Andy Rubin plans to bring the Essential Phone to the UK, Europe and Japan

You didn’t think Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone will be exclusively available in the United States, did you? Even though the company behind the quirky smartphone hasn’t yet come forward with an official statement to confirm its expanded availability, Financial Times reports the Essential Phone will be released in many other countries.

Apparently, Andy Rubin’s company negotiated the release of the Essential Phone in the UK with local carriers. Last week, Essential execs held talks with EE and other UK network operators to find a suitable time frame for the launch the …


Google's Android One project reaches Japan, but it's way overpriced

Sharp X1 is the name of the first Android One smartphone to hit the Japanese market. The X1 will remain a Japanese affair for as long as Sharp plans to produce it, so don’t get your hopes too high when it comes to its availability outside this country.

Android One phones are by definition meant to provide consumers with an affordable alternative to the Pixel and Nexus devices. These smartphones are among the first to receive major Android OS updates when Google releases them, but support usually ends after about two years of their market release.

However, …

Sony made this gorgeous hybrid watch to only sell it in Japan

Sony is no longer keen on making and selling Android Wear smartwatches, but it’s sure upping its hybrid watch game. Unfortunately, it has been keeping the products of its clocksmithing efforts strictly to Japan. Westerners are only to observe from a distance, and potentially look up imports on eBay. Oh, well!

The Three Hands Square is Sony’s latest masterpiece, a clean and attractive hybrid watch that will be available in both round and square designs. The latter is visibly made for female customers. The pictures speak for themselves, while the smart functions these …

Gawk hopelessly at these new all-screen Sharp phones you won't be able to get outside Japan

Wow! Seriously, look at Sharp’s brand new phones and tell us 2017 hasn’t been an extra special year for smartphone design! We always counted on the Japanese firm to lead the bezel-less movement, as it’s always had a thing for making minimally framed phones – even back when the technological means to do so weren’t really there.

Now, Sharp has reached the point where it seemingly can’t go any further with minimizing screen bezels. This happens with the brand new Sharp FS8016 and FS8010 smartphones, set to debut in Japan this July. Stunning design aside, …

BlackBerry KEYone pre-orders sell out in Japan; phone to launch on June 29th

With the BlackBerry KEYone set for a June 29th launch in Japan, pre-orders of the phone have sold out in the country. Actually, it took about an hour for the Android flavored handset to find a buyer for every unit up for pre-order. BlackBerry Mobile is offering the latest ‘Berry through a partnership with Fox. Inc. and Caseplay. On the latter’s website, the KEYone is listed at a price of 69,800 Japanese Yen, which translates into $623.41 USD at current exchange rates.

Despite the sell out, those interested in the KEYone are being told that they can still register their interest in the handset …

Japan Display announces new 6-inch display with 18:9 aspect ratio

Japan Display (JDI), announced that it has started mass production of a 6-inch screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio and a 1440 x 2560 resolution. JDI is calling this the “Full Active” LCD display, which employs a new high density wiring allowing the bottom bezel to be as thin as the other three sides. The screen comes with the second-generation Pixel Eyes technology allowing for deeper blacks. Additionally, users with wet fingers will be able to easily navigate the screen. The latter is important in this age of water resistant handsets.

Since Sony often uses JDI as a source for its screens, …

Super Nintendo World theme park at Universal Studios to open in Japan by 2020


00000488_01 Mario’s got a date with Universal Studios theme parks, and the first concrete one is 2020: That’s the year Nintendo and Universal are targeting for the debut of the first of three Super Nintendo Worlds. The Nintendo themed areas at Universal parks in Orlando, Hollywood and Japan will host attractions, restaurants and shops, and the first will open in Osaka ahead of the Olympic Games… Read More

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Japan Displays Upcoming Touch Screens Feature Slimmer Bezels Wet Finger Support

Apple supplier Japan Display revealed some details on its second-generation “Pixel Eyes” LCD modules over the holidays, providing us with a look at some of the ways the display industry is advancing. Japan Display’s “Pixel Eyes” modules incorporate touch functionality into the display, and in the second-generation model, there are some exciting improvements.

Using a new sensor structure and new materials, Japan Display has managed to decrease the thickness of the bezel, going from 0.8mm to 0.5mm. A deeper black level is available, and the display can accept input with a stylus as narrow as 1mm for finer detail when drawing or writing.

iphone-water

Perhaps the most intriguing feature in the LCD module is its ability to operate with wet fingers. Many current smartphone screens are unable to work accurately under water and when fingers are wet as water is capacitive and confuses the built-in touch sensors.

iPhones, iPads, and the Apple Watch, for example, don’t respond well to touch with wet fingers or when placed in water, so technology like this could be essential if Apple wants to have a functional display in a device advertised as “waterproof.” Some iPhone 7 rumors have indicated the next-generation iPhone could be a waterproof device.

