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5
Feb

Report: Blackberry lays off a third of its Waterloo staff


Citing multiple sources, Mobilesyrup reported Friday that Blackberry has laid off roughly 35 percent of its workforce in Waterloo, Canada — where the company is headquartered. That translates into about 1000 people losing their jobs. According to Mobilesyrup, the BB10 and Devices divisions suffered the deepest cuts with 150 members of the latter team getting sacked. A small number of workers from Blackberry’s Sunrise, Florida office were also let go.

Blackberry has issued a statement confirming the layoffs:

As BlackBerry continues to execute its turnaround plan, we remain focused on driving efficiencies across our global workforce. This means finding new ways to enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities, while driving toward sustainable profitability across all parts of our business. As a result, a small number of employees have been impacted in Waterloo and Sunrise, FL. It also means that BlackBerry is actively recruiting in those areas of our business that will drive growth. For those employees that have recently left the company, we know that they have worked hard on behalf of our company and we are grateful for their commitment and contributions.

The layoffs aren’t a complete surprise, however, given that the company has recently begun transitioning to the Android OS in favor of its BB10 operating system.

Source: Mobile Syrup

5
Feb

Google DeepMind AI finds its way through a 3D maze by ‘sight’


Google DeepMind has already conquered the world of Go, but its next accomplishment may be walking around in a game of Doom or GoldenEye 007. The artificial intelligence system successfully navigated a 3D maze without cheating — it didn’t have access to the digital world’s internal code. Instead, it walked around walls and into rooms by “sight,” as New Scientist reports.

In the maze, DeepMind is rewarded for finding apples and portals as it attempts to get a high score in just one minute. DeepMind moves around the labyrinth via a reward-based method — asynchronous reinforcement learning — and a neural network that recognizes patterns in the digital space. Yep, DeepMind actually learns from its past experiences. However, the asynchronous method doesn’t rely on examining previous run-throughs, a process that takes a ton of computing power. Instead, asynchronous reinforcement learning allows the system to see multiple outcomes at once and choose the most efficient path forward.

Google DeepMind used a similar reinforcement learning method in 2015 to play a handful of classic Atari games. The team has since improved and streamlined that program, allowing the AI to advance to the latest Doom-like maze.

Source: New Scientist

5
Feb

Deal: Unlocked LG Google Nexus 5X going for $280


 

unlocked-lg-google-nexus-5x-16gb1

Right now,  LG Nexus 5X 16GB (Factory GSM Unlocked) 4G LTE Android Smartphones are going for $279.99 from Yapper Wireless on eBay. This is $20 cheaper than what Best Buy and Amazon are currently offering and nearly $100 less than the device’s launch price.

The Nexus 5X is the affordable followup to the Nexus 5, which was possibly the most popular Nexus smartphone ever made. Its design is pretty similar to its predecessor, but some more luxurious elements have been stripped away to bring as much hardware as possible while still being easy on your wallet. With 2GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, and Android 6.0 Marshmallow right out of the box, it’s hard to beat the bang-for-buck that you receive with this device.

The battery life can be a little lackluster, and the plastic casing and light weight means it doesn’t quite have that “premium” feel that we’ve come to expect from devices made from glass and metal, but still the 5X scored well in our initial review, netting a score of 8.6 overall. For a more comprehensive look at the Nexus 5X, be sure to check out our official reviews below.

OUR REVIEWS OF THE NEXUS 5X

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If you’re in the market for a mid-to-high end device that won’t break your bank, click the button below to head on over to eBay. In the meantime, let us know what you think of this deal in the comments. If you’re a Nexus 5X owner, tell us what your experience with the device has been like so far so that others can make a more informed purchase!

