HTC Desire 626 unboxing and first impressions [Video]

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HTC’s Desire smartphone range promises to offer great build quality, design and features but without the cost of a flagship smartphone. One of the latest additions to that lineup, the Desire 626, is one of the more sensibly sized devices in the range.

With a 5-inch screen and two front-firing speakers (not BoomSound), the Desire 626 is roughly the same height as an LG G4, but considerably narrower. It’s predominantly made of plastic, but the solid feel and matte finish on the two-tone design is attractive and doesn’t seem overly cheap (apart from the flimsy plastic flap which covers the Nano SIM and Micro SD card slots on the left). With size, material and shape combined you get a very comfortable in-hand feel.

Its spec list is decent enough too, for a phone of this price point. There’s a 5-inch, 720p display on the front, a 13MP camera with 1080p video capture on the back and a quad-core Snapdragon processor to keep things running smoothly. It even has the latest version of Android (5.1 Lollipop) with Sense 7 UI on top. Its 2,000mAh battery may not seem impressive on paper, but with a screen resolution of 720×1280, the demands on its resources are not as heavy has they might be on a flagship device.

I unbox the phone, check out what comes in the retail packaging and give you my first impressions of the latest wallet and pocket-friendly smartphone from HTC.

If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s the same issue I have with most HTC phones. Because of the stereo front-facing speakers and large black bezel around the display, the phone isn’t as neatly proportioned as I’d like. A phone this size could be pushing a 5.5-inch screen and only need to add a little width. This 5-inch screen doesn’t make up enough of the space available on the front panel. But then, this is HTC.

I’ll be testing the device over the coming days and weeks and will bring you a full review at a later date. I’ll also be comparing it with a couple of other budget-friendly smartphones of a similar price to see how HTC’s compares with perhaps more disruptive products from a lesser-known brand.

You can buy the Desire 626 unlocked from Amazon in the US for around $240, or you can opt for the slightly less powerful 626s which launched on several carriers last week.

Get a free $10 Amazon gift card when you buy a Chromecast for $30 Prime shipped

From 9to5Toys.com:
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Amazon is throwing in a free $10 gift card with the purchase of a Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player for $29.99 Prime shipped. This combo carries a street value of $45 since the Chromecast usually sells for $35 by itself. Assuming you use the credit, today’s deal nets you the best HDMI streaming player for an effective price of just $20. Prime members (free trial) receive free 2-day shipping, while all other buyers will need to spend $35 or more to lock-in free standard shipping. To qualify for this deal you’ll need to add the Chromecast and $10 gift card to your cart via this promo page.

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Chromecast streams Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus and tons of other apps to your TV over Wi-Fi using your iOS/Android device or laptop. Get even more value out of your Chromecast by taking advantage of special offers like a free Google Play movie rental. It’s rated 4.1 out of 5 stars from 35,264 Amazon reviewers.

Other retailers are also discounting Chromecast: Buy two and save $15 at Google Play or Best Buy, $20 for refurbished at Groupon. Read more

LG cites “extremely challenging environment” and iPhone competition as mobile division barely breaks even

LG cited “an extremely challenging environment” for premium smartphones as the reason for posting a net operating profit of just 200M won ($172k) for its mobile division – a number put into stark perspective by Engadget as a profit of just 1.2 cents per phone. LG specifically singled out competition from the iPhone as a factor.

While year-on-year smartphone shipments were down 3%, it did achieve a tiny 1% increase in revenue, but said that profitability was hit by weaker demand in the premium sector in its home market of Korea. There was better news in the U.S. and Canada, however …  Read more

Aclima’s air quality sensors are being attached to Google Street View cars in San Francisco

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Aclima, a startup which builds an end-to-end hardware and software solution for detecting and analyzing the health and state of varying environmental surroundings (i.e. indoors where carbon dioxide can build in meeting rooms, outdoors where vehicles can release significant carbon monoxide), has announced a new partnership with Google which will see its sensors make their way onto Google Street View cars in the San Francisco Bay Area. Street View cars are the vehicles through which Google collects street-level imagery for its Maps street view product.

