Phandroid » Industry News Android Phone News, Rumors, Reviews, Apps, Forums & More! Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:55:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Oh Snap: Sprint’s Super Bowl ad will call out AT&T and Verizon [VIDEO] Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:55:38 +0000 sprint sheep ad

It seems like making ads to announce Super Bowl ads is all the rage these days, and Sprint is no doubt trying to get in on the fun. The company has recently put out a new video telling us exactly what they’re going to be doing to get their name out in front of America during the big pigskin showdown.

For starters, they’re going to “apologize” to AT&T and Verizon for calling them sheep in one of their recent advertisements. You know… that one. It’ll go down in the third quarter of the Super Bowl, though we’ll have to watch to find out when, exactly.

For what it’s worth, Sprint says they aren’t apologizing about cutting their customers’ rate plans in half, though considering T-Mobile’s crazy deals didn’t stop AT&T and Verizon from adding millions of customers in 2014 we can’t say the duo at the top of the food chain have any hard feelings. So there it is — Super Bowl this Sunday. Be there for some good carrier-on-carrier drama.

[via Sprint]

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Google made $18.1 billion in revenue last quarter, Chromecast #1 selling streaming device, Google Glass team takes a breather Thu, 29 Jan 2015 23:04:14 +0000 Harry Reid Discusses Clean Energy Policies And Ideas At Google's DC Office

Another day, another earnings call. Leading Google’s Q4 2014 earnings call, as usual, was Google CFO Patrick Pichette talking about the company’s performance towards the end of last year. It’s less than Wall Street expected, but things are still on the up and up.

Google tipped the scales at $18.1 billion in revenue (15% growth year-over-year) and $4.76 billion in net income (up from 2013’s $3.38 billion). This means Google’s total revenue for 2014 was $66 billion, a 19% increase from the previous year.

Sites Revenues – Our sites generated revenues of $12.43 billion, or 69% of total revenues, in the fourth quarter of 2014. This represents an 18% increase over fourth quarter 2013 sites revenues of $10.54 billion.

Network Revenues – Our partner sites generated revenues of $3.72 billion, or 20% of total revenues, in the fourth quarter of 2014. This represents a 6% increase over fourth quarter 2013 network revenues of $3.52 billion.

Other Revenues – Other revenues were $1.95 billion, or 11% of total revenues, in the fourth quarter of 2014. This represents a 19% increase over fourth quarter 2013 other revenues of $1.65 billion.

Google faced some unique challenges this time around (like the growth of the US dollar) and what they call “unusual operating expenses” totaling over $300 million this quarter. Half of this was SBC (stock-based compensation), while the other half came from real estate portfolio. Google also hired more than 2,000 new employees (compared to 1,700 previous year).

Google also didn’t beat around the bush when it came to what just about everyone believed was a failed Google Glass project. Google mentioned that while they aren’t normally afraid to make the tough calls and cancel initiatives when they aren’t working out (or hit milestones before receiving further investments), the team at Google Glass were asked to pause and reset their strategy.

Looking back on 2014, Google talked about some of their more notable achievements like Chromecast being the #1 best selling streaming device in the US last year (with more than 1 billion casts since launch), and the fact that Sony Pictures’ The Interview saw the majority of its $15 million first weekend sales come from Google Play and YouTube.

For all those interested, you can find more detailed numbers over on Google’s official Investor Relations page linked below.

[Google Investor Relations]

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Microsoft rumored to invest in Cyanogen following promise to take Android from Google Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:25:23 +0000 microsoft logo building sign open

Well, how’s this for an early Thursday afternoon headline? According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is planning to invest a nice grip of money into Cyanogen Inc, makers of the most popular custom ROM around.

Microsoft will apparently be a minority investor in a $70 million round of equity investing that would end up placing a valuation on Cyanogen worth hundreds of millions of dollars. As a minority investor Microsoft won’t be the only ones at the table, nor would they be dishing out the most money to infuse this startup with cash.

