Check out this render of the Verizon bound Samsung Galaxy J7 V

Back in January, we told you that the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) had been certified by the FCC. That made us think that perhaps the Galaxy J7 could be headed to the U.S. And that thought was confirmed today by a tweet sent out by reliable tipster Evan Blass. According to Blass, the SM-727 is headed to Verizon as the Samsung Galaxy J7 V. No doubt the “”V” stands for Verizon. In addition to Big Red, the phone will be available from Tracfone as the Samsung Galaxy J7 Sky Pro. You might recall that earlier this month, we told you Samsung had trademarked the J7 Sky Pro name in the U.S.
 
The Galaxy J7 (2017) features a 5.5-inch display with a 1080 x 1920 resolution. Under the hood is the Snapdragon 625 chipset carrying an octa-core 2GHz CPU, and the Adreno 506 GPU. 2GB of RAM is inside along with 16GB of native storage. A 13MP camera graces the back of the phone, while a 5MP selfie snapper can be found in front. Android 6.0 is pre-installed.

Blass’ tweet hints that the phone will also be made available to other stateside carriers. Other names that he previously mentioned as possible destinations for the Galaxy J7 (2017) included AT&T and U.S. Cellular. Earlier this month, a version of the phone with the model number SM-727A was spotted on GFXBench. This is probably the AT&T variant of the device.

source: @evleaks

Withings to join Nokia for “an exciting keynote announcement” on February 26

Whitings, the French company acquired by Nokia last year, confirmed it would join HMD Global’s MWC 2017 press conference, which will be held on February 26.

Not many details have been offered by Withings, just the fact that it wants to share “an exciting keynote announcement” with the world. The French company is mostly known for its connected health devices, but Withings built a smartwatch as well.

Withings launched the Activite Sapphire smartwatch back in 2014, followed by two different variants the next year: Activite Steel and Activite Pop. The smartwatch is compatible with both Android and iOS smartphones, but it lacks any external buttons.

Since it was acquired by the Finnish company, Withings operates under Nokia Technologies’ Digital Health division, so it’s hard to say what new devices it might unveil later this week.

A smartphone accessory, a health app that would be exclusive to Nokia smartphones, or even an Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch, are among the possible products Withings could announce on February 26.

HMD Global plans to introduce at least three Nokia-branded handsets at MWC 2017: Nokia 3, Nokia 5, and a modern Nokia 3310. Withings’ announcement might be related to any or all of these phones.

One man builds 48 of SwiftKey’s over 150 language models supported by the Android keyboard app

Perhaps many won’t be surprised to learn that SwiftKey now features support for more than 150 languages, but you know what’s really impressive? Apparently, one man is responsible for building 48 of SwiftKey’s over 150 language models.

His name is Julien Baley, a SwiftKey engineer who speaks fluently English, French and Mandarin. He also has varying degrees of knowledge of other languages like German, Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Breton, Armenian, Greek, Hungarian, Taiwanese, Classical Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Swahili, Scottish Gaelic, Yiddish, and Yakut.

The first language he built for SwiftKey took about four months, but today, Julien managed to smoother the process to two weeks … for ten language models!

In order to create a new language model for SwiftKey, you need at least 5,000 words. However, the language model becomes better and more accurate once it gains users, which also translates in larger vocabulary.

According to Julien, his most treasured language model built for SwiftKey is Kurdish. If you wonder why, here is his explanation:

I’m happy to have done Kurdish. There are two languages in Kurdistan, and both are spoken in war zones. One part of the region is in Turkey, and one part is in Syria and Iraq. The people can’t even go to a school that uses their language, so I’m happy they have a keyboard to at least write it now.

Images found in Tab S3 system dump reveal some Samsung Galaxy S8 features

According to an anonymous source, a system dump of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 tablet contained some images that show the Samsung Galaxy S8 running some features. We should point out that if the images are legit, there should be no more questions about the placement of the fingerprint scanner on the phone. Speaking of the openings on the back of the handset, one of the diagrams shows how to use the heart rate monitor which is located to the left of the rear-facing camera.

The phone’s on-screen navigation keys are also the subject of attention as one image highlights the multitasking key on the bottom left of the handset. In the middle is the square home key, with the back key on the right. If you don’t own a Samsung handset, you might be used to a different order.

Another image that was part of the system dump shows the Samsung Galaxy S8 being used in the DeX dock. This is the dock that connects to a monitor using an HDMI cable. Flip open the dock and insert your Galaxy S8 to reveal a desktop-like operating interface on the screen. DeX, which might stand for Desktop Experience, could be similar in some ways to the Continuum system that allows certain Windows 10 Mobile devices to “power” a desktop computer.

