Amazon Brings Major Update to Fire and Fire TV Lineups

Most major product launches come via some hour long flashy event. Amazon bucks that trend and releases most of their products via press release. That’s exactly what they did with their fall lineup for 2015. There’s a trio of new Fire tablets and a pair of new Fire TVs. If you’re an Amazon fan, they have some great new features that will keep fans happy. Let’s take a look.

Fire HD 2015

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For 2015, the Fire HD moves a bit up market in size. The tablets are larger than previous version of the Fire HD line at 8-inches and 10.1-inches in a 16:10 widescreen format rather than the now more typical 4:3. This is due to the Fire’s being aimed towards content creation rather than productivity. The screens are surprisingly low resolution at just 1280 x 800. You’ll have to stick with the smaller HDX tablets if you want the retina-type screen. The CPU is a 1.5ghz dual core part and the front and rear cameras are 5mp. For storage you get 16 or 32GB, but its expandable with up to 128GB of mSD card.

The tablets come with a new version of Fire OS called Fire OS 5 Benilli. It’s based on the Android 5.0 Lollipop AOSP code. This means that Android apps running on fire will have access to the platform’s latest features. It also comes with several Fire-only improvements like an updated launcher, shared family content, and Activity Center giving parents more control over Fire tablets.

The 8″ Fire HD starts at $149 while the 10.1″ is $229. Both tablets ship September 30th

Fire and Fire Kids Edition

fire-2015
The New Fire is Amazon’s more affordable tablet yet. It’s built around a 7″ 1024 x 600 IPS screen with a 1.3ghz quad core CPU. Its got 8GB of internal storage, but its upgradable with another 128GB. The cameras are 2mp rear and VGA front. Like the Fire HD it comes with Fire OS 5 based on Lollipop. Yes, these are very low end specs, but there’s a reason for this. It’s only $49.99 with free shipping. No, that’s not a typo, It’s actually $50. Its so cheap you can buy them in bulk and if you do that, Amazon will sell them in 6-packs with one of those tablets free.

If you have children, the new Fire is also available in a Kids Edition with the tablet, case, a 2 year warranty, and a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited for $99.

Fire TV 2015

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The Fire TV was a disruptive device when it came out almost two years ago. It featured an app store, voice search, and way more CPU power than found in the competition. Android TV and now the upcoming AppleTV 4 have caught up and it was time for Amazon to do something about that with the new Fire TV. It comes with a 64-bit MediaTek CPU with two 2.0ghz cores and two 1.6ghz Cores. Graphics are provided by a Power VR GX6250 GPU on the SoC. Amazon says the new chip can offer up to 75% more power than the first Fire TV and it puts that power to good use. The new Fire TV has 4k Ultra HD Output. It also has the Alexa voice assistant that debuted in the Amazon Echo. You can also put on all the apps you want with support for 128GB of MicroSD storage in addition to the included 8GB.

So how much will you pay for the new Fire TV? The same $99 as last year. Its also sold as a Gaming Edition with two games, a controller, and a 32GB MicroSD card for $139.99. An updated and more powerful Fire TV stick is also available for $39.99 or $49.99 with the voice remote.

Source : Amazon 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Apple Unleashes New iPhones, iPad Pro, Apple TV, and More

Time has come for the annual fall iPhone event and man it was a dozy. Apple picked one of the largest venues it could get with San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and the event was big to match. First off, as expected we got the iPhone 6S. Next, the iPad family literally grew with a 12” iPad Pro. Lastly, Just as we had a new development platform in WatchOS last year with the Apple Watch announcement, there is another new platform in the 4th Generation AppleTV and its new tvOS. These new products look to grow Apple’s brand either further in the coming year, but what exactly was in them? Let’s take a look.

