during the second quarter of this year to a commendable 4.8 million units.

According to the latest data by Counterpoint Technology, ZTE’s US smartphone shipments increased by 36 percent during the second quarter of this year to a commendable 4.8 million units, making it the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in the country. ZTE had a 10.1 percent market share during the first quarter, which increased to 11.5 percent during the second quarter. In comparison, Samsung and Apple led the market with about 30 percent each with LG as a distant third with 15.4 percent.

As Lixin Cheng, the chief executive of ZTE’s mobile devices, explains, the US is a particularly difficult market to break into but offers a lot of opportunities:

The U.S. is the most competitive market, but we believe if we can manage the challenge well, it will drive the overall competitiveness of our company.

And Cheng is right – if ZTE manages to keep up its relationship with US carriers and bring affordable yet capable devices, its growth might continue and help the company overtake LG. LG’s smartphones aren’t doing well stateside, whose premium smartphones are priced too high to be competitive. However, as The Wall Street Journal points out, some analysts say that ZTE must build more rapport with US carriers. After all, most smartphone purchases are made through carriers in the US, and ZTE’s reliance on Amazon and Best Buy might hurt its chances to break into the top three.

Do you own a ZTE device? Do you think it could see continued growth over the next few quarters? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Why Nokia would be smart to focus on cameras

The Nokia brand is back in the flagship smartphone game this week, with HMD Global’s launch of the new Nokia 8. The phone is a high-end model for sure, with a top-of-the-line processing package, iris scanner, metal body, and IP68 rating that handily takes the fight to Apple, Samsung, and the rest. The big question is whether this is enough to help the brand regain its former glory, or if smartphone owners are simply too spoilt for choice to bother with this legacy brand name anymore.

Despite the high-end specifications, the most exciting part of the Nokia 8 announcement for me is the 13 megapixel dual camera. Yes we’ve seen plenty of dual camera smartphones released this year already, but it’s the partnership with Zeiss for the camera optics that might give the company an edge over the excellent shooters already on the market. If the Nokia 8 is going to stand out from this year’s flagships, rekindling the reputation the brand earned during the PureView and Zeiss days could really help.

Sidestep the competition

There’s no denying that the Nokia brand being shackled to the failed Windows Phone platform and subsequent absence from the huge world of Android has left the latest release with a distinct disadvantage. HMD Global not only has to rebuild the Nokia brand image if it wants to compete with big names like Apple and Samsung, but also has to compete against the low-cost competitive hardware of the Chinese manufacturers.

We’ve seen many a smartphone company dip in market share or even disappear from the industry after producing standard pieces of hardware, even of flagship calibre. Top-notch processors, tons of RAM, and a decent look are a dime a dozen in today’s market, and you don’t have to pay top dollar unless you opt for one of the premium brands.

We can’t expect Nokia to be able to compete with Apple and Samsung on brand awareness and marketing out of the gate. The range needs a unique selling point.

Looking at OnePlus for example, the company has had to raise its traditionally cutthroat prices with the OnePlus 5 to keep its specs competitive with the very best, and even then there are still a few hardware compromises. Other low cost brands, such as Xiaomi, are heavily reliant on selling extra services to boost profitability, something which HMD Global isn’t in a position to do. It would also be unrealistic to expect Nokia to be able to compete with Apple and Samsung on brand awareness and marketing out of the gate, even if it’s hardware specs are just as good. It’s a tough situation to start from.

Of course the Nokia brand is still worth a bit of weight in the minds of consumers, but ultimately price and hardware differentiation are what help companies stand out these days. Nokia’s unique selling point in the past was its outstanding camera hardware, and the company would be wise to continue to focus on this front (especially with its Zeiss partnership) if it’s looking for a way to stand out ahead of the crowd.

The Nokia 8’s hardware looks very high-end, but generic flagship phones can be picked up cheap these days. The partnership with Zeiss gives Nokia a unique opportunity to stand out and it should capitalize on it.

Smartphones are most people’s primary camera

The impressive camera inside the Lumia 1020 was even enough to tempt customers into the rather poor Windows Phone ecosystem.

