Lenovo Vibe X2 Pro, Selfie Flash Accessory And E Ink Smartband Announced

Lenovo recently launched the new Vibe X2 Pro limited edition smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 in Las Vegas. Lenovo also unveiled a selfie flash accessory and Vibe V10 wearable smartband which is compatible with this smartphone. The Lenovo Vibe X2 Pro packs a 5.3 inch Full HD display and a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon Octa-Core processor, 13 megapixel front and rear camera with LED flash and much more.

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The rechargeable selfie flash accessory allows you to take up to 100 selfies in a single charge. It works by using 8 diffused LEDs to supplement available light for natural color tones, even in low light condition. The Vibe V10 wearable smartband features an E Ink display with up to 7-day battery life. The E Ink display on the smartband helps you to view the phone notifications even in sunlight.

The Lenovo Vibe X2 Pro will go on sale from April 2015. The price of this device will be announced before the launch. Vibe V10 Smartband will reach the global markets in April for $89.

“As lifestyles and everyday habits become more and more mobile, consumers today are looking to devices that deliver both performance and long lasting battery life in sleek, stylish designs. These are some of the driving forces behind our new range of mobile devices that offer blazing fast processing speeds, innovative new features and extended battery life to enhance the mobile experience of the most demanding users.”

– Shao Tao, vice president, Mobile business unit, Lenovo

lenovo_selfie_flash

Asus Zenphone 2 And Zenphone Zoom Announced At CES

Asus just launched the successor of its flagship Zenphone smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 in Las Vegas. The new Zenphone 2 is powered by a 64-bit Intel Atom Z3580 processor which is touted to be 3.1 times faster than its competitors. Along with this device, Asus also unveiled the Zenphone Zoom, which basically comes with the same specifications apart from the 13 megapixel “Pixelmaster” camera which features a 10-element lens, f/2.0 aperture, zero shutter lag, 3X optical zoom and optical image stabilization.

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Asus Zenphone Zoom

Asus Zenphone 2 is the first device to sport a 4 GB RAM. Both the devices runs on the Android 5.0 (Lollipop) Operating System with Zen UI on top of it. This device comes with a new Kids Mode feature that allows the parents to take control over the apps and incoming calls on the device. Asus Zenphone will go on sale in March for just $199. This device will be available in Osmium Black, Sheer Gold, Glacier Gray, Glamor Red and Ceramic White colors. On the other hand, Asus Zenphone Zoom will be available for around $400 in Meteorite black and Glacier white colors.

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Asus Zenphone 2

Asus Zenphone 2 Specifications:

  • 5.5-inch full HD IPS display
  • 1920 × 1080 pixels resolution
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • 2.3 GHz Intel Atom 64-bit Z3580 quad-core processor
  • Android 5.0 (Lollipop) OS
  • Zen UI
  • 13 megapixel rear camera
  • 5 megapixel wide-angle front camera with Pano Selfie
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Up to 64 GB internal memory
  • 128 GB external memory
  • Wi-Fi Direct
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • LTE support
  • 3000 mAh battery

Asus Zenphone Zoom Specifications:

  • 5.5-inch full HD IPS display
  • 1920 × 1080 pixels resolution
  • 2.3 GHz Intel Atom 64-bit Z3580 quad-core processor
  • Android 5.0 (Lollipop) OS
  • Zen UI
  • 13 megapixel rear camera
  • 5 megapixel wide-angle front camera with Pano Selfie
  • Up to 128 GB internal memory
  • 128 GB external memory
  • 5 GB Asus web storage
  • GPS / A-GPS / GLONASS
  • Dual micro SIM
  • LTE support
  • 3000 mAh battery

LG G Flex 2 is A Beauty – Smaller, Faster, and Prettier

LG has kicked off its CES with a stunner – the LG G Flex 2. While many believe that flexible display is the future of mobile, last year’s LG G Flex was at best a cool tech demo with unrealistic pricing and not so great specs. With the second iteration LG is hoping to have a genuinely compelling and unique smartphone.

LG G Flex 2

The biggest improvement in the G Flex 2 is the display. The display size has been reduced from the gigantic 6-inch to a more manageable 5.5-inch, while resolution has been bumped up from 720p to 1080p. The display is also supposed to be a lot brighter than before. The phone measures in at 5.87 by 2.96 inches and doesn’t feel massive thanks to the narrow bezels. The screen is curved to a 700 mm radius. LG claims that the glass is 20% tougher than Gorilla Glass 3. The G Flex 2 houses a 3000 mAH battery, which can be charged from 0 to 50% in just 40 minutes.