Apple Watch

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I honestly didn’t expect much from the Apple Watch at this event, but we got a lot. First off, Watch OS 2 is coming, soon. Like next week on September 16th soon. It comes with full native app support so you’re no longer relying on your iPhone to power the thing. While at its heart, the Apple Watch is still a bit of an advanced accessory, it aides your iPhone in its own right and can take a lot of the load of of its larger sibling. Most importantly, just as we’re reaching the holiday season, mainstream buyers will be receiving the Apple watch as it was intended to be.

Next is a surprising amount of new accessories for the Apple Watch itself. The Sport Band now comes in quite a few new colors including (PRODUCT) Red. There are also new two-tone classic buckles. Existing watches can be ordered with new band options including a more affordable Space Black model with black sport band instead of the link bracelet.

But they couldn’t have brought brand new Apple Watches to the event, could they? Oh they they did. The Apple Watch Sport has received from new style. It now comes in the the same gold and rose gold aluminium finishes as the iPhone line. Apple also partner with noted French luxury manufacturer Hermès on a collaboration that introduces an exclusive new Collection of the Apple Watch with the Hermès style, look, and feel. Included are Single Tour, Double Tour, and Cuff straps designed by Hermès. They will only be sold in select locations. I have a feeling this won’t be the only time Apple partners with an existing watch maker.

In a summer of constrained supply and wild rumors, the Apple Watch ecosystem seems to be coming together this fall.

iPad Pro

ipad-Pro
If I had to place a bet of things I would see, an almost 13” iPad with a stylus would not be on the list. Yet it exists in the form of the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro is based around a 12.9” screen with a 2732 x 2048 resolution. The 2048 isn’t an accident as it’s designed to run standard iPad apps side by side in portrait mode. The new chip is Apple’s third generation of 64-bit Armv8 Systems on chip. While the A8 was an improved version of Cyclone, A9 and this model’s A9X is something completely different and more powerful. Apple is projecting up to twice as fast, but we’ll see later this when real world numbers hit the street. The Pro is also an improved media platform with a four speaker array.

The Pro just doesn’t mean it’s bigger. It’s aimed at Pros, especially graphic design pros and artists. To that end, it’s paired with Apple’s new Pencil Stylus. At $99 its rather expensive, it only works with the iPad Pro, and we’ve seen stylii many times before, but it’s nice to Apple taking steps to make the technology more compatible for those who prefer a stylus. It’s no longer a necessity for controlling the OS, but it’s become exactly watch it should be, a digital writing and drawing tool.

The iPad Pro comes in 3 models in your standard three colors of gold, silver, and space grey. It also comes in a trio of models: 32GB Wi-Fi for $799, 128GB for $949, and 128GB Cellular for $1079. Also joining the fray is a new iPad Mini with with a new thinner design and specs to match the iPad Air 2.

Apple TV 4 and tvOS

Apple-tv-4
I have been waiting for the new Apple TV for Years. The Amazon Fire TV changed everything for me a year and a half ago. It paired flagship phone level hardware with voice search and ushered in a new paradigm of set top boxes. Android TV has followed up with some very intriguing hardware on its own. Neither of them had exactly what I was looking for. The new Apple TV does.

The new box looks much like the old one, but only a bit taller. The small remote doesn’t look anything special, but they are both a far leap forward over their predecessors. The hardware is based upon the A8 Chip from the iPhone 6. This is a gigantic leap forward from the single Core A5 that powered the third generation model. It shows in all aspects of the TV. In fact, it now runs a full-powered fork of iOS 9 called tvOS. tvOS has its own App Store that includes both custom AppleTV apps, the devs have full control of their interface this time around, as well as universal apps that share code. This will make full screen apps like games extremely easy to port. Having the full line of iOS 9 APIs including metal and MFI controller support doesn’t hurt either.

The interface is based upon a new remote. Like the Click Wheel gave way to the touch screen, the new AppleTV remote is based around a TouchPad at the top. of the remote. It has far more buttons than the old AppleTV remote because it does far more. It’s based on Bluetooth 4.0 instead of RF in the old model. There’s a voice button for Siri who is pervasive throughout tvOS, a menu button, the play/pause button, and TV on and volume buttons. Yeah, the new AppleTV has CEC support and can control your tv’s functions so you don’t have to switch remotes. The remote has a three month charge and is charged by a standard Lightning cable. The remote isn’t revolutionary in its feature set, but Apple seems to have implemented it better than anyone else.

