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14
Oct

GT Advanced Saw Production Troubles as Early as February


GT Advanced Technologies, Apple’s sapphire partner, may have been seeing production problems and missing technical milestones as early as February, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal that examines GT’s securities filings.

It’s widely known that Apple did not provide GT Advanced with a fourth and final $139 million loan payment aimed at giving the sapphire supplier a means to purchase vital equipment, but Apple also delivered its third payment to the company two months after it was expected.

gt_advanced_logo
GT was set to receive a $103 million payment in February of 2014, but did not receive the payment until April 2014, two months later, as it had failed to meet Apple’s requirements on time.

The third payment, of $103 million, was due in February, but Apple did not make it until April, according to GT’s securities filings. The final installment of $139 million was due in April, according to a GT securities filing. In August, GT said it expected the payment by October. But Apple never made the payment, because GT did not meet certain requirements, according to people familiar with the matter.

Shortly after GT Advanced missed its February payment, the company’s CEO, Thomas Gutierrez and its Chief Operating Officer, Daniel Squiller, set plans in motion to begin selling off stock. While the timing of their subsequent sales was subject to the schedules laid out in their trading plans, it is clear those plans were established after GT began having difficulties meeting its milestones.

Gutierrez set up a pre-arranged Rule 10b5-1 sale in March, which saw him selling more than 9,000 shares of GT Advanced stock on September 8, a day ahead of Apple’s iPhone announcement. Gutierrez also sold off stock throughout the year, netting more than $10 million before stock prices faltered after it became clear Apple was not using sapphire in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Squiller sold $1.2 million worth of stock in May and made plans to sell off additional shares throughout 2014, garnering another $750,000 before the company filed for bankruptcy. Squiller continues to hold more than 200,000 shares of GT stock, which have lost much of their value.

Apple did end up making a total of three loan payments to GT Advanced totaling $440 million after signing an agreement in October of 2013, and the company also reportedly tried to help the supplier meet the requirements to receive the fourth payment ahead of GT’s surprise Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

GT Advanced’s deal with Apple was highly favorable to the Cupertino-based company, with the sapphire supplier taking on all of the risk. Apple supplied the facility and the loan for the company to purchase equipment, but GT was required to meet technical milestones to receive the money and it also signed contracts that prevented it from selling its sapphire to other companies. Apple, meanwhile, was under no obligation to purchase GT’s sapphire.

Details about the deal’s deterioration have been coming out bit by bit, making it difficult to piece together exactly what went wrong. It appears that GT’s failed to produce sapphire up to Apple’s standards, leading the company to stick with Gorilla Glass instead of sapphire screens for its iPhones. GT Advanced has been able to supply little information on its bankruptcy filing, as it is bound by non-disclosure agreements that could see it paying $50 million in fines for each violation.

Apple and GT Advanced have asked to keep court documents sealed, but The Wall Street Journal today filed a motion asking the court make the documents public.

Following its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, GT Advanced last week asked for permission to begin winding down operations at its Mesa, Arizona sapphire plant, suggesting the company plans to cease its sapphire production all together. Apple has said that it plans to focus on “preserving jobs” in Arizona, and is working with local and state officials as it considers its next steps.



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14
Oct

New Android ad campaign hints at upcoming Nexus devices


android

The inexorable announcement of the next round of Nexus devices and Android L is drawing ever nearer, as Google has released a slew of new ads promoting Android.

 

This video above shows an animated version of the rumored Nexus 6. It seems to look like a Moto X (2014) and is obviously quite large. Google is seemingly saying that it doesn’t matter if it’s large, hence “be together. not the same.”

It’s hard to notice, but it’s possible that this video shows the Nexus 9, held by one of the people on the left.

This video doesn’t show any devices explicitly, but it’s the third ad in this series.

The trend in the past few years has been for Google to announce the next Nexus and version of Android in October, so we can say pretty firmly that an announcement is imminent. Whether it’s October 15 (tomorrow) or later in the month can’t be for sure, though rumors seem to be pointing to the former.

