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ASUS Fonepad 7 receives LTE connectivity

At Mobile World Congress on Monday, ASUS debuted two all-new additions to its popular Fonepad line.

ASUS announced two new variants of its refreshed Fonepad 7 voice-calling tablet on Monday at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona.

The new FonePad 7 LTE ME372CL features support for 4G LTE networks, while the FonePad 7 ME175CG is a dual-SIM model for use in markets where customers regularly need to connect to multiple wireless networks.

Most of the specifications are the same between the new devices and the refreshed Fonepad 7 tablet, which featured a single-SIM card slot, and 3G+Wi-Fi connectivity. They each feature Intel processors, 7 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel displays, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage. The new models also feature stereo front-facing speakers, 3950mAh batteries, 5MP rear cameras, and 1.2MP front-facing cameras.

ASUS Fonepad 7 receives LTE connectivity
Photo: Asus.

One key difference between the original Fonepad 7 and the new 3G model is the processor. The company’s Fonepad 7 with 3G that is already on sale has an Intel dual-core Atom Z2560 processor, but the new model introduced at MWC has a slower and lower-power Intel Atom Z2520 processor, which is expected to prolong battery life.

Pricing and availability for the new phablets have not been released, but we do know the original Fonepad 7 sells for around $300 without a contract (in the markets where it’s available).

ASUS also introduced a new Android user interface called ZenUI, which will first appear in the recently announced PadFone Mini, PadFone and ZenFone products. However, it will not be immediately included on the new Fonepads.

The ZenUI brings a modern user interface with flat icons and new color options, the company said in a statement. The user interface also has new ringtones, and notifications: “What’s Next” prioritizes and displays important information such as appointments, calls and messages from close friends. “Do It Later” is the opposite, showing reminders at later times on things that are less important.



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Samsung and Qualcomm Demo Cat6 LTE Galaxy Note 3 at WMC 2014

Qualcomm on Monday conducted the world’s first live demonstrations of LTE Category 6 connectivity at MWC 2014 using a specially modified Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with a Snapdragon 805 processor and Gobi 9×35 modem.

The Galaxy Note 3 prototype – specially developed and modified for the LTE Cat 6 demonstrations – reached download speeds of 300Mbps, making it the fastest and most powerful device of its kind.

The LTE Cat6 connection demo was made possible thanks to Qualcomm’s fourth-generation 3G/LTE multimode modem, the Gobi 9×35 (cousin of the Gobi 9×30), which is twice as fast as anything found commercially. It is also the first cellular modem to be announced based on 20 nm technology.

Additionally, it supports global carrier aggregation deployments up to 40 MHz for both LTE TDD and FDD, and is backwards compatible to support all other major cellular technologies, including WCDMA /MC-HSPA, CDMA 1x/EVDO Rev. B, GSM/EDGE and TD-SCDMA.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 prototype also features Qualcomm’s highest performing processor to date, the Snapdragon 805, which brings a 30%-40% boost over the original Snapdragon 800 Note 3.

Not only is Cat6 faster, but it is also more network efficient. It works by aggregating two 20Mhz bands to double the download speed of Cat4 (for those wondering, there is no Cat5). This allows carriers to do more with their existing spectrum license while serving more customers at higher speeds without significantly increasing the network density.

With the introduction of Category 6, adoption of LTE Advanced is expected to accelerate, with a key factor being the availability of commercial infrastructure and global chipsets for smartphones.

“We’re excited to be working with Samsung across products and technologies to break new ground in enabling customers with the fastest mobile broadband connections worldwide,” said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, in a press release. “From enabling the world’s first LTE Advanced Category 6 demo in a leading commercial smartphone form factor, to driving LTE in high-volume smartphones, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. continues to lead the industry’s transition to next-generation network mobile connectivity.”

It’s not clear which carrier will deploy Cat6 first, but there is a good chance that South Korea Telecom (SK Telecom) may be the first to do so. Hopefully, the U.S won’t be far behind.

Attendees to Mobile World Congress can view the live demonstration of 300Mbps LTE Advanced Category 6 in the SK Telecom booth in Hall 3, stand#3J30 and in the KT booth in Hall 3, stand#3A11.



