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22
Feb

OS X Vulnerable to SSL Bug Patched in iOS 7.0.6 Update


Yesterday’s iOS 7.0.6 update provided a fix for an SSL connection verification issue, which turned out to be a major security flaw in the operating system. In a support document, Apple noted the patch repaired a specific vulnerability that could allow an attacker with a “privileged network position” to capture or modify data protected by SSL/TLS.

ios6security
In other words, iOS was vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle attack where an attacker could pose as a trusted website to intercept communications, acquiring sensitive information such as login credentials and passwords, or injecting harmful malware.

According to security firm CrowdStrike, OS X may be vulnerable as well, because it exhibits the same authentication flaw. OS X users are open to an attack on any shared wired or wireless network as SSL/TLS verification routines can be bypassed.

To pull off the attack an adversary has to be able to Man-in-The-Middle (MitM) network connections, which can be done if they are present on the same wired or wireless network as the victim. Due to a flaw in authentication logic on iOS and OS X platforms, an attacker can bypass SSL/TLS verification routines upon the initial connection handshake.

This enables an adversary to masquerade as coming from a trusted remote endpoint, such as your favorite webmail provider and perform full interception of encrypted traffic between you and the destination server, as well as give them a capability to modify the data in flight (such as deliver exploits to take control of your system).

The bug, which has been detailed by Google software engineer Adam Langley, may have been introduced in OS X 10.9. According to Hacker News users, it remains unclear whether the issue is fixed with the latest version of the software, OS X 10.9.2, which is currently only available for developers. Users can check whether or not their computers are affected by the vulnerability by visiting gotofail.com in Safari.

vulnerablebrowser
It is likely that Apple plans to release a fix for OS X in the near future to repair the vulnerability, but in the meantime, CrowdStrike recommends avoiding untrusted WiFi networks while traveling. The site also recommends an immediate update to iOS 7.0.6 for users who have not yet installed the newest version of the operating system on their iOS devices.

    



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22
Feb

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 review: a tablet that proves bigger isn’t always better


Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 review: a tablet that shows bigger isn't always better

How do you fit 12.2 inches of tablet into your life? That’s a question I’m sure Samsung must have pondered at some point before greenlighting its Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, a device that stretches the upper limits of what we can easily call a tablet. It’s also something I’ve wondered myself, given that its size puts it within uncomfortably close competition with 11- and 13-inch laptops. That increase in screen real estate comes at a high price, too: $750 for a 32GB model and $850 for 64GB, both WiFi-only. LTE-capable models are coming soon, but Samsung hasn’t announced pricing yet. As you might imagine, then, the Note Pro 12.2 isn’t intended for your average consumer. No, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is aimed at the prosumer niche of the market — whoever and whatever that actually means.

The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 isn’t a complete departure for Samsung, though. Cosmetically, it’s near- identical to the Note 10.1 2014 Edition, except larger. There’s that same faux-leather back replete with “stitching,” and 2,560 x 1,600 display. What, then, aside from a massive screen, makes the Note Pro 12.2 different enough to justify the price? On paper, the answer to that would center around the version of Android it ships with (4.4.2 KitKat), its ability to connect remotely to your PC, as well as Samsung’s Flipboard-like Magazine interface. Let’s be real, though. When it comes to the Note Pro 12.2, size clearly matters most. But that begs the question, can you and your prosumptive tendencies handle it?

Hardware

I’ll admit I was initially skeptical of Samsung’s decision to counter complaints about its cheap-feeling, plastic design with — wait for it — cleverly disguised plastic. More specifically, I’m referring to that faux-leather back we first encountered on the Galaxy Note 3, which appears to be the new build standard for Samsung’s flagship mobile products. It’s something that sounds awful in writing, and seeing it in photos doesn’t do it much more justice.

And yet, my misgivings were unfounded. What I assumed would be a tacky design workaround is actually a sly coup on Samsung’s part. Somehow, with that one change, Samsung’s managed to make this 12.2-inch tablet look professional; a device befitting that “Pro” moniker. The black, textured matte back feels comfortable in-hand and looks like something you’d pull out of your attaché case. It elevates the Note Pro 12.2 to a premium perch other Note tablets fell short of — a place where you could almost forgive its exorbitant price tag. Almost.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Note Pro 12.2 could easily be mistaken for a stretched-out Note 10.1 2014 Edition. It bears an uncanny resemblance that extends even to the port layout. The dual speaker setup occupies both edges of the device, high up enough that your hands won’t muffle the sound. A redesigned, more stylish S Pen (denoted by its grooved, faux-metal cap) remains holstered in the upper-right edge of the device. Below that is where we find the only significant change. Whereas this spot used to house just a covered microSD slot, it now also houses a USB 3.0 port for fast data transfer and charging, though you can still connect via micro-USB if you like. Apart from that, you’ve got a 3.5mm headphone jack on the upper left edge, plus power and volume up top alongside an IR blaster.

The Note Pro 12.2′s front face is similarly unchanged. Samsung’s logo appears in the upper portion of the bezel, while the physical home button resides below and is flanked by soft keys for task management and navigating backward. Speaking of bezels, Samsung appears to have found a sweet spot size-wise that leaves just enough space for users’ thumbs to rest without overtaking the rest of the screen. It’s a decision made out of necessity, as well. At 295.6 x 203.9mm (11.6 x 8 inches), the Note Pro 12.2 is big enough that Samsung didn’t have the luxury of adding to its dimensions. That said, at 750g (1.65 pounds) and 7.95mm (0.31 inch) thick, it’s surprisingly light and thin — two buzz words that are practically a must for outsized mobile products.

