Apple Watch review: a status symbol for iOS devotees

​Mankind's fascination with watches capable of more than simply telling the time is nothing new. But recently, our collective interest in intelligent timepieces has spiked, and we have more and more powerful wrist-worn computers to choose from than ever -- whether made by startups with record-setting Kickstarter campaigns or the biggest names in consumer electronics. Of course, the biggest name of all, Apple, had yet to release one of its own. Well, the Watch has arrived, and its maker has loftier aspirations for it than the smartwatches preceding it. Apple's Watch isn't some utilitarian gadget -- it's jewelry, an object of lust, not only for what it can do, but also for how it looks.

I'm not a watch person. Haven't worn one regularly since high school (I'm 33 years old now), and have never been enamored with the likes of Rolex or Longines. But the Apple Watch is, of course, much more than a mere time teller, and the company expects to sell a lot of these things to people like me -- you don't build a $700 billion company selling niche products, after all. The question is: Why would someone like me want one?

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Once again, the third time's the charm for Microsoft's Surface lineup -- for the most part. Last year's Surface Pro 3 was the software giant's most compelling implementation yet of its hybrid laptop/tablet concept. Now we have the Surface 3, the third entry in its cheaper Surface lineup. And while it may look similar to its predecessors, it's actually a completely different beast. It's a $499 Surface tablet that can actually run all of the Windows programs you're used to, not just Windows 8 apps. And to Windows RT, the stripped down version of Microsoft's OS that previously powered the non-Pro Surface tablets, all I have to say is: So long, goodbye. Don't let the door hit you on the way out! By giving up on Windows RT, Microsoft has finally managed to make a decent cheap Surface.

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Samsung found itself in sort of a bind last year: Its flagship Galaxy S5 wasn't the blockbuster the company hoped it would be. That, coupled with the news that Samsung was going to focus on a smaller number of devices in 2015, signaled a pretty dramatic change for a brand that seemed like it was unstoppable. As if to silence the doubters, Samsung has not one, but two flagships on offer -- the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge -- and they're surrounded by questions. Can they restore Samsung to its former glory? Has the company figured out how to build a truly interesting smartphone again? It's too early to make a call on the former, but after a week of testing, the answer to the latter is a clear and definite "yes."

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If you want to get a sense of where the real innovation in smartphones is happening, you need to look past the high-end flagships and toward the cheap stuff. And with the new Moto E, Motorola has crafted one of the most compelling budget smartphones yet. Starting at just $150, it's a tad more expensive than last year's $120 model, but it makes up for that with upgrades that make it a far more usable phone. Those include the addition of LTE, 8GB of built-in storage (twice as much as its predecessor) and a slightly bigger screen. (Moto's also offering a $120 3G-only version.) It may not sound all that exciting if you're waiting for the new Galaxy S6 or HTC One, but it's a solid choice for someone who doesn't need a powerful phone. And it's yet another sign that even the geekiest among us may soon be springing for inexpensive, contract-free phones.

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Let's say you're a smartphone maker and you cook up a formula for a beloved, game-changing device. The next year, you tweak that formula a bit to create a worthy, if slightly less exciting, follow-up of a phone. What do you do after another year has gone by? Try something completely different in hopes you'll catch lightning in a bottle again, or keep plugging away on the mobile DNA that made you such a worthy name in the first place? If you're HTC, the answer is obvious: You keep polishing and polishing that formula until you finally reach the ideal you've been working toward.

That's what we have in the One M9. It's still a ways off from fulfilling the vision that HTC's design wonks had in mind, but in most ways it's a very thoughtful refinement of what made the One series so special. Your pleas and complaints haven't gone unheard. The thing is, when the One M9 does try new things -- be they software features or hardware changes -- it doesn't always stick the landing.

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"They're a gimmick. They're a terrible idea. They're not going anywhere."