But what it does bring is a strong message by Microsoft that they’re willing to do whatever they need to help balance out a lopsided race for smartphone software dominance. Why do we say that? Because Cyanogen — just earlier this week — started flexing their own muscle by declaring that they wanted to somehow take Android back from Google.

cyanogenmod logo 5

“I’m the CEO of Cyanogen. We’re attempting to take Android away from Google,” exclaimed Kirk McMaster in front of a crowd of press at a San Francisco event earlier this week. You might be wondering how it’d be possible for Cyanogen to do that considering Google owns Android, but it’s important to understand what he means.

As it stands, Android is open source, and its source code can be freely downloaded by anyone who so chooses. That likely won’t change anytime soon as Google has kept its long-standing promise to keep Android open and free.


But it’s long been accepted that the “sweetest” Android you can get is one with access to the Google Play Store, YouTube, Google Search and all of the other key Google services at the ready. The problem is Google limits (legal) access to these services to those willing to put up with restrictive licensing agreements, and CyanogenMod doesn’t like that.

While they’ve admitted their bread and butter has been and most likely always will be Android, their hope is to be able to build an ecosystem for it that’s more open-ended and free than the one Google maintains. The difficulty of such a task is sure to be high and they won’t be able to do it alone, which certainly explains the need to get the likes of Microsoft and supposedly Amazon on board.

Cyanogen — whose custom ROM McMaster says has been installed on over 50 million devices to date — does have enough clout to make such a bold move, but questions have to transform after today’s report: what’s Microsoft’s end-game in this? Are they genuinely interested in creating a better ecosystem for Android or do they simply want to help fatten up a talented development house to potentially swallow up later on?

It would be surprising to see the latter situation take place considering Cyanogen is said to have turned down an offer from Google that would have valuated themselves at $1 billion, though the company’s newly-revealed motive might explain why they made that tough decision. One thing’s for sure, though: if Cyanogen made a big enough case to get a major player like Microsoft interested then they certainly must have a strong plan in place to make this happen.

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Although the Galaxy Note 4 helped, Samsung’s Q4 2014 earnings still showing slowing smartphone sales Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:45:42 +0000 Samsung Galaxy A5 DSC07901

They may have the biggest slice of Android market share, but that doesn’t mean everything is coming up roses for Samsung’s mobile business. Although they officially raked in $4.87 billion in operating profit and $48.6 billion in revenue for Q4 2014, Samsung saw a 36% and 11% decline when compared to the previous year.

Faced with waning Galaxy sales, Samsung had to turn to its semiconductor business to pick up the slack from its ever slowing mobile division which has officially been on a downward spiral for 4 straight quarters now. Samsung mobile’s operating profit is officially down 64% year-on-year, although they note that strong Samsung Galaxy Note 4 sales managed to keep that number from dipping further.

Despite last year’s slumping smartphone sales, Samsung sees it as going nowhere but up in 2015. They’re hoping emerging markets like India and China will turn things around, along with new products they say will use “new materials” and feature “innovative design.” Samsung also mentions they’re planning to introduce even more “diversified” new wearables this year because we could all use another smartwatch.

There are also rumors — which may have just been confirmed — that Sammy could be opting for their own in-house Exynos processor for the Samsung Galaxy S6, expected to be unveiled during this year’s Mobile World Congress. We know we can be a little hard on Samsung at times, but that’s just because we have such high expectations. Make no mistake, we’re definitely excited to see what Samsung has in store for 2015.


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With little competition, Facebook officially pulled in $12 billion last year Wed, 28 Jan 2015 23:10:17 +0000 facebook-tablet-event

After Apple reported oil-company-like earnings numbers this morning, Mark Zuckerberg and the boys at Facebook are chiming in with their latest quarterly earnings. As expected, the Menlo Park, CA-based social network beat estimates, reporting $3.85 billion in revenue (up from $2.59 billion the previous year) and earnings of $0.54 a share (up from $0.31 previous year) for Q4 2014. With little-to-no competition in the social network space (well, there’s Google+ kind of), that means they officially pulled in $12 billion for 2014.

