Motorola Droid Turbo

Google has been forging patent deals left and right with smartphone manufacturers to both get technology and fend off lawsuits, and now it's taking a similar approach with American carriers. The search firm has reached a deal with Verizon that gives both sides access to patents covering a "broad range of products." Neither side is saying what those products are, but they're clear that this is a hedge against patent trolls -- they'll have more ammunition the next time someone files a lawsuit over some dodgy intellectual property claims.

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Instagram's new filter interface

Instagram's photography thrives on filters, so it's only fair that you get as much control over those filters as possible, right? The developers clearly think so. An update rolling out today to Instagram's Android and iOS apps lets you reorganize and hide filters; if you're obsessed with Sutro's vignettes, you can bump it to the front. Each filter icon also shows a blurred preview of the effect on your photo, giving you a better sense of what will happen if you tap a given icon. There are five new filters (Aden, Crema, Ludwig, Perpetua and Slumber) available today as well, so you'll have plenty of excuses to check out the new interface when it reaches your phone.

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LoopPay iPhone case

Samsung is edging closer to debuting its own take on wireless payments, according to a report from Recode. Following the launch of Apple Pay earlier this year, Samsung has reportedly been trying to license technology from startup LoopPay to create a competing service. Although the site's anonymous sources agree that LoopPay and Samsung have been in talks, one says the deal "could still fall apart," even though another says a prototype payments system has already been created.

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T-Mobile's latest Uncarrier announcement might lack the pomp and circumstance of a big media event, but CEO John Legere's conversation with Yahoo Tech's David Pogue is already proving fruitful. Once January rolls around, T-Mobile customers will be able to roll over their unused data into what T-Mobile calls a Data Stash for up to a year, and the carrier will give its subscribers "up to" 10GB of free data in their new stashes just to get things started. There's no cap on how big your stash can swell either, though T-Mobile's recent wideband LTE launches (in a nutshell: you get faster LTE without having to buy a new phone) might make it a little tougher to keep extra data around to bank.

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Judging by Huawei's latest smartphone unveiled in Beijing today, it looks like someone has taken a leaf out of HTC's playbook. The Honor 6 Plus -- a follow-up to the reasonably priced Honor 6 -- is all about its dual rear 8-megapixel cameras, which claim to boost the effective pixel size to 1.98 microns for improved sensitivity and thus cleaner images. By comparison, this almost matches HTC's 2-micron UltraPixels. And similar to HTC's Duo Camera feature, Huawei's dual-lens setup lets you refocus the captured photos, adjust their simulated aperture (you can go from f/0.95 all the way to f/16) and apply fun filters like tilt shift, sketch and comics. Even the front-facing camera has an 8-megapixel resolution to give you the "888" blessing (it implies "triple the fortune" in Chinese), along with the usual beautification feature for photos and videos -- both recording and live chat.

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The Coast browser from Opera has come a long way since its early days on the iPhone, and it's about to get better. Not to be confused with Opera Mini, Opera Coast is a mobile browser focused on providing users quick access to their favorite websites, sporting a tile-based user interface and the ability to support multiple homes screens -- which makes it feel slightly like a mini OS. Today, Opera's bringing a few new things to the Coast app, including its trademark Turbo data-compressing tool for speedier browsing. Furthermore, Opera Coast is getting a Discover feature that easily finds stories related to the topics you're searching for, while a newly added button lets you share those links with friends on email, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. To round things up, Coast is now friendly with Apple's Continuity trait when browsing, allowing you to pick up right where you left off from any device, so long as you're on iOS 8 and have Handoff enabled.

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We love the idea of orientation gestures (used by Samsung, HTC and Moto phones and apps like Tasker), but they aren't natively supported on iOS, Android or Windows Phone yet. Microsoft seems ready to buck that trend with the launch of a Gestures Beta app for WP8 Lumia phones. As shown below, it'll let you answer a call by raising the phone to your ear, listen on speakerphone by setting it on a table and mute the mic with a face-down flip. Microsoft planned to launch a similar feature for WP8.1 called "3D Touch" with other features like a grip sensor, possibly alongside the now-defunct McLaren phone. There's no sign that'll come anytime soon, but at least there's now an app -- just bear in mind that it's still in beta, and functionality is "limited" for the Lumia 530, 630 and 635.

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Netflix has taken its sweet time bringing its Android app up-to-date, but at least it's bearing extra nice gifts for you and your inner circle. You can now privately endorse shows to Facebook friends without clogging their news feeds -- a feature that's already been available on the web and iOS for several months. Netflix did throw in a couple of exclusive Android extras, though: you'll be able to use your smartphone to thank a friend for a recommendation, see movie info and images, and even pause or play shows. But, the best part for nerdy film-lovers: you can now use an Android Wear smartwatch to do all that too, including remotely controlling shows (as shown above). Being the last to get an update sucks, but I'll gladly trade that for the double-takes when I launch House of Cards from my watch, Dick Tracy-style.

