Microsoft Torque on a Samsung Gear Live

Slightly irked that you have to say "OK Google" whenever you want to use voice search on your Android Wear smartwatch? Microsoft, of all companies, is coming to your rescue. The developer is leading a trio of experimental Android releases with Torque, an app that lets you start a Bing search just by twisting your wrist; you only have to speak when you're asking your question. You'll get optimized output for certain kinds of search results, including maps, stocks and weather.

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If you're anything like us, Google's Gmail has an iron grip on your life. Google's looking to create a whole new iron grip with a new app from its Gmail team, and it's called "Inbox." What is it? That's a good question -- Google's made a demo slash advertisement video that we've dropped below. As far as we can tell, Inbox is a combination of Google Now and your Gmail inbox -- a "smart" inbox, if you will. It combines alike pieces of email (bank invoices, for example), highlights related information (like Google Now alerting you to flight changes, traffic, etc.) and keeps track of your life (it'll give you reminders, among other heads ups). Is this the end of Gmail? We seriously doubt it, but it is Google's latest foray into simplifying email. Head below for more!

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It's a conflicting time for Apple. On one hand, it's a joyous occasion for the company because its latest iPhones, which come in larger screen sizes than the last, set new sales records worldwide; but on the other hand, its lineup of iPads just experienced its third straight quarterly decline. Coincidentally, this comes just a week after Apple announced its annual tablet refresh, which includes a thinner and more powerful version of the iPad Air along with a Touch ID-enabled mini with Retina display.

Just because it's down doesn't mean it's out. Giving up on a product category isn't really Apple's style, and last week, it offered up the Air 2 as exhibit A. The company made it clear that making a solid top-of-the-line tablet is on the top of its to-do list, so naturally the new 10-inch device got plenty of upgrades in nearly every aspect of its design. Curiously, it didn't give the mini lineup the same kind of treatment: The mini 3 got so little love this time around that the best news about it is the fact that last year's version is now $100 cheaper. Should the new iPads still get a place in the consumer's backpack? Read on to find out.

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PhotoMath on a Windows Phone

Need a little help getting through your next big math exam? MicroBlink has an app that could help you study more effectively -- perhaps too effectively. Its newly unveiled PhotoMath for iOS and Windows Phone (Android is due in early 2015) uses your smartphone's camera to scan math equations and not only solve them, but show the steps involved. Officially, it's meant to save you time flipping through a textbook to check answers when you're doing homework or cramming for a test. However, there's a concern that this could trivialize learning -- just because it shows you how to solve a problem doesn't mean that the knowledge will actually sink in. And if teachers don't confiscate smartphones at the door, unscrupulous students could cheat when no one is looking. The chances of that happening aren't very high at this stage, but apps like this suggest that schools might have to be vigilant in the future.

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We're barely seeing 4G take hold here in the States and the FCC has begun the process to push into 5G for mobile data. The government's communications council voted unanimously to start looking into accessing the higher-than-24GHz frequency spectrum that was previously thought to be, as Reuters notes, unusable by mobile networks. So what are the benefits? Gigabit internet connections on the go, for starters -- something our current sub-3GHz spectrum can't quite handle -- similar to the ones Samsung just tested. Yeah, now you're excited. The feds believe that using these "millimeter waves" would allow for higher bandwidth for more people and devices at speeds that outclass most homes' broadband.

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Despite the frivolous nature of most social media interactions, Facebook's latest new feature is intended for use only in serious situations. Unveiled today in Japan, Safety Check notifications are pushed to users when a natural disaster hits and area you have listed as your location, where you've checked in on Nearby Friends, or where you recently logged in from. Tech companies like Google and Facebook have worked to connect people after significant disasters in the past, and Facebook says the project is an extension of the Disaster Message Board its Japanese engineers rolled out after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami there. Safety Check is rolling out globally on Android, iOS, feature phones and the desktop -- there's a demo video (embedded after the break) to explain how it all works.

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Smartphones are getting bigger with every generation, every new model. Even Apple, champion of the small screen, has finally caved to the trend. Over the past few years, however, some of the major smartphone players have taken to creating "mini" versions of their top handsets to satisfy those who still crave a smaller device. While these petite imitations benefit from shared design and branding, their hardware specifications are usually no match for the flagships they mimic. Sony does things a little differently, though, shunning the "mini" moniker and preserving as many high-end features as possible in its smaller devices. Case in point: the new Xperia Z3 Compact, which crams the best of the 5.2-inch Z3 into a 4.6-inch body, and is basically everything you could want in a smaller smartphone.

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TV-Emmy Predictions

If you've been pining for HBO without having to splurge for a cable subscription, you may soon be in luck. At a Time Warner investor meeting today, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler announced that the company would flip the switch on a web-based streaming service next year. The over-the-top option will leverage HBO's current partners and offer access to its content without the need for a full cable package. During his remarks, Plepler mentioned that there are 10 million homes that only pay for internet rather than a bundle, and the figure is only expected to grow. Of course, there's no word on pricing or any of the finer details right now, but we expect to hear much more in the months to come. If you'll recall, reports indicate that ESPN is also working on an NBA streaming option, serving up a slate of live regular-season games to folks who don't pay for cable service.

