Phandroid » Industry News Android Phone News, Rumors, Reviews, Apps, Forums & More! Thu, 05 Mar 2015 19:41:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Apple and LG tie for best smartphone of 2014 award, Moto 360 takes wearables Thu, 05 Mar 2015 15:00:19 +0000 Every year at Mobile World Congress, the GSMA — the folks behind the event — vote on the best technology, software and ideas in mobile. This year’s winners might have seemed obvious, but there were a couple of “gotchas” that caused us to take notice.


The biggest shock is that Apple didn’t take home the Best Smartphone award alone for the iPhone 6. They actually tied with LG for the LG G3. It’s sure to be great news for the South Korean manufacturer up against stiff competition from their neighbors Samsung or the folks out in Taiwan named HTC.

Motorola took home two awards for two different products. They won Best Affordable Smartphone (those which cost $100 or less) for last year’s Moto E, and took home the Best Wearable category for the stunning Moto 360.

Moto 360 DSC06955

Other notable wins at the Global Mobile Awards include Gameloft winning Best Game for Asphalt 8, and IFTTT winning the big grandaddy of app awards with their automated web service being voted the best overall app of 2014. Well deserved, we’d say.

As we found when we reflected on the year a while back, 2014 was great. The best part is that 2015 is looking even better with tons more wearables bound to be introduced, great new smartphones on the horizons and more innovations that we have yet to even know about. Be sure to take a look at all of the winners over at the GMA website if you’re curious.

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Android 5.0 Lollipop is now on 3.3% of Android devices Tue, 03 Mar 2015 15:58:47 +0000 android version numbers march 2nd

Google’s back with another platform update, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect considering many developers are converging at Mobile World Congress and the Game Developers Conference. The latest update shows us that Android 5.0 Lollipop is now loaded up on 3.3% of all Android phones with access to Google Play. This is a decent jump from the 1.6% Lollipop had when it first found its way onto the list last month.

That number may seem small, but considering the sheer amount of Android devices roaming about that’s a sizable portion of the user base. Jelly Bean is dying a slow death, but it’s still commanding a combined 42.6%, which is sadly a bit more than KitKat’s 40.9%. Ice Cream Sandwich is also still hanging in there at a respectable 5.9%.

Despite the world’s leading device manufacturers racing to get their devices upgraded to the newest versions of Android, the fast pace at which the operating system evolves means no one version will ever fade off soon enough. Take Gingerbread, for instance, which still has 6.9% of the pie.

The sad truth is that there are just as many — if not more — devices that will get left behind as there are devices that will get the latest versions of Android. The good part? Manufacturers are starting to take the idea of budget devices seriously and are releasing great low-cost options that come with the latest versions of Android. You might as well upgrade to a new smartphone if you’re one of the unlucky few who are stuck on archaic software.

[via Google]

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Google holds off on device encryption requirements for a later version of Android, but why? Mon, 02 Mar 2015 20:23:16 +0000 Android 5.0 Lollipop DSC07205

In Google’s efforts to make Android a more secure platform, the company once required that all devices with Android 5.0 Lollipop or higher would have key partitions of the system disk permanently encrypted upon first boot. The Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 — the first publicly available devices with Lollipop — sure enough followed suit.

But several other devices to launch with Lollipop since then seem to come without encryption enabled. Many of the newest handsets introduced at Mobile World Congress are also found to have no encryption. So what, exactly, is going on?

Google quietly changed their Android Compatibility Definition policy to say that OEMs are no longer required to enable encryption on their phones out of the box. They still have to support encryption, but there’s nothing that says they have to enable it out of the box.

9.9 Full-Disk Encryption

If the device implementation has a lock screen, the device MUST support full-disk encryption of the application private data (/data patition) as well as the SD card partition if it is a permanent, non-removable part of the device. For devices supporting full-disk encryption, the full-disk encryption SHOULD be enabled all the time after the user has completed the out-of-box experience. While this requirement is stated as SHOULD for this version of the Android platform, it is very strongly RECOMMENDED as we expect this to change to MUST in the future versions of Android.

Does that mean Google’s vision for an encrypted Android is dead? Not at all. In fact, the company notes that they will be reintroducing the requirement for a later version of Android, and it’s that very reason they urge manufacturers to make a habit of enabling device encryption by default.

So that answers the question of why new devices aren’t coming encrypted out of the box. Now the question changes: why has Google decided to hold off?


