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Nokia shuts down its OZO VR department

Nokia decided to let go the mobile phone sector and go for an Internet of Things with the purchase of Withings in 2016. It also had the Ozo VR 360-degree camera, but that is now canceled due to slower-than-expected development of the market. The company announced it's shifting focus from VR to digital health and growing brand and technology licensing.
Nokia shuts down its VR department In a statement to the media, Nokia said the plan is to reduce investments and halt development of further versions of the OZO VR camera and hardware. This will affect 310 of all 1090 employees mainly in Finland, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
The VR market surely is not as hot as Nokia might have wanted, but the lack of interest towards their device might have something to do with the price tag of $45,000 rather than a general issue.
Nokia decided to let go the mobile phone sector and go for an Internet of Things with the purchase of Withings in 2016. It also had the Ozo VR 360-degree camera, but that is now canceled due to slower-than-expected development of the market. The company announced it's shifting focus from VR to digital health and growing brand and technology licensing.
Nokia shuts down its VR department In a statement to the media, Nokia said the plan is to reduce investments and halt development of further versions of the OZO VR camera and hardware. This will affect 310 of all 1090 employees mainly in Finland, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
The VR market surely is not as hot as Nokia might have wanted, but the lack of interest towards their device might have something to do with the price tag of $45,000 rather than a general issue.

ZTE announces Blade Force for Boost Mobile

ZTE is no stranger to the United States market where it thrives with prepaid carriers like Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile (before it switched to iPhone only), and Metro PCS. Today, ZTE is announcing a new smartphone for Boost Mobile for $130: the ZTE Blade Force.
Contrary to what you may think, the Blade Force is not a shatter resistant phone (you can thank Motorola for associating “Force” with a shatter resistant display), instead, the Blade Force is a new value device for the Sprint MVNO.
Blade ZTE Force Blade ZTE Force Blade ZTE Force
Blade ZTE Force
The Blade Force has a 5.5-inch 720p display which is powered by a 3,000 mAh battery. Along with a power-efficient Snapdragon 430, the Blade Force should last you all day. There are also 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage. That is expandable up to 128GB via a microSD card slot.
In addition, the Blade Force packs global bands so you can stay connected while roaming internationally. The ZTE Blade Force is also HPUE-enabled (High Performance User Equipment) which is Sprint’s extended stretches of spectrum for improved coverage indoors and better range outdoors. Finally, there's an 8MP main camera and a 2MP selfie shooter.
Boost Mobile’s current “Make the Switch” promotion offers two lines of 3GB (per line) of high-speed data LTE for $50 a month. The catch is that you have to port at least one of the lines from another carrier to Boost. If you’re looking at this offer, you should know that the promotion is good through November 2.
ZTE is no stranger to the United States market where it thrives with prepaid carriers like Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile (before it switched to iPhone only), and Metro PCS. Today, ZTE is announcing a new smartphone for Boost Mobile for $130: the ZTE Blade Force.
Contrary to what you may think, the Blade Force is not a shatter resistant phone (you can thank Motorola for associating “Force” with a shatter resistant display), instead, the Blade Force is a new value device for the Sprint MVNO.
Blade ZTE Force Blade ZTE Force Blade ZTE Force
Blade ZTE Force
The Blade Force has a 5.5-inch 720p display which is powered by a 3,000 mAh battery. Along with a power-efficient Snapdragon 430, the Blade Force should last you all day. There are also 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage. That is expandable up to 128GB via a microSD card slot.
In addition, the Blade Force packs global bands so you can stay connected while roaming internationally. The ZTE Blade Force is also HPUE-enabled (High Performance User Equipment) which is Sprint’s extended stretches of spectrum for improved coverage indoors and better range outdoors. Finally, there's an 8MP main camera and a 2MP selfie shooter.
Boost Mobile’s current “Make the Switch” promotion offers two lines of 3GB (per line) of high-speed data LTE for $50 a month. The catch is that you have to port at least one of the lines from another carrier to Boost. If you’re looking at this offer, you should know that the promotion is good through November 2.

