LG potentially exiting the mobile business is actually a good thing


A series of reports, of which the latest last week, suggest that LG could be exiting the mobile business. According to chatter, there will allegedly be an official announcement tomorrow, April 5, where the company could potentially reveal its retirement from the segment. I personally believe this is the best decision LG can make.

No, I’m not hating on LG. Believe it or not, I have much love for the company and I have very dear friends who work at or for LG (you know who you are, much love!). So how come such a drastic move, where we lose yet another OG, can be a good thing?

LG Mobile and the platform dilemma

Those of you who have been around for the journey might remember that LG was really back and forth between platforms back in the day. This vacillation will, as we’ll soon see, become a defining factor in LG’s mobile business, which I believe has a direct correlation with its struggles.


Getting back to the platforms, LG’s push started back in the Windows Mobile days. The LG GM750 comes to mind with its 3-inch screen and Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional operating system. LG later became one of the three (alongside HTC and Samsung) hardware launch partners for Microsoft when Windows Phone 7 came along, and the Optimus 7 was a really good phone (also being LG’s first Windows Phone).

But in between Windows Mobile 6.5 and Windows Phone 7, LG started dipping its toes in Android waters, launching its first smartphone running on Google’s (Android 2.2) platform in 2009 with the LG GW620.

This indecisiveness (or exploring all options, if you will) will accentuate and persist in the future for LG. Sure, the other Korean behemoth, Samsung, was pretty much doing the same, and they’re in a pretty good position today. Yes, but Samsung had a certain consistency in other departments, where LG was lacking too.

In defense of LG, or any other manufacturer in the same position back in the early 2010s, there was no way in foreseeing that Google and Android will eventually blow up. Microsoft was the real deal, basically having a monopoly over a market that was fast developing. Betting on Windows Mobile (and later Windows Phone) was a safe bet, if only Microsoft wouldn’t have rested on its laurels, which eventually turned into Windows Phone’s demise. Apple and its iPhone launch in 2007 didn’t particularly help either…

LG Mobile and the design dilemma

What makes an iPhone an iPhone? Or a Samsung a Samsung? Heck, even a HUAWEI a HUAWEI! It’s the companies that managed to build a brand that’s recognizable that eventually succeeded. What do I mean by that? When you look at a product and you can instantly tell the brand behind it, that’s when you know they’re doing a good job. Just think about BMW and Porsche (just to name a couple that is not mobile-related).


LG somehow got lost in the details and failed to create a “signature” for its mobile phones. It basically threw stuff on the market to see what sticks, without leaving it on the market enough for it to actually stick.

In case that doesn’t make sense, let me put it this way. Instead of improving from generation to generation, LG went back to the drawing board every year to announce something completely different, abandoning the predecessor, or the main features it introduced.

We all remember the LG G Flex, the first curved display smartphone. It was way ahead of its time, but the project was abandoned just for LG to return to a flat display. At the same time, the LG G2 was trying to capture the same market, with a different approach.

The LG G3 was flat, just for the LG G4 to be curved again. I think you see where I’m getting at. …not to mention those leather back models which only stuck around for a little while, though they were gorgeous.

Save for the LG logo, there was little to nothing to make an LG phone instantly recognizable, and that I think laid down roadblocks in its own path.

About the only form factor LG has not experimented with (at least not in the form of a finished product on the market) is a foldable device. Instead, LG chose to go the “Dual Screen” way but threw in a twister (literally) along the way with the LG Wing.

Did I mention the V10 and its durability? Yes, that didn’t stick around long enough either, the same way that the Optimus 3D and the entire 3D smartphone concept were soon abandoned. How about the LG G5 and Friends, with the modular approach? Yep, out the window.

So what makes an LG phone an LG phone? I guess, if we have to put a label on it, it would be “diversity”? No, not in a good way.

The company’s best decision

Every time a player (big or small, doesn’t matter) retires, we all lose. The market loses, customers lose, innovation takes a hit, people lose their jobs, it’s a mess. It’s a lose-lose situation. Especially if the company is one of the OGs (HTC comes to mind as well), you can’t help but feel sentimental, nostalgic. I just fired up my G Flex 2: it still works.

So how the heck is LG exiting the mobile business a good decision? Well, it is, if you’re LG. The only one winning from this entire situation is, paradoxically, LG itself. It’s not that the behemoth doesn’t have the resources to fund a non-profitable segment of its huge organization. It’s about pouring water into a bucket filled with holes. At one point you just get tired of doing it, especially if you’re trying to pluck them, and another one pops up.

LG Wing

The millions and millions the company was spending on research, development, manufacturing, and many other aspects involved in its mobile business will most likely be put to better use elsewhere.

At this point, I wish it was an April Fools’ joke and I have wasted an hour writing this. But did I? You see, even if it was a joke, LG still has a big problem which it failed to solve for years and years on end. And, at this point, I don’t think it can come up with anything (that it hasn’t already tried) that can turn the tables in its favor.

What do you think? Drop us a line in the comments below. Share your story, opinion, memories and let’s have a conversation.

Thanks for reading! Welcome to The Editor’s Desk!  

The post LG potentially exiting the mobile business is actually a good thing appeared first on Pocketnow.

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 Review

The Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 arrives just in time for Windows phone fans. Before it, there were only three decent hardware options: the year-old Lumia 950 XL, and the expensive HP Elite X3.

The Idol 4S has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB RAM. That power and memory combo rivals the high-end Android handsets from earlier in the year, like the excellent Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.

If that weren’t enough, at $469, the Idol 4S doesn’t break the bank. It also supports VR, and ships with a basic viewer.

We took an Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 review unit for a spin. Find out what else there’s to know about this T-Mobile-exclusive Windows 10 phone.

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 Build & Design

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 all-glass back

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 all-glass back

This Windows 10 mobile device looks and feels great. The Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 has a 5.5-inch display with a black glass back panel and faint-gold metal strip running along the sides. Both glass panels are slightly tempered, and Idol 4S is almost entirely symmetrical outside of the camera bump, and buttons along the edges.

It measures 6 x 2.9 x .27 inches, and weighs .33 pounds.

The front panel is buttonless, sporting the 5.5-inch display and appropriately-sized bezels, 8-megapixel front-facing camera and sensors, and two front-facing speakers.

The rear panel also sports two speakers, along with the 21-megapixel back camera, flash, fingerprint sensor, and Alcatel branding.

The 3.5mm audio port and pin-hole mic sit on the top, between two antenna stripes, while the USB Type-C connector and another pin-hole mic sit on the bottom, also between two antenna stripes.

The left side houses the power button, and the SIM/microSD card tray (pin release), and the right houses the single-piece volume rocker as well as a quick-launch camera button.

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 camera quick-launch button

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 camera quick-launch button

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 power button

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 power button

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 3.5mm audio port

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 3.5mm audio port

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 USB Type-C

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 USB Type-C

The Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 has a Dragontrail glass display, which is similar to Gorilla Glass. However, you’ll still want to invest in a case. A few drops can crack and shatter the rear glass panel, and it’s a fingerprint magnet besides.

It’s comfortable to hold and use. Everything is where it should be. We appreciate the quick-launch camera button, which can open and snap pics from a locked screen — it saves time, and fumbling through a lock screen and touchscreen can often result in missing the perfect pic. The camera bump is a bit much, but that’s a minor quibble.

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 camera bump

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 camera bump

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 Display

The Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 has a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, which results in about 400 pixels per inch.

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 review unit

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 5.5-inch AMOLED display

Viewed head on, it’s a fine display with the typical AMOLED attributes: deep blacks and saturated colors. Those go well with the colorful Windows 10 tile-based interface. But it also suffers from some of the same issues that affect the AMOLED panels found on cheaper and older devices. Whites are off, with warmer tones dominating straight ahead, and colder tones appearing at angles.

The display is not very bright, though it’s not a problem. AMOLED’s contrast helps visibility in direct sunlight. You can see the Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 display outdoors as fine as any other smartphone.

All told, it’s a good display competing in a market with excellent and amazing displays

The speakers are also very good. In fact, they are some of the best we’ve tested in recent years. They emit robust sound, and are loud enough to fill a room, with only limited distortion at the extremes.

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 Performance

With a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset (2.15 GHz) and 4GB RAM, the Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 rivals the early 2016 flagships on paper. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge have the same specs, for example.

It’s tough to draw any conclusions based on direct comparisons with those Android-based smartphones, given this Alcatel Idol 4S runs Windows 10. The cross platform AnTuTu benchmark puts it slightly behind both the S7 edge and more powerful Google Pixel XL with its Snapdragon 821. A closer look at the benchmark reveals our Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 review unit struggled during the 3D portion of the test (primarily used for gaming), but performed comparably in the UX (for data processing and overall user experience), CPU (for complex apps and multitasking), and RAM (system speed). That’s not bad, considering those phones cost hundreds more.

AnTuTu is a cross platform benchmark that measures overall system performance. Higher score is better.

