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Top Smartphones Of Mobile World Congress

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mobile world congress

While the Consumer Electronics Show generally features consumer tech from varying different areas such as connected cars, laptops, home appliances, wearables, and drones, Mobile World Congress (MWC) narrows its focus to smartphones, tablets, and all things mobile. Even so, Mobile World Congress is probably the second largest consumer technology trade show after CES. Many tech companies use this time to make major product announcements, usually smartphones. This year was no different as many high profile companies such as LG, Sony, and even Nokia revealed the future of their products. One of the bigger surprises was the lack of a Galaxy S8 announcement from Samsung. That reveal (which has already leaked) is scheduled for Samsung Unpacked event later this month. Here are the top 5 announcements of Mobile World Congress:

 

LG G6G6 LG

While last year’s G5 was certainly a bold move for LG, their take on modular smartphones was nevertheless an unsuccessful one. Switching between modules was somewhat clunky and many reviewers lamented the questionable build quality and easily scratched paint job. Fortunately at Mobile World Congress, LG finally made the G6 official after months of rumors and speculation. This year seems to be a reset from last year and a return to form. From the outset, the most noticeable thing about the G6 is the big, beautiful 5.7” Quad HD screen dominating the front. The 18:9 ratio allows wider content viewing although videos may display black bars on the sides. The bezels are very minimal with an almost edge to edge screen (although not spilling over the edge like Samsung’s Galaxy S6/S7 Edge). It loses the modular features of the G5 and instead unibody design of glass and metal. The unibody design means that it loses the ability to remove the battery, however, that allows for waterproofing and wireless charging. For all of you spec junkies, it has a Snapdragon 821 CPU and Adreno 530 GPU. It has dual 13 megapixel wide angle cameras in the back. Finally, it comes with Android 7.0 Nougat with Google Assistant out of the box. While the G6 doesn’t necessarily have a neat party tricks like the G5, the laser focus on the basics makes this a very competent flagship phone.

 

NokiaNokia

To call Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia’s smartphone business a disaster is an understatement. However, Nokia is poised to make a comeback with all new smartphones, now powered by Android instead of Windows 10 Mobile. This time, Nokia gave the licensing rights for the Nokia brand to HMD Global to manufacture and distribute the phones. What resulted is the Nokia 3, 5, and 6. A trio of low to mid range Android phones that might turn a few heads despite the lower specs. The biggest draw for these phones is the bone stock version of Android 7.1.1 Nougat that’s loaded on the phones. No carrier bloatware, no intrusive skins, no customizations at all. Just pure stock Android. The stock nature of the new Nokias mean faster performance and potentially faster updates. According to The Verge, HMD has about 500 carrier and retail partners but hasn’t committed to any U.S. carriers. HMD is probably trying to test the waters with mid range phones before making any high-end Nokia branded phones to compete with the likes of iPhone and Galaxy.

nokia

Nokia 3310

Nokia

This isn’t a smartphone but “ain’t no school like the old school” as the saying goes. HMD is reviving the much loved and practically indestructible Nokia 3310. The new and improved 3310 sports a more rounded shape, various color choices, and has a bigger, colorful screen than the old phone. Make no mistake though, these are still basic phones that you can use to text (using T9 of course), call, take pictures, and yes…play a game of Snake. Those who want to indulge their nostalgia can pick these up for about $50.

 

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Sony

Going back up the spectrum into the decidedly high-end is the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. Sony actually admitted that they lacked innovation in 2016. At Mobile World Congress, Sony is ticking every single box spec wise with the XZ Premium. It has the world’s first 5.5” 4K HDR screen. HDR is High Dynamic Range which basically allows for more vibrant colors. The effect is quite noticeable on HDTVs that have HDR enabled. Although the screen is 4K, because it uses LCD technology, it’s not suitable for VR since the response times in LCD are too low. In addition to that, the XZ Premium is packing Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. It has a IP68 rating for dust and water resistance and comes preloaded with Android 7.1 Nougat. Also…can we talk the camera for a moment? It’s a 19-megapixel camera called the Motion Eye. This new camera module has fast memory baked right in and so allows slow motion photography at 960 frames per second at 720p resolution which is a first for smartphones. The camera also has laser auto focus, an infrared sensor, and an updated image sensor. On paper, this sounds like a fantastic camera but further tests from reviewers later this year will bear this out. On a slightly sour note for American buyers, it looks like the U.S. version of the XZ Premium will omit the fingerprint sensor. Regardless, Sony is packing the Xperia XZ Premium with a myriad of high end features and specs which should certainly help it compete in the high end smartphone market.