Now we come to the content. Siri has the ability to search not only iTunes content, but Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Showtime as well. That’s just the first wave. The search seems quite advanced too with Siri able to find a tv show episode that Edward Norton guest starred in. Being able to quickly play the content you want rather than searching through menu after menu is a killer feature that the Apple TV has lacked. The overall menu is more powerful while being easier to use at the same time. Touch swipes are used for navigation and additional content. This was used to great effect during a demo for the improved MLB at Bat app with the Apple TV brining up stats and easily switching between games. If there is one drawback, the 4th Gen Apple TV is not yet ready for 4k Ultra HD. Its still a 1080 full HD device.

The new Apple TV 4 comes in at $149 for a 32GB model and $199 64GB model. If that’s too steep, the 3rd generation model sticks around at $69.

iPhone 6S & 6S Plus

iphone-6s
The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus look exactly like the models released a year ago beyond an additional color of rose gold. The screens are also roughly the same as the old models. What’s new then? Lots actually. The iPhone is based on the same A9 architecture as the iPad Pro. It promises to be a much more substantial upgrade than last year’s A8. The camera is a high quality 12mp part that brings 4k to the iPhone camera. It also does Apple’s version of living pictures and automatically. The front Facetime camera has been upgraded to 5mp part with the screen wired to be used as flash. These are all great features, but they’re evolutionary. They make it a better version of the 6 and 6 Plus. That’s not everything its got up its sleeve however.

The 6S also has 3D touch. This is more or less iOS’s version of Force Touch. Essentially it adds equivalent functionality to quick peek and the right click on the Mac. This is huge. It means you can get to more functions much quicker. This also means you can perform limited app tasks without having to actually launch the app. This takes the tablet from a more limited environment to something that is more functionally equivalent to a desktop OS.

Rounding out the 6S’s spec list is new LTE chip. Its faster with LTE and it uses pretty much all of the LTE bands. Up to 23. This includes Band 12 which is popular with T-Mobile, US Cellular, and many smaller carriers. Apple has been reluctant to use band 12 prior to this model. The chip also has LTE-Advanced support.

Pricing for the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, is exactly the same as the preceding models. The 5S, 6, and 6 Plus each drop $100 in price. If you want a colorful plastic iPhone, you better it one while it lasts.

For other iPhone owners, Apple announced the iOS 9 will ship September 16th, the same day as WatchOS 2

Wrap Up

This was a good year for Apple. The Apple Watch, iPad Pro, Apple TV, and iPhone 6S look to be very strong products. I can’t wait to get my mitts on them. I have a feeling I won’t be alone.
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Samsung, Motorola, Asus, and Huawei Announce New Smartwatches

For the most part, 2015 has been the year of the Apple Watch with some Pebble sprinkled in. That may change with this week’s announcements with a trio of new Android Wear Watch families from Motorola, Asus,and Huawei and a new Tizen-based entry from Samsung. The announcements coincide with another announcement that Android Wear devices would be gaining compatibility with the iPhone. Let’s take a look at the new watches.

samsung-gear-s2

Samsung Gear S2

The Gear S2 is Samsung’s latest entry into the wearable space. Unlike other members of the gear family, the S2 features a round body which is very watch-like. It comes in two flavors, the S2 with a more modern flair and the S2 Classic for those who want traditional watch styling. Whatever flavor you choose, the features and specs are the same. It runs Samsung’s Tizen OS giving them more control over the platform than allowed under Android Wear. It also allows tighter integration with the Korean device giant’s skinned Android phones.

