CES 2017

CES 2017

ZTE CEO Lixin Cheng talks growth, the future of 5G and more at CES 2017


At CES 2017, Android Authority’s own Darcy Lacouvee had a conversation with ZTE USA CEO Lixin Cheng about the fantastic 2016 the company enjoyed, the future of connected devices, what we can expect from upcoming 5G technology, and a whole lot more.

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ZTE enjoyed a continuous growth in sales and market share in the US last year, at a time when the overall smartphone market has actually seen a small decline.  ZTE now claims 13% of the market share in the US, and have consolidated their position as the third most popular Android OEM in the country, with close to 18 million units shipped.

Of course, ZTE has been around in the US for a while, and are known for their affordable line of entry-level and mid-range smartphones. However, it was only recently, with the Axon series, that ZTE made an impact in the flagship segment, with the Axon 7 considered one of the best smartphones of 2016.

ZTE also launched 8-inch and 10-inch Android tablets last year that feature LTE connectivity, introduced a “mini” iteration of the Axon 7, and launched Project CSX, that had users vote on what features they would like on a smartphone and its name, leading to the Hawkeye smartphone, that ZTE is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for.

While ZTE is better known for their smartphones, the company has invested heavily in connected devices, such as devices for connected cars that included the AT&T Mobley, which makes your car a Wi-Fi Hotspot, and T-Mobile SyncUp Drive, which provides an easy way to monitor your car, track the location, connect to Wi-Fi when on the go, and more.

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ZTE has invested over $300 million in 5G technology

ZTE has also invested over $300 million in 5G technology, with the aim to able to deploy it over existing 4G networks. The company is hoping to set the standard in the future of mobile technology, especially with connected devices continuing to become a big part of our future. Low latency and high speeds are essential for this, and ZTE is currently seeing speeds up to 15 Gbps in their testing.

However, it’s early days yet, and we can expect a commercial launch only around 2020. While 5G infrastructure will require a heavy investment of close to $40 billion by network carriers, ZTE is also showcasing what they call pre-5G, that is based on current 4G networks, which means that users will be able to enjoy incredible data speeds without needing to upgrade their current smartphones.

Lixin Cheng credits a lot of ZTE’s success to the consumers, with the company continuously striving to provide the best devices and experiences possible based on consumer needs and wants. ZTE announced the launch of the Z Community at last year’s CES, and community members play an active role in letting ZTE know what best suits their needs. ZTE has over 33 million active users in the US, and the goal is to do as much as possible to make them even happier.

Catch the whole interview with ZTE USA CEO Lixin Cheng in the video above, and stay tuned with Android Authority for more great coverage from CES 2017!

LG’s new voice-activated robot for the home is powered by Alexa


LG makes everything from smartphones to refrigerators, and now they’ve added robots to their repertoire.

At the center of your future smart home, LG pictures a stationary robot assistant called the Hub Robot. It looks as non-threatening as you would want a robot that stays in your house to look, with a smooth, round design complete with digital quirky expressions. It even dances along with the music you play, which is both odd and adorable.

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The screen that acts as its face is where you’ll find the eyes, which appear to wait expectantly for you to command it. Like many products at CES this year, the Hub Robot takes aim squarely at the smart home. LG has partnered with Amazon and Google to bring similar AI functionality to their robot. Unlike the Echo or Google Home however, you can rename the Hub Robot to whatever you want. So if you aren’t fond of yelling out “Hey Google” or “Hey Alexa”, you can simply rename it to something like Fred. Hey Fred.

In LG’s vision of the future, your virtual assistant will work with all of your home appliances thanks to SmartThinQ. Everything from your refrigerator to the lock on your front door can be taken care of by the Hub Robot. There’s no word on pricing or availability just yet, but the functionality is still pretty exciting.

Be sure to stay tuned to Android Authority for more coverage on the latest tech at CES 2017.

The photo-themed Kodak Ektra is coming to the US and Canada in April


After launching in Europe back in December, the unique looking Kodak Ektra smartphone, with its emphasis on its camera hardware and software, is coming across the Atlantic. During CES 2017, the company announced the phone will be sold in the US and Canada sometime in April for the price of $549.

In a press release earlier this week, Kodak said that it has been “overwhelmed with the success” of the Ektra phone’s launch in Europe, which is why it decided to bring the phone to North America. The handset, which will have Android 6.0 Marshmallow installed out of the box, features a 21MP fast focus rear camera with f2.0 aperture, dual flash, and support for Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) and Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). It also has a 13MP front-facing camera with PDAF and f2.2 aperture.

