We got a glimpse of BlackBerry’s rumored Android-powered smartphone last month, in the form a render shared on Twitter by notorious leaker Evan Blass. Now photos of the Android BlackBerry have apparently leaked too — published by Taiwanese website Tinhte (spotted earlier by TechTimes).
The latest photos appear to confirm the rendered form factor we saw in last month’s leak, with a trademark BlackBerry physical Qwerty tucked under a sliding full size touchscreen — for a cake and eat it approach to mobile computing. The keys are not flat either, but rather look to have the classic sloped shaping so beloved of former CrackBerry addicts.
As you’d expect for a smartphone that has to pack in both full size touchscreen and (bumpy) physical keys, the most obvious trade-off is a fairly chunky form factor, albeit with curved sides — making it a little reminiscent of first wave Nokia Lumia Windows Phones.
It also doesn’t look like the battery will be removable, but hey you can’t have everything — even if you want touchscreen-plus-Qwerty-plus-BlackBerry-hardware-plus-Android software…
On the rear, there’s a textured pattern which looks similar to the carbon-fiber scratch-proof backing Motorola used to clad certain of its more ruggedized devices with. Other features of note: a speaker grill that extends right across the bottom of the handset, a Micro SD card slot on the top of the device, and what is apparently an 18MP rear camera.
Amusingly the phone has the WhatsApp messenger app at the top corner of the stock Android homescreen. There’s no sign of BlackBerry’s own BBM messenger.
BlackBerry still hasn’t confirmed its plans vis-a-vis Android, so the FrankenBlackBerry could be something it’s still toying with at this stage, rather than definitely releasing — although the noises coming out of the company have been increasingly skewing in Google’s direction of late.
Earlier this summer Reuters cited sources slating a fall launch for an Android slider BlackBerry. While CEO John Chen has also said he is not against the idea of building an Android phone if it can be done in a secure way. “If I can find a way to secure the Android phone, I will also build that,” he said back in June.
Other mobile makers are already doing just that of course — such as Silent Circle’s Blackphone, which runs a hardened version of Android and targets the enterprise segment where BlackBerry also plays — so really BlackBerry’s hand is being pushed towards this slider launch.
As it stands BlackBerry’s marketshare in smartphones has collapsed to almost total irrelevance — with analyst IDC recently recording a share of 0.8 per cent for all other smartphone OSes, outside the dominant platforms: Android (81.1 per cent) and iOS (15.6 per cent), and third placed Windows Phone (2.6 per cent).
The streamlined 2016 Corvette Stingray is one of the first vehicles to ship with Apple CarPlay in the States. Simply put, it’s an iPhone for your dashboard, which Apple and car makers hope you’ll use instead of the iPhone in your hand.
First, the bad news: CarPlay is far from perfect. It’s boring, for one. And in many cases I found the Corvette’s own infotainment system handled tasks better than CarPlay.
Yet it’s hard to ignore what CarPlay is. It’s the culmination of Apple’s mobile services. Everything from Siri to Maps to Apple Music feels more at home in a car than a phone. Even in this early version, CarPlay trumps any human interaction platform offered by any automaker and it’s all thanks to Siri.
Apple announced CarPlay over two years ago and it’s finally making its way into vehicles. The system looks much the same as it did when announced. The aim is the same too: When an iPhone is connected, Apple’s in-vehicle software takes over the car’s main screen. Drivers are presented with large, hard to miss icons of possible tasks from placing a phone call to responding to messages to listening to music — all items safer done through CarPlay than directly on a phone.
CarPlay is an additional interface to the standard system already in the car. The car also has all the standard AM/FM and connected services. CarPlay sits in the background until an iPhone is plugged in.
Don’t Smartphone And Drive
Safety through ease of use is the goal with CarPlay. Vehicle manufacturers have long struggled to provide elegant software solutions that are not distracting or easy to use. Called infotainment systems, this software often runs on a large screen mounted in the center of the dash. Every car maker has a different interface and they’re often radically different. Apple is attempting to standardize this screen — and for that matter, so is Google with Android Auto.
A recent J.D. Power report found that many drivers simply not using some of the technology packed into their new cars often because they use their smartphone instead. “In many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they’re familiar with the device and it’s accurate,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction HMI research at J.D. Power, in the study.
With CarPlay and Android Auto, the software is designed specifically to work in conjunction with a connected phone. Apple and Google know that drivers have a hard time ignoring their phones so CarPlay and Android Auto bring common tasks to the dashboard.