Cameras are a very logical place to build a reputation and carve out not just a niche, but breach the general consumer barrier. The smartphone has replaced the portable point-and-click camera and is the primary shooter that most people carry around. Not to mention the explosion of selfie sharing and social media that has placed bigger demands on our compact shooters than ever before. As they say, the best camera is the one you have on you, and we’re all hooked up to our phones most of the day.

Other smartphone companies have built solid reputations based on camera performance recently. An obvious example is the Google Pixel and its excellent camera, but this trend isn’t just reserved for the flagship tier of the market. Take Huawei’s Honor range for example. It doesn’t feature the most powerful hardware on the market, but it’s well optimized for day-to-day tasks, looks like a premium piece of hardware aesthetically, takes excellent pictures, and boasts a price tag that won’t break the bank. That’s exactly what a huge number of consumers want in a phone.

A huge portion of consumers want their phone to take good pictures, but even claiming the niche of mobile photography enthusiasts could help establish the new Nokia brand.

Nokia, in collaboration with Zeiss, has even done this before. Despite the questionable state of the Windows Phone ecosystem, the Lumia 1020 with its PureView technology tempted many a consumer who cared about camera quality. Even before modern smartphone operating systems, the Symbian-powered PureView 808 stood out based on little more than its camera prowess.

Portable photography enthusiasts and smartphone veterans still look back on the 808 and 1020 days warmly. With the same partnership in place, HMD Global may be able to make lightning strike twice. Even if most consumers end up sticking with the established brands and their more than passable cameras, a niche of hardcore photography enthusiasts could be enough to sustain the brand in face of competition from other competent yet ultimately generic smartphone brands.

Wrap up

Although a flagship release with all the bells and whistles is important for building up Nokia’s profile as a serious brand and big player in the market, just as the Pixel range has been for Google, HMD’s long-term success will almost undoubtedly depend on its broader range of phones. A good camera in the Nokia 8 is great for flagship customers, but there’s a huge market for mid-tier and low-cost phones too. These consumers still want to be able to take good photos without breaking the bank.

If Nokia and Zeiss can bring top quality photography experiences down to the price range targeted by the likes of the Nokia 5, then we may really see the company nab some significant market share. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like HMD Global has managed to accomplish this on its first attempt, but perhaps it will nail the formula next time around. We know that the two are planning a long term partnership after all!

But perhaps I’m wrong. Do you think that the Nokia 8 and the brand’s other phones could make a name for themselves outside of offering more than your typical camera experience? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to catch up on all our Nokia 8 coverage below.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Real Reason There’s No PS4 EA Access

The early Madden 18 release date is this week for the Xbox One, leaving many gamers asking where the PS4 EA Access support is so they can play Madden 18 five days early. We’ll see the same set of questions with the early FIFA 18 trial, and the answer is the same. You’re out of luck. This is because there is no PS4 EA Access subscription service available to gamers on Sony’s platform.

EA Access is a subscription service that includes access to a vault of up to a dozen games including popular titles like Madden 17, FIFA 17, UFC, Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, Star Wars: Battlefront and other titles.

This service also includes early access to almost every EA game of the year with five days of early play. This includes full access to the game for up to 10 hours of play for FIFA 18 and Madden 18. When subscribers buy a digital version of the game or any in-game purchases there is a 10% discount.

We’ve heard rumblings of a PS4 EA Access release for the past few years, but in an interview EA’s COO Peter Moore pours cold water on the idea — at least from EA’s standpoint.

PS4 EA Access isn't something EA is concerned about after Sony badmouthed the service last year.
PS4 EA Access isn’t something EA is concerned about after Sony badmouthed the service last year.

The service is $5 a month or $29.99 a year and is only available on the Xbox One at this time. In an interview with GameSpot Moore responds to a question about PS4 EA Access bluntly saying, “Doesn’t Matter.”

Moore goes on to explain that customers are happy with the service explaining;

It’s on Xbox One, and those customers love it. We have analytics on everything these days, and subscriber satisfaction rates are through the roof. EA Access customers get to play more, because of the Vault, they get to play early, ahead of general release date, and they get to pay less because of the discounts it offers.