The likely answer is that device encryption either isn’t as ready as they thought it was, or that it’s too messy for an OEM to implement if they haven’t designed their phones with the encryption requirement in mind. Device encryption was blamed for the problematic performance issues of the latest Nexus devices (we even showed you how to disable it on the Nexus 6 to boost performance), though Google has yet to confirm whether it’s that feature which causes the issues.

For what it’s worth we’re hearing that many of the issues will be cleared up with the big Android 5.1 Lollipop bug fixer that’s due later this month so perhaps that’s the future version of Android Google is referring to. The delay might also give OEMs more time to adjust their firmware and hardware to handle device encryption more efficiently. Adjustments might include the use of a faster file system and faster flash storage.

Of course, only Google and their OEM partners know the true answer so we’ll have to wait for more details to leak before knowing why, exactly, they’ve decided to shelve the requirements.

[via Ars Technica]

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“Android Pay” likely to be introduced as a full-blown wireless payments platform at Google I/O Mon, 02 Mar 2015 18:46:19 +0000 Nexus 7 Google Wallet 2

Before you freak out, no — Google Wallet is not dying. In fact, it might actually get better. Google’s Sundar Pichai spoke at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this morning about the company’s plans for mobile payments in the future. This comes at a time where Apple and now Samsung have thrown their hats into the arena with exciting platforms of their own.

Google Wallet in the now slightly pales in comparison to those guys, but Android Pay will hopefully look to change that. The first thing to know is that Android Pay won’t actually replace Google Wallet.

Instead it’s a full-blown payment platform and API that Google and third-party developers alike can tap into. Google Wallet will likely still exist as its own app and service, but Google will use Android Pay as the backbone. Don’t like Google Wallet? Another developer could come along and do things differently, but still enjoy the same secure backbone that Google uses with little issue and you’d be free to give that service a go if you so wish.

For its part, Google says they aren’t necessarily threatened by Samsung’s move to enter the wireless payment space. In fact, Google hopes the two can work together in some way and get the idea of wireless payments into the hands, pockets and minds of more people. Google has a leg up on Samsung thanks to their acquisition of Softcard (formerly ISIS) which is already backed by most of the United Stats’ major carriers.

Unfortunately that’s all we know at this point. We’re not sure what other plans Google has to affect the wireless payment scenes in a powerful way, but we should be treated to more details once Google I/O arrives.

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Google’s Sundar Pichai confirms plans to launch an MVNO wireless carrier and their motive behind it Mon, 02 Mar 2015 18:14:03 +0000 Google-HQ_logo

Before we had our bit of morning fun over at the Android booth, Google’s Sundar Pichai — who heads the Chrome and Android teams — took to the stage at the Mobile World Congress opening keynote. The full talk was quite interesting and chock full of discussion about the now and the future.

Most of what you care about is in the future. Thankfully Pichai confirmed a few different rumors we’d been hearing since 2014 and earlier. The biggest confirmation was that Google certainly is exploring opportunities to introduce a new wireless service that leverages WiFi technology to facilitate ultra affordable mobile service.

Google’s not trying to become the next Verizon, nor do they expect to. Instead, the company will look to work with those carriers in an effort to help push connectivity and network stability forward.

Solving issues like seamless hand-offs between WiFi and cellular and the ability to have two calls automatically reconnect in the event of a drop are just a couple of the things Google wants to explore in their venture. We know it’s not purely about money — Google’s revenue stream is healthy enough as is — so we know their motives are fueled by their never-ending desire to innovate.

Google didn’t confirm who they’d be working with to get this off the ground (rumors suggest Sprint and T-Mobile are likely candidates), but the company will hopefully have more formal details to share at Google I/O later this year.

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Qualcomm’s 3D fingerprint scanner could finally allow Samsung to ditch physical home buttons [VIDEO] Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:12:23 +0000 qualcomm-snapdragon

Alongside an announcement that they’ve teamed up with CyanogenMod, Qualcomm had some other interesting news to share this morning. The first bit of news pertains to the next generation of Snapdragon.

The details are scarce at the moment, but we’re told to expect Snapdragon “820” to be built with a FinFET 14nm or 16nm process, which would make for a physically smaller die that uses less power. Qualcomm will also be taking this opportunity to introduce their own mobile 64-bit CPU architecture named “Kryo,” which is a custom ARM v8-A chip. Sampling will begin later this year, which should mean first devices will start to use the new chipset as soon as this time next year.

But that’s not even the most exciting news out of Qualcomm today. The company announced a new fingerprint scanning technology that utilizes 3D imaging through supersonic waves to capture a user’s fingerprint instead of 2D-based sensors currently used by the likes of Samsung and Apple.