Get it from eBay!

blu-life-one-x-vs-moto-g (1)Next: Best cheap Android phones (January 2016)328

5
Feb

Apple Possibly Working With Energous on Extended Range Wireless Charging for Future iPhones


Amid rumors that Apple is working on extended range wireless charging capabilities for future iPhones, there has been some speculation that Apple has partnered with Energous to implement the technology. Energous is the company behind WattUp, an emerging wireless charging technology that uses radio frequencies to charge devices from up to 15 feet away.

Though there’s no concrete proof of a relationship between Energous and Apple, a new research report from Louis Basenese of Disruptive Tech Research highlights a large pool of circumstantial evidence pointing towards a potential partnership, so it’s worth taking a look at Energous’s technology, both in that context and as an example of the wireless charging techniques that are currently being pursued by tech companies.

Basenese posits Apple is working with a partner rather than developing an in-house solution due to the small number of patents the company has filed surrounding wireless charging — just five, with none filed since 2013. As evidence that partner is Energous, he points towards their common manufacturing partners (TSMC and Foxconn), their membership in ANSI working towards standards for wireless power transfer compliance testing, and most notably, the fact that Energous’s RF-based wireless charging system is the only long-distance solution nearly ready to launch.

In early 2015, Energous also inked a deal with an unnamed consumer electronics company, positioned as one of the top five companies in the world. Names weren’t mentioned, but that’s a short list — Apple, Samsung, HP, Microsoft, and Hitachi. Basenese believes Apple is the likeliest partner by process of elimination.

From that list, we can easily eliminate HP and Hitachi, as they don’t make phones. Since Samsung makes its own chips and WATT is working with TSM, we can cross it off the list, leaving only Apple and Microsoft. In reality, though, Microsoft is an also-ran in the mobile phone market and rumored to be exiting it. So we’re left with one company. Of course, the identity will remain a mystery, as AAPL’s notorious about insisting on secrecy with partners and employees.

Wireless charging capabilities have been implemented into several smartphones, including those from Apple’s direct competitors, but Apple executives have downplayed wireless charging in the past due to its dependence on built-in chips, mats, and close proximity. In a 2012 interview, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said it wasn’t clear “how much convenience” magnetic induction and resonance wireless charging systems offered because they still need to be plugged into the wall.

Read more »

5
Feb

Android OEMs, this is what we’ve been wanting in smartphones!


You know, too often it looks like Android smartphone manufacturers aren’t listening to our wants (or at very least, our top priorities). We’re the ones buying the phones after all!

I guess that’s not completely fair. I mean, my wants may be different from yours. But bear with me here. As of late, leading smartphones have somewhat reached a plateau, haven’t they? We’re no longer (in large) clamoring for faster processors or more resolution. Therefore, chances are that our wants, as a whole, are easier than ever to determine.

Let’s do this: I’ll list the top five things I would tell an OEM to prioritize in their next flagship. I’m betting that most Android users will agree.

Battery

Battery

We want our phones to last. There’s no point in packing all these neat features into a phone if it runs out of battery. The battery needs to be the top priority.

I can’t help but point my finger at Samsung on this point. Last year, it revamped the Galaxy line with a much needed makeover. Except, the Galaxy S6 had terrible battery life. This is just wrong. A manufacturer who puts battery life on the sideline for another feature is making a bad play. Shame, shame on a giant like Samsung for not knowing better.

Let’s talk with our wallets and not buy into a negligence to battery life. At the high price of flagships, we shouldn’t have to settle. If we don’t have the ability to swap the battery anymore, than we need to see considerably large capacities in flagships. Screw thinness, battery life matters so much more.

Camera Optical Zoom

Cameras on flagship phones are fantastic today. Last year, I did comparisons with the Galaxy S6 and LG V10 against a Sony RX100 camera. The results were astonishing when you think about how small the smartphone sensors are in comparison to a dedicated camera.

This means we can are rely on smartphone cameras more than ever for capturing the life around us. But zooming is often associated with camera use, and digital zoom is quite horrendous. Digital zooming is actually cropping, and the decrease in image quality shows in a big way, even on the best current smartphone cameras.

