Looking forward to the day you can buy a Xiaomi smartphone in the US? Keep waiting. The company's founder announced the first ten countries in Xiaomi's international expansion today, and the United States didn't make the cut. A shame, perhaps, for fans of the company's affordable, well-specced handsets, but not much of a surprise -- Xiaomi's aversion to traditional sales and marketing puts it at odds with what American consumers have come to expect. Right now, the company's products are only available in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, but CEO Lei Jun says it will start selling devices in India, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Mexico and in several east asian countries and emerging markets later this year.

The company's also simplifying its image a little, dropping "Xiao" from its webpage URL. The newly christened Mi.com should play well in the new markets: not only does it match the MI branding the company uses on its MI2 and MI3 smartphones, but it's easier to remember, market and -- for international customers -- pronounce.

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Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review: A top-tier slate with a familiar face

Oh, Sony. Its earliest Android tablet efforts were a little odd (and that's putting it politely), but the company eventually managed to get its act together. Last year's Xperia Tablet Z? Easily the finest Android slate that Sony's ever made. When it came time to craft an upgrade, though, Sony was faced with a choice: Should it try to push the envelope in a different direction? Or simply stay the course and apply a healthy dose of polish to an already-good device?

Needless to say, it chose the latter. The new Xperia Z2 Tablet looks strikingly similar to its predecessor, albeit with a swapped-out set of components under the hood. The strange sense of drama that comes with a new product seems absent here. In a cynical age when new devices can fly or flop based on spectacle alone, Sony played it safe. It iterated. But is that such a bad thing? Is "iterating" really as yucky a word as we've all been led to believe? Let's find out.

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People buy cases mainly to protect their precious phones, but very few offer functional versatility, and you're often forced to give them up when you upgrade. Well, that may no longer be a problem thanks to a new minimalistic solution dubbed Snap. This attachment system starts off with a circular, low-profile female connector that's only 3mm thick and 25mm wide, and it can stick onto any device or case thanks to its strong, commercial-grade 3M adhesive. You can then secure different types of Snap accessories with a simple twist; and when detached, the slim socket barely gets in the way.

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Seeing an error message on your Samsung phone, tablet or Smart TV today? You're not alone, as the Samsung.com website appears to be down and owners worldwide have reported anything from error messages to being unable to access apps on their smart TVs. Reports have spread on Twitter -- mostly from a community news site called Wikitree -- that a fire at a Samsung SDS building in Gwacheon, South Korea is the culprit. We've contacted Samsung but haven't heard anything back yet, and while some of its social media pages have noted the outage, there isn't an official explanation posted.

Update: Naturally now that we've mentioned it, the outage that lasted several hours appears to have ended around 6:15AM ET. Many of the same users who were having problems with their smart TVs and phones seem to have full access again, and Samsung.com is back up and running. A Samsung SDS blog post confirms the fire and subsequent outage, while apologizing for the inconvenience. Despite some scary photos and video of the blaze (after the break) Korean news reports indicate there were no fatalities. The big question left? Why a fire at one location seemed to have such a large affect on the company's devices and services.


[Thanks, Mark & Martin!]

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Sony Xperia Z2

It's been nearly three years since I reviewed the Xperia Neo, manufactured by what was then Sony Ericsson. The Neo represented just the second generation of Xperia phones running on Android, from a period when Sony was finding its feet in the world of mobile and still chucking out plenty of duds (I'm looking at you, Tablet P). Fast-forward to today and things have changed dramatically under Kaz Hirai's stewardship. I'll tell you this right now: The Z2 is an easy phone to recommend, at least for those living in countries where it'll definitely be available (a list that includes the UK and Canada, but not yet the US). The only real caveat is the handset's huge, monolithic construction (a far cry from puny, 126-gram Neo). As you'll see, if you can get past its size, the Z2 addresses some of the most serious gripes we had with its predecessors, the Xperia Z and Z1, particularly with respect to its LCD display. In fact, in some respects, it's far ahead of any other Android phone currently on the market.

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Project Tango on a NASA SPHERE in zero gravity

Wonder what Google's Project Tango-equipped SPHERES robots will look like when they're in action aboard the International Space Station? The company is more than happy to show you. It has posted video of a recent test that took the machines on a zero gravity simulation flight to see how the 3D environment sensors and other systems will work in practice. As you'll see in the clip, it wasn't quite as easy as testing on the ground -- Google's ATAP team had to work during brief bursts of weightlessness that could challenge both the employees and the devices.

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Technology problem? Easy, just hit the Mayday button (if you have one) or sign up for Google Helpouts and within a few minutes, you'll instantly connect to an expert. Compare that with selecting a healthcare plan, or making trips to the clinic, and medicine can seem a little old-fashioned. Better is looking to change that with an iOS app that offers both a concierge to help you navigate your HMO's bureaucracy, but also to offer instant access to the physicians at the Mayo Clinic when you're feeling unwell. The app is launching from today, setting you back $49 a month, and while it's currently not covered by any insurance plans, there are some incentives to help soften the blow.

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Fake fingerprint used to fool the Galaxy S5

It looks like the iPhone 5s isn't the only smartphone whose fingerprint reader can be fooled by fake digits. SR Labs has just posted a video (shown below) showing that Samsung's just-launched Galaxy S5 is susceptible to the same trick: as long as you have a good photo of a latent print (such as one from the touchscreen), you can create a mold that passes for a real finger. The lab also claims that Samsung's approach may ultimately be less secure than Apple's, since you're not forced to enter a passcode under certain conditions (such as a reboot) and can use the fingerprint to make PayPal transactions.