Different connectivity options mean different processors for the Note Pro 12.2 line and since this particular model is of the WiFi-only variety, it’s imbued with an octa-core Exynos 5 SoC. The LTE model, on the other hand, will ship with a Snapdragon 800 chip inside. Regardless, both are paired with a healthy 3GB of RAM, and include radios for Bluetooth 4.0 and dual band WiFi a/b/g/n/ac MIMO. Additionally, both come with either 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage. It’s worth noting that, out of box, only 25GB of the 32GB of storage on our unit was available for personal use. Thankfully, you can expand that capacity via microSD, so that internal storage constraint shouldn’t cause much concern. There’s also a massive, non-removable 9,500mAh battery to power that equally massive 12.2-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 display.

Display

For the Note Pro 12.2 and the Note 10.1 2014 Edition before it, Samsung used a TFT LCD, abandoning the hyper-saturated Super AMOLED panels that have always been a hallmark of Galaxy products. The trade-off here are relatively muted colors that makes gazing upon the 12.2-inch panel more relaxing on the eyes. That 2,560 x 1,600 resolution also translates to a high pixel density of 247 ppi, which means greater detail in everything from icons to videos. There’s not a visible pixel in sight, nor should there be. Viewing angles are fantastic, as well, but considering the size of the Note Pro 12.2, I don’t expect you’ll have much need to view it on slant with while you’re lying in bed. Oh, and if you take this thing outside, I’d advise you to seek out shade — even at full brightness, it was very difficult to make out the screen in direct sunlight.

Software

There’s a good amount of third-party software pre-installed on the Galaxy Note Pro 12 — about 27 apps, in total — but thanks to some deft organization on Samsung’s part, you don’t really notice it. You need only access the app drawer for evidence of this tidy housekeeping. The first two icons displayed on the grid are dedicated folders for Google and Samsung apps. Although, in the latter case, there’s a mix of non-Samsung associated third-party apps included like Evernote and Flipboard. Because of this streamlining, the Note Pro 12.2′s app layout takes up just over two screens. Even the default homescreen layout seems a bit cleared up: only one row of apps and two widgets occupy the two default homescreens.

The Note Pro 12.2′s bloat may seem like overkill on Samsung’s part, but the vast majority of it is useful and includes common apps most users would have downloaded anyway. Things like Twitter, NYTimes, Evernote, Dropbox and Netflix, to name just a few examples. The same goes for productivity software like Hancom Viewer (for document viewing/editing), e-Meeting (a conference app) and Remote PC which allows users to mirror and remotely control their PC or Mac. Samsung’s Smart Screen eye-tracking features (i.e., Stay, Pause and Rotation) also make an appearance on the Note Pro 12.2, but they’re disabled by default; you’ll need to dive into the settings to turn them on.

Of course, this being a Note, Samsung’s also bundled in its requisite suite of S Pen apps. The usual gang’s all here: Action Memo (a rebranded S Memo) for quick note-taking; Scrapbook, which collects articles, images or videos you highlight from the web; Sketchbook; and finally, S Note, which integrates directly with Evernote or Samsung account. In truth, this collection of apps serves more as a neat demo of what the S Pen can do, than as useful justifications for having the stylus.

The S Pen’s functionality hasn’t changed from when we last saw it on the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. Removing it from its holster immediately triggers the onscreen Air Command display, a palette-like control for quick access to Action Memo, Scrapbooker, Screen write, S Finder and Pen window. You can also enable the Air Command display by depressing the S Pen’s built-in button when hovering over the screen. Of the lot, only Pen window and Scrapbooker require the user to draw onscreen to effect the desired action. For example, after selecting Scrapbooker, users will need to draw a circle around any items of interest to add to a personal collection. The same goes for Pen window, which launches a pop-up application when a square is drawn onscreen.

Swiping left from the bezel, either with the S Pen or your finger, will slide out an app panel for Multi Window shortcuts. To start filling the available four quadrants of the Note Pro 12.2′s screen, you need only drag and drop the app of your choosing. These windows can resized however you like, granting other onscreen apps more or less space, depending on your needs. On top of this, you can even select apps from the slide out panel to appear as pop-up windows over your Multi Window selections. And in a neat UI flourish, Samsung’s made it so that minimized pop-up windows appear as floating circles, not unlike Facebook’s Chat Heads.

Let’s talk about Magazine UX, the Flipboard-like homescreen/news feed that Samsung designed in collaboration with Flipboard for the Note Pro 12.2. It’s nearly identical to Flipboard, but isn’t officially Flipboard. And it’s made all the more confusing by the fact that specific topic feeds (e.g., Science and Technology, Arts and Culture, Sports, etc.) are not only navigated using the same page flip animation, but also offer Flipboard as a curated news source. So, it is Flipboard… kinda.

Whether or not you’ll appreciate this addition to the Note Pro 12.2 depends on how much you use Flipboard to begin with. Don’t despair if it’s not your cup of tea, though. Unlike on the demo model we previewed at CES, Magazine UX is not set as the default homescreen and is also not mapped to the physical home button. So you can effectively ignore it if you like, but be warned there’s no way to completely disable it.

Remote PC

Perhaps the neatest feature Samsung’s debuting here is Remote PC, which, as the name suggests, allows you to remotely access your PC or Mac. The setup process is fairly straightforward, and Samsung’s step-by-step onscreen guide should take all of three minutes to complete. To get started, you’ll need to download and install Samsung’s dedicated remote access software to your computer, launch the corresponding app on the Note Pro 12.2 and enter an authentication key which will appear on your PC’s screen.

After that, mirroring your PC on the Note Pro 12.2 is as easy as selecting your computer icon from within the app. Remote PC does give you full access to your PC, but it’s not without its quirks. Navigation is split up between a mouse-and-pointer setup, accessible from a submenu, or the default gesture controls. While you’d think it’d be more natural to use the touch inputs for control, I found the traditional pointer control scheme to be more precise. There’s also an understandable bit of lag between what’s being mirrored on your Note Pro 12.2 and the computer. Depending on your wireless connection, though, your experience may vary.

