Nokia Lumia 930 review: like the Icon, but better

Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia is now bearing fruit, but as often happens when big companies merge, there aren't enough jobs to go around. More than 10,000 former Nokia employees are due to be laid off by the end of the year, but their legacy will live on for a time in the Lumia 930: one of the last all-Nokia creations. If you live in the UK, then you already know where to get the flagship Windows Phone, but the more important question is whether you want one. We've already taken a deep dive on the 930 in our review of the Lumia Icon, which is essentially the same phone, just exclusive to Verizon in the US. Let's revisit the good, the bad and the competition.

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It's sure been a long time since Sharp shipped a smartphone to American consumers. And, let's be honest with ourselves, the FX Plus wasn't exactly taking the market by storm. The Sidekick-esque slider was dated even by 2011 standards. But the company is hoping its AQUOS Crystal will have better fortunes. The (almost) bezel-less device offers high-end looks with decidedly mid-range internals. The 1.2GHz chip inside isn't going to set land-speed records, but it should be enough for most folks. The most important feature, though, is the edge-to-edge 5-inch display. While Sharp's description of it as a "groundbreaking" device might be a little over the top, we must admit it's quite a stunning panel -- especially for being five inches and only 720p.

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The above picture isn't Photoshopped -- what you're seeing really is the HTC One M8 for Windows (Phone), and it's available today as a Verizon exclusive. Thanks to Microsoft's latest update, it's now possible for manufacturers to slap the third-place smartphone OS onto existing hardware (replacing Android), and HTC is the first mainstream phone maker to take advantage of the opportunity. Spoiler alert: The hardware of the Windows Phone-equipped One M8 is completely identical to that of the Android version launched earlier this year, aside from gratuitous Verizon and Microsoft logos. What makes this new variant so special is on the software side.

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HTC has its metallic-hewn, well-received One smartphone series. Oh, and its cheaper Desire collection, which has also hit a creative groove of late. But then there's the company's Butterfly phones: high-spec Android devices that rarely make it out of Asia. (We say rarely because one snuck into the US under Verizon: remember the Droid DNA?) Now, in Tokyo, HTC has announced the Butterfly 2 -- the practically-identical, globetrotting version of Japan's HTC J. The company hasn't confirmed whether the model will leave Asia, but it could be a real shame this time around, because going on our early impressions, the Buttterfly 2 could well be better than the HTC One M8. Yeah, we said it.

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A year later, and strangers still ask.

"Is that the Lumia with the crazy camera? How do you like it?"

And, after a year, I still offer up the same basic response.

"Great camera, solid phone."

But after 12 months, and with a slew of new handsets on the way, it's time to reevaluate if my bright yellow Lumia 1020 is still the best choice as my daily driver. Is being great good enough?

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How a keyboard case can turn your 8-inch tablet into a productivity machine

What's up with 8-inch tablets? Microsoft reportedly canceled the Surface Mini at the last minute. Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0 is long overdue for a refresh. Even the current class leader, the iPad mini, only came about after years of procrastination at Apple. Perhaps it's just a little harder to convince people of the merits of this category of device, compared to the greater pocketability of a phablet, the affordability of a 7-inch Android slate or the extra productivity offered by a full-sized tablet, hybrid or laptop. However, I'm happy to report that with a bit of smart accessorizing -- namely, the addition of a high-quality keyboard case that allows for proper touch-typing -- an 8-inch tablet has plenty of scope to operate as a serious productivity tool, if not an outright laptop replacement.

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HTC's days of acting like a wallflower at the school dance are over -- the company's ready to explore its social side. Its first attempt is to turn Zoe, one of its most creative software features, into a social network that not only lets you share photos and videos with your friends, but allows them to pitch in and edit them as well. Known simply as the Zoe app, the new program launches in open beta today and will be available on several Samsung, LG and other Google devices. Finally, HTC is looking outside of its own user base and reaching out to those who may never have touched any of its products before.

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Ever since the original Moto RAZR V3 came out 10 years ago, the smartphone industry has had a strange obsession with skinny phones. Not because shaving a millimeter or two off a device will give it more functionality, but because it's an effective marketing tactic. In emerging markets in particular, slimmer phones at slimmer prices enjoy a distinct advantage. Gionee, a handset maker based in China, isn't very well known, but it's looking to make a name for itself with devices like the $375 Elife S5.5. At 5.55mm thick, this svelte beauty currently claims the title for the thinnest smartphone on the market. To put that in perspective, that's a full two millimeters skinnier than the iPhone 5s. I spent a few days with the device to see if thinner really is better.