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Huawei unveils “worlds slimmest” 7-inch phablet – the MediaPad X1

Kicking off this year’s Mobile World Congress ahead of the pack, Huawei on Sunday introduced what is being described as “the world’s slimmest 7-inch LET Cat4-enabled all-in-one phablet” – the MediaPad X1.

Weighing in at a mere 239g, the X1 is the lightest and narrowest phablet in its class, beating the likes of the ASUS Fonepad 7, Kindle Fire HDX 7 and the latest Nexus 7.

The MediaPad X1 features a 103.9mm wide “full aluminum alloy unibody design,” with a profile of just 7.18mm. The IPS-LCD display packs a high-res 1920 x 1200 display, with a 80% screen-to-body ratio.

Under the hood, the MediaPad X1 sports a 1.6GHz Cortex A9 quad-core processor along with 2GB of RAM and a Mali-450 MP4 GPU. The device ships with 16GB of internal storage, expandable up to 32GB via microSD.

The whole setup is backed by a huge 5000 mAh battery, which reportedly delivers 21 days on standby, and “up to 5 days of continuous use” – again beating the other 7-inch tablets.

Huawei also equipped the X1 with a 13-megapixel Sony Exmore BSI rear camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with various features including “selfies”-friendly modes.

As of now, the MediaPad X1 will run the somewhat older Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and will launch in various markets including China, Russia, Western Europe, the Middle East, Japan and Latin America starting with March 2014. Pricing details for the device have not yet been released.

Since Huawei is making a huge push in the North American market, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a few US and Canadian mobile carriers pick up the MediaPad X1 in the first half of 2014.



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Sprint brings free Wi-Fi calling to the Samsung Galaxy Mega and Galaxy S4 mini

Sprint officially announced on Friday that it will be bringing its free Wi-Fi calling service to the Samsung Galaxy Mega and the Galaxy S4 mini, with plans to add more devices later this year.

An over-the-air update is required before the service will be enabled, and Sprint says that update will be rolled out over the next few weeks.

Wi-Fi calling is beneficial for users who don’t have proper network coverage in their home or office and will allow users to make phone calls and send text messages using their local Wi-Fi networks rather than relying on mobile networks.

In order to take advantage of Wi-Fi Calling, a customer will simply need a compatible device, enable the feature through a web interface, and begin using it. No monthly charge will be assessed for the use of Wi-Fi Calling.

According to Sprint, Android Location Services must be turned on in order to make Wifi calls, and the feature will only be available within the U.S., U.S. Virigin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Sprint explicitly states that Wifi Calling will not be approved or supported from other locations or while using a VPN. Outbound calls over Wifi won’t be allowed without a CDMA signal present either — Sprint claims this is for 911 reasons.



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Apple iPhone 6 phablet rumored for fall release with 5.6-inch variant

Reports out of Taiwan indicate Apple plans to launch a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 later this year, and may even offer a second 5.6-inch iOS device under a separate brand.

As flagship Android smartphones continue to grow in size, a new report from Taiwan’s Economic Daily News indicates that Apple may release two phablet devices of its own later this year.

According to the report, Apple plans to launch a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 at some point in Q3 (harmonizing with other rumors that indicate a fall iPhone release) and will feature Corning Gorilla Glass to protect the device from scratches instead of sapphire.

The publication also mentions a larger 5.6-inch “experimental” iOS smartphone featuring sapphire glass but says the device will not be released under the traditional iPhone name, citing first-hand supply chain sources.

On top of a larger iPhone 6, the claimed insiders have suggested that Apple will ditch the cheaper iPhone 5C in order to make way for Apple’s first phablet-sized handset.

Even if Apple does finally decide to make the jump to a 4.7-inch screen, the increase would still make the iPhone smaller than the growing Android counterparts.

According to latest rumors, the HTC One 2 will feature a new 5-inch panel while the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 are both expected to offer up 5.25-inch displays.

At present the iPhone 5S features a 4-inch Retina display, considerably down in size compared to its flagship rivals such as the 4.7-inch HTC One, 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S4 and 5.2-inch LG G2.



