A flagship phone with a fancy stylus and top-notch specs? Nah, you're thinking of the other major Korean smartphone maker. LG's taking a different approach with its way-too-aptly named G3 Stylus, which is more "stylus" than "G3." While the screen is the same size at 5.5 inches and the camera is 13MP, that's essentially where the commonalities end between this budget-minded phone and its high-end brother. Indeed, the stylus-packing Stylus smartphone is designed to target users in developing markets who want a handset in one hand and a stick in the other, but can't spend a boatload of cash for the privilege. The recently announced device is now being exhibited at IFA in Berlin, so enjoy a gallery of photos and a few more thoughts.
We first met Olloclip's tiny pop-on camera lens more than three years ago. The iPhone accessory got its start on Kickstarter, in the crowdfunding site's infancy, and became our very first featured Insert Coin project. Today, it's a staple at the Apple Store and a slew of other retailers -- you can even pick one up at those Best Buy vending machines in the airport. Several more iPhone versions have since debuted, but we've never seen an Olloclip for Android smartphones, until today. The first Android versions are compatible with two recent Samsung flagships, the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5. Because photo effects are created using a physical lens rather than an app, Olloclips are designed for specific devices. If you don't own a Galaxy S4 or S5 (or an iPhone), don't lose hope -- we may see models for other handsets in the near future.
Some folks enjoy a load of bass when it comes to their headphone selection. That's fine, and you won't get any judgment here. In fact, Sennheiser has taken notice, revealing its new Urbanite on-ear and over-ear (XL) headphones designed with a healthy portion of low-end tones. Claiming to keep "bringing the bass for an intense club experience on the move," the duo does indeed pack some thump while keeping the company's trademark clarity throughout. Don't expect anything overkill here. The cans have an in-line remote, stainless steel hinges for folding down to pack away, cloth-draped headbands, soft-wrapped earpads and aluminum sliders that adjust for a comfy fit. The company says it's these "high quality materials" that set the new wares apart from what the likes of Beats and others have released. It's looking to compete in the color department too, as six different schemes across iOS and Android/Windows models (including a denim option) are sure to suit most tastes. While the $199 on-ear Urbanite model goes on sale today, the $249 over-ear Urbanite XL is set to arrive in Q4.
As you probably know, Huawei is one of the many Asian mobile companies that are obsessed with phablets due to local demand. As such, it's no surprise that there's a follow-up model to the 6.1-inch Ascend Mate 2. Announced at IFA just now is the slightly smaller 6-inch Ascend Mate 7 (yes, somehow it skipped four model numbers), which, as you've probably already seen in the leaks, features a fingerprint reader on the back. As it turns out, unlike the traditional swipe-style scanner on, say, the similar-looking HTC One Max, the Mate 7 uses a more convenient one-touch sensor similar to that of the iPhone 5s.
Having recently refreshed the top and bottom ends of its lineup, it only makes sense for Microsoft Devices (formerly Nokia's phone division) to renew its efforts on the devices that fall squarely in the middle. One such device is the Lumia 730, which now replaces the aging 720. The dual-SIM 730, along with its LTE twin known as the 735, are being billed as "the selfie phone." It's got a 5MP camera on the front, which is not necessarily the highest resolution in a device, but Microsoft is boasting a wide-angle lens that beats out a lot of flagship offerings.
Microsoft Devices, formerly known as Nokia's phone division, is no slouch when it comes to its device lineup. Lately, it's been focused on refining the top and bottom of its Lumia Windows Phone lineup, but the phone maker came to IFA in Berlin with a couple of devices to freshen up the middle of the pack. The company's strategy: Bring the PureView brand, which has typically been associated with Nokia's premium phones, to a more affordable price point on the Lumia 830. In fact, Microsoft bills the 830 as "the affordable flagship." The device looks a lot like the Lumia 930 because it comes with the aluminum frame and subtly curved polycarbonate back. While it uses the PureView name, the rear camera's 10MP resolution isn't quite as good number-wise as the 930 or 1020, but it's understandable given the lower price point. Still, the device will come with plenty of extra software enhancements to improve the experience.