We also have a gallery of the Nexus 6 here, and earlier this morning we reported on another render from the supposedly retired (though I’m not complaining) @evleaks here.

Are you excited for this eminent announcement? I definitely am!

via AndroidAuthority


 

The post New Android ad campaign hints at upcoming Nexus devices appeared first on AndroidGuys.

14
Oct

Forbes: Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Android L due October 15


android

October should just be dubbed “Nexus month”, as even if Google doesn’t announce a new Nexus at the beginning of the month, the internet blows up with rumors, reports, leaks, and other news about them anyways, and once they do announce it, the rest of the month (or next few months) is spent looking at and analyzing any and everything Google announced.

Anyways, Forbes has reported that “a source close to Google” has confirmed that the Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Android L will be announced tomorrow via a blog post. The writer said originally Google was going to make an event out of it, eventually opting for a web announcement because they’re still fine tuning Android L.

The Nexus 9 will be available for pre-order on October 17th, and available to purchase on November 3rd, they say this is subject to change. The 16 GB variant will cost $399, while a 32 GB LTE version will cost $499, and apparently they will have expandable memory, which I’m sure will be praised by Android enthusiasts.

He also confirms specs: 8.9-inch 2048×1440 display, 480 grams, a 64-bit dual-core processor, an Nvidia Kepler GPU and a 8MP rear-facing camera and 3MP front-facing camera. It will have a “brushed-aluminum” frame rather than an all metal design. It will also have HTC’s boomsound and front-facing speakers.

There will also be an “origami” case, which apparently can be folded however you’d like in order to stand up or prop up the device.

We reported on this date and various specs a few times before.

Earlier today we’ve had a few reports about the Nexus 6 as well, here and a report about the newest android campaign here.

I’m starting to be convinced that this is happening. At this point if there isn’t an announcement tomorrow, I’ll be disappointed… So, while we feel confident about all this, take it all with a grain of salt.

Are you ready for the next round of Nexus devices and Android?

via Forbes


 

The post Forbes: Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Android L due October 15 appeared first on AndroidGuys.

14
Oct

New images, specs seemingly confirmed for Droid Turbo


droid turbo

For those that have Verizon and are dying for some juicy new Droid Turbo details, we have them for you.

An anonymous source has given AndroidCentral some leaked marketing materials for the Droid Turbo, giving us a couple new photos, and confirming many specs that have been rumored.

droid turbo

Droid Turbo picture from marketing materials

Red (like previously leaked) and black versions will be available (pictured above) and will have a “metallized glass fiber” body that is scratch-resistant, and splash-resistant. The phone can withstand “everyday spills and 20 minutes in a downpour”. The display has Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and the back is reinforced with Kevlar “offering a smooth finish”.

As previously thought, there’s a 5.2-inch screen, though now we know it’s Quad HD (2560×1440) resolution display (565 pixels per inch). It also confirms a 21-megapixel camera with 4K video recording capabilities and Dual LED flash that we had also suggested, along with Qi-wireless charging and NFC support, and the inclusion of Moto features such as Moto Display, Moto Voice, etc. We also had previously reported and now can confirm that it will have a 3,900 mAh battery, and it will come with Motorola’s turbo charger.

What’s new is a 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor, and 3GB of RAM. Also, there are Motorola camera features like Quick Capture and video highlights that are on the new Moto X. It will also have VoLTE capabilities within 30-90 days of launch.

It appears as though it will have Android 4.4.4 (though not confirmed in leaked marketing materials), and will have some new “Zap” features from Verizon.

As we’ve been thinking, this is going to be one heckuva phone.

Do you like what you see?

via AndroidCentral


 

The post New images, specs seemingly confirmed for Droid Turbo appeared first on AndroidGuys.

14
Oct

Samsung set to roll out Android 4.4.4 update to 9 models of the Galaxy range


Samsung_Galaxy_S_5_Sport_Back_Samsung_Logo_TA

According to a leaked update schedule, Samsung is in the process of preparing to roll out the much-anticipated Android 4.4.4 KitKat upgrade to nine variants of its former flagship smartphones before the end of November, 2014.