[Photo credit: AP Photo/HBO, Michele K. Short]

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What began in 2011 as a brand-new phone category has flourished into one of the most popular in the world. Smartphones with big screens (phablets, to some) are now ubiquitous, but it all started with an odd device called the Samsung Galaxy Note. At 5.3 inches, it was a behemoth for its day -- and yet, it sold like hotcakes thanks to its unique S Pen stylus, which provided users with extra functionality, and a copious amount of screen space.

Four iterations later, the Note series has continued to grow, mature and dominate the genre. Not only does the latest version, the Galaxy Note 4, come with the snazziest spec sheet on the market, but it also ushers in a fantastic new direction in Samsung's design. It sure sounds like an improvement over last year's model, and it is. Now that Apple's ready to tackle the Note with a large-screen phone of its own, however, is Samsung's baby still the best in its class?

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.klatz smart bracelet serving as a handset

More than a few smartwatches will let you make calls, but that doesn't mean they're elegant substitutes for your smartphone -- you're going to look at least a little dorky bringing your wrist up to your face. The team behind the .klatz smart bracelet thinks it has a more elegant approach. Their wearable flips open, turning into a makeshift handset for your phone; you can take a call with your wristwear while hopefully maintaining some shred of dignity. The device's crude 384-LED display won't come close to what you'll get on a Moto 360 or Pebble, but the developers are promising a giant battery (at least 600mAh) that lasts for 10 days.

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There's been a bit of speculation as to what moniker version 5.0 of Google's mobile OS would take on when it arrives this fall. In a new promo video, the Android faithful are taunted with possibilities like Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Drop, Lady Finger and Lava Cake. Oreo is mentioned as a dark horse candidate, and it could be an option if Google decided to stick with the branded snack theme (and skips a few letters). A couple of rumored names are noticeably absent, too: Lollipop and Licorice. Of course, we'll know soon enough when a new statue is installed in Mountain View.

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Skype Qik on Android

Skype may be one of the better-known options for video messaging, but it doesn't hold a candle to a services like Snapchat if you just want simple, back-and-forth discussions. The Skype team isn't taking this competition lying down, though -- it just rolled out Skype Qik, its own take on rapid-fire video delivery. The mobile-only app is focused solely on swapping short clips (up to 42 seconds; yes, it's a nod to Hitchhiker's Guide) as part of conversations with your phone contacts. In theory, it's just what you need to coordinate a night out or catch up with pals who are rarely available at the same time. All messages vanish after two weeks to help protect your privacy, and you can pre-record "Qik Fliks" to use when you're either too busy or just want to reply with your favorite internet meme.

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Will.i.am must have solved whatever has delayed his smartwatch's original July debut, because he's launching it this week and proving it's not vaporware. The musician will finally make the big reveal on Wednesday night in San Francisco during Salesforce.com's Dreamforce event -- just ahead of Apple's upcoming event. As we reported the first time news of the device has surfaced, its creator claims the gadget's able to make and take calls even if it's not connected to a phone, and that it has Bluetooth, WiFi and even Facebook, Instagram and Twitter apps. The Telegraph also says it has a curved screen and can store music locally, though it might come with a digital music service, as well. Will.i.am has supposedly convinced music labels to sign on the dotted line with help from UK firm 7digital, promising them equal treatment unlike other services that offer lower deals to indie labels. We'll know for sure once the watch has been officially launched, so keep an eye out for more details later this week.

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Microsoft's Analog Keyboard for Android Wear

Microsoft's support for Android Wear smartwatches isn't limited to a handy OneNote app. The company's research wing has slipped out Analog Keyboard, a prototype input app that has you drawing individual characters on your wristwear instead of trying to hit tiny keys. It's not the fastest solution (and triggers a few flashbacks to old-school PDAs), but it's very straightforward -- you get a relatively big drawing area, and there's a smart auto-correct system that you turn off just by pausing for a while between letters.

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In an effort to beam content to viewers who are more likely to stare at a mobile device than a television, Cartoon Network has a new app that dishes out short clips of content. The Cartoon Network Anything app for iOS and Android packs 10 to 15-second snippets from Adventure Time, Regular Show, Gumball and Teen Titans Go with games, quizzes, puzzles and more sprinkled in. Variety reports that one goal is to lure the channel's core audience back to its TV programming by promoting shows with the mobile software. There's no way to control the flow of clips and other items, so kids won't know what's coming next. The idea is that every time little Joey taps on the app, there will be something he hasn't seen before. Of course, there's the opportunity for ad revenue in the future as well, which could take the form of branded video segments with the network's characters. And in what should come as a shock to no one, McDonald's signed on as the launch sponsor. If your kids (or you, no judgement here) are big fans of the CN, both versions of the app are available now via their respective repositories.

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