Google SVP Sundar Pichai

It's shaping up to be a big year for mobile payments, what with Apple Pay enjoying rapid adoption and Samsung finally getting in the game too. Google also has a presence, but it's only very recently decided to ramp up its efforts in this space. Last week, we saw the company team up with AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile to preload its Wallet mobile payment app on new Android phones, and now it's creating a new framework to power payments across its OS.

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Google's aerial ambitions continue unabated. Need proof? Just talk to Sundar Pichai -- just before he sat down for a Q&A with Bloomberg's Brad Stone at MWC, the Google SVP confirmed the company's internet-beaming Titan drones would take their flight in the coming months, and that its Project Loon balloons now stay afloat for "six months at a time." The last time Google decided to speak publicly about its fleet of internet-beaming Project Loon balloons, they could languidly hang in the atmosphere for about 100 days. That's not a bad stretch considering these things can now deliver LTE data speeds to devices on the ground, but Google's got these things running even better than before.

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Google has just confirmed a rumor at Mobile World Congress that many thought unlikely: It'll launch its own "white label" MVNO cell network. That means it'll carry or resell wireless services from larger operators in one way or another, not unlike, say, Boost Mobile. However, Android head Sundar Pichai stressed that the service wouldn't operate on a large scale or compete head to head against carriers like AT&T or Verizon. Instead, he likened it to Google's Nexus devices, calling it a way to drive new technology in order to make cellular and WiFi services work together in a "seamless" fashion.

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Dropbox plus Vodafone equals...

Dropbox just scored a huge deal that will not only put its cloud storage in front of a lot of people, but help you safeguard your smartphone's data. The company has forged a partnership with Vodafone that both gives the carrier's Android and iPhone users 25GB of free space for a year and integrates Dropbox into Vodafone's new Backup+ service. Rather than depend on a specialized backup space, you simply save your valuable files to Dropbox -- you can restore content on other devices and share it with friends without having to use two services or limit the kind of data you protect. The Backup+ app will be available as soon as the end of March, although the service itself will take a few months to reach "most" Vodafone areas.

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When Jolla launched its tablet on Indiegogo, it was an instant success. Today that tablet is being shown to the media for the first time at MWC. But, that's not all that the plucky mobile startup has to reveal. With the new tablet comes the second version of Jolla's Sailfish OS. Version 2.0 brings not only some features you'd expect (like easy scaling between phones and tablets -- to accommodate its new hardware), but also some new, bigger-picture additions like support for Intel's Atom x3 chipset, a new push into licensing with OEM hardware and a couple of direct swipes at Android, and how it gathers your data.

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Silent Circle, the outfit behind the security-oriented Blackphone, has just revealed two new handsets and "the world's first enterprise privacy platform." The first Blackphone was unveiled last year for (understandably) paranoid entrepreneurs. It was a response to revelations of mass data collection, and the latest devices build on that. Last year's phone was made by Spanish outfit GeeksPhone, but since then, Silent Circle has wrestled control of the brand, and this is its first homemade device. The Blackphone 2 carries similar privacy features, but actually gives you a better phone, with an octa-core CPU, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a bigger battery and a 5.5-inch 1080p display. Meanwhile, the Blackphone+ (briefly mentioned by Silent Circle's co-founder earlier) is a privacy-focused tablet coming later in 2015. So far, there are no exact specs on the tablet (it's not ready for prime time), and there's no price on either device. Both are slated to arrive in the second half of this year, though.

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Cyanogen Logo

Many people know Cyanogen for delivering Android updates for phones that have long been ignored by their manufacturers. However, over the past two years, its creators have worked hard to turn it into a legitimate entity by forming a company, taking on millions of dollars in funding and embedding its open version of Android on big name devices like the OnePlus One. That particular collaboration may have cooled, but that isn't stopping Cyanogen from seeking new partners, especially with companies like Qualcomm. Today, the chip maker confirmed that it will install Cyanogen OS on its upcoming Reference Design products coming next month.

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Qualcomm's Derek Aberle holds up the G Flex2

Qualcomm teased the prospect of smartphones that learn a couple of years ago, and it's now much closer to making them a practical reality. The chip designer has revealed its next big mobile processor, the Snapdragon 820, will be one of the first that can handle its Zeroth cognitive computing platform. In short, it'll let your phone learn about you (and the world around you) to take action on its own. You should see photo apps that detect whole scenes, security tools that protect against unknown viruses and interfaces that depend more on expressions and head movement than button taps. It gets more ambitious than that, though. Zeroth allows for always-on sensors that detect your surroundings (such as through motion or sound) and help your phone anticipate what you want.