Hit the break below to view the full roadmap.

d4dc74a166353ee8b6f566cd3ce64a74

 

Source: XDA Developers

Come comment on this article: Samsung set to roll out Android 4.4.4 update to 9 models of the Galaxy range

14
Oct

Smartphones in one year: Project Ara (Opinion)


Project Ara, the modular handset

Smartphones have come a long way since their inception; though the idea of a portable device with internet connectivity and calling features has been around since the 1980s, it was not well received until 2006, with Blackberry’s new devices such as the Curve and Pearl. It revolutionised the way mainstream society viewed portable electronic devices and our uses for mobile phones. However, Blackberry did not enjoy this success for long, with the launch of the revolutionary iPhone, from Apple. It incorporated a touchscreen, and only 4 buttons. People were amazed by the fluidity of a device which essentially had nothing but screen on the front face. Apple’s market share grew rapidly, for example, increasing 626% globally in the smartphone sector, between the last quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009.

The smartphone industry proved itself unpredictable once more in 2010, with Android’s new ‘Gingerbread’ overtaking iOS in the US, having already overtaken iOS in markets such as South Korea in 2009. With this saw the rise of OEMs such as Samsung, LG and HTC. Apple released the iPhone 4, a beautifully designed phone with ‘Retina display’ which yielded a positive response from the consumer market. Blackberry’s RIM was still going strong, however, failing to generate sales. 2010 also saw Microsoft’s attempt to tap into the smartphone market with Windows Phone, which did not meet good reception.

 

Android Gingerbread

The home interface of Android gingerbread – image source: http://developer.android.com/about/versions/android-2.3-highlights.html

In 2011, with the release of Android 4.0.4, or ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’, Android phones finally started to be perceived as high-end, mainly due to the refreshed, sleeker interface Ice Cream Sandwich brought, and the smoother user experience, thanks to ‘Project Butter’, in Jelly Bean, 4.1. Android’s market share grew further to 36% in the US, placing them in a comfortable first position in terms of market share. Samsung also released the hugely popular Galaxy S2, and Apple released the iPhone 4S, which brought in Siri, a voice controlled assistant. By this point, Blackberry’s market share in the US decreased to less than that of Android and iOS.

 

Ice Cream Sandwich

The home interface of Android Ice Cream Sandwich – image source: http://developer.android.com/about/versions/android-4.0-highlights.html

Fast forward to 2014, where 80% of the world’s smartphones run on Android, and where Samsung is the biggest producer of smartphones internationally. Android Kit Kat brought performance and aesthetic improvements to Android, and Apple’s iOS got its long-awaited makeover in iOS 7 – which produced mixed opinions. HTC and LG gained a significant amount of market share, with the One M8 and G3 respectively, in markets such as the US, Europe, South Korea and Australia. However, it came as a shock that less popular manufacturers such as Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi had superceded manufacturers such as LG, Sony and HTC in the global market. This reiterated the influence that the Chinese market had on global business, and its sheer size.

The sudden entry of China into the smartphone market was expected, but not to the scale which it has. Not only have the consumers in China played a huge role in the global market share of OEMs, but their manufacturers such as Huawei, Xiaomi, Lenovo, Oppo, and more recently, OnePlus, have given the traditional smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung a real dilemma. Samsung is rapidly losing profits; quarterly projections going down by numbers such as 40% and 60%, and LG and HTC are struggling to keep their heads above the water. Chinese manufacturers are beginning to build great devices such as the OnePlus One, or the Xiaomi Mi3, with high-end specs, but sell for half the price of their counterparts of traditional OEMs.

 

OnePlus One

The ‘flagship killer’ OnePlus One, from OnePlus – image source: http://oneplus.net/

I believe that next year will be pivotal in the smartphone industry; due mainly to the speculated release of the modular phone; Project Ara.