Kodak is also hyping up the custom camera app that comes with the Ektra. It supports haptic touch effects on its SLR-style Scene Selection Dial. It allows users to select a wide range of different camera modes, including HDR, Landscape, Portrait, Macro, Sport, Night-time, Panorama and Bokeh. There’s also a Smart Auto mode which can make a mode selection automatically. For hardcore photographers, the phone’s Manual mode will allow users to adjust the exposure, ISO, focus, white balance and shutter speed. There’s even a Super 8 video recorder filter for those of you who want to go retro.

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The other hardware specs inside the Kodak Ektra include a deca-core Helio X20 processor with a clock speed of 2.3 GHz, along with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage, with a microSD card slot for adding more storage, a 3,000mAh battery with fast charging and a USB Type-C port. The phone will work on GSM networks such as T-Mobile and AT&T.

How did we end up with smartphones packing 8GB RAM?

ASUS unveiled its ZenFone AR smartphone at CES 2017 earlier, which packs in plenty of impressive features, including a Tango 3D capture camera and Google DayDream virtual reality support. Another noteworthy specification is that the phone is the first to launch with a whopping 8GB RAM. That’s enough memory to match a high performance PC or video games console, so how did we end up here?

Of course, there’s always an incentive for manufacturers to improve their specifications and be the first with something new, especially when it comes to grabbing the headlines. We saw this with CPU core count a few years ago with the first to quad, octa, and then deca-core processors, and some may remember the camera megapixel wars too. It’s the same story with RAM today, and manufacturers have been steadily increasing the amount of memory in their high-end smartphones even though it’s surplus to requirements for browsing Facebook and playing YouTube videos.

The amount of RAM packed into high-end smartphones has increased substantially over just the past two years

Still, that didn’t stop LG boasting about the arrival of the first phone with 2GB of RAM, the Optimus LTE2, back in 2012. This was followed up by the Asus Zenfone 2’s touting of the world’s first 4GB RAM smartphone in April 2015. The vivo XPlay 5 was the first handset to feature 6GB back in March of 2016, and now just a year later we have our first handset with 8GB RAM. As you can see, the amount of RAM packed into high-end smartphones has increased substantially over just the past two years, and so it wouldn’t be surprising to see even larger amounts appear next year, perhaps a 12GB packaging combination could be on the horizon.

The major facilitator of this trend has been the falling price of DRAM. The past couple of years has seen a major fall in mobile DRAM contract prices, and this cost has continued to decline throughout most of 2016. 8Gb (1GB) of high performance LPDDR4 can be bought for just $6 today, and the average price per GB of RAM fell below $5 in 2016, which includes more expensive PC RAM and dedicated graphics memory.

How did we end up with smartphones packing 8GB RAM? TheMemoryGuy

The cost of implementing large mobile RAM pools has also come down thanks to the increasing prevalence of Package on Package (PoP) memory containing flash and RAM on a single chip. So rather than having to purchase individual RAM and Flash packages, as well as the memory controllers, single packages greatly cut down on the costs of production. The combined 64GB flash, 3GB LPDDR4 Samsung PoP memory inside the Galaxy S7 edge cost around only $50. With prices at a low, there’s very little reason not to include plenty of RAM for bragging rights and to keep increasingly large apps opening up nice and quickly, even if it’s not top of the line LPDRR4X.

8GB RAM might seem like overkill today, but in a year or two this will almost certainly be considered a requirement if virtual reality becomes the big hit that many expect.

Smaller PoP packages with more internal memory have been made possible in recent years thanks to the shrinking of manufacturing nodes. While much fuss is made about the performance improvements that smaller manufacturing processes bring to processors and the like, they’re equally as important for helping to squeeze additional memory into a smaller package and decrease power consumption. As we know, power consumption is a major constraint in mobile products, and more efficient memory packages are equally as important as low prices for bringing big memory counts to smartphones. Samsung unveiled its 10nm 8GB LPDDR4 module back in October, after announcing a 10nm 6GB chip earlier in the year.

While such huge RAM amounts seem superfluous for the most common mobile applications, consumers are beginning to demand more from their handsets and these scenarios are requiring more memory. Gaming and virtual reality are certainly the leading trends, and this is putting strains not only on the amount of available memory, but also its performance. Memory bandwidth has been a bottle neck for graphics performance in smartphones for a long time now, but the arrival of LPDDR4 and LPDDR4X memory, which has been supported by Qualcomm’s flagship processors since the Snapdragon 810, is helping to alleviate this bottleneck. MediaTek’s Helio X30, HiSilicon’s new Kirin 960, and Samsung’s Exynos 8890 also support LPDDR4 memory, which offers up 28.7GB/s bandwidth.