Alcatel Idol4S with Windows 10 AnTuTu

AnTuTu 3D is a cross platform benchmark that measures graphical performance. Higher score is better.

Alcatel Idol4S with Windows 10 AnTuTu 3D

AnTuTu CPU is a cross platform benchmark that measures complex app and multitasking performance. Higher score is better.

Alcatel Idol4S with Windows 10 AnTuTu CPU

AnTuTu RAM is a cross platform benchmark that measures system speed. Higher score is better.

Alcatel Idol4S with Windows 10 AnTuTu RAM

AnTuTu UX is a cross platform benchmark that measures user experience. Higher score is better.

Alcatel Idol4S with Windows 10 AnTuTu UX

And that measures up to what we experienced using it. The Windows 10 smartphone ran smooth, and easily handled all the apps we threw at it, even in Continuum mode on a larger display. It also ran demanding 3D games like Modern Combat 5 well enough that they were playable, but they were slightly janky compared against the same games running on the Android smartphones.

The phone ships 64GB internal storage, with microSD expansions support. Our Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 review unit came with about 53GB free out of the box. It does not support NFC.

The fingerprint sensor proved fast and reliable in testing. It’s not as good as Huawei’s though, which remains the mobile industry standard.

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 Software Features

True to its name, the Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 runs the mobile version of Windows 10. Unfortunately, it’s pretty close to dead as an OS can be, given its poor market penetration. This manifests itself with apps, or more specifically, the app gap.

Windows 10 Mobile app gap

Windows 10 Mobile app gap

You won’t find any of Google’s apps in the Windows Store. So that means no Gmail, Chrome, YouTube, or Google Photos. HBO Go, Pinterest, and Snapchat are all missing as well, just to name a few. You can also bet that any new or innovative apps and games probably won’t be coming to Windows before Android or iOS, if at all.

Granted, there are workarounds and third-party apps to partially fill the gap, but the situation is bad. Microsoft is pushing its universal Windows platform for apps running across Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Xbox, and more, so there’s some hope it’ll get better. Just don’t hold your breath.

Beyond apps, Windows 10 Mobile is a really good operating system, and we can see why users stick with it. It’s intuitive and looks great on small displays. Cortana is legit, and Continuum is one of our favorite mobile features.

We tested Continuum using a Huawei MateDock and cheap HDTV, as well as the Connect app on various Windows 10 Anniversary Update PCs. Continuum worked as advertised, essentially resurrecting Windows RT, running ARM-based Windows 10 on the big screen. Even though Microsoft has a few kinks to work out (display scaling issues, too many unsupported apps), it’s easy to see the potential. Office apps run great, as does the Edge browser. That’s about 90% of what we’d use it for anyway.

The Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 is also the only Windows 10 smartphone to ship with a VR viewer. In reality, the viewer is just plastic, padding, and lenses, similar to the new Google Daydream View. It’s comfortable enough, and that’s all we can specifically say about it.

That’s because like the Pixel smartphone, or the Samsung phones and the Gear VR, the Idol 4S does the heavy lifting for the VR effect. It ships with a few VR apps, with a few more available for download. They are all very underwhelming and buggy. Oculus this isn’t. In fact, it’s a step below early Google Cardboard efforts.

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 VR viewer

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 VR viewer

Still, it’s hard to fault Alcatel for including it with the Idol 4S. If you’re going to buy a Windows 10 mobile device, might as well get the one with VR support, even if it’s kinda lousy, right? It’s not like it takes anything away from the overall smartphone experience.

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 Battery

This Windows 10 smartphone as a 3000mAh battery, which should easily provide all day battery life. Our Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 review unit lasted exactly 9 hours streaming video over Wi-Fi with the display brightness set to max. This is near the minimum you’ll get out of the device on a single charge. Anything more than 8 hours is good, with the best phones achieving upwards of 20 hours.

The device features Quick Charge, and we were able to snag 26% battery from a dead device after charging for 15 minutes. Most smartphones with this feature can hit 40%.

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 Camera

Twenty-one megapixels is a lot, but it’s not the only spec that matters. Aperture and pixel size also count toward picture quality, and here the Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 suffers.

Alcatel didn’t publish the pixel sizes, though the general tradeoff suggests more pixels means smaller pixels. Smaller pixels have less surface area, and absorb less light than larger pixels. This negatively affects low-light performance.

In the tradeoff between more pixels and larger pixels, we generally prefer larger pixels.

The smartphone takes photos at f/2.2, which is a smaller aperture than even most mid-range smartphones. Read our Pixel XL review on how this and pixel size matter specifically, but the end result is the Alcatel Idol 4S takes lousy low-light photographs.

See the comparison against the Galaxy S7 edge, which is the reigning low-light champ.

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 low-light photo

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 low-light photo

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge low-light photo

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge low-light photo

Both photos were taken at the same time. In fact, it was very hard to take the picture with our Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 review unit because the display appeared near pitch black.  We even took a screenshot of this effect. There’s a dog lying in there somewhere:

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10, taking pic in low light

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10, taking pic in low light

In order to see anything in low-light through the display, you have to use the focus light. It’s very limiting.

In standard lighting, the Alcatel Idol 4S fares better. Photos are acceptable to halfway decent. We expected sharper photos, and colors are on the drab side compared against similar smartphones in its class however.

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 sample photo

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 sample photo

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 sample photo

Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 sample photo

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 Value

At $469, the Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 is a good value compared against other Windows 10 Mobile devices. The older Lumia 950 XL with a weaker Snapdragon 810 chipset and only 32GB storage hovers around that price as of this writing, while the similar HP Elite X3 starts at around $600, and ships with a desk dock for Continuum.

The Huawei MateDock we used for Continuum costs about $90, and cheaper abound.

Of course, the Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 is T-Mobile exclusive, while the others are GSM unlocked. We can’t confirm it, but the Idol 4S has the specs to potentially connect to AT&T for a slower connection (the Idol 4S doesn’t support AT&T’s main LTE band).

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 Review Conclusion

Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 review unit

It has a great design, quality build, smooth performance, and decent battery life. Its speakers impress, while the display is good enough. Those are six good reasons to recommend the Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 over the rest of Windows phone competition. Its low price is the seventh.

It’s all relative, of course. We can’t recommend it beyond Windows 10 devotees. There’s no reason to switch from Android or iOS for this phone. Its camera is mediocre, and the VR is underwhelming. Perhaps more important, there’s no reason to jump into Windows 10 Mobile right now anyway, even with Continuum’s potential. The Windows app gap is all too limiting.

Keep in mind, Alcatel offers an Android variant of the Idol 4S for $400. It has a higher display resolution, but only 3GB RAM and 32GB capacity. Still for that price, it’s a great value.


  • Decent build and design
  • Good battery
  • Excellent performance
  • Powerful speakers


  • Mediocre camera
  • Windows 10 app gap


The post Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 Review appeared first on Brighthand.com.

Windows 10 Continuum: Don’t Throw Your PC Away Just Yet


Smartphones have come a long way since inception. Email, word processing, as well as video recording and editing: the list of the modern day handheld’s functionality is impressive. It begs the question: when will these devices be capable of replacing our PCs?

Microsoft says your phone is good enough to be your PC.

Microsoft says your phone is good enough to be your PC.

That day may be rapidly approaching with Microsoft’s Continuum for phones. Continuum is a software feature that allows Windows Phone devices to connect to a display via a wired dock or Miracast. It can be used to simply port the data over to a larger display, or offer dual-screen functionality. It all sounds rather simple, but mirroring the handhelds data onto a more work-friendly form factor (complete with keyboard and mouse) could have huge implications.

As the team at NotebookReview explored, the potential for Continuum is certainly great there are some caveats to consider. The first being that Continuum in its current stage does nothing to bolster the performance of smartphones, it’s merely mirroring content onto a larger display. While phones have made great strides in performance, the average handset will struggle to put together a professional PowerPoint presentation or solve a demanding spreadsheet calculation in a timely manner. HP believes it may have a device that’s up to the task, but NotebookReview has its reservations.

This could be your next desktop PC … if you don’t need to use older software.

This could be your next desktop PC … if you don’t need to use older software.

It’s worth noting that Continuum doesn’t allow smartphones to run desktop applications, it’s just porting the handset’s apps onto a larger display.  That means that a large selection of the applications users enjoy on their Windows PCs (namely legacy software) will not be available. App selection will be resigned to what is offered in the Windows 10 App Store, which has long been criticized for its lack of content.

The process of turning your phone into a fully functioning PC is also an expensive endeavor. Continuum may be baked into the Windows Phone software, but all the peripherals aren’t. Of course, you could opt to simply use the screen on your handset, but staring at a 5-inch or 6-inch device can become straining. To port your phone over to the big screen you’re going to need a dock or a Miracast enabled display, along with a keyboard and a mouse. Not to mention all of the Windows Phone apps you’ll need to purchase, considering PC applications won’t work on your smartphone.

The biggest problem for Windows phones is almost no one uses them.

The biggest problem for Windows phones is almost no one uses them.