While the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 should be introduced on February 26th at MWC, the Samsung Galaxy S8 won’t see the light of day until March 29th. Meanwhile, feel free to check out the images that appeared with the Galaxy Tab S3 system dump by clicking on the slideshow below.

source: AndroidPolice

Ming-Chi Kuo sees “revolutionary” front camera for the Apple iPhone 8

A report just released by KGI Securities reveals some new information from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo about the Apple iPhone 8. The analyst, who has a reputation for being highly reliable, says that the version of the 2017 iPhone wearing an OLED panel will sport a “revolutionary” front-facing camera and a 3D sensor. The 2D images from the camera will use the new sensor to produce 3D selfies and will also be employed for face recognition.

Ming-Chi Kuo recently said that the iPhone 8 would not have Touch ID embedded under an edge-to-edge display as originally thought. Instead, the analyst said that Apple would use face recognition to unlock the phone and verify information. To that end, Apple purchased Israeli company RealFace which has developed a highly accurate system that can even identify identical twins.

Sensors used in the new camera will be able to perform depth of field calculations using a dedicated Infrared transmitter and receiver. According to Mr. Ming, the camera will be produced by Sony with Foxconn’s Sharp supplying the infrared receivers. IR signals are sent out from the phone, and then are bounced off objects and are detected using the 1.4MP IR receiver. The report adds that Apple will add 3D sensing rear-facing cameras in 2018 models and beyond. This would allow Apple to get rid of the large dual-camera system found on the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. With Apple well ahead of Android in 3D camera algorithms, according to the KGI analyst, the new technology could be unique to the iPhone for some time.

The Apple iPhone 8 is expected to feature a 5.8-inch OLED display, replacing the home button with a “function area” that leaves a 5.2-inch screen for applications. The A11 chipset will be under the hood with optional wireless charging, a larger battery and improved protection from water. The phone is expected to be priced at $1,000.

Another report by TrendForce estimates that production of the 2017 iPhone models (Apple iPhone 7s, Apple iPhone 7s Plus, Apple iPhone 8) will reach 100 million units this year, with the OLED panel sporting iPhone 8 making up the majority of that production. Including all iPhone models manufactured this year, Apple will raise production by 6% to 230 million handsets.

Information from the iPhone supply chain suggests that the iPhone 8 will feature 2K resolution, a first for an Apple smartphone, and will come with 3GB of RAM. Storage options will be 64GB and 256GB. The iPhone 7s Plus will also sport 3GB of RAM while 2GB of the stuff will grace the iPhone 7s.

source: 9to5Mac, TrendForce

The HTC U Ultra is now on sale in Europe through QuickMobile

The U Ultra is the latest flagship phone from HTC since last year’s HTC 10, and while the spec-to-price ratio isn’t the best that we’ve ever seen, it’s still got a lot of people talking. The secondary display, AI features scattered throughout the operating system, and slick glass construction are all quite enticing, and although we won’t be able to dish out any final judgement on the phone until we conduct a full review, you can certainly count us interested in the latest from HTC.

Customers in the the United States, United Kingdom, and Taiwan have been able to purchase the phone for some time now, but it looks like it’s just now made its way over to HTC fans in Europe. Our European readers can currently purchase the U Ultra through QuickMobile, with the 64GB variant selling for RON 3,899.90. That translates to about $910 USD, and it’s quite a bit pricier than the US model of the phone that’s selling for $749. 

Believe it or not, this isn’t the only model of the U Ultra that features a USD conversion price of more than $900. Customers over in Taiwan can purchase a version of the phone that’s clad in a premium sapphire finish with a price tag of about $920 USD, and although the price is extremely high, it’s also the most premium variant of the phone that HTC is selling.

There’s been a good bit of controversy surround the HTC U Ultra and its steep price tag in a market that features so many high-quality handsets for a lot less money, but there’s no getting around the fact that this is one of the most attractive and interesting devices that HTC has kicked out in some time. Will it be worth that high cost of admission? Only time will tell.

Remix OS on Mobile will allow you to have an Android smartphone that can also work like a PC

In 2015, a company by the name of Jide hit the scene with the Remix Ultra Tablet. The Remix Ultra Tablet featured a design very similar to Microsoft’s Surface line of gadgets, but rather than running Windows, the Tablet was powered by something called Remix OS – Jide’s custom take on Android with various elements that are very akin to a desktop operating system. The Ultra Tablet created for somewhat of a cult following, and Jide was quick to follow it up with the Remix Mini later that year. Dubbed as “The World’s First True Android PC”, the Remix Mini is a tiny $90 PC that can be plugged into your monitor so that you can run Remix OS on a larger canvas. 