While Remote PC does have its advantages, there is one aspect of it users will find frustrating, and that’s text input. As the Note Pro 12.2 is a tablet, its onscreen keyboard will take up a significant portion of the lower half of the screen — the exact place where most dialog boxes for text entry would appear. The unfortunate result is that you can’t actually see what you’re typing, which made for some unintentionally amusing messages on my part. It’s by no means a dealbreaker — remote access to your PC is an incredible boon in and of itself — but you do need to adapt to its quirks.

Performance

When a reviewer forgets to notice a new product’s performance shortcomings, you know it’s a going to be a solid workhorse. And that’s exactly the experience I had during my initial honeymoon phase with the Note Pro 12.2. Apps loaded quickly, screen transitions were smooth and stutter-free. Everything worked as gracefully as I expected it to with an octa-core Exynos 5 chip and 3GB RAM.

That is, until I began pushing the Note Pro 12.2 to its moderate limits. I say “moderate” because I don’t think enabling one instance of Multi Window on this device should cause it to significantly slow down. It’s a performance hiccup that only grew worse with the addition of more windows. Yes, the Note Pro 12.2 is technically capable of displaying four open apps plus floating pop-ups on top of that, but there’s no real benefit for the user. How could there be when the experience is marred by a noticeable lag? In fact, there’s a pervasiveness slowness to the Note Pro 12.2 that ruins any sense of rapid-fire multitasking. It’s the opposite of what the device’s prosumer customer would want.

As a media viewer, however, you can’t really go wrong with the Note Pro’s considerable screen size. That 12.2-inch screen’s an ideal venue for showing off presentations and high-res photos. It’s similarly fantastic for watching Netflix or any other streaming media, so long as you can find a comfortable way to position it. If you can find a suitable way to prop it up, the Note Pro 12.2 can even serve as a solid replacement for viewing media on your laptop. The dual speakers are powerful enough that you should be able to comfortably watch with chatty friends or even in a moderately noisy environment. As a bonus, there’s also no distortion when the volume is pushed to the max.

And now, back to that Exynos 5 chip. As noted earlier, this WiFi-only model comes equipped with 3GB of RAM and Samsung’s octa-core processor inside; that of the big.LITTLE architecture. So you’re not exactly getting all eight cores firing simultaneously, but a setup wherein the best suited set of four cores, be it for light tasks or heavy processing, takes over. It’s likely the reason the Note Pro 12.2 seems to take its time cycling through tasks when activity ramps up.

From the table below, you can see that the Note Pro 12.2 stands up well in benchmark tests compared to its smaller sibling, the Note 10.1 2014 Edition, or the Tegra-4 powered HP SlateBook x2. And really, those are the only fair comparisons we can make as there aren’t many other tablets that push past the 10-inch mark. What’s curious is that, despite both Galaxy Note devices sharing the exact same processor and RAM allotment, the Note Pro 12.2 underperformed in two areas where it should’ve achieved parity. Then again, even the stronger benchmark results don’t truly reflect our real-world experience with the Note Pro 12.2 and its tortoise-like pace.

Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 HP SlateBook x2 Nexus 10
Quadrant 2.0 16,639 19,530 13,660 5,363
Vellamo 2.0 1,786 2,735 3,237 1,854
AnTuTu 4 33,967 31,859 N/A 19,253
SunSpider 0.9.1* (ms) 1,044 1,069 654 989
GFXBench 2.7 HD Offscreen (fps) N/A 22 N/A 12
CF-Bench 33,250 31,567 32,725 10,096
*SunSpider: scores were run on Chrome using v0.9.1 for consistency. Note 10.1 scored 1,063 on v1.0.1. Nexus 10 scores were run on 10/1/13 using Android 4.3.

The Note Pro 12.2′s 9,500mAh battery is a significant bump over the 8,220mAh one used in the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. Which makes sense, since it needs more juice to power all the pixels on that 2,560 x 1,600 display. If you’ve ever taken a look at your power management tab in Android’s settings, you know that the display is the biggest drain on battery life. Knowing that, you should temper your expectations for longevity. During a normal eight-hour workday, the Note Pro 12.2 lost just under 50 percent of its charge and that was with what I’d consider normal usage — some light browsing, emailing and monitoring of my Twitter feed. I’m sure it’d retain that charge even longer, perhaps for two days, if power-saving were enabled and it was left to mostly idle under light use.

Compared to the Note 10.1 2014 Edition, the Note Pro 12.2′s formal battery result is a little more promising, but nowhere near impressive. With a locally stored video running on a loop, Twitter set to sync at 10 minutes, one push email account active, as well as WiFi and GPS enabled, the Note Pro 12.2 lasted 10 hours and four minutes. That’s about two and a half hours longer than the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. It’s an improvement, for sure, but as with any formalized test, it’s not really reflective of actual consumer usage. Your personal consumption habits and dedication to power management will dictate just how long you can keep the Note Pro 12.2 powered up.

Camera


Never before in my history of product reviews have I felt sillier than when I walked around Brooklyn taking photos and video with a 12.2-inch tablet. People stared. I could feel them judging me, and rightly so. Not only does it feel ridiculous to take photos with the Note Pro 12.2′s 8-megapixel rear camera, it’s also really difficult. As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to see the screen in bright sunlight, so oftentimes I wasn’t fully aware of how my shot was framed or if it was in focus. Then there’s the simple matter of maneuvering the Note Pro 12.2 so you can access the camera settings menu or scroll through the mode select wheel. It’ll make you feel clumsy and corny, and don’t you have a smartphone for this purpose anyway?