ZTE posts 2 nubia teasers as Z17S press event date nears

We are eagerly waiting to hear about the ZTE nubia Z17S’s release on October 12. In the meantime, the nubia Weibo account has posted a 10 second teaser showing off the anticipated nubia Z17S. In the first video (Source 1) we don’t see the front of the phone at all, but there are some really nice-looking color options.
There were three color options shown in the video: gold, a “sapphire” blue, as well as more of an “aqua” blue color, which is pretty rare among smartphones. In the second video (Source 2) we are shown close-ups of the dual-camera unit on the back of the phone, accented with a red ring around the two lenses, much like the nubia Z17.
The nubia Z17 was already released earlier this year with razor thin side bezels and a traditional 16:9 aspect ratio display. Based on the leaks that we’ve seen so far from the TENNA and leaked press renders, not to mention the latest smartphone trends, we are looking at a new variant of the high-end Z17, but with a taller, 18:9 aspect ratio display.
The phone is said to have just 3mm bezels on the top and bottom against the 5.73-inch display. In order to accommodate the larger screen, alleged leaks have shown the phone to omit the front-facing flash.
Other specs include a 2.0GHz octa-core CPU, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. Check out the TENNA post for more specs.
We are eagerly waiting to hear about the ZTE nubia Z17S’s release on October 12. In the meantime, the nubia Weibo account has posted a 10 second teaser showing off the anticipated nubia Z17S. In the first video (Source 1) we don’t see the front of the phone at all, but there are some really nice-looking color options.
There were three color options shown in the video: gold, a “sapphire” blue, as well as more of an “aqua” blue color, which is pretty rare among smartphones. In the second video (Source 2) we are shown close-ups of the dual-camera unit on the back of the phone, accented with a red ring around the two lenses, much like the nubia Z17.
The nubia Z17 was already released earlier this year with razor thin side bezels and a traditional 16:9 aspect ratio display. Based on the leaks that we’ve seen so far from the TENNA and leaked press renders, not to mention the latest smartphone trends, we are looking at a new variant of the high-end Z17, but with a taller, 18:9 aspect ratio display.
The phone is said to have just 3mm bezels on the top and bottom against the 5.73-inch display. In order to accommodate the larger screen, alleged leaks have shown the phone to omit the front-facing flash.
Other specs include a 2.0GHz octa-core CPU, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. Check out the TENNA post for more specs.