Project Ara will be the ‘next big thing’. It can be tailored to the needs of the individual, therefore, has the capacity to be a high-end or mid-range device. The concept of not having to buy a new handset every time a new chipset comes out, or when the screen is cracked, is intriguing. If marketed and manufactured well by Google, it will cause the idea of the ‘complete handset’ totally redundant.  Consumers will only buy a new processing package, insert it into their modular phone, at only a fraction of the cost of buying a totally new handset.

This will pose a serious concern for current manufacturers. Instead of building complete handsets, companies will look for ways to monopolise the industry for a certain part of the modular phone. For example, Samsung and LG may both aim to control the displays of Project Ara, while Qualcomm with the chipsets. Unless the business can achieve a monopoly or duopoly of such industries, they will experience severe losses, provided that Project Ara is successful.

What must also be considered is the third-party, non-authorised manufacturers. These will be extremely popular in markets such as China, which, as proven before, is a market crucial to the survival of a consumer-oriented business. These ‘pirate’ manufacturers will provide parts of lesser quality, however, cheaper price, and can cause a formidable dent in the income of respective manufacturers.

The potential repercussions of the launch of the Project Ara platform to the smartphone industry are concerning. If it is as popular as it is believed it will be, it will result in the complete monopolisation of the smartphone market with Android, and with only one handset. It will minimise variation, innovation, originality and creativity; the smartphone industry will be extremely static. Therefore, I can hope another company will reciprocate Project Ara in an equally fantastic product, in order not to let Google singularly rule the industry, and maintain the dynamic, multifaceted environment of the smartphone industry, which is ultimately what renders the sector as stimulating as it is.


 

The post Smartphones in one year: Project Ara (Opinion) appeared first on AndroidGuys.

14
Oct

New evidence supports Android L to be called ‘Lollipop’


lollipop_debug

You know those rumors that have been circulating this week suggesting Android L could be called Licorice when it’s launched? Heck, even the guy responsible for the giant lawn decorations has been chatting up the idea of licorice all week. As it turns out, that could all be smoke screen. Newly discovered bug tracking on Chromium (Chrome issue tracker) suggests the next version may be called Lollipop after all.

Check out the debug icon in the notification bar. As first reported by Myce, this guy sure looks like a standard lollipop with Android antennae. And, adding fuel to the fire, the page has since been removed from Chromium.

lollipop-page2

You know the drill; nothing is official until it’s official. Just more chatter for an otherwise slower news cycle.

Which do you prefer for Android? Lollipop, licorice, or something else? Hell, does it even matter to you?

Myce


 

The post New evidence supports Android L to be called ‘Lollipop’ appeared first on AndroidGuys.

14
Oct

Shuv messaging app lets you set your friends’ ring tones


A new messaging and VoIP app called Shuv boasts a special feature not found in its competitors: ring forward tones. Remember how ringback tones take the place of the typical ringing you hear when you call someone? Well, ring forward does the opposite, as it lets you set the audio your friends will hear when you call them up or send them picture messages via the app. You can choose from among the free tunes or from the 15,000 songs in Shuv’s library filled with Sony Music-licensed tracks by Beyoncé, Adele, Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, Pharrel and Miley Cyrus, among many others. It’ll cost you $1.99 per month to access the Sony library, though, so we wouldn’t be surprised if you choose to record your own rendition of JT’s SexyBack instead. If you’re not married to any messaging app yet and want to try Shuv, you can download it right now for both iOS and Android devices.

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Source: Shuv

14
Oct

Sharp AQUOS Crystal review: mid-range brains meet striking looks


Pop quiz, hotshot: When’s the last time you saw a Sharp phone in the United States? The Sharp FX from years back? Maybe the FX Plus? If you’re anything like me, your mind will hearken back to chunky clamshell classics like this one. Long story short, it’s been ages since Sharp has had any kind of mobile presence around these parts. That’s something the Japanese company is finally ready to change, and it’s aiming to do it with a splash. Enter the AQUOS Crystal, one of the most striking phones you’ll ever see. It’s finally available for $149 on Boost Mobile now and Sprint will get it come October 17th, but we have questions — so many questions. Has Sharp figured out a way to crack the all-too-fickle US market? Are we looking at a classic case of style over substance?