In a report earlier this week, The Motley Fool highlighted Japan Display’s second-generation “Pixel Eyes” technology and the possibility it could be included in the iPhone 7. Volume shipments on the displays will begin during the current quarter, making them available for possible inclusion in the iPhone 7 when Apple begins ramping up production during the summer months.

While Japan Display is one of Apple’s suppliers, it is not entirely clear if Japan Display screens are used in the iPhone and if the second-generation Pixel Eyes display technology will be used in future products. There have been rumors suggesting Apple and Japan Display have partnered up for a $1.7 billion display plant to produce screens for iPhones in 2016, so it’s not out of the question that we’ll see Japan Display screens in the iPhone 7 or the iPhone 7s.

Regardless of whether Japan Display’s technology ends up in the iPhone, the advancements made by the company serve as an interesting glimpse at features that could be adopted more widely by the display industry in the future, eventually making their way into Apple’s devices.

Android Circuit Samsung Galaxy S6 Review Sony Release Xperia Z4 In Japan Google Fights Verizon

Taking a look back at seven days of news across the Android world, this week’s Android Circuit highlights a number of stories including a review of the Samsung Galaxy S6 camera, pitching the Galaxy S6 in a head-to-head battle with the Galaxy Note 4 (and the Galaxy S6 Edge with the iPhone 6 Plus), Sony finally announces the Xperia Z4, Mountain View’s MVNO plans announced, Android Wear updates, and how Outlook is winning the Android email client battle.Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android.

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Galaxy S6 Ready For Your Close-Up

Since Nokia’s departure from mainstream mobile phones a few years ago, Apple has been seen as the leading smartphonein terms of image quality through the smartphone camera. At the launch of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, Samsung’s JK Shin suggested that the S6 family would claim that crown from Cupertino. Was he right? I took a closer look this week:

What’s clear looking at all the comparison images I have from both the Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6 is the advantage in the increased amount of light that the Galaxy S6 can capture. More light means more information, more information means the imaging software has far more data to work with, and more data means the pictures are better. The engineering to gather more light at similar camera speeds is not easy, but if there’s anything that easily stands out it is this.

Pair up the extra light falling on the more sensitive sensor with the improved lens, and the simple argument is that you get more detail in your images. It’s not just a simple matter of scaling up the megapixels, it needs to be in tandem with the lenses and filters already in place, and to work with the software processing, but Samsung has achieved all of this.

The Bullpen Smartphones Go Head-To-Head

While the Samsung Galaxy S6 is clearly up against the Apple iPhone 6 in terms of comparison reviews, but this week I took a look at the secondary handsets – Apple went large with the iPhone 6 Plus while Samsung focused on design and innovation with the S6 Edge. But which is ‘better’?

Apple has taken the available hardware it has on the shelf and made the best phablet it can make, without disrupting the iOS ecosystem or the user base. Cupertino has maximised the available resources and if it wants to build a next-generation phablet, it’s going to have to release and sell a new model. That might be great for business, but it leaves consumers looking at the iPhone 6 Plus in an awkward place.

Samsung has taken the opposite approach. The curved screen has been put in place, the basic functionality has been added to the software, but there remains a huge amount of optimization that could be done to make the S6 Edge worthy of the ‘edge’ moniker. The question for me is when will that optimization will come? The Galaxy S6 Edge has far more promise than the iPhone 6 Plus, but with the iPhone 6 Plus it’s clear what you are getting in the package and it’s easy to predict what functionality will be available as a two-year contract approaches its end. The same cannot be said of the S6 Edge.

Go Large Or Go New?

Staying with comparisons, Samsung stuck with the 5.1 inch screen size for the Galaxy S6 family, which means phablet fans need to look at the older Galaxy Note 4. How does the new cutting-edge handset measure up against one of the best Android phablets on the market? Gordon Kelly investigates:

what makes the S6 look great results in a loss of practicality and functionality that the Note 4 simply doesn’t have to stomach. Consequently the Note 4 may have a plastic back, but it is less slippery to hold, actually feels more durable and means you get both the upgradeable microSD storage and removable battery the Galaxy S6 gave up in its quest for style.

