Motorola Moto E

If you were seduced by offers of "unlimited" phone data on prepaid carriers like Straight Talk or Simple Mobile only to find your service unbearably slow after a certain point, the Federal Trade Commission has your back. The carriers' owner, TracFone, has agreed to pay the FTC $40 million to settle charges that it misled customers by advertising unlimited data that was really throttled into oblivion. In other words, Straight Talk was being... less than straight. Beyond the payout, TracFone has to avoid making sketchy claims in its ads and provide refunds to anyone who's been burned. The settlement won't affect a huge number of people, but it could serve as a warning sign to AT&T and other big carriers trying to avoid penalties for similarly shady throttling practices.

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Folks buy the highly secure Blackphone handset for the warm and fuzzy feeling that nobody can see their stuff, but that trust was misplaced until recently, according to security expert Mark Dowd. He found a vulnerability in the text message application of the phone that let attackers steal messages, contacts and location info, and even execute malicious code to gain full control. All a bad guy needed to know was the device's "SilentCircle" account info or phone number.

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Did you play Monument Valley (above left), the gorgeous perspective-based puzzler from last year? It costs $4 on Google Play / iTunes, and is one of 2014's best games. And now you can get it for free. Sort of. You see, Ketchapp, the studio behind Threes! knockoff 2048 is at it again. With Skyward (above right), the developer's created a game that bears more than a passing resemblance to ustwo Studio's Apple Design Award winner. Whereas Monument Valley is a relaxing, almost Zen-like experience that's more about logic puzzles than twitch reactions, Skyward is a shallow attempt at disguising a tired Flappy Bird clone by wrapping it in pastel colors and M.C. Escher-like aesthetics. Oh, and it's full of obtrusive ads for retirement planning and compact cars -- junk that's thankfully missing from Monument Valley.

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Sony today revealed PlayStation Music, a new Spotify-powered music service coming to PlayStation 3, 4 and "Xperia smartphones and tablets" this spring. The service will outright replace Music Unlimited, the service that Sony previously implemented across devices, powered by its own enormous music catalog. The news marks the first time Spotify has come to any game console, and is a major coup for Sony's PlayStation group in the battle for major home entertainment apps on game consoles (Xbox One notoriously got HBO Go first).

PlayStation Music will require a Spotify paid subscription (the "Premium" membership), and enables both playback on the aforementioned devices and the ability to listen to music in the background during games. When the service launches at some point in Spring 2015, it'll be available in "41 markets around the world."

Update: The PlayStation Music service will support the "ad-supported free tier" of Spotify as well, a Sony rep told Engadget.

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'Harry Potter' on Oyster

If you're the sort of Harry Potter fan who can't help but read the series again and again, Oyster has a treat in store. The all-you-can-read subscription service has teamed up with Pottermore to carry all of the Harry Potter books, including the Hogwarts Library collection. There's even a little treat the first time you start reading -- rather than pick from one of the humdrum standard themes, you choose your favorite Hogwarts house (Slytherin, obviously). You probably don't want to sign up for Oyster's $10 a month service just for the sake of reliving Harry's school years, but it's potentially cheaper than purchasing the series on top of a slew of other books.

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Amazon's Fire Phone has been a huge flop, and it seems like the company is just about ready to throw in the towel. Following multiple fire sales in the US, Amazon has dropped the price of its first smartphone by up to 75 percent in the UK. That puts the 32GB model at £99 off-contract, down from £400, and the 64GB variant at £149, which is £330 cheaper than before. The reductions expire at the end of the day, however, so if you're intrigued by the handset's unique Firefly and Dynamic Perspective features, you'll have to act fast. Of course, such a heavy price cut doesn't solve the Fire Phone's larger problems, such as its underwhelming Fire OS software, and the fact it's still locked to O2, even without a contract. More importantly, this is an early sign that Amazon is waving the white flag in the UK -- it's a sure fire way to move stock while it focuses on perfecting its successor.

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Smartwatch-style notifications on the Basis Peak

A little later than promised, Basis' Peak fitness tracker behaves more like the smartwatch it arguably should have been all along. Grab a newly released update for the wearable and it'll give you a heads-up on calls, meetings and messages from your Android smartphone or iPhone. It's not as sophisticated as most smartwatches (even less expensive devices like the Pebble will show much more), but it should make sure that you aren't caught unawares when a friend texts you in mid-workout.