When the interviewer pushes for an answer about exclusivity on the Xbox One keeping PS4 EA Access from coming to gamers, Moore suggests looking at Sony’s earlier statement on the matter. In July 2014 a Sony representative told Game Informer,

We evaluated the EA Access subscription offering and decided that it does not bring the kind of value PlayStation customers have come to expect,” adding, “We don’t think asking our fans to pay an additional $5 a month for this EA-specific program represents good value to the PlayStation gamer.”

With this recent exchange and the focus on renting games through PS Now, it looks like Sony is the reason that PS4 gamers cannot play Madden 16 and FIFA 16 early or subscribe to a library of EA games for a small monthly fee.

On Twitter we still see gamers asking about EA Access on PS4, but Sony has yet to respond.

With the current state of affairs between Sony and EA, it looks like PS4 owners will need to settle for early access to the Call of Duty: WW2 beta.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Target buys same-day delivery company to battle Amazon

According to Bloomberg, the move is part of larger logistics and operations changes at Target, which has only seen a 22 percent increase in online sales this past quarter. That’s good, but still much less than Walmart’s reported 63 percent growth online.

While the terms of Target’s acquisition of Grand Junction were not disclosed, Bloomberg reports that the 13 employees will move to Target’s San Francisco offices to start helping the retailer get products to its customers faster. “Speed matters,” Target’s Arthur Valdez told Bloomberg. “Grand Junction’s platform, along with our 1,800 stores, allows for speed to the guest that can be very competitive.”

Amazon Prime same-day delivery is the service to beat, however, with coverage for almost 30 metropolitan areas across the US as of last year alone. Amazon has been doing this for much longer, too, with Prime Now’s debut as far back as 2014.

Google Calendar on the desktop will get the Material Design facelift it needs

Even though Google introduced its Material Design language back in 2014, certain corners of the search giant, like the Calendar desktop client, have been largely untouched by the design language. That looks to change with an upcoming facelift that brings the client to the latter half of this decade.

Thanks to Reddit user xDawnut, we now have a glimpse at what Google has in mind for Calendar on the desktop, and it is a great-looking thought. From the new day, week, month, and year views to the settings menu, everything has been redesigned to adhere to Material Design. The redesign also introduces a bit of unification, seeing how the redesigned desktop Calendar appears similar to the mobile Calendar app.

Even with the changes, it appears as if the same functionality remains intact, a concern that usually crops up whenever there is a redesign.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The biggest companies in China’s Silicon Valley

In the world of smartphones, we’re becoming more and more used to Chinese technology companies competing with popular global brands, but we also know that the pendulum doesn’t necessarily swing both ways. The Chinese government’s “Great Firewall” has kept many Western tech powerhouses out of the country, and enabled the careful curation of approved local services. Combined with financial and regulatory backing for home-grown brands, China has a booming tech industry to call its own.

While we’re all familiar with many of California’s biggest tech companies, it’s Shenzhen that’s has earned itself the reputation as the Silicon Valley of China, as it’s home to a number of the country’s multinational tech companies, including Tencent, ZTE, Huawei, and others. Although a number of China’s other large tech companies have their headquarters based in Beijing too, as you might expect.

Even though these companies are just as huge, if not sometimes bigger than their US counterparts in their home country, many of them are virtually unknown outside of China. So here’s how some of China’s biggest tech companies stack up against the big names in Silicon Valley.

WeChat (Tencent) / Facebook

Facebook is certainly the biggest name in social media and one of the largest companies in Silicon Valley. It’s not only known for its home brand apps and services, but the company has also bought out Instagram and WhatsApp for obscene amounts of money, giving the company reach in the SMS and photo sharing games too.

Tencent is China’s biggest tech company, by market cap, and WeChat offers a variety of social media services that rival Facebook’s acquisitions.

Tencent Holding’s WeChat is probably the closest equivalent service in China, offering up Moments (social feed and friends updates), Messaging (text, one-to-many calls, video calls, and media sharing), and News Feed, among others, all in a single platform.

WeChat is also now the biggest player in China’s mobile payments industry. Customers can pay bills, transfer money to other users, and make payments in store using the WeChat payment option. This year, WeChat claimed 600 million mobile payment users, while its closest rival Alipay from Alibaba caters to 450 million users in the country.

