Monday, 25 February 2013

Facebook teams up with carriers to offer discounted data access to Facebook messaging

Facebook announced partnerships with multiple mobile operators to provide free or discounted data access for its website usage. As we already know, much of the Facebook’s usage is from the mobile devices and the Mark Zuckerberg’s company is trying to make it easier on the wallets to access it.  Facebook’s latest promotion offers you free or discounted data access on Messenger for Android, Messenger for iOS and, of course, for every platform, for which the service has been optimized.

As such, the promotion will be available in 14 countries and with more than 18 operators. Facebook has teamed up with operators that include TMN in Portugal, Three in Ireland, Airtel and Reliance in India, Vivacom in Bulgaria, Backcell in Azerbaydzhan, Indosat, Smartfren, AXIS and XL Axiata in Indonesia, SMART in Philippines, DiGi in Malaysia, DTAC in Thailand, Viva in Bahrain, STC in Saudi Arabia, Oi in Brazil, Etisalat in Egypt and Tre in Italy.
Facebook’s free data access hasn’t started yet and the offer will be applicable in the coming months.

Nokia Lumia 521 bound to T-Mobile USA, WP8 for less

he Nokia Lumia 520 was only announced this morning and T-Mobile USA is already claiming a piece of the action. The carrier will get a dedicated version of the phone – 521 – which differs only in the supported 3G frequencies.

The Lumia 520, or 521 in this case, is an upgrade over the current 510 – it runs Windows Phone 8 on a 1GHz dual-core Krait processor, with double the RAM (512MB), double the internal storage (8GB, there’s a microSD card slot too) and 720p video capture. You can check out our hands-on impressions from the MWC for more info.
Anyway, the Nokia Lumia 521 will come to the US but T-Mobile is yet to announce a launch date and hang a price tag. The international version of the phone is priced at $330.

ZTE unveils the Grand Memo phablet and the ZTE Open

ZTE brought two interesting phones to the MWC that are as different as can be. The ZTE Grand Memo is a 5.7” Android super-phone and is the first to use the Snapdragon 800 chipset. The ZTE Open, on the other hand is an entry-level Firefox OS phone.

ZTE Grand Memo

The ZTE Grand Memo earns its name with a big screen – 5.7” in diagonal. Rather disappointingly, the resolution of the screen is just 720p. Not that 258ppi pixel density is all that bad, but we expected more. Update: there's some conflicting information, but it seems that the screen will have 1080p resolution after all. That pushes the pixel density up to 386ppi (well over the Retina display mark).
Especially considering the chipset - the ZTE Grand Memo uses the top end Snapdragon chipset available, the Snapdragon 800. The CPU cores are clocked at 1.5GHz and should be faster than the cores in the other Snapdragon chipsets clock for clock and the Adreno 330 GPU should double the performance of the 320.

ZTE Grand Memo
The phablet is only 8.5mm thick, but thanks to the extra height and width, the ZTE engineers managed to cram a 3,200mAh battery inside it.
The camera on the ZTE Grand Memo is a 13MP shooter with 1080p video capture. On the connectivity side, the phone has LTE Cat 3 (100Mbps down, 50Mbps up) and dual-band Wi-Fi with 802.11ac support – the latest Wi-Fi spec available.

ZTE Open

The ZTE Open is on the other end of the spectrum – it has a 3.5” HVGA screen, 3.2MP camera, 1GHz single-core processor and 256MB RAM. It’s powered by Firefox OS, which was officially unveiled yesterday.

ZTE Open
The Open will tackle entry-level Android phones in emerging markets, by promoting an open source OS with easy to make HTML5-based apps.
The phone features Wi-Fi b/g/n connectivity, Bluetooth 2.1 and A-GPS with Nokia HERE maps.

LG displays Wireless Ultra HD video streaming technology at MWC

LG showcases its innovative Wireless Ultra High-definition transmission technology for the first time at the on-going Mobile World Congress. The latest feature for the next generation smartphones allows you to view games, movies and other smartphone essence on Ultra HD TV’s in real time, through wireless data transfer.

The transmission technology is said to deliver the multimedia contents to your televisions in a much quicker and smoother manner than any other previous content streaming system. And of course, it can transfer content of up to UltraHD resolution – that’s 4K or four times the regular 1080p FullHD. LG’s streaming system naturally relies on a fast Wi-Fi connection.
LG’s next generation content streaming also adjusts the content automatically to the televisions screen resolution, resulting in flawless and clear visuals. Furthermore, the wireless transmission is said to consume less than half the power compared to competing transmission systems, reducing the usage of CPU and other hardware resources on the smartphones.

Nokia integrates Maps and Drive into HERE location services, makes them available to all WP8 devices

Maps and Drive have long been one of the staples of Nokia Windows Phone devices, and today they’re being rolled as part of Nokia’s HERE cloud location service.

Also integrated are the Transit and City Lens apps, which allow for quick access to public transit information and nearby POIs in addition to the cartography and navigation features provided by Drive and Maps. However, the services will no longer bear the Nokia branding.
Free GPS navigation has been one of the key selling points of Nokia smartphones ever since they banded with Windows Phone, and the Drive (regional) and Drive+ (global) navigation suites offer a premium experience that can’t be matched by competitors in many regions.