Hardware

Let’s just get it out of the way now: The AQUOS Crystal looks fantastic. It’s the only phone I’ve ever tested that prompted random bystanders to either gawk or give it a double take as they walked by. One look is enough to reveal why: Those people were ogling the 5-inch 720p screen sitting up front… and more specifically, the lack of just about anything surrounding it. Squint hard enough and you’ll see just the faintest hint of a bezel running around the screen, so small that it may as well not be there. The effect is utterly striking — it feels like you’re holding some sort of J.J. Abramsian Star Trek floating-screen prop in your hand instead of a smartphone you can buy from a store right now.

It isn’t long before you notice why the Crystal earned its name, either. The glass covering the screen is angled at the edges to look like some sort of precious stone, an effect that’s usually more obnoxious than neat since it creates a pair of distracting rainbow lines where the material angles sharply. That gemstone motif informs the rest of the phone’s design, too: It’s mostly hard angles and flat edges, making the gently curving back the only real concession to comfort you’ll find. Still, since there’s hardly any cruft taking up space around the screen, the Crystal feels surprisingly small when you’re holding onto it — in fact, the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5 feel downright unwieldy in comparison.

Since a full seven-eighths of the phone’s face is nothing but screen, Sharp had to get creative when it came time to load it up with the usual accoutrements. Take the Crystal’s earpiece, for instance: There isn’t one. Well, not a traditional one, anyway. Rather than try and squeeze one in above the display (and ruin that lovely floating effect), Sharp included what it calls a Direct Wave Receiver that essentially turns the entire front glass panel into an earpiece. It’s hardly a new concept — Kyocera’s been playing with the idea of speaker-less phones for a few years now and Google Glass has a bone-conducting transmitter — but Sharp’s solution sounds better than you might think. Meanwhile, the 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera is actually located in a silver expanse along the bottom edge of the phone’s face, which some of you will know is definitely not prime placement for selfies.

The rest of the Crystal is decidedly sparse: The 8-megapixel camera and LED flash sit high on the phone’s rear, amid a sea of dimpled, white plastic that forms the removable battery cover. Underneath that lies the (sadly) non-removable 2,040mAh battery, with nano-SIM and microSD card slots nestled right above it. Turns out that latter addition is pretty crucial, since it will let you add up to 128GB of storage to a device that only comes with 8GB of space (only about four of which you can use right out of the gate). When it comes to the brains of the operation, don’t let the premium looks fool you: We’re working with a pretty modest spec list here. There’s a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 thrumming away inside that plastic frame, paired with 1.5GB of RAM and a CDMA/LTE radio — nothing terribly new, nor astonishingly snappy, but not a bad choice considering the Crystal’s cheapo price tag.

Display and sound

It’d be pretty stupid of Sharp to use a subpar screen when it removed nearly everything that could possibly distract you from it. Thankfully, it’s got the chops to make some impressive displays, and the 5-inch LCD panel it crammed into the Crystal doesn’t disappoint. First, the elephant in the room: Yes, the screen only runs at 720p, and no, that’s not a bad thing. It’s plenty bright when you need it to be and colors are well-saturated, though whites aren’t as crisp and blacks aren’t as sumptuous as they are on more premium devices. Still, pictures and videos pop when there’s no border restraining them — even poking through your email feels just a little wondrous.

Alas, that screen ain’t perfect. My biggest niggle comes to the fore when you look at the Crystal’s screen from an angle. This isn’t an issue with viewing angles; your face could be perpendicular to the display and you’d still be able to make out what was going on without much trouble. No, there’s actually some prominent light leakage going on at the edges of the panel. It’s not so noticeable on the longer left and right edges, but there’s enough light bleeding through along the screen’s top side that my eyes couldn’t avoid gravitating there when I was indoors (the power of the sun usually overpowers it). Distraction? You bet. Dealbreaker? Probably not. I’m not sure how widespread this issue is, or if it’s even avoidable given how the screen is laid out. Still, it’s a mild annoyance at worst and it’s even more tolerable considering how much the phone’ll set you back.