Facebook says their daily monthly active users totaled around 890 million, with a monthly average of about 1.39 billion users. Since Facebook’s initial public offering in May of 2012, their value has nearly doubled to about $215 billion. But they still have their work cut out for them lest they end up another Myspace.

Facebook has lost around 3.3. million teens (ages 13-17) since 2011, and another 3.4 million in the 18-24 range. Ironically, they’ve seen an 80% growth of the 55+ group over that same time, with grandparents flocking to the social network to keep up with friends and family, which could be a reason all the youngsters are leaving in favor of hipper social networks like Instagram or Snapchat.

Facebook’s mobile business is where they’re making the most money, accounting for nearly 69% of their profits. This includes now monetized Instagram with 300 million+ active users, and the 600 million on WhatsApp. Facebook’s gross margins took a hit, down 15% compared to the previous year thanks to “big bet” acquisitions like their 19 billion dollar WhatsApp purchase last February, or Oculus VR back in March.

Looking ahead, Facebook says their goal for the next decade is to continue to evolve by focusing on serving and growing the community for people and businesses. They plan on doing this by making WhatsApp and Messenger “indispensable” services, continuing to developing Facebook Search, making Facebook a truly “cross platform platform” for developers, and finally connecting the world to the internet (and Facebook in the process) via their efforts.


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FTC fines TracFone $40 million for throttling their so called ‘unlimited’ data Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:18:46 +0000 TracFone StraightTalk

Take past any carrier store and you’ll see posters or banners advertising xGB of “unlimited data.” For those up to speed on tech, you know this means you get X amount of high-speed data, only to have your internet speeds slowed down (throttled) after that.

It’s not a bad idea, and much better than data caps of yesteryear where you’d be charged extra for any data you consumed above your cap. But, when it comes to a carrier advertising “unlimited data,” the FTC is now stepping in, saying unlimited data doesn’t include throttling… unless fully disclosed, of course.

The Federal Trade Commission ordered mobile virtual network operator TracFone to pay up $40 million for falsely advertising unlimited data, only to throttle customers once they reached a certain amount and in some cases, cut off data services completely. FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director Jessica Rich said in a statement to Re/code:

“This case is about false advertising. It’s not about throttling. We’re not challenging throttling in and of itself. The issue here is simple: When you promise consumers ‘unlimited,’ that means unlimited.”

Let’s be clear. The FTC’s issue with TracFone wasn’t that they were throttling their customers, it’s that they failed to advertise their data cap in the same way carriers like T-Mobile do. Even worse was throttling wasn’t a tool to manage network traffic which would be fine, but a way to cut the costs TracFone was incurring for operating on other carriers’ networks.

For years, customers under TracFone and Walmart’s Straight Talk brand had no clue when their “unlimited data” would be throttled, leading to a lot of guess work and countless forum posts. Couple this with the way Straight Talk would completely cut off you service without warning if you used too much data. Yeah. Not exactly unlimited, was it? Eventually, they finally came clean.

While the “Big Four” carriers in the US are safe for now, they are seemingly put on notice. It was only back in October that the FTC announced that they were suing AT&T for throttling grandfathered customers still on their unlimited plan.

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Sony’s mobile struggles continue as division will reportedly lay off another 1,000 workers Wed, 28 Jan 2015 18:52:14 +0000 Sony Booth MWC 2013

The news keeps getting worse and worse for Sony (and its employees). A report from Japanese institute Nikkei (via Forbes) suggests Sony will announce the layoff of another 1,000 workers from their mobile division in an upcoming financial report scheduled for February 4th. This would be the second layoff in recent months, with the previous round coming back in October where another 1,000 workers from the same division were given walking papers.

It’s always sad to think of good people suddenly and unexpectedly losing their jobs, but that’s the harsh cost of a highly competitive industry. Sony’s plans to lick its wounds and try to right the ship are noble, though it remains to be seen if they can do enough to stop the bleeding before they’re forced to sell off the mobile division.

