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Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 makes its official debut with Android 4.2 in tow Jun 10th 2013, 17:40
Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 officialSamsung’s kept itself pretty busy lately with new product announcements, and today the company took the wraps off of yet another addition to its Galaxy family. This time we’re looking at the Galaxy Ace 3, an entry-level Jelly Bean smartphone that Samsung plans to offer in both 3G-only and 4G LTE-enabled variants, as well as a model with dual-SIM support.

On the front of the Galaxy Ace 3 is a 4-inch 800×480 LCD display, VGA camera and the physical home button that Samsung’s Galaxy lineup has become known for. Around back there’s a 5-megapixel shooter with LED flash, and buried inside the phone is 1GB RAM and a microSD card slot. The 3G-only variant of the Galaxy Ace 3 will also tout a 1GHz dual-core processor, 4GB internal storage and a 1,500mAh battery. Meanwhile, the 4G LTE version will offer a 1.2GHz dual-core chip, 8GB storage and an 1,800mAh battery.

On the software side of things, the Galaxy Ace 3 will come to market with Android 4.2 in tow. It’ll also come preloaded with Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay, meaning that buyers can expect to find additional software like S Translator, S Travel, Smart Stay, S Voice and Easy Mode.

Overall the Galaxy Ace 3 looks like it’s got the makings of an entry-level smartphone, but some of its specs help to make it a bit more interesting than one might expect an lower-end device to be. For example, the inclusion of Android 4.2 means that buyers will be on the latest version (right now, anyway) of Jelly Bean, and the 4G version will offer buyers speedy LTE data connectivity. Details on the Galaxy Ace 3’s availability are light right now, but with a Samsung Galaxy event scheduled for 10 days from today, it may not be long before we hear more. Stay tuned.

Via Samsung, Samsung Tomorrow

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T-Mobile’s BlackBerry Z10 slated to begin receiving BlackBerry 10.1 update today Jun 10th 2013, 16:30
BlackBerry Z10T-Mobile has announced that it’s treating its BlackBerry Z10 owners to a nice, beefy update to start the week. The update will bump Z10 owners up to BlackBerry 10.1 and will begin rolling out over the air and through the BlackBerry Link computer software starting today, June 10. Once the dust settles and the update is installed, T-Mobile Z10 owners will find that they’ve gained HD Voice functionality, improved battery life and a fix for an issue involving duplicate Gmail contacts. The full changelog posted by T-Mobile is as follows:

BlackBerry OS 10.1.0.2026 – Current version

Features

  • Adds HD Voice functionality
  • Corporate Liable
    • The Corporate Liable feature adds additional security in highly regulated and secure corporate environments by implementing a single Work space on the BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
  • BlackBerry Balance
    • Work and Personal accounts are now separated in BlackBerry® Hub
    • You can disable access to the Work space using USB by IT Policy
    • An IT Policy restricts an application in the Work space from reading data in the Personal space
  • Cross Domain Email Warnings
    • Cross Domain Email Warnings occur when you compose an email message involving recipients that reside in different Internet domains. For example, if all current contacts are part of one domain, for example, me and a contact from a separate domain is added, for example, contact, a warning message will appear alerting the user that a contact outside of the first domain will receive the message.
  • Out-of-Box Experience Software Updates
    • Configuration and software updates now occur in the background as opposed to a visible task or step in the original release of BlackBerry 10.
  • Smartcard Support
    • BlackBerry 10.1 will support BlackBerry® Smart Card Reader 2.0. Previous versions of the BlackBerry® Smart Card Reader are not supported.
  • Mnemonic Phone Dialing
    • You can now dial phone numbers by name or number. In the Phone app, simply start typing the name or number of the contact, and then tap the contact.

Improvements

  • Improves device restarting during normal use
  • Improves battery life
  • Improves cursor control when selecting text
  • Resolves issues deleting prior messages
  • Resolves stuck new voicemail indicator
  • Resolves duplicate Gmail contacts.
  • Resolves meeting invite showing incorrect time
  • Resolves caller ID not displaying information for contacts

We’ve known for a while now that BlackBerry 10.1 was a pretty hefty update over BlackBerry 10, but it’s still nice to see such a big list of improvements that’ll soon be hitting the T-Mobile Z10. It’s worth noting that these updates typically go out in phases, so don’t be too upset if you’re not seeing it in your neck of the woods quite yet. Once you do manage to grab hold of that BlackBerry 10.1 goodness, be sure to swing by the comments section below to let us know how it’s working for you!

