Anyone who's played Halo, the iconic first-person shooter based 500 years in the future, knows where Microsoft came up with the name of Cortana, its new voice recognition program on Windows Phone 8.1. Master Chief might be the star of the video game series, but Cortana is the heroic digital sidekick that saves his behind in almost every level. Granted, the Windows Phone version may not help you explore an alien planet or teach you how to defeat the bad guys, but it's still capable of some great stuff.

Just press the search button on the bottom of every Windows Phone device (as long as it uses 8.1, of course) and Cortana pops up, ready to listen and obey your commands. What kinds of things can she do? You can tell her to call someone, send a text, set reminders, take notes and hook you up with all sorts of information that you might need throughout the course of any given day. And since it's powered by Bing, the engine working behind the scenes has a solid amount of oomph.

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In the heart of Stockholm a team of designers and engineers have been hard at work, mostly in secret, overhauling one of biggest names in music. (And no, we're not talking about Icona Pop or even an ABBA reunion.) On Birger Jarlsgatan, a street that divides the neighborhoods of Ostermalm and Norrmalm in the Swedish capital, sits the home of Spotify. Not all that long ago it was the undisputed king of subscription music services. Today it is just one of many major players in the exploding marketplace with would-be usurpers, from Google to Beats, surrounding it on all sides.

Over the years it's shoehorned in new features and accelerated its international expansion, but the design stagnated. Its iTunes-like desktop client didn't just look dated, it was cumbersome and many of its features bordered on obsolete. Its mobile apps and web player filled a need, but lacked the polish and stability many mainstream customers demanded. So for the last several months a team led by Michelle Kadir (Director of Product Development) and Andreas Holmstrom (Lead Communications Designer) have been toiling away to bring Spotify into the 2010s. That means a flatter more playful look with soft edges and large images. But the company also bucked the trend towards lighter color palettes by slathering its UI with enough black to make Tomas Skogsberg proud.

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The modern workforce is a global one, but you still need to get in some face time with co-workers and associates far and wide. ClickMeeting want's to help one lucky Engadget reader keep that personal connection and spread their message by offering an iPad mini and six months of its ClickWebinar service. This will help you make presentations to your team or dole out advice to interested clientele, and with mobile apps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry, the software lets you do it from any location. So whether it's slurping down civet lattes at the corner cafe or direct from your kitchen table, you can get your message to the masses -- and they don't have to know you're still wearing pajama bottoms. Simply head down to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning this iPad mini and ClickWebinar combo.

Winner: congratulations to David R., Charlotte, NC

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Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

IRL: A closer look at the Moto G

I love low-cost smartphones that punch above their weight, like the Lumia 620. They're proof you don't need high-end hardware to get a full smartphone experience. As you might imagine, then, I was eager to try the Moto G. A modern quad-core processor, a 720p screen and an up-to-date version of Android for under $200 off-contract? In theory, that's an astounding bargain. With that in mind, I've been testing a Moto G on Telus' network here in Canada to see whether I could live with it instead of the flagship phones I'm used to.

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Microsoft finally announced a version of its Office productivity suite for the iPad today, and it's a solid, functional set of apps. As we say in our review, "Office for iPad is elegantly designed, with a robust feature set and intuitive layout." And it's free, as long as you're only interested in reading or viewing docs, that is. Want to edit that spreadsheet, or create your own PowerPoint deck? You'll need an Office 365 subscription, starting at about $10 a month. That may seem steep compared to the price of some other iPad productivity apps, like Apple's iWork suite, which is free for some iPad users. But that price includes the full desktop versions of the Office suite, which you can install on up to five computers.

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Led by CEO Peter Chou, HTC has developed a reputation for making phones that are just as visually appealing as they are functional. The company's latest flagship device, the One (M8), is another in a long lineup of beautifully crafted smartphones, and we had a chance to sit down with Chou to discuss the handset and some of the process behind how it came to be. "Our challenge was how do we break through from M7 to M8?" Chou told us. "I decided last year that I'm going to spend most of my time in product to help break through. Make it premium, like watches or jewelry. We want to stand out."

Chou was definitely deeply invested in the success of the M8, and was directly involved in its development -- he lost 5kg testing out the Fitbit integration, and even spent several weeks walking around with an M8-shaped block of wood in his pocket. "I tried to simulate when I take it out, how it feels when I put it on my ear, and when I talk." In other words, Chou wanted to see it through the lens of any other consumer. During this process, he provided feedback to his design team on which areas needed to be tweaked. "We were working back and forth on fine-tuning it; 'I don't like this curve, I want it to be more natural in the hands, I want this completely metal, completely pure.'"

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Benchmarking the new HTC One: less cheating, better performance

There are actually two "Ones" that launched this week. The star attraction is undoubtedly the HTC One, but let's not forget the brand-new Snapdragon 801 running under its hood: a cutting-edge processor that will also power the Sony Xperia Z2 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, but which happens to have reached the market first in HTC's flagship phone. This chip represents a significant upgrade over the Snapdragon 600 in the old One, promising a hat trick of better all-round performance, more fluid gaming and longer battery life, and these are precisely the claims we're about to explore using a combo of benchmarking apps and real-world tests. At the same time, HTC has suddenly decided to come clean on the issue of benchmark cheating, which makes it a bit easier for us to trust what the numbers are telling us.

