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IRL: Giving Firefox OS a second chance

When I reviewed the original ZTE Open last year, the Firefox OS experience was -- to put it modestly -- rough around the edges. The device was stripped down even by the standards of low-end phones, while the software was missing features other platforms have had for years. You didn't even get new email notifications, for crying out loud. Jump ahead a year and it's another story. The Open C is a much more powerful device, and Firefox OS has received a few vital upgrades. But does that mean Mozilla's web-based mobile software is finally ready for prime time? I spent two weeks with the Open C to find out if it can hold its own against budget rivals -- and to see if I'd be comfortable using it as my only phone.

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Microsoft might very well be gearing up to launch a Google Chromecast rival. While the tech giant hasn't announced anything official yet, one of its latest FCC filings details a device codenamed HD-10, which features WiFi, HDMI support and a USB connection. Those three will sound familiar if you know what the Chromecast is, but what really demystifies the device's nature is a separate document on the WiFi Alliance website. That filing, unearthed by Nokia Power User, called the HD-10 a "Miracast Dongle." Miracast, as you might know, is Microsoft's screen-sharing technology available on Windows 8.1, Windows RT and, most recently, Windows Phone 8.1, though it's also built into Android 4.2 (and later) and BlackBerry 10.2.1.

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While smartphone apps come in handy for a variety of uses from sharing photos to navigating a new locale, it appears that most folks in the US barely download them at all. According to ComScore, 65.5 percent of those users 18 and above who wield a handset in the US go a full month without visiting their respective app store for new material. This means that 34.5 percent load up at least one new selection every 30 days, and figures indicate that the top 7 percent of users are responsible for around half of a month's total. What's more, the iOS crowd primarily focuses on news, radio, photos, social networks and weather, while the Android faithful fire up Google Search and Gmail most often. And to the surprise of no one, Facebook is tops in terms of popularity and amount of time spent on its app. All of that said, most folks seem to load up their phones with the usual suspects early on, and don't tend to divide their attention too often thereafter.

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Since 2012, Porsche Design and BlackBerry have worked together on two high-end handsets that offer a retooled exterior and... not much else. That didn't stop the duo from selling the tweaked aesthetic for over $2,000, though. It seems that the pair is up to its old tricks once more, as the P'9983 (code named "Khan") phone has unofficially broke from cover. According to N4BB, the second QWERTY device from the two companies will sport BlackBerry 10 on its 3.5-inch touchscreen with 3GB RAM, a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor and 64GB of storage inside. BlackBerry is also set to debut its rather unique 4.5-inch square Passport device soon, complete with its own personal assistant. But this leak begs the question: Why?

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Is that Costa Coffee Club rewards card weighing down your wallet and generally just giving you the hump? Well, slice it up and chuck it in the bin, because now there's an app for that. With Costa's new Coffee Club app (new to Android, anyway, and updated on iOS) you can, instead, perfect your aggressive posture and sighing volume as a junior barista struggles to scan your grubby smartphone screen. As well as being useful for collecting and cashing in reward points, it'll also direct you to your nearest Costa in case the only thing in your vicinity is an indy outlet serving Lavazza -- I've seen the logo at service stations, which means it probably tastes like warm, caffeinated Carling. The app will even keep you up to date with offers and breaking news regarding your favourite beverage vendor. And who needs a fancy, Starbucks-like mobile wallet feature when you can have a user-defined profile image? (Mine's going to be an on-theme selfie, with half my face obscured by a coffee cup, and maybe a little latte foam on the tip of my nose for comedic effect). On a serious note, though, if you frequent Costa then you might actually wanna download this.

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A few days ago, a Brazilian judge ordered Apple and Google to pull Secret from the local app store and wipe it from the handsets of whose who had downloaded it. The same ruling covered Microsoft, who was ordered to do the same to Windows Phone clone Cryptic. So far, however, only Apple has begun to comply with the order, after suspending fresh downloads of the app to iOS accounts registered in Brazil. According to local news media, the company hasn't started pulling the software from individual handsets, but that's still more than Google or Microsoft have done. Both companies claim that they've not been directly notified of the widely-reported ruling, although it's more likely that they're waiting on a final decision from the courts before taking any action.

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If a wireless charger doesn't work with a phone or tablet with the capability, it's likely because they adhere to two different wireless charging standards. See, there's more than one out there, and that's making it hard for businesses, venues, offices and even OEMs to adopt the technology. One product that could potentially help with those issues is a new wireless charger called ChargeSpot Pocket, which works with both Qi Wireless and PMA or Power Matters Alliance. Sure, that's just two standards out of three (leaving out the third one called A4WP), but the product can certainly cater to more customers than an alternative that works with only one standard can.