One of the unique features of the G Flex was a self-healing back, which allowed the back cover to it to ‘automagically’ repair bending as well as scratching. However, it often took up to 3 minutes for the phone to heal itself. With the G Flex 2, LG is promising a drastically faster heal time of 10 seconds at room temperature.

Under the hood, the LG G Flex is powered by Snapdragon 810 – the latest and greatest from Qualcomm. There’s 2 gigs of RAM, and the device will launch with Lollipop out of the box. There will be 2 variants with 16 and 32 GB of internal storage. Both will support expandable memory up to 128 GB. It will be available in two colours – Platinum Silver, Flamenco Red.

The camera seems to have carried over the enhancements introduced in LG G3. It’s a 13 megapixel with dual-LED flash, Laser Autofocus, and OIS+ (optical image stabilization). The 2.1 megapixel front camera boasts of Gesture Shot while is helpful while taking selfies.

The G Flex 2 ticks all the right boxes, and is undoubtedly a drool worthy device. However, the pricing will ultimately determine its popularity, and LG is keeping mum about the cost for now.

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge Coming To India Next Month For INR 64,990

Back in September, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 4 along with the unique Galaxy Note Edge smartphone at the IFA 2014 in Berlin. The Galaxy Note 4 was released in October, however the Note Edge was delayed for quite some time. Samsung recently announced that the much-awaited Galaxy Note Edge will finally go on sale from next month in India.

Galaxy Note Edge features a curved 5.6 inch display, 2.7 GHz Quad-Core Processor, 16 megapixel camera and much more. Unlike the Galaxy Round, the display of Galaxy Note Edge bends on the right side. The extra space can be used to access the frequently used apps and alerts. This handset comes with a price tag of INR 64,900. Check out the complete specs below.

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“Samsung continues with its legacy of pioneering extraordinary innovations and setting new benchmarks in the mobile industry. The Galaxy Note Edge is a stunningly beautiful device equipped with a unique curved screen which not only makes the smartphone distinctive but also delivers a unique way to access information and optimizes functionality.”

– Asim Warsi, VP, Mobile & IT, Samsung India

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge Specifications:

  • 5.6 inch Super AMOLED display
  • 1600 x 2560 pixels resolution
  • 2.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 Quad-Core Processor
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) Operating System
  • 16 megapixel autofocus camera with Smart OIS
  • 3.7 megapixel front-facing camera with Wide Selfie
  • 32 GB internal memory
  • 128 GB expandable memory
  • 3 GB RAM
  • Air Command
  • S Note, Snap Note, Direct Pen Input
  • Ultra Power Saving Mode
  • 4G Connectivity
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • GPS, NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 3000 mAh Li-ion battery with Adaptive Fast Charging

Spice Dream Uno H Android One Smartphone Launched In India For INR 6,499

Spice today launched the India’s first Android One Hindi smartphone. Yes, you read that right! Spice Dream Uno H is the first smartphone to feature a Hindi Keyboard along with popular Google services such as Chrome, Search, YouTube and Google Maps in Hindi. This handset is specially targeted at the 300 million Hindi speaking people from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and the rest of the country.

Spice Dream Uno H runs on the old Android 4.4 (KitKat) Operating System, however the device will be upgraded to the Android 5.0 Lollipop OS in the coming months. Apart from that, the specs and design of this device is similar to the previously launched Spice Dream Uno Android One smartphone. It also features exclusive Hindi applications such as Aajtak, Sony live, Hungama, Spice Cloud, Google Translate and Google Hindi Input. This handset comes with a price tag of INR 6,499 in India.

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“Keeping in line with our shared philosophy of bringing the best in technology at an affordable price, we are delighted to partner with Google to launch India’s first truly Hindi phone – the Spice Dream Uno H. We firmly believe that this revolutionary phone will contribute immensely in connecting the 300 million Hindi speaking masses to the internet with its useful applications such as Google Search, YouTube and Google Maps. After successful launching the Android One with Google in September this year, this is our next step towards making smartphones more accessible to the Hindi speaking population in the country.”