As part of HERE, switching between the various parts of the suite has been made seamless, and there’s also the ability to check out what’s close to you by looking out at the city via an augmented reality view via City Lens with LiveSight.

Finally, HERE Maps, HERE Drive, and HERE Transit are now available to all Windows Phone 8 devices in the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Cat B15 announced at MWC, one of the rare rugged smartphones

The latest trend of the dust and waterproof smartphones continue with the newly launched Cat B15. The rugged device has the ability to withstand a 1.8 meter drop, being submerged in up to one meter of water for about 30 minutes.

Cat B15 comes with a 4″ LCD display with 480 x 800 pixel density, a capacitive multi-touch screen, Gorilla glass and wet finger tracking. The smartphone features a 1 GHz dual-core MediaTek MT6577 processor along with 512 MB of RAM, a 5 megapixel rear camera, a VGA front camera, 4 GB internal memory with a microSD slot and runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Cat B15 measures 125mm x 69.5 mm x 14.95mm and weighs about 170g. The device is said to be protected by silver anodized aluminium and shock absorbent rubber, which enables it to withstand a 1.8 meter drop. Furthermore, Cat B15 is IP67 certified, which means that the smartphone can endure a water immersion of up to 1m for about 30 minutes and is protected against dust.
Caterpillar B15 carries a price tag of €329 and will be available from March.

Asus Padfone Infinity and Fonepad announced

Remember the Asus Padfone 2? Forget it, it’s old news – the Asus Padfone Infinity was just announced and it steps up the specs. Asus also switched things around and announced the Fonepad – a 7” tablet with full phone functionality.

Asus Padfone Infinity

The Asus Padfone Infinity has a 5” 1080p screen with 441ppi. That catches up to the competition’s flagships, but more importantly the tablet dock screen has been improved too – it’s a 10.1” screen of 1920x1200 resolution. Both screens have anti-fingerprint coating.
The processing power has been upped accordingly too – the Padfone Infinity uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset with a quad-core Krait 300 CPU clocked at 1.7GHz.

Asus Fonepad Infinity
The Padfone Infinity packs a 13MP F/2.0 main camera that does up to 100 shots in burst mode at 8fps and records 1080p@30fps video. There’s also a front-facing camera – 2MP, F/2.0.
The phone itself has a unibody design and is made of aero-space grade aluminum alloy, with brushed finish. The aluminum edge has been anodized twice (perhaps to one-up HTC).
The 2,400mAh battery inside the phone is pretty decent – it’s good for up to 19h of 3G calls, 6.5h of web browsing, 9h of watching video or 410h standby. With the 5,000mAh battery in the tablet dock, however, these numbers are tripled.
The tablet dock also has an 18mm driver in its loudspeaker and Asus has used 3rd generation Sonic Master audio enhancing tech. There’s also the Audio wizard, which offers several preset modes - game mode, movie mode, voice mode and so on.

Asus Fonepad Infinity tablet dock
On the connectivity side, there’s 100Mbps LTE (Cat 3) and NFC (transceiver integrated into the Padfone logo at the back of the device). There’s 64GB of built-in storage and 50GB of cloud storage available.
The Asus Padfone Infinity and its tablet dock will be available in April for €999 / $1325 (again, that’s for both).

Asus Fonepad

Asus emphasized that with the Padfone you only need SIM card, one data plan, one monthly fee. So why not just make a tablet that makes calls? Well, they did – meet the Asus Fonepad.
It’s a 7” tablet with an IPS screen of 1280 x 800 resolution. But it also sports full phone functionality with 3G HSPA+ connectivity.

Asus Fonepad
It’s powered by an Intel Atom Z2420 chipset with a single-core CPU at 1.2GHz, 1GB of RAM and PowerVR SGX540 GPU. It will run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean at launch.
There are two versions of the Asus Fonepad. In Europe, the tablet will come with 16GB of built-in storage and a 1.2MP front-facing camera. It will launch in April for €220. For the APAC region, the Fonepad will have only 8GB of built-in storage but it grows a 3MP camera on the back. This one will launch in March for $250. Both have microSD card slots and 5GB of lifetime Asus WebStorage.

Intel announces dual-core 'Clovertrail+' Atom processors

Intel has announced a new generation of their Atom processors for smartphones and tablets. Better known by the Clovertrail+ codename, the new range of SoCs promise a notable improvement over the previous generation Medfield and Clovertrail processors.

Clovertrail+ SoCs will be available in three SKUs, with similar parts but varying clock speeds. The fastest is the Atom Z2580, followed by the Z2560 and the Z2520.
On the CPU side, the new Clovertrail+ adds an extra Saltwell CPU core, which is based on the same 32nm processing, while maintaining Hyper Threading (so now you get four threads). The clock speed on the Z2580 goes up to 2.0GHz, whereas on the Z2560 and Z2520 it's 1.6GHz and 1.2GHz respectively. With the extra core, Intel promises 2x faster CPU performance over Medfield chips.
The biggest improvement, however, comes on the GPU side. Intel gets rid of the previous PowerVR SGX540 in favor of the significantly more powerful SGX544MP2. To put it into context, this GPU is actually slightly more powerful than the one in Apple's A5X, which was found inside the third generation iPad with Retina display.