Naysayers have been doing their thing since the notion of a curved smartphone made the leap from a nutty concept to bona fide market fad, and they're not going to stop any time soon. Neither are LG and Samsung, for that matter, who squared off in late 2013 with -- what else? -- a pair of curved phones. Neither the G Flex nor the Galaxy Round were critical or commercial hits, but they made great stepping stones as both companies tried to convince the world that curved phones were the next big thing. Now LG's back for another shot at flexible-phone glory. The new G Flex2 is smaller, sleeker and a damn sight prettier than its predecessor, but still, we've got questions. Are curved screens any less of a gimmick now? Did LG have to compromise functionality for the sake of design? And more importantly, is this actually worth buying?

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BlackBerry Classic review: A love letter to fans and few others

Let's put Apple, Samsung and all their ilk aside for few moments: It really wasn't that long ago that a homegrown Canadian company called BlackBerry (well, RIM at the time) basically ruled the mobile world. The outfit's slow decline has been chronicled, opined upon for years, and yet, some of BlackBerry's most ardent fans still clamor for the days when QWERTY keyboards and teensy trackpads were uber-efficient status symbols instead of the relics they are now.

Enter the BlackBerry Classic. The name says it all, really: It's a paean to BlackBerry's halcyon days, and it's got a look plucked straight out of 2011, to boot. We took one for an extended spin to see how BlackBerry's throwback formula holds up today, and (very long story short) it's mostly the past mashed up with a touch of the modern. The bigger question, as usual, is whether or not it's worth your time. I suspect you already know the answer, but read on for my full impressions.

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Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact review: light in the hand, heavy on the wallet

Sony's consumer electronics division is in an ongoing state of flux. Having already given up on PCs and e-readers, the company recently pledged to make fewer TVs and smartphones in a bid to get its books back in the black. How Sony's strategizing will affect its output of tablets remains unclear, but no doubt a keen eye is being kept on the reception of its latest slate, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (don't let that mouthful of a moniker fool you -- Sony only classes the 8-inch tablet as "compact" to differentiate it from its two previous 10.1-inch devices). The company is renowned for the quality of its premium products, and like the two smartphones that make up the rest of the Z3 family, its newest tablet is a testament to that legacy. Cutting to the chase, it's an elegant and powerful device, but with prices starting at $445/£300, those credentials might not be enough to make you choose Sony over the competition.

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HTC Desire Eye review: in search of the ultimate selfie machine

2014 was the year that the word "selfie" finally -- and maybe unfortunately -- found its way into honest-to-goodness dictionaries. Is it really any surprise, then, that smartphone makers are finally starting to upgrade their front-facing cameras? With the Desire Eye, HTC took a step back and wondered why a phone's rear camera always had to be better than the one up front. Don't our lovely mugs deserve the same sort of technical attention and affection as, say, our lunches? HTC (along with others like Oppo) has decided that yes, yes they do. When you look at things that way, the Desire Eye and its twin 13-megapixel cameras seems to be just the perfect compromise for wannabe mobile photographers and the truly vain. But is it really?

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Sony SmartWatch 3 review: dull design, but great for runners

This here is the Sony SmartWatch 3. That might make it sound like it's the third iteration in a line of gadgets, but really, it's the first. That's because even though this is Sony's third smartwatch (fourth if you count the Sony Ericsson LiveView), it's actually Sony's first that comes with Android Wear. Both the original SmartWatch and the SmartWatch 2 ran Sony's own proprietary platform, which, while Android-friendly, didn't have nearly the same reach as Google's Android Wear. It's great that Sony has finally seen the light, but the SmartWatch 3 has arrived remarkably late to the party, letting rivals like Motorola, LG and Samsung gain ground. On the other hand, the SmartWatch 3 is currently the only Android Wear option with a built-in GPS radio, allowing for more precise workout tracking. Which, as it turns out, could be enough to help Sony stand apart from the pack.