Tasks and connectivity are off-loaded to the connected phone. With CarPlay and Android Auto, cars do not need to have their own dedicated data connection — something that’s become a pricey add-on. The phone itself serves up the goods and the car’s screen simply relays the information in a format better suited for in-car use.
The goal is to have a driver not use their phone while driving. In this regard, CarPlay succeeds, but it could be a bit more elegant.
CarPlay sits on top of a vehicle’s native infotainment system, hidden, waiting for iPhone. Wireless connections are not supported. CarPlay currently only works when an iPhone is connected using a Lightning cable. Bluetooth is not supported.
Once an iPhone is plugged in, CarPlay pops up. Or it doesn’t. I found the interaction to be inconsistent although I couldn’t pin down the fault on Apple or the Chevy infotainment system.
Either way, when enabled and an iPhone is connected, a CarPlay logo is featured on the ‘Vette’s main screen alongside Audio, Phone and other icons. If you happen to leave the CarPlay environment, this is how you get back. And sometimes you need to leave CarPlay as it does not completely replace the car’s infotainment system.
Tasks like using the FM radio are still done with the car’s built-in system. Essentially, if the connected iPhone does not have the ability or function, CarPlay does not either.
Siri Rides Shotgun
Apple employs Siri for nearly every interaction. Just like on an iPhone, Siri can change the music, send a text, launch an app or provide navigation. Yet in the car, using Siri is a lot more natural than with a phone.
How often do you use Siri on your phone to transcribe or read text messages? It’s key to using CarPlay. Tell Siri to play a song and seconds later it blasts from the car’s speakers thanks to Apple Music. Command Siri to take you to the nearest McDonald’s, and she’ll pop directions on the screen without complaining about the health risks.
Siri is accessed either through a button on the steering wheel or the home button in CarPlay. Once summoned, Siri acts in a similar fashion as in iOS.
Siri is CarPlay’s main attraction. Car makers have attempted to bring the power of voice to vehicles, but without a data connection, like Siri or Google Now uses, these voice systems have never provided comprehensive natural language support, often requiring users to navigation voice menus with specific prompts and steps. A driver can talk to Siri in a natural way and more often than not, Siri will respond in kind.
Messages are composed through Siri’s voice dictation. It’s clear that Apple took pain in making this process as quick as possible, but it still takes a few seconds for Siri to run through her script, which involves re-reading your text message and asking if you would like to send it. At no point is text displayed on the screen.
Likewise, when a message is received, Siri will read the content. Again, the goal with CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto is to keep drivers from picking up their phone. Sadly, CarPlay has very limited notification support. Right now it’s limited to Apple’s apps like iMessage, Calendar and Maps. Do not expect Siri to read your Twitter DMs while you’re driving.
CarPlay is the natural environment for Apple Maps and Siri provides an easy way to input destinations. Tell Siri to take you to a McDonald’s and the route is instantly loaded on the car’s screen.
Car makers have struggled with destination input yet Apple, thanks to the evolved natural language capability of Siri, nailed it on the first try. But Apple Maps still leaves something to be desired.
Apple has improved Maps dramatically since its launch in 2012. But it’s still not Google Maps. Apple Maps lacks traffic information that has long been found in Google Maps and others like Waze. Apple Maps also lacks a lot of contextual information that would be handy in a vehicle. To be clear, Apple Maps will not get you lost, but it could also get you stuck in traffic.
To get the most out of CarPlay, you need to use Apple’s apps. Say someone emails you about a meeting and you stick the event in Apple Calendar. CarPlay will not only notify you about the calendar event, but provide directions if the original email includes an address — just like on an iPhone. This sort of interaction is not possible with 3rd party apps.
CarPlay will only display notifications from Apple’s apps and there isn’t a way to throw other services into the mix. So, for instance, if you left iMessage for Telegram or Facebook Messenger, CarPlay will not display the notifications. Or, say, you use Google Calendar, CarPlay will not pass along the notification that you’re late to a meeting.
Forget about using CarPlay to put Waze on your dashboard. CarPlay’s only mapping solution is Apple Maps.
Apple keeps CarPlay’s environment locked-down, yet hands the keys to several handpicked companies. CarPlay works with major audio streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, Pandora and Audible. It also works with CBS Radio and MLB At Bat, which has a clever audio streaming service.
This sort of limitation hampers the overall appeal of CarPlay. While the service does succeed in bring the iPhone to the dash, it doesn’t bring my iPhone to the dash since I do not use most of Apple’s apps.
An iPhone For Your Dash
CarPlay is by far the easiest to use in-vehicle software available. It’s initiative and simple. If Apple’s aim was to make CarPlay accessible to everyone, the company succeeded.
