Motorola may have designed its cheap Moto X with international markets in mind, but cost-conscious phone nerds in the United States now join in the fun too - the company has confirmed that it'll sell both the GSM 8GB and 16GB versions of the device on its website starting today.
Sorry CDMA sticklers, your time hasn't come just yet - Motorola says your version is still on-track for a January launch.
If we're being honest, the Moto G is far from the fastest phone out there with its 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 chip, 1GB of RAM, and lack of LTE. Still, early impressions of the thing are generally pretty positive and our own Darrell Etherington is surprisingly smitten with the thing because of its hefty battery life (and for a few other reasons I haven't managed to discern just yet).
No, it's the price tag that's most appealing. You may not know it, but Motorola has spent years courting developing markets and the company has high hopes that its cheap Moto G will be enough to tip the scales in its favor across the the globe.
Frankly, I'm curious to see how this little experiment plays out. The 8GB model will set you back $179 while the 16GB model will costs $199, which (as Motorola likes to point out) is more than reasonable for a pair of unlocked, contract-free phones. But those figures may not sound all too enticing in a country that seems to love its carrier subsidies and the low, on-contract phone prices they lead to. Seriously, just wander into a phone store in a few weeks and behold all the cheap goodies that can be yours with a credit check, a signature, and two years of your life. That's the model we Americans are used to, and we're only now starting to see carriers realize there are other (arguably better) ways to go.
Back when Motorola revealed that it's seriously trying to bring modular smartphones to the masses, it left more than a few of the particulars shrouded in secrecy. Granted, that's probably because most of the particulars haven't even been fleshed out yet, but the Google subsidiary is slowly starting to reveal its vision for how these crazy things will actually be made.
Their approach? 3D printing, and lots of it. Motorola has just announced that it's locked up an exclusive partnership with 3D Systems that will see that printing pioneer producing “Ara smartphone enclosures” and the nifty component modules that snap onto the phone's main body.
Haven't been keeping tabs on Project Ara? Here's the gist of it - Motorola has apparently grown a little weary of the traditional notion of a smartphone where all of the things that make it tick are wrapped up in a plastic body, away from curious eyes and prodding fingers. Now that Motorola has basically inherited Google's penchant for kooky ideas (not to mention the money), it's working on creating a phone body with a display (they call it an “endoskeleton”) that users will ultimately be able to snap new components into as needed. Growing weary of your old camera? Pop a new one on there. Need a snappier processor? That's not out of the realm of possibility.
Now 3D Systems is an interesting player, to say the least - while it's devoted resources to cracking the consumer market with low-cost printers and 3D scanners for the past two years or so, it's bread and butter continues to be the sort of hefty, industrial printers that can turn around jobs at a much faster rate. That's not to say that the company in its current form is ready for the sort of rigor Project Ara demands, so 3D Systems has apparently been asked to create a “high-speed production platform” to churn out those modules and enclosures with the quickness. At this point there's still no word on when production will start (Motorola is still soliciting early feedback from its so-called “Ara Scouts”) but the company has said that it's aiming to get the alpha version of its Module Development Kit out the door and into hackers' hands some time this Winter.
Here's a noodle-scratcher for you: you have an iOS device and love playing games on it, but you've grown weary of effetely pawing at a touchscreen. What do you do? Well, now that iOS 7 is out on and has already been installed on a veritable crap-ton of devices, the answer is to explore the wild and woolly world of iDevice game controllers like the one Logitech just officially unveiled this morning.
It's called the PowerShell and the general thrust of the thing will look pretty familiar if you're an avid @evleaks follower (much like our own Matthew Panzarino). A leaked image of the device first made the rounds back in early October, and very little seems to have changed between now and then. The same textured d-pad sits to the left of the screen, the same A, B, X, and Y buttons rest to the right, and a pair of shoulder buttons round out the package. Thankfully, said package doesn't appear to add too much heft to the iDevice ensconced within and Logitech has tucked a 1,500 mAh hour battery in there to keep the action going. Just be warned - it'll only latch onto a iPhone 5s, iPhone 5, or 5th gen iPod touch, so 5c owners should apparently look elsewhere.