Today, February 21, 2017, saw Jide announce Remix OS for Mobile. As the name suggests, Remix OS for Mobile is the first port of Remix OS that we’ve ever seen for a smartphone, and it’s quickly shaping up to be the most exciting project that Jide has ever embarked on. Remix OS for Mobile is a new custom ROM for Android, but it’s quite unlike any other take on Google’s mobile OS that we’ve ever seen. On your phone, Remix OS for Mobile will function “as close to stock Android as possible.” Exact details on this are still a tad murky, but expect to find your app drawer, home screens, widgets, notification tray, and everything else just like you’d expect it. However, once you connect your phone to a computer monitor through a dock of some sort that Jide has yet to go into too much detail on, you’ll be running the full-fledged Remix OS.

This is done through a new system that Jide is currently calling “Singularity”, and just like all other iterations of Remix OS that we’ve seen before this, you can run multiple apps at once in individual windows, place favorite apps on your home screen, have full keyboard and mouse integration, and a ton more. Singularity is essentially Jide’s version of Microsoft’s Continuum for Windows 10 Mobile, and while Continuum has shown itself to not be the most powerful tool out there, Jide’s co-founder David Ko says that they’ve created Singularity and Remix OS for Mobile to target folks that are looking for a complete computing solution that’s affordable.

In the next five years, roughly five billion people will be coming online. And when they come online, their number one choice will be the smartphone; an affordable smartphone, and that will be an Android. If your phone can replace [your PC], it’s a huge saving, and has a big impact to productivity.

Remix OS for Mobile shows a lot of promise, but the software isn’t perfect just yet. There are still numerous bugs to be squashed and the Google Play Store doesn’t come preinstalled by default and needs to be side-loaded if you want to have access to it. Side-loading the Play Store is a relatively easy task as long as you know what you’re doing, but that could still prove to be a turn-off for users that aren’t all that familiar with the world of rooting and ROMing. Furthermore, an absence such as this will also likely put off any OEMs who are potentially interested in running Jide’s new software on their respective hardware.

Jide says that Remix OS for Mobile will be launching this summer, and while there are definitely some kinks that still need to be worked out, the idea of the project is brilliant. The ability to have one single device to act as your hub isn’t a new concept, but Jide’s take on it looks to be quite promising in many areas. Want to type out a full Word document while you’re at home? Just plug your phone into a monitor. Want to kick back and watch Stranger Things but don’t want to be confined to your smartphone? Plug it into your television and take advantage of a specially optimized TV mode. Remix OS for Mobile has an enormous amount of potential, and even if this take on a more versatile Android ROM doesn’t take off, hopefully it gets the idea planted in developers’ minds that this is something that can and should be explored a lot more.

Disney’s new OTA charging technology has plenty of potential

The folks at Disney do a lot more research than trying to figure how how much to raise theme park ticket prices. Lately, they have been looking at quasistatic cavity resonance. It is based on Nikola Tesla’s coil circuit that produces an energy field. The idea is to allow someone with a mobile device to walk into a room and have the phone in his pocket charged OTA without wires and without pads. Yes, this is a charging solution that Energous has already started to address with its WattUp product.

Disney built a mock living room to test its wireless charging technology. Devices such as a smartphone, a lamp, a remote control car and a fan were charged up by the roaming energy. 1900 watts were sent into the room; any more could be dangerous to the human body. In the middle of the room is a long copper pole containing a ring of  15 capacitors. The wall, floor and ceiling are made from aluminum panel. 

When things are turned on, the current is running up and down the copper pole at a speed of 1.3 million times per second. The current goes up and down through the room, creating a circular magnetic field that travels around the pole. Multiple devices can be charged at the same time depending on the design of the receiver employed. Disney has advanced the system so that it provides power regardless of the orientation of the device. Furniture placed inside the room by Disney did not negatively affect the circulation of the energy.

Disney scientists say that the technology can be scaled down to “charging cabinets” or scaled up to huge warehouses. A lot more testing needs to be done before all of the potential of this system becomes available to the public. You can learn more about how this all works by clicking on the video at the top of the story.

source: DisneyResearch via EdgyLabs

Modular smartphones: How it started and where is it all heading?

The first actual attempt for selling modular phones on a broad basis can be attributed to the Israeli startup Modu. Its eponymous phone was announced at MWC in 2008, and actually still holds the Guinness World Record for the lightest hand-held mobile phone with its weight of 40.1 g (1.41 oz). The Modu can be inserted into a range of phone enclosures (known as jackets), which furnish it with added functionalities and buttons. 