Just this past Tuesday Sony talked about the need to streamline their mobile product portfolio and focus on fewer flagships every year, a tactic HTC successfully executed on their respective route from losing millions back to making money every quarter.

The alternative to all these changes and tough business decisions? Having to fire everyone because they haven’t responded appropriately to the breakneck pace at which the consumer electronics industry can change.

Knowing that, it’s important to remember that these might not be the most joyful solutions, but things could always be worse and Sony’s willing to do whatever they can to improve the situation. Let’s hope it doesn’t get too bad by the time they’re ready to unleash their full numbers.

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Apple’s insane earnings already breaks record with Apple Watch vs Android Wear battle looming Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:12:34 +0000 AppleStore_Shinsaibashi,_Osaka

We ridiculed Apple for finally breaking out of their shell and delivering the types of devices people have wanted, but as much fun as that was there’s no doubt it did good things for them as a company. Confirmation of that fact arrived ahead of today’s stock market opening as Apple has reported record-breaking revenue and sales numbers. And when we say record-breaking, we mean there’s possibly no other company that could sell this many smartphones in one quarter.

Apple reported a ridiculous $74.6 billion in revenue for their fiscal Q1 2015, an increase of 30% year-over-year, thanks to the sale of 21.4 million iPad tablets, 5.5 million Mac computers and — you may want to sit down for this — 74.5 million iPhone devices. Most companies would be ecstatic to make that over the course of a year or two, so for Apple to rake all that in within just one quarter speaks volumes about the company’s new direction.

To put that all into perspective, Apple’s big quarter joins an exclusive list of the top 5 quarterly results of all time. The other four? Oil companies. Just think about that for a second. There is no bigger business than oil, and Apple — a consumer electronics company — has found its way into that territory. In fact, Apple now owns the honor of having the biggest quarter ever in the history of business.

Shareholders in Apple’s camp are sure to be waking up quite happy this morning. The stock sits at $117.82 per share — a jump of nearly 8% — as of the time of this writing, and there’s a chance it could grow even more as the day moves on. That’s the highest Apple’s stock has been since the months immediately following the launches of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (it peaked at around $119 on November 26th, 2014).

apple stock snapshot

It has to be a frightening sight for other smartphone manufacturers, especially in a time where the top companies not named Apple are already struggling to maintain solid footing.

Samsung is the one that stands to lose the most out of them all as they’re atop the totem pole in most parts of the world. The South Korean company, which once soared to new heights on the back of a highly competitive anti-iPhone ad campaign, now has to watch on as the company they halfway owe their growth in the mobile realm to could just as easily dismantle them.


And if all of that isn’t enough, Apple hasn’t even set foot into the smart watch arena yet. The company reaffirmed plans to make that happen this April with its first consumer launch — the Apple Watch — and it’s only then that we’ll be able to see the impact they will have on one of the most exciting new wearable product categories to spawn in the past few years.

In the meantime, Apple is expecting things to calm down in the next quarter as holiday promotions and advertising wind down and as demand decreases. They’re still expecting revenue between $52 and $55 billion, so their idea of a “down quarter” isn’t quite the same as everyone else’s.

Samsung? Sony? HTC? Moto? The balls are in your courts to respond with the sort of innovation to make sure Apple’s renaissance has more of a temporary effect than a lasting one.

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Germany’s A9 autobahn route set to allow self-driving cars, but not just for Google’s benefit Tue, 27 Jan 2015 18:38:08 +0000 autobahn 9

If Google’s well-documented efforts to bring self-driving cars to market isn’t proof enough that this is poised to be the next big automative breakthrough, perhaps Germany’s latest efforts are. The country has approved the use of self-driving vehicles on a portion of its autobahn A9 route, a motorway that serves to connect two of their biggest cities: Berlin and Munich.

The route won’t stretch the entirety of the A9 autobahn as its immediate purpose is to provide an ample route for testing measurements and “digitizing” to allow for proper road-to-road and road-to-vehicle communication. That is to say, it’s really only to initiate the process of allowing Germany to begin work on making automated vehicles appropriate for the road.

