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Not OK, Google: Assistant will be exclusive to Pixel

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Google came out with the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones this week, with one of their main attractions being Android 7.1 Nougat, which no other phone has for now.

And while we expect the software update to roll out later this year (presumably to Nexus and Android One devices first; the beta version will launch later this month), it’s imperative to talk about Nougat on Pixel because both handsets will reportedly have some software features that may not be found anywhere else. Features you’ll want to use with regularity, or at least try out.

Android Police has put together a list of “Pixel-exclusive and non-exclusive changes” that are baked into Android 7.1 Nougat. The list is surprisingly long — well, for a small tick up on the upgrade ladder — so take a deep breath before reading through the entire change log. Oh, and spoiler alert: You won’t like what you read, for reasons we’ll explore later.

Pixel-specific features:

  • Pixel Launcher—swipe up for all apps, new Search Box, date/weather header on home
  • Google Assistant
  • Unlimited original quality photo/video backup to Google Photos
  • Smart Storage—when storage is full, automatically removes old backed up photos/videos
  • Phone/Chat support (new support tab in settings), screen-share functionality
  • Quick switch adapter for wired setup from Android or iPhone
  • Pixel Camera:
    • Electronic Image Stabilization (“video stabilization”) 2.0
    • Pro Features
      • White Balance Presets
      • Exposure Compensation
      • AE/AF Locking
      • Viewfinder grid modes
    • HW-accelerated (on Qualcomm Hexagon coprocessor) HDR+ image processing
    • Smartburst
  • Sensor Hub processor with tightly integrated sensors (accel, gyro, mag) + connectivity (Wi-Fi, Cell, GPS)
  • Cosmetic
    • Solid navbar icons with home affordance for Assistant
    • SysUI accent color theming
    • Wallpaper picker with new wallpapers and sounds
    • New setup look and feel
    • Dynamic calendar date icon

Android 7.1 features (not Pixel-specific):

  • Night Light (this shifts the color temperature of your screen a la iOS’ Night Shift mode or f.lux)
  • Touch/display performance improvements
  • Moves (Fingerprint swipe-down gesture—opt-in)
  • Seamless A/B system updates
  • Daydream VR mode
  • Developer features:
    • App shortcuts/shortcut manager APIs
    • Circular app icons support
    • Keyboard image insertion
    • Fingerprint sensor gesture to open/close notification shade
    • Manual storage manager Intent for apps
    • Improved VR thread scheduling
    • Enhanced wallpaper metadata
    • Multi-endpoint call support
    • Support for various MNO requirements
      • PCDMA voice privacy property
      • Source type support for Visual Voicemail
      • Carrier config options for managing video telephony
  • Manual storage manager – identifies apps and files and apps using storage

So yeah, in case it wasn’t already clear, Google Assistant — the voice-activated digital assistant honed and refined by years of us using Google services, the single product Tuesday’s keynote address hinged on — won’t be coming to non-Pixel handsets and tablets.

Which is a head-scratcher, to say the least, because Google executives devoted much of their speech to outlining a future powered by voice. They conveniently left out the part about that future depending upon the general population choosing the Pixel over the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy S7 or Apple iPhone 7, or even the OnePlus 3.

It should’ve been the other way around — the benefits of Google’s artificial intelligence needs to reach all Android devices going forward, not just two. Regardless of whether or not people are ready and willing to have conversations with their phone.

However, Google isn’t closing down possibilities with Pixel’s best features, including Assistant. Some features could trickle down to other devices running Android Nougat; Google could release a diluted app version of Assistant that could be installed onto Androids and iPhones. That might happen in 2017. Speaking to TechCrunch, a Google spokesperson said: “Our goal is to make the Google Assistant widely available to users, and we’ll continue to launch new surfaces over the course of the next year.”

Source: Android Police

Image credit: NPR

MWC 2018

LG announces V30S ThinQ with artificial intelligence built in

It’s all about AI

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As early reports suggested, LG didn’t introduce a completely new flagship at MWC 2018 but rather an updated V30 handset with the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform, ThinQ.