For an example, I’ll show you a preview of my upcoming LG V10 vs Asus ZenFone Zoom comparison. The ZenFone Zoom has 3x optical zoom, and the benefit is quite clear.

LG V10, 3x zoom

LG V10, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom


http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push();

OEMs are probably reluctant about incorporating optical zoom because camera modules are already thicker than they would like. Everyone likes to complain about the camera hump on the iPhone and Galaxy series. That means this is an argument about phone thinness again, and I would gladly take a thicker phone if it meant better features.

More base storage

Storage

We’ve taken this BS long enough. Why do we still see devices released with 16GB or even 32GB of internal storage? While storage space has progressed for everything else in the market (solid-state drives, flash drives, SD cards), OEMs continue to short change us. All while many have gotten rid of micro-SD expansion on phones. This is an injustice.

I see many folks say that the low internal storage isn’t a big deal, that they can manage. But we should neither have to manage nor settle. OEMs are pulling a fast one on us and we continue to let them. They know they can include much larger storage space, but don’t. Maybe they’re banking on us buying a new phone every time we run out?

Durability

GR_GS6_Active_600x600_xlarge_grp_1Fragile phones just don’t make sense. They’re always in our hands, which means that gravity will claim them at some point. They should be designed to withstand accidents.

Historically, durable phones have been reserved for low/mid-end offerings from lesser known manufacturers (i.e. Kyocera). But I’ve always wondered why it has to be this way? Sure, we’ve seen some big manufacturers step up to the plate, like the Galaxy S Active line (which unfortunately has AT&T exclusivity), but they are too few and far between.

Another good example is Sony. While the Xperia line isn’t necessarily rugged, it has always had water and dust proofing. Motorola also had the right idea with last year’s Droid Turbo 2 and its “shatterproof” screen.

Part of the problem comes around to thinness again. Adding durability increases thickness. OEMs need to let go of the thin phone mentality.

Toned-down UI’s

Moto_X_PureMore OEMs need to step up to the plate like Motorola did with regard to phone software. Phone makers love to pile on their own touches to Android, in an effort to stand out. The problem is that very few make an appealing user interface (UI).

For instance, Samsung’s TouchWiz UI has long been infamous in the Android community for unnecessary changes to the stock Android UI and being resource hungry. Last year’s Galaxy S6 had a big issue with multitasking, where it closed down apps seconds from leaving it. That isn’t how Android was made to behave.

All these affordable offerings coming from Chinese OEMs nowadays are compelling but bittersweet. Sure, you’ll be getting tons of value, but it’s almost certain the UI will be heavy and/or subpar. How I wish that there were more OEMs that would adopt Motorola’s methodology – near stock Android with some enhancements. Android fans want the stock UI.

We’d like to hear your feedback. Do you agree with my top five list of things phone makers need to prioritize today, or is there another feature that you think takes precedence?

The post Android OEMs, this is what we’ve been wanting in smartphones! appeared first on AndroidGuys.

5
Feb

‘Final Fantasy II’ free for a limited time via the Final Fantasy Portal App


Final_Fantasy_II_Free

In celebration of the Final Fantasy Portal App turning a year old today, Square Enix has an awesome gift for all you Final Fantasy fans. ‘Final Fantasy II’ is being offered completely free via its Portal App!

‘Final Fantasy II’ sees you take control of Firion, Guy, Maria, and Leon as you set out on a quest to save the world from the dastardly Emperor and his devastating flying dreadnought. The game is definitely enjoyable, but this installment of the series definitely sees Square Enix take a more experimental approach. If you take a look at some reviews around the web you’ll learn that some of these experiments, unfortunately, did not work out. Still, the fact that it is free means that there is no better way to try the game out to see if you like it. Who knows, it could end up being your favorite out of the bunch.