Via CrackBerry, T-Mobile

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The Galaxy Note III prototype has grabbed my attention Jun 10th 2013, 14:55
Just in case you’ve somehow missed it, today is sort of a big day for Apple. The company is gearing up to kick off their Worldwide Developers Conference, and with it a bunch of new things. Well, they’re expected to launch new things, because as it stands right now no one knows anything about what’s going to be showcased.

There have been rumors and some leaks, but the truth is Apple has managed to keep the information locked down, which may be only one real reason some folks out there are excited for the announcement. Because the reveal hasn’t already been ruined, as it has so many times before. For the first time in a long time, we’re going into this (relatively) dark, and that’s exciting all by itself.

And, there, that takes care of my pre-WWDC things. So, let’s move on.

Yesterday, SamMobile posted a report on what is believed to be a prototype of the next Galaxy Note from Samsung. This isn’t the first time that the Galaxy Note III has made it into the news before any kind of official announcement, but this is the first time that we’re seeing a piece of hardware, with functioning bits, reportedly running with the Galaxy Note III title. And while it may only be a prototype, or not even anything of substance at all, I realize that I’m actually excited for the device to launch later this year.

Being able to track the next big announcement from a company, based on previous years and previous announcements, means that you can basically judge where your excitement levels will be throughout the year. And IFA in September, where it’s believed Samsung will unveil the Galaxy Note III is something I already can’t wait for.

It’s good timing, too, isn’t it? Sure, the leaked image was reported on yesterday, but right on the eve of something as big as WWDC is still hard to ignore. And how else could Samsung get some attention going their way, even if they didn’t have anything to do with it (wink-wink)? You leak the successor of the company’s biggest big seller in their portfolio.

If you believe in coincidences, then this is probably pretty high up there. The prototype for the Galaxy Note III just happened to leak a day before WWDC and all that. But I don’t think you’d be crazy if you thought it’s a bit *too* coincidental. And the truth is, that’s okay, because it’s a good thing.

The rumored specifications for the next Galaxy Note are impressive all by themselves, but when you couple them with the leaked image of the prototype unit, you get a picture that’s hard to look away from. With an alleged 13MP camera on the back, a 5.99-inch sAMOLED display, S Pen functionality, somewhere in the ballpark of 2GB of RAM, and an octa-core processor? What’s not to like there?

Whether Samsung had anything to do with the perfectly-timed leak is anyone’s guess, and I’m sure there could be some great conversation around that. What the leak did for me is remind me that while I may be excited for what Apple is about to announce, there is still more coming later this year. Samsung won me over with the Galaxy Note II, even with its AMOLED display, and this prototype has me all excited for a new device with a ridiculously thin bezel.

What do you think of the alleged Galaxy Note III prototype? Do you think the final version will look anything like what we’re seeing here? Or is this just a guess from someone who can put out some nice fake hardware? Either way, are you more excited for what Samsung will announce later this year, or what Apple has coming in a few hours? Let me know!

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Sprint Vital launching on June 14 for $99.99, sports 5-inch 720p display and 13-megapixel camera Jun 10th 2013, 14:45
Sprint Vital ZTE officialAfter popping up in a couple of leaks earlier this year, Sprint today made its ZTE-manufactured Vital officially official. The Sprint Vital is slated to launch on June 14, aka this Friday, carrying a price tag of $99.99 with a two-year commitment and $50 mail-in rebate.

Sprint customers that plop down their hard-earned $100 on the Vital will be getting themselves a device with a 5-inch 1280×720 IPS display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 8GB of internal storage, microSD card slot, 4G LTE and Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. The Vital also sports 13-megapixel rear and 1-megapixel front cameras, and inside there’s a 2,500mAh battery that powers the whole package.