Now in fairness, the folks at Moga (who themselves are no stranger to smartphone gaming gadgets) pulled back the curtain on its first iOS 7-compatible controller doodad just the other day. It's a far more complex affair, replete with dual joysticks and a layout that's more than a little reminiscent of Microsoft's venerable Xbox 360 controller. Oh, and Moga's take even sports a slightly more robust internal battery to go with its identical price tag - on paper it looks like Logitech's already running in second place. Still, even though it was the first to publicly tout its iOS-friendly controller, Moga hasn't mentioned a specific release date for the thing, and Logitech is gunning to lock up the first mover advantage by peddling its own version today.
Then again, one could argue that being first is overrated. It's being the first to really nail a formula that really matters and Logitech has remained relevant all these years because they usually manage to do just that. That's not to say this competition is already over though - the floodgates are only now beginning to open and I'd wager gewgaws like this are going to be everywhere within a few months. May the best controller win!
Russia-based Yota Devices has been working on a curious beast called the YotaPhone for years now, and it's gained quite a reputation for itself because of its split personality. While the front of the phone sports a traditional LCD screen, the back plays home to a power-sipping eInk display because… well, why not?
The launch date was one of the last big questions left unanswered, but that's no longer the case: the company has just confirmed to us that the YotaPhone will launch internationally before Christmas.
Frankly, it's about time they're getting this thing out the door considering just how long they've been teasing it to the public. Word of device first started making the rounds late last year, and an a very early version of the phone made public appearances at massive trade shows like CES and MWC (you can see our CES footage of the thing below). And it isn't exactly a surprise that the company was gearing up for an official launch either - earlier this year the Russian company was confirmed it would start the mass production process with the help of a Singaporean manufacturer called Hi-P.
Still, the news may come as a bummer to some of YotaPhone's biggest fans, as an earlier report out of Russia claimed that the Yota subsidiary would be pushing the device out the door some time in November. Those same reports also claimed that the YotaPhone would ship with a €500 price tag attached to it, but so far company representatives have remained mum when it came to cost.
That long-than-expected gap between promotion and production may have done the YotaPhone more harm than good. There's little doubting that it raised plenty of eyebrows, but the spec sheet is looking a bit long in the tooth compared to the competition - the final production model is going to feature a dual-core 1.7GHz chipset, 2GB of RAM, a 4.3-inch 720p screen upfront, and a seemingly paltry 1800mAh battery. Granted, it shouldn't be a total slouch with components like those, but the big question is whether or not the gimmicky second screen will be enough to tempt potential customers away from more prominent rivals like Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, and more.
This is a developing story, please refresh for updates.
The days are getting shorter, friends, and that can only mean one thing: winter is coming, and so too are the holidays. We here at TechCrunch like to think of ourselves as a gaggle of technological bon vivants, so we're starting our Gift Guide a little early this year.
First up: my picks for the digitally savvy bookworms and writers in your life. For whatever reason, these people just can't tear themselves away from their endeavors - after all, the lure of taking in or laying down words can be too much to resist, so why fight it?
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ ($379)
Our own John Biggs offered his in-depth impressions of the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX some weeks ago (TL;DR he likes it quite a bit), but when it comes to earnestly consuming media, I happen to prefer the next size up.
Part of that is because of a handsome 8.9-inch display running at 2560 x 1600 that lends itself equally well to both video playback and devouring ebooks. And it certainly doesn't hurt that the 8.9-inch HDX feels like one of the nicest Android tablets in recent memory, either. It's clad in a soft-touch plastic finish, noticeably lighter than the model that came before it, and is just a hair slimmer than the 7-inch version we already reviewed.
Throw in a surprisingly competitive spec sheet to drive everything (there's a 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 chipset and 2GB of RAM humming away in there) and features like Mayday to help troubleshoot issues on the fly and you've got a package that's capable of dealing with just about anything you throw at it. Just know that by buying into the vast Amazon ecosystem, you're also limiting yourself when it comes to the selection of apps you can install without additional cajoling.