The Note Pro 12.2 snaps photos at a resolution of up to 3,264 x 1,836 in 16:9 ratio or 3,264 x 2,448 for 4:3 shots. Samsung’s included menu options for burst mode and image stabilization — both of which are disabled by default — as well as the ability to customize the volume key function for video, photos or zoom. That mode scroll I mentioned before offers up the same suite of settings we saw debut on the Galaxy S4: Beauty face, Best face, Sound and Shot, Drama, Eraser, et cetera. During my neighborhood walkabout, I stuck to Auto mode as that’s what most consumers will probably resort to, anyway.

I don’t have any real complaints about the Note Pro 12.2′s photo imaging performance, nor do I have any raves. My final batch of shots were above average. Color reproduction was fairly accurate, although shots with a greater depth of field tended to appear less finely detailed. My sample 1080p video, however, is unwatchable, even with image stabilization enabled. As you’ll see below, the Note Pro 12.2 records ambient audio clearly, but utterly fails to maintain a smooth framerate when the camera or objects are in motion.

Configuration options and the competition

First things first: when it comes to the Note Pro 12.2, you need to decide how much internal storage you need. If you do go down the higher-end route, then you’ll be paying a $100 premium for 64GB of storage, totaling $850. Keep in mind, there is a microSD slot, so you can cheaply augment that storage with up to a 64GB card. In comparison, the 64GB Note 10.1 2014 edition, whose screen is 2.1-inches smaller and bears the same S Pen, Exynos 5 processor, screen resolution and functionality, can be had for $600. That a steep discount of $150 for what is essentially an identical tablet made by the same company.

You don’t need to narrow your choices down to just Samsung’s Galaxy Note line for a high-res Android tablet. There are alternatives like Google’s Nexus 10, which gets you stock Android, a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution and 32GB of storage for $500. Or you can explore something like HP’s Tegra-4 powered SlateBook x2, a 10-inch full HD convertible tablet that comes with a keyboard dock for $480. Although, take note, the SlateBook x2 is only offered with 16GB of internal storage.

When it comes to iOS options, the 9.7-inch, WiFi-only iPad Air looks like a relative steal next to the Note Pro 12.2. For $600, you’re getting a marginally lower resolution (2,048 x 1,536), 32GB of non-expandable storage and access to Apple’s ecosystem. A $100 price bump gets you all that and a roomier 64GB of internal storage. Then again, it doesn’t have an active digitizer pen input, so there’s that. All told, the iPad Air is still the more expensive option compared to the kitted-out Note 10.1 2014 Edition, but it offers a reliable user experience. That’s something neither the Note Pro 12.2 or Note 10.1 2014 Edition can guarantee.

Wrap-up


To me, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is quintessential Samsung. It’s emblematic of that spaghetti-to-the-wall approach we’ve seen the company indulge in time and again. I don’t know that the Note Pro 12.2 needs to exist because I don’t know that there’s actually a niche hungry enough for this product. With its same-y internals and feature load, the Note Pro 12.2 seems more like an endorsement of the cheaper and smaller Note 10.1 2014 Edition. Forget the Flipboard-ish Magazine UX and Remote PC functionality — its only two standout features — everything the Note Pro 12.2 can do, the Note 10.1 can do just as well, or even better if we’re taking benchmarks into consideration.

Then there’s that price. An MSRP of $750 or $850 is hard to swallow considering you’re mainly getting two more inches of screen space and a performance that tends toward a more leisurely pace. The Note Pro 12.2 is also too big to hold comfortably. Yes, it’s a great go-to for media consumption, but you either have to prepare for wrist fatigue or MacGyver a rig to prop it up independently. It’s just not worth the trouble. Prosumer or not, there are better, more cost-effective ways to do what the Note Pro 12.2 aspires to do.

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22
Feb

WhatsApp experiencing global outage


No, it’s not just you. WhatsApp, the popular messaging service just bought by Facebook, has been down for about two hours. The company confirmed the outage via its Twitter account, and we’ve been receiving loads of emails from disgruntled users in India and the UK. WhatsApp neglected to say when service will be restored, though it did blame the problem on “server issues.” So no, Facebook isn’t the culprit here, but we’ll chuckle politely anyway if you make that joke in the comments.

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Source: WhatsApp (Twitter)

22
Feb

We’re live from Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona!


We’re embarked upon the capital of Catalonia, where warm and sunny days are a stark contrast to the chilly snows we experienced last year. But we’re happy to brave it for the opportunity to see the latest smartphones, tablets and wearables. While a few companies didn’t want to wait for the show to make their big announcements, there are always at least a handful of surprises hidden within the walls of the Fira Gran Via. Some of the fun begins tomorrow, which is also when you’ll hear more about our liveblog coverage. Keep it locked to our Events page to stay up to date!

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22
Feb

Engadget’s smartphone buyer’s guide: winter 2014 edition


You don’t need to cast bones or read entrails to know that smartphones arrive in predictable cycles. February, home of Mobile World Congress, is likely to see the launch of new handsets from heavy hitters like HTC, Samsung and LG. Those new flagships will rule the mobile hill until the fall, when Apple and Google are likely to wheel out next-gen devices of their own. Sony, meanwhile, recently launched its latest handset, the Z1 Compact, which reverses the “bigger is better” trend to great effect.

There may have only been one top-tier phone launching in January, but the phone industry has hardly been hibernating this winter. Two years after Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion, it sold the rejuvenated handset maker to Lenovo. AT&T, meanwhile, has rejigged its mobile share plans to shrink your monthly data bill; T-Mobile will now pay you to leave your carrier; and we’re inching ever closer to a Sprint/T-Mobile merger, the FCC permitting. If you’re already on the hunt for a new smartphone, or your deal’s only for a few more months left and you like to be prepared, this is your guide to the best handsets on the market.