The AMOLED screen is 1.2 inches and round with a 360 x 360 resolution. That equates to a near-Retina 302 PPI. The CPU is 1.0ghz and dual core. If you were looking for smaller version for more petite individuals, you will not find it here. Its one size fits all, with the exception of whether you want 3G connectivity or not. There is 512mb of memory and 4GB of RAM. All in all, its pretty standard for a mainstream smartwatch.

What sets it apart is its integration with Samsung’s services including Samsung Pay with the watch’s NFC chip. If you’re more invested in Samsung than Android or iOS, this is a strong contender. If not, the next family of watches may be for you.

2015-moto-360

A Family of 4 Moto 360s

For all intents and purposes, the 2014 edition of the Moto 360 was the Android Wear device by which all others were judged. This year’s model looks to carry on this tradition. The 2015 Moto 360 comes in two sizes: 46mm and 42mm with the 42mm coming in both Men’s and Women’s versions. The previous version only came in the 46mm variant. The new Moto 360 is slightly thinner at 11.4″, but not by much. The original Moto 360 had a 320 x 290 pixel display and this has been given a small boost in resolution to 360 x 330 in the 46mm version and 360 x 325 in the smaller size. The single core Cortex A8 SoC has been replaced by a Quad-Core Snapdragon 400. The battery is bigger and Moto promises 2 days battery life. Overall, its a fairly hefty upgrade over 2015. The 2015 Moto 360 is also fully customizable in Moto Maker for a custom watch designed for the wearer.

There’s also a second Moto 360, the 360 Sport. Also running wear, the 360 Sport is designed for those with active outdoor lifestyles. It features a rugged enclosure that will definitely not be welcomed in a black tie affair, but feels right at home in a Kayak. The sport has it own built-in GPS and associated software allowing the wearer to know exactly where he or she is. It display is very interesting being designed to reflect direct sunlight to make the display more visible than a traditional LCD display.

The 2nd Gen Moto 360 will start at $299 and go up from there. It’ll ship later in September. The price and release date for the Sport is TBA.

zen-watch-2

Zen Watch 2.

Also coming in on the sequel path is the Zen Watch 2. This new watch may be the best overall value in Android Wear watches. The Zen Watch 2 is square in design and comes in a pair of sizes. You can add 3 colors: silver, gold, and gunmetal grey and several watch bands. The Zen Watch aims to bring traditional watch styling into the 21st century and like the Apple Watch, it makes use of the crown for the interactive experience.

The Zen Watch 2 comes with 1.63″ and 1.45″ screens with a 320 x 320 resolution.. Specs are similar to the Moto 360 with a Snapdragon 400 CPU, 512mb of RAM, and 4GB of storage. Those are roughly standard for an Android Wear Watch. What isn’t is the price. The Zen Watch 2 starts at an insanely low $129.

huawei-watch

Huawei Watch

Huawei is not known for being a premium watch in the west, but the Huawei Watch may change this. The Huawei Watch tends towards the more premium end of Android Wear watches. It has a 400 x 400 1.4″ AMOLED display. The Hauwei watch has very traditional watch styling and comes in 6 distinct variants. However, non of them in a smaller size.

The base Huawei watch starts at $349 and goes up to $799 for a gold plated version.

Source: Samsung, Google
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Hulu Adds Commercial-Free Option for $11.99

Its been a good summer for Hulu. First they inked a deal with CBS to integrate Showtime into Hulu with a discount. Then earlier this week, they inked a massive multi-year content deal with EPIX, just as Netflix’s deal with them expired. They’re not done yet. Hulu is putting the capper on their summer with an announcement that for an additional $4, $11.99 a month, you can get their content add-free. So if ads in your first-run network content annoy you, you can now pay a bit more to watch it advertisement free.

Hulu is also dipping its toes in more credible original programming including 11/22/63 a collaboration between Stephen King and JJ-Abrams and starring James Franco, Difficult people from Amy Poehler, and a few more. Its also picking up the Mindy Project which was cancelled by Fox.

The streaming wars are heating up and this can only be a good thing for consumers.

