Purported photo of the Meizu Pro 7 shows curved screen

Meizu is a prolific smartphone maker capable of launching new phones every three to six months. The company may be ready to fire at the flagship range not too far in the feature, for PriceRaja has obtained an alleged photo of the Meizu Pro 7. Unfortunately, it looks like it was taken with a potato, but that’s all we have to work with at this point. The smartphone pictured looks just like a Meizu Pro-line phone, but with a curved display like on the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. Also visible in the photo is a sidebar with shortcuts to frequently used apps, which shows Meizu …


Phil Schiller says Apple is working with Consumer Reports in wake of MacBook Pro battery issues


MacBook Pro In a year that’s been largely lackluster for Apple and downright bizarre for battery technologies, Consumer Reports’ refusal to recommend the new MacBook Pro feels like a too perfect microcosm of the past twelve months. In the wake of online complaints surrounding the recently refreshed laptop line’s longevity, the review stalwart handed the 15-inch version of the laptop… Read More

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Xiaomi Mi Note Pro Unboxing

It’s a rare occurrence for DHL to come knocking at our door asking for our signature for a package, but when that happens, we know that whatever it is traveled a long way to get to us. Well, that’s the case today as we finally got in the super-spec’d Xiaomi Mi Note Pro – a phablet that challenges Samsung’s long standing Note series. Over here in the US, its presence is hardly realized by consumers, but overseas, it’s surely garnering momentum.

Xiaomi-Mi-Note-Pro-Unboxing

Right from the onset, we can certainly tell you that the box for the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro is ginormous. That’s necessary, of course, when it’s accommodating such a gigantic sized phone in the inside. There are no pictures or images of the handset in question anywhere on the box, but rather, there’s only the small “MI” logo on the front – while the rear lays claim to a few of its notable specs.

Diving deeper into the packaging, there’s nothing out of the ordinary from what it seems. It contains the usual suspect of things, so that consists of the documentation, microUSB cable, and wall charger. That’s all! Even though some might find the included stuff lacking, we’re not all to shocked because of it lower cost than some other similarly spec’d smartphones. What’s outstanding is that the phone can be fetched for around $480, which is incredible given its high-end specs and all.

Beyond that, we’ll be putting the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro through the usual barrage of testing we perform on all our phones, so you can expect our in-depth review soon!

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ZTE Elegant Axon Pro phone

As ZTE’s marquee handset, the Axon Pro sports three color options, a metal body and a sharp display. Chinese mobile manufacturer ZTE launched its inaugural flagship device today during a New York press conference. Known as the Axon Pro, the handset is available in the US directly to buyers with a $449.98 price tag (£288 or AU$604, converted).

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Three color variants
The handset has a metal back plate and comes in three color variants: silver, gold, and a dark blue with gold accents.

A premium aesthetic
The phone measures 6.06 by 2.9 by 0.37 inches (154 by 75 by 9.3mm). Though it doesn’t look as slim and sleek as some high-end Nubia handsets (which is a subsidiary of the ZTE brand), it still has a solid build quality.

A dash of style
An intricate webbed pattern decorates the Axon Pro near the top and bottom bezels as well as around the rear cameras.

The 1,440p display up close
The 5.5-inch display is made with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and has an ultrasharp 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution. At 534ppi, images and video are crystal clear and text look refined.

Two cameras on the back
The device has an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. On the back is a 13-megapixel shooter that can record 4K HD. A second 2-megapixel “Omni Vision” lens, which sits above the standard camera, lets you adjust a photo’s depth of field after you’ve clicked the shutter.

Taking a photo in a snap
Along with a volume rocker, the right edge houses a textured shortcut button below the power key for quick access to the camera.

Snapdragon 810 processor inside
Powering the handset is a 2GHz octo-core Snapdragon 810 processor and an Adreno 450 GPU. A nonremovable 3,000mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 technology from Qualcomm provide its juice.

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ZTE launches marquee handset for the US
The ZTE Axon Pro is a powerful phone with a competitive unlocked price. Though steadily growing, ZTE’s reputation in the US remains relatively small, and the Axon Pro will require aggressive campaigning to gain consumer attention. Click here to learn more about ZTE phones.