The ultimate goal for Aclima with partnerships including this one is to make data on air quality as easily accessible as the weather so that communities can better understand how air pollutants in their area are affecting human health and climate change, and start a dialog on improving local air quality.

Read more

Google Contributor live to US web users, contribute monthly to see fewer ads across the web

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The confluence of several different events – the great shift to mobile computing where there’s little screen real-estate, a spurning of display ads, to name just two – is causing content creators and consumers alike to rethink how today’s media gets funded. Sites like Patreon and Kickstarter remove the middle-man from the funding process for projects which require lots of upfront investment and see slow development times by allowing anyone to contribute any amount of money they want to a project’s development.

Google last year threw its own hat into the crowdfunding space with the soft launch of Contributor, a way through which consumers can pay a monthly recurring donation to fund the sites they visit while seeing less ads. Now anyone in the United States can actually use it starting today. Read more

Hands on with the Moto X Pure Edition Android phone [Video]

The Moto X Style — called Moto X Pure Edition in the US — phones we got to play with at the end of today’s event were obviously very pure Android and with their much larger displays and heavy batteries very much reminiscent of the Nexus 6 that I’m carrying around. The one big and important difference is the Sony 21MP shooter on the back that in limited testing makes all the difference.

Having used an LG G4 for the past month as my daily, the Moto X and G for that matter are substantial in their heft. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it will be noticeable.  The very vanilla Android 5.1.1 experience is exactly what you’d expect – very Nexus 6-y and speedy.

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For me, there are 2 questions that remain: Is the camera as good as is being touted and is the weight worth the extra battery life. Stay tuned, we’l have answers soon.

Speaking of that we’ve got our Moto G and our “headgear” (moto-surround and moto-pulse)  which we’ll be reviewing over the next week or so.

Overall, a strong showing from Motorola and with the hint of more to come this year an exciting time for the Lenovo subsidiary.

Opinion: OnePlus 2’s lack of Quick Charge & NFC equals a deal breaker

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OnePlus gets a lot of hype for just about anything they announce (including limited-availability toys for April Fools day). Part of that is because of their genius marketing (I can’t count the number of people who used “#hype” and “#NeverSettle” in their Google+ posts, ironically or not, when mentioning the OnePlus 2 over the last few months), and the other part is that they actually make really good stuff. The OnePlus One is a stellar phone. In my opinion — and many agree with me — it was probably one of the best of 2014.

The OnePlus 2 also looks like it’s going to be a stellar phone, and we’re looking forward to reviewing it in very full soon. It offers a lot of great features, it comes in a physical build that’s marketable as something — much like Apple’s  hardware — extremely sexy, and it packs some specifications that contend with top-of-the-line flagships. All of this, and it comes at a price — if you’re buying in the United States, at least — that makes it seem ridiculous to ever buy a Samsung Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6 Plus off contract.

But the #NeverSettle company, which did a pretty good job at bringing a phone with hardly any compromises last year, seems to have introduced something that requires its buyers to make some compromises. From the outside, at least, there are two that stick out to me. First, the OnePlus 2 completely forgoes any NFC hardware. Yes, the recently-made-official Android Pay is going to be completely useless on a OnePlus 2. Secondly, the phone — in exchange for USB Type-C support — ditches any kind of Quick Charge feature… Read more

Qualcomm announces WiPower: Wireless charging compatible with metal smartphones

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Qualcomm announced today that it has become the first company to launch wireless charging that works on devices with metal casing. WiPower is not only material-agnostic, in that it can technically charge all kinds of devices, but it can do so at a distance and charge multiple devices simultaneously. If it works as Qualcomm says it does, this could be one of the most versatile and easy-to-use wireless charging solutions announced so far. Read more