Source: Hulu
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Samsung Announces Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ smartphones, Launches Samsung Pay

Samsung’s fall event has been traditionally been the big launch of the company’s big screen phones. This year did not disappoint with the launch of not just one, but two different phones. These phones build off the launch of the GS6 earlier in the year when it comes to styling with the metal frame and glass faces. Let’s take a look at the new phablets.

Galaxy Note 5

I’ll tackle the Note 5 first as many of the base specs are shared with the GS6 Edge+. The Note 5 is built around the same 5.7″ form factor as the Note 4 and also packs an AMOLED screen with a Quad HD 2560 x 1440 resolution. Where the screen may not have changed, Samsung slimmed down the casing around it. Its 2mm narrower and 1mm thinner than the Note 4 while maintaining more or less the same height. The sides on the back are curved for a more natural grip. Samsung want the Note 5 to feel like a smaller phone than it actually is. The phone itself look almost exactly like a larger GS6. With that it also has a fully sealed body. If you wanted a removable battery or mSD card, the Note 5 isn’t for you. Samsung has gone upmarket and plans to stay there.

New for 2015, the Note 5 makes the jump to 64-bit with a new Octacore cpu with 4 high cores at 2.1ghz and 4 low cores at 1.5ghz. That allows it more power when it needs it, but the phone can also use its slower, but more power efficient cores to save battery life. The Note 5 has 4GB of system memory. It needs it as Samsung has backed in some hefty multi-tasking features centered around the updated S-Pen. The back camera is 16mp, same as the Note 4, but has improved software capabilities. The front part is upgraded to 5mp. The Note 5 doesn’t make the jump to USB-C, but it now features much faster wireless charging.

All in all, the Note 5 isn’t a huge jump over the previous generation, but its a nice evolutionary advance over what was a very nice device.

Galaxy S6 Edge+

Don’t let the GS6 name fool you, the GS6 Edge+ is basically the Edge version of the Note 5. The two phones share almost all features save the S-Pen on the Note and the dual edge screens on the Edge+ Without the need to stow the Pen, the Edge+ is even thinner and narrower than the Note 5. When it comes to the Edge screens, it not that much different than the GS6 edge other than the extra screen real estate.

Availability

The GS6 Edge+ and Note 5 will come in 32GB and 64GB variants in White, Black, Silver, and Gold. The phone will launch August 21st with pre-orders starting on the 14th.

Accessories

The most interesting part of the keynote may have been the keyboard over. This physical keyboard works much like the keyboards on the old school phones the Blackberry. It covers part of the screen, but is fully reversible to the back when not in use. It seems a little out of place, but call me nostalgic, I like it.

Samsung Pay

Samsung’s entry into the mobile payments arena, aptly named Samsung Pay, is ready to launch. In fact, the first users will see it launch in beta on August 25th with a full release set for September 28th. Samsung pay uses tokenization and fingerprint security like Apple and Android Pay, but has the ace in the whole of being compatible with with Magnetic secure transmission in additional to the NFC used by its competitors. It already has the support of all 4 major card issuers and several larger banks. It’ll work with the GS6 series and Note 5.

All in all though, Beyond MST compatibility, the Samsung Pay portion sounded a lot like what Apple and Google said months before. One thing is clear though, the Phone payments game is on and with the added security, hopefully consumers are the winner.

Source: Samsung 1, 2

Google Reorganizes into Alphabet

If I told you that Google was becoming part of a larger company called Alphabet, on April 1st, I would have found it in the character of the day. However, it is not April 1st and it has come to pass. Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin announced the formation of Alphabet with Page acting as CEO and Brin as President of the new company. For investors, stock in Google will be converted to stock in Alphabet. The company will act has a holding identity for multiple companies.

What does this mean for Google? Some parts like the X-Lab will be divested and that’s a start. The new Google will be slimmer and focused on what it does best, but what will be divested is not yet clear. There were hints in Alphabet’s blog post about YouTube, but those could have been misinterpreted. What is clear is that Sundar Pichai will be taking the reins of Google. Most analysts saw Sundar as the likely future CEO hand picked by Brin and Page, but saw this as something several years down the line. As a company that has always had several masters, it now has only one voice, Sundar Pichai.

