Mountain climbing! Off-road biking! Skiing! Climbing trees! All of these activities are simply too extreme for your current smartphone, or so Cat (nee Caterpillar, the bulldozer people) would have you believe. Their latest Android-powered rugged phone is the S50, announced today at IFA in Berlin and boasting mid-range specs with a body that looks like it's designed to shrug off shrapnel. It's the follow-up to Cat's B15, a phone durable enough to survive an encounter with a front-end loader.
So far Samsung's "Active" mini-series has exactly two devices, the Galaxy S4 Active and the Galaxy S5 Active. (Three, if you count Sprint's S5 Sport variant.) At IFA 2014, the company is expanding its ruggedized horizons into the tablet world with the Galaxy Tab Active, an 8-inch device with the same IP67 water and dust protection, plus a chunky body that can resist drops of up to 1.2 meters (four feet).
Chinese manufacturer Meizu has unveiled its latest flagship device, the MX4. It's a high-end, 5.36-inch phone that spares no expense in some components, but seems to go a little down market in others. The 4th-generation MX4 will be available later this month in China starting at 1800 Yuan (about $290) for the 16GB version, with the 32GB and 64GB versions going for 2000 and 2400 Yuan, respectively. eBay and other official import shops are pre-selling the 16GB model for $449.99.
The Amazon Fire phone is interesting for a number of reasons. It's the company's first attempt at a smartphone. It crams Fire OS into a smaller form factor than it's had to accommodate before. It has five - yes, five - front-facing cameras, four of which serve as the backbone for what Amazon calls Dynamic Perspective. One thing the phone is not interesting for, however, is being a good deal (more on that below).
Kyocera isn't exactly a big name in modern Android smartphones, but it does make a lot of rugged devices that don't get much press. It's also big in materials science, which is where sapphire comes in. See, it seems like a safe bet that the next iPhone will have a sapphire glass display, and Kyocera happens to know a lot about manufacturing synthetic sapphire for watches and electrical components. So, they're making sapphire screens for smartphones.
Huawei is a name that most of us have been hearing more and more often lately, as the company has really been pushing its presence in the North American market. It's currently offering some really unique hardware, like the 6.1-inch Ascend Mate 2, which sports a massive 3,900mAh battery. Huawei claims that it'll get you through an entire weekend without needing to hit the wall (up to 2.5 days to be exact).
Update: Here's a video of the full press conference.
We've been hearing about Amazon's potential smartphone for what seems like years, but today it's finally real. At a super-exclusive Amazon event, Jeff Bezos talked about Prime, Kindles, FireTV, customers, some other stuff, and took wraps off of the company's first go at a phone. It is, as you may have guessed, an interesting one. It's packing some rather unique features, as well as top-notch hardware:
4.7" IPS LCD HD display "optimized for one-handed use" – 590 nit brightness, Gorilla Glass
Quad core 2.2GHz processor
Adreno 330 GPU
13MP f/2.0 rear shooter, OIS – instant access button, even with the screen off
Four front-facing cameras for dynamic perspective and a wider field of view
Unlimited photo storage (cloud)
Dual stereo speakers
Ships with non-tangle headphones with flat cable and magnetic buds
Once upon a time, Blu was pushing out low- to mid-range phones once every couple of weeks. Then a shift happened – the company stepped up its game and started putting out higher quality handsets, leading up to last month's release of the Life Pure XL – a Snapdragon 800-packing monster.
Fast-forward to now, with the launch of two new Blu handsets: the Vivo IV and Life 8. While the Life 8 is more of a "mid-range" octa-core device (1GB RAM, 1280x720 display, 8GB storage), the Vivo IV is another beast entirely.
In the past, Blu has offered budget-friendly phones with mid to mid-high end specs. The biggest issue that most power users have had with the company's handsets is a simple one: MediaTek processors. While these particular chips offer good bang for the buck, they are still mostly underpowered for heavy multi-taskers or anyone looking for lightning quickness from their handset.
It looks like we may be getting into a new era for Blu if the new Life Pure XL is any indicator of what to expect moving forward.
Can you make a smartphone without compromise? Is it possible to cram top-of-the-line hardware into a slim phone body, then fit it with well-regarded software, then sell it for about half the price of competing devices, and call the resulting product a "flagship killer?" Can you, as the ceaseless OnePlus promotion machine so succinctly puts it, "never settle?"
In a word, no. The OnePlus One, the maiden Android phone from a boutique manufacturer, is not completely without its shortcomings (or indeed, its compromises).