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Mobile (Phones)

Meet Bixby, the Samsung Voice Assistant

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Meet Bixby, the Samsung Voice Assistant

Samsung presents what it claims is a "new way to interact with your phone"-- Bixby, its take on the voice assistant likes of Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant.

The result of the acquisition of Viv, an AI specialist founded by the creators of Siri, Bixby promises to be superior to the competition through 3 specific properties. These are completeness (it can handle "almost" any task one can do using the touchscreen), context awareness (Bixby-enabled apps can summon Bixby at any time, and the assistant carries out tasks specific to the app) and cognitive tolerance (it understands commands with incomplete information, and prompts users to tell it more if necessary).

Bixby will also find use beyond smartphones, since Samsung plans to put it a wide variety of connected devices, including appliances, TV remotes and wearables. In fact, the company states Bixby can work on just about anything with an internet connection and a microphone. Uniting all Bixby-enabled offerings is a dedicated hardware button, which Samsung claims eliminates the "confusion around activating a voice interface."

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Kantar Worldpanel: Life in a Two-OS World

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Kantar Worldpanel: Life in a Two-OS World

According to Kantar Worldpanel the days of a BlackBerry OS, Symbian or Windows Phone making "significant" impact are over, since the mobile industry is all but dominated by iOS-Android duopoly.

The biggest 5 European markets (Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain) are dominated by Android-- the Google OS accounts for 74.3% of smartphone sales in the quarter ending January 2017, a "marginal" increase over the 72.9% of the same period in the previous year. In the meantime iOS holds 22.7%, with the iPhone 7 remaining the top-selling device in Great Britain, France and Germany.

Kantar points out Nokia as a potential success story in the region, as brand owner HMD Global is focusing on quality for cost with well made mid-tier devices. Such smartphones will not rival the iPhone 7 or the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8, but do compete with the likes of the Huawei 8 and P9 Lite, both strong sellers in the price-conscious Italian and Spanish markets.

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The ColorWare Retro-Style iPhone 7 Plus

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The ColorWare Retro-Style iPhone 7 Plus

ColorWare presents a custom-painted version of the iPhone 7 Plus that will surely appeal to longtime Apple fans-- the Retro Edition comes in 1980s shade of beige reminiscent of vintage Macintosh products.

Available as a SIM-free model with 256GB storage, the Retro edition includes a nice little detail in the shape of dark beige edge stripes resembling the vents of older computers. The monochrome logo on the back also gets a makeover, since it is replaced with the classic rainbow-striped Apple logo.

"At ColorWare, the product goes through a labor intensive process of disassembly, cleaning, masking, painting and inspection," the company says on the customisation process. "Then, the product is buffed and reassembled. The product goes through final inspection and is packaged into the original packaging."

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How to Add Android to an iPhone

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How to Add Android to an iPhone

Customers with the want to run iOS and Android on the same device might get a solution with the Eye-- an case putting an entire Android smartphone on the back of an iPhone.

Made by a startup named Esti, the Eye is a standalone device, even if it shares the speaker, microphone and cameras of the iPhone. It has a 5-inch AMOLED display, 2 SIM card slots, storage via microSD card, a 2800mAh battery and even includes a 3.5mm headphone jack and IR blaster. The Android version of choice is Android 7.1.

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The Phone With a 360-Degree Camera

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The Phone With a 360-Degree Camera

The Protruly Darling is a sure contender for the strangest smartphone of Mobile World Congress 2017 award-- it features a built-in 360-degree camera and, in the case of one version, embedded diamonds.

Made by an obscure Shenzen-based company, the Darling has an unusually long design housing the aforementioned 360-degree camera. It allows users to shoot photos and record videos in all directions, which one can preview on the 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution display in globe form before sharing on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

The phone also include a pair of regular cameras on the front and back, and runs on a 2.5GHz deca-core Helio X20 MT6797 CPU, 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. The OS of choice is Android 6.0, the battery is a 3560mAh number and connectivity comes through USB-C. Topping off the package are a fingerprint sensor and, as if the device is not strange enough, a thermal camera.