Android

HTC One

HTC’s 2013-era flagship is due for a revamp, and we’re certain that the gods of irony will ensure that, as soon as we’ve published this guide, the smartphone currently codenamed as “M8″ will officially arrive. In the meantime, however, the HTC One remains a handset that we’re happy to recommend. Combining jaw-dropping unibody aluminum design, powerful BoomSound speakers and an IR blaster, it’s as at home in front of your TV as on the road. The quick performance and general polish of both hardware and software mean that it hasn’t shown its age, and the UltraPixel camera is perfect for low-light shooting. Hopefully the arrival of the One’s replacement will help knock the price down, so we’d suggest keeping your eyes peeled for a bargain in the next few weeks.

Bottom line: Good hardware, good software and some innovative little touches put the HTC One ahead of the Android pack, even though it’s now several months older than many of the other phones on this list.

Key specs: 4.7-inch 1080p (1,920 x 1,080) S-LCD 3 display, 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600, 4MP rear/2.1MP front cameras, 32GB/64GB non-expandable storage, Android 4.2 (US, to be updated shortly)/Android 4.3 (global edition).

Price: $50 (Verizon), $100 (Sprint) from Amazon and Best Buy or $200 (AT&T)

Motorola Moto X

Since our last guide, the Motorola Moto X went on sale in Europe as an off-the-shelf retail option, and the company went from being Google’s plaything to becoming part of Lenovo. The news of the purchase shouldn’t distract you, however, as the handset is still reasonably new, with much to recommend it. In the US, customization is the name of the game, with the ability to choose colors on the front, back and accent pieces. There’s even an optional wood finish. It may not appeal to those who judge a phone’s performance on its spec sheet, but Motorola (and Google) worked hard to ensure there are some neat tricks under the hood. For example, you just need to say “OK Google” at the device for it to activate and offer up its voice search prowess. Then there’s the Active Display, which will show you your notifications if it feels you holding the handset toward your face.

Bottom line: Rather than cramming in ultra-fast internals, Motorola’s tried to make the phone especially intuitive to use, with Active Display and touchless controls. Oh, and it’s assembled in the USA, which might tug at your patriotic heartstrings.

Key specs: 4.7-inch (1,280 x 720) AMOLED display, 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 Pro, 10MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB or 32GB non-expandable storage, Android 4.2.2 (upgradeable to 4.4 KitKat).

Price: $50 (AT&T, Verizon) from Amazon and Best Buy, $100 (Sprint) or $330 (unlocked)

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

When Samsung presented the idea of a smartphone with a display larger than five inches, we were more than a little skeptical. The Galaxy Note’s surprise success, however, has forged a trend where colossal devices are now the rule, not the exception. For the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung took everything we loved about its predecessors and turned them up to 11. Instead of mildly useful note-taking, the company has ensured that the S Pen stylus now serves a deeper purpose. It also offers whip-smart performance and a battery that’ll last close to two days with normal usage. The only downside is that you’ll still look a bit silly using one as a phone, but let’s be honest: Who uses their smartphones to make calls anymore, eh?

Bottom line: The third-generation Note is an improvement over its predecessors thanks to a more useful stylus and a longer-lasting battery.

Key specs: 5.7-inch (1,920 x 1,080) Super AMOLED display, 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800, 13MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB/64GB expandable storage, Android 4.3.

Price: $300 (AT&T, Verizon) from Amazon and Best Buy, $350 (Sprint) or $708 (T-Mobile)

Google Nexus 5

When Google picked LG to produce the Nexus 4, heads and eyebrows were raised, but when it launched, no one could doubt that the duo had pulled off something special. For the Nexus 5, Google raised the price to $349, but for a little extra cash, you’re getting one of the finest flagships for a mid-range price. Since it’s a Nexus device, users are entitled to the latest and greatest version of Android whenever it’s out. And, despite the low price, you’re getting speedy internals and good-quality hardware. Just be prepared for some weak battery life and poor roaming options. Otherwise, we suggest you buy it contract-free, with just a prepaid SIM plan, and don’t look back. Your wallet will thank you for it.

Bottom line: We’re baffled as to why more people don’t just buy Nexus phones over all others. After all, you’re getting a flagship smartphone for $350.

Key specs: 4.95-inch (1,920 x 1,080) IPS LCD display, 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800, 8MP rear/1.3MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB non-expandable storage, Android 4.4.

Price: $100 (Sprint) from Best Buy, $349 to $399 (unlocked) or $396 (T-Mobile)

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

We’ve noted that a lot of Android device makers like to release a handset, like the Galaxy S 4, and then release a smaller, more pocket-friendly version shortly afterward. Unfortunately, cramming the same technology down into a tighter package causes a raft of compromises, sending prospective buyers scurrying back to the full-size edition. Sony, however, decided that it would try and produce the Xperia Z1 Compact, a shrunken down, 4.3-inch version of the original Xperia Z1, which has a 5-inch screen. The only differences of note are that the display now has 720p resolution, instead of 1080p, and the battery capacity has dropped by 700mAh due to the hardware’s reduced dimensions. If you’re interested in a top-tier waterproof smartphone, but don’t fancy carrying around a device that can double as a table tennis bat, the Z1 Compact is absolutely worth investigating.

Bottom line: Sony’s struggled to sell its Xperia handsets in the past, but this one deserves to be a hit, thanks to its 20.7-megapixel camera, great build quality and blistering performance. Oh, and it’s waterproof, so if you like dunking your phone in your friend’s drinks, this one’s for you.