Kindle Paperwhite ($119) vs. Nook Glowlight ($119)
If Amazon has the best honest-to-goodness tablet for immersing yourself in tomes, surely it stands to reason that its e-readers are on top of the heap, right? That's long been the case and Amazon dutifully churns out updated models pretty frequently, but Barnes & Noble isn't ready to wave the white flag just yet. Case in point: it just pushed the new Nook Glowlight onto store shelves in time to give the folks at Amazon another run for their money
With the new Glowlight, BN traded the dreary blacks and grays for a more buoyant white finish… sort of like the one Kindles use to have in the early days. It's awfully light, too (which is a very good thing), and while the redesigned body looks just a bit dopey, the rounded edges and wider bezels mean it's more comfortable to hold. To top it all off, the Glowlight's e-Ink display has been configured in such a way that the mildly annoying “black flash” of a screen refresh that usually occurs every few page turns is almost completely gone.
Meanwhile, the new Paperwhite looks nearly identical to the model that came before it - the only big visual difference is that Amazon managed to fix most of the uneven lighting issues that plagued the first one. Most of Amazon's innovation here is on the software front, as users can now
In the end there are more than enough reasons to justify whichever direction you take. If the thought of ads on your e-reader is just too much to bear and you prefer a cleaner, more handsome UI, consider the Nook. On the other hand, if you're already somehow locked into the Amazon ecosystem, the newest Kindle Paperwhite comes out ahead once again.
Livescribe 3 ($149)
What happens when the time to read has passed and you're itching to let the words building up inside of you out? The Livescribe 3 is a smartpen that aims to help you tap your metaphorically lexical keg by automatically transmitting a copy of whatever you write to a smartphone or tablet that's connected via Bluetooth 4.0.
But let's back up a minute. The first thing you'll probably notice about the Livescribe 3 is that it's actually much more like a pen than the unrepentantly geeky models that came before it - to hear CEO Gilles Bouchard tell it, the team that designed this thing went through scads of iterations before settling on a final design.
The only bummer? Thanks to the inconsistent proliferation of Bluetooth 4.0 across Android devices, only iPhone and iPad users will be able to watch their words magically make the leap from paper to app for now.
Scrivener ($40 for Windows, $45 for OSX)
I have a confession to make - between dashing off paper after paper in college and blogging for years, the actual act of putting pen to paper and scrawling out words for any considerable period of time seems alien to me. No, all of my writing these days results from the furious pounding of keys, and Scrivener is an invaluable tool for when idle thoughts give way to bigger concepts that need to be written about.
That's because Scrivener isn't just a text editor. It's just as much an organizing system that helps to track, highlight, and organize all the little snippets, references, and half-formed ideas that ultimately give way to a larger work. Sure, minimalist writing interfaces like Draft and iA Writer seem to be all the rage (and I'm awfully fond of them, too), but I'd like them to wrangle and display the sheer amount of stuff that Scrivener can. And better yet, it's available for OS X and Windows users.
Cyanogen Inc. revealed a few months back that it closed a $7 million seed investment from Benchmark Capital. The vision it laid out at the time was no small one: it wants its cooked version of Android to become the third most-used mobile OS behind iOS and Android proper.
Naturally, that involves getting CyanogenMod onto as many devices as it can, and today the company took one giant leap in that direction. They've just made it easier for average folks to flash their software onto their smartphones with an installer app available in the Google Play Store.
If that last bit doesn't sound like a big deal, then chances are you've never tried to install CyanogenMod on your own. After all, the original installation process wasn't exactly for the faint of heart. While some devices could be coaxed into running CyanogenMod in mere moments, others required lengthy lists of instructions and some occasional finger crossing. Hardly an ideal situation for a company trying to get CyanogenMod working on as many devices as possible.