WeChat was started in January 2011 and has accumulated 938 million active users at the last count, 90 percent of which are based in China. By comparison, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have some 1.2 billion users, Instagram has 700 million, and Twitter just 328 million users around the globe. The main Facebook app is still the largest at over 2 billion active users, but WeChat is still a noteworthy player in the social game.

Tencent Holdings, the company that owns WeChat, also has interests in a variety of other markets, some of which crossover with Facebook. The company is set to launch a virtual reality headset this year (Facebook owns Oculus) and is also in the music distribution, video streaming, and online gaming businesses. In fact, Tencent is China’s biggest tech company, by market cap.

Huawei / Apple

Huawei is now a well known brand on the international market, but it’s also the biggest brand smartphone brand in China, followed closely behind by Oppo and Vivo. Still, Huawei is the only one with a major global market share, with the company holding a consistent third place position not too far behind Apple.

In the first quarter of 2017, Huawei sold 34.6 million smartphones around the world, claiming a 10 percent global market share. For comparison, Apple sold 50.7 million units over the same period, the equivalent of a 14.7% market share. Samsung is still out in front, but these two form a definitive second and third place far ahead of the rest of the pack.

The comparison to the US’ Apple don’t stop at raw numbers though, both companies also share a similar approach to product design, bringing many of the most important components in-house. Apple has it’s A series of processors and Huawei has its Kirin range, complete with a number of its own in-house optimizations and proprietary bits of technology. Both companies have also developed their own dual camera lens hardware, with Huawei partnering with industry renowned brand Leica to boost its research along. Not forgetting Huawei’s Super Charge technology too. This is a level of development and attention to detail that few other smartphone OEMs can achieve.

Few smartphone companies develop as much in-house mobile tech as Apple and Huawei.

Of course, Apple specializes in just a small number of models, while Huawei’s yearly range caters to a much wider selection of price points. Still, with Huawei now looking to make inroads in the US, China’s biggest smartphone brand might soon be bringing the fight to Apple on its home turf.

Baidu / Google

Google may be the world’s search engine, but Baidu is China’s. With Google essentially locked out of the Chinese market, local providers have stepped in to fill the void, and by far the largest player is Baidu. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Google isn’t much older than Baidu, with the former starting in September 1998 while Baidu began in January 2000. So there’s a little over a year between them.

Baidu is estimated to pull in around 80 percent of all of China’s internet search traffic, while Google commands just 10 percent in the same region. This isn’t too far behind Google’s 90 percent share of global search queries, as the two appear pretty much inversed just across the Firewall. Of course, Google superior global penetration means that it makes more money, just under $90 billion in 2016. Baidu made just over $10 billion over the same period, but that’s not bad for a company that’s popular just in one country.

Between AI, automotive, and media, Baidu’s long term plans appears rather similar to Google’s.

Like Google, Baidu isn’t just limited to search queries any more though. The company has its own music service called Baidu Music with more than 150 million monthly active users, which is more than Play Music pulls in. The company is also working on its own self-driving car software and is investing heavily in artificial intelligence research. The company also offers cloud storage, maps, and translation services. That’s Baidu by the way, not just Google.


Alibaba / Amazon

Amazon is a huge name in the US and not just for shopping. The company has rapidly expanded into the media streaming, smart home, and even now the supermarket industries. However, did you know that Alibaba is actually a larger retailer? The Alibaba Group was the largest retailer in the world in 2016, and actually sells more merchandize than both Amazon and eBay combined. We’ve already mention that Alibaba is a big name in China’s mobile payment race too with its AliPay service.

Unlike Amazon, Alibaba’s retail channels are split into a number of sub-companies. There’s Tmall which is China’s biggest consumer retail site, Taobao that is more likely eBay, and of course for business-to-business trading.

The company shares some other similarities to Amazon though. Alibaba has been moving into the music streaming market with Alibaba Planet and Xiami, and it’s aquisition of the Youku Tudou TV video service in 2015 gives it a stake in video too. Alibaba also runs its own app store and has a forked version of Android. Remember that the Google Play Store is blocked in China. The Aliyun App Store runs on the company’s YunOS, which powers phone, TV, smartwatch, and automotive products, and is actually now the second largest smartphone OS in China, ahead of iOS.