Google Home Mini updated to stop it from accidentally recording everything

Google announced a bunch of new hardware at its #MadeByGoogle event last week. One particular product, the Google Home Mini, has been incidentally recording at random occasions due to an incorrectly calibrated touch sensor that sits atop the device.
Like any other smart assistant, the Google Home Mini is always listening for the “Hey/Okay, Google” hotword before offering a solution. Here’s the kicker: the Google Home Mini has three touch-sensitive areas on it. Two on either side of the Assistant lights to raise and lower the volume, and another one right in the center of its dome shape, in the same spot as the lights that turn on when the Assistant is listening.
This touch sensor was malfunctioning for some of the first units (those that were handed out to the press at the event), triggering the Google Home Mini to listen for a command at times when there was no command to hear. Android Police writer Artem Russakovskii was surprised to discover that the new Google Home Mini was saving thousands of recordings, containing anything but commands.
(Google Home, as well as Alexa, save recordings of all commands to improve voice accuracy, both also offer the option to opt-out of this).
Anyway, Google was quick to respond to the issue that Russakovskii was experiencing. He’s got a very detailed account of everything that Google PR did (see Source link below). Anyway, Google updated all Home Mini units to disable the touchpad on top of the unit to prevent the assistant from accidentally waking up and recording everything.
Google is still working on a permanent fix for affected units, as well as the origin of the touchpad issue. Meanwhile, Google has already updated all units to 1.28.100122, and has even updated the Google Home documentation to reflect the temporarily disabled function.
This could have been a PR nightmare for Google, but as per Russakovskii’s account, the company was committed and transparent throughout the whole process.
Google announced a bunch of new hardware at its #MadeByGoogle event last week. One particular product, the Google Home Mini, has been incidentally recording at random occasions due to an incorrectly calibrated touch sensor that sits atop the device.
Like any other smart assistant, the Google Home Mini is always listening for the “Hey/Okay, Google” hotword before offering a solution. Here’s the kicker: the Google Home Mini has three touch-sensitive areas on it. Two on either side of the Assistant lights to raise and lower the volume, and another one right in the center of its dome shape, in the same spot as the lights that turn on when the Assistant is listening.
This touch sensor was malfunctioning for some of the first units (those that were handed out to the press at the event), triggering the Google Home Mini to listen for a command at times when there was no command to hear. Android Police writer Artem Russakovskii was surprised to discover that the new Google Home Mini was saving thousands of recordings, containing anything but commands.
(Google Home, as well as Alexa, save recordings of all commands to improve voice accuracy, both also offer the option to opt-out of this).
Anyway, Google was quick to respond to the issue that Russakovskii was experiencing. He’s got a very detailed account of everything that Google PR did (see Source link below). Anyway, Google updated all Home Mini units to disable the touchpad on top of the unit to prevent the assistant from accidentally waking up and recording everything.
Google is still working on a permanent fix for affected units, as well as the origin of the touchpad issue. Meanwhile, Google has already updated all units to 1.28.100122, and has even updated the Google Home documentation to reflect the temporarily disabled function.
This could have been a PR nightmare for Google, but as per Russakovskii’s account, the company was committed and transparent throughout the whole process.

Motorola Moto Z2 Force drops to around $450 in US

Last we heard, the Motorola Moto Z2 Force was going for $500 in the US. While that deal is still on, you can now get the device at an even lower price. Best Buy is offering the Verizon variant for around $450.
Specifically, the 64GB model in both black and gold color options is being sold for $19 a month, which translates into $456 over a period of 24 months.
If you compare, that's a price cut of $300 given that the variants on offer usually carry a price tag of $756 ($31.50 for 24 months). Aside from the discount, the deal also includes free Insta-Share Projector mod, which carries a price tag of $299.99 at Best Buy.
In addition to Verizon variants, Best Buy is also offering discounts on Sprint and AT&T models of the Moto Z2 force, but there you can only save up to $200. For more information, including when the free projector promo ends, head to the Source links below.
Last we heard, the Motorola Moto Z2 Force was going for $500 in the US. While that deal is still on, you can now get the device at an even lower price. Best Buy is offering the Verizon variant for around $450.
Specifically, the 64GB model in both black and gold color options is being sold for $19 a month, which translates into $456 over a period of 24 months.
If you compare, that's a price cut of $300 given that the variants on offer usually carry a price tag of $756 ($31.50 for 24 months). Aside from the discount, the deal also includes free Insta-Share Projector mod, which carries a price tag of $299.99 at Best Buy.
In addition to Verizon variants, Best Buy is also offering discounts on Sprint and AT&T models of the Moto Z2 force, but there you can only save up to $200. For more information, including when the free projector promo ends, head to the Source links below.