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If you've been curious enough about virtual reality to buy Samsung's Gear VR headset, you've had to visit either AT&T's website or Samsung's to pick one up. Not very convenient, is it? Your VR shopping just got a little bit easier, though, as Best Buy has started carrying the $200 wearable in its online store. Yes, you can order Samsung's immersive display (provided you have a Galaxy Note 4, of course) at the same time as you're looking for a discounted TV. Unfortunately, this availability doesn't extend to Best Buy's retail shops -- you'll still have to buy this experimental headgear sight unseen.

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Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

There's no doubt that Sony's smartphone division is struggling, and it sounds like that's about to exact a big toll on the company's workforce. Nikkei reports that Sony expects to cut 1,000 jobs in its mobile group, adding to the 1,000 layoffs it announced alongside its less-than-stellar summer earnings. All told, Sony will have slashed 30 percent of its phone team's staff by the end of its next fiscal year, in March 2016. The Japanese tech firm hasn't confirmed anything, but further cuts would make sense. Smartphones represent a big drag on Sony's finances, and its accountants are likely doing everything they can to right that sinking ship.

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Of all the mysteries still surrounding the Apple Watch, its long-awaited launch window was easily the most debated. Well, not any more. Apple CEO Tim Cook just confirmed during the company's quarterly earnings call that the company's oft-hyped Watch should ship in April 2015 -- not March like many of us suspected/hoped.

"The creativity and software innovation going on around Apple Watch is incredibly exciting," Cook said after diving into Apple Pay's progress. "We cant wait for our customers to experience them when Apple Watch becomes available."

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Well, it's that time again. Apple has just released its latest batch of quarterly earnings, and wouldn't you know it -- the folks in Cupertino once again sold more iPhones than it has in any other quarter. We're talking 74.5 million phones changing hands since October, up just about 50 percent from its last utterly insane holiday quarter. Apple doesn't break down sales numbers by model, but its smartphones' bang-up performance helped push company revenue to new heights; the company raked in a cool $74.6 billion in revenue, along with $18 billion in pure profit. That is crazy.

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Checking out at the super market with your phone is old hat. But topping off the parking meter, now that's kind of interesting. USA Technologies, a company that handles cashless payments, announced that about 200,000 of its points of purchase will accept Apple Pay. And we're not just talking about NFC vending machines here. This company is outfitting laundromats, parking kiosks and "other self-serve appliances" with the payment terminals. This means that on top of paying for your next tank of gas or grocery trip, you won't have to futz with loose change to do a load of whites or feed that meter.

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Moment Case

If there's one thing (and there is) I miss about carrying around my Lumia 1020, it's that phone's dedicated, two-stage camera button. Designed to mimic "real" camera shutter releases, it's a feature I've missed dearly on my current daily driver, Apple's iPhone 6. Seattle-based Moment seems to think I'm not alone in wanting a more camera-like experience when snapping pics with my phone. Starting today, the small company is taking to Kickstarter to launch the Moment Case -- a camera case it hopes will bring DSLR-like control to iPhone shutterbugs.

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It's been a long time in the making, but Snapchat's new Discover feature is ready to go... and so is the app's transformation from a pure messaging service into a full-blown media destination. Once the app update is in place, a quick tap on a circle icon that lives in the top right corner of the screen takes you away from your inbox and plops in front of a curated selection of stories from media partners like CNN, Yahoo, Vice, ESPN and even Snapchat's own fledgling editorial team.

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LG G3 battery

Scientists have spent a lot of time trying to lengthen battery life, but safety and thickness matter, too. Just ask Boeing about that first problem -- its 787 Dreamliner was grounded for months thanks to battery fires. However, a group of University of Michigan researchers may have found a way to make lithium-ion energy packs that are safer and slimmer at the same time. The team has developed Kevlar-based, nano-sized membranes that insulate the electrodes in a battery while still allowing lithium ions to pass through and create a proper circuit. The extra-thin layers should not only reduce the chances of short circuiting, but allow for more energy in a given space. You could get away with thinner batteries in smartwatches and other devices without giving up battery life... or worrying that your device will spontaneously combust, for that matter.

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