Sadly, the audio side doesn’t quite live up to the (pretty high) bar the screen has set. Sharp (and Sprint, I’m sure) have tried to augment the Crystal’s musical chops with Harman Kardon’s Clari-Fi and LiveStage audio-enhancing tech. I’ve taken both features for a spin in the past, and there wasn’t much new to report back here. Clari-Fi once again does a fine job of livening up your audio tracks by sharpening mids and highs and enhancing vocals, but that all really comes down to the song you’re listening to — some will sound vastly improved; others will hardly change, and you probably won’t notice any of those software-enhanced nuances the minute you get on the subway.

And what of LiveStage? I still can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would bother to turn this on. In a perfect world, the feature would add reverb just so and tweak tracks to make them sound as though they’re being performed in front of you. Instead, it adds a bit of aural distance between the layers of a song and almost always makes them sound worse. Maybe my ears, battered as they are thanks to years of loud Japanese rock, just don’t get it. I’d wager yours won’t either, but hey — it’s not a dealbreaker. And, of course, none of those features even work without headphones plugged in, which is sort of a shame considering the single rear speaker is purely average when it comes to pumping out the jams. The speaker’s wimpy muddiness is pretty much par for the course for a budget smartphone, which, while unavoidable, is still a bummer.

Software

I (like many of you, I suspect) am an Android purist. Shocker, right? Thankfully, Sharp hardly futzed with Google’s OS before throwing it on the Crystal: It runs a pretty clean build of Android 4.4.2… that just happens to be festooned with all the extraneous Sprint apps you could think of. Upon first boot, I was greeted by a preloaded AccuWeather widget on the home screen, a Sprint featured-apps widget on another and no fewer than 20 additional apps and bolt-on services that the carrier decided I needed to have. Fortunately, most of those bright yellow Sprint icons are merely pointers to listings in the Google Play store, which means they’re easy to dismiss with extreme prejudice.

Not all of them are useless cruft, though: MobiSystems’ Office Suite 7 contains solid document and spreadsheet apps, and NBA Game Time and NASCAR Mobile are easily accessible if you’re into ballers and racers, respectively. There’s also a pretty impressive Siri/Cortana analog in the form of Speaktoit’s Assistant app (yeah, its branding could use a little work) that’ll read you the day’s top headlines, translate languages and let you check in on Foursquare in addition to the de facto slew of virtual assistant tasks. What few bits Sharp did add are centered on the screen; so-called Frameless effect settings allow you to enable visual notifications that surge across the display. Meanwhile, an additional screen lock will kick in once you initiate or pick up a call just to make sure your cheek doesn’t accidentally hang up on your friends for you. Hardly the fanciest things you’ll ever see, but surprisingly useful all the same.

Camera

Every phone maker is guilty of cutting corners with cameras at least once (especially with mid-range phones for the masses), and Sharp is no different. The main imaging attraction is an 8-megapixel rear camera that mostly churns out soft, grainy, under-saturated shots, even when there’s a seemingly sufficient amount of light bathing your subjects. Take it into the great outdoors on a bright day, though, and things start to improve a bit — you’ll be able to pick out just a little more detail in your photos, but the end results are still rarely worth getting worked up over.

If anything, I’m fonder of the equally lacking 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera because it’s quirky and isn’t where it should be. As mentioned before, it sits at the bottom of the Crystal’s face — in order to take a selfie that isn’t 90 percent neck and chin(s), you’ve got to turn the Crystal upside-down. Honestly, it sounds like much more of a hassle than it actually is (though the repeated visual reminders of everything going on south of my face are a little disturbing). Anyway, it’s good enough for a Skype video call or a group Hangout; just don’t expect to snap any masterpieces with it. As usual, both cameras will record video (with resolutions maxing out at 1080p and 720p for the main and secondary shooters, respectively). Surprise, surprise: Video doesn’t come out so hot either, as it’s laden with grain and the lens takes a bit longer to switch focus than I’d like to see.