Just in: Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 hands-on

This year the moniker “bezel-less” is in every sales and marketing department of a smartphone company. While many companies like Samsung, Apple or even Vivo go for their first device with minimal bezels, Xiaomi has already launched the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2.
There are a lot of improvements over the first iteration of Mi Mix. Xiaomi implemented a smaller 6-inch screen (technically, 5.99”). The display also has 18:9 ratio, making it look a little bit taller than the first Mi Mix's screen. We lined the two phones next to each other, and the new phablet is visibly smaller. It also feels better in hand because of the more rounded corners.
The Mi Mix 2 has a ceramic body that makes the device way more slippery than usual. The camera is now protruded and has a golden rim. It might look stylish, but after several hours staying in the pocket, the bump already got a ring of dust around it.
The camera itself is pretty good, and while the back is a fingerprint magnet, it can also be used as a mirror for proper selfies. Or not. We didn't have much luck with it - most selfies we shot like this were out of focus.
The camera menu is simple, and the actual images that come out have accurate colors and proper contrast. We don’t want to jump to conclusions though because the complete tests are still ahead. We’ll just leave these images here so that you can get a first glimpse.
Close-up camera sample Main camera selfie sample
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 camera samples
Xiaomi has improved the Mi Mix 2 in many ways such as the ease of handling and performance. Hopefully, camera quality too.
But as the screen and battery capacity have been shrunk, the price tag has grown bigger (by $100). And it's no longer the single bezel-less phone on the market. So it's not all roses here. We’ll have to dig in deeper to be able to answer whether the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is really worth it. Stay tuned!
This year the moniker “bezel-less” is in every sales and marketing department of a smartphone company. While many companies like Samsung, Apple or even Vivo go for their first device with minimal bezels, Xiaomi has already launched the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2.
There are a lot of improvements over the first iteration of Mi Mix. Xiaomi implemented a smaller 6-inch screen (technically, 5.99”). The display also has 18:9 ratio, making it look a little bit taller than the first Mi Mix's screen. We lined the two phones next to each other, and the new phablet is visibly smaller. It also feels better in hand because of the more rounded corners.
The Mi Mix 2 has a ceramic body that makes the device way more slippery than usual. The camera is now protruded and has a golden rim. It might look stylish, but after several hours staying in the pocket, the bump already got a ring of dust around it.
The camera itself is pretty good, and while the back is a fingerprint magnet, it can also be used as a mirror for proper selfies. Or not. We didn't have much luck with it - most selfies we shot like this were out of focus.
The camera menu is simple, and the actual images that come out have accurate colors and proper contrast. We don’t want to jump to conclusions though because the complete tests are still ahead. We’ll just leave these images here so that you can get a first glimpse.
Close-up camera sample Main camera selfie sample
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 camera samples
Xiaomi has improved the Mi Mix 2 in many ways such as the ease of handling and performance. Hopefully, camera quality too.
But as the screen and battery capacity have been shrunk, the price tag has grown bigger (by $100). And it's no longer the single bezel-less phone on the market. So it's not all roses here. We’ll have to dig in deeper to be able to answer whether the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is really worth it. Stay tuned!

Sprint enables Calling PLUS on LG G6 with latest update

Recently, Sprint started pushing out a new update to LG G6 units on its network. Weighing in at around 775MB and arriving as software version LS993ZV8, the update enables the Calling PLUS functionality on the device.
In case you aren't aware, the Calling PLUS feature allows you to use WiFi calling and VoLTE in conjunction - while the former was already there on the G6, the latter is new.
In addition, the update also brings along something called Wholesale VoWiFi, as well as latest Android security fixes (should be for the month of October).
It's been a week since the roll out began, so some of you might have already received the update. For those who're yet to get it, be patient, as it won't be long before you see the notification on your device.
Recently, Sprint started pushing out a new update to LG G6 units on its network. Weighing in at around 775MB and arriving as software version LS993ZV8, the update enables the Calling PLUS functionality on the device.
In case you aren't aware, the Calling PLUS feature allows you to use WiFi calling and VoLTE in conjunction - while the former was already there on the G6, the latter is new.
In addition, the update also brings along something called Wholesale VoWiFi, as well as latest Android security fixes (should be for the month of October).
It's been a week since the roll out began, so some of you might have already received the update. For those who're yet to get it, be patient, as it won't be long before you see the notification on your device.