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The "all new" HTC One has been one of the worst-kept secrets of 2014, but today it's a secret no more. The Taiwanese manufacturer has taken the wraps off its latest flagship and fans of last year's model (count us among them) won't be disappointed. The phone boasts the same aluminum unibody construction as last year's model, but with more pronounced curves and even more metal this time around. A full 90 percent of the body is made of aluminum, quite a bit more than the 70 percent on the previous model. That means it's about half an ounce heavier, but it seems like a small trade-off given the incredible design and spacious 5-inch screen. That panel is still a 1080p S-LCD3 one, which means you can count on the same bright colors and deep blacks. Plus the whole front is protected by a sheet of Gorilla Glass 3. Oh, and before we go any further -- the pair of capacitive buttons have been replaced with the standard trio of Android soft keys! (Phewww...)

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The HTC One was one of our favorite smartphones of 2013. It featured a gorgeous industrial design, a fantastic display, great camera and top-of-the-line performance. HTC poured its heart into it, as evidenced by nearly every aspect of the device. The phone exceeded nearly all of our expectations, but that also left a big problem: We now expect history to repeat itself. After all, if the original One was such a great device, its successor should, in theory, be even better, right?

Of course it should be. But does this year's version of the One have what it takes? On paper, the answer is yes: It has a larger screen, offers two curious-looking rear camera sensors, boasts an improved version of HTC's Sense UI and features a chassis with even more metal. It appears, then, that there's a lot to love here, but it's difficult to take our breath away twice in a row. Here's what impressed -- and what didn't.

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We all knew it was coming, and after a lengthy list of leaks, the new HTC One is finally official. This time of year is known for its gaggle of new handsets, so we've lined up the latest offerings so you can see for yourself how they stack up. Flagships from Samsung, Sony and LG are all here to see which mobile device will nab an edge on paper. Want to compare these to your current daily driver? Mosey on over to our comparison tool to do just that. Otherwise, head past the break for our neatly compiled list of specs and form your own analysis of the lot.

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The time has finally come to see what the hullabaloo is all about -- this year's version of the HTC One is going to be announced here very soon, and we'll be bringing all of the big news to you live from New York City! Stay tuned as we get this liveblog rolling just before 11AM ET.

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Engadget giveaway: win a Samsung Galaxy S 4 and blinged-out Galaxy Gear courtesy of Brilliance!

You've tricked out your ride, splurged on some curves for your home theater and even recreated that floating Burnquist ramp for extreme weekend fun, but there's still something missing. The gem and jewelry purveyors at Brilliance have just the thing; they've provided an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S 4 and bundled it with a gemstone-studded Galaxy Gear, so that one lucky Engadget reader (or someone near and dear) can rock a bit of bling like the stars. Brilliance offers gemstone customization for a variety of gadgets and has recently worked with Samsung to create shiny custom wearables for celebrities like Jennifer Hudson. You get to choose the color of the Galaxy Gear and take your pick of real-life gems, so you can rock your rocks while wearing your tech -- Xzibit would be proud. To get a chance at winning this sparkly wrist machine and life companion smartphone, you'll need to enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Go ahead, it might just be your chance to shine.

Winner: congratulations to Shanaan C., Fort McMurray, AB

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We've seen the teasers and we've seen the leaks, so it's about time to see the real thing. Oppo has finally unveiled the Find 7 in Beijing just now, and as promised, this Android 4.3 device really can take 50-megapixel photos! But as with many things in life, there's a catch here: the sensor is actually a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 CMOS, so it's a software trick. Still, the results we saw earlier were surprisingly good, so read on to check out how it's done and what the rest of the phone is like.

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For many Engadget readers, part of the work day consists of telling co-workers to "move" so they can get in there and fix the computer -- after advising a restart, of course. So we're offering an IT-centric giveaway this week courtesy of CrushFTP, makers of robust and secure file transfer server software and long-time gadget hackers. They've given us an Apple Mac mini and a full enterprise version of CrushFTP for one lucky Engadget reader. This prize pairing provides all the tools necessary for setting up a fully functional file server with a browser-based UI for monitoring and controlling all the exchanges. CrushFTP includes modern HTML5 support, ad-hoc sharing, customizable web forms and a litany of other high-level features to help keep server workflows running smoothly. All it takes is a few clicks and you could be on your way to winning this Apple Mac mini and software package; just head on down to the Rafflecopter widget to enter. You'll barely even have to move yourself.

Winner - congratulations to: Christopher K., Shepherdsville, KY

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When Gionee's spin-off online mobile brand IUNI -- taken from "I am unique" -- launched back in November, it vowed to go right after Xiaomi with a similar sales strategy, but it's also differentiating itself by delivering "stunning" hardware design and "elegant" UI at the same time. Earlier today, the Chinese company finally showed off what it's been working on: the U2. This 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 device is positioned as the best single-hand metallic phone, featuring a 4.7-inch 1080p LTPS display -- similar to that of last year's HTC One -- tucked within a 65mm-wide aluminum body, which is narrower than the Huawei Ascend P6 and even the Moto X. Oh, and it's cheap, too: the 32GB version with 3GB of RAM is just CN¥1,999 (about $320) unsubsidized, whereas the 16GB version with 2GB RAM is just CN¥1,799 (about $290).

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