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After mistakenly letting the cat out of the bag yesterday, Microsoft has officially unveiled its latest Lumia phones at Mobile World Congress -- and they're pretty tempting if you're looking for a good deal. The new Lumia 640 and 640 XL (can you guess the difference?) are the company's latest budget phones, effectively replacing last year's Lumia 630 and 635. They both include a quad-core Snapdragon processor running at 1.2GHz, a gigabyte of RAM and 720p display resolutions, but they differ in screen size and camera prowess. The Lumia 640 has a 5-inch screen and an 8-megapixel shooter, while the XL -- Microsoft's first budget phablet -- packs in a 5.7-inch screen and a 13MP camera with a Zeiss lens. That's a significant bump from the weak 5MP option in last year's phones, but without a big price increase: The 640, expected in May, will start unlocked at around $155 for its 3G version and $177 for the LTE model. And if you want to get your hands on the XL soon, you're in luck. It's coming later this month for around $211 (3G) and $244 (LTE). As usual, final pricing is up to the retailers.

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Venmo mobile payments

eBay's Venmo mobile payment service can be extra-helpful when you need to repay a debt to a friend, but it's grappling with some significant security problems -- and it's not clear that a proper fix is in sight. Slate notes that Venmo not only lacks a few basic security measures, such as notifying you when login details change, but encourages risky steps like linking your bank routing info. If someone gets in under that circumstance, your bank account could be permanently compromised. There's also little support outside of a slow-to-respond email system, so you may be left high and dry if you need urgent help.

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Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet

2014 was an odd year for Sony. Can you think of another company that released five flagship products in a single year? We're talking the Xperia Z2, the Z3, the Z3 Compact, the Z2 Tablet, the Z3 Tablet Compact. That's an awful lot of Z's. At MWC in Barcelona, it's leaving its flagship phones be, and bringing a new full-sized tablet -- the Xperia Z4 Tablet -- and the mid-range Xperia M4 Aqua.

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When Brad Molen described Sony's Xperia Z Ultra as "the best phone you'll probably never buy," it was probably true of most Sony smartphones. The 6.44-inch device had a beautiful design, good build quality, had a fast engine and could withstand water, much like every other Sony smartphone you see. The downside to that, of course, is that it's a Sony, and that seems to have been enough for buyers to take their money elsewhere. But what did you, oh people who bought one, actually think of it? Head over to our forum and talk about what you liked, what you hated and what you wanted to change.

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The hub on a BlackBerry Classic

BlackBerry has only been willing to give out tiny pieces of its smartphone experience so far, like BBM and its enterprise servers, but it's going to be much more liberal in the near future. It's launching BlackBerry Experience Suite, a collection of apps and services that bring some of its biggest features to Android, iOS and Windows gear in hopes of making them mainstays of the working world. Some of them are more behind-the-scenes features that keep your corporate info both secure and separate from your personal affairs. However, others are very conspicuously borrowed from BlackBerry 10 smartphones. The company is promising the BlackBerry Hub (which unifies BB10's messaging), universal search and even its own input method -- yes, you may get a BlackBerry keyboard on your phone without resorting to a Typo case. The suite won't be available until later in the year, but it may be just the ticket if you or your office wants to try BlackBerry features while keeping the hardware and apps you already use.

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A Galaxy S5 for Sprint at a Best Buy store

Sprint still isn't done inventing new plans and promos in hopes that you'll sign up. Its latest move? It's launching a Best Buy-only plan that gives you both a smartphone and unlimited service for $65 per month if you get an iPhone 6, or $75 if you prefer Android. It's a nice deal if you're looking to avoid up-front hardware costs, although it's primarily for patient types -- you're locked into that phone for two years, and it'll cost you $10 extra per month if you want to upgrade devices every year. If you're happy to hang on to a phone for a while, though, you can swing past a Best Buy to check it out starting on March 1st.

[Image credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images]

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SanDisk's 200GB microSD card

If a 128GB microSD card just isn't big enough to put your media collection on your phone, don't worry -- SanDisk is coming to your rescue. It just unveiled a whopping 200GB card (the Ultra microSDXC UHS-I card Premium Edition, to be exact) that makes just about anything else seem puny. You won't even have to give up performance, as it should still transfer about 90MB per second, or roughly 1,200 photos every minute. The price could easily be a showstopper, though. SanDisk will ask an eye-watering $400 for the 200GB card when it ships in the second quarter, so it may only make sense if you insist on gobs of room for 4K videos or a gigantic music library.

Don't miss out on all the latest news, photos and liveblogs from MWC 2015. Follow along at our events page.

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