The company’s attempts were certainly brave, but they were overshadowed by the “iPhone Era” that was just kicking into gear. As a result, Modu ultimately ceased operations in early 2011 and later sold several of its patents to Google.

Phonebloks and Project Ara

Phonebloks was the first smartphone modular concept to attract widespread attention. It was created by Dutch designer Dave Hakkens in 2013, and became quite popular due to the extent of its modularity – individual third-party “blok” components could be attached to a main body, essentially allowing users to create their own personalized handset.

Many people expected Phonebloks to appear as a commercial product in the next few years, but Hakkens never intended to actually build the device himself. His goal was to inspire big companies to go in that direction in the pursuit of reducing e-waste. Hakkens’ ideas attracted the attention of some big players such as Xiaomi and ZTE, while startups like Fairphone and Puzzlephone were also interested in the idea. However, Phonebloks’ biggest partnership came from Google’s Project Ara which, as luck would have it, is the next ambitious enterprise in our article.

Project Ara was Google’s bid to wow the world with modular phones. Ara was originally headed by the ATAP team in Motorola while it was still a Google subsidiary, and the tech giant opted to retain ATAP when it eventually sold Moto to Lenovo.

The initial objective of Project Ara was to introduce “a modular phone for the entire world”, made for $50 in materials and consisting of a series of small, Lego-style bricks that could be attached, rearranged, and swapped out in a few seconds. However, by May 2016 the concept was ditched, and Google opted to go for a base phone that has a non-upgradable core, with modules providing supplemental features. Mountain View later decided to cancel the entire project, but may now be licencing the technology to third parties.
 

Fairphone 2, LG G5 and Moto Z

We’re moving on to smartphones that actually can be purchased at the time of writing. 

Modu may have been the OG modular phone, but in 2015, the Fairphone 2 became the first truly modern modular smartphone that one can buy. The handset is a product of a Dutch startup and is built with sustainability and repairability in mind. The phone is ethically sourced, using conflict-free minerals, Fairtrade gold and recycled materials, and is assembled in factories with good working conditions. A small Phillips screwdriver is all you need to take the back off the Fairphone 2, and its seven inner modules are very easy to swap out. About 40,000 units were shipped 6 months after its release, so we can’t exactly classify the Fairphone 2 as a bestseller, but finally having a smartphone with such characteristics available signalized that things might be starting to change.

Last year, things certainly did change. Two major manufacturers unveiled phone lines with modular systems. LG Electronics released its G5 flagship, which allows add-on modules or “Friends” to be installed by removing its bottom and battery, and attaching the battery to an accessory that is then re-inserted into the phone. The company also unveiled camera grip and audio enhancement accessories as part of G5’s launch. This clearly was a bold move from the South Korean firm, but its gamble didn’t pay off and the G5 sold poorly. As a result, LG is changing tactics and will introduce traditional handsets for this year. 
Perhaps the only successful handset series of the bunch is Motorola’s Moto Z line. Granted, LG probably managed to ship more G5 units, but overall sales of the device were below expectations. On the other hand, Lenovo had been struggling to turn a profit from Motorola after its $2.91 billion acquisition from Google back in 2014, so the strong performance from Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid was a sigh of relief for the Beijing-based corporation. The phones launched with a bunch of “Moto Mods” accessories, including a JBL SoundBoost Speaker, a variety of Power Pack extended batteries, and the Moto Insta-Share Projector.

Conclusion

Is there a future for the modular design? That’s a very good question that currently no one can answer. What we do know is that in order to stay “in fashion”, smartphone makers need to innovate. As such, we believe that if executed correctly, a smart and sensible modular approach can be a good selling point for new handsets. LG may have bailed out, but Motorola is looking to expand its Moto Mods program in 2017 and bring indie developers and makers on board. Other companies like Alcatel and Puzzlephone will also unveil new modular phones this year, so one can’t really label the concept as a failure just yet. There is also the environmental side of things – we live on a planet that has finite resources, and going modular can certainly be an important choice that could provide us (at least partially) with a more sustainable future. 

Samsung Flow app to allow Galaxy smartphone users to unlock their Windows 10 PCs with fingerprint

Samsung Flow isn’t a great Android app judging by the 3.7 rating (out of 5) it’s got on Google Play Store. However, the application will soon expand its functionality to a wider range of products, which might boost its appeal among users.

At the moment, Samsung Flow allows Galaxy Tab Pro S users to unlock their tablet with a compatible Galaxy smartphone’s fingerprint scanner. Here are the supported smartphones confirmed by Samsung: Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy A5 (2016), and Galaxy A7 (2016).

The good news is Samsung …