That brings us to another issue. To get access to Continuum, you will need to switch over to Windows Phone. Microsoft has managed to convert a small selection of loyal fans, but the platform currently ranks a distant third with Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone accounting for 96.2 percent of the U.S. smartphone market.

Continuum is dependent on Windows Phone applications and app developers have very little incentive to currently create apps for the platform when the lion’s share of users exists on Android and iOS.

Continuum is a bold idea, but there is still a great deal of kinks to be worked out. A lot of ifs need to be answered before it can help transform our handsets into our primary productivity devices.

That’s not to say that the day won’t come. But for now, PCs still have their place.

For the full conversation on Continuum be sure to check out our editorial on NotebookReview.

The post Windows 10 Continuum: Don’t Throw Your PC Away Just Yet appeared first on Brighthand.com.

How to Buy a Smartphone: Understanding Smartphone Specs

Did you ever take a close look at a smartphone spec sheet? Have any idea what the numbers and letters mean, what they tell you about the smartphone? While Apple fans have argued for years that “specs don’t matter” because they often don’t directly translate to the actual user experience, they can serve to guide to a buying decision. Here’s what you need to know.


The processor is sometimes listed as the SoC (system on a chip) or just CPU (central processing unit). The processor is essentially the brain of the smartphone, and as such is one of the single most critical specs to consider. On smartphones, the processor houses both the CPU and GPU (graphical processing unit), and it’s typically based on the ARM architecture.

ARM processorA processor’s speed is rated numerically, in megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz). These numbers define the processor’s “clock speed,” and it’s a reflection of the number of instructions a processor can handle per second. A processor running at 1 MHz can handle 1 million instructions per second, while a processor running at 1 GHz can handle a whopping 1 billion (1000 MHz roughly equals 1 GHz).  As you might imagine, the higher the number attached to the CPU, the faster the processor speed, and you won’t find a new smartphone with an advertised speed of less than 1 GHz. Higher processor speeds are generally desired if you like to game or run intensive apps, but high speeds aren’t always necessary for casual use.

The next thing to look at in a processor is the number of cores, or processing units on a chip. Processors come in single-core or multi-core varieties. The differences are easy to grasp. The more cores there are, the more processing units, and the more tasks a smartphone is able to perform simultaneously without experiencing a significant lag in speed. As of this writing, smartphone processors top out at eight cores (octa core), but many still ship with four (quad core).

Multi-core processors are built for multitasking, and any new smartphone released in 2016 will have at least two cores. It’s important to note, however, that more cores and higher clock speeds don’t directly translate to better performance. Software plays a big role, and efficient software doesn’t need as powerful a processor to run swiftly. In addition, software has to be written specifically to take advantage of multiple cores and clock speeds.

Apple presents an excellent example here. The iPhone often lags behind Android flagships on the spec sheet, but new iPhone performance is always top notch. This is because iOS is very efficient, a benefit Apple enjoys because it produces both the hardware and software itself.

You may also see a “64-bit” processor. This is an upgrade over the traditional “32-bit” processors. 64-bit processors are able to access bigger chunks of memory, run more complex apps, and are better able to handle multi-tasking


A smartphone’s display is often front and center to a buyer’s decision, and rightly so. You look at it and interact with it more than any other part of the phone, and displays that aren’t of sufficient size or quality will spoil the experience. But with the vast number of terms you’re likely to encounter, making the right choice can be tough. On the spec sheet, you’ll find references to display type, size, and resolution. All are important considerations.

Samsung Super AMOLED displayThe spec lists for smartphones are packed with an alphabetical overabundance when it comes to displays: AMOLED, Super AMOLED, IPS, LCD, OLED, Retina, LED and TFT, to list some of the more popular. Each of these refer to a specific technology behind the display.

At the time of this writing two of the best options in terms of the visual experience are AMOLED and IPS. Super AMOLED is a next-generation AMOLED, and LCD is sometimes called LED. IPS (in-plane switching) is an LCD variation that delivers extra-wide viewing angles so the contrast and colors on the screen won’t shift if your viewing angle changes.

Many Android smartphones feature some version of AMOLED. It’s a newer display technology that many prefer for its deep blacks and vibrant colors. Its high contrast makes it great for cutting through overhead glare, and it potentially results in thinner devices because it doesn’t require a backlight … which also makes it more battery efficient than LCD. Each pixel in an AMOLED display is individually lit separately (or off completely, which explains the deep blacks).

Apple still sticks with good-ole LCD for its iPhone and iPad (the Apple Watch is OLED). It’s a tried-and-true technology that produces more balanced colors and brighter whites than OLED. Because it’s backlit (you can often see hints of light bleeding around the edges), blacks appear slightly washed out. IPS delivers a better viewing experience at odd angles compared to a traditional LCD but requires a more powerful backlight, which can quickly drain the battery. You’ll see IPS displays on higher-end smartphones and phablets. TFT, which stands for thin film transistor, is a modern variation of the traditional LCD. It’s cheaper to manufacture, but won’t deliver the wide viewing angles of IPS and therefore is found in low-end smartphones.

After that, you’ll find marketing terms to define pixels and other unique display tech. Apple’s “Retina” is probably the most famous. It signifies a high pixel density. You can’t make out any one individual pixel when viewing a Retina display at a certain distance (10 to 12 inches for a smartphone display with 300 pixels per inch). All high-end smartphones currently exceed the Retina designation, but only Apple uses it because Retina is Apple’s trademarked term.

gorilla-glassYou may also see “scratch proof/resistant,”or “Gorilla Glass” mentioned, or maybe even “Sapphire.” These are protection technologies built into the glass used for displays. Gorilla Glass is made by Corning and it’s what keeps your smartphone display from shattering when you drop it. Motorola has a similar technology in Shattershield.

Display size is another important consideration. It’s measured diagonally, corner to corner. Most Android phones exceed 5 inches, while the iPhone 6s stands at 4.7. For infrequent use, you don’t necessarily need to have a phablet-sized smartphone (exceeding 5.5 inches). However, if you’re buying a smartphone to act as a mobile media device capable of streaming movies, consider picking a screen large enough to view movies comfortably.

Big displays also equal bigger phones, and therefore may not be a good fit for you if you prefer single-handed use. But it’s important to keep in mind that as components shrink, so to do smartphones. It’s possible to squeeze bigger displays on smaller devices than it was just a few years ago.

Finally, display resolution is a straightforward spec. Think of a smartphone as a grid, with pixels running up along the side of the device, and then along to top. The number of pixels on those sides represent the resolution. Common resolutions include Full HD (1920 pixels by 1080, just like a common HDTV) and Quad HD (2560 x 1440), but these numbers vary. The iPhone 6s has a 1334 x 750 display, while the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium has a 3840 x 2160 display. More important than the resolution is the pixels per inch (PPI), or pixel density. High-end Android smartphones top 500 pixels per inch, while the iPhone 6S has a pixel density of 326 ppi. The higher the PPI the better, but there are diminishing returns as the number goes up. Anything over 300 is typically indistinguishable by the human eye unless you’re viewing the screen at extremely close distances (such as using your phone with a VR gaming headset).


We’ve covered cellular networking technology, and all smartphones now support Wi-Fi, with most supporting the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac. Some budget smartphones top out at 802.11n; previously the highest consumer standard. Most smartphones also support dual-band Wi-Fi, which means it can connect to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. The 5GHz networks typically provide faster and more reliable Wi-Fi, in part because they are less crowded with devices. But that’s not all. Smartphones have a few other networking technologies:

  • Bluetooth is a standard on all smartphones and is the preferred method of choice when connecting your mobile device to wireless speakers, headphones, keyboards, and other accessories. Bluetooth variants include 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0. Version 4.0 is also often referred to as Bluetooth Smart, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) or just LE (Low Energy). As of this writing, version 4.2 reigns as the state-of-the-art upgrade to the technology, which enables faster connections, improved internet connectivity, and increased security. Apple has also developed its own class of BLE tech called iBeacon.
    Bluetooth is reverse compatible, which means you can pair a Bluetooth 4.0 smartphone up with a set of Bluetooth 3.0 speakers. Smartphones have to have equivalent or higher Bluetooth tech in order to communicate with external devices. What this mean is that if you own a Bluetooth 4.0 headset, you’ll need a smartphone running 4.0 in order to pair up.
  • NFC, or near-field communication, allows you to transfer data, like photos and contacts, to or from your phone to another NFC-enabled device without the use of cables. Uses for NFC also include things like point-of-sale payments like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay.
  • USB Type-C, full-sized USB 3.0

    USB Type-C, full-sized USB 3.0

    USB connectivity is used to charge smartphones and also enables the transfer of data via a wired connection. The prevailing USB types on today’s smartphones are microUSB (version 2.0) and the newer USB Type-C (which supports the USB 3.1 standard). Smartphones equipped with USB Type-C ports are convenient because the cable ends are reversible and can transfer data faster when connected to another USB 3.0 or 3.1 device. One of the drawbacks of adopting a Type-C device is that it requires a different cable, rendering all those spare microUSB cables you have lying around useless. Additionally, Type-C cables aren’t compatible with traditional USB ports for your computer or external devices and require a USB Type-C-to-USB adapter to enable the connection.
    When looking at the type of USB connectivity, consider the fact that sometimes a move “up” in handset iteration doesn’t always mean an equal move forward with respect to technology. A good example of this is the Samsung Galaxy S5, which came with a faster microUSB v3.0 port, and the Galaxy S6 and S7, both of which took backward steps in speed by re-incorporating a microUSB v2.0 port.
    If you’re looking at an iPhone, take note: Apple has its own proprietary connectivity port called Lightning (replacing the large 30-pin connector), which is incompatible with micro USB and USB Type-C cables. This means that in order to connect your iPhone to another device, you’ll need a Lighting cable to do so.