 

Blackberry KeyOne

Blackberry

BlackBerry’s last hurrah as an independent hardware manufacturer resulted in the BlackBerry Priv, an Android phone with some admittedly neat features but ultimately expensive and a little buggy. This year at Mobile World Congress, like Nokia, BlackBerry has left hardware duties to and third party manufacturer called TCL. Thus, TCL introduced the BlackBerry KeyOne which actually shows a lot of promise and might be a sleeper hit among Android users. Spec-wise, it’s decidedly mid-range with its Snapdragon 625 processor but it doesn’t have to be as it’s aimed primarily at the business market. It has a 4.5 inch screen with a built in hardware keyboard (it wouldn’t be a BlackBerry without it). That keyboard has quite a few tricks up it’s sleeve. The keyboard itself can be used as a trackpad. You can assign application shortcuts with just one key, for example, pressing the letter “f” to open Facebook. The space bar also acts as a very accurate fingerprint sensor. One of BlackBerry’s hallmarks is its focus on security. It’s launching with Android 7.1 Nougat and BlackBerry has promised to keep up with Google’s monthly security updates. The BlackBerry DTEK software is also onboard which monitors the phone’s status, security, and controls how much services are able to use the phone. The focus on security alone might be enough for a few security conscious users to switch to BlackBerry. While BlackBerry’s influence has been dramatically reduced in the wake of iPhone and Android devices, BlackBerry’s focus on security might help it at least keep a foothold in the government and commercial sectors.

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SpaceX Trademarking Starlink As The Name For Their Internet

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SpaceX Internet

The multibillion-dollar SpaceX satellite network project created by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was created in 2015 to provide cheap global internet to people around the world in an accessible manner. SpaceX is trademarking the name Starlink as the name for SpaceX internet.

The origin of Starlink comes from the US Patent and Trademark Office on August 21st as a trademark filing. The company wants to trademark SpaceX internet as Starlink to capture their motive for a wireless broadband communication services, high-speed wireless Internet access, telecommunications gateway services, and other various areas related to the satellite communication network.

The estimated budget towards the network project is going to cost up to $10 billion to even get started. Though the investment is large, Elon Musk sees this opportunity as a special type of revenue for the future once it is completed. As broadcasted by the Satellite Industry Association report, the satellite industry is at an estimated value at about $260 billion in 2016 and the launch services are totaled to $5.5 billion. This data further cements their advantage in pursuing the satellite network project.

Upon entering the satellite industry, Elon Musk seems to have an advantage with SpaceX. The reusable Falcon 9 rocket and future Falcon Heavy vehicle seems to be dominating the journey to orbit. SpaceX takes up all responsibilities and approaches to nearly all aspects of design and manufacturing by what’s known as a “vertically integrated approach”. In an effort to doing this, their project is at a lower-cost to launch compared to others entering the industry.

Elon Musk’s known scheme in doing the impossible with SpaceX and Tesla is coming into contact with his satellite network. The vision with this network is a revolutionary act, in their efforts to build internet access to underdeveloped grounds with difficulties in acquiring modern communications infrastructure. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been coordinating with the Federal Communications Commission to bring a satellite constellation to space for a better reach and expansion of internet access. Representatives from the SpaceX satellite network project met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in March to explore that venture deeper.

There are attempts from other companies to expand internet to more people around the world. A Virginia-based internet venture called OneWeb is racing to have an operational network. After securing another $1.2 billion in investment, they are planning on building satellites for SES, one of the world’s largest satellite operators, while organizing a medium-sized orbit network.

Their schedule is planned to launch sometime in 2019 and will continue through 2024, while SpaceX promises to regularly update their network to meet customer demand. Elon Musk is assumed to announce more on the the project when he speaks at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia. Expanding access to better communication with SpaceX internet is a step closer to a better world.