Key specs: 4.3-inch (1,280 x 720) Triluminos LCD display, 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800, 20.7MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB expandable storage, Android 4.3.

Price: $625.50 to $689.50 (unlocked, from Negri Electronics)

Motorola Moto G

The partnership between Motorola and Google may have only produced two handsets, but the ones we got were special. Aimed squarely at the lower end of the market, the Moto G is the rare beast that doesn’t feel like it costs just $180. It can beat the HTC One mini and Galaxy S4 Mini in the benchmark stakes; it features a solid camera; and the 4.5-inch display is actually quite fantastic. If you’re not dead-set on LTE or carrying around a big music collection, but want a quick and up-to-date Android smartphone, then this is the device you should be ordering.

Bottom line: If you want a Google handset, but can’t stretch to a Nexus 5, then the Moto G is your next best option. There’s no LTE, no expandable storage and the camera’s just OK, but for this price, who cares?

Key specs: 4.5-inch (1,280 x 720) IPS LCD display, 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400, 5MP rear/1.3MP front cameras, 8GB/16GB non-expandable storage, Android 4.3 (Android 4.4 KitKat on Google Play edition).

Price: $100 (Verizon), $80 (US Cellular), $130 (Boost) or $179 to $199 (GSM, unlocked) from Amazon

iOS

Apple iPhone 5s

You know the deal by now. Apple’s flagship iPhone 5s is the best iPhone ever made, thanks to improvements both inside and outside. Though it remains dwarfed in size by many rival phones, it benefits from Touch ID, an easy-to-use fingerprint scanner built right into the home button. Then there’s the future-proof A7 chip, which offers fast 64-bit performance. Add in iOS 7, with its stark new design, and you’ve got a seventh-generation iPhone that still manages to look and feel new.

Bottom line: The best iPhone yet, and among the top smartphones, period. However, if you already own an iPhone 5, you’re probably better off waiting for the 6, as nothing here really justifies the early upgrade fee.

Key specs: 4-inch (1,136 x 640) IPS Retina display, Touch ID, A7 chip with M7 motion coprocessor, 8MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB/64GB non-expandable storage, iOS 7.

Price: $199 to $399 (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) from Best Buy or $649 to $848 (T-Mobile)

Apple iPhone 5c

Apple’s middle child is the iPhone 5c, which is basically 2012′s iPhone 5 with a plastic shell. That switch means you’ll now be able to buy the phone in a variety of bright, Lumia-esque colors, but in every other respect, it’s the same phone that came out in 2012. So, you’ll sacrifice the headline-grabbing features you’d otherwise get with the 5s, like the aluminum shell and fingerprint recognition, but if your wallet won’t stretch the extra $100 to get the higher-end model, this is a fine choice.

Bottom line: For $100 less than the iPhone 5s, it’s 2012′s best phone in a choice of fun colors.

Key specs: 4-inch (1,136 x 640) IPS Retina display, 1.3GHz dual-core A6, 8MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB non-expandable storage, iOS 7.

Price: $99 to $199 (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) from Best Buy or $549 to $649 (unlocked or on T-Mobile)

Apple iPhone 4s

It’s a testament to the iPhone 4s that Apple can still sell it as an entry-level device more than two years after it first went on sale. Of course, it’s missing a few key specs that early adopters will be lusting after — namely, it rocks a smaller 3.5-inch display, and makes do with a slower chip and 3G-only data. That said, it still has a fantastic camera and that 3.5-inch display is at least Retina-quality. More importantly, the phone will still run iOS 7, so you won’t feel too behind your friends on more modern hardware. Of course, you’re not eligible for every new iOS feature, and there’s no guarantee your handset will be supported in a year’s time. Still, for a free-on-contract offering, it’s tremendously compelling.

Bottom line: Despite being more than two years old, the iPhone 4s can still hold its own with brand-new budget models from its rivals — and it’s a steal if you can get it for free. Speed freaks and LTE fans won’t be interested, but it’ll beat plenty of other smartphones you can get for nothing.

Key specs: 3.5-inch (960 x 640) IPS Retina display, 1GHz A5, 8MP rear/VGA front cameras, 8GB non-expandable storage, iOS 7.

Price: Free (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) or $450 (unlocked on T-Mobile)

Windows Phone

Nokia Lumia 1520

A handset that exists in the corridor of uncertainty between a phone and a tablet, Nokia’s Lumia 1520 is the company’s first attempt at a 6-inch device to rival the Galaxy Note. With the first 1080p display on a Windows Phone device, as well as a Snapdragon 800 processor, the 1520 offers plenty to love. Pairing this massive device with a 20-megapixel PureView module puts most other devices to shame, and it’s even reasonably comfortable in a pocket — assuming you’re not wearing skinny jeans, anyway. If you’re a Verizon customer and feel left out, then the Icon, which combines similar internals with a 5-inch display, could be right up your street.

Bottom line: It’s too early to tell if Windows Phone 8 will flourish on a massive device that sits between a fully fledged tablet and a smartphone, but nonetheless, this stands as the best Windows Phone device we’ve ever seen.

Key specs: 6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) IPS LCD display, 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800, 20MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 16/32GB expandable storage, Windows Phone 8.

Price: $150 (AT&T) from Amazon and Best Buy or $750 (unlocked)

Nokia Lumia 1020

When Nokia announced the “experimental” 808 PureView, it set the hearts of gadget fiends afire. The device came with a 41-megapixel sensor and some clever number-crunching that gave your photos much greater depth and clarity. Best of all, you could even zoom into them to a much greater level, finally bringing a CSI-style “enhance” to your images. The common consensus was that as soon as Nokia could put that 41-megapixel sensor onto a regular Windows Phone device, people would start paying attention to the platform. Well, that phone has arrived: The Lumia 1020 combines staggering imaging technology with Windows Phone’s user-friendly interface. Moreover, now that Microsoft and Nokia are filling the holes in Windows Phone’s app catalog, a flagship like the 1020 is more appealing than ever.