It will be interested to see what happens as we know more about the Alphabet/ Google restructuring. As of now there are more questions than answers, but this restructure doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Instead, it seems like a restructure meant to keep Google focused on it does best while Larry Page and Sergei Brin expand their business interests.

Source: Google & Alphabet
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Motorola Announces Moto X Style, Moto X Play, and New Moto G

Motorola has reemerged as a leding smartphone maker ever since the orignal Moto X hit the scene in 2013. The Second Generation Model in 2014 raised the bar even further. Now Motorola isn’t just breaking the bar, its shattering it with not just one , but a pair of new Moto X phones. They’re also bringing a brand new Moto G for the table with them. Let’s take a peak.

Moto-X-style

Moto X Style

If you wanted everything good about the 2014 Moto X in Phablet form with a QHD screen and 64-bit CPU, your wish has been granted in the form of the Moto X Style. The screen is a 5.7″ LCD display in 2560 x 1440 Quad HD. This is rather curious since previous Motorolas and the Moto produced Nexus 6 have employed Super AMOLED screens instead of LCDs. Powering the phone is a Snapdragon 808 MSM8992 CPU. This 64-bit SoC pairs two High end A57 Cores with four low end A53 cores. It also has Quadcomm’s Ardeno 418 graphics processor. Essentially its a Snapdragon 810 with two less A53 Cores. The SoC is paired with 3GB of ram The case is 153.9 x 76.2mm with a curved back from 6.1 to 11.06mm in depth. It weights 179 grams. The styling is very reminiscent of the previous two Moto X phones, but with more metal accents including a metal strip down the center and back for the camera and log. The phone also has a water resistant coating.

The most improved part other than the screen is the cameras. The back uses a 21mp sensor with a f/2.0 lens part capable of shooting 4k video at 30fps or Full HD 1080 at 60 frames. Its also capable of shooting 120FS slow mo and Video HDR in both 1080 and 4k. It also has a phase detect auto focus and dual color flash. If previous Moto cameras were lacking, this seems first class at first glance. The front camera is also rather impressive with a 5mp sensor with 1.4 micron pixels and also a f/2.0 wide angle lens. It also has a flash, slow motion, and a night mode. In man ways, the Moto X style’s front camera is more impressive than the rear camera on the original Moto G. Selfies and video chat is no longer a second class citizen. Sound is also upgraded with front facing speakers.

The rest of the IO is up to date with 802.11AC with MIMO, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.1 LTE is up to cat6 and the phone supports up to 14 different brands. In fact, Moto says the Pure Edition of this phone will work with every carrier in the US. There are two disappointing aspects of the Moto X Style. First, while there is an ultra fast charging mode called Turbo Charging, it still uses a Micro USB connector instead of USB-C. Second, despite Google adding native support in Android M, there is no fingerprint sensor in the Moto X Style.

Pricing & Availability

The Moto X Style in its pure addition form will ship this September for just $399. It will come in two standard models, 18 different Moto Maker backs, and 7 different accents. This version will come with pure Android and Motorola has promised you can use on any carrier, not just the two GSM carriers AT&T and T-Mobile. It’ll come in 16, 32, or and 64GB versions, but you can also add up to 128GB of MicroSD. Pricing for carrier versions was not disclosed.

Moto-X-Play

Moto X Play

The Moto X Play is the midrange option. It features a 5.5″ 1080 display though Motorola does not disclose wither its LCD or AMOLED. The phone borrows much of its look and features from its badder brother. The Chip is powered by two quad core 64-bit CPUs in a Mid-Low configuration with two sets of A53s and 1.7 and 1.0 ghz. It has 2GB of ram and Qualcomm’s Adreno 405 GPU. It has the same 21mp camera as the Style, but without 4k capability, and also a 5mp sensor up front, though not with the bells and whistles. It also features NFC, AC Wireless, and BT 4.0. LTE is provided on 10 bands. Like other Moto phones, the Play has a pure Android experience.