Screenshot_20160321-104142System RAM and Flash RAM aren’t the same thing, but both fall into the memory category. The amount of system RAM (random access memory) impacts the smartphone’s ability to multitask, just as it does on your computer. Therefore, more RAM means more speed and stability – but it’s also possible to overkill on RAM if you’re not going to be utilizing it all that often. High-end smartphones top out at about 4GB RAM as of this writing.

Flash RAM or Flash memory is often found on spec sheets as “internal storage” or “capacity,” and it reflects how much storage space the device has to house things like photos, videos, music, and apps – all of which can quickly fill up your device. The amount of internal storage available to you, as opposed the GBs being consumed by the device’s OS and included apps, differs from one device to another. Some smartphones ship with 10 GB of the internal storage already gobbled up by the operating system and the bundled apps out of the box. Before you buy, look into how much of that storage is actually available, as this is a more accurate representation of how much storage space you have.

In general, smartphones ship with 16, 32, 64, or 128GB of internal storage. Most find 16GB to be insufficient, especially as apps become more sophisticated, and photo/video files become larger. If you purchase a new smartphone capable of recording 4K video then you probably don’t want anything less than 64 GB worth of storage.

The presence of microSD card slots on some smartphones makes it possible for you to expand on the internal storage. Some Android smartphones have a feature that enables users to mount microSD cards as internal storage, using them to store and run apps. Otherwise, microSD is suitable for storing media, like photos and videos.


Smartphones come equipped with all sorts of sensors that improve the user experience and turn them into something far more than “just” phones – or devices to be used for time-killing exploits like playing games and watching movies. Here’s what you’ll find on a smartphone spec sheet.

  • glonass-logoAccelerometers and gyroscopes detect motion in your smartphone, performing quick functions like automatically switching between landscape and portrait mode. Other smartphone features that allow you to launch certain actions with a shake of the phone, are reliant on an accelerometer or gyroscope.
  • Proximity sensors are helpful for identifying the difference between your fingertip and your cheek. Smartphones with proximity sensors won’t accidentally launch applications if you’re having a conversation and your face accidentally brushes up against the screen.
  • GPS, when engaged, uses satellite technology to find your location and is used for functions like mapping routes and finding your smartphone if it’s been lost or stolen. Many smartphones now ship with GPS and GLONASS, which are different, but do the same thing. While the US was deploying GPS satellites in the 1970s, the Soviet Union was deploying GLONASS. It’s now commercially used as a GPS alternative, or in conjunction with GPS for an overall better experience.


The lens and image sensor make up the bulk of the camera spec. Megapixel is the most common spec, and it refers to the number of pixels in an image, measured in the millions. Five megapixels is five million pixels. The more megapixels, the higher the resolution, and the greater your ability to crop a photo without experiencing pixelation.

aperatureThis isn’t to say that more megapixels always make for better quality pictures. Some image sensors have larger individual pixels, which are able to pick up more light and perform better in low-light conditions. Because they are physically larger, there are less of them, and the images have fewer megapixels.

The camera lens also affects image quality. A smartphone camera lens is measured by the size of the diaphragm, often called the aperture. The more open the diaphragm, the more light that can get in, the better the camera performance in low light. This is expressed in f/stops, or “f” followed by a number. The smaller the number, the more open the diaphragm. Many smartphone cameras hover around f/2 and f/1.9, with some now shipping at f/1.7. Remember, the smaller the number, the better.

Stabilization is also important. OIS stands for optical image stabilization, and it’s basically a suspension system that keeps the lens steady from shakes, twitches, and any other movement. Without it, your videos would look like earthquake footage and your photos would be blurry. The alternative to OIS is digital image stabilization, which uses software to correct images. OIS is better.

Video resolution is another consideration. A smartphone capable of recording video in 1080p or Full HD resolution at 30 frames per second (fps) is the base standard. Many flagships shoot Full HD at 60fps, and newer phones even record 4K video.

There’s a lot more to cameras, including focus technology/speed, and camera software capabilities. And just like the display, the spec sheet is loaded with marketing terms.

The Importance of the Test Drive

There is much more to smartphone spec sheets, including networking bands, networking category, battery size (the bigger the mAh number, the better), charging technology, and build material, to name a few. Just remember, the spec sheet best serves as a high-level guide. Our advice is always to realistically evaluate your needs, read professional reviews, and then pay a visit to your local big box store and devote some time to testing out your available choices.

Specs aren’t everything. Thanks to recent advances in smartphone technology, it’s possible that a $200 smartphone will do everything need – including saving you hundreds of dollars.

The post How to Buy a Smartphone: Understanding Smartphone Specs appeared first on Brighthand.com.

HP Elite X3, The Smartphone that Wants to be Your Next Laptop: Hands On

After nearly a two year absence, HP is returning to the mobile market with the Elite X3, a Windows phone designed for business users. The high-end phablet may be exactly what Microsoft needs to attract new users to the underpopulated platform. HP doesn’t just want the Elite X3 to replace your smartphone, but your PC as well. To put it plainly the X3 is a bold move. Armed with an array of high-end specs including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor along with Windows 10’s Continuum feature, the Elite X3 may just be able to make that bold idea a reality.

Built for Business

HP Elite X3The Elite X3 runs large for a handset, the 5.96-inch screen offers a great deal of real estate, but it also may be a bit unwieldy for some users (especially when using the device one handed). It’s one of the largest displays on the market, dwarfing the sizeable 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 5. While the Elite X3 is quite the behemoth, HP doesn’t waste any space, the device is nearly all screen with incredibly thin bezels.

As expected of business-oriented device provides clean understated aesthetic. The face of the device is made of  black metal, while the back is coated in a matching polycarbonate cover. The bottom face of the phone houses a silver Bang & Olufsen speaker grill. The silver grill adds a nice bit of flare to the otherwise plain looking X3, without making it look to flashy.

As a device that prides itself on unbridled mobility, the Elite X3 is built to stand up to wears and tears of the road. The phone has been designed to stand up to 810G military spec. testing. The Elite X3 is also waterproof up to IP67, which should protect the device from the occasional downpour or spilled glass of water.

Elite Specs

Considering that the Elite X3 wants to be more than just a handset, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the device is packing some serious heat under the hood. The Elite X3 is currently designed to be the most powerful Windows phone on the market. Running on Windows 10 Mobile the handset is powered by a Qualcomm’s newest chipset the 2.15GHz Snapdragon 820 CPU. The device also features a Qualcomm Adreno 530 GPU (integrated into the Snapdragon 820 chipset), 4GB of DDR4 RAM, and a sizable 4,150mAh battery. The device houses a USB-type C connector along with 64GB of on-board storage that can be expanded to 2TB via microSD.

The 5.96-inch display is no slouch either boasting a QHD (2,560 x 1,440) resolution. Considering the size of the display that will give the Elite X3 a slightly lower pixels per inch count than other leading handset, but from our brief time with the device we didn’t see a noticeable drop in image quality. The AMOLED panel actually looks pretty great offer vibrant colors and solid contrast. Additionally the screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 4, helping to protect from scratches and impacts, bolstering the already impressive level of durability offered by the X3.

The Elite X3 also offers a solid imaging capabilities as well, with a 16MP rear facing camera. The front of the device is also equipped with a 8MP sensor that is capable of capturing two images simultaneously and combine them to create an HDR like image. The X3 also boasts a few security features including a fingerprint scanner and an iris scanner on the front of the device.

It’s a Phone, It’s a Desktop, It’s the Elite X3

x3 in pc modeWhile the Elite X3 is a solid handset in its own right, the defining characteristic of this device is the ability to seamlessly transform between handset and PC. HP is attempting to tackle this herculean feat with the help of Continuum, a Windows 10 feature that allows Windows smartphones to plug into a display and function like a Windows computer with full keyboard and mouse functionality.

It’s an attractive idea, the prospect of being able to keep your files and data with you at all times on a singular device, but there are a few caveats. The most important being that Continuum doesn’t allow smartphones to run full desktop apps. Luckily HP does have a solution, the company is building in software for running apps from the cloud. Unfortunately this functionality will need to be installed by an IT department, locking in the phone’s identity as a business-grade device, this isn’t a device for the average consumer.

