Despite some impressive tablet, laptop, and combination devices, ASUS has left its smartphones mostly in the budget and mid-range end of the pool. That changes with the Zenfone 2 announcement at CES: while the new device probably won't set the world on fire, it's a definite competitor to offerings from the likes of HTC, Samsung, and LG at an amazing price. The ZenFone 2 is the first phone anywhere to be equipped with 4GB of dual-channel RAM (on the high-end model), and the rest of the specs are no slouch either.
LG's just announced the G Flex 2 here at CES, and we had a chance to go hands-on with the company's next curvy smartphone. First, though, let's get the technical bits out in front.
The G Flex 2 is one of the first officially announced phones from a major manufacturer to have a Snapdragon 810 processor, an octa-core chip in ARM's BIG.little arrangement, with 4 high-power cores offering speed when you need it, and four lower-power cores suited for standby tasks and other low-overhead operations.
Android Wear 5.0 is finally out on all devices, and that means developers are playing a little catch-up. Not only are there new system features to take advantage of, we finally have full support for custom watch faces. Many of the previously released ones have been updated for Android 5.0, but we're focusing here mostly on newly added apps and watch faces.
A lot of the new Android Wear watch faces are cool, and a surprising number of them are free.
Ever since Google integrated Voice with Hangouts, listening to voicemail has been a highly-focused affair. Unlike traditional voicemail, which we're conditioned to hold up to our ear like a phone call, voicemail in Hangouts comes with a play button that encourages us to treat it more like the audio file that it is. This is the same way Google Voice has treated it on the web for forever.
The downside is that turning off the screen or backing out of Hangouts has, until recently, caused the message to immediately stop playing.
Big tech companies are hesitant to admit when a competing platform offers something that they don't. But the folks at Pebble are more than ready to take advantage of the functionality introduced by Android Wear. The team has pushed out a beta that lets the Pebble not only interact with notifications, but respond to them in a manner akin to an Android Wear watch.
Instead of swiping from the right repetitively to access various options (as you would with Android Wear), Pebble lets you access different options using the three physical buttons available on the side of the watch.
Nest was already smarter than your average thermostat, coming with an app that serves as your mobile command and control center. But now that the hardware is integrated with Google Now, it's even easier to communicate with the device. Wish it were a little bit warmer? Just say the word.
We knew this functionality was coming, it was just a matter of waiting for Google to flip the switch. Now that everything's working, Nest will respond to any number of voice commands following the words OK Google, including change the temperature to, turn the thermostat to, set Nest at, alter the temp, and seemingly everything in between.
The LTE version of the Nexus 9 is now ready for your hard-earned money. T-Mobile has made the 8.9-inch tablet available on its website, where it's charging $24.99 a month for two years or $599.76 outright.
This makes T-Mobile the first place where you can buy the LTE-equipped version of the Nexus 9 in the US, with the carrier roughly hitting its promised early December commitment. Customers can add the device to their Simple Choice plan for an additional $10 a month, at which point the Un-carrier will match the amount of data allocated to the phone and provide the same amount exclusively for the tablet.
Microsoft has acquired HockeyApp, a service that helps developers test their apps and get feedback from users. The company plans to use the platform, akin to Apple's TestFlight (purchased early this year), to attract app creators to its development tools. The folks at Redmond intend to integrate HockeyApp with the Application Insights service in Visual Studio Online to improve support for Android and iOS.
HockeyApp offers developers integrated crash reporting, information on beta distribution, and a built-in user feedback system.
Amazon's main shopping app has between 50 and 100 million downloads, but it's not showing up in the Play Store anymore. The listing remains if you have the direct link, but you won't see it in search results. Oddly, there's a new Amazon app called Amazon Shopping. It's the same exact app but guess what it doesn't have—the Appstore. It looks like Google may have laid down the law. [See updates at the bottom]
Left: old with Appstore, Right: new with no Appstore