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Xiaomi's regular channeling of Apple -- from its stage presentations all the way to disguising Aperture's icon as a phone's camera -- has earned its CEO Lei Jun the "Steve Jobs of China" nickname. Or rather, "Lei Bu Si," a Chinese combination of "Lei" and "Jobs." It's also a double entendre -- something along the lines of "endless shocks" -- that mocks Xiaomi's aggressive marketing. It's no wonder Lei hates the comparison. Fortunately for Lei there's another Chinese CEO gunning for that title. Meet Luo Yonghao, an English teacher turned founder and CEO of smartphone startup, Smartisan, with designs on being the next great tech visionary.

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New England Patriots v Carolina Panthers

It's been roughly six months since the National Football League announced NFL Now, a digital network designed from the ground up to, hopefully, fit the needs of fans on the internet. Today, the video service is finally scheduled to launch, just in time for the ongoing preseason and, soon, the start of the regular season. At first glance, it's easy to see that NFL Now has a lot of great attributes, but some that quickly stand out are its worldwide availability and the fact it doesn't require any sort of authentication, pay-TV and the like, in exchange for content access. Better yet, it will be available in a vast number of platforms and services from day one, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, Roku, Yahoo Screen, Yahoo Sports and on the NFL Now website. That's not all, however, since the NFL's new service is expected to come to Xbox One, Kindle Fire and Fire TV soon, with the Apple TV reportedly in the same boat as those devices.

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Post Office

Like electric cars, the decentralization of broadcast television, renewable energy and other burgeoning technologies, the world of "ridesharing" -- largely embraced by consumers -- is facing tremendous pushback from entrenched players around the world.

These entrenched players take archaic laws and employ them to keep new competition out. This concept isn't new to business, or even transportation business. The fight over Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing programs is the same fight that's played out across human history time after time: A new technology threatens to upend an existing technology, and the industry supported by the existing technology stands together to push back against the inevitable. Remember buying CDs at your local music store? Exactly.

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The "Swiss Army knife of electronics." That's the best way Sprint can define the LivePro, a touchscreen projector/Android hotspot made by Chinese manufacturer ZTE. The device, which goes for $300 with a two-year contract, is the first in a brand-new hybrid category -- and depending on how successful it is, it may well be the last. Although the LivePro has a wide range of capabilities that make it useful on many different fronts, its demand will be incredibly niche. What kind of person needs such a unique device, and is it good enough to even attract them?

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4G is now a mainstream technology in the UK, meaning network operators can chase more frugal consumers with low-cost, own-brand handsets. It's unlikely O2 and Three will get involved in this race to the bottom; they simply don't have the experience EE (through its sub-brands Orange and T-Mobile) and Vodafone do in self-made handsets. EE was the first to make a move with the £99 Kestrel, and Vodafone recently launched its rebuttal: a pair of smartphones in the Smart 4 turbo and Smart 4 power. I've already commented on their price tags (£135 and £175, respectively), which are high enough to make you wince considering their competition. And, after spending a little quality time with the higher-end Smart 4 power, I can't say I feel any different.

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HTC may have some problems behind closed doors, but outside, it's still widely regarded as one of the world's top phone makers. We already gave this year's One M8 flagship a rather jolly review, and now it's time to see if the same qualities are preserved in its mid-range counterpart, the Desire 816. Indeed, back at Mobile World Congress, HTC called this $390 LTE phablet the "flagship mid-range" to emphasize its competitiveness. But has it lived up to its name? Or is it too little, too late in a world full of affordable options? Let's find out.

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LG Heart Rate Monitor Earphone review: good fitness gadget, poor earphones

Heart rate monitors are no longer the exclusive domain of fitness gadgets. The last 12 months have seen sensors make their way into smartphones and wearables, replacing for many of us the need for a standalone pulse monitor. The problem is a lot of these options have been unable to deliver accurate heart rate mesurements, partly because those sensors have to maintain contact with your skin; if they slip, then the readout skips. Maybe LG has the answer, then: Put heart rate monitoring technology into a pair of Bluetooth headphones. If you're like me and are constantly wired for sound during workouts, what could possibly be better?

LG's Heart Rate Monitor earphones link to an iOS/Android app, with absolutely nothing burdening your wrists. LG's fitness app can even add your exercise sessions to a step counter, so long as you buy LG's optional Lifeband Touch fitness band. What's more, the app also integrates with other fitness apps like RunKeeper. It all sounds great on paper, but there's a problem: the headphones don't actually sound good. Let me explain.

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