Part of this ease of use comes from the limited functions. CarPlay does not have to handle as many tasks and functions as a built-in infotainment system. It doesn’t have to deal with terrestrial radio or car settings.
CarPlay is essentially a second screen for an iPhone. Tasks are often mirrored. Select Messages on the car’s display and the connected iPhone will also load the messages screen on its screen. The same goes for Maps and Music and third party apps like Pandora. The CarPlay interface is feed from the iPhone. The iPhone does all the rendering and processing.
The first thing noticeable is that CarPlay is kind of dated. Coming from the swanky (and perhaps busy) Chevy MyLink infotainment system, CarPlay looks stark and plain. And not in a healthy way.
The icons and user interface elements seem out of place inside of a brand new car. At the same time, they’re familiar in a boring sort of way. It’s an iPhone screen in your dash. Cool. I guess.
Designing in-car human elements is an art and I’m not sold on ascetics of CarPlay. That’s not to say that it’s better than Chevy’s MyLink system, which is often overcrowded with information and colors and text and things.
With CarPlay there seems to be a lot of wasted space. Android Auto seems to be a more happy medium between the bareness of CarPlay and the overloaded stock infotainment system from Chevy, Chrysler and many others.
CarPlay feels like a beta product and it’s reasonable to expect it to improve over time. Since the connected iPhone itself runs CarPlay, when the iPhone is updated, so is CarPlay.
Right now, CarPlay is just kind of boring, which I’ll concede is perhaps the goal. Often boring equals safe. Apple removed a lot of the distracting elements from the screen. The icons are large and text is easy to read — and there isn’t a lot of text, either.
iPhone users will feel instantly at home with CarPlay. The learning curve is essentially flat. Plug an iPhone into the car and CarPlay instantly works like an iPhone.
As for the 2016 Corvette Stingray itself, the 6.2L V8 engine was plentiful and the seven speed manual transmission brought a smile to my face. After getting my fill of CarPlay, I turned off the radio and enjoyed the sweet sounds performed by an American V8 symphony.
This is the latest version of the C7 Corvette platform. GM introduced the redesigned ‘Vette in 2013. This example costs $70,000 thanks to the Z51 2LT trim package that features larger wheels, slotted brakes and a performance package. It even packs a data recorder that includes a GoPro-style camera that will record and log adventures.
The engine is smooth and hungry for speed yet the car is content cruising at mundane speeds. This comes from the fantastic seven speed gear box that’s designed for speed, but also efficiency. Chevy says the Corvette can get 29 MPG on the highway.
The ‘Vette is stunning. Sleek lines, sharp edges and electric blue. CarPlay is just OK.
CarPlay should be a pleasant surprise for iPhone owners. Car makers and Apple have been fairly mum about its availability. Apple says 34 auto manufacturers are committed to making the system available in their cars. The Corvette is just the start for GM. Most General Motors’ cars will be available with CarPlay by the end of the year. VW is also rolling the system out en mass.
Thanks to Siri, CarPlay lets drivers use their phones while driving while actually not using their phones. It’s good, but it needs to get better.
Samsung shares fell another 8.1 percent this month, losing $12 billion in value. The company has lost $44 billion in value since April.
Analysts believe that low demand for the company’s new smartphones and upstart rivals – including the fan favorite OnePlus – are hitting the company in a big way. Because most smartphones are approximately the same, there is little differentiation at this point between one Android phone and another an, more important, even a high-end Android phone and an iPhone model. One black slab is the same as the other, curved screen notwithstanding.
I’ve been using the latest Samsung models recently and have been impressed. However, anecdotally I’ve seen many users sticking with older, perfectly serviceable Android models and even older iPhones. In short, consumers are bucking the upgrade cycle which is terrible news for Samsung.
Most stocks have been down these past few weeks, including Apple’s. We should note, however, that Samsung’s slide has been happening since April.
In the end I would argue that the smartphone is now more a commodity than ever. Price is king and when price is the primary driver, in any market, incumbents will be undercut. We watched it happen in slow motion with LG and HTC and we’re watching it in double time at Samsung.
More than a year after the launch of the first Android Wear watches, Google is now finally bringing iOS support to its smartwatch platform with the launch of its Android Wear mobile app in Apple’s App Store today.
This probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given that Huawei spoiled this launch by announcing iOS support for its upcoming Android Wear watch last week, but it’s a long-overdue step for Google.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. Android Wear for iOS will only officially support the LG Watch Urbane and all future Android Wear watches (including upcoming watches from Huawei, Asus and Motorola). (Update: it looks like you may be able to pair the Moto 360 and other older Android Wear watches with an iPhone, assuming the watch already runs Android Wear 1.3. Older watches won’t come with version1.3 pre-loaded, so they won’t connect to the iPhone and hence can’t get the update. It’s unclear for how long Google will unofficially support these older watches, though).