– Mr. Prashant Bindal, Chief Executive Officer, Spice Mobility Ltd

Spice Dream Uno H Specifications:

  • 4.5 inch IPS display
  • 1.3 GHz quad-core processor
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) OS
  • 5 megapixel rear camera with LED flash
  • 2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • 3G Connectivity
  • 32 GB expandable memory
  • 1700 mAh Li-polymer battery

Skype Translator: Universal Translator Begins Preview (English-Spanish For Now)

Skype Translator UI

Skype Translator, the near real-time translation feature in Skype, which was announced in May and for which the preview sign up started in November of 2014, is now available. Those who signed up for the preview back in November, and those who are on Windows 8.1 (or Windows 10 Technical Preview), can now voice and video chat in English and Spanish in close to real time.

In addition to the voice translation between English and Spanish, more than 40 languages are available for IM conversations. A sample video provided by Skype:

Per Microsoft, this is a project that has been over ten years in the making:

Skype Translator is a great example of the benefit of Microsoft’s investment in research. We’ve invested in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for more than a decade, and now they’re emerging as important components in this more personal computing era. Skype Translator is the most recent and visible example.

On the Skype Garage blog, they explain how the Skype Translator technology works, simplistically:

It is interesting that the blog states how Microsoft has learnt colloquial language usage by being the translation service for social media sites like Facebook. It is clear that whatever deal Microsoft made with Facebook and Twitter to supply the translation services on those sites, was not just to be the translation service, but also to learn from the data and improve other products in their portfolio and fine tune products like Skype Translator.

Another nuance mentioned in the blog post is that the translation appears almost as a third person because based on research, they know customers “who are used to speaking through a human interpreter are quickly at ease with the situation”.

Although there will be kinks in the service, this is a bold new product that can truly help break barriers in communication around the world. Also, given that the service relies on machine learning which in turn gets better as there appears more data to work with, Microsoft and Skype urges everyone to try the service and provide feedback.

Sign up now at this page.

Looking Forward to Windows Phone in 2015

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As 2014 winds down, Windows Phone is at a crucial stage in its lifecycle. Again. Earlier in 2014, Microsoft closed the acquisition of Nokia’s hardware division and Windows 10 was launched in a Technical Preview form. Nokia’s acquisition, combined with the upcoming Windows 10-based version of the phone operating system, has perhaps resulted in a slight pause in release of true flagship devices that can compete with the latest versions of competing platforms, the iPhone and Android/Nexus lineup.

So, as we look forward to the early 2014 look at the combined Windows RT and Windows Phone OS based on Windows 10, what can Microsoft do to preserve and grow its share, both market share as well as mind share? Recently, some prominent writers have written in detail about why they are no longer using Windows Phone as their primary device. Key takeaways there were lack of proper support of the platform by the largest mobile network in the US, Verizon Wireless, as well as lack of key apps on the platform. Apps that include the likes of Slack, Trello, Snapchat, Tinder, etc.

I have my own reasons why I switched to using iPhone 5s as my primary device last year. I know Windows Phone 8.1 added Notification Center but many of the problems are still valid issues for those who care about top-end Windows Phone experience. For example, adding Action Center to store all notifications is a great start, but in order to take action on those notifications, you have to tap it which opens the app, and then you take action within the app. Android, and now even iOS to a certain extent, have actionable notifications and those need to be implemented on Windows Phone.

The broader issue with Windows Phone is that for the third year in a row, enthusiasts are made to wait for “the next version” for feature parity with iOS and Android. Meanwhile those two platforms, due to the incredible ecosystem which creates a great virtuous cycle, have implemented next-generation features that move the goal posts for Windows Phone. Also, this wait for the next version of Windows Phone only takes care of part of the problem plaguing the platform; app developers are still not flocking to the platform because in the US, where most of the innovative apps have been created in the recent past, Windows Phone is still languishing around the 3% market share. Forget Windows Phone, even choosing Android as the second platform to be supported by small developers, is hard (although that Android situation is changing slowly).

Here are some things to look forward to as yet another chapter opens for Windows phone (yes, the “p” is lower case, because rumors suggest that Windows Phone operating system will be merged with Windows RT and just called Windows 10):

Windows 10

There’s a lot of hope for Windows 10’s ARM-based OS version, the merger of Windows RT and Windows Phone. How will apps built for Windows Phone work on Windows 10? What about additional features in the OS which will create an unforeseen appetite both on the consumer side as well as on the developer side? Cortana has rightly won accolades for how well she works, but it has not moved the needle much for device sales. Granted, it is not fully launched yet, but still. Also, what else can Windows 10 do that iOS and Android don’t do, and more importantly, can Microsoft find something that Windows 10 can do which iOS and Android *won’t* be able to do?

