T-Mobile wants no more bill surprises, moves to one unlimited plan


T-Mobile is making even more changes to its wireless plans including making a promise to always charge the advertised bill amount rather throwing in surprise surcharges and taxes. The company and its bombastic CEO John Legere made these announcements today at CES 2017.

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Starting on Jan. 22, the carrier will only be selling its T-Mobile ONE unlimited plan to new customers (existing customers can still stick with their current plans if they want). T-Mobile also promises that if they advertise a $40 a month plan, it will cost customers $40 a month, with all taxes and surcharges included in the advertised price.

Even if you don’t really need unlimited data, the new T-Mobile ONE plan will also offer those customers something called KickBack. If a customer uses 2 GB of data or less in a month, they will get up to $10 in credit in the next bill cycle. These changes are supposed to simplify bill payment at T-Mobile.

Of course, all of this sounds good, but you can bet that if customers do see an odd surcharge on their next bill under this new setup, it will look like T-Mobile is just hyping up something that doesn’t really exist. Hopefully, Legere will make good on these claims.

SanDisk’s new 256GB microSD card is made for launching mobile apps


If you want to get as much storage space as you can get for your smartphone apps, SanDisk may have something for you to check out soon. During CES 2017 this week, the company announced its 256GB SanDisk Ultra microSD card. Besides the large storage capacity, this is also the first microSD card release that supports the new standard for storing and launching apps directly from the card.

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June 29, 2016

You may remember that a couple of months ago, the SD Association, the group that controls the standards for both SD and microSD cards, announced the Application Performance Class, which is designed to label storage cards that offer solid performance for running mobile apps. The new SanDisk Ultra 256GB card is the first such product to meet the Application Performance Class 1 standards. It can support read input-output access per second (IOPS) of 1,500 and write IOPS of 500, which should be enough to launch and run mobile apps directly from the card. It also works with the SanDisk Memory Zone app for Android in the Google Play Store. It’s been designed to help manage and back up content on smartphones and tablets.

The SanDisk Ultra microSD card with A1 support will go on sale sometime in January for the price of $199.99.

Xiaomi reveals white version of bezel-less Mi MIX

In late October, Xiaomi first announced its Mi MIX “concept” phone, with its near bezel-less display. Today, as part of its CES 2017 press event, the company confirmed it will begin selling a white version of the phone in the near future.

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Xiaomi stated that the white version of the phone will still have the same ceramic body as the older black version, so it should be very scratch resistant. That will be good news for anyone who buys it, as the phone looks very impressive with its pearl-like white finish.

That’s the good news. The bad news, at least for most of the world, is that the Mi MIX is still only going to be sold in China. Xiaomi stated the white version will go on sale in that country later this year.

Xiaomi reveals white version of bezel-less Mi MIX

Xiaomi also announced two other products at their CES press conference. One is a new wireless router, the Mi Router HD, which also has a surveillance hard drive that can offer as much of 8TB of storage. The other new product is the Mi TV 4, a smart television that is only 4.9mm thick. The TV uses the company’s Patch Wall system. It’s a software skin on top of Android with an AI program that’s been made to learn from your content browsing history and can then make some informed recommendations.

In addition, the TV’s hardware has also been designed to be modular, so you can quickly upgrade the display, motherboard and sound system without having to buy a full TV. The 49-inch, 59-inch and 65-inch versions of the Mi TV 4 will go in sale in China later this year. Sadly, there’s no word on if it will be sold in other parts of the world.

The Alcatel A3 XL is a big 6-inch Android Nougat phone

As part of CES 2017, Alcatel has just announced a new, and pretty big,  smartphone. The Alcatel A3 XL has a 6-inch display, but inside the hardware is not quite as impressive.

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July 22, 2016

The display will only have a resolution of 720×1280 and the MediaTek processor is a quad-core chip running at just 1.1GHz. The phone will only have 1GB of RAM and just 8GB of onboard storage, with a microSD card for adding up to 32GB of more storage. Other specs include an 8MP rear camera, a 5MP front-facing camera, a fingerprint sensor on the back and a 3000mAh battery.

It’s clear that this device is not targeting the hardcore hardware Android fans but rather a larger audience who might want to get a big phone at a cheaper price. There’s also the added bonus of a “vibrant range of colors and 3D patterns” that will help further set the model apart.