Given that all of these older watches work just fine with Android, it’s a bit of a puzzle why Google made this decision. When we asked the company about this, a spokesperson told us the following:
“We wanted to make sure that iOS users would have a great experience with Android Wear out of the box. We’ve worked with manufacturers to ensure that the newest watches work really well with modern iPhones, but last year’s watches aren’t technically supported.”
The company also argues that in order to have a “streamlined setup pairing an iOS phone and Android watch, the watch needs to be running the latest Android Wear release out of the box.”
That’s probably a disappointment for some, but there are probably not all that many iOS users out there who have an older Android Wear watch, so this may not be as big of a deal as it seems.
Once you’ve paired your watch with your iPhone (the app is compatible with the iPhone 5 and all newer iPhones as long as they run iOS 8.2 and up), the actual on-watch experience is pretty much the same as always. The app supports rich notifications from Gmail, Google Calendar and Apple Calendar, Google Now Cards, voice queries, Google Fit support, alarms, and everything else you’d expect (including support for the recently launched Translate app on Android Wear).
The app, of course, will also display notifications from all third-party iPhone apps. For now, however, users won’t be able to install any third-party watch apps from Google Play. This means you will see notifications from those apps but won’t be able to directly interact with your fitness tracker on the watch, for example. Google says it’s working on bringing third-party app support to iOS users, too, but it’s unclear when this will happen. WiFi support is also currently absent.
“Not everyone wants the same kind of smartwatch, so offering people choice is important,” Google says. That comment is clearly aimed at the Apple Watch and there is probably some truth in that. Smartwatches are, after all, at least partly fashion accessories and even though Apple offers a number of different variations of its smartwatch, they all look pretty similar in the end.
Google also notes that Android Wear supports always-on watch faces, “so you’ll never have to move your wrist to wake up your watch.” Another thinly veiled swipe at the Apple Watch.
The new app is now making its way into the App Store, so if you can’t find it just yet, give it another try in an hour or so.
If you’ve been out of the Android game for a while you’d be hard-pressed to understand why people love OnePlus so much. These phones, conceived by the folks who initially launched Oppo, are aimed at the Android connoisseur, if such a person exists, and they have a rabid fanbase of folks who clamor for units with every launch. It’s hard to find them, you’ll probably never see one in the wild, yet they are some of the best Android devices I’ve used.
First, here’s what the OnePlus 2 isn’t. It’s not the thinnest phone out there nor the lightest. At $329 it’s not the cheapest. It’s not packed with features and apps like Samsung’s offerings. It a solid phone with 4 or 8GB of RAM and it doesn’t run like a tubgboat thanks to Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 810. It isn’t the same old same old. It runs Oxygen OS, a version of Android 5.1.1 with a few UI tweaks thrown in. It isn’t a low-res phone thanks to the bright and crisp 5.5-inch display with 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution. In fact, the screen is one of the best I’ve seen.
At its core, the OnePlus 2 phone is a worthy successor to the original phone with a slightly better camera and fingerprint sensor. In fact, it is so similar to the original that you’d wonder what exactly they changed. First, they dumped Cyanogen for pure Android and they’ve upped all the specs. The phone has dual SIM slots but no memory expansion slots and no removable battery. There are only three buttons on the phone – a large physical do-not-disturb switch, volume buttons, and a power button. A dark fingerprint reader sits below the screen and can be used to unlock the phone although the feature wasn’t quite usable in this build.
Using the phone reminds me, oddly, of the feature phones we used to buy from Samsung, LG, and the like. Because the phone is stripped to its core there is little distraction. Gone is the bloatware that most phone makers stuff onto their phones (“Verizon Flow App TV Powered By Dish Verizon Power Team,” “Fling By ATT Powered By America’s Network ATT Plus”) applications. The entire experience seems slightly alien – two SIM cards? A depressed fingerprint reader? A physical switch? – but also comfortable. Whereas most phones are like a warm bath of familiarity, OnePlus is whole-heartedly iconoclastic.
A few cool UI things: Oxygen offers some really interesting improvements to the standard Android experience. For example, you can double tap the phone to wake it up or draw a circle on the screen to launch the camera. It also has something called the Shelf which is a sort of homebrew Google Now/app launcher that is slightly baffling. Sadly, at this time, some apps won’t render correctly thanks to small differences between Android’s Material Design interface and Oxygen.