How did we end up with smartphones packing 8GB RAM?

If we want our smartphones to close in on the capabilities in today’s laptops, PCs and games consoles, and this is certainly where VR, AR, and mobile gaming trends are taking us, then our smartphones require not only more memory, but faster and more efficient RAM as well. 8GB RAM might seem like overkill today, but in a year or two this will almost certainly be considered a requirement if virtual reality becomes the big hit that many expect. It’s no coincidence that ASUS debuted the first 8GB RAM smartphone while also touting virtual reality and Tango capture capabilities.

Hands-on: Acer Chromebook 11 N7 is made to withstand abuse

This post was originally published on TabTimes.com.

Acer has been focused on bringing consumers plenty of solid, affordable Chromebooks over the past few years, and that’s still very prevalent today. With the launch of the Chromebook 11 N7 (fancy name, huh?), the company plans to bring a durable, compact and spill-resistant computing solution to classes around the world.

Join us as we go hands-on with the Acer Chromebook 11 N7 at CES 2017!

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First, let’s talk about software. This is a standard Chromebook though and through, so anyone familiar with Chrome OS will be right at home with the N7. A simple, clean, no-frills software experience is what you’ll find here, which is perfect for students in the classroom. And that’s a good thing, too, because those are the exact people Acer is targeting with this new device.

Hands-on: Acer Chromebook 11 N7 is made to withstand abuse

As for aesthetics, you’ll notice the N7 sports a soft, somewhat rugged-looking exterior, and that’s because this device is rugged. Not only is it built to MIL-STD 810G spec, it’s also been drop tested to 48 inches, and it sports a spill-resistant keyboard. Again, perfect for kids.

The N7 can handle up to 132 pounds of downward force on the top cover, thanks in part to the reinforced case and hinges. Acer designed the N7 with a corner shield structure and rubber bumper keyboard to add some extra protection to this Chromebook, too.

Hands-on: Acer Chromebook 11 N7 is made to withstand abuse

Let’s not forget about the spill-resistant keyboard. The keyboard, which is flush with the rest of the device to prevent keys from being removed, will provide protection against spills of up to 11 fluid ounces of water. Underneath the keyboard and touchpad are gutter systems and drains which route water away from the internal components and out the bottom of the chassis. Pretty awesome.

Hands-on: Acer Chromebook 11 N7 is made to withstand abuse

Around the sides of the device you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, an HDMI port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and an DC-in jack for AC adapter. Unfortunately this Chromebook doesn’t feature a USB Type-C port for charging, so you’ll need to use Acer’s proprietary cable for your charging needs.

Hands-on: Acer Chromebook 11 N7 is made to withstand abuse

Under the hood, the N7 features a dual-core Intel Celeron N3060 processor, 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 16 or 32GB of on-board storage. Intel’s N3060 chip is a little old at this point, which is something worth taking into account if you value speedy performance. It also comes with a 4,090mAh battery, which Acer says will be able to get you 12 hours of use on a single charge.

Hands-on: Acer Chromebook 11 N7 is made to withstand abuse

Up front sits the 11.6-inch TFT LCD display with a resolution of 1366 x 768, which comes in both touchscreen and non-touchscreen variants. The coolest part of the display, though, is that the hinge can bend down to 180 degrees, allowing you to lay the Chromebook completely flat to more easily share content on the screen with others.

Hands-on: Acer Chromebook 11 N7 is made to withstand abuse

The Acer Chromebook 11 N7 will be available to education and commercial customers in North America in January 2017, with prices starting at $229.99. It’ll also be available to EMEA customers in February with prices starting at €299.

All in all, this seems to be a fantastic device for students and first-time computer owners alike. What are your thoughts on the latest from Acer? Be sure to tell us your thoughts in the comments below!


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Here’s the gorgeous Xiaomi Mi Mix in white

Everyone thought that Xiaomi was going to introduce a bevy of new devices at CES, given that this is the very first year that the Chinese manufacturer has an actual presence on the showroom floor, but as it turns out, the only “new” smartphone that they announced was a different color variant of an existing device – the Xiaomi Mi Mix. Now available in a pristine white ceramic paint job, it complements the existing, almost bezeless, all-black version of the phone that was announced back in late October.