Microsoft’s Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview

The first glance at the future of Office for Windows is here, in the form of the Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview. It’s the initial public iteration of the suite that will be released sometime in the second half of 2015, so at this point it’s very much a work in progress. I’ve spent a good deal of time with it — and while there are a few interesting user additions, the bigger improvements so far are under the hood and will be of great interest to businesses.

The preview is available for free to those who have an Office 365 ProPlus subscription, an Office 365 Enterprise E3 plan or an Office 365 Enterprise E4 plan. If you’re interested in getting it, go to Microsoft Connect, register and follow the installation instructions.

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Installation woes

Given that this is an early preview, don’t be surprised if you experience installation woes — I certainly did. I uninstalled my existing consumer edition of Office 2013 before trying to install the new version, in the hopes that the installation would go smoothly. Those hopes were quickly dashed.

I tried several times to install and, each time, when it seemed that 85% of the installation had been performed, the installation appeared to stop. When I checked the Windows 8 Start screen, I found an icon for the Word 2016 Preview, but not for any other Office apps. Word worked fine, but no other icons for Office applications could be found.

However, after spending a good deal of time with Microsoft tech support, they had me browse through my hard disk to the C:\Windows\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office 16 folder. There I saw that all the Office applications had been installed, even though the icons to run them hadn’t. I created shortcuts to them on the taskbar, and I was in business. They all ran without a hitch.

What’s new for users

There’s very little new compared to Office 2013 in this preview — no great surprise given that Kirk Koenigsbauer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for the Office 365 client apps and services team, wrote in a blog post, “To be clear, this early build doesn’t yet contain all the features we’re planning to ship in the final product.” And keep in mind that this preview is targeted at IT and developers, not at consumers or other end-users of Office.

The most visible change is that Office applications each now have their own distinctive colors — blue for Word, green for Excel and red for PowerPoint, with Outlook and Visio lighter shades of blue. The color is most noticeable in the Ribbon across the top of the program windows and in the title bar. You can always go back to the white of the previous version of Office if you want. As for me, there’s little enough color in one’s daily life, so I find the bright new colors a welcome addition.

The Ribbon is still much the same — no new tabs and no major changes to existing tabs. However, there is one nice addition that so far is only available on the Ribbon in Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Project and Visio: A box to the far right with the text, “Tell me what you want to do.”

Type in a task and you get a list of potential matches. Click any item in the list and you bring up instructions on how to accomplish it. For example, I typed in “Envelope” while in Word and got the options “Create Envelopes” and “Start Mail Merge.” I clicked each of the options, and was walked through the process of doing what each said. Simple, clean and useful.

I found this new feature to be a big time saver, and much better than hunting through the Ribbon. And it remembers the features you’ve previously clicked on in the box, so when you click in it, you first see a list of previous tasks you’ve searched for. That way, common tasks that you frequently perform are always within easy reach.

Not that it always worked. When I typed in “layout” in Word I got choices for “Change Layout,” “Quick Layout,” “Insert Shape,” “Right Hanging” and “Left Hanging.” (These last two have to do with indenting text.) The choices were fine, but all were grayed out so they couldn’t be used. Clearly, a little more work needs to be done here.

And it would be nice if this new feature were extended to the rest of Office. Outlook in particular could use it, given the wealth of features it has that aren’t always immediately apparent.

I found a smaller addition quite useful as well. In what Microsoft calls the Backstage area (it appears when you click “File” on the Ribbon), when you perform tasks such as opening a file, you see all of the cloud-based services you’ve connected to your account, such as SharePoint and OneDrive. That isn’t new — the feature was already in the 2013 version of Office. What is new, though, is that each of those locations now shows the associated email address underneath it — very helpful if you use a cloud service with more than one account. For example, I have two OneDrive accounts, one personal and one for business, and it lets me see at a glance which is which.

Changes to Outlook

The only other noticeable changes are a few Outlook tweaks. For example, when you’re composing an email and click Insert –>Attach File, you’ll see a list of all the recent files that you’ve used in Office. Given that there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll be inserting a file you’ve been recently working on, I found this a time-saver.