If you are interested in picking up this game, you are going to have to download the Final Fantasy Portal App, for the game itself does not download directly to your device. The version they are giving out opens and plays exclusively inside of the Portal App. You might be worried about downloading some useless app on to you device, but do not fret! If you are a fan of the series the Portal app is pretty darn cool in its own right. It gives you daily ‘Final Fantasy’ trivia, a unique playable card came called ‘Triple Triad’, and the ability to earn points to download unique ‘Final Fantasy’ content, all in addition to a completely free copy of ‘Final Fantasy II.’

This promotion is running up until February 14th, so hit the download link below and grab your free copy while you still can!

Final Fantasy Portal App via Google Play

Source: Square Enix

Come comment on this article: ‘Final Fantasy II’ free for a limited time via the Final Fantasy Portal App

5
Feb

LG G4 units on T-Mobile begin receiving Marshmallow over-the-air


LG-G4-Android_6.0_Marshmallow-Upgrade

Yesterday we informed you that Marshmallow could be installed on your T-Mobile LG G4 with help from LG’s Bridge software suite. Today, the update has begun rolling out to T-Mobile customers over-the-year.

We knew it wasn’t going to be long before the update would be made available via OTA, and now we have it. The updated build number is H801120i. Considering that this is a major update, it will require lots of free space, 963.7MB of it. The update comes with all the latest features from Google including doze, Now On Tap, simplified app permissions and lots more.

If you are yet to spot the notification, it might be helpful to check your system settings under ‘About Phone’ and ‘check for new software updates.’ Once the update is available to download, consider turning Wi-Fi on to avoid data overages. You should also charge your battery to at least 50% prior to downloading and installing. Like always, we’ll keep you updated when the software hits more regions as well as new carriers. You can count on us!

Source: T-Mobile
Via: TmoNews

Come comment on this article: LG G4 units on T-Mobile begin receiving Marshmallow over-the-air

5
Feb

In-depth look: Just how good are the Cortex-A72 and Mali T880 in the Kirin 950?


One of the key CPU core designs for 2016 (and beyond) is the Cortex-A72. Designed by ARM, it was announced at the beginning of 2015 and during the summer I got a chance to talk with the lead designer, Mike Filippo. Robert Triggs also wrote a deeper analysis of the A72’s core architecture. The Cortex-A72 is ARM’s second generation 64-bit core design and ARM wanted to achieve three main goals with the design:

  1. Push the performance up for the next generation of phones and mobile products.
  2. Pull the power down significantly so that it can sustain maximum frequency performance for longer.
  3. Reduce the area of the design, which contributes to the reduction in power, but also enables low cost designs as well.

Cortex-A72-Highest-Perf-ARM-Cortex-Proc

As with many industries, going from design to product is a long process and now at the beginning of 2016 we are starting to see the first smartphones with
System-on-a-Chips (SoCs) using the Cortex-A72. One of the first is the Huawei Mate 8 with its Kirin 950 processor.

The Kirin 950 is an octa-core processor that includes 4 Cortex-A72 cores, clocked at 2.3GHz, four Cortex-A53 cores, clock at 1.8GHz, an ARM Mali T880 GPU and Huawei’s i5 co-processor. It is build on a 16nm FinFET+ process node and is said to be 30% more efficient than the Kirin 930. According to Huawei this means that the CPU uses at least 20% lower power and has 11% higher performance than ARM’s previous generation of core design.


mate8thumbSee also: Huawei Mate 8 review43

As for the GPU, the Mali T880 is ARM’s latest generation of GPU which offers up to 1.8x the performance of the 2014 Mali T760 GPU, while boasting up to a 40% energy reduction. As well as the CPU and GPU, the Kirin 950 also includes the i5 co-processor. It supports all the functions of a sensor hub as well as speech recognition, MP3 playback, and Fused Location Provider (FLP) navigation.

So this is all great in terms of theory, ARM designed a faster, more efficient CPU core and Huawei turned that design into a faster, more power efficient chip. But what about the real world? How does it perform?