Dubbed “Sense ID,” the fingerprint scanner’s ability to capture a print using supersonic waves enables the scanner to be used even if the scanner’s surface is covered by plastic, glass and metal. Imagine a device that doesn’t require a physical home button or any other visible, tangible part that the user has to interface with in order to enable fingerprint scanning — !%&* just got real.

Samsung currently uses Synaptics’ surface area fingerprint scanner for the Samsung Galaxy S6. As you’ll see in our quick video showing the feature it doesn’t require you to swipe anymore, but it does still require a physical surface (and we suspect that’s the main reason Samsung still uses physical home buttons aside from visual differentiation). Apple would wet itself if Samsung could finally meet everyone’s wishes to ditch that button and place a scanner beneath a small bezel area unseen by the user.

More than just practicality and design, the ultrasonic 3D imaging also makes Qualcomm’s implementation more secure. The sensor’s ability to map the surface area — including the depth of the ridges and all the other unique imperfections in your fingers — makes it harder for no-gooders to spoof a 2D pattern based on your fingerprint.

Qualcomm says some of their current chips (namely the Snapdragon 810 and the Snapdragon 425) already support Sense ID, so device manufacturers planning to use their latest silicon will have the option to put these scanners inside forthcoming phones without much issue. Qualcomm is also working on a standalone solution for even more flexibility.

As good as the fingerprint scanning technology on the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 is right now, Qualcomm’s innovative take on it has us looking forward. We can’t wait to see who’ll be the first to take advantage.

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Cyanogen gets a new look, a new tone and a new business partner in Qualcomm Mon, 02 Mar 2015 14:43:56 +0000 cyanogenmod new logo

It’s no secret Cyanogen could use a change of pace and scenery after the company’s public falling out with OnePlus One and the controversy that spawned of the Micromax deal in India. Cyanogen wants to turn the page from not only that, but from their core roots of security, customization and their open-source ideals.

The company wants to grow and evolve in a way that’s more inviting for, well, everyone. Their new logo, look and website — shots of which you can see above and below — supposedly embodies their new values, but to us it’s just a fresh (and pretty) coat of paint.

cyanogenmod new site logo

What we really care about is their new found commitment to users, openness (not just in the open-source way) and a “democratic” approach to building an operating system, community and ecosystem. It’s a natural step forward for a company which publicly wants to “take Android away from Google.”

That’s not to say they want Google to simply hand over the rights to the operating system — that’s an insane notion — but they want to create a platform for manufacturers, developers and users to use Android on their products without having to worry about the hijinks that often come along with it.

We’re referring to Google Play Services and the need to adhere by Google’s strict licensing terms in order to get the “best” Android experience. It’s their belief (and ours, too) that the “best” Android experience shouldn’t have to be limited to those with enough resources and clout to gain access to Google’s apps and services. It’s that approach to building CyanogenMod that could help the company mature and reach new heights that we have yet to see from someone with their grassroots background.

cyanogenmod history

With all of this comes a new partnership with Qualcomm that will have the company’s ROM installed on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon reference design devices going forward. The partnership only covers reference designs from the Snapdragon 400 and Snapdragon 600 series to start, and there’s nothing that says the deal can’t expand to the top-line 800 series down the line.

In case you’re not aware, a reference device is a development device for manufacturers and developers to use for application and platform testing. They’re often tricked out with industry standard specs, but the cost of entry is typically higher than a similar device at retail and they don’t have the looks to be a viable everyday smartphone for most users.

They also don’t ship with a very exciting operating system, that being a barebones version of AOSP. This partnership will change that and give developers a platform just as exciting to use as the device they’re using it on.

We’re sure it’s Cyanogen’s hope that the partnership will inspire device manufacturers and developers to embrace CyanogenMod as not just a viable development environment, but also as a platform that they can potentially build their products with. Best of luck to them in achieving that goal.

[via Cyanogen]

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SanDisk was able to stuff 200GB of storage space inside their latest microSD card Sun, 01 Mar 2015 21:23:55 +0000 SanDisk-microSD200gb-hero-blnk

You thought SanDisk’s 128GB microSD cards were insane? The company has just announced another huge milestone — a whopping 200GB of data inside a chip smaller than the size of a nickle. It’s a UHS-1 Class 10 chip, which means it can transfer data at up to 90 megabytes per second.

So why not 256GB, the natural step up from 128GB? It’s likely SanDisk was unable to physically fit enough circuitry, doodads and whatever else makes these things tick inside such a compact form factor. It’s possible that could change with refined engineering techniques in the future, but for now this is as high as it gets.