As I noted when the Vital leaked earlier this month, this ZTE-made Android smartphone looks like a respectable piece of kit for any Sprint customers that are in the market for a new device. The Vital’s 5-inch 720p display make it an option for fans of large-screened phones, and its 13-megapixel shooter and microSD card slot are also nice bullet points on this ZTE handset’s spec sheet. We’ll have to wait until we get the Vital in for review before making any final judgments on its performance, but at $100 on contract, it could make for an interesting addition to Sprint’s lineup.

Via Sprint

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Samsung Galaxy Note III prototype unit allegedly photographed Jun 10th 2013, 13:40
Samsung Galaxy Note III prototype leakFollowing the original Galaxy Note’s launch in 2011, Samsung has turned the device into a family of S Pen-equipped products, including the Galaxy Note 8.0 and Galaxy Note II. That lineup is expected to grow later this year with the addition of the Galaxy Note III, and while we’ll likely have to wait until IFA in September for the device’s official unveiling, today we’re getting a peek at some photos of what may be a prototype unit in the wild.

SamMobile claims to have images of a prototype version of the Galaxy Note III, just lounging around on a desk. The device shown in the photos looks fairly prototype-y, sports a couple of stickers on its face and corners that are a bit less rounded off that the Galaxy Note II. There’s also a physical home key, a menu key to its left and a back button to its right.

Since this device is said to be a prototype, it’s possible that the final Galaxy Note III that’s released to customers may end up looking somewhat different than the unit shown in these photos, That said, the images could give us an early peek at some of the features that the Note III may sport, such as a thinner bezel that ought to make it easier to cradle that large display in your hand. The Note III’s spec sheet is also rumored to include a 5.99-inch display and 13-megapixel camera. What features would you like to see Samsung stuff into its next Galaxy Note smartphone?

Via SamMobile

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Nokia announces Glance Screen with double-tap to wake, launching in beta on Lumia 925 Jun 10th 2013, 12:20
Nokia Glance Screen Lumia 925After its initial debut nearly a month ago, Nokia today announced that its new aluminum-clad Lumia 925 is officially making its way onto shelves and into pockets in Germany. To celebrate, Nokia has revealed that the new Lumia 925 comes preloaded with a new feature dubbed Glance Screen.

Launching in beta on the Lumia 925, Nokia’s Glance Screen will display the time and battery level at all times on the device’s standby screen, without requiring any input from the user. A night mode will be available to make it easier to check the time in the dark, and Glance Screen also allows users to double-tap their handset’s display to wake it from sleep. Nokia says that it plans to roll out Glance Screen to “most Windows Phone 8 powered Lumia smartphones” alongside its upcoming Lumia Amber software update, which is expected to begin rolling out this summer.

While it may not sound like a groundbreaking feature to some, Nokia Glance Screen is a nifty little addition to its Lumia lineup that ought to make doing simple things like checking the time and waking a device a bit easier and quicker. Nokia has included a Glance Screen-like feature in some of its previous non-Windows Phone devices, and it’s good to see the functionality make the jump to Windows Phone just like Nokia did. What do you think of Glance Screen? Would you use the feature if it were available on your phone?

Via Nokia Conversations

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WWDC 2013 and iOS 7 Liveblog! Jun 10th 2013, 06:00
Once heralded as the undisputed smartphone industry leader, the iPhone – and iOS – have come under fire from all sides of the mobile space. Android is rocking with Samsung, HTC, and LG; Windows Phone is going full-swing with Nokia, and BlackBerry is back in the game with new smartphones and a new mobile OS. With multiple options to choose from, Android is rocking the smartphone space – a serious concern for Apple and their mindshare.

Apple’s WWDC 2013 developer conference kicks off this morning in San Francisco, and Tim Cook is expected to take the stage to reveal – among other things – Apple’s iOS 7, the newest iteration of the iPhone’s mobile OS. Can “the innovator” get back into the swing of things and release a phone (and mobile OS) that re-captivate the iOS-weary? We’ll find out.

WWDC 2013 begins at 10 AM Pacific/12 PM Central/1 PM Eastern. Join me right here as we talk about all things Apple, iPhone, and iOS. Leave your comments below and I’ll do my best to incorporate them into the live updating!