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ASUS ZenWatch review: subtle and stylish, with a few shortcomings

The war for your wrist isn't going to wind down any time soon: We've already seen the industry's biggest players take a stab (in some cases, multiple ones) at perfecting their wearables. ASUS isn't quite as prominent as other names on that list, but that just makes its $200 ZenWatch all the more interesting The Taiwanese company -- probably best known for its quirky phone-tablet hybrids -- has put together an inaugural smartwatch that's dripping with style. In fact, it's the first smartwatch I've worn that's ever attracted random compliments from passersby (in two countries, no less), not to mention the first one that didn't make me feel like a complete nerd while wearing it. Alas, it takes more than just a sweet face to make a smartwatch worth owning.

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YotaPhone was inarguably one of the quirkiest smartphones released last year, with not one, but two displays. This curious marriage of LCD and E Ink was certainly a manufacturing achievement, but limited uses for the secondary screen meant it simply couldn't live up to its potential. Undeterred, Yota Devices announced earlier this year it was cooking up a sequel, and today it's ready to launch the new and improved YotaPhone 2. Its fresh design, high-end specs and bigger, higher-resolution displays are welcome upgrades, but most importantly, a thorough overhaul of the handset's software means you can now make full use of the low-power E Ink screen, which has also been granted touch functionality for this generation.

I've spent a fair amount of time with the device, and have to say that it's the most interesting smartphone I've ever used. Like its predecessor, the YotaPhone 2 is still very much a niche proposition with narrow mainstream appeal. That being said, Yota Devices has more or less achieved what it set out to do last year: Make a handset with an E Ink display that has several, legitimate use cases. Whether these will actually tempt you into picking one up is another matter, but the second screen is no longer an oddity; it's an asset.

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Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

Samsung's wearables strategy seems to be: "Throw everything at a wall and see what sticks." In a little over 12 months, the electronics giant has launched six -- yes, six -- different smartwatches, each with its own unique personality. The latest is the Samsung Gear S, and its particular claim to fame might be the most ambitious yet: It's the first Gear watch that lets you make and receive calls from your wrist, no phone required. Yep, the Gear S actually has a 3G modem inside it, along with WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS radios. It's basically a watch that's also a phone. You can even respond to emails using a tiny onscreen keyboard. But, at $350 a pop, can it replace your phone? And more importantly, would you want it to?

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HTC RE Camera review: a fun personal shooter with room to grow

My father's camcorder was a common sight on childhood vacations. Trips to Mount Rainier, the Oregon Coast, Disneyland, skiing, weddings -- you name it, there's video evidence of my siblings and I enjoying time together. I'm lucky to have grown up in an era where this technology was available, but today these memories can be captured more easily and with less sophisticated (read: less expensive) equipment. We have quick and easy access to cameras at a moment's notice, thanks to smartphones and tablets, and now another form factor is starting to gain momentum: personal cameras. With the exception of the GoPro, this genre is now seeing an influx of small, hand-held devices that are small enough to put in your pocket or bag and can still take decent photos and videos.

HTC is one of the companies rushing to get into this space with the RE camera (pronounced "Ree"), an awkwardly named gadget that's shaped like a tube, packs a 16-megapixel camera and 1080p HD video capture and features cross-platform support so Android and iOS users alike can take advantage of it. Can this tiny camera take the place of my father's camcorder? What else is it good for? And is it worth paying $200 even if you already have a smartphone camera? Keep Reading to find out.

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Amazon Fire HD 6 review: great value for a $99 tablet

Here's a question: How did Amazon know it was time to make a $99 tablet? Because of focus groups? Its ace marketing department? Close: user reviews. Let's not forget that Amazon is best known for its retail empire, so when lots of people start buying cheap tablets, the company catches on quickly. And when shoppers start giving them lousy user reviews, well, Amazon notices that too. After reading lots of write-ups from disgruntled customers about tablets with chintzy build quality, the company decided it could do better. The Fire HD 6, a 6-inch tablet priced at $99, is the company's cheapest and smallest slate yet, and it's designed to take on all those unreliable no-name devices that shoppers seem to hate so much. Suffice to say, it offers some great value for the price. Here's why.

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