Even now, there are still some caveats to deal with. The Android app won't do a whole lot all on its own for one, as it requires a companion Windows installer for heavy lifting so Mac users are plum out of luck at the moment. And most notably, the list of supported devices represents just a fraction of the Android gadgets currently floating around out there, so true mass-market penetration is going to take some time.
But let's back up for a moment: why would someone want to swap their current Android build (whatever it may be) with CyanogenMod? Long story short, the Cyanogen team has been working to build extra features into their custom version of Android by way of very frequent updates. While they've been developing CM for a long while, it's still very early days for Cyanogen as a company. But that doesn't mean they aren't making headway. The team inked a partnership with Chinese OEM Oppo to fold CyanogenMod support into its curious N1 smartphone, and with any luck, more manufacturer partnerships are in the cards, too.
As much as I love stock Android sometimes you just need something different, and that's essentially been the guiding mission of the folks over at Cyanogen Inc.
They've made plenty of strides with their customized version of Android over the past few months, but now they're on the verge of a big milestone - after officially revealing the thing back in September, Chinese OEM Oppo announced earlier today that its first Cyanogen-modded smartphone will launch internationally in December.
Wait, what? Who's Oppo?
To really get a feel for what's going on here, we need to flash back to mid-September. Cyanogen raised $7 million from Benchmark Capital at the time, and the company not-so-subtly hinted that it would forge partnerships with some honest-to-goodness smartphone makers to bring their modified version of Android to a wider audience than just avid phone tinkerers. That first hardware partner wound up being none other than Oppo, a curious Chinese OEM who may be best known for its Blu-ray players that has managed to cultivate a reputation for churning out some impressive (and impressively cheap) Android devices.
The specifics of the arrangement were… interesting, to say the least - Oppo developed its N1 smartphone in such a way that owners can easily flash Cyanogen's custom Android build, but they're also producing a limited quantity of those N1s that will ship to consumers with CyanogenMod pre-loaded onto them. It's worth pointing out that the N1 is no slouch either - it sports among other things a 1.6GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipset, 2GB of RAM, a 6-inch 1080p display, and what the company refers to as the world's first rotating camera so a single camera module can handle selfies as well as it can landscapes.
Now this is a nice turn of events for Cyanogen fans but this launch could prove to be an important barometer for the Cyanogen team. The Cyanogen-laden version is being pegged as a limited edition release so Oppo isn't going nuts churning these things out, so an international launch means that both companies will be better able to gauge the sort of demand for honest-to-goodness CyanogenMod phones. And this more widespread launch goes well, Oppo has that much more ammo in its arsenal if it tries to ink similar deals with other OEMs down the road.
That's not to say the team can just call it a day though - one of their bigger priorities is to complete a dead-simple Cyanogen installer built so owners of existing Android devices can swap their current builds for something a little different. The Cyanogen team has been rounding up beta testers to work on early versions of the installer (which will ultimately wind up in the Google Play Store if everything goes according to plan), but only time will tell when Ma and Pa will be able to flash their smartphones without getting bogged down in the minutia.
It looks like BlackBerry's oft-cited transition period isn't over just yet. The company confirmed this morning in a statement that the Fairfax takeover isn't happening and that CEO Thorsten Heins is being dismissed, and BlackBerry shareholders are not taking the news very well. At time of writing the company's stock price is hovering at about $6.90, down over 11 percent from its closing position on Friday - not exactly a sign of shareholder confidence in the ailing smartphone maker.
Still, that's small fries compared to what happened before the market even opened. The Globe and Mail broke the story about BlackBerry's new direction early this morning and it wasn't long at all before the company's stock price took a serious drubbing - it tanked to the tune of almost 19 percent before trading was halted just before 8:30 AM Eastern so BlackBerry could announce the specifics of the Fairfax deal itself, under which the company will accept $1 billion in investments from a slew of investors.
