Microsoft Axes the Nokia X Android Phone

July 17, 2014   Comments

By Allan Pulga

In an interesting about face, Microsoft has announced it is discontinuing the Nokia X Android phone Nokia announced back in February.

When Nokia unveiled the Nokia X at Mobile World Congress (Feb. 24), it was a bit of a head scratcher. While some thought it was a strategic move by Microsoft to lure Android users to the Windows Phone UI, apps and services, others speculated Nokia was hedging its Microsoft acquisition bet because the deal was not yet finalized.

Well the deal went through April 25. And yet even then, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop talked up Nokia X. This quote, is from PC World:

"Microsoft acquired the mobile phones business, inclusive of Nokia X, to help connect the next billion people to Microsoft’s services,” Elop said then. "Nokia X uses the [Microsoft] cloud, not Google’s. This is a great opportunity to connect new customers to Skype, Outlook.com and OneDrive for the first time. We’ve already seen tens of thousands of new subscribers on [Microsoft] services.”

"What’s clear, however, is that Elop was overruled (by Microsoft) on how to take forward the Nokia X," wrote PC World's Mark Hachman.

BlackBerry Announces Virtual Assistant to Counter Siri, Google Now and Cortana

July 16, 2014   Comments
BlackBerry Assistant mock-up - Source: Engadget

By Allan Pulga

Today, BlackBerry announced "BlackBerry Assistant," its own voice-command mobile assistant to compete with Apple's Siri, Android's Google Now and Windows Phone's Cortana.

Engadget reports BlackBerry Assistant will be available on the upcoming Passport phone. Details have yet to be released as to what search engine will power BlackBerry Assistant.

The story felt a bit like damage control because Apple just announced a new partnership with IBM to build apps together and sell more iPhones and iPads to enterprise (i.e. corporate and government) clientele. Enterprise, of course, used to be BlackBerry's wheelhouse.

Not surprisingly, BlackBerry's stock price took a hit as a result of the new Apple-IBM partnership.

BlackBerry Unveils 'Passport' with Square Display

July 11, 2014   Comments

By Allan Pulga

On Wednesday (July 9), BlackBerry revealed a new phone, called the Passport, with a 4.5-inch square screen.

As you can see in the photo (above), it makes for a unique form factor with sharp edges. The physical keyboard looks different: It only has three rows of buttons.

Yesterday (July 19), Michael Clewley, Director of Software Product Management at BlackBerry, wrote on the company blog that the Passport "re-invents the mobile keyboard."

He wrote: "With the Passport’s touch-enabled keyboard, you’ll be able to navigate web pages, apps and e-mails by lightly brushing your fingers over the keys, which helps with things like scrolling and cursor placement.

"It’s a minimalist design that maximizes BlackBerry Passport’s already-awesome amount of screen real estate. You’ll be able to read documents faster, as well as keep your fingers close to the keys, ready to type."

I'm a little skeptical. The square screen ssems gimmicky and basically looks like an old BlackBerry, which we all know has already gone out of style. Granted, it may appeal to loyal BlackBerry fans in terms of its "retro" design. The sharp edges also make it appear less pocketable.

I'd have to try the keyboard to see how user friendly it is, though. Click through to Clewley's full blog post to see all the purported benefits of the new Passport keyboard.

Video Leaks iPhone 6 Sapphire Crystal Display

July 11, 2014   Comments

By Allan Pulga

In case you haven't already seen this video (published July 7), a popular YouTube tech reviewer got his hands on the screen from the unreleased iPhone 6.

In the video (embedded below), Marques Brownlee demonstrates the amazing clarity, flexibility (stepping on it and bending it with his hand) and scratch resistance (attempting to scratch it using keys and a knife) of the sapphire crystal screen.

As Brownlee noted, the Apple currently uses sapphire crystal for the rear camera lens and home button on the iPhone 5s.

The Verge Calls iPhone 5s 'Best Phone You Can Buy'

July 11, 2014   Comments

By Allan Pulga

Last month (June 11), The Verge rated all the top flagship phones and the iPhone 5s came out victorious.

The tech blog gave the phone a rating of 8.8 out of 10 (see above photo), with the next runner up being the HTC One M8, rated 8.5.

"Even as others have caught up to what Apple's doing, there's still simply no better phone than the iPhone," wrote The Verge's David Pierce. "For most people, the iPhone 5S is just the best smartphone you can buy."

Below are the top-rated phones in the recent Verge comparison. I've also included our Compare Cellular ratings (out of 5) where applicable, for comparison's sake. You can click on our ratings to read our full reviews.

  • iPhone 5s - Verge rating: 8.8 (CC rating: 5)
  • HTC One (M8) - Verge rating: 8.5 (CC rating: 4.5)
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 - Verge rating: 7.8 (CC rating 4.5)
  • LG Nexus 5 - Verge rating: 8.0 (CC rating: 4)
  • Motorola Moto X - Verge rating: 8.0 (CC rating: N/A)
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - Verge rating 8.3 (CC rating: N/A)
  • Nokia Lumia 1520 - Verge rating 7.4 (CC rating*: 4)
*Note: We reviewed the Nokia Lumia 1020, not the 1520.

HTC One M8 Helps Company Beat Profit Estimates

July 3, 2014   Comments

By Allan Pulga

HTC's second-quarter profit exceeded analyst estimates, due to unexpectedly strong sales of the HTC One M8, released in March 2014. (Read our full review of the HTC One M8.)

Bloomberg reported this morning that HTC's income was $76 million in the quarter.

"The HTC One M8, released in March as the company’s main product for the year, helped drive the largest monthly sales growth since 2011 in April," wrote Bloomberg's Tim Culpan. "Earnings would return to profit for the June quarter with sales climbing throughout this year, Chief Financial Officer Chang Chialin told investors in a May 6 conference call.

"Beyond M8, a high-end thin, metallic handset released in March, HTC is also looking to its mid-end Desire series to sustain sales momentum throughout the year," Culpan wrote. "Wearable devices and a tablet to be released later in the year may also help boost sales."

Update (July 15): Gigaom reported today that two HTC executives were fired: chief marketing officer Ben Ho and president of engineering and operations Fred Liu.

"The company eked out its first profit in nearly two years just last month but the results were influenced more by cost-cutting measures than stellar sales," wrote Gigaom's Kevin C. Tofel. "Better marketing will surely help HTC, provided it can keep innovating with its mobile devices."

So, perhaps HTC's profitable Q2 wasn't due to handset sales after all.

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