The Alcatel A3 XL will be sold first in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Latin America sometime in the first quarter of 2017 and later in Europe during the second quarter. So far, Alcatel has not announced plans to sell the phone in North America.  Official pricing has not been announced but the company indicated it will sell somewhere around $200.

Coolpad Conjr offers a 5-inch Android phone for $180

Coolpad Americas, the US subsidiary of the China-based Coolpad, has announced and launched their first unlocked smartphone, the Coolpad Conjr, as part of CES 2017. The 5-inch Android smartphone will go on sale later today with a reasonable looking $179.99 price tag.

The Coolpad Conjr (which, in case you are wondering, is pronounced like “Conjure”) features a 2.5D HD display and comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow installed out of the box. Unfortunately, inside it comes with a pretty slow processor, an quad-core MediaTek MT6735CP chip that only runs at 1.0GHz, so don’t expect a ton of performance from this device.

The phone also has 3GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, with a microSD card for adding more space if you need it. On the plus side, the Coolpad Conjr has a 13MP rear facing camera and an 8MP front-facing camera with its own flash. There’s also a fingerprint reader that can unlock the phone, with support for up to five different fingerprints, which may make it easier for families to use. Finally, the dual SIM phone has a passable 2500mAh battery.

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The Coolpad Conjr will work with US GSM wireless networks like AT&T, T-Mobile and US Cellular, but unfortunately not on Verizon and Sprint. The phone should be available for pre-order later today over at Newegg and Amazon. Interested?

The Misfit Vapor touchscreen smartwatch is targeting Android Wear users

There have been a few Android Wear smartwatches revealed this week during CES 2017. Today another smartwatch was introduced that is not using Google’s OS, but clearly looks like it is targeting current Android Wear watch owners. Fitness tracker company Misfit revealed their first touchscreen smartwatch, the Misfit Vapor, which will sell for $199 when it is released.

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Visually, the Vapor looks very similar to many Android Wear devices. It has a 44mm stainless steel case with an 1.39-inch round AMOLED display, and inside it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100, 4GB of onboard storage and a battery that is suppose to last up to two days on a single charge. The watch itself is charged with a magnetic cradle. The bezel of the device has been designed so that you can touch for accessing the Vapor’s user interface.

The Vapor also has a gyroscope, an optical heart rate sensor, GPS support, and microphones, along with WiFi connectivity. It is supposed to be “swimproof” and water resistant at up to 50 meters.

When the Misfit Vapor does come out, it will be available in Jet Black and Rose Gold colors. There’s no specific release date for the Vapor yet, other than sometime “later this year”.

E-Ink launches 42-inch display for big digital whiteboards


We have seen many large PC touchscreens come out in the past few years that serve as digital whiteboards for businesses and other organizations. However, they are all very bulky and very expensive. Today, E-Ink has announced a new competitor to those kinds of products. It has developed a 42-inch display that can offer similar features for a lower cost.

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This new 4:3 display will give products that use it “an ultra-wide viewing angle that can be viewed in both landscape and portrait modes”. It includes support for a display resolution of 2160×2880 and 85dpi, which should offer supporting products higher clarity for both text and images.

In fact, one such device has already announced its use of the new larger E-Ink display. QuirkLogic will use it for its Quilla digital ink solution. QuirkLogic and E-Ink have been working together for the past three years on the new 42-inch display. The 22-pound Quilla can easily be mounted or unmounted to move to any room or location. Several of the devices can also be linked together to form one very, very large digital whiteboard.

The Quilla will support logins from a smartphone for users to get quick access to their library of notes and images. Content created on the display is also automatically saved and can be shared with others. The device is scheduled to go on sale sometime late in the second quarter of 2017. Pricing has not yet been announced, but interested businesses can apply to be accepted into its Early Adopter program, which will start in February.

ZTE Blade V8 Pro hands-on

ZTE is launching a new Android smartphone today (yes, today) as part of CES 2017 this week. The ZTE Blade V8 Pro looks to be a promising mid-range device, with one really stand out feature: its dual 13MP rear cameras.

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We got a chance to get a bit of hands-on time with the Blade V8 Pro during CES. By far, the most impressive thing about this phone is the two rear cameras. One of the lenses is used to get depth information for your images. Basically, this should allow you to take a photo of your subject and put it in sharp focus, based on a particular aperture. Everything else in the image can have a slightly blurred look in the background, which should give your images a more professional look.