Most interesting about the move is Germany’s intent. Google is by far the biggest single technology company working on bringing this technology to market (which they hope to do by 2020 with the help of established automakers), but Germany says they’re not doing this for Google’s benefit.

google self driving car prototype 2

“We have to achieve a digital sovereignty, independent from America and Asia,” said Alexander Dobrindt, the country’s traffic minister. That sounds more prideful than anything, especially considering automobiles sit atop the list of things Germany is most famous for.

Regardless, it’s everyone’s hope that their efforts will go a long way to help accelerate the introduction of this technology. They’ll likely be aided by home-grown manufacturers such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz who successfully performed automated vehicle tests on their own:

It’s possible these are some of the same manufacturers Google is said to have courted for their own efforts, but the word is still out on whether those deals were actually inked. Whatever the case may be, true innovation and significant advancements in technology don’t happen until multiple parties start throwing their hats into the circle, and we’d say one of the worldwide leaders in automotive technology is one big hat.

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Dropcam offering free upgrades to latest camera for those on legacy versions Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:03:44 +0000 dropcam

Dropcam users who jumped into the fold before the company introduced its latest HD model will be happy to know that they’ll soon be entitled to a free upgrade. The Google-owned company says their older models won’t be able to take full advantage of the enhancements coming to the Dropcam service, and instead of asking those users to pay for an entirely new model they’ve opted to go this route.

It’s a very good-guy move by the company, though nothing less is ever expected when Google is involved. We suppose that it’s something that had to happen, though, considering Dropcam revealed that older cameras — the original Dropcam and the Dropcam Echo — will cease to work after April 15th.

You should be getting a notice about a replacement form to fill out in due time, and you can expect to get your new goods three weeks from then. You won’t have to send your old Dropcam back either, though we’re not sure what you’d be looking to do with models that no longer work.

From there? Rejoice, because it’s not often companies will give up a grip of sales in order to make sure their platform evolves the way they want it to. You can read more at the FAQ straight ahead.

[via Dropcam]

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Google’s Nova MVNO will automatically switch between best available networks Tue, 27 Jan 2015 15:52:52 +0000 Google-HQ_logo

It was only last week we caught wind of Google’s plans to become an MVNO to provide affordable wireless service and we’ve already gotten some early details. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Google’s use of both T-Mobile and Sprint’ s towers won’t make for awkward hand-offs or the need to buy phones specific to your market.

That is thanks to new cellular technology Google will utilize that can measure the quality of networks in your area — including any available WiFi hotspots — and hop onto the best one. T-Mobile and Sprint’s networks aren’t superstars alone, but combining the two with technology like this should squelch the fears of anyone who hopes to sign up for the service once it’s made available.

That’s as much as we know by now. It’s coming, it’s coming soon, and we hope it’ll be every bit as good as we’ve imagined a Google-made wireless carrier could be.

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For better or worse, Sony is finally going to cut back on frequent smartphone releases Tue, 27 Jan 2015 14:34:13 +0000 Sony logo CES 2015 DSC_0059

Sony’s financial troubles as of late haven’t gone undocumented. With unfortunate layoffs, the sale of key buildings and the need to spin off certain divisions to keep itself afloat, the company is willing to do anything to stop the massive bleeding that once had their credit rated as “junk.”

The latest move comes in a big shift in strategy for the company’s mobile division, a unit which costs Sony hundreds of millions of dollars every year and was said to be the biggest burden on the company’s expected 2015 losses of $1.9 billion.

The Japanese company is reportedly looking to cut back on smartphone releases and will instead look to prolong their flagship smartphones’ life cycles. As such, it’s said they will not be revealing a new flagship at Mobile World Congress and will instead wait until the summer months to show off their next big thing.