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AT&T extends upgrade period for subsidized pricing to 24 months Jun 9th 2013, 10:40
AT&T black and white logoTake note, AT&T customers, because your carrier today announced a major change to its upgrade policy. Over on its official AT&T Consumer Blog, the big blue operator has revealed that its extending its upgrade policy from 20 months to 24 months. The policy applies to any customer whose contract is scheduled to end in March 2014 or later, meaning that new AT&T customers and those that’ve signed up within the past few months are included.

AT&T also notes in the blog post that its subscribers have other options when it comes to buying new hardware. Customers are able to share an upgrade with another person on their account, so long as its an upgrade within the same device category (like tablet to tablet). Upon completing six months of their commitment, subscribers can also use an early upgrade to get a discount on the full retail price of a new product when signing a new two-year contract. Other options include trading in hardware for discounts on new products, buying devices at full retail or bringing a GSM-compatible phone onto AT&T.

Verizon made a similar policy change earlier this year, meaning that the number one and two U.S. carriers now have upgrade policies in which their customers must wait out the full term of their two-year commitment before getting a subsidy on a new device. That’s kind of a bummer for folks that like to upgrade to a discounted phone as soon as they can, but today’s news isn’t a huge shock considering that we often see the mirror policies between AT&T and Verizon. As both carriers have noted in their announcements of these policy changes, customers can get a device whenever they’d like by buying full retail, so frequent upgraders may want to start saving some cash for a new device soon after using a subsidy. How often do you upgrade to a new smartphone?

Via AT&T Consumer Blog

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I hope Apple will allow the use of third party keyboards Jun 9th 2013, 10:30
WWDC 2013 begins tomorrow, which is exciting considering that we have every reason to expect that Apple will release iOS 7 (presumably making it the first huge revamp to iOS since its debut in 2007). While we know to expect a “flat” and “simple” redesign of iOS 7, hopefully the revamp will include other improvements to the platform that users have expressed interest in. One of the areas that I think needs attention specifically is the standard keyboard in iOS.

I like the keyboard well enough – it is clean cut and, in my opinion, well-spaced enough for [my] fingers to hit the keys comfortably. However, the main issue with it is that it’s really all you have to choose from without jailbreaking. Even if you do jailbreak, your options are severely limited.

There’s a big market for keyboards right now. As the physical QWERTY keyboard seems to be phasing out, developers have been hard at work to enhance the way we use virtual keyboards. We’ve got Swype, Swiftkey, Minuum, and many more that offer a more productive way of typing on a physical keyboard using the Android platform – but due to Apple’s own decision, the allowance of third party keyboard apps isn’t anything that you’ll be seeing from iOS in its current state.

When I purchased my iPhone 4S I knew that I would be giving up a good amount of initial freedom that I had with my Android device. No more widgets, no more theme changing, no more ROMs – I couldn’t even change my ringtone without purchasing one from iTunes. One thing I didn’t really think about, and something didn’t really bother me until a few months ago, was that I was also giving up Swype.

When I first discovered Swype on my Samsung Vibrant I was amazed; confused, but amazed. What is this foul wizardry of the utmost form? How is it that I can simply trace the path of a word in a general area and it automatically knows what I’m trying to say? I don’t know who came up with the idea, but whoever did is a genius in my book. I was suddenly able to type tenfold what I was able to type before (and I am a pretty speedy typist!) Also, it was kind of fun. I started a good relationship with Swype that day.

Of course there were times where Swype would get the answer completely wrong, but honestly it’s nothing compared to how many blunders I’ve had due to autocorrect – and more often than not I would be pressing in the letters exactly as a I meant to (I have yet to experience a time where autocorrect actually uses “ducking” correctly in a sentence). While autocorrect has saved me once or twice, it doesn’t make up for the damage it’s caused within my time frame of using it. I’ve since turned autocorrect off and simply encounter typos every once in a while – and it was at this point that I really started to miss Swype.