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Apple still hasn't opened up NFC support for Google Wallet, but it doesn't mean Mountain View can't add some other sweet new features to the app's iOS version. This latest update brings in a handful of new functions, including Touch ID support that lets you unlock the app with your fingerprint and the ability to see your loyalty and gift cards offline. Best of all, though, the app now comes with a new "split charge" option -- just add the amount you want to divvy up, choose the users you want to split with and mark their share of the total. They'll then get a reminder to settle up, though they can choose to decline, as well. So, if you're friends with someone who seems to "forget" his wallet at home all the time, ask him to install the app. Just don't be surprised if, next thing you know, he's "lost" his phone, as well.

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Recently picked up a Nexus 9 but you're still jealous of your iPad-toting pals because they can play Blizzard's Warcraft-themed card game? Well, relax because Hearthstone is coming to Android tablets (and early next year, phones). It's launching in waves, according to the publisher, starting with a roll out in Australia, Canada and New Zealand ahead of a worldwide release in a few days. And as a way to reward your patience -- the game initially launched back in April -- Blizzard is giving away a free pack of Classic Cards. Just finish a game in any mode and, well, you'll have some new cards to use. You don't even have to win! Perhaps even better? If you're coming in from another platform, your card collection and progress will transfer over to Google's mobile OS. Oh, and in case you want a peek inside the brains of a few of the folks who work on the game, check out this Reddit AMA from earlier today.

Update (12/16): And here it is -- we're not sure about the rest of the world, but Hearthstone is available on Google Play in the US.

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Reports on the meteoric rise of smartphones are beginning to sound like broken records, but there aren't any signs of that growth stopping anytime soon. Case in point: Gartner's latest stats show that smartphones sales jumped 20 percent to reach 301 million units in the third quarter. And yes, that jump came at the expense of feature phones sales, which fell by 25 percent. No surprises there, but the smartphone growth did lead to some intriguing movement among the top five smartphone vendors. Xiaomi joined the prestigious group for the first time, kicking out LG in the process. Samsung is still king of the hill, but its smartphone sales fell another eight percentage points in the quarter, leaving it with just 24.4 percent of the market.

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After signs of the proverbial switch flipping surfaced this weekend, Google Now's Nest integration is live. You'll need to authorize both the Google app and its voice control separately, but once you do, a simple "change the temperature to 74 degrees" is all you'll need to make the adjustment. What's more, a new card will show up letting you know when the Nest is hard at work to make your abode comfy during that evening commute. In fact, it'll make the adjustment automatically based on your phone's location. The new feature plays nice Google's software on both Android and iOS, so smart thermostat owners can opt with either one. If you run into issues, Nest has a handy guide that should help.

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SoundCloud Collection on an iPhone

SoundCloud isn't shy about its plans to launch a subscription service, but it's going to need a new interface to make that service work -- and it just took one of the first big steps in that direction. Updates to its iOS and web apps (Android is coming in 2015) now include Collection, a hub that puts all your favorite audio in a central location. The page shows the artists you follow, liked tracks and playlists without having to jump between different sections. It's very straightforward, but it's also extra-handy for shuffling your most-loved songs and finding out when there's a new DJ mix or radio show. Check it out today if SoundCloud plays a big role in your listening habits.

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Rdio's Windows Phone 8.1 app

Rdio has had a Windows Phone app for some time, but a sophisticated app that keeps up with its Android and iOS counterparts? That's another story. Thankfully, the streaming music service has posted a major update that takes better advantage of both Windows Phone 8.1 and Rdio's own upgrades. You now have access to Cortana's voice commands and proper Live Tile support. You'll also see Rdio's recent emphasis on curation in full effect -- there's a home section full of music "stories," a station browser and a trending section that combines both charts and Heavy Rotation plays. This may not get you to ditch Spotify, but you won't have to sit on the sidelines as your friends get all the latest music-discovery features.

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BT Sign

After weeks of speculation linking it with the acquisition of one of the UK's two biggest mobile carriers, BT has finally confirmed that EE will be the subject of its affection. The telecoms giant announced today that it has entered "exclusive negotiations" with a view to buying the Orange and Deutsche Telekom joint-venture for £12.5 billion. BT says the deal will allow it to "accelerate its existing mobility strategy" and re-enter the mobile market after it sold off O2 for £17.7 billion almost a decade ago.

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