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The Zuri Power Bank/Dumbphone Combo

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The Zuri Power Bank/Dumbphone Combo

Hong Kong-based Zuri has an odd proposal to satisfy customers' mobile device power needs-- the Power Bank U28 is a feature phone able to act as a spare battery for its smarter brethren.

The U28 carries a 4000mAh battery and flash charging, and can share the juice with other devices. It is also an actual phone, allowing one to make calls and send messages in case their regular phone is really dead. Which is simultaneously brilliant and kind of dumb, since it is arguably whether a power bank actually needs phone capabilities.

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Meizu Super mCharges Phones

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Meizu Super mCharges Phones

Meizu claims to slash phone charging times at Mobile World Congress with Super mCharge-- a technology able to fully charge a 3000mAh battery in all of 20 minutes.

Super mCharge technology is rated at 55W (11V, 5A), significantly higher than competing technologies such as Motorola TurboPower (25.5W) or Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 (18W). It also battery temperatures do not exceed 38 °C, which is crucial since batteries can explode if put through much heat.

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Xiaomi Intros Mi 5c

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Xiaomi Intros Mi 5c

Xiaomi presents the first smartphone running on its own mobile chipset-- the Mi 5c, a 5.15-inch handset designed mainly for the Chinese mid-range market.

The chip inside the Mi 5c is the octa-core Surge S1. It promises lower power consumption, allowing the smartphone to carry a smaller 2860mAh battery with 9V/2A quick charge support for a slimmer (7.09mm) metal body. The chip is built by Xiaomi subsidiary Pinecone, and has been in development since October 2014.

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Which Features Will Make it in the Next iPhone?

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Which Features Will Make it in the Next iPhone?

The 10th anniversary iPhone will have a plethora of previously unseen features, Reuters reports-- including a higher resolution display, wireless charging and 3D sensors.

Such additions are hardly industry firsts, even if they were never implemented in an Apple smartphone. Such "relatively slow" adoption by the company of new technologies "reflects and reinforces" a slower smartphone replacement cycle. In fact, according to analyst Cown & Co over 40% of iPhones on the market are over 2 years old, a historical high. This means ther is "pent-up demand" for a new iPhone, even one without breakthrough technologies.

"When a market gets saturated, the growth is all about refresh," Technalysis Research adds. "This is exactly what happened to PCs. It's exactly what happened to tablets. It's starting to happen to smartphones." IDC confirms such a trend, since global smartphone sales grew by just 2.3% in 2016.

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Gartner: Apple Beats Samsung as Q4 Smartphone Leader

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Gartner: Apple Beats Samsung as Q4 Smartphone Leader

Global smartphone sales to end users total 432 million units in Q4 2016, Gartner reports-- a 7% Y-o-Y increase, highlighted by Apple beating Samsung to the position of top smartphone vendor.

Overall sales for 2016 reach 1.5 billion, an increase of 5% over 2015.

"Samsung's smartphone sales started to drop in the third quarter of 2016, and the decision to discontinue the Galaxy Note 7 slowed down sales of its smartphone portfolio in Q4,"  the analyst remarks. "The withdrawal of the Galaxy Note 7 left a gap in its large-screen phone range."

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Xiaomi Working on Own Mobile Chips?

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Xiaomi Working on Own Mobile Chips?

The Wall Street Journal reports Xiaomi is looking to break ties with Qualcomm-- as part of "aspirations to join the top tier" of smartphone makers it plans develop own mobile device chips.

The Xiaomi processor is supposedly dubbed "Pinecone" and is set for release "within a month." The next Xiaomi smartphone is the Mi 6, which should be announced on March (should the company stick with its yearly release cycle), meaning the timeframe makes sense. As for the production know how behind the processor, Xiaomi paid $15 million for technology from Datang subsidiary Leadcore Technology.

But why would Xiaomi go for custom chips? A first reason is cost savings, since producing own processors probably costs less than buying them off a 3rd party supplier. A second reason is tighter integration of software and hardware, allowing for more innovative features (for example, Huawei's Kirin CPU provides the Mate 9 with more optimised performance based on user habits).

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