Bottom line: If you want to take amazing images with a smartphone, this is the device you need.

Key specs: 4.5-inch WXGA (1,280 x 768) PureMotion HD+ AMOLED display, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus, 41MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 32GB non-expandable storage, Windows Phone 8.

Price: $50-$100 (AT&T) from Amazon and Best Buy

Nokia Lumia 1320

When it comes to Windows Phone devices, Nokia’s (and Microsoft’s) strategy has been easy to understand, if a bit scattergun. Produce a high-powered phone, and then whittle out features to produce sequentially cheaper versions from the 925 all the way down to the 520. The company adopted a similar approach to 6-inch units, with the 1520 acting as the “flagship,” and the 1320 being a cheaper, lower-powered version for the masses. It keeps the large display and battery, but ditches the PureView camera, large internal storage and high-power internals. That said, if you’re actively seeking out a phone/tablet hybrid, but aren’t thrilled at spending the thick end of $800, this is probably your first port of call.

Bottom line: Despite its size, this 6-inch device isn’t an all-powerful phablet — it’s more like the Lumia 620 after a bout of elephantiasis. If you want a big phone without a big price tag, however, this is probably where you’ll end up.

Key specs: 6-inch (1,280 x 720) ClearBlack LCD display, 1.7Ghz dual-core Snapdragon 400, 5MP rear/VGA front cameras, 8GB expandable storage, Windows Phone 8.

Price: $390 (unlocked, from Amazon)

Nokia Lumia 520

Nokia’s Lumia 520 (and 521) are the Windows Phone handsets that lurk at the very bottom of the company’s bargain basement. In fact, this handset is so cheap, it’s often handed out as a sweetener when you buy other Microsoft products. The price, combined with the user-friendliness of Windows Phone 8, makes it a pretty easy purchase for smartphone virgins. On the downside, the handset doesn’t have much going for it in the spec department — with a weak display, OK-ish camera and a short battery life. If, however, the purse strings are tight and you’re only browsing Twitter, then this is a reasonably safe bet.

Bottom line: It’s cheap to the point of being free, and while it may not be the greatest phone out there, Nokia has always known how to knock out a solid device for those on a budget. Take advantage of the right deal, and you’ll even be able to grab one of these for free as a party favor.

Key specs: 4-inch (800 x 480) IPS LCD, 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus, 5MP rear camera, 8GB expandable storage, Windows Phone 8.

Price: $29 (521, Metro PCS), $100 (520, AT&T) or $126 (521, T-Mobile) from Amazon

BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry Z30

The Z30 is, in our opinion, the best BlackBerry 10 device on the market. Thanks to the handset’s 5-inch display, BB10 suddenly feels much more comfortable than on the cramped Z10, and while it’s still just a year old, the operating system at least feels mature now. Then there’s the battery, which lasts more than a full day with intermittent usage and nearly 13 hours with nonstop use. Thankfully, the company has now moved to address the weak app selection — BB10 will now install and run plenty of Android apps at the push of a button. If you’re dead set on buying a touchscreen BlackBerry, this is the one that we’d recommend.

Bottom line: We doubt BlackBerry virgins will find anything to convince them to buy this device, but enthusiasts will find plenty to like. The bigger display and better internals make for a more comfortable experience, but beware that the usual BlackBerry issues remain.

Key specs: 5-inch (1,280 x 720) Super AMOLED display, dual-core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm MSM8960T Pro, 8MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB expandable storage, BlackBerry OS 10.2.

Price: $100 (Verizon) from Amazon, $520.50 (unlocked, at Negri Electronics)

BlackBerry Q10

Who can count themselves among BlackBerry devotees? Security fans and those for whom only a real QWERTY input will do. The Q10 is the only BlackBerry 10 device with a keyboard that’s worth getting. Combining BlackBerry 10′s beefy operating system with smooth, but imperfect performance, the real star of the show here is that comfortable and easy-to-use QWERTY layout. If you’re eyeing the Q5, we’d suggest saving up a little more cash and going for its bigger brother; you’ll get a significantly better handset for the money.

Bottom line: In a world where the physical keyboard is an endangered species, the Q10 is the only place you can turn to, so be glad that it’s got the best of the old Bolds with a modern spin.

Key specs: 3.1-inch (720 x 720) Super AMOLED display, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon MSM8960, 8MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB expandable storage, BlackBerry OS 10.

Price: Free (AT&T) from Amazon, $50 (Verizon), $150 (Sprint) or $500 (unlocked)

Please note, all prices are contract unless otherwise stated. T-Mobile pricing is for full handset cost rather than subsidized.

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22
Feb

Thule Crossover 32L Backpack review


The Thule Crossover 32L for 17″ laptops, tablets and more is a great spacious multimedia backpack.

Design

This backpack is designed with refined precision. It is very stylish with the unique black/white pattern with blue accents. The backpack may appear large, but it can expand and compress to fit your individual needs.

Storage

This backpack has compartments everywhere. They are strategically designed and placed, so you there’s room for all of your gadgets. The best things are the water resistant fabrics, the heat molded safezone for your glasses, cell phone and more. You have perfect room for your laptop, tablet, and much more still.

The capacity of this bag is simply wonderful; you can fit any type of gadget inside. The center compartment can hold an extra set of clothes for your weekend adventure and more. There’s even what I like to call a “quick stash zone” which lets you stuff your hoodie or other items.

SafeZone

The SafeZone Protects your cell phone, glasses, and more from possible damage with the heat molded hard shell protective compartment.