Windows 10 Product Family
Windows 10 Product Family

Flagships

One of the issues I had with Windows Phone when I got my iPhone 5s was the increased (and justifiable) focus by Microsoft on the lower end. They see their best market potential in markets which haven’t achieved smartphone saturation yet. In those markets, Microsoft has been able to sell their entry-level devices quite well. So Microsoft making “affordable flagship” a term for mid-range devices with some high-end specifications is completely understandable.

However, many customers in the developed markets would love to get a true high-end phone that competes well with the flagship iPhone and Android devices. The Lumia 1020, for example, has no successor yet. Yes, the Lumia 1520 is a great phone but there needs to be a non-phablet version of that device to make it appealing to the larger customer base.

Lumia 1520
Lumia 1520
Lumia Icon
Lumia Icon

Updates

Yes, Microsoft did create a bypass of sorts by making it possible for any “developer” to get direct updates of the software from Microsoft. Pretty much anyone can sign up to be a “developer” by signing into App Studio online, thereby making sure any enthusiast who cares about latest OS versions, will get it directly from Microsoft. That has helped reduce the angst among the enthusiasts but it is only one part of the updates customers need; firmware that makes devices work better, is delivered by the OEMs and via the carriers. Carriers have no real urgency to complete (or in some cases, even start!) testing and delivering the firmware to Windows Phone devices.

Could Microsoft come up with a way to deliver even more firmware directly? I mean, Windows on PCs get all updates delivered directly, and if Windows 10’s mobile version is going to be like “big Windows”, then I am optimistic that most of the updates could be delivered directly by Microsoft. Having said that, could Microsoft find a way, Windows 10 or otherwise, to deliver it without the need for the device to be a developer device?

Mind share

This is a really tough nut for Microsoft to crack. Much of the mind share these days is delivery via the Microsoft-averse tech blogosphere which has settled down on Apple and Google as being the only two players worth caring about. In order to win them over, Microsoft has to climb a virtually impossible mountain but as we have seen in the enterprise/cloud space, it is not impossible. A few crucial strategic moves on the Azure/Visual Studio side have made Microsoft somewhat of a darling in the same tech press, and Microsoft has to find a similar set of moves to make on the consumer side in order to increase their mind share. I say this because even Windows Phone 8.1 is an excellent operating system and there is a lot to love there, but if the writers who write at prominent tech blogs don’t care to use it, and worse, dismiss it, it does not help. I am not sure what those strategic moves could be, but Microsoft does need to make those moves so that the tech press actually cares about writing about Windows devices.

I am optimistic about Windows 10. I like the fact that there will be one OS for phones and tablets and I look forward to seeing some of the well-established Windows Phone apps get upgraded to be Universal and work on small tablets as well. But most importantly, I want to see how Microsoft expands Windows 10 to work as one OS across phones, tablets and PCs. There are many interesting applications of having one OS work across devices of all form factors and I am curious to see how today’s excellent phone applications work on my Windows tablets. On the phone side, I am looking forward to some nice high-end devices and some marquee apps releasing their Universal versions soon.

Here’s looking forward to another exciting year for Microsoft and Windows!

Office Online: Now with Bing Integration in Insights For Office

Office Online, specifically Word Online, has a new feature which is rolling out now, which features tight integration with Bing. This new feature, announced on December 10, is called Insights for Office.

If you remember “Research” pane in earlier versions of Office, this may be familiar. Of course, Insights for Office is supposedly much more powerful because it is very contextual, and utilizes Bing to provide the best possible way to surface web content right inside Word.

The way it works is this: as you write something in Word Online, you can start searching for a word or phrase within the text (by right-clicking) and Bing’s various results are shown in a nice panel. You can see results from Bing Snapshot, Wikipedia, Bing Image Search, Oxford Dictionary, and the whole web. You can avoid switching windows in order to run the searches in a separate tab/window of the browser and instead, see the content right beside your text, thereby reducing workflow disruption.

Insights for Office - Amazon
Insights for Office – Amazon
Insights for Office - Abraham Lincoln
Insights for Office – Abraham Lincoln

Insights for Office will also be triggered through the TellMe search box since that is the other obvious place where someone may enter content-related queries.