More and more companies are banking on AI. If you recall, the ThinQ platform of LG was first introduced at CES 2018 earlier this year and the V30S ThinQ is LG’s first AI phone. According to LG, the focus of their AI platform for phones is on the camera and voice recognition features.

LG V30S ThinQ in Moroccan Blue

With Vision AI, the new V30 will have three new intelligent camera features. First is the AI Cam which analyzes subjects in the frame and automatically sets the shooting mode among eight categories: portrait, food, pet, landscape, city, flower, sunrise, and sunset.

In the short time we spent with the phone, we can confirm that the AI functionality does work as promised. We shot a couple of food snaps over dinner, and the resulting photos indeed look better than those compared to the original V30. More exhaustive tests and samples will come soon in a Hands-On piece.

Then there’s QLens that lets you visually search for products. For example, you see an item that you like and to know more about it or purchase it online, you can point the phone’s camera to it and it’ll look it up for you. Lastly, the Bright Mode aims to enhance low-light photography on the V30 by pixel binding.

As for the voice recognition, LG has Voice AI which allows users to run apps and tinker with settings through voice commands. That’s not a groundbreaking feature nowadays, but it works with Google Assistant and it’ll be an LG-exclusive with direct and specific functions.

LG V30S ThinQ in Platinum Gray

The LG V30S ThinQ (quite a mouthful) is built on the V30’s physique and they look identical, but specs-wise, it received some upgrades. The updated phone now has 6GB of memory and 128GB of expandable storage, but if you need more space, there’s a V30S+ ThinQ variant with 256GB of storage.

In an effort to make the new V30S ThinQ distinguishable from the older version, LG gave it two new colors: Moroccan Blue and Platinum Gray. Both have a lenticular finish on the back which displays different hues under certain lighting conditions.

SEE ALSO: LG V30 Review: Can it replace your vlogging camera?

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MWC 2018

Alcatel’s new 5, 3, and 1 smartphone series get 18:9 displays and Android Go

All of them have tall displays!

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TCL, the parent company of Alcatel, just launched an army of 18:9 smartphones. Why? Because 2018 smartphones should sport the new aspect ratio to keep up with the trend, and you now have a lot to choose from.

Alcatel is proud to present their latest smartphones with a taller display, and they made it available across each of their phone series. The brand also introduced a new design philosophy for its mobile devices called Simganic which is described as human-centric and iconic. The new design language is present on all the new phones starting with…

Alcatel 5 Series

The latest Alcatel 5 brings flagship design for just under EUR 300 with its near-bezel-less 5.7-inch FullView HD+ 18:9 display encased in a premium brushed metallic unibody. Powering the well-crafted device is a MediaTek MT6750 processor (this is really getting old) and it boots the dated Android Nougat.

The processing power may be a bit disappointing, but selfie lovers will appreciate the phone’s dual front cameras. It has a combo of a 13-megapixel f/2.0 main selfie shooter, a secondary super wide-angle 5-megapixel camera, and a dedicated front LED flash. For the rear, you get a standard 12-megapixel camera with dual-tone flash.

For security, the Alcatel 5 has a facial recognition feature called Face Key which is claimed to work in less than half a second. If you don’t like scanning your face, the fingerprint reader is found at the back of the phone.

The Alcatel 5 will come in Metallic Black and Metallic Gold for EUR 230 (US$ 280) in select markets that the brand serves.

Alcatel 3 Series

You can always get a cheaper phone with about the same features, and that’s what the Alcatel 3 Series is for. You’re not just getting one choice here but three — Alcatel 3V, Alcatel 3X, and Alcatel 3. All come with 18:9 displays, fingerprint readers, and Face Key unlock.

The Alcatel 3V is the biggest in the series with a 6-inch 2K display, MediaTek MT8735A processor, 2GB of memory, and up to 32GB of expandable storage. It has dual rear cameras with a 12- and 2-megapixel combo for bokeh effect, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The phone boots Android Oreo out of the box and packs in a 3000mAh battery.