When it's not producing flagship phones like the One (M8) or the Butterfly 2, HTC is flooding the rest of the market with several Desire models. These devices vary anywhere from mid-range (like the Desire 816, released in February) to low-end (the Desire 210), and everywhere in between. This week, the company is launching another model, called the Desire 820, which is geared toward the former group -- in fact, HTC says this is meant to replace the six-month-old 816. But with a few better specs and an octa-core chipset with 64-bit compatibility, it's hard to blame Peter Chou and his army of design-oriented individuals for coming out with another one so soon.
At today's conference in Berlin, Sony quickly announced two smart devices that happen to fit on your wrist. Both wearables are follow-ups to previous versions: The 229-euro SmartWatch 3, which is a plainly named Android Wear sequel, and the 159-euro SmartBand Talk, which takes last year's fitness band and adds an e-paper display, mics and speakers. Each device got some face time during Sony's presser, but they were overshadowed by the rest of the company's mobile lineup, so I spent a little extra time with them both after the show.
There's a French phrase, un beau affreux, which means that something is ugly and beautiful at the same time. As soon as we got our hands on Sony's Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, we wished the French had also come up with a phrase that means simultaneously colossal and small. That's the paradox at the heart of the company's tablet, which packs an 8-inch display, but thanks to its 6.4mm thickness and 0.6-pound weight, feels almost insubstantial, as if you'd still try to fit this into a pocket. That's not a criticism, either, because if you found the Galaxy Note to be a bit too small for your needs, this could replace it in your affections.
The Xperia Z2 is just over six months old, but Sony's intent on staying ahead of the curve with the new Xperia Z3, announced today. With a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, a whopping three gigs of RAM and various other high-end components, like a 20.7-megapixel camera, we're talking about serious future-proofing, even if it's still a relatively incremental upgrade over its predecessor. Sporting more or less the same omnibalance design with aluminum detailing round the perimeter, you're going to need to be a fan Sony's previous work to appreciate the Z3. Anyone who may've found the Z2 unwieldy, however, might see the more refined, newer flagship as a viable option.
Miniature. Every phone maker is trying out the Mini Me approach these days, but most of them don't do it very well. Sony's one of the exceptions: Last year the manufacturer came out with the Xperia Z1 Compact, which was a smaller version of the flagship phone with almost the same specs. This is a big deal, because more often than not, "mini" models don't get the same stellar treatment as their bigger siblings. Fortunately, the first Compact must have done well enough for Sony to give the concept a second walk around the block; enter the Xperia Z3 Compact, which debuted today at IFA 2014 in Berlin.
Not everyone needs a smartphone that's as fast (and as expensive) as their laptop, and competition in the affordable handset market is fierce. Never one to miss an opportunity, Sony has announced that it's complementing the top-end Z3 handset and Compact sidekick with the more modestly endowed Xperia E3. Of course, that means compromising -- Sony says the E3 features "flagship design" and 4G capability, but that's where the high-end comparisons end. It carries a modest 4.5-inch (854 x 480) screen, quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 CPU, a 2,330mAh battery, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of expandable memory, a 5-megapixel camera and Android 4.4 KitKat. Though the specs aren't exactly inspiring, Sony is emphasizing social and camera features like HDR and Timeshift burst. There's no word on pricing or availability yet, but lets hope the young target market it's aimed at will be able to afford it.
It's been over a year and a half since Samsung briefly (and from a distance) showed off the Youm, a prototype of a smartphone with a curved display that wrapped around the right-hand side. While it seemed like a far-off reality at the time, Samsung announced today that the Youm's spiritual successor -- aptly named the Galaxy Note Edge -- would be coming out this fall. Sure, mass-producing a phone with a bent screen is a tremendous display of manufacturing prowess, not to mention something to show off at parties, but is there more to this unique handset than eye candy?
When Samsung launched the very first Galaxy Note at IFA 2011, the device -- a 5.3-inch behemoth that came with a stylus - seemed absurdly large. But the idea was crazy enough to work: It was the beginning of a brand-new phone genre adopted by nearly every handset maker around the world and beloved by millions. Three years later, we're being introduced to the fourth smartphone in the series, known as the Galaxy Note 4. As you might expect, the device comes with new and improved specs in both hardware and software, but the design of the 5.7-inch phone itself has made a huge step in the right direction: It comes with an aluminum frame, and based on my first impression, it's the best looking of the bunch. It's time to explore Samsung's latest large-screened device.