The Bing Blog goes on to explain more about how this works:

Bing indexes and stores entity data from around the web representing real world people, places and things. Insights for Office utilizes Bing’s ability to index the world’s knowledge and our machine learned relevance models to semantically understand the most important content in a user’s document and then return the most relevant results. This capability is derived largely from patterns of text analysis developed in collaboration with Microsoft Research. The results deliver the most relevant web links, images, etc. for a given request in the form of entity cards – a quick overview of the most important attributes (description, date of birth, etc.) about a real world person, place or thing. In many cases, the entity card may provide enough information for the user’s query intent to be fulfilled without requiring any additional exploration.

This is yet another integration of Bing into a Microsoft product, further confirming that Bing cannot be spun off from Microsoft, if that thought is still in some investors’ minds. The tight coupling of Bing into a variety of other Microsoft products like Sway, Xbox, Cortana personal digital assistant, etc. solidify Microsoft’s positioning of Bing as a platform rather than a search engine.

Microsoft Now Accepts Bitcoin for Digital Purchases (U.S. Only)

In a surprise move, Microsoft has quietly started accepting Bitcoin as a way to add funds to your account which can be used to purchase digital content like apps, movies, TV shows, games, etc. from Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox Games, Xbox Music and Xbox Video stores.

In a FAQ on the Microsoft billing site, one can see how Bitcoin can be used to add money to your Microsoft account:

To add money to your Microsoft account with Bitcoin:

  1. Sign in to Microsoft account – Billing with your Microsoft account
  2. Select Payment options > Microsoft account > redeem bitcoin
  3. Select the amount you want to add, then click Next
  4. Review the amount of Bitcoin needed and use your digital wallet to complete the transaction within 15 minutes:
    • On your computer – select Pay with Bitcoin and then pay from your Bitcoin wallet on the same device.
    • On your smartphone – scan the QR code displayed on the page to pay from your mobile wallet app.
    • If your wallet is on another device, you can copy the receiving address and BTC amount to the wallet on your device or the Web and then make your purchase.

 

Of course, this feature has caveats besides the fact that this form of payment is supported only in the United States version of the various stores:

  • Bitcoin funding is non-refundable.
  • While the Bitcoin-funded account can be used to purchase digital goods, it cannot be used to purchase Microsoft products and services directly.

This move is another big endorsement for Bitcoin. Per Coindesk, this funding option is enabled by the integration between Microsoft and BitPay, a Georgia-based Bitcoin processor.

Are you excited about this move? Will you be funding your Microsoft account with Bitcoin? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Google Nexus 6 Launched In India; Starting At INR 43,999

Motorola finally launched the much-awaited Google Nexus 6 smartphone in India at the Great Online Shopping Festival (GOSF) 2014. It is the first smartphone which runs on the latest Android 5.0 (Lollipop) Operating System. This handset comes with a 6 inch Quad HD display, 2.7 GHz Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor, 13 megapixel rear camera with dual LED ring flash and 4K UHD video recording capabilities, 3 GB RAM and much more.

Google Nexus 6 comes with a price tag of INR 43,999 for the 32 GB variant and INR 48,999 for the 64 GB variant. This handset is exclusively available at Flipkart in Midnight Blue and Cloud White colors. Nexus 6 owners in India will get 3 month subscription of Flipkart First and pre-selected Flipkart eBooks worth Rs 2100 for free. You can even exchange your old smartphone and get up to INR 10,000 discount while purchasing this device.

“We are humbled by the response we received in India for Moto X. And today, we are delighted to announce the launch of Nexus 6 in India with gosf.in. The Nexus 6 brings with it Better multitasking capabilities, Helpful notifications and Beautiful design enhancing the user experience and style quotient. We are confident that the Indian consumer will enjoy our latest offering.”

– Amit Boni, General Manager, Motorola India

Google Nexus 6 Specifications:

  • 5.96 inch AMOLED display
  • 1440 x 2560 pixels resolution
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • 2.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 with quad-core CPU
  • Adreno 420 GPU
  • Android 5.0 (Lollipop) OS
  • 13 megapixel rear camera with dual LED ring flash
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • 4K UHD video capture
  • 2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 32 GB / 64 GB internal memory
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 (MIMO)
  • Dual front facing stereo speakers
  • NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • 3220 mAh battery

Google Nexus 6 Hands-on Pics:

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