It’s actually kind of a shame the two sensors are so lackluster, because the camera UI packs in a few neat tricks to help you snap better photos. All the usual settings like HDR mode, geotagging controls, ISO and white balance are present and accounted for, but a framing guide displays patterns on the Crystal’s screen so you can better line up your photos. Oh, and if you’re a nerd who often takes pictures of computer screens (not that we’d know anything about that), a Flicker Control setting counteracts the annoying refresh rate that manifests as those dark bars that run down displays. You can dismiss those settings with a single touch, while another snaps a fresh new photo, though there were a few (very rare) occasions when I had to tap the screen multiple times to make the Crystal understand I wanted to take a photo.

Performance and battery Life

The screen will garner most of the attention, but let’s not forget about how this thing runs. As I pointed out earlier, the AQUOS Crystal uses one of Qualcomm’s 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400s (more specifically, the MSM8926). It’s nothing if not a known quantity by now; it was first revealed over a year ago and has powered devices like Motorola’s LTE-friendly version of the Moto G and LG’s G2 mini LTE. Consider that a roundabout way of saying it’s not too hard to guess how smoothly the Crystal operates: It’s plenty snappy, but easy to stymie if you’re willing to try. Rapidly scrolling through long web pages in Chrome was mostly a graceful affair, as was jumping in, out and between apps.

The Crystal isn’t immune to slowdown, though — it took three seconds to launch the camera and a jam-packed notification shade would occasionally stutter when I dismissed it — but there’s enough horsepower tucked away in there to make sure it won’t leave you hanging while you’re trying to get things done. Oh, you’re a fan of numbers? The benchmark breakdown reveals, well, nothing terribly surprising. The AQUOS Crystal and Motorola’s second-generation Moto G are pretty much dead even by all counts, while HTC’s Desire 816 (also available contract-free on Virgin Mobile) pulls ahead thanks to its slightly speedier version of the Snapdragon 400 chip.

Sharp AQUOS Crystal Moto G (2014) HTC Desire 816
Quadrant 2.0 8,553 8,846 13,172
Vellamo 3.0 1,621 1,669 2,421
3DMark IS Unlimited 4,657 4,679 4,830
SunSpider 1.0.2 (ms) 1,569 1,534 1,137
GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 1.7 N/A 1.7
CF-Bench 14,496 14,470 19,593
SunSpider: Lower scores are better; results compiled on Chrome.

Now, regarding that 2,040mAh battery. In the standard Engadget rundown test (with the phone connected to WiFi and looping a 720p video while fetching social updates at 50 percent screen brightness), the AQUOS Crystal stuck around for a full eight hours and 46 minutes before it needed to suckle on a power outlet once more. Curiously, that’s just over an hour more than what the 2014 Moto G eked out of its battery (which is actually just a touch more capacious) when we ran it through the wringer earlier this month. Real-world testing saw some similarly strong results — my days of tweeting, taking calls, watching Sutton Foster videos on YouTube, triaging emails and playing games on the toilet were never enough to kill the Crystal before work hours were over. On average, it took just north of 15 hours to discharge the thing completely, which means enough juice for your routine and then some.

Here’s another question to ponder: How well does this thing actually work as a phone? It lacks a traditional earpiece! How crazy! In fact, the whole telephonic shebang works reasonably well — while call quality is best when you hold your ear to the top of the phone, you can actually stick it anywhere on the screen and converse the way you always do. Why anyone would choose to plop those ears smack-dab in the center of the screen to listen is beyond me, but hey: At least you’ve got the option. Alas, it’s never quite as loud as a standard speaker, and people I called weren’t terribly enthused with the somewhat quiet output they got as I spoke into the microphone.