Alibaba also has its own cloud platform called Aliyun, which is pretty much the equivalent to Amazon’s Web Services. Furthermore, the company has stakes in Sina Weibo, promotes its own alternative to WeChat called LaiWang, and acquired Kanbox which is similar to Dropbox, along with backing a number of other Chinese tech ventures. Alibaba is simply huge, bigger than Amazon huge.

Didi Chuxing / Uber

We couldn’t talk about modern tech companies without mentioning start-up companies, and one of the biggest success stories of recent years is Uber, despite its controversies. Well you guessed it, China has its own version of Uber too – called Didi Chuxing.

Both companies are “ride sharing” applications, which put app users in contact with local cab drivers. While Uber runs its own service, Didi actually partnered with other firms Grab, Lyft, 99, and Ola, allowing users to book any of the companies on each others’ networks. However, Dixi Chuxing actually acquired Uber China for $35 billion in August 2016 following a cutthroat price war, giving it the technology to more closely compete with Uber’s business model.

In terms of numbers, Didi Chuxing operates in 400 cities across China, makes an estimated 20 million rides per day, and passed 1.4 million rides back in 2015. Uber, by comparison, only passed its 1 billion ride mark in 2015, it now boasts over 5.5 million rides per day, and operators in 633 cities around the world.

Didi was most recently valued at US$28 billion, so is still someway off Uber’s almost $70 billion valuation. But still, that’s not bad for a company that only operates in a single country, versus a worldwide competitor. Speaking of which, the two are now fighting to gain market share in the Middle East, with Didi Chuxing backing Uber rival Careem in the region.

Wrap Up

Despite the Great Firewall, China’s tech market has grown to accommodate a wide range of competitive tech companies and services that cater to the needs of local consumers. The state’s censorship and surveillance certainly isn’t great, but it doesn’t appear to have hindered growth.

As China’s tech companies increasingly look outward in pursuit of bigger profits, we’re sure to hear more about many of these companies in the future and will likely see many of them go head-to-head with more familiar Western brands.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Moto X4 Release Date, Features, Specs & Rumors

The Moto X4 release date is coming up quick and will be the first Moto X since the company stopped making it in 2015. Now that we know it’s coming soon, here’s what you need to know about the Moto X4 release date, features, specs, rumors, and the latest news.

Recent leaks point to some big changes to the Moto X lineup. The phone won’t feature tons of customization like earlier years and instead, could end up being a good all around mid-range smartphone with some neat new camera tricks.

Read: Moto X Pure Edition Review

This isn’t the Moto X you’re all familiar with. The Moto Z is Motorola’s new high-end smartphone lineup, which means the new X4 will have something else to offer buyers. Don’t worry though, as it will still come with a big 5.2-inch HD display, a fingerprint scanner and two cameras on the back. Here is everything we know so far.

Moto X4 Release Date: September or October (Rumored)

How Much Will the Moto X4 Cost?: A budget phone between $400-$500

What is the Moto X4?: A phone for those on a budget that delivers nearly the same experience as high-end $800 phones, but at a wallet friendly price point. Once Motorola’s best smartphone but now we’re not sure of its position until it’s released.

Now that we’ve gone over the basics and answered some important questions, read on for the latest news and rumors.

Moto X4 Release Date

Most Moto X smartphones arrived in August or September, and we’re expecting a similar release date for the new Moto X4 in 2017. That said, the last Moto X in 2015 didn’t arrive until nearly October. Meaning we could see an announcement in August, but don’t be surprised if it’s not available until late September.

We’ve seen real images of the phone surface more and more lately, meaning a release date is coming soon. However, until Motorola and Lenovo make an announcement the release date is still a complete mystery. We’ll update as soon as we know more for potential buyers.

Moto X4 Display & Design

From everything we’ve seen so far, the new Moto X4 will look like a mix of old and new. Keeping some of the design elements and styling of old Moto X phones, while moving towards the Moto Z design at the same time. This means a big display, premium metal design, and a big camera sensor on the back. Here are the latest real photos of Motorola’s upcoming smartphone.

The Moto X4 should feature a 5.2-inch 1080p Full HD display. This is about the same size as old Moto X devices, but far smaller than the last phone released in 2015. Which, for those curious, had a 5.7-inch Quad-HD display. You’ll also notice the oval fingerprint scanner under the screen and a big new set of two camera sensors on the back.