Even though things are apparently starting to flatten out, that's not a pretty drop no matter how you slice it - today's was BlackBerry's lowest open since September 2012 (the Monday after it announced service outage in the EMEA regions, no less) and the dip represents a nearly half billion dollar decline in BlackBerry's market cap. Naturally, while shareholders may be wary of the company's future, BlackBerry chooses to look at its hefty investment as a sign of hope for its forthcoming endeavors.
“Today's announcement represents a significant vote of confidence in BlackBerry and its future by this group of preeminent, long-term investors,” BlackBerry board chairwoman Barbara Stymiest in a statement. That's great and all, but there's little doubting that today's BlackBerry isn't surefooted in its mission as it once was. For a long while there getting BlackBerry 10 (and the devices that ran it) out the door was the guiding star over Waterloo, an initiative spearheaded by soon-to-be-former CEO Heins himself. Of course, as the Globe and Mail pointed out previously, the push was met with consternation from other BlackBerry higher-ups included former co-CEO Mike Lazaridis.
Now with Heins nearly out the door, the search for his replacement begins, as does the search for a new philosophy. Despite its legion of rabid fans, BlackBerry 10 doesn't seem to have charmed the masses in the way the company has hoped, and I don't envy the person who ultimately gets tapped to try and fix that.
For better or worse the holidays are right around the corner, and that can only mean one thing: consumer electronics companies are slaving away on new hardware designs and trying to get those final products onto shelves in time for an annual feeding frenzy.
Barnes & Noble is no different. Well, it's a little different - when I sat down with Digital Content EVP Doug Carlson earlier today he was eager to paint a picture of a savvy bookseller that's still aware of the human elements of peddling tomes (digital and otherwise). But it wasn't long at all before he got down to the business at hand and revealed the $119 Nook GlowLight, a new e-reader the company will start selling today.
The news will come as little surprise to BN fans considering the company tellingly dropped the price of its previous GlowLight model back in August in a bid to clear out its supply channels ahead of today's announcement.
I got the chance to play with the Nook GlowLight for bit, and - speaking as a Kindle devotee since the early days - it's a surprisingly compelling little package. The first thing you'll notice about it is just how light the thing is: at 6.2 ounces, it's almost like you're holding nothing at all. My e-reader of choice (and constant literary companion) has been Amazon's first generation Kindle Paperwhite, and it's considerably weightier than the device BN managed to put together.
The other big draw here is the Pearl display, and the fact that the Nook engineering team managed to figure out how to do away with the full screen flashes endemic to e-ink panels. Naturally, BN wouldn't divulge exactly how it managed to get the job done, but it's quite a feather in their cap considering Amazon doesn't seem to have cracked that particular code just yet. It definitely doesn't hurt that the panel is awfully crisp (it packs 62% more pixels into the same display size as its predecessor) and the lights nestled around the edge of the screen provided even illumination… if not quite as even as the new Paperwhite.
As it turns out, the Nook GlowLight really shines (ugh) when it comes to the little things too. That hefty bezel that runs around that display may turn some off, but my inordinately picky thumbs appreciated the size - there's just more room for my fingers to rest on the thing, something I can't say of my Kindle. And the new white chassis BN has run with (in a way BN's going in the opposite direction that Amazon has with its Kindle designs) provided a bit of visual resting space, almost like it's extending the margins of a page.
While I'm talking about the chassis, it's also worth pointing out that the new GlowLight also has a silicone band that protects the edges of the device that feels rather nice. It doesn't seem to take much effort to pop off that bit of silicon trim off either, it wouldn't shock me at all if Barnes & Noble sold colorful replacements so users could customize their readers.
And what of that human element? The Nook's recommendation system features insights from Barnes & Noble team of booksellers to help pump up the value of its results - to hear Carlson tell it, the algorithmic approach that Amazon takes to building a profile for recommendations means it'll never be able to make the intuitive leaps that lead to readers broadening their horizons.
As always, I'll refrain from passing judgment on the thing until we get to take the final hardware for a spin, but Barnes & Noble has made plenty of thoughtful choices here. If I wasn't so invested in Amazon's vast, vast content ecosystem, I'd definitely consider making the switch - it's just that promising.