Truth be told the HP Elite X3 is still more of proof of concept at this point. The company is still working on the software streaming aspect, which undoubtedly is going to play a large part in how successful the Elite X3 is. However, from what little we have seen, using continuum to switch between smartphone and desktop modes is pretty seamless.

HP is planning on selling a pair of accessories alongside the Elite X3 that help make the transition between phone and PC even easier. The Desk Dock is a compact chrome dock with a small collection of ports in the back (two USB ports, one USB-C, DisplayPort and Ethernet connector) to provide users with all the connectivity expected of business-grade pc. We got a chance to briefly test out the X3 while using the dock and while the device is still in early development, it did work quite well. Both the keyboard and mouse attached to dock worked without a hitch, they were responsive with no noticeable lag. However, what impressed us most was just how quick and easy it was to hook the phone up. Within seconds of plugging the device into the dock it was up and running.

x3 laptopIn addition to the dock, HP will also be releasing what is essentially a hollowed out laptop called the Mobile Extender. The accessory isn’t actually a laptop as it doesn’t have any computing components of its own, meaning the laptop is only functional when tethered to the Elite X3, which can be enabled via Miracast and WiGig technologies. Unfortunately, HP didn’t have a working model on-hand, but the peripheral will ship with a 12.5-inch 1080p display, physical keyboard and working trackpad.

A Wonderful Idea, but is it Plausible?

x3 in dockThis isn’t the first time that a company has tried to deliver a phone that can replace a PC, but the Elite X3 is an ambitious idea that might come closer than any of those previous failures. With Continuum and its own suite of virtual apps, HP may have found one of the most compelling reasons for business users to consider the switch to a Windows phone. However, there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed before HP can make that a reality. The first being that Windows currently finds itself a distance third in the market behind both Apple and Android among developers. The app market is sparse compared to its competitors, so HP is taxed with picking up a lot of the slack via its virtual apps for software that runs on the Windows desktop.

The second (and perhaps more important) issue is whether the Elite X3 is powerful enough to fill in as your full-time PC? There’s no question that the X3 is incredibly powerful for a mobile handset, but how will the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 face off against more demanding productivity apps? Sure HP will be virtualizing a lot of the software, which should help to offset some of the workload, but until we see some benchmarks and real-world performance the X3 should be treated with guarded optimism.

There are some questions that still need to be answered, but the Elite X3 is an interesting prospect to say the least. It’s hard to really gauge at this point how successful the X3 will be, but we’re excited to see the product continue to develop. Considering that the HP Elite X3 is so early in development, the company has yet to set a price point or release date, but the company is shooting for a Summer release.

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Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review

To mark the arrival of Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft has two new premium devices: the Lumia 950 and the Lumia 950 XL. While the name suggests that only size separates the two, the XL has a more powerful chipset, cooling system, and a slightly larger battery, making it the true flagship of the bunch.

The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL has an excellent AMOLED display, but lousy build quality.

The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL has an excellent AMOLED display, but lousy build quality.

With Windows 10 Mobile and support for Windows Continuum through the Microsoft Display Dock, Lumia 950 XL features a 5.7-inch AMOLED QHD display covered in Gorilla Glass 4, 20-mega pixel BSI PureView rear camera, 5-megapixel selfie-camera, Cat. 6 LTE radio, and a 3340 mAh battery. Inside, it sports an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset with Adreno 430 graphics and 3 GB of RAM, and includes 32 GB of internal storage along with a microSD card slot. The Lumia 950 XL is also available as a dual-SIM device.

As of this writing, it’s available starting at $650.

Build & Design

Unfortunately, this Lumia 950 XL betrays Nokia’s near sacrosanct reputation for well-built devices. Both phones feature a plastic rear cover that looks cheap, and both have thick display rims. All navigation keys are on the display, meaning there is a centimeter of unused space under the screen. Both the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL look out of place next to the current flagships, like the iPhone 6s and Galaxy Note5. This is not a design fit for a device with this price and these specs.

The display glass has exceptionally sharp edges, for no apparent reason, as does the back cover towards the corners. This, despite the fact it’s slightly rounded in order to provide better ergonomics. This is why Lumia 950 XL doesn’t feel comfortable to hold. This design is more in line with the first phablets that hit the market several years ago.

The front bares the Microsoft logo above the screen, along with the telephone speaker and the selfie-camera, while the rim below the display is wasted space. The back includes the rear camera bulge and the triple LED flash, complete with the Windows logo underneath. Also on the front, the speakers and pinhole mics for ambient noise reduction.

The microSD and nanoSIM card slots (or two nanoSIM slots of the dual-SIM model) sit under the removable rear panel, along with the removable battery. That means that the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL does not have a unibody, which makes for a thicker device.  It’s 8.1 mm (0.32 in) thick, and measures 152 x 78 mm (5.98 x 3.09 in). Its mass is average for a 5.7-inch phone: 165 g (5.82 oz). There’s always a tradeoff between the utility of a replaceable battery with the thinness of a unibody design. We won’t complain about this element of Microsoft’s decision here.

The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

The power button is located on the right side, in an embrace between a two-piece volume rocker. The camera shutter button is somewhat lower. The phone’s upper side houses the 3.5-mm audio jack in the center, while the bottom side includes the USB Type-C connector. Lumia 950 XL is one of the first phones to ship with USB Type-C, but we expect many more in 2016.

The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL has USB Type-C. The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL


The 5.7-inch Lumia 950 XL has a QHD resolution that offers an exceptional density of 515 pixels per inch, which, as expected, results in fantastically sharp imaging. This is an AMOLED screen, the kind we gush over in Samsung smartphone reviews. Those excellent impressions apply here thanks to the vibrant colors and sustainable contrast.

The black tones are very dark, the whites are very bright. This is a bright display with large viewing angles. It’s one of the best we’ve tested at cutting through bright sunlight and glare.

If there is a complaint, it’s with color accuracy, which is a common issue with AMOLED. Given AMOLED’s popularity, most seem to dismiss it, but eagle-eyed users will notice that the colors shift a bit to the greener part of the spectrum. This creates an almost pastel effect that when matched with AMOLED-style saturation; resulting in a very cheerful, and almost silly, cartoon-like aesthetic.

But that’s nitpicking. There are better displays on handsets, but Lumia 950 XL’s display is exceptionally good.

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Microsoft Lumia 735 Review

There are roughly 7 million entry- to mid-level Microsoft (nee Nokia) Lumia phones out there, varying ever so slightly from one another in performance and appearance. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Lumia 735 is in many ways a very familiar device, but that doesn’t mean it should be written off completely.

While the phone does little to distinguish itself from its (many) brothers and sisters, it’s a respectable offering that has enough strengths to put it in contention for anybody who’s looking for a lower-end handset. But are those strengths enough to warrant its off-contract MSRP of $300? Let’s take a look at the big picture and find out.

Build and Design

Microsoft Lumia 735

Microsoft Lumia 735

If you’ve handled a Lumia handset, then you probably have a pretty good idea of what the build of the Lumia 735 is like. It has a very solid-feeling plastic body with a finish that, while soft to the touch, isn’t quite matte. As such, it doesn’t provide much grip and the phone can feel a bit slippery at times.

It terms of the structure, the Lumia 735 sports the same shape with rounded sides (but pointed corners) as many of the other Lumia models. While I can appreciate the uniqueness of this particular design choice, it’s not really my cup of tea. Also returning is the back that bulges out slightly, making the overall package feel a bit thick. In fact, the overall footprint of the Lumia 735 is a little bigger than you might expect; at 134.7 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm (5.30 x 2.70 x 0.35 inches), it isn’t as low profile as one might guess for a phone that is intended to be “smaller” by today’s standards (i.e. equipped with a 4.7-inch display).

Microsoft Lumia 735 buttons

Microsoft Lumia 735 buttons

As far as buttons and ports go, there’s nothing out of the ordinary here. The left edge is devoid of any features, while the right side plays host to the volume rocker and power/standby button. The microUSB charging port, meanwhile, is on the bottom edge of the device, and the 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top edge.

The back cover of the Lumia 735 is removable, but Microsoft deserves some credit here for making it look so seamless that I honestly thought the phone had a unibody build when I first inspected it. Granted, this means that it takes a little bit of work to get the cover off, but it’s worth it to have such a low-profile connection between it and the rest of the phone. Beneath the removable back panel, there’s access to the unit’s battery, as well as nano SIM and microSD card (good for expanding the memory by up to 128 GB) slots at the user’s disposal.

The only other external features are the Carl Zeiss camera, which is located toward the top of the phone’s back, and a small speaker in the lower right corner of the rear of the device.


Microsoft Lumia 735 back panel

Microsoft Lumia 735 back panel

The Lumia 735’s display is solid showing, especially for a low-end device such as this. The 4.7-inch, 1280 x 720 OLED display isn’t about to destroy anybody’s eyeballs with its sharpness, but it certainly isn’t anything to sneeze at, either.