I’m going to stop your thought process right here, because I know what you’re thinking: “Why don’t you just go get an Android then?” There are a lot of things I don’t like about iOS, but there are also a lot of things I do like about the platform that has kept me here for so long. Aside from my inability to keep my e-mail uncluttered, I’ve found that when it comes to organization I’ve had a much better experience on iOS than I have on Android or even BlackBerry. I prefer iOS for a clean, organized interface that doesn’t get me too distracted (especially when dealing with work) as I would spend hours customizing my Android. I feel that organization and productivity go hand-in-hand – and I believe that, if nothing else, an improved keyboard could really benefit the usefulness of the iPhone. Give users some choices. Autocorrect was good for a while, but better options have come out since then and personally I think a lot of people would like to have the option of a Swype-like keyboard without having to go through the jailbreak process.

I know that widgets, themes, and many other customization options will probably never see the light of day in an iPhone. Those hopes and dreams have been crushed long ago – customization is just not iOS’s strong point. But I feel that an improved keyboard that enables more productivity would only ever gain popular opinions from the iOS community (given that it’s a keyboard that actually works). I’m kind of hoping that we see an option like this for iOS, if not this week, then sometime in the near future.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the iOS keyboard? Do you like it the way it is, or do you think Apple should go for something different?

Image via Pinglio

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Will Siri ever really compete with Google Now? Jun 9th 2013, 08:55
Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is coming. It’s actually right around the corner, in fact. And are you prepared? You should be. It’s going to be all revolutionary and stuff. For Apple. Whether or not it turns the world of mobile upside down remains to be seen. But, as it stands right now, it sounds more like it’s just going to turn the world of iOS upside down. Aesthetically, anyway. Whether or not iOS changes in a really big way outside of the visual approach remains to be seen.

Sure, we’ve heard rumors of some new features here and there, but so far nothing groundbreaking. There are already posts out there telling the world they should temper their expectations, and that’s probably a good thing. You don’t want to get yourself all riled up for no reason, right?

Our own Anna Scantlin posted her pre-WWDC iOS 7 expectations, and I have to say that I agree with her outlook. The truth is, even if WWDC is all about changing the way iOS looks, I’ll be okay with that. I don’t have any huge problems with the way that iOS functions, even if I do think they could ease up on their whole “One Ecosystem” rule. I think if the crew at Apple want to put the big focus on finally redesigning iOS, then they deserve the attention. Because iOS deserves to be aesthetically altered.

So, while I’m okay with how iOS works “generally,” I do have some questions about the future version of Apple’s mobile software. Questions, usually, that I’ve whittled down to just one feature: Siri.

Right now, Siri is just okay. Last year I admitted that I was using Siri way more than I ever thought I would, but the truth is I’ve all but completely stopped. And while I think I would have stopped using it anyway, eventually, I’m okay with admitting that I’ve stopped using it because I just prefer Google Now.

And, here’s the thing: I don’t even use it on iOS. I think it’s a cool idea, but the limitation to not have it actually notify me of things severely limits the attraction for the app. For me, at least. I still have it installed, and I still check it from time to time, but you really do get to see how great Google Now is on Android, and why Siri pales in comparison.

But since Google Now is on my phone in general, and I do have access to it when I want it –even without its precognitive abilities– I’ve just given up on Siri altogether. Plus, being able to open Google Maps from within Google Search is just amazing. I know I’ve made it clear that I love, almost depend, on Google’s apps on my iPhone, but Google’s just making it easier.

Which is why I wonder if Apple is either going to put a huge focus on Siri, and just give her a whole suite of new features, or if they’re going to let the software just tread water and fade into the night. With Google Now actually present on iOS, I hope it’s the former of the two options, because I’d like to see Apple truly revolutionize the software, and pack it with accessible information, maybe from iCloud.

Oh, and I want Siri to be able to control third-party applications, like Spotify. That’d be great. I hate when she tells me, almost sarcastically, that she can’t skip to the next song because I’m “not playing any music.” Hey, Siri? Don’t argue with me. Geez.

So tell me what you think they are going to do with Siri. Do you even think it’s a good enough feature to warrant any new attention? Or do you think Apple will just hope users are okay with more advanced voice commands? Do you think Siri can eventually compete with Google Now? Let me know!

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