Second in line is the Alcatel 3X which has a 5.7-inch HD+ display, MediaTek MT6739 processor, up to 3GB of memory, and up to 32GB of expandable storage. This one also has dual rear cameras (13- and 5-megapixel sensors) and a 5-megapixel shooter for taking selfies. Quite unfortunate that it’s loaded with Android Nougat, but you still get a sizable 3000mAh battery like the bigger sibling.

The Alcatel 3 is the most modest among the bunch with its 5.5-inch HD+ display, MediaTek MT6739 processor, 2GB of memory, and 16GB of expandable storage. It has a 13-megapixel rear shooter and a 5-megapixel selfie camera for photography — pretty basic but will get the job done. Despite being the base phone, the Alcatel 3 gets Android Oreo and a 3000mAh battery.

As for pricing and colors, the Alcatel 3V will be available in Spectrum Black, Spectrum Blue, and Spectrum Gold for EUR 190 (US$ 235), while the Alcatel 3X will be on sale for EUR 180 (US$ 220) in two more colors: Metallic Blue and Metallic Gold. The Alcatel 3 will be sold for EUR 150 (US$ 185) with the same color options as the 3V.

Alcatel 1 Series

If we’re talking about budget phones, let’s not forget about the most affordable in the lineup. The Alcatel 1X will definitely not break the bank starting at just EUR 100. Even with a cheap price tag, it still comes with a 5.3-inch 18:9 display but with a lower resolution at just 960 x 480. Don’t expect too much from its 8-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front cameras, but they are there when you need them. The phone has a 2460mAh battery to keep it going and a fingerprint reader along with the Face Key security unlock.

The Alcatel 1X boots Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but it will also be available with Android Oreo (Go edition) in select markets, making it the first Android Go phone of Alcatel.

The phone will come out in April in single and dual-SIM variants for EUR 100 (US$ 125) and EUR 110 (US$ 135), respectively. It’ll be available in two finishes: Suede for the black and blue colors, and Satiny for the gold and rose options.

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MWC 2018

TCL gives Android tablets a chance with affordable Alcatel 1T series

Cheap but still up to date!

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Android tablets may not be a common sight nowadays, but that doesn’t mean manufacturers have given up on them. TCL Communication banks on the opportunity of putting affordable slates on the market with the new Alcatel 1T series.

The Alcatel 1T series of tablets is envisioned by the Chinese company as devices that are accessible to consumers, especially to families that share common devices like tablets. The new devices come in two versions — 10-inch and 7-inch.

The bigger tablet is aptly called the Alcatel 1T 10 with its 10.1-inch IPS display that has a resolution of 1280 x 800. It’s powered by a MediaTek MT8321 processor with 1GB of memory and 16GB of expandable storage. Thanks to its size, it comes with a fairly large 4000mAh battery that’s said to last for eight hours on a single charge. Its cameras are basic at just 2 megapixels for both the front and back.

It’s Alcatel’s most affordable 10-inch tablet to come out starting at just EUR 100 or roughly US$ 125 when converted and will come in two colors: Premium Black and Bluish Black. An optional dedicated Bluetooth keyboard and textured cover will also be available as its accessories.

As the series’ mini version, the Alcatel 1T 7 is a lightweight and pocketable option. As the name implies, it has a smaller 7-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1024 x 600. It’s powered by the same processor and memory as the 10-inch version but comes with a lower 8GB of expandable storage. Its cameras are also just 2 megapixels on each side. The smaller tablet has a 2580mAh battery which is claimed to last for 7 hours of usage.

The Alcatel 1T 7 retails for just EUR 70 or about US$ 86. It’ll come in Premium Black and Bluish Black color options, too.

While the two differ in size, they come with the same set of features including Android 8.0 Oreo and a dedicated Kids Mode that’s pre-loaded with apps and content for the young ones. It also has built-in parental control for setting usage limits.

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