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Samsung Gear Fit TV spot

Samsung's track record on smartwatch marketing has been, shall we say, mixed. Its nostalgic sci-fi TV spot for the Galaxy Gear was a hit, but its awkward (and slightly creepy) romantic skier ad? Not so much. Give credit to the company for learning quickly, though, as its newly released TV commercial for the Gear Fit (shown below) mostly hits the right notes. The 30-second clip sticks to showing real-world use cases, such as tracking fitness data while running and turning down phone calls. It's still a bit silly -- really, who wears a smartwatch over a fancy bracelet? -- but it does make a good case for intelligent wristwear.

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Even Microsoft knows that Windows Live Tiles have so much potential to be a lot better, especially on touchscreen devices. In fact, a group of the company's researchers in Asia have apparently been working on making Live Tiles interactive. As you can see in the videos after the break, the experimental tiles expand when touched, showing you its contents right on the Start screen instead of launching the app. For instance, touching the mail app automatically shows a list of your emails in an expanded view, which looks very similar to an Android widget.

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With its Framily plans, Sprint wants you to convince friends, family and possibly outright strangers, to join the carrier and chip a few bucks off your bill. It's even created a new ad series to show just how broad its definition of "framily" is. The dad's a hamster, while the daughter speaks only in French, accompanied by three animated birds. However, Sprint's Frobinsons have to go a long ways to match the sheer offbeat-ness of Softbank's answer to "framily," the Shiratos in Japan.

That framily consists of a talking dog as patriarch, a wife who has the real power, a daughter played by popular actress Aya Ueto and a non-Japanese son played by Dante Carver (a Softbank commercial mainstay). The core family unit is then augmented by bit-parts from 'Uncle' Quentin Tarantino, Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa (and his dolphin father) and Tommy Lee-Jones, the live-in-maid-from-space. Ad-Age wasn't a fan, but we hope the Frobinsons are just getting started. We've pulled together a few English-subtitled Softbank ads and added them, alongside Sprint's interpretation, to the video gallery below.

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When Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S5 and a trio of Gear smartwatches, the company made a big to-do about how it listens to its customers. We know, we know: Every company's supposed to be doing that. But remember, this is Samsung we're talking about. It dominates the Android market by such a wide margin that it makes rivals like LG and HTC look like quaint startups. Put it another way: Samsung could release a phone with no improvements, and it'd still sell millions.

At least, that's how it used to be. The smartphone market has seen a downturn of late and even mighty Samsung has been affected. Sales are down, and the manufacturer must now make phones that give people what they actually want (shocker, we know). So what can we expect from a humbled Samsung? A durable phone that brings a toned-down TouchWiz UI, a better camera, longer battery life, improved performance, a fingerprint scanner and enhanced health tracking. I received an unlocked review unit from GSM Nation, which was the first outlet to start shipping the phone in the US with AT&T- and T-Mobile-compatible LTE. Now that I've been testing it for a few days, let's see if the Galaxy S5 lives up to all those promises.

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Windows in the Car

Microsoft has a home in the automotive world, but it doesn't have a way to bring a phone's interface to your car's infotainment system -- there's no Windows Phone equivalent to Apple's CarPlay. That might change before long, though. The software giant used a presentation at this week's Build conference to show off Windows in the Car, a conceptual platform that would adapt Windows Phone's apps and basic functions to in-vehicle interfaces. Not surprisingly, the MirrorLink-based tech looks like a cross between Microsoft's mobile and desktop interfaces; while you're running mobile apps, they get more on-screen buttons than usual to help you complete tasks faster and keep your eyes on the road. The software also focuses more on voice commands (Cortana is mentioned as a good fit), and it could eventually restrict complex app functions while you're driving. You might not get to add music to a playlist until you're parked, for instance.

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Now that the Windows Phone 8.1 and Cortana announcements are out of the way, Skype's spilling the details on its upcoming app refresh for Microsoft's new mobile platform. The upgraded Skype app for WP 8.1 will feature a new button that you can press to turn a regular phone call into a Skype video chat. It's similar to that FaceTime option iOS users see when they make calls, though obviously, Skype's version will only work if you have the other person's account details.

That's not all, though -- Skype will now also come with Cortana (the platform's Siri-like voice assistant) integration. This gives you the power to instantly launch convos by hitting the search icon and saying: "Skype, get [someone's name] on video." Other than that, the Microsoft-owned outfit is updating its Windows 8.1 and RT app, as well, so you can finally pin it to the taskbar and make it accessible on both Start and desktop screens. Unfortunately, the updated app might not be available as soon as WP 8.1 launches, but Skype says it should be out in the coming months.

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The Nokia Lumia Icon is a fantastic Windows Phone that comes with a bunch of top features that most WP users haven't been able to enjoy until recently, but it had one critical flaw: it was an exclusive to Verizon, which meant that only a handful of users in the US could buy it. For the rest of the world, the only way to get a top-of-the-line Windows Phone (in nearly every spec, that is) has been to buy the Lumia 1520, but its large 6-inch display -- though beautiful at 1080p -- simply made it too big for a lot of people. Fortunately, that's about to end because Nokia announced a global version of the Icon known as the Lumia 930, which comes with more LTE compatibility and Windows Phone 8.1.

Interestingly enough, there's not much of a difference between the two devices. This actually is a bit surprising, considering Verizon has historically landed design exclusives with Nokia like the Lumia 822 and 928. The resemblance is definitely striking, with the only major hardware changes manifest in the presence of GSM bands instead of CDMA and the additional colors that Nokia will offer.

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