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Scooterboard By InMotion Adds An Edge To Rideables

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scooterboard

After almost 3 years of product development and testing, the Scooterboard by InMotion has entered production, thanks to an impressive Kickstarter campaign where they were able to reach their funding goal in a mere 48 hours. The Scooterboard is a cross between a scooter and a skateboard, and the resulting product is a lightweight, front-axle steering rideable that is both easy to learn, is safe, and is sporty. Here is everything you need to know about Scooterboard.

scooterboard

The Scoop on InMotion:

The Scooterboard is the brain child of CEO Rose Wang, founder of InMotion, a company based out of San Diego, CA (You can read her full interview with Owner’s Magazine here). Formed in 2014, InMotion has been testing multiple prototypes and gathering user info from people all over the country, using that to tweak each iteration into what is being produced today. Thus, the Scooterboard is a product that is based solely on user feedback, merged into the creative idea that InMotion had. After three years of testing and re-testing, the final result is this unique rideable that caters to just about everyone.

Specifications

The Scooterboard weighs about 22 lbs, can carry up to 264.55 lbs, and has a top speed of 15.5 MPH, which it accomplishes through its 250w electric motorized rear wheel. It runs on a rechargeable, interchangeable lithium battery mounted on the undercarriage of the Scooterboard’s rider platform. Charging time is around 2.5 hours, which will grant its user about 7.5 miles of driving range. The included charger is equipped with an intelligent over-discharging system, which will cut off the power supply once the battery is full. The Scooterboard also has regenerative braking, a useful feature that pioneered the way for Hybrid Technology to be successful and gain traction (get it) in the motorized vehicle industry. How it works is that braking will generate kinetic energy, which will then be stored and reused as battery life.

There are two driving modes for the Scooterboard: Casual, and Power each of which changes riding experience drastically. Casual Mode keeps the motor quiet, the speeds smooth climbing and the brakes soft. It’s a mode for the leisurely rider to cruise easily. Power Mode is a different beast: Engine noise is heightened, acceleration is faster, and the brakes are firmer. Late to work? For a date? Want to feel more wind under the raw open-air of electric rideables? Use Power Mode.

scooterboard

scooterboard

Ergonomics

At first glance, the Scooterboard looks exactly like a spruced up, aggressive scooter, but that’s exactly what it isn’t. The Scooterboard sports three wheels instead of two, thanks to a front-axle, fork mounted steering system. The standing platform is sandpaper textured to avoid slipping in dry and wet weather, and gives the user a firm, planted feel when riding. On the single, ergonomic handlebar, there are two switches for acceleration and braking. Both are conveniently located right next to each other, but are situated where the thumb controls the brake, whereas the index finger controls the acceleration. Both are pressure sensitive, similar to the pedals on a car, or the handlebars on a motorcycle. There is also a mechanical brake in the rear wheel. Step on the rear wheel cover plate to brake via a small hidden brake pad. At 22 lbs, the Scooterboard is easily transportable, and the front handlebar folds down, allowing the user to carry it like a suitcase, or pull it along like a carry-on.

scooterboard

Rideability

With the unique concept of such a vehicle, rideability should be at the forefront of priorities. After all, being unique means it hasn’t been done. For a product such as the Scooterboard, rideability should be a special experience, but it should also be attractive and intuitive. The Scooterboard does just this by combining the best qualities of two popular terrains, the scooter, and the skateboard to allow its rider a fun, sporty platform that is also easy to learn (users claim it can be learned in a single session), practical, and convenient. To do this they crafted a single handle that curves like a cane right under the single handlebar. That allows for a perfectly balanced center of gravity. No other rideable on the market has employed this design, yet it works brilliantly with the Scooterboard’s ergonomics. The feet are planted sideways like a skateboard, or a snowboard (for the snowboarders, with the fork-mounted steering system, carving is possible, and encouraged), and steering is done in one of two possible ways: tilting the handlebar left or right, or by leaning the body. Leaning allows for sharp turns, and even full U-turns in small spaces, a useful feature not found in many other electric rideables. For novices, leaning to steer is a skill that takes some practice, but once attained is immeasurably helpful. For those wanting to get on the road right away, the handlebar exists to easily compensate. It is easy to use, and the mastery is almost immediate. Together, the handlebar and the lean to steer system combine to create a useful method of steering that is as useful as carving on a snowboard, without the months of learning associated with carving. It can be employed to take quick, sharp angled turns, and control speed which, on the Scooterboard, is surprisingly sharp. On a flat, level plain, the Scooterboard can hit top speed in about 4 seconds.

With the motor turned off, it can be kicked off manually. Conveniently, there is no resistance from the motor when it’s off, so users can kick off and enjoy a manually powered vehicle post shut-off.