Basically, this tells us a few things. Motorola wants to position the new Moto X4 under the Moto Z lineup, but above the extremely affordable $200 Moto G5.

Moto X4 Specifications

As we’ve said a few times here, this looks like it will end up being a budget-friendly device once it’s finally released. That’s because Motorola isn’t using the latest processors, or adding tons of RAM or storage like most phones released in 2017. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a good phone, it just isn’t at the top of the spec list.

Moto X4 Specs (Rumored)

  • 5.2-inch 1080p Full HD Display

  • Quad-core Snapdragon 630 processor with 3GB of RAM

  • 32GB of internal storage and microSD expansion

  • Android 7.0 Nougat

  • Dual Rear Cameras: 12 Megapixel f/2.0 main and an 8MP f/2.4 wide-angle lens (similar to LG phones)

  • 16 Megapixel front-facing selfie camera with front LED flash

  • IP68 Dust & Water Resistance up to 5ft

  • Fast charging, USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack

  • 3,000 mAh battery

  • more

From everything we’ve seen above, the Moto X4 sounds like a pretty well-rounded smartphone. It doesn’t have the best of everything but it’s not bad either. We’ll have to wait and see if these rumors are accurate, and how much it costs when it arrives.

Moto X4 Cameras

The camera setup in the new Moto X4, if rumors are accurate, is pretty interesting. The biggest camera is actually the front-facing camera aimed at those taking selfies or using Snapchat.

If exclusive information shared with AndroidAuthority is right, here’s what will complete the cameras on Motorola’s next smartphone. The front uses a 16 megapixel camera with a dedicated LED flash. It has a large f/2.0 aperture and should take pretty decent photos.

However, on the back, the setup is even more interesting. The main camera is a 12 Megapixel f/2.0 sensor with a large 1.4 um. This essentially means the sensor is bigger than most and captures more light and detail faster. The result is crisp and clear photos more often than not. Something we’ve seen all major smartphones offer in the past few years.

And finally, there is a second camera on the back. This is only 8 Megapixels, but offers a 120 degrees wide-angle lens. Instead of a zoom or telephoto lens like Samsung and Apple, Motorola is offering wide-angles similar to the LG G5 and the newer LG G6. It’s all a personal preference, but just know this phone should have pretty good cameras for the price.

Moto X4 Price

Last but not least is the price of the new Moto X4. Sadly, we don’t have any information regarding the actual release date or price. That being said, Motorola phones typically cost less than the competition. The Moto X always came in less than the latest Samsung Galaxy or LG device, and we expect that trend to continue.

However, with budget devices like the OnePlus 5 and others costing under $500 with dual cameras, Motorola will need to do something similar. For now, the release date and price is a complete mystery, but don’t be surprised if this phone arrives for around $399 in the next few months.

As soon as we know more about the return of the Moto X we’ll update with all the details.

5 Best Moto Z2 Force Screen Protectors

This buying guide will explain why you need a Moto Z2 Force screen protector and share a list of the best screen protectors available for the Moto Z2 Force. A good quality screen protector can prevent broken or scratched screens and keep your display looking like new.

One of the Moto Z2’s selling points is the “ShatterShield” display. It is completely shatterproof but there is a downside. The shatterproof screen is made of plastic, not glass, so it scratches easily. This is why a Moto Z2 Force screen protector is highly recommended.

Read: 15 Best Moto Z2 Force Cases

There are a few different styles of Moto Z2 Force screen protectors, from cheap films to a durable tempered glass. We’ve found some as cheap as $6.99, although you’ll need to spend upwards of $25 for the best protection. That’s a small price to pay compared to the $200+ it’ll cost to repair a damaged or broken screen.

While there are some great options for under $10 in our slideshow below, we recommend investing in a quality brand or buying a 2-pack. That way you’ll have more than one if needed. Not to mention it’s worth the small investment to protect your brand new expensive smartphone.

Considering the Moto Z2 Force has a flat display, glass screen protectors should fit perfect and keep it protected. Yes, a cheap film will work, but we recommend a reinforced tempered and strengthened real glass screen protector. They are much stronger than film, don’t crack easily, and are very scratch resistant.