I recently got my hands on a Huawei Mate 8 and I have been running a large variety of tests on the phone to see what kind of performance levels this latest generation of SoC can deliver.

Benchmarking

To test the Kirin 950 I have performed different types of performance testing. First, I use the standard benchmarks which are available from the Google Play store including AnTuTu, Geekbench, CPU Prime Benchmark, Epic Citadel, and 3DMark. Second, I used some benchmarks that are closer to real world scenarios, like the Kraken Javascript test. Third, I used my own benchmark tools, which I wrote, so that I can independently verify the other results.

Kirin 950-terrain4-screenshot

The standard benchmarks

Here is a table of the CPU focused benchmarks, alongside the scores for the Exynos 7420 (as found in the Note 5) and the Snapdragon 810 (as found in the Sony Z5 Compact):

  AnTuTu CPU Prime Benchmark Geekbench
Kirin 950 91087 31108 1772 (single-core)
6089 (multi-core)
Exynos 7420 77989 22862 1504 (single-core)
5258 (multi-core)
Snapdragon 810 76497 20771 1385 (single-core)
4295 (multi-core)

Kirin-950-geekbench-16x9

As we can see the Cortex-A72 in the Kirin 950 performs excellently. The AnTuTu, CPU Prime Benchmark and Geekbench scores are all higher than the Exynos 7420 and the Snapdragon 810, both of which have Cortex-A57 cores. Of particular interest is the increase in the single-core performance scores from Geekbench.

But what about the GPU, do we see similar gains? Here is a table of the GPU test results, along with the comparison results:

  Epic Citadel 3DMark – Sling Shot (using ES 3.1) 3DMark – Ice Storm Unlimited (ES 2.0)
Kirin 950 59 fps at 1800 x 1080 in Ultra High Qualiry mode. 923 19026
Exynos 7420 49.2 fps at 2560 x 1440 in Ultra High Qualiry mode. 1278 25073
Snapdragon 810 58.5 fps at 1200 x 720 in Ultra High Qualiry mode. 1168 27160

Kirin-950-3dmark1-16x9

So while the CPU part of the Kirin 950 is clearly leading the way, it seems that the GPU is actually slightly behind. I don’t know if this is a software optimization issue, an implementation issue that is particular to the Kirin 950, but I was expecting more from the Mali T880.

More like the real world

In the hope of moving slightly closer to read world scenarios I ran two JavaScript benchmarks using the latest version of Chrome for Android. Kraken was created by Mozilla and measures the speed of several different test cases extracted from real-world applications and libraries. Octane is from Google and has similar goals.

  Kraken (lower is better) Google Octane
Kirin 950 3524 10868
Exynos 7420 3753 9174
Snapdragon 810 4253 9100

Like the CPU tests earlier, here we can yet again see the improvements that the Cortex-A72 brings when compared to the Cortex-A57. The Mate 8 is faster for both Kraken and Octane when compared to the Cortex-A57 based processors.

My benchmarks

To make sure that everything is fair, I have also written my own benchmarks. I use these mainly to check that the results I am getting from the popular testing apps are genuine. The first of my custom benchmarks tests the CPU without using the GPU. It is a four stage test that first calculates 100 SHA1 hashes on 4K of data, then it performs a large bubble sort on an array of 9000 items. Thirdly, it shuffles a large table one million times, and lastly it calculates the first 10 million primes. The total time needed to do all those things is displayed at the end of the test run. The results are below in the “Hashes, bubble sorts, tables and primes” column. Note that lower is better for this test.


Soc-showdown-featured-imageSee also: SoC showdown: Snapdragon 810 vs Exynos 7420 vs MediaTek Helio X10 vs Kirin 935101

The second of my three custom benchmarks uses a 2D physics engine to simulate water being poured into a container. The idea here is that while the GPU will be used slightly for the 2D graphics, most of the work will be carried out by the CPU. The complexity of so many droplets of water will exercise the CPU. One drop of water is added every frame and the app is designed to run at 60 frames per second. The benchmark measures how many droplets are actually processed and how many are missed. The maximum score is 5400.