YouTube testing auto-play feature for homepage videos on Android

YouTube is testing a new auto-play feature for videos. Not to be confused with an existing similar feature (that allows the mobile app to automatically play the next video after the current one ends), this new functionality is for the videos that appear in the Home feed.
Videos play without sound and instead you see subtitles, giving you an idea on what's going on in the video.
While you can see a complete video this way, the playback will stop as soon as you scroll up or down, resulting in the current video (that's now visible on screen) being auto-played.
The feature - which has only been spotted on YouTube's Android app so far - is dubbed 'Play as you browse,' and it can be disabled by heading to Account -> Settings -> General.
You can also set it to be enabled only when your device is connected to Wi-Fi. There's currently no information on when this functionality will be rolled out more widely, but that probably depends on the feedback it gets.
YouTube is testing a new auto-play feature for videos. Not to be confused with an existing similar feature (that allows the mobile app to automatically play the next video after the current one ends), this new functionality is for the videos that appear in the Home feed.
Videos play without sound and instead you see subtitles, giving you an idea on what's going on in the video.
While you can see a complete video this way, the playback will stop as soon as you scroll up or down, resulting in the current video (that's now visible on screen) being auto-played.
The feature - which has only been spotted on YouTube's Android app so far - is dubbed 'Play as you browse,' and it can be disabled by heading to Account -> Settings -> General.
You can also set it to be enabled only when your device is connected to Wi-Fi. There's currently no information on when this functionality will be rolled out more widely, but that probably depends on the feedback it gets.

Huawei Honor 7X goes official with 18:9 screen, dual camera

Huawei just introduced Honor 7X, meaning its sub-brand has officially entered the world of 18:9 screens (we’re not counting this one, which is sold under four different names).
The LCD measures 5.93” - about as wide as the 5.5” screen of the Honor 6X, but taller. It has 1,080 x 2,160px resolution (407ppi) and it sits below a 2.5D glass. The fingerprint reader on the 6X was already on the back, so no change here.
Huawei Honor 7X official with 18:9 screen, dual camera The camera has been updated, however. We’re now looking at a 16MP main camera with a 2MP secondary one along with an 8MP camera on the front.
The Honor 7X is powered by a Kirin 659 chipset – eight Cortex-A53 cores grouped in two clusters along with Mali-T830 MP2 graphics. The RAM is fixed at 4GB, but the storage ranges from 32GB to 128GB and there’s room for a microSD card on the hybrid dual SIM slot.
The phone will launch with Android 7.0 Nougat + EMUI 5.1. It has a 3,340mAh battery and a microUSB port (sigh). The phone’s metal body measures 7.6mm thick and weighs 165g.
Huawei Honor 7X Huawei Honor 7X Huawei Honor 7X Huawei Honor 7X Huawei Honor 7X Huawei Honor 7X
Huawei Honor 7X
The Honor 7X will go on sale in China on October 17 and will start from CNY 1,300 ($200/€170) for the 32GB version. 64GB is CNY 1,700 ($260/€220) and the top 128GB model is CNY 2,000 ($300/€260).
Huawei just introduced Honor 7X, meaning its sub-brand has officially entered the world of 18:9 screens (we’re not counting this one, which is sold under four different names).
The LCD measures 5.93” - about as wide as the 5.5” screen of the Honor 6X, but taller. It has 1,080 x 2,160px resolution (407ppi) and it sits below a 2.5D glass. The fingerprint reader on the 6X was already on the back, so no change here.
Huawei Honor 7X official with 18:9 screen, dual camera The camera has been updated, however. We’re now looking at a 16MP main camera with a 2MP secondary one along with an 8MP camera on the front.
The Honor 7X is powered by a Kirin 659 chipset – eight Cortex-A53 cores grouped in two clusters along with Mali-T830 MP2 graphics. The RAM is fixed at 4GB, but the storage ranges from 32GB to 128GB and there’s room for a microSD card on the hybrid dual SIM slot.
The phone will launch with Android 7.0 Nougat + EMUI 5.1. It has a 3,340mAh battery and a microUSB port (sigh). The phone’s metal body measures 7.6mm thick and weighs 165g.
Huawei Honor 7X Huawei Honor 7X Huawei Honor 7X Huawei Honor 7X Huawei Honor 7X Huawei Honor 7X
Huawei Honor 7X
The Honor 7X will go on sale in China on October 17 and will start from CNY 1,300 ($200/€170) for the 32GB version. 64GB is CNY 1,700 ($260/€220) and the top 128GB model is CNY 2,000 ($300/€260).