I’ll see how this settles for me, but right now this isn’t the walkover I expected. The Galaxy S6 looks the part, but the Note 4 has far more substance to it.

Sssh, Or You’ll Miss The Sony Xperia Z4

Sony’s mobile division has not been having a great time of it during 2015. With huge staff reductions, targets missed, and rumors that the division could be sold, keeping the focus on the mobile hardware has not been easy. The expectation has always been that the Xperia Z4 Android flagship would be announced at some point this year, but the reveal – through a blog post – on Monday was anti-climatic and felt like a company trying to hide a product rather than promote it strongly to every potential buyer:

…The new flagship won’t be immediately available internationally [it is currently limited to Japan – Ewan]. I reached out to Sony for more information but was told nothing other than there’s “no press release at this time”.

As expected, the Xperia Z4 is small upgrade on the Z3, which was released last September. Sony has continued with its partial-improvement policy of making minor changes to its main-line of smartphones with the Z4, save for the new Snapdragon 810 processor.

The Z4 keeps the same shape and design as previous models but weighs in at a slightly lighter 144g, compared to the Z3’s 152g. It’s also marginally slimmer at 6.9mm.

Google Reveals Its MVNO For America

It’s taken longer than some analysts expected, but Google has finally showed its hand in terms of becoming an MVNO and providing cellphone services to customers. Project Fi will allow customers two switch between Wi-Fi, Sprint, and T-Mobile for voice and data, at a competitive price in the US market. Pricing starts at $20/month for the basic package that includes unlimited domestic texts and calls, and data is priced at $10/GB.

Brad Reed has posted his take on it at BGR, including the limited support for handsets:

The most intriguing part of this is that Google will refund you for data you don’t use every month. So let’s say you buy 3GB of data for $30 in a given month and you only use 1.4GB of it. Instead of taking all your money, Google will actually give you back $16.

Right now Google isn’t launching the service for everyone but is instead offering interested prospective subscribers the opportunity to participate in its Early Access Program, which will be by invitation only. What’s more, you’ll only be able to access Project Fi at first if you own a Nexus 6, which Google specifically developed with Motorola to use with its service. There’s no word yet on when Project Fi will be open to more users.

Android Wear Updates

In the week that Apple shipped the first Apple Watches, Google rolled out an update to Android Wear – its vision of a mobile OS for wearable devices. It includes improved wrist-movement gestures, the ability to sketch emoji with Android Wear’s OS choosing the closest character, an improved ambient mode expected to help with battery life, improved launching of applications, and further use of standalone Wi-Fi support.

These are all minor issues, and Kyle Wiggers thinks that the big changes are being held back for Google’s I/O Developer conference in a few weeks time:

While Android Wear devices can undoubtedly count value in their favor — the average price for a smartwatch hovers around $250, while the cheapest Apple Watch is $350 — they haven’t quite achieved feature parity with Apple’s offering. Notably missing is support for payments, NFC and otherwise. But Google’s big developer conference is right around the corner, and it’s almost a sure thing we’ll learn more about big Android Wear plans then.

Sony Mobile Announces Xperia Z4 For Japan

As expected after months of speculation, which included the discontinuing of its Z3 flagship smartphone after only six months on sale in select territories, Sony Mobile has announced the Xperia Z4, which was first hinted at in the Sony Pictures leaked email scandal last year.

Sony-Xperia-Z4-Announces

The Z4 features slight updates to the Z3, which include a thinner 6.9mm bodyshell with the same Omnibalance design, a 5.2-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor with 32GB of internal storage and 3GB RAM with microSDXC slot, 20.7 megapixel main camera with LED flash and Sony-specific enhancements, 5.0-megapixel front camera with identical lens aperture to the rear camera along with digital image stabilization, Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX and LDAC support for Hi-Res audio streaming over Bluetooth.

Unlike the typical Xperia flagship launch, which includes carrier announcements, or is immediately announced with Japanese carriers, Sony is only confirming a mid-Summer launch for the phone in Japan and has so far not confirmed the international launch cycle for the phone.

As the previous Z3 flagship was met with lukewarm reception globally and US carriers refused to carry the Z3 Compact while failing to market the Z3 properly, the change in launch strategy may mean that the Z4 will mark a new sales strategy for Sony Mobile, which has struggled for sales volume since being fully integrated into Sony proper. While Sony Mobile is also dismissing previously mentioned intentions to spinoff the mobile division, the newly installed president is now merely aiming for profitability, rather than sales milestones.