Learnability

InMotion prides itself in the fact that its product has a very low learning curve. Users agree that through intuitive adaptation, riders can be comfortable on a Scooterboard by the end of a first session. There are a few things to get used to, however. 15.5 MPH may be drab in a car, but on a vehicle as small as a Scooterboard, the speed can be intimidating, especially for beginners. The lean-to-steer system has the biggest learning curve, there is a feeling associated with the vertigo of being close to falling that users have to overcome to fully utilize this method. But regardless, the Scooterboard can be driven any which way, however the user is most comfortable. CEO Rose Wang said herself that during conceptualization, she wanted to:

create a unique and accessible vehicle that is easy to learn and more affordable. With Scooterboard, we want to make the e-board culture more inclusive so that more people can participate in the electric vehicle movement. We want to challenge the e-board industry to innovate with inclusion in mind so it’s not just a cliché. E-boarding is a fun and awesome experience that’s good for the environment – why wouldn’t we want to get more people involved?”

The Scooterboard by InMotion is now available for pre-ordering here for $649.00 (early bird pre-orders currently receive $50 off the full retail price of $699.00). Because InMotion wanted to keep prices low, they will be working closely with distributors and retailers. There are currently two colorways available: the one found on the final tested prototype of a sleek black and blue, or the more enigmatic, bold black and green.

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Tesla News on Hurricane Irma Response

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Tesla came to the rescue by unlocking the full 75 kilowatt-hour of energy within the car’s battery pack once a Tesla owner immediately needed about 30 more miles to escape their mandatory evacuation zone during Irma. When Tesla realized that an additional 15 kWh jolt could give 30 to 40 more miles to other car owners, the company temporarily unlocked more Tesla vehicles in that region so they could reach safety. It became Tesla news when the company assisted in many escapes during Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Irma striked Florida for 11 days, receiving a record as the longest-lived Atlantic hurricane since 2004 with Hurricane Ivan. The storm left traces of tree debris, destroyed buildings, and even 26,000 bugs that were caught in the hurricane. Irma has devastated Florida with trails of wandering trash and floods, concluded Irma’s impact as the strongest storm in Atlantic history. Donations and help were given towards the tragedy, one of the most unexpected came from entrepreneur Elon Musk and Tesla.

Tesla is unlike other car manufacturers. The company is enabled to limit their battery capacity in its vehicles through a software. The Tesla Model S and Model X cars have a capacity of 75 kWh but are restricted to no more than 60-70 kWh. Tesla owners typically have to pay $9,000 more to unlock the extra 15 kWh of battery power, but in the time of need, Tesla came to help by offering all customers a temporary upgrade to escape the dangerous hurricane. Although most state laws demand customers to bring their cars into the dealerships to collect upgrades, Tesla has neglected traditional routes by deleting the third-party to connect with the company directly. Creating sparks of Tesla news and attention, the company is praised for being unique and away from traditional values. 

The CEO of Fetch Robotics, Melonee Wise commends Tesla’s act of courage during Irma. “One of the major benefits to being first to market is not only the ability to move quickly and decisively, but to offer a certain level of innovation and creativity that might not be available within a more established industry,” says CEO Melonee Wise.

Tesla is giving a prime example to other companies by doing their part in a time of disaster. To implement a sense of community and trust during tragic times will do more than just create sales. While Tesla is shaping that company culture gradually. What drives Tesla is innovation, their core branding is represented in how different they are from other manufacturers. “As a new, disruptive force in the automotive space with no established revenue base or embedded infrastructure to cannibalize, Elon Musk was able to completely reengineer the way cars were produced, serviced, and sold.” says Skywire Networks CEO Alan Levy. Tesla’s reply to immediately help during Hurricane Irma, further instructs the dependability of the company as a whole. Tesla is able to respond to their customer’s needs instantly.

Carbon Robotics CEO, Rosanna Myers emphasized on the issue that other companies face: don’t bite the hand that feeds you. “While disruptors can do what’s best for the customer. Tesla unlocking range to save lives is a prime example of how that agility is shifting the landscape.”  CEO Rosanna Myers also speaks upon a bigger topic trend: all major companies need to be software-centric. “Customers now expect continuous upgrades and improvements to their hardware, but a lot of old-school execs barely know how software works,” explains Rosanna Myers. “As we move to a world of connected devices, they’re being left in the dust.”

Among their activities, Tesla’s hurricane Irma response gave them copious amounts of praise, as they should. The bold act became the biggest Tesla news, for fans have more reason to purchase their cars. Their immediate reply to help can be used as an example for others to reshape company values. 

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