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Jan 30

z10_face

After years of watching users ditch its once-popular BlackBerry devices for more modern smartphones, RIM has decided to make one last effort to regain some of its former glory – and market share.  The company has changed its name (now BlackBerry, Inc.) and its strategy, this morning announcing the first true BlackBerry smartphone: the Z10.

Question is: is it too late?

The BlackBerry Z10 bears little resemblance to its messenger-class predecessors.  With a 4.2-inch touchscreen, rounded corners and flat sides, it’s difficult to escape comparisons with current iPhones – at least in terms of design.  The Z10 is powered by a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor with 2GB of RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11n Wi-Fi, LTE, NFC, and 8MP/2MP cameras.

The BlackBerry 10 OS that drives the Z10 has been completely rewritten, and is heavily dependent on touch gestures to get the user from function to function.  Engadget has posted a fairly extensive review of BB10, which is a must-read if you want to better understand the direction the OS has taken.  

It doesn’t appear that the Z10 has any must-have features that would make a significant number of iPhone or Android users make the switch, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens when the new device is released in a few weeks.  It will be available from the four major U.S. carriers, with LTE support from all but T-Mobile.  Price with two-year contract will be around $200.

Watch the BlackBerry 10 & Z10 launch event video.

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Jan 22

Keon Developer Preview Phone for Firefox OS

Two mobile platforms dominate the current smartphone landscape – iOS and Android – with two others hoping to gain ground – Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10.  But there’s a fifth mobile OS on the horizon that may make an impact as well – Firefox OS. 

Developed by Mozilla , Firefox OS is based on open web standards and APIs, and  would, at first, be aimed at low-end devices that would be affordable for consumers.

The first developer hardware for Firefox OS is set to launch soon: the Keon (seen above) and the Peak, with a larger screen and more advanced hardware.  Both will be sold by GeeksPhone.  These handsets are not aimed at consumers, but at developers who wish to write software for the new OS. 

No pricing or release information has been made available, but the hardware is expected to begin shipping soon.

It remains to be seen if Firefox OS can be a serious player in the mobile market, or if it’ll be more of a boutique project. 

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Jan 10

Samsung Galaxy S II Plus

Today, Samsung unveiled a new smartphone model, the Galaxy S II Plus.  As the name suggests, it is an update to the popular Galaxy S II Android phone, though the updates it offers aren’t exactly mind-blowing.

Like the original S II, the Plus has a 4.3" 480×800 Super AMOLED Plus touchscreen, a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, an 8MP primary camera, Bluetooth 3.0, and 1GB of RAM. The only hardware differences appear to be a faster camera, a microSD slot compatible with microSDXC cards up to 64GB, NFC, and reduced internal storage of 8GB (down from 16GB).

Another noteworthy change is the OS; although the S II has been updated to Android 4.0 with further updates on the way, the S II Plus ships with Android 4.1.2 “Jelly Bean.” 

No word yet on carriers, pricing or release dates.

View the Samsung Press Release

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Dec 18

NVIDIA Tegra 4

NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 System-on-Chip (SoC) powers a range of current high-end tablets including the Google Nexus 7 and the Microsoft Surface RT.  But the company is hard at work on the next-generation of their ARM platform, the Tegra 4.

According to a newly leaked document, the Tegra 4 – codenamed Wayne – will (like its predecessor) include four application cores, but will move to the latest Cortex-A15 architecture.  It will also have 72 graphics cores, besting the Tegra 3’s 12-core GPU handily.  These extra cores will enable screen resolutions up to 2560×1600.

The Tegra 4’s app cores will likely be clocked between 1.2 and 2.0GHz.  It will also include support for USB 3.0 and DDR3.

NVIDIA is expected to unveil the new SoC  in Q1 2013, with the first devices powered by the Tegra 4 likely shipping mid-year.

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Dec 04

AT&T Galaxy S III Gets Jellybean

The Verizon and T-Mobile versions of the Samsung Galaxy S III Android phone have already received OS updates to Android 4.1 “Jellybean,” and now AT&T S III owners can update their phones as well. 

AT&T will not make the S III Android 4.1 update available over-the-air; the update requires you to download and install a piece of software called Samsung Kies which performs the update via sync on PCs and Macs.  You can download Samsung Kies here, or visit Samsung’s update page to learn more about the new features and the upgrade process.

This leaves just Verizon Wireless S III users waiting to be updated to Jellybean.  No word yet on when that update is expected to drop.

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