The competition

Here’s the thing to remember about the AQUOS Crystal: It’s only going to be an option for you if you’re OK inking a deal with Sprint (or shacking up with sub-brands like Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile). Everyone else can just move along right now… unless you live in Japan, in which case I’d recommend you live a little and splurge on the Crystal’s more powerful big brother. After all, the Crystal X pairs a bigger 5.5-inch frameless display with a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 for added oomph. That snappy combination of style and power is a distinct step up from the version we have here in the States, and I’m frankly a little bummed that’s not the model I’m reviewing today.

Anyway, let’s break the rest down by carrier. On Sprint, the Crystal costs $240 upfront to own it free and clear, which you could also split into monthly payments that get tacked onto your bill. You could feasibly consider the LG G3 Vigor (with monthly payments of $13 over 24 months), though we’re looking at a dead heat between spec sheets and I’d give the Crystal the nod if only because of style. And don’t forget the original HTC One. It’s a bit long in the tooth, but it’s got a lovely 1080p display and enough horsepower to run a circle or two around the Crystal.

If you’re jonesing for some non-contract action on Virgin Mobile (where the Crystal only costs $150), you’ll have to decide whether you’d rather spend the extra cash on a HTC Desire 816. It’s bigger, and it packs a better camera and speakers, and a Snapdragon processor clocked at 1.6GHz. The downside? It costs twice as much as the Crystal. Did your wallet just groan as you read that? You could also consider the HTC Desire (actually a rebranded Desire 601), but you probably shouldn’t — you’d spend $30 more for a lousier camera and a lower-resolution screen. The Crystal costs the same $150 on Boost Mobile, where there are plenty of (less stylish) choices.

There’s yet another HTC Desire in the form of the 510 that only costs $100, and while it doesn’t quite stack up to the Crystal, it’s cheap and it comes close. Oh, and in the event you’re not exactly married to Sprint’s ilk and want a similarly spec’d phone without spending a ton of money, consider the original Moto G with LTE. Sure, it doesn’t have the big screen or improved camera that its sequel does, but $219 will score you a device with the same brains as the Crystal and the LTE support none of the next-gen Moto phones have yet.

Wrap-up

Sharp and Sprint deserve some major kudos — not only did they bring a truly interesting smartphone to our shores, but also they’re pricing it to move and trying to get it into as many hands as possible. I can’t help but wish Sprint imported the Crystal’s more powerful brother instead, but hey: We have an actual bezel-less screen, and a set of guts that (for the most part) doesn’t let it down. In the end, though, here’s what it boils down to: If you’re absolutely, positively enamored with Sprint, and don’t feel the need to pay gobs of money for top-tier power, the AQUOS Crystal is definitely worth your attention. If you’re all about the non-contract lifestyle on Virgin or Boost, though, the Crystal is a steal at $150. Thanks to the dark magic of carrier-exclusivity deals, no one else need apply.

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14
Oct

Hailo bows out of North America while its rivals duke it out


When you think of hailing cars from your smartphone, you probably envision Uber’s fleet of black cars or Lyft’s festive pink mustaches. Competitors like mobile cab-hailing startup Hailo never reached critical mass outside Europe the same way its two biggest rivals did — that’s why it revealed today that it’s bailing out of North America entirely. According to the Financial Times, Hailo isn’t retreating from the US because it wasn’t up for a fight; it’s more that the ongoing price war between Uber and Lyft meant there was no real way Hailo could stick around and turn a profit. How quickly things change.

After all, it was just two years ago (almost to the day) that a bright-eyed Hailo first launched in the United States — now the company’s outposts in Boston, Chicago and Washington DC are on the verge of being shuttered. Hailo’s been a pretty prominent player in Canada too, though its not completely done for up there: Toronto’s city lead told TechCrunch that a licensing deal is on the table, and that customers can continue to cruise down Bloor St. in cabs they’ve e-hailed. Now that Hailo’s ridding itself of a major burden, it’ll continue its quest to snap up users where the on-demand car war doesn’t already have a clear winner. In this case, we’re talking about the rest of Europe and parts of Asia (like Singapore, where the startup is gearing to up to launch someday soon).

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Via: Business Insider

Source: Financial Times

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