The battery, when not under heavy load, lasts about 48 hours on standby and about 9 hours of use. In fact I was able to keep it alive for about three days on standby, a notable happenstance, but your results may vary. Because you can’t swap the battery you’re stuck charging it every 24 hours or so via the USB-C cable – an odd but I suppose “futuristic” choice by the company. There is no NFC so you won’t be able to use Android Pay, another deal breaker for some.
Overall the experience is so fascinating that I’d honestly recommend this phone over, say, similar offerings from LG or HTC. But here’s the problem: it will be very hard to buy one of these phones in the wild. Because of OnePlus’ limited inventory and tendency towards forced scarcity, I doubt you’ll be able to get your hands one of these any time soon. You can grab them on Ebay for a $50 premium but the best way to grab one is via OnePlus’ invite system.
So here’s the rub: do you buy a Moto X for $299 unlocked or do you wait around for the OnePlus 2. If you’re a OnePlus fan the answer is obvious but if you’re not then there are many other options out there. It’s easiest to think of this phone as a box of rare artisan chocolates or a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle: aficionados will wait and hunt and crave while regular folks will buy some Godiva and Four Roses.
In the end the OnePlus 2 is a small product by a small manufacturer. OnePlus is a true hardware startup and is amazingly popular in certain circles. If you happen upon one and are looking to upgrade your Android phone then I’d honestly consider it a worthy contender. If you can’t find one – or don’t want spend the cash – then you can safely dismiss this. After all, there are plenty of other fish in the smartphone sea, from mysterious deep water creatures like this one to shining sprats from Motorola and Samsung. You just have to catch the right one.
OnePlus 2 Rear
OnePlus 2 On Shelf
OnePlus 2 In Hand
OnePlus 2 In Hand 3
OnePlus 2 In Hand 2
OnePlus 2 Homescreen
Android Pay, Google’s forthcoming payments platform and rival to Apple Pay, will soon launch, allowing consumers to pay using their Android smartphones at point-of-sale as well as make purchases within mobile applications. However, according to sources familiar with Google’s plans, Android Pay is not arriving today – or any time this week, in fact – despite a handful of reports and leaks from participating merchants which seemed to indicate otherwise.
As you may recall, Android Police recently uncovered a notice to employees at Android Pay partner McDonald’s which indicated that the restaurant’s customers could begin using Android Pay on Wednesday, August 26. A second McDonald’s memo was also posted to Reddit, again referencing the August 26 launch date.
Even though there were multiple sources for the McDonald’s leak, some questioned the accuracy of those reports, given that both notices also incorrectly listed the launch date for Samsung Pay as being August 21 – when Samsung itself has said its own payments platform will launch in September in the U.S. (It did, technically, launch August 20 but only in Korea.)
However, the launch time frame began to look more legitimate when Subway – another Android Pay partner – began emailing its customers to let them know that Android Pay was live. According to Consumerist, which got a copy of the Subway FreshBuzz email newsletter from a reader, the fast food chain yesterday proclaimed that “Android Pay Is Now At Subway!” The email even linked to the Android Pay website, even though that site continues to say the platform is “coming soon.” (Google is not commenting on the leaks.)
Clearly, Android Pay’s launch is imminent, as retailers have been posting placards, signs and placing stickers on their payment terminals for some time. But they may have jumped the gun on the “official” go-live date for Android Pay.
The new payments platform will effectively pick up where Google Wallet left off by allowing consumers to tap and pay using their smartphone at local stores, while also offering a developer API for digital payments. (Confusingly, Google didn’t close down Google Wallet following the news of Android Pay. Google Wallet instead was re-introduced as a peer-to-peer payments app like Venmo or Square Cash.)
Similar to Apple Pay, Android Pay’s contactless payment solution utilizes NFC and tokenization technologies, but only requires users unlock their phone to authorize a transaction – that is, it doesn’t require biometric input, though that’s supported on newer devices that have a fingerprint reader. It will work on Android devices that run KitKat and higher, which also have an NFC chip. And unlike Google’s previous attempts at mobile payments, this time it’s working with the mobile carriers, including ATT, Verizon (disclosure: TechCrunch parent AOL is owned by Verizon), and T-Mobile.
While not yet live, the Android Pay website offers a host of information about how and where the technology will work when it launches. Consumers will be able to use their credit or debit cards including Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, at a wide variety of merchants, like Best Buy, Gamestop, McDonald’s, Macy’s, Whole Foods, and more. Apps such as Groupon, GrubHub, OpenTable, Lyft, Uber and many more will also support Android Pay, the site indicates.
Image credits: Google; Android Police; Reddit
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