Samsung brings two new camera sensors: 12MP 1.28µm with Dual Pixel and 24MP 0.9µm

Samsung’s ISOCELL camera sensor brand has two new additions – one in the Fast and one in the Slim categories. The first one is a smaller version of Samsung’s 12MP Dual Pixel sensor, that will eliminate the camera bump even on thin phones. The second one is similarly small and uses pixel binning to compensate for its small pixels.
ISOCELL Fast 2L9 (12MP, 1.28µm) ISOCELL Fast 2X7 (24MP, 0.9µm)
ISOCELL Fast 2L9 (12MP, 1.28µm) • ISOCELL Fast 2X7 (24MP, 0.9µm)
The ISOCELL Fast 2L9 is a 12MP sensor with 1.28µm pixels (down from 1.4µm pixels on the S8 camera). It uses Dual Pixels – two photo diodes in each pixels – for the trademark fast, highly accurate autofocus. Samsung says it enables pleasing bokehs with just a single camera too.
The ISOCELL Slim 2X7 is a 24MP sensor and it is the first to use pixels smaller than 1µm – 0.9µm to be precise. In the dark, it will combine four neighboring pixels to increase light sensitivity (Samsung calls this Tetracell). The Deep Trench Isolation of ISOCELL sensor promises improved dynamic range and reduced color crosstalk.
Deep Trench Isolation keeps light from one pixel from hitting other nearby pixels
Deep Trench Isolation keeps light from one pixel from hitting other nearby pixels
Both sensors are designed to fit in thin phones, free of camera humps. They will be used both as main cameras and as selfie cameras, though it’s not clear when the first phones using these sensors will launch. Samsung has committed to further develop sensors with sub-1µm pixels.
Samsung’s ISOCELL camera sensor brand has two new additions – one in the Fast and one in the Slim categories. The first one is a smaller version of Samsung’s 12MP Dual Pixel sensor, that will eliminate the camera bump even on thin phones. The second one is similarly small and uses pixel binning to compensate for its small pixels.
ISOCELL Fast 2L9 (12MP, 1.28µm) ISOCELL Fast 2X7 (24MP, 0.9µm)
ISOCELL Fast 2L9 (12MP, 1.28µm) • ISOCELL Fast 2X7 (24MP, 0.9µm)
The ISOCELL Fast 2L9 is a 12MP sensor with 1.28µm pixels (down from 1.4µm pixels on the S8 camera). It uses Dual Pixels – two photo diodes in each pixels – for the trademark fast, highly accurate autofocus. Samsung says it enables pleasing bokehs with just a single camera too.
The ISOCELL Slim 2X7 is a 24MP sensor and it is the first to use pixels smaller than 1µm – 0.9µm to be precise. In the dark, it will combine four neighboring pixels to increase light sensitivity (Samsung calls this Tetracell). The Deep Trench Isolation of ISOCELL sensor promises improved dynamic range and reduced color crosstalk.
Deep Trench Isolation keeps light from one pixel from hitting other nearby pixels
Deep Trench Isolation keeps light from one pixel from hitting other nearby pixels
Both sensors are designed to fit in thin phones, free of camera humps. They will be used both as main cameras and as selfie cameras, though it’s not clear when the first phones using these sensors will launch. Samsung has committed to further develop sensors with sub-1µm pixels.