Its 312 pixel-per-inch density is more than serviceable and leaves the pronounced edges of the Windows Phone aesthetic (thank you, tiles) looking crisp and sharp despite a resolution that, at least on paper, is mediocre. As for everything else, colors are vibrant and the brightness, when put on its highest possible setting, looks fantastic. The screen, which is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, fights glare quite well too, so outdoor viewing isn’t much of a problem.

It’s also worth mentioning that the bezel around the display is very low profile, which is always nice to see; besides looking pleasant, it’s an efficient use of space (even if the rest of the build is a bit bulkier than it should be). This is especially true to the left and right of the display, where the bezel is exceptionally thin, giving the screen an almost edge-to-edge appearance.

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Acer Bringing Budget Windows Phone to US: Hands On

You wouldn’t find an Acer smartphone in this country. The Taiwanese device maker, best known for Windows laptops and low-cost tablets, simply didn’t offer them here.

Overseas, it’s different. Acer had its Liquid series of budget and mid-range Android smartphones and phablets, in addition to its Leap wearable.

Acer’s absence was likely due to the ultra-competitive US smartphone market, and the large marketing budgets required to compete with Samsung and Apple, not mention the capital required to negotiate and tussle with the carriers that still act as the primary gatekeepers between smartphone buyers and sellers.

US Bound

Acer Liquid M220

Acer Liquid M220 is an $80 Windows Phone, coming to the US.

Well that’s just changed. Acer is finally entering the US market with perhaps the lowest of low-profile of devices: the budget Windows Phone smartphone.

The Acer Liquid M220 Windows Phone, first announced at Mobile World Congress, is coming the US. It’s a 4-inch Windows Phone 8.1 (upgradeable to Windows Phone 10) device with a 480 x 800 resolution and dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 system on a chip running at 1.2 GHz. It has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage (both double from the M220 announced at MWC, thank goodness), rear 5-megapixel camera, front 2-megapixel camera, and small and replaceable 1,300mAh battery.

Other specs include a microSD slot, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 EDR. No word on cellular connectivity. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this go 3G only.

Budget Windows

At $80 off contract, it’s cheap, real cheap. It will be available through the Microsoft Store beginning in June, where it might not be alone. In March, Microsoft announced a $70 Lumia 430, which shares similar specs, but a slightly larger battery capacity and lower-resolution front-facing camera. The 430 is slated as a dual-sim phone for certain markets where that feature is popular, and there is no clear US release date.

The Acer Liquid M220 has a removable back cover.

The Acer Liquid M220 has a removable back cover.

Though it is way overdue for a new flagship, but will likely withhold releasing one until Windows 10 ships in the summer, Microsoft seems keen on targeting the low-end market. Perhaps because no other OS has emerged to rival Android in the space (Ubuntu, Firefox OS), Microsoft sees an opening.

For Acer, the same is true with the US market. If Sony can’t make a dent with excellent Android hardware, what hope does Acer have? Even on the low-end Android space, Motorola has what many consider to be a budget device that feels like a flagship, the $100 Moto E. Windows Phone may be third-place by a mile and has a significant app problem, but who needs another cheap Android handset?

Hands On

The Acer Liquid M220 is what you’d expect from a 2015 budget phone. It’s compact and relatively light, with glossy display and a pleasantly textured back cover. This thing is easy to hold.

The power button and volume rocker feel cheap and hard to press, but we won’t complain too loudly. It’s an $80 off-contract smartphone, and that it supports a major operating system and seems to function fluidly (at least it did during our hands-on time) is a minor miracle.

Who knows? With $80 to spare, this could make a good complimentary device for a serious Windows user, especially if Microsoft delivers on the universal Windows 10 experience its promising.

Liquid X2

Acer Liquid X2

Acer Liquid X2

It’s not just US-bound Windows Phones, Acer also took the wraps off the Liquid X2, which is notable for its massive 4,000mAh battery and three SIM card slots.

Who needs three SIM card slots? While the feature is popular in the US, globe-trotting travelers, particularly those hopping from country to country, will certainly appreciate the flexibility.

Acer was light on specific details at the launch event, other than the 5.5-inch Android phablet will have a 64-bit eight-core process and two 13-megapixel cameras. The X2 will also pair with smart slotted cover that enables a band of display of display uncovered for alerts and quick actions – sort of like the Note 4 Edge, but in the middle of the display.

There is no word on whether Acer will bring the high-end X2 to the US, but given its tri-SIM selling point, it seems unlikely.

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Windows Phone Home: Breaking Down Microsoft’s App Problem

Windows Phone has been plagued with many problems over the years—its lack of an obvious flagship like the iPhone or Galaxy S, its miniscule third-party OEM support, or just the fact that it tried joining the market after the Android-iOS reign had already begun to take shape—but the most immediate issue facing any user of Microsoft’s mobile OS remains the general shoddiness of its app selection.

Windows Phone 8.1 home screen

Windows Phone 8.1 home screen

It’s a strange world where Microsoft—with various antitrust cases not far off in its rearview—can be considered an underdog, but such is the state of a smartphone industry where close to 95% of people are centralized in two controlling powers. Regardless of how comfortable we may be without our smartphones today, there is danger in getting too comfortable with a duopoly, and Microsoft still stands in the best position to provide some sort of competition.

Its OS, Windows Phone 8.1, is genuinely unique, with a clean, easy-to-use interface and a growing feature set that’s at least competitive with its two larger rivals. Many of those who use it like it. Many of those who’d give it a chance probably would like it. It just needs the apps to convince anyone to give it that chance.

Still, saying “it just needs the apps” sells the extent of Windows Phone’s dilemma short. Microsoft has made strides to get more developers onto its system, but sheer numbers have only been a minor part of its problem. Things could all change with the forthcoming Windows 10 update and its “universal apps” initiative, but for now, the issue is more multi-faceted.

To show you what we mean, let’s take a look at five of the most recognizable apps that Windows Phone still lacks. With each one, we’ll glean a different angle to the app woes that are helping to keep Microsoft from being a competitive alternative to the dual kingdoms currently in place.

Snapchat and the Chicken/Egg Problem

The saga of Snapchat and Windows Phone has been well-documented, but it probably best exemplifies the basic chicken and egg problem at the heart of the Microsoft’s mobile endeavors. The video/picture messaging app is one of the highest-profile programs to outright ignore Microsoft’s platform, mostly because it doesn’t feel like it has to, thanks to Windows Phone’s small market share (roughly 3% worldwide, per IDC). This is a case where Microsoft really isn’t even at fault—it’d probably love to have Snapchat onboard, but it doesn’t have enough leverage when developers don’t need it to succeed.

So we get a situation where a big company doesn’t want to build for Windows Phone because it’s unpopular, which in turn keeps Windows Phone unpopular, which in turn helps keep some developers from building for it, and on and on and on. Snapchat’s version of that cycle is particularly stinging for Windows Phone users, because it’s blocked any third-party alternatives (including WP developer Rudy Huyn’s popular 6Snap) for apparent security issues.

YouTube and the Third-Party Alternative Problem

Windows Phone 8.1 app store

Windows Phone 8.1 app store

Speaking of third-party alternatives to culturally significant apps you can use without a hassle on Android and iOS, YouTube is another app that isn’t available on Windows Phone. At least, not officially. Forget for a second that YouTube is run by Google—we’ll get to that bag of worms in a bit. The more pressing problem highlighted by YouTube’s absence is the number of shoddy, sometimes barely functional clones that have spawned in its wake.

The lack of key partnerships has led Windows Phone to rely on these sort of alternatives to widely-used programs, and while it’s not impossible for them to be great (the aforementioned Huyn is an example of someone who usually gets them right), more often than not they’re inferior by comparison, and come with a higher risk of breaking or losing support down the road. How could they not be?

It’s not just one or two of these things either—searching for something like YouTube on the OS returns a flood of knock-offs, all vaguely described in the hopes of being downloaded, each one more bumbling than the last. Android can have this problem too, but it usually winds up giving you the app you want. Windows Phone is not a minor league OS, but it certainly feels like one when you see some of the messes its lacking app store has caused.

Twitter and the Dead App Problem

Windows Phone has a Twitter app, which you can download and use and delete as you see fit. But it doesn’t have the Twitter app, the updated, more heavily-featured one that Android and iOS users have been treated to for the past few months. That version is more consistent with the full-on Twitter website, supports GIFs, lets you create and check lists, comes with dedicated sections for certain special events, and generally runs smoother than its Windows Phone counterpart.

This is the “dead app” problem, in which developers put updating the Windows Phone versions of their apps on the tail end of the backburner because they figure not enough people are using them. Twitter is far from the only popular app to do this, too—Bank of America, for instance, recently killed off any support for its Windows Phone variant, outright telling users to “just go to” its mobile website instead. Instagram, Vine, LinkedIn, and others have had their moments as well.

Windows Phone 8.1 Twitter app

Windows Phone 8.1 Twitter app

This is one issue that could feasibly be solved by Windows 10’s universal apps solution, because Windows PCs are treated with more respect than their mobile counterparts. For now, though, it demonstrates how Windows Phone’s apps conundrum doesn’t solely come down to what it doesn’t have.