Charging Zone

The one thing that I hate about many laptop bags is they they don’t really give you a great place to put your laptop’s AC adapter.This bag has the solution thanks to its bottom compartment. In the main compartment there are also little pockets that are great for placing your own external battery to charge your tablet, smartphone, and other wireless devices.

Click to view slideshow.

Tablet Sleeve

This bag even has a plush lined dedicated sleeve for your tablet, something I really enjoy!

Laptop Sleeve

This amazing Thule bag has a spacious sleeve just for your laptop. The great thing is that this can fit your smaller netbook, Chromebook, MacBook, 15″ Laptop, and up to a 17.3″ Laptop.

Overview

The build quality of this bag is spectacular, it’s very strong yet very comfortable on your shoulders. I must say this is very supportive and perfect for long trips just as much as everyday use, and it is as close to perfect as you’ll get. You can find the Crossover for $129.95 at Amazon.

The post Thule Crossover 32L Backpack review appeared first on AndroidGuys.

22
Feb

4 Second Screen Apps Expanding the Video Game World


Second screen usage occurs when you use a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, alongside another activity. Nielsen reports that 43 percent of tablet owners and 46 percent of smartphone owners put their devices to work as second screen providers. Video game companies are taking the leap into second screen companion applications for their games, from Battlefield 4′s Battlescreen to Xbox One’s Smartglass experience.

Battlefield 4

Battlefield’s first person shooter experience, available on Origin.com, has long set itself apart from other franchises through the use of a Battlefield map for the commander’s use. You call in artillery strikes, help coordinate squads, and drop supplies to soldiers. In older versions of the game, you switched to a separate screen on your television or computer monitor to access this mode. With Battlefield 4‘s Battlescreen app, you use an app on your tablet or smartphone to give you access to commander mode, as well as squad and loadout management. This prevents you from getting killed because you’re stuck in the commander screen, and you don’t see what’s going on in your general proximity.

Xbox One Smartglass

Xbox One has split its focus between performing as a video game console and setting itself up as a media powerhouse in your living room. One step Microsoft took in this direction is the Smartglass companion app. This app gives you an additional way to control the Xbox One dashboard, look up information on the game you’re playing or the shows you watch, and provides additional content from the developer for games that provide second screen support.

Playstation 4 Companion App

The Playstation 4 app isn’t as media focused as the Xbox One, but one feature that is particularly useful is the ability to purchase and start game downloads directly from the app. It starts the download on your PS4, as well as downloading any needed updates, so you aren’t waiting an hour for a download when you get home to try a new game. It also provides you with an easier interface for instant messaging with your PS4 friends, as you aren’t limited by the on-screen keyboard or voice chat through your console.

Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag shipped with a companion app that exists to supplement the main experience and contribute to immersion. Many handy resources such as the world map were shifted to the companion app, so you don’t have to leave the main screen to check your location. In addition, you have access to the lore and story database to get more involved with the game even when you’re not playing. Finally, this app offers fleet management so you send your ships off for trades and treasure while you’re away from the console.

Dead Rising 3

Dead Rising 3 has a Smartglass compatible app that is actually integrated into the game world itself. Since your character uses a phone, you essentially use the phone that they are toting around ingame. NPCs give you missions by calling you up, and you also have maps and hints to help out.

22
Feb

Facebook starts testing Highlights, a feed that shows only important life events


For some people, Facebook’s latest iOS update doesn’t only come with bug fixes in tow, it also replaces Requests with the experimental People section. According to TechCrunch, three tabs reside within the People section, including Highlights, which displays your friends’ birthdays and important life events. It’s the place to check if you want to know if someone just had a baby, for instance, without having to go through Candy Crush invites. Other than Highlights, there’s also the Everyone tab, which lists your friends in alphabetical order, and History, which shows Messenger convos from the latest to the oldest. Of course, not everything Facebook tests becomes an official feature, so those hankering to test People out will just have pray for a second round.

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Source: TechCrunch, iTunes

22
Feb

Apple and Samsung headed for another patent trial in March after they fail to reach a settlement


Apple and Samsung headed for another patent trial in March after they fail to reach a settlement

It’s back to court for Apple and Samsung. After an attempt at settling their latest patent dispute, the two companies will begin another trial in March, according to a filing with the US district court in San Jose. To be clear, this isn’t a re-trial of the case that Apple brought back in 2011 — you know, the one where Samsung was made to pay nearly a billion dollars in damages. No, this is a different case, one that addresses a different set of patents, and one that names more recent devices, like the GS3. For now, it’s unclear how much money is at stake, though experts cited by The Wall Street Journal claim that the damages could be higher this time around, given that the case includes newer Samsung devices that sold even better than the products named in the earlier suit. All will be revealed in March, we suppose. We’ll be back then reporting any major developments — even if we’re as sick of these patent wars as you are.

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Source: Wall Street Journal

22
Feb

Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear wearable will come in two models, according to fuzzy leaked images


It definitely looks like a new Galaxy Gear. There’s definitely two of them and… that’s most of what we can discern from what appear to be some cannily sniffed-out thumbnails from, well, somewhere. According to @evleaks, they’ll be known as the Galaxy Gear 2 and the Galaxy Gear Neo. Samsung’s branched off its Galaxy phone range in a similar way, and if that’s any indicator, the Neo smartwatch will be a cheaper model with presumably some hardware drawbacks to go alongside that discount price tag. If you squint extra hard, you should be able to make out a physical button below the screen, with the one on the left (presumably Gear version two), getting more of the metallic design love than its stablemate. Are they really running on Tizen? Has Samsung solved the battery gripes of its first smartwatch launch? These important answers (alongside some higher res images, please) should be mere days away.

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Source: @evleaks

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