Pricing & Availability

The Moto X Play will be available pretty everywhere other than the United States. Not initially at least. Curiously that also includes Canada whose wireless networks are designed for interoperability with the US. It’ll come in 16 and 32GB version and like its big brother will also handle up to 128GB of mSD expansion. Motomaker versions will have 14 different backs and 7 accents. Colors will depend on market.

Moto-G-2015

Moto G 3rd Generation

The third announcement is Motorola’s step up from entry level, the 2015 version of the Moto G. While its a very affordable phone, its got some features that were high end not long ago. It features a 5″ 720 HD screen, again Moto doesn’t say which type. At 294 PPi, this is very close to being a retina-type display. The phone is featuring a 64-bit Snapdragon 410 SoC with a quad core A53 CpU at 1.4ghz and a Adreno 30 CPU. The phone features a camera similar to the other two Motos in features, but with a 13mp part instead of 21. The front camera is 5mp and is also feature packed. Its even more water resistant than the others with a IPX7 rating. The Moto G now features standard LTE in 6 or 7 bands depending on the mode. What it is missing are the front facing speakers, NFC, and AC Wireless. Despite that, this is a lot of phone for the money.

Pricing & Availability

The 3rd Gen Moto X is $179.99 and shipping now. It comes in the black/ white standard colors and is now open to Moto Maker. It’ll come in two sizes: 8GB with 1GB of ram and 16GB with 2GB of RAM. Both can take up to 32GB of mSD storage.

Source: Motorola
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Samsung Announces Incredibly Thin and Light Galaxy Tab S2

A couple years back, Samsung released the Galaxy Tab S, a tablet that offered a little more style and flair than their typical tablet offerings. Since then, style has become more part of their line and they’re ready to try again with the Galaxy Tab S2.

Galaxy Tab S2 Features

The Galaxy Tab S2 can justly be called samsung’s new flagship tablets. They’re stylish and packed to the gills with features. The tablets are based around a metal frame that is just 5.6mm thin, even thinner than the 6.1mm iPad Air 2 or 7.5mm iPad Mini 3. The Tab S2 also backs that up by being light, with a weight of just 392 grams for the larger model and 272 for the Mid-sized version. The styling of the device is classy, but also very Samsung.

The heart is the tablets is its screen and the Tab S2 look to have a good a good one. The Tab S2 comes in two sizes, 8.0 and 9.7″ at 2048 x 1536. Yes, if this does seem familiar, it’s the same resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio as the current iPad line. Samsung has traditionally made its tablets in 16:9, but 4:3 is more preferred by consumers as its better for reading digital media and eBooks. Samsung admits as much and you’re seeing more Android devices adopt it. It’s definitely not the same panels as the iPads though; Samsung is using their own Super AMOLED technology. It features adaptive technology is make up for some of the disadvantages of AMOLED screens and there’s even a dedicated reading mode.

The Tab S2 features a Twin Quad-Core CPUs in its SoC in a high-low configuration at 1.9ghz and 1.3ghz speeds. That should give users power when they need it and save battery power when they don’t. The CPU is paired with 3GB of memory. Storage is 32 or 64GB and unlike some of their recent smartphones can be expanded with up to 128GB of mSD storage. The cameras are good for a tablet at 8mp rear and 2.2mp front, but don’t really offer anything to differentiate themselves. I/O is top of the line with Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11AC wireless. It’ll come in Wi-Fi and cellular versions with at least 8 bands of LTE for worldwide coverage. Like the GS5/6 and Note 4, the Tab S2 has Samsung’s built-in fingerprint sensor. However, one apparent omission is NFC support. Software is built upon Android 5.0 Lollipop and feature’s the multitasking functions you’d expect to see in a Samsung tablet. Using Android’s built-in pointer support, there is a very Microsoft surface like smart keyboard coverage available as an accessory..