The Gaming Problem

Instead of naming one particular hit game Windows Phone is missing, it’s more accurate to just cite the category as a whole. Few companies have had the kind of success in the living room that Microsoft has had with its Xbox consoles, but when it comes to mobile gaming, Windows Phone is a wasteland.

You’re just not going to find things like Threes!, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, or Kim Kardashian: Hollywood on Microsoft’s OS; if you do, it’s usually going to come months or possibly years after they launch for Android and iOS. These kinds of games routinely top the “most downloaded” charts on Google Play and the App Store, so it goes without saying that their absence here is a big loss, both for Windows Phone users and Windows Phone itself.

More importantly, you’re far less likely to find the next hit game on Windows Phone—similar to how you’re far less likely to find the next Tinder or Uber or Meerkat or any other would-be hit from a smaller startup. We single out gaming here because it’s particularly flush with independent studios, but if the companies with cash can find little incentive to create for Microsoft, it’s hard to imagine the ones without it doing any different. There’s a feeling of hopelessness that permeates the experience of owning a Windows Phone in that sense, and it’s strong enough to keep people from ever wanting to jump onboard.

Microsoft has taken some steps towards making developing for Windows Phone less of an involved process, but it must continue to realize that very few people will go out of their way to make something specifically for its struggling platform. It needs to try to level the playing field, then use Windows Phone to accentuate its particular reach and strengths.

Windows Phone 8.1 app store

Windows Phone 8.1 app store games

For all intents and purposes, the Redmond company understands this. And again, its universal apps strategy could prove especially fruitful when it comes to gaming, since it doesn’t need to do nearly as much convincing to get studios to create for Windows PCs or the Xbox One. Earlier this year, the company noted that Windows 10 would allow for Xbox One games to be streamed on Windows 10 computers or tablets, but if it can get those sort of console experiences over to phones (or get developers to carry them over smoothly), it could give Windows Phone a noticeable boost with the game-loving crowd.

Gmail and the Google Problem

Because this is Windows Phone, we’re not going to end on hope and promise. Instead, we’ll turn to something that doesn’t have a possible resolution on the horizon: Windows Phone’s relationship, or lack thereof, with Google.

It’s the simplest of all the issues here, and it’s another one that’s been plenty harped on by now: There are no official Google apps on Microsoft’s mobile OS. Gmail is the most used email service in the world, Chrome is its most popular browser, YouTube provides the fodder for so much of popular culture’s conversations, Google Maps guides millions every day—and they’re all nowhere to be found. This is despite the fact that they’re all on iOS, and the fact that Microsoft has ported a handful of its big-name programs over to Android.

It’s that last thing that gives off the greatest sense that, at the very least, it might be a long time before Windows Phone has a chance of ever getting on the same level as Android or iOS. It’s not dumb of Microsoft to say, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” but it’s the kind of thing that can alienate the people who’ve already committed themselves to the company’s OS. Microsoft has gained some momentum in recent months, and Windows 10 may spark a rejuvenation of its mobile efforts, but as it stands today, we’re entrenched in a system where your choices are effectively limited.

The post Windows Phone Home: Breaking Down Microsoft’s App Problem appeared first on Brighthand.com.

14 New Apps Moms, Dads, and Grads Should Download Today

Without apps, smartphones aren’t so smart. Without productivity apps, they aren’t so useful either. The problem is that there are more than a million apps in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, and hundreds of thousands in the Windows Phone Store.

Some are great, many are good, and a lot are junk. Given the glut, how are moms, dads, and recent grads to separate the good from the bad?

They simply need to ask the team at TechnologyGuide for downloading advice.


The apps listed here are all productivity focused, and most are either free or inexpensive, and fairly new to the scene. So even though they aren’t listed here, popular apps like Evernote and Google Maps will top any best-of list. Also, if you’re interested in great productivity apps that happen to be a bit older, check out this list 38 must-have Android, iOS, and Windows Phone Apps from last year.

Best iOS Apps

SuperBeam app for iOS

SuperBeam app for iOS


SuperBeam speeds up the often laborious process of transferring files between your phone and PC. The popular Android app recently made its way to iOS, and it’s one of the best at what it does.


CircleBack is an iOS app that makes updating your contacts list a hands-free experience

TL;DR Email

TL;DR Email is a new email client for iPhones that tries to make your emails more like text messages. For those not in the know, TL;DR stands for Too Long; Didn’t Read.

Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft re-branded its recently acquired Accompli app as Outlook for mobile, but emailing with it is just as functional as it’s ever been.

TL;DR Email app for iPhone

TL;DR Email app for iPhone

OU Brainwave

What time of the day do you work best? A new app called OU Brainwave answers that for you with a series of short mobile games.


Workflow strengthens the possibilities of IFTTT-style automated commands for your iPhone but never feels difficult to grasp.

Skype Qik

Skype Qik is a group video messaging app that tries, somewhat successfully, to keep the long-standing service from being eclipsed by the Snapchats and Wickrs of the world.

Best Android Apps

Best Windows Phone Apps and Best Games

The post 14 New Apps Moms, Dads, and Grads Should Download Today appeared first on Brighthand.com.

Mobile OS Showdown: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone Compared

Android 5.0 home screen

Android 5.0 home screen

Not so long ago, the software powering a cell phone had very little to do with which one we purchased. BlackBerry, Palm, and Windows Mobile enthusiasts aside, shoppers based such decisions primarily on what the hardware looked like, giving little thought given to the operating system. After all, what else did one need to make phone calls and send the occasional SMS?

What a difference a few years make: Since around the arrival of Apple’s iPhone in 2007, smartphones have done an about-face. Sure, attractive hardware is still essential, but these rectangular slabs of metal, plastic, and glass are now windows into a far richer mobile experience.

Journey with us as we compare the three dominant mobile operating systems — Google’s Android 5.0 Lollipop, Apple’s iOS 8.2, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 — in an effort to learn about their similarities, individual strengths, and maybe a few weaknesses as well. We’ll update this guide as the inevitable tweaks and changes to all three arrive, but for now, let’s take a step back and run through the basics.

User Interface

On the surface, this trio of mobile OS candidates offers the same basic functionality: Finger-friendly icons made for tapping, and gestures used to scroll, swipe, pinch, and flick various menus and screens. This is particularly true of iOS and Android, which feature home screens full of colorful icons and folders that can be used to organize them.

iOS 8 home screen

iOS 8 home screen

Windows Phone carves out a distinctly different path, one that replaces scrolling rows of icons with interactive live tiles, which can be resized into a potentially endless number of configurations. (Once referred to as “Metro,” the same look eventually found its way to the Start screen of Windows 8.) This unique approach alone helps Windows Phone stand out from the crowd.

A user’s first interaction with any device is the lock screen, which displays time and date information and more generally, banners for incoming notifications, which can usually be acted upon in one or more ways with a swipe. All three platforms maintain the traditional “menu bar” approach popularized by Apple’s Macintosh computers, with battery level, time, network connectivity, and other options displayed across the top of the screen.

Apple chose to center the time of day on iOS, using the left-hand side for cellular and Wi-Fi signal strength, and the right-hand side for location, Bluetooth, and battery level. Android differentiates itself somewhat by relegating all system-level data to the right side, leaving the adjacent space available for notifications from installed apps. Windows Phone blends the two approaches, placing battery and time at right, and everything else on the left side.

On all three platforms, a swipe down from top of the screen calls up a central repository for notifications, an early advantage held by Android before competitors adopted the feature. The same trick also provides a shortcut to widgets of information like weather and news, plus one-tap control over wireless connectivity, brightness, rotation lock, and other hardware-based functions.

Windows Phone 8.1 home screen

Windows Phone 8.1 home screen

Apple’s Notification Center is comprised of two tabs: Today (for event data and app widgets), and Notifications (for everything else). Unlike Google’s Quick Settings and Microsoft’s Action Center, Apple chose to relegate shortcuts for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, and Do Not Disturb to a separate Control Center, which is called up with a swipe from the bottom of the screen.

App Stores

Apple first popularized the term “apps” with the launch of the App Store in 2008. Google soon followed with Android Market, which eventually became Google Play as the search giant consolidated separate storefronts for apps, music, and ebooks into a central hub. Microsoft didn’t catch up until a couple of years later with Windows Phone Marketplace (now just Windows Store, thanks to the arrival of universal apps that work on both desktop and mobile devices).

Google Play isn’t the only place where Android owners can purchase apps: Launched in 2011, Amazon Appstore can be installed on any Android device capable of sideloading from unknown sources (you’ll need to flip the appropriate toggle switch under Settings > Security first). The same trick allows Android users to install apps for beta testing, as well as titles that wouldn’t otherwise be permitted in the official store.

Regardless of name, all three stores offer essentially the same experience, with free and paid apps sorted by genre and the ability to purchase in-app content at additional cost. Windows Phone has a unique advantage in its added focus on trials for paid apps, allowing potential buyers to test-drive time-limited or feature-locked versions prior to purchase.