You may consider skipping a screen protector after buying a case, but a case doesn’t fully protect the 5.5-inch screen from life’s daily hazards. Keys in a purse or pocket can still cause a lot of damage. More so than usual because Motorola used plastic on the screen, not glass. Some reports claim even a fingernail can scratch it.

Many popular brands aren’t offering screen protectors for the Moto Z2 Force, but that doesn’t mean good options aren’t available. Verizon has a good choice, as do trusted brands we’ve used in the past. Most of our recommended Moto Z2 Force screen protectors come in a 2-pack for added peace of mind. Grab one today from the slideshow below.

Best PS4 Deals August 2017

Here are the best PS4, PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro deals. With these deals, you can save a lot of money on a PS4 in August 2017.

One of the biggest PS4 deals comes from online retailer Amazon, which has the PS4 Slim on sale for as little as $269.99. Other deals are just as interesting as that one.

The best PS4 deals offer huge savings on the regular price of the PS4. The console’s newest and cheapest model, often called the PS4 Slim, normally costs $299. The PlayStation 4 Pro is more expensive because of its additional storage capacity and enhanced graphics. Sony has offered it for $399 since it went on sale late in 2016. Besides these models, there are also savings to be had on the original PS4 design that arrived on store shelves in 2013.

Use these PS4 deals to save money on Sony’s video game console.

Read: Xbox One vs PS4: Which Should You Buy?

Use the best PS4 deals to save big cash on your gaming setup. No matter which PS4 deals you take advantage of, you can enjoy all the same games and use the same apps. The PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro sometimes come with free games that you can add to your collection at no additional cost.

Best PS4 Deals & PS4 Pro Deals

PS4 Slim 500GB Uncharted BundleAmazon$269.99$30.00Shipped and Sold by Amazon.
Used PS4sGameStopVariesVariesUp to $50 off used PS4 Systems.
Refurbished Original 500GB PS4Best Buy$229 Refurbished Original PS4 System.
Used PS4 Original 500GBBest Buy$249Pre-Owned Original PS4 System.
Open Box 500GB PS4Newegg$239$60.00Console was opened and returned.
PS4 Slim 500GB Uncharted 4 BundleWal-Mart$249$50.96

PS4 Deals & Trade-Ins

You don’t need to trade in your current console to take advantage of most of these great PS4 deals. That being said, doing a trade-in could help significantly lower the amount of money you’ll spend upgrading your setup. Amazon has a PS4 deal that nets users $50 in discounts on a PS4 just for trading in old hardware. The company isn’t even mandating what you trade in is a gaming console.

Best Buy, GameStop and Amazon continue to allow PS4 trade-ins for store credit. In fact, GameStop still offers gamers cash for their trade-ins. This allows you to offload your console there, then use the money that you earned for the trade-in at any place you find a solid PS4 deal.

There’s are no catches when taking advantage of many of these PS4 deals, generally. You aren’t required to have a membership in a discount club, for example. Again, the Amazon offer does require you to trade in something to unlock the digital coupon on your PS4, but nothing more.

Used & Refurbished PS4 Consoles

A few retailers are offering refurbished and pre-owned PS4 consoles. They’re discounted heavily compared to their unopened counterparts. Be aware that you’re buying someone else’s opened console when you take advantage of those PS4 deals. Look into any warranty information or product guarantees that the retailer provides. Be sure to look into their return policy for used items too.

PS4 Console Bundles

As you start to look for the best PS4 deals, be thinking about the game you want to play on your new console. Look for a PS4, PS4 Pro or PS4 Slim bundle that includes a copy of that game. Finding a console with the game you want saves you as much as $60. Amazon, Best Buy and GameStop all carry consoles bundled with games.

  • PS4 Pro 1TB Destiny 2 Bundle for $449.99 at Amazon

  • PS4 Slim 500GB Call of Duty Infinite Warfare Bundle for $298 at Amazon

  • PS4 Slim 500GB Uncharted for Bundle for $262.99 at Amazon

Check for eBay PS4 Deals

Finally, be sure to check for PS4 deals on eBay. The site is most known for its auctions, but some retailers also offer big discounts on new and used consoles there without bidding. Just look for the Buy It Now button to the right of each listing’s price.


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