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The HTC U Ultra and U Play showcase a new design direction, both launching in early 2017

HTC has been lagging behind its competitors for years, despite some fantastic hardware and critical acclaim. So for 2017 the company is going in a completely new design direction, dumping the aluminum unibody phones it's become known for and shifting to a more generic glass front and back. The first products displaying this new direction are the HTC U Ultra, the new flagship phone, and the U Play, a mid-range model. They'll both go on sale later this year.

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New FCC documents show photos of the SHIELD Portable 2, release still seems iffy

NVIDIA seems committed to a set-top box format and Android TV platform for its SHIELD brand, revealing a slightly tweaked model of the device at CES as the first major hardware revision in a year and a half. But fans of the original SHIELD, the somewhat goofy and crazy-powerful Android portable console, have been clamoring for a new device for even longer than that. The last we heard about follow-up from NVIDIA was almost two years ago, but it looks like someone at the company has been busy between now and then.

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[Update: Fifth Third Bank] 46 new banks get Android Pay support including Scottrade and Bremer

Just a year ago it was rare to have support for Android Pay at your bank, but things are much better now. It's getting to the point that even small banks have support for Android Pay. Case in point: 45 new banks have been added to the supported list for Android Pay, and you probably haven't heard of most of them.

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Photos on Google+ receive the machine learning treatment to help save on bandwidth usage

Machine learning is such a buzzword, or words, these days. Perhaps one of the biggest advocates of this technology, the almighty Google has been applying it to many of its services over the past few months. Now photographs on Google+ are getting some love with the addition of RAISR, which allows for low-resolution images to receive massive bumps in quality while saving on bandwidth.

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[Update: 2018 release more likely] Samsung may reveal production-ready smartphones with foldable screens in Q3 2017

Bendable screens sound great in theory; they allow you to choose between two different form factors, on demand. We've seen them on quite a few concept devices over the years, but according to a recent report out of South Korea, Samsung may be the first to make them a reality.

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Android Wear 2.0 is launching in early February

Google was supposed to release Android Wear 2.0 last fall, but there were... issues. Specifically, feedback for the developer preview was quite negative. Google decided to reassess and pushed the release to early 2017. After a few more dev previews, here we are. Google has notified developers that Wear 2.0 is coming in a few weeks, so they had better get their apps ready.

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Gboard update rolling out with bug fixes for freezing and inconsistent glide typing

Google finally brought Gboard to Android last month after releasing it on iOS a while back. Of course, it was technically an update to Google Keyboard, but it was a significant one. The Gboard transition was not without its problems. An update is rolling out now to address some of the bugs with that first release.

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Google brings On Tap's screenshot feature to Assistant on the Pixel

Google got in a habit of dumping all sorts of features and incomplete ideas into Google Now on Tap. With the move away from On Tap, Assistant focused more on voice control and connected services. However, some of the useful features of On Tap were left behind too. In the case of screenshots, it looks like Google is bringing it back in Assistant.

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Airlines in the US will soon stop making Galaxy Note7 ban announcements

The FAA has officially lifted its requirement on airlines to notify passengers that the Galaxy Note7 is banned while in flight. While the ban itself is still in place, and having a Note7 on a plane could still get you ejected from your flight - you'll just stop hearing about it from someone over a garbled PA system.

The FAA's release cites the current return rate of 96% for Note7s sold in the United States, along with the phone-bricking OTA update, as reason for lifting the announcement requirement. Out of curiosity, I decided to check in on Note7 traffic on Android Police, and in recent weeks it has dropped to near-negligible levels, with a growing number of days seeing effectively zero users accessing the site with Note7s at all.

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Google Now's contextual icon searches rolling out to more users

We've spotted some new icon-based interface changes in Google Now over the last few months, first with a few circles, then with more contextual multicolored icons. The latest shift seems to be all in on the latter: multiple Android Police users have told us that they've seen the new icon-focused UI in their copy of the app, complete with more icons than ever before. As an intentional way to direct users to Google's various utility searches, it seems to be fairly functional.

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