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Love LTE data speeds, but fear the bane of network congestion? Researchers at NTT Docomo and Huawei may have a solution. The two firms just announced that it has successfully broadcast LTE service on the unlicensed 5GHz spectrum -- a frequency typically used for WiFi. Potentially, the 5GHz band could be used to enhance LTE service in high-use areas, a practice researchers are calling License-Assisted Access (LAA). LAA isn't an official standard yet, but Huawei and NTT Docomo plan to continue working together to support it. The specifics are a little granular, sure, but we're not about to scoff at getting better reception. Check out the duo's official statement at the source link below.

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Moto X+1 for Verizon

Want a good, clear look at one of the devices Motorola is expected to unveil at its September 4th event? You've got it. As a parting shot, retiring leaker Evan Blass (aka @evleaks) has posted press images for Motorola's next big flagship smartphone, frequently known as the X+1. It largely confirms what previously appeared in some dimly-lit photos, including dual camera flashes, a wooden back option and Moto E-style front-facing speakers. There are a couple of new tidbits, though. The Verizon logo leaves no doubts about one of the supporting US carriers, and we're curious about those dots on the top and bottom bezels -- are they Fire phone-like face tracking cameras, plain old screws or something else? You'll get the full scoop in a couple of weeks, but this serves as a nice (if very unofficial) teaser.

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AT&T is making U-Verse more appealing with each passing day. After the carrier revealed it would beat Google to the punch on bringing gigabit internet to Silicon Valley, now U-Verse is getting a great deal of fresh content and making its way to additional mobile devices. Aside from launching on Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and Fire HDX, as well as the Fire phone, the U-Verse app today also welcomed over 50 new channels to its catalog of live TV streaming channels. This includes Cartoon Network, CNN, EPIX, ESPN, GolTV, HBO, HGTV, TBS, TNT and Travel Channel, plus many others -- most of which you can watch even if you're away from your home network. All in all, definitely a boost for U-Verse subscribers, and if you aren't, it's at least good to know that U-Verse looks to be a solid choice, especially now that DirecTV is joining AT&T's ranks.

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There's mounting evidence that HP, once the leading PC maker, does not know what it's doing. After announcing plans to cut up to 5 percent of its work force, the company is basically throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Recent experiments include a luxury smartwatch, Chromebooks, a $199 Window notebook and now, a laptop running Android. Here's the sales pitch, and bear with me if this doesn't make sense: The SlateBook 14, according to HP, is for students and teens who already use Android on their mobile devices. In other words, they already own a Galaxy S5 or what have you, and they should have an Android laptop to match. The idea is that they might choose this over a Chromebook because it has more apps, and because it's more familiar. Ditto for Windows laptops -- except, you know, Windows actually has lots of apps too. Setting aside HP's flawed logic (they never said Windows users should stick to Windows Phone): Why would you pay $430 for a laptop running an OS that was primarily meant to be used with the fingers?

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Sprint didn't waste any time after reshuffling its leadership -- the SoftBank-owned carrier kicked into high gear by announcing a competitive limited-time $100 family plan promotion just a few days after new CEO Marcelo Claure filled the void left by Dan Hesse. Tomorrow, it's taking another step into the aggressive pricing war by introducing a $60 unlimited talk, text and data plan for individuals. Unlike the family plan, this new option will be available to both new and existing (upgrade-eligible) customers alike, but you'll need to sign up on the Easy Pay plan. This means that you'll need to either bring your own Sprint-compatible device with you onto the plan or purchase one at full retail price; if you choose to finance a phone, you'll pay that amount on top of the $60 plan.

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T-Mobile's approach when it comes to luring new customers continues to nab loads of users. This time around, the so-called UnCarrier is offering a year of unlimited data on its LTE network for customers that convince friends to make the switch from Sprint, AT&T or Verizon. And yes, the acquaintance that actually has to sign the papers gets the same 12-month deal. The limited-time offer takes aim at Sprint's recent efforts to lure customers from rival carriers with increased data allotments for families, and follows the yellow-hued network ending its quest to purchase T-Mobile earlier this month.

[Photo credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for HBO]

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The music industry is extremely well-blanketed on the web, what with services like Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Rhapsody, iTunes Music and many, many more. But one can easily argue that the same can't be said about online videos -- namely, those available at no cost on YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion and other similar sites. Here's where N3twork believes it can help. The startup, which describes itself as a "personal network for internet video," has taken a cue from Pandora on how it delivers content to you. The new app, available only on iOS at launch, uses your personal interests to tailor a feed of videos, allowing users to employ swipe gestures to skip (left) or watch later (right) -- think of the latter option as a DVR of sorts.

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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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