You shouldn’t bat an eyelash at 200GB. It’s absolutely insane, and it’s even crazier to know that it can work in any device that supports microSDXC cards of 64GB or higher (which includes the newly-announced HTC One M9, but unfortunately not the just-as-fresh Samsung Galaxy S6).

Of course, you’d have to be willing to spend the $400 that this thing will cost to start so if you have that sort of money to throw around on micro storage chips you’ll likely be able to afford a smartphone that can utilize it. The chips are due Q2 2015.

[via SanDisk]

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Samsung Pay aims to do what other wireless payment platforms can’t Sun, 01 Mar 2015 19:53:53 +0000 samsung wireless payment

During the announcement event for the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, the South Korean giant introduced a new payment platform to take on Apple and Google.

It’s called Samsung Pay — based on the recently acquired LoopPay — and it will use the NFC + Magnetic Secure Transmission chips found inside the company’s latest smartphones to facilitate wireless transactions with a great deal of pre-existing point-of-sale terminals. Samsung’s chip will allow their payment service to be compatible with more merchants and banking institutions than any other single service. Here are just a few of the partners they’ve gotten on board on the banking side:

  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Citi
  • Chase
  • U.S. Bank

Not too shabby a list there.

They’ve taken a lot of pride in the strides made in areas of security, as well. The company has incorporated new elements into Samsung KNOX that will serve as the backbone of the secure payment platform.

The use of temporary tokens makes it so that your hard credit card information is not mishandled by whichever merchants you do business with, and your information doesn’t get saved to your device which would make it hard for any thieving no-gooders to somehow snag your credit card information from your phone.

It all sounds very promising, but we’ll have to wait until the service launches before seeing just how much potential Samsung has to impact the wireless payments scene.

The first markets to receive it will be South Korea and the United States this summer, with Samsung looking to extend into parts of Asia and EU before too long. Anyone with a Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge will be able to give it a go once it hits their market.

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Samsung announces mass production of 128GB UFS 2.0 storage for high-end mobile devices Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:55:34 +0000 samsung storage ufs 2

Samsung has announced that they’ve started mass producing the industry’s first 128GB Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 2.0 units for next generation smartphones. In case you don’t know, UFS is a standard that looks to combine the read/write speeds of solid-state memory with the power consumption benefits of the eMMC technology utilized in most smartphones.

This should make for blazing fast loading speeds and more reliable performance without having to worry about it guzzling the power needed to make the rest of the phone run. Samsung also touts the chip’s ability to save up to 50% of space on the physical motherboard thanks to its ability to be stacked directly on top of a logic chip.

“With our mass production of ultra-fast UFS memory of the industry’s highest capacity, we are making a significant contribution to enable a more advanced mobile experience for consumers,” said Jee-ho Baek, Senior Vice President of Memory Marketing, Samsung Electronics. “In the future, we will increase the proportion of high-capacity memory solutions, in leading the continued growth of the premium memory market.”

Samsung says they expect the units will be use in future high-end smartphones, though the company wasn’t willing to name drop. Our obvious first guess is that they could be looking to stuff these inside an ultra premium variant of the Samsung Galaxy S6.

It’s worth noting Samsung is also mass producing these storage units in 32GB or 64GB flavors so there’s a chance those could be the standard inside of Samsung’s latest high-end handsets going forward. Let’s just hope the first beneficiary of this memory is the very device we’re headed to Barcelona to see next month (that, of course, being the Samsung Galaxy S6).

[via Samsung]


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Google Wallet will come pre-installed on carrier devices this year with help from Softcard Mon, 23 Feb 2015 19:10:24 +0000 softcard-tappy

After carriers shunned Google’s NFC-based payment system 3 years ago in favor of rival mobile payment service Isis Mobile Wallet (later renamed to Softcard), Google Wallet is making a comeback in a big way. We initially heard rumors last month that Google would be swooping in to buy up struggling Softcard, but it seems they’re simply acquiring some of their “exciting” technology instead.

The new partnership makes Google Wallet more carrier friendly and in a blog post, Google announced that Wallet will soon come pre-installed on all Android devices, KitKat on up. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile — who launched Isis in November of 2013 — are all on board (Sprint was on board with Google Wallet from the get-go), giving Android users one less step when it comes to setting up Wallet’s tap-to-pay NFC payments on their device.

Google Wallet is now poised to go against Samsung’s mobile wallet (they recently acquired LoopPay) and Apple Pay in the mobile payment space. Suddenly things have just gotten really interesting.