Aesthetically, the near bezel-less nature of the Mi Mix continues to be its standout, offering one of the best screen-to-body ratios in a phone around. However, this new color variant makes the phone less prone to appearing smudgy or messy looking. The polished surface definitely helps to make the phone stand out, which as expected, does a significantly better job at masking those nasty fingerprints and smudges that tend to dirty most devices.

Here’s the gorgeous Xiaomi Mi Mix in white

As for the specs, this variant doesn’t differ from the original one. Just a quick recap, the Xiaomi Mi Mix features a 6.4-inch 1080 x 2040 IPS-LCD display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC, 4GB/6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, 16MP rear camera, a 5MP front facing one that’s slapped in the bottom right corner of the display, and Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Beyond that, everything else about the phone is identical to the phone we saw announced back in the fall. If you haven’t checked out our full, in-depth detailed review of the phone, then we suggest to check it out to see whether or not the near bezel-less display is something that’ll work for you – or whether it’s more of a novelty. In terms of availability, this one, much like the original all-black version, is only going to be made available in China later this year. Therefore, you’ll need to think about importing this one when it comes out.

Fossil Group to release more than 300 new wearable devices in 2017


The Fossil Group clearly has its eyes set on the wearables market. In 2016, it announced more than 140 wearable devices across different brands including Armani Exchange, Michael Kors, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Skagen, Misfit, and others. This year, Fossil is taking it up a notch as it plans to double the number of wearables it will announce.

During a press conference at CES in Las Vegas, Fossil Group said that it will release more than 300 wearable devices, which include smartwatches, activity trackers, and others, in 2017. It wants to spark consumer interest with a fashion-first approach, meaning that it plans to make its upcoming devices as beautiful and trendy as possible.

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Greg McKelvey, Fossil Group’s chief strategy and digital officer, said that consumers are looking for wearables that will keep them connected and look good at the same time. And he does have a point. Design is an important factor not only for wearables but for other tech gadgets as well. No one really wants to have an ugly device strapped to their wrist, regardless of its cool features.

Fossil has already shown that it can make great wearable devices that are easy on the eyes. We’re looking forward to seeing what the company has in store for us this year, under different brand names.

Huawei plans to launch its own Tango-based AR smartphone


The number of smartphones that come equipped with augmented reality cameras based on Google’s Tango technology can be counted on one hand so far; the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the upcoming ASUS ZenFone AR. Today, we can confirm that Huawei will join that small group and will launch a Tango-based smartphone of its own.

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There’s nothing else we know at this point about Huawei’s Tango phone, other than it is due for release in the near future, not even a code-name. Although we imagine that it will be packing in similarly power hardware to existing Tango handsets. We do know that competitor Lenovo plans to launch a Moto Mod for its Moto Z lineup of phones that will allow them to gain access to Tango’s AR tech, along with another stand alone Tango phone sometime later in 2017.

So far, most app developers have decided not to make AR apps that work with Tango. Indeed, there’s only about 36 Tango-capable apps in the Google Play Store at the moment. Today in a blog post, Google said that more of these apps are in the works, including one from the clothing retailer Gap called DressingRoom that will allow Tango phone owners to place clothes on virtual mannequins, which should allow owners to see how they look in a real world environment.

For more information on what Huawei has planned for the future, be sure to check out our exclusive video interview with the company’s CEO Richard Yu at CES 2017.

Huawei Mate 9 Pro, Porsche Design Mate 9 and ZTE Axon 7 to add Daydream VR support

More Android phones will soon be adding support for Google’s Daydream VR platform, which launched in November with the Google Pixel and Pixel XL. Today, the company confirmed that the Mate 9 Pro and Porsche Design Mate 9 phones from Huawei, along with the ZTE Axon 7, will all be updated with support for Daydream apps in the near future.

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These three phones join the already announced ASUS ZenFone AR, which will have both Daydream and Tango augmented reality support when it launches later in 2017.

Huawei Mate 9 Pro, Porsche Design Mate 9 and ZTE Axon 7 to add Daydream VR support

In addition, Huawei is also working on its own smartphone VR headset that will be compatible with any Daydream app. Google stated the headset will have a 95 degree field of view, along with an adjustable focus so it can be used without eyeglasses. This will be the first third-party headset to support Daydream; Google has been selling its own DayDream View headsets since November for $79. Huawei’s headset will only be sold in China.

There’s no word on when the new Huawei VR headset will go on sale, nor is there any info on what its price tag will be. Nevertheless, we strongly suspect that it should land somewhere around the price of Google’s headset. All of this would seem to bode well for the Daydream platform as a whole, and we expect more Android smartphone makers will join this group in 2017.

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.