Microsoft also has a clever method for managing apps: A swipe right across the Start menu reveals an alphabetical list of everything installed on the device — a tap and hold calls up the option to “pin” that item as a tile on the home screen, while the same method can be used to uninstall apps as well. Windows Phone 8 also introduced the ability to push one title onto another to create folders on the Start screen.

iOS 8.2 App Store

iOS 8.2 App Store

By comparison, iOS automatically dumps new apps into the first available space on a user’s home screen — though it at least conveniently shifts the focus to that page during the download, making it somewhat easier to find. Apps can be organized into folders by tapping and holding any icon until it starts to wiggle, and then dragging it on top of another app; while the app is still wiggling, a tap on the X in the left corner will delete it instead.

Android attempts to circumvent app clutter by tucking all available apps (in alphabetical order) across however many windows are necessary. Individual icons can then be dragged onto the launcher and arranged to the users’ liking.

This approach is similar to Windows Phone, and has the advantage of keeping favorite or most-used apps front and center, at the expense of possible confusion: Apps can be removed by dragging them to the “Remove” option at the top of the screen, but this doesn’t actually uninstall the app — for that you’ll need to perform a similar task from the “all apps” window instead.

App Selection

No matter how good a mobile platform might be, virtual shelves full of unpopular or just plain bad apps won’t encourage customers to buy those devices.

After years of being a second-class citizen despite selling more devices around the world than anyone else, Google Play Store finally eclipsed the App Store by the end of 2014, with nearly 1.5 million apps on its virtual shelf compared to more than 1.4 million from Apple. Microsoft also made impressive strides, but remains in distant third with just over half a million apps at this writing. (Amazon Appstore, meanwhile, offers more than 330,000 apps, although the majority is duplicates of Google Play content intended for Kindle Fire tablet and Fire Phone buyers.)

Android 5.0 Google Play

Android 5.0 Google Play

One of the more widely publicized examples of Windows Phone’s app deficiencies is Instagram — Nokia famously lobbied for an official app prior to unloading their Devices & Services business to Microsoft, and Facebook eventually relented. Still in beta, the Instagram app has languished without an update for a year at this writing, lacking support for new features like video upload, which rolled out first on iOS and Android.

That’s just one example. Other high-profile apps suffered a similar fate on Windows Phone, with major banks Chase and Bank of America unceremoniously dumping support for the platform, citing lack of interest from users. (Although Chase reversed their decision following outrage from Microsoft fans.) While official versions do exist, Windows Phone apps typically offer a less robust set of features compared rival operating systems. Some third-party alternatives exist, but few manage to live up to user expectations, or are handicapped by API limitations.

Despite developer complaints about “discoverability” and Apple’s occasional heavy-handed approach to curating the App Store, the iPhone generally offers the best app experience available. Software makers generally continue to embrace an “iPhone first” philosophy, so titles tend to arrive earlier on iOS than they do Android or Windows Phone.

Android only continues to grow, however, and there are definite signs  that developers are putting it closer to the same level as iOS. Microsoft itself recently launched mobile versions of its popular Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps on Google’s platform after debuting them on iOS, for instance.

The post Mobile OS Showdown: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone Compared appeared first on Brighthand.com.

Microsoft Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL Hands-on Preview

While talk of Windows 10 dominated Microsoft circles in the weeks leading up to Mobile World Congress, it was two new Windows Phone 8.1 devices that received the brunt of the Redmond clan’s attention at the show itself. The 5-inch Lumia 640 and 5.7-inch Lumia 640 XL are a pair of midrange handsets equipped with 720p displays and the usual Lumia style. We were able to get our hands on the two devices, which will both be upgraded to Windows 10 after it launches, in Barcelona this week.

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL

Like last year’s Lumia 630 and Lumia 635, neither of these devices are going to wow you on the spec sheet, but both are very reasonably priced given their hardware. The smaller Lumia 640 will cost €140 (about $155) for its 3G model when it launches sometime next month, while the LTE version will cost €160 (about $180). The Lumia 640 XL, meanwhile, will set you back €190 (about $210) if you go 3G-only, or €220 (about $240) for LTE. Both AT&T and T-Mobile have said they will carry the two Windows Phones in the US.

The Lumia line has become near synonymous with great cameras over the years, and in that spirit the Lumia 640 XL comes with a 13-megapixel Zeiss f/2.0 lens in the back and a 5-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens in the front, both of which are pretty powerful for a phone in this class. The Lumia 640 skimps a bit by comparison, with its 8-megapixel, Zeiss-free main shooter and a 1-megapixel front camera that’s meager by any standard. Both devices are also equipped with an LED flash, which allows for a “Rich Capture“ shooting mode that takes two images – one with flash and the other without – simultaneously.

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL camera

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL camera

Based on our brief testing, the 5.7-inch phablet does indeed take much sharper photos than its 5-inch sibling. The images we took at Microsoft’s poorly-lit exhibition area with the Lumia 640 XL were impressive in just about all areas, seemingly well beyond what you’d get from other devices in this price range. On the other hand, photos taken with the selfie camera were just average.

Things took a turn for the worse when we switched to the Lumia 640’s shooter – although it’s a general improvement over the 5-megapixel unit on the Lumia 635, it’s a marked step behind the 640 XL in terms of exposure and detail. It looks to be average for its price, but we’ll have to test both devices further to confirm these impressions. We’re less confident in the 640’s front camera; images there were grainy and inaccurate, as you’d expect from such a low-powered shooter.

Microsoft Lumia 640

Microsoft Lumia 640

When it comes to build quality, the 640 XL offers a familiar Lumia feel when held in hand. Its polycarbonate body is solid and cleanly put together and it isn’t terribly thick either at 9mm, but it’s heavier than it should be at 171 grams. Still, for a midrange phablet with a 5.7-inch screen, this is a plus design. It’s worth noting that this larger model comes with a smoother matte finish, while the diminutive Lumia 640 features a glossier plastic build that’s a little bit more of a fingerprint magnet.

As mentioned above, that 5.7-inch screen comes with a 720p resolution, good for a pixel density of 259 ppi. That’s not world-beating material by any means, but it’s sufficient for the Windows Phone UI. Menus and pages onscreen still looked sharp during our demo, and the IPS panel allowed for excellent contrast ratios with deep blacks. Viewing angles were wide, and general colors were fine. Photos and videos are never going to look as crisp here as they do on more expensive phablets, but the 640 XL’s screen seems good for what it is.

Microsoft Lumia 640 back

Microsoft Lumia 640 back

The Lumia 640 has the same 720p resolution on a smaller screen, and thus can boast a greater pixel density of 294 ppi. The boost didn’t make the 640’s screen look significantly different than that of the 640 XL during our time with it, though. It too is decent for the price.

Internally, we’re looking largely similar sets of core specs: Both phones run on a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, along with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage, the latter of which can be upgraded up to 128 GB through a microSD card. The Lumia 640 XL should offer the better battery life, however – it runs on a 3,000mAh pack, whereas the the Lumia 640 features a 2,500mAh battery.

Both the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL should pick up where last year’s midrange Lumias left off, offering stylish, mostly inoffensive designs and decent power at affordable prices. They’ll be easy ways into Windows 10 and its many upgrades as well. The stronger cameras of the 640 XL appear to make that phone the superior of the two, but either way, Microsoft looks to be offering decent value here.

The post Microsoft Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL Hands-on Preview appeared first on Brighthand.com.

Galaxy S6 back covers, HTC One M9 design, ASUS ZenWatch 2 & more – Pocketnow Daily

Watch today’s Pocketnow Daily as we talk about Twitter’s new update, which brings native video capture and group messaging. Then we talk about T-Mobile’s recent changes to its spectrum in order to improve service. ASUS follows as we learn about the battery life on the ZenWatch 2. HTC then takes the stage, this time with some of the design elements of the HTC One M9. We end today’s show talking about the Samsung Galaxy S6, and some really cool back panel projects being rumored.All this and more after the break.Stories:–

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Google Nexus 6 stories, Sony Xperia Z4, HTC decoys & more – Pocketnow Daily

Watch today’s Pocketnow Daily as we talk about Facebook’s new app for those using a slow Android device. Then we talk about Microsoft’s possible names for its new Project Spartan browser. Sony then takes the stage as we talk about the Xperia Z4 and its possible launch dates. HTC is next as we learn that the One M9 might have a much different design that we expect. We end today’s show talking about some features that are missing on the Google Nexus 6, made by Motorola.All this and more after the break.Stories:–

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Microsoft wins big with Surface Pro 3 in latest financial report

With all Microsoft had to show at last week’s Windows 10 event – from HoloLens to Spartan, not to mention what the new OS will mean for the company’s smartphones – there are plenty of good reasons to be excited for what Microsoft’s doing next. But before we start focusing too much on the future, it’s time for another round of looking back on past performance as Microsoft release its latest ...

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