Outlook will also adjust its interface depending on the size of the window in which you run it. It normally has a three-pane view: folders in the left pane, list of emails in the middle pane and the email text in the right pane. However, when you run Outlook in a small window, it now shrinks to either a two-pane view or a one-pane view, depending on the window size.

At this point in Office 2016’s development cycle, the most important changes are directed at IT staff.

Perhaps the most important addition — and perhaps the one that IT will welcome most — is the extension of data loss protection (DLP) to Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Until now, DLP has been available only in communications-oriented tools, including Exchange, SharePoint, Outlook and OneDrive for Business. With Office 2016, DLP will allow IT administrators to create policies that govern document sharing and content authoring in Word, PowerPoint and Excel. So they’ll be able to control what kinds of information different users and different groups can include in the documents they create, and can also limit whom the documents are shared with and where they can be shared.

Outlook gets a number of under-the-hood changes as well, including some that are designed to improve Outlook stability on unreliable networks and others designed to reduce the download time of email. Also included are improvements to Outlook search speed and reliability and an updated MAPI-HTTP protocol that Microsoft claims is more Internet-friendly. Users can now also reduce the amount of storage space Outlook uses by choosing to keep one, three, seven, 14 or 30 days of email on their devices.

Other changes IT will welcome include improved traffic management with the introduction of a new service called Background Intelligence Transfer Service (BITS), which is designed to prevent network congestion. There is also better integration with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) so administrators can more efficiently distribute monthly Office updates, as well as have a way for administrators to control the number and pace of feature updates and bug fixes.

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None of that is visible in the preview, of course. But for IT folks, these changes may ultimately be more important than whatever cosmetic and features changes Microsoft eventually makes to the Office interface.

Bottom line

The Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview doesn’t look much different from Office 2013. Aside from a new color scheme and relatively minor new features, it’s essentially the same on the surface, although there are useful changes that IT staff will welcome.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t eventually be major additions and revisions, given that this is only the first preview. It does mean, though, that unless you’re an IT pro or developer looking to check out the under-the-hood changes, there’s little reason to download this preview. You’d be better off to wait for the public preview of the 2016 consumer version, expected to be available in the next several months, if not sooner.

Apple iPad Pro rumored to launch alongside Stylus tool

With rumors continuing that Apple will release a 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” sometime before the end of 2015, the latest report speculates that the company will also debut its own stylus tool to accompany and enhance the extra-large tablet. This information comes from Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst often considered a well-regarded and reliable source, who backs up his theory by pointing to a number stylus patents previously filed by Apple, as well as his own research into the company’s future plans.

While there are already a handful of iPad-compatible styluses available on the market, Kuo believes that one from Apple would “improve the user experience of 12.9-inch iPad,” due to the tool being more precise than the tip of a user’s finger, not to mention more useful than a keyboard and/or mouse in certain situations. The analyst clarifies that the stylus wouldn’t be directly included with the iPad Pro, but rather sold as an optional accessory, as most users probably wouldn’t need one, and it would only add to the new tablet’s price.

Apple-iPad-Pro-rumored-alongside-Stylus-tool

This would make sense, as Apple has been very careful in its marketing of the iPad product line, conveying to users that nothing more is needed than their fingers and the tablet’s multi-touch screen. Packaging the iPad Pro with a stylus, or making a big deal out of using one, would be a sharp U-turn in saying that to best use this new large device, users must interact with it in a completely different manner.

What’s also interesting about Kuo’s report is that he says Apple’s stylus will gain functionality, or at least see an upgraded model, after the first year or so. The initial stylus would be a bare-bones piece of hardware, while further down the line we would see advanced features such built-in gyroscopes or accelerometers. Looking at Apple’s related patents for clues, this could enable 3D handwriting technology allowing users to not just write on the screen, but on any other hard surface or possibly even in the air.

Such uses would surely advance the idea of styluses actually adding functionality to tablet devices, as opposed to just being alternatives for fingertips, or at best more accurate tips for drawing purposes. But Kuo repeats that such handwriting features wouldn’t be available until sometime after 2015, as he doesn’t see Apple’s hardware or software quite ready before then.