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ZTE to debut 6-inch Grand Memo II LTE at MWC

Chinese phone maker ZTE has just announced it will launch at least several Android smartphones at Mobile World Congress 2014, which is set to kick off later this month.

Among them, ZTE confirmed it will showcase its brand new 6-inch phablet called Grand Memo II LTE, which seemingly will follow in the footsteps of the Nokia Lumia 1320 by offering a large 6in display to those on a tight budget.

ZTE Mobile Devices CEO Adam Zeng made the announcement today in an interview with the Inquirer.

“This year, we are looking to work even more closely with our customers worldwide to develop the products they want and deliver a superior customer experience, said Zing. “They have told us that they want ever more innovative and high-performance products, so at MWC 2014 we are delivering this with the launch of two new high-profile devices, the ultra slim Grand Memo II LTE with 6 inch screen and the ZTE Open C in partnership with Mozilla and Telefonica.”

Beyond the large screen size, ZTE hasn’t elaborated much on what to expect from the Grand Memo II LTE, but we do know it will run an updated version of the firm’s custom user interface skin on top of Google’s Android mobile operating system.



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HTC Desire 8 Officially Confirmed with Possible February 24th Release in Beijing

HTC Desire 8, the mid-range smartphone which was leaked last week, has just been confirmed by the Taiwanese company on its Sina Weibo account.

Last week, an Engadget tipster revealed a leak of an upcoming “New Desire 8” series mid-range device, courtesy of Chinese site MyDrivers.

Now HTC has all but confirmed the phone’s existence on its Weibo page with the same image, but a different announcement date of February 24th in Beijing.

According to a poster on GSM Arena who translated the images, they confirm at least one of the leaked features (the “beautification” feature for “selfie” shots form the front camera).

HTC Desire 8 leaks on My Drivers
Photo: My Drivers.

The translator writes:

The yellow poster reads: The scores are not fantastic because (it) is not running. (HTC) does not know marketing but spends all its budget on (developing) the product. New Desire 8 Series. Real Comeback (of a flagship). New Desire 8 series, worth waiting for…

The green poster reads: I love to take photos, and love them to look [pretty]. Selfies must look [pretty], and group shots must look [pretty]. 2014, new desire. I want a boyfriend that can take photographs. New Desire 8 series.

() are my inference from the text and [] are synonyms for the definition of pretty.

A second image, posted on Weibo, shows a screenshot of Sense UI with the time and date set for 10AM on February 24. That’s right on schedule for the Mobile World Congress. The device is rumored to be launching worldwide on March 18.

HTC Desire 8 leaks on Weibo.
Photo: Weibo.

According to the leaks, the Desire 8 will feature a 5.5-inch display and 5-megapixel front camera, with a 13-megapixel rear (not UltraPixel) and dual-SIM support. And unlike the HTC One, which features an expensive metal body, the more affordable desire 8 is expected to have a polycarbonate body available in a variety of colors, such as white, red, yellow, orange, and cyan.



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Samsung Galaxy Mega Plus specs emerge in AnTuTu benchmark leak

Compared to the Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8 with Broadcom chipset, the Galaxy Mega Plus will perform 40% better thanks to its 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor.

The Samsung Galaxy Mega Plus has been benchmarked at AnTuTu, and test results show the recently leaked phone is 40% faster than its predecessor, the Galaxy Mega 5.8.

In this rehash, Samsung replaces the processor with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2GHz, so no more MediaTek chipset as some have previously rumored. Unfortunately most of the other specs will remain the same.

You still have the 5.8-inch screen with the disappointing 540×960 resolution and TFT technology, Adreno 305 GPU, 1.5GB of RAM, 8GB internal memory (expandable via mcro SD), the same 8 megapixel rear camera and 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera, and the same 2600 mAh battery.

The unit benchmarked at AnTuTu was running Android 4.3, but hopefully Samsung will manage to make it run Android 4.4 KitKat before the phone is officially released.

Galaxy Mega 2 specs spotted on Antutu benchmarks.
Galaxy Mega 2 specs spotted on