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Motorola’s sending us a mystery box on February 25th, and we have no idea what’s inside Fri, 20 Feb 2015 19:11:11 +0000 Motorola a Lenovo company DSC07719

Motorola has sent us (and every other member of the press, apparently) a note suggesting that we will be receiving a box next Wednesday, February 25th. “Everything you need is inside one box,” they say, though they don’t give us any hint as to what, exactly, will be inside.

So let the guessing game begin. Their next big smart watch announcement? A new Moto E? The company’s first tablet in forever? Something totally mind-blowingly awesome that we can’t even begin to fathom what it is?

It could be any number of those things. What we aren’t expecting is a new Moto X — a bit too soon for one of those, we think — but anything is possible. Only one way to find out: circle back with us next Wednesday when we get to take a peek inside that box once it hits our doorstep.

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Google reportedly introducing refreshed Wallet strategy at Google I/O 2015 Fri, 20 Feb 2015 18:37:59 +0000 Nexus 7 Google Wallet 2

There’s no secret Google Wallet has become a bit of an afterthought after the introduction of Apple Pay and Google’s lack of movement to get their payment platform out to more retailers. But that doesn’t mean Google’s willing to just lay down and let their rival in Cupertino take over.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google is rethinking their mobile payments strategy and will look to reintroduce the next phase of their payment platform at Google I/O. The specifics are light for the time being, but it’s said Google will look to provide great incentive to carriers, retailers and banks to get on board by using tactics such as increasing their share of profits.

And even if that isn’t enough, it’d be hard for a good deal of them to turn Google away when they welcomed Apple Pay — which uses the same technology as Google Wallet for wireless payments — with open arms, exclusivity deals aside.

The New Google Wallet will apparently be more than just a “tap and pay” app, though, with Google looking to launch an entirely new payments platform based on it. We’d already seen great evidence of those aspirations in the current Google Wallet implementation, but it sounds like Google essentially wants to become the true middleman that everyone’s been looking for.

Whatever the case may be, we’re glad Google hasn’t given up on their trek to push wireless payments forward even if Apple came in to steal all their thunder with one fell swoop. Google I/O should be quite interesting this summer, for sure.

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Samsung acquires LoopPay for contactless mobile payments without NFC Wed, 18 Feb 2015 21:43:31 +0000 Samsung Logo CES 2015 DSC07883

Rumors of Samsung launching their own mobile payments system have finally been confirmed. Well, for the most part. Instead of developing their own system, the South Korean company announced today that they’ve reached a deal to acquire contactless mobile payments company LoopPay. Competing with both Google Wallet and Apple Pay, LoopPay uses existing magnetic strip readers on pay terminals via Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) — not NFC.

LoopPay graphic

This ensures that, even if a retailer hasn’t yet upgraded their terminals to accept NFC-based payments, you can almost always pay using your smartphone with just a tap. Samsung EVP of Global Innovation Center David Eun had this to say about the deal:

“We are excited to take our relationship with LoopPay to the next level, by bringing consumers a mobile wallet solution that is not just safe and reliable, but also widely accepted at more locations than any competing service.”

A specific dollar amount wasn’t disclosed, but you can expect LoopPay’s technology — which currently requires a bulky case or key fob — to come bundled inside the upcoming Galaxy S6. LoopPay said in a statement on their site that although a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics America, they’ll continue to operate as an independent team out of their Boston, Massachusetts headquarters. Could this be the ace up Samsung’s sleeve in competing with the iPhone?


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Verizon adding new $60 prepaid plan featuring unlimited talk, text and 2.5GB of data March 1st Wed, 18 Feb 2015 16:27:26 +0000 verizon prepaid plan changes

We’re hearing from our insiders at Big Red that Verizon is looking to make make a couple of changes to their prepaid options. Beginning March 1st, the carrier will look to introduce an all new $60 smartphone prepaid plan that’ll give you unlimited talk and text plus 2.5GB of data per month. This is in addition to the $45 smartphone plan that already exists which gives you the same talk and text, but with just 1GB of data.


Those still using basic plans for whatever reason should note that they will be retiring both the current $35 and $45 options and replacing it with just a single one-size-fits-all package. The new package will be $35, and will come with unlimited talk, text and 500MB of data. To compare, the original $35 plan only afforded you 500 talk minutes.

They aren’t huge changes, but for those on prepaid who have been hoping to get more value for their money this is certainly welcome news. We expect Verizon to make a formal announcement a few days short of March 1st so if any other details emerge by then we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

[Thanks, anon!]

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