The camera software in the ZTE Blade V8 Pro will also allow you to quickly change where the focus is in the foreground or background in your images. Again, this is a nice feature that is usually reserved for higher end smartphones, so it’s interesting that it’s available on a more affordable device. The front-facing camera on the phone is more conventional with just one 8MP sensor for making selfies.

As far as the other hardware aspects of the Blade V8 Pro, it has a 5.5-inch display with Full HD resolution. Inside, there’s a octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, along with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of onboard storage, with a microSD card slot to add up to 128GB of extra storage. It’s also a dual SIM device for people who need two phone numbers on one smartphone.

ZTE decided to ship the phone with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box instead of Nougat, in case you are bothered by that. It has a 3,140mAh battery, which should allow for some decent battery life.  For people who are more security conscious, there’s also a fingerprint sensor in the home button for signing into your device.

People who like both USB Type-C ports and your regular 3.5mm headphone jack will be happy to know that both are available on the ZTE Blade V8 Pro. We also noticed that the backing of the phone is made of textured rubber, which should allow people to have a better grip while using it.

Of course, we got only a few minutes to check out the ZTE Blade V8 Pro at CES 2017, so you might want to wait for our full review before you decide to jump in and purchase this phone. If you are convinced already this is your next Android phone, you are in luck as pre-orders are supposed to begin today at various online retailers for the price of $229.98.

ZTE launches Kickstarter campaign for crowd-sourced Project CSX “Hawkeye” phone

ZTE is taking the unusual step of launching one of its new Android smartphones via a Kickstarter fund raising campaign. The phone in question was previously announced as Project CSX, and now has an official name: Hawkeye. The company launched the campaign as part of its CES 2017 announcements.

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Previously, ZTE held a contest for people to submit concepts for new devices and let the public vote for the top five designs. In this case, the winning product idea was an Android smartphone that included eye-tracking technology. ZTE says the final product will use a high resolution, front-facing camera on the phone but did not mention any megapixel numbers.  The camera will detect iris motion which can then be translated into any number of standard Android commands, such as swiping up and down.

In addition, the phone will also come with a self-adhesive case that will allow it to stick to walls and other surfaces. Even the final name of Hawkeye was voted on by the ZTE community. Aside from those two features, Hawkeye will also have a 5.5-inch HD display, dual rear cameras with enhanced image and zoom capabilities (again, no megapixel numbers yet), a fingerprint sensor, and a version of Android Nougat, The phone’s battery and memory size are currently unknown.

ZTE is looking to raise $500,000 within 44 days to begin production of Hawkeye. There’s only one backer reward tier of $199, which gets you one of the new phones. Assuming the Kickstarter campaign is successful, ZTE will begin shipping the phone in September, which is when it will also be made available to the general public.

Check it out on Kickstarter

ASUS ZenFone AR confirmed with Tango camera, 8GB of RAM and Daydream VR support

ASUS has finally confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets of CES 2017. The company has officially announced the ASUS ZenFone AR smartphone, which is only the second such phone that will support Google’s Tango augmented reality-themed 3D camera. The phone also supports Google’s Daydream smartphone VR platform, which means it can be used with the Daydream View headset.

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The Tango part of the ZenFone AR includes a 23MP rear camera,  along with separate motion tracking and depth sensing cameras.  It will allow the phone to use one of over 30 apps in the Google Play Store that have been developed specifically to use Tango’s augmented reality features.

The ZenFone AR will be a fairly large phone, with a 5.7-inch 1440×2560 Super AMOLED display. That’s still a lot smaller than the first Tango-based phone, the 6.4-inch Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. Inside, the ZenFone AR will have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, along with a whopping 8GB of RAM. We are a bit disappointed that the phone won’t come with the just announced Snapdragon 835 chip, especially considering its release time frame, but it’s still a pretty solid powerhouse.

On the bright side, the phone will come with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box. ASUS says the ZenFone AR will have a five-magnet speaker that can support DTS Virtual Surround Sound for better headset audio effects. At the moment, there’s no info on the phone’s onboard storage amount.

There’s no word yet on a price tag for the ASUS ZenFone AR, but the company stated that it plans to release the phone sometime in the second quarter of 2017.