Once again, the clock speeds differ across the SKUs, with the Z2580, Z2560 and the Z2520 getting 533MHz, 400MHz and 300MHz respectively. Intel claims the GPU in Clovertrail+ is thrice as fast than the previous PowerVR SHX540. The faster GPU also means the supported resolution now goes from 1,024 x 768 to 1,920 x 1,200.
The memory interface in Clovertrail+ is still 2 x 32-bit LPDDR2 but at a faster 1,066MHz instead of 800MHz.
The baseband has been updated from XMM 6260 to XMM 6360 and now supports 3GPP release 9 with 42Mbps DC-HSPA+ (Category 24) and HSUPA category 7 (11.5 Mbps). However, there is still no LTE support.
Lastly, there is a new reference design for OEMs. It uses the Z2580 chip with 2GB of RAM, XMM 6360 baseband, 16 megapixel rear camera and 2 megapixel front camera. It runs stock Android 4.2, which can be modified by the OEM, as is often the case.

The first phone to be announced running Clovertrail+ is the Lenovo K900. You can check out our hands-on with the device, along with some benchmark tests over here.

LG unveil Optimus G Pro, F5 and F7, second-gen L-series

LG had plenty to show, though there was little suspense about what the whole thing was going to be about. All of the six devices were already well familiar: the LG Optimus G Pro, the fresh LTE-enabled midrangers Optimus F5 and F7, and the second generation of the L series. The upgraded Vu II phablet was also on stage.

LG Optimus G Pro

LG Optimus G pro

In case you missed the news about the latest flagship's upgrade, the Optimus G Pro comes with a 5.5-inch IPS 1080p display and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset, with a 1.6GHz quad-core Krait 300 and Adreno 320 GPU. The rest of the specs include 2GB of RAM, a 13MP rear and a 2.1MP front camera with dual-recording enabled, and a 3140 mAh battery unit. The phone runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean skinned with LG's latest Optimus UI.

LG Optimus G Pro

LG Optimus F7 and Optimus F5

The newly introduced F series offer LTE-enabled smartphones at affordable prices. The first two members of the lineup are the Optimus F7 and F5.

The LG Optimus F7 comes with a 4.7” True HD IPS 720p screen (312ppi) and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor with 2 gigs of RAM. The phone has an 8MP camera and 8GB of built-in storage (plus a microSD card slot). The F7 measures 131.7 x 68.2 x 9.6mm.

The LG Optimus F5 has a 4.3” IPS LCD screen of qHD resolution (256ppi), a 1.2GHz dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM and a 5MP camera. It has 8GB of built-in storage and a microSD card slot too. The F5 is more compact at 126.0 x 64.5 x 9.3mm.

LG Optimus F5

LG Optimus L7 II, L7 II dual, L5 II and L3 II

LG has also upgraded its affordable and stylish Optimus L lineup with three new phones - the Optimus L7 II, L5 II and L3 II.

The Optimus L7 II packs a 4.3-inch IPS WVGA display and is powered by the Qualcomm MSM8225 Snapdragon S4 Play chipset with a 1GHz dual-core processor, Adreno 203 graphics and 768MB of RAM. An 8MP camera with LED flash, 4GB of onboard storage expandable via a microSD slot, a front-facing VGA cam, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and a 2,460 mAh battery complete the handset's spec sheet.

LG Optimus L7 II

The Optimus L7 II will come in a dual-SIM flavor, called the L7 II dual.

LG Optimus L7 II dual

The Optimus L5 II has a 4.0-inch IPS WVGA display, a 1GHz MediaTek MT6575 single-core processor and PowerVR SGX531 graphics. Other known specs are the 5MP camera at the back and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean ticking inside.

LG Optimus L5 II

The Optimus L5 II will also have a dual-SIM version, called the L5 II dual.

LG Optimus L5 II dual

Finally, the Optimus L3 II features a 3.2-inch IPS QVGA screen, a 1GHz single-core MediaTek processor, a 3MP camera and a microSD card slot. Naturally, Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth support are available too. The Optimus L3 II also runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

LG Optimus L3 II

Just like the Optimus L7 II dual and L5 II dual, the Optimus L3 II will have a dual-SIM twin, called the Optimus L3 II dual.

LG Optimus L3 II dual

According to LG, the "design philosophy of the L Series II has been enhanced to include four new design elements: Seamless Layout, Laser Cut Contour, Radiant Rear Design and Smart LED Lighting on the home button".
The new L II phones will become available in Q2 this year.

LG Optimus Vu and Vu II

The other exhibits at the LG booth were the Optimus Vu and the Optimus Vu II phablet. Both were revealed way back in 2012 but perhaps LG is planning to make them more widely available (so far both have been limited to Korea only).

LG Optimus Vu II

So, obviously it wasn't LG's plan to surprise anyone - all phones presented today were introduced via press releases earlier this month. At least, we finally got to know them better.