It’s not uncommon to see Sony release as many as three flagship smartphones in a calendar year, and while it’s fun for us techies to see new smartphones and gadgets often the practice comes with a fair bit of downside. The problem with such frequent releases? Here’s a quick primer:

  • It splits the marketing focus between far too many phones at one time instead of pushing one rock star product above all else.
  • Consumers are always wary of what’s right around the corner, so they hold off buying knowing it won’t be long before the current product is one-upped with the latest and greatest.
  • Research and development costs, engineering and production, and the subsequent distribution of a smartphone all cost a ton of money, time and other resources. Those resources and that energy could instead be pooled into one project to deliver the best possible product from angles of design, specifications and features.

HTC found themselves in the same rut not long ago and opted to slim their top-line portfolio down to just one or two key devices every year ( HTC One M7 and HTC One Max for 2013, HTC One M8 for 2014). That move, along with other key business decisions — like the sale of Beats and a renewed focus on mid-range offerings – allowed HTC to get the arrow pointing back in the right direction.

Some Sony fans who value the wealth of options afforded to them might be saddened to hear this news, but if this is what Sony has to do to avoid having to sell their mobile unit then you should definitely be on board. Better to see them prosper in new ways than to wither off into nothingness.

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Google Wallet support coming to 200,000 online stores thanks to WePay partnership Mon, 26 Jan 2015 19:40:43 +0000 Nexus 7 Google Wallet 1

It’s often hard to find Google Wallet as a supported payment option for many smaller websites and companies, but a new partnership between Google and WePay should soon change that. The agreement will effectively load up over 200,000 online stores who use WePay as a medium for checkout with support for Google Wallet.

It’s a win-win situation in every way: Google Wallet gets the exposure it needs up against the top dog named Paypal, while users of Google Wallet get to use their preferred method of online billing with ease. The partnership won’t do much more than that from the outside looking in, but it’s these types of deals that show us Google is serious about getting their payment platform off the ground and supporting it with the love it needs to make sure it doesn’t go the way of the dinosaur.

[via Venture Beat]

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ASUS’ next smart watch could have 7 days of battery life Mon, 26 Jan 2015 19:26:52 +0000 asus-zenwatch-hero

As much as we love smart watches around here, there is one area they need drastic improvement: battery life. The standard of good battery life is 1.5 to 2 days, but ASUS thinks that isn’t good enough and they want to change it with their next attempt.

ASUS chairman Jonney Shih spoke to Taipei Times about the subject, and noted that — as a companion device — decisions on software and processing power should be taken just as strongly as those decisions would be for a smartphone. He specifically mentioned the need for efficient chipsets and simplified software to try and reach a target battery life of 7 days instead of the 2 days their current ZenWatch is rated for.

Does that mean the ZenWatch sequel is going to have 7 days of battery life? That’d be a huge accomplishment, though it’s tough to say if they can pull that off. Regardless, we’re glad they’re looking at everything they can to improve one of the most important aspects of a smart watch, and even the slightest improvement over today’s standards is much welcomed.

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Samsung sunglasses let you adjust tint level and frame style from your smartphone [PATENT] Mon, 26 Jan 2015 19:16:44 +0000 Samsung Logo CES 2015 DSC07919

Samsung’s latest idea might not be enough to change the world or even change their falling fortunes as of late, but it is pretty damn cool. The South Korean company was awarded a patent that describes a pair of sunglasses doused in transparent displays.

According to the patent, the transparent display can wrap around the entirety of the frame and lens elements to allow the user to change how the glasses look by changing settings on a smartphone. The frame, for instance, can have its color or pattern changed, while the lenses could have brightness adjustment settings to make them appear tinted.

samsung glasses patent 2

This obviously isn’t meant to equip a user with “smart glasses” features like Google Glass or the virtual reality experience provided by something like the Samsung Gear VR, but it’s a neat idea that — if executed well — could be a nice feature marketed toward purchasers of Samsung’s devices in the future.

Unfortunately, though, an idea is all it is, and getting a working product to market is an entirely different story. We wouldn’t mind seeing these offered up for the crowd who likes to change their glasses as much as they change outfits, but it’s probably a long shot to expect to see anything like this anytime soon. Let us know if you’d be down to try these out should Samsung’s engineers achieve their vision (no pun intended).

samsung glasses patent 1

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