My third benchmark is written in Unity3D. It is a terrain flyover that yields a frame per second score for a pre-programmed pass over the rendered world.

  Hashes, bubble sorts, tables and primes (lower is better) Water simulation (best score is 5400) Terrain 4
Kirin 950 19074 5400 3543 total frames, 22.83
Exynos 7420 30370 5349 3432 total frames, 21.48 fps
Snapdragon 810 22937 5222 4800 total frames, 42.22 fps

Kirin-950-gdsbench1-16x9

As we can see the Kirin 950 performs better than the other two devices for the hashes etc test. In fact the Kirin 950 is 37% faster than the Exynos 7420 in this particular test. The Note 5 held the record for my water simulation benchmark, until the Mate 8 came along. The Exynos 7420 scores 5359, just slightly shy of the maximum score, however the Mate 8 hits the jackpot. This is great news for Huawei, however it is terrible news for me, as it means I will need to re-write the benchmark for 2016’s flag ship devices!

As for the Unity3D test, the Sony Z5 Compact comes out top due to its 720p screen resolution. It is followed by the Mate 8 and then the Note 5. However it is worth noting that the Mate 8 has a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 which is lower than the Note 5’s 2560 x 1440. This means that if the Kirin 950 was driving a display akin to the Note 5’s display then it would be slower than the Note 5 overall.

Wrap-up

So what does this all mean? Firstly we can see that the CPU part of the Kirin 950 has pushed the performance envelope to new heights and clearly the Cortex-A72 is a significant improvement over the Cortex-A57. However the Kirin 950 seems to be weaker than expected on the GPU side. We won’t know if this is a software optimization issue, or an implementation issue until either Huawei releases some software updates for the Mate 8, or we see other SoCs using the Mali-T880 but with better performance.

Overall it is safe to say that the next generation of mobile SoCs are upon us and that they are faster, leaner and more efficient!

5
Feb

Amazon’s Echo speaker can now order an Uber for you


The hardware is still the same, but Amazon’s Echo continues to impress with smarter and more useful software. Want to listen to your favorite Spotify playlist? Not a problem. Craving some Domino’s Pizza? It’ll be on your doorstep soon enough. For its next trick, Amazon has teamed up with Uber so that — yep, you guessed it — you can hail a ride just by calling out to Alexa. As the Verge reports, the speaker will accept a number of phrases including “call me an Uber,” “get me an Uber” and “request me a ride.”

The pairing is a match made in heaven. Uber wants as many passengers as possible, so it makes sense for the company to integrate with hardware that will encourage extra users and rides. For Amazon, it’s all about making Alexa a more natural and intelligent assistant. There are plenty of occasions when you need to order a taxi (or similar) in a hurry, or just don’t fancy pulling out your smartphone and launching the app. Of course, you’ll need to set up your Uber account first through the Alexa app, but once that’s all sorted the voice commands should become second nature.

Source: Uber

5
Feb

Get Final Fantasy 2 for free right now, via FF Portal app


ff-portal-ff2

In celebration of the one year anniversary of the FF Portal app, Square Enix is offering up a free copy of Final Fantasy II for a limited time. Final Fantasy II was first released in 1987, though the game has seen a number of ports to other platforms over the years and still remains one of the best entries into the series, despite its age.

Keep in mind that in order to secure your copy of FF2, you need to first download the FF Portal app, if you don’t have it already. From there you can download the game for free between now and February 14th. Each time you want to play it, you’ll have to load up the FF Portal app though, as the game is ran from within.

For those that have no clue what the FF Portal app is? Aside from having general information and news about the Final Fantasy series, the Portal app also offers games for direct download, as well as special promotions, freebies, and discounts from time to time.

Get FF Portal on Google Play!

Next – Best Android RPGs

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