Pricing and Availability

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is TBA on price and still no word on exact market availability. The general availability date is August.

Final Word

This is undoubtably Samsung’s best tablet yet. It borrows quite a bit from both Samsung’s other tablets and the iPad, but the specs and features. look very compelling. We’ll find out if it lives up to its promise in a month or so.

Source: Samsung
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Apple Launches New iPod Touch with A8 Chip, New Colors

I have to admit, I wondered whether the previous generation iPod Touch was the last of the line. It debuted with an A5 CPU alongside the iPhone 5. We never saw updates with A6 or A7 CPU, it has basically remained unchanged for two and a half years. Nonetheless, the iPod Touch has returned and gone from the back of the line to the front of the line. Its brought a slight update to the iPod Nano and Shuffle as well.

64-bit iPod Touch

The new iPod Touch has basically the same casing as the one it replaces. It keeps the 4″ form factor and 1136×540 Retina Display shared with the iPhone 5/5C/5S. There’s one exception, the little used tab for a wrist strap is gone. Internally, it’s a much different beast. The iPod jumps 3 generations ahead in processor performance and gets the A8 as used in the latest iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. It also inherits the M8 Motion Co Processor as well. The cameras have been upgraded as well to an 8mp iSight camera with similar specs to the one used in the iPhone 5S and what appears to be the same front Facetime camera used in the 6 and 6 Plus. The rear camera also gains a flash. iPod also gains 802.11AC wireless and Bluetooth 4.1. If you’re waiting for a TouchID fingerprint sensor, you’ll have to keep waiting. its nowhere to be found

Pricing is $199 for 16GB Model, $249 for 32GB, $299 for $64, and $399 for an Apple Store exclusive 128GB model. There are six new colors based around those in the iPhone 6: Space Grey, Silver, & Gold plus 3 additional colors in Pink, Blue, and a red model in Partnership with (Project) Red.

iPod Nano & iPod Shuffle

The iPod Nano and Shuffle also got a minor refresh. Both are basically unchanged in form and function, but they get the same Space Gray, Silver, Gold, Pink, Blue, and Red colors. The iPod Nano is $249 while the Shuffle is $49. Neither model adds compatibility with Apple’s Apple Music streaming service with this update.

All 3 updated iPod models have immediate availability.

Source: Apple

The Tech Hangout’s Take

Quite frankly, this as a bit unexpected. The iPod had diminished in terms of its sales and presence on Apple’s site. Yet, we now have a new iPod touch that is as powerful as the iPhone 6. I can definitely see uses for this in schools, with kids, and multi-iOS device photography. It also makes the prospect of a $99 A8 powered AppleTV refresh more believable.

Microsoft Writes Off Nokia Deal, Announces Major Job Cuts

Microsoft is announcing a major write-off and job cuts related to the Lumia smartphone unit it bought from Nokia just a year and a half ago. With the move, Microsoft will cut 7800 jobs from the division and take a $7.2 billion write-off from the acquisition. The move follows the recent departure of former Nokia CEO and Microsoft Device Chief Stephen Elop and his top lieutenant Jo Harlow.

Microsoft is pinning the move on diminished expectations for phone hardware under Microsoft’s current strategies. While the company has made no plans to drop the Lumia brand as of yet, but Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated that first party-devices were only a party of the efforts to create a vibrant “Windows Ecosystem”.

Microsoft also announced transfer of mapping assets to Uber and their display advertising arm to Verizon’s AOL division.

Source: Microsoft

Writer’s Take

If it seemed like the selection of the Microsoft CEO last year was a referendum on that’s because it was. Ballmer and Elop wanted a strategy based around devices, but the company ultimately went with a cloud and services-based strategy from now CEO Satya Nadella. I don’t know if first-party devices are a long-term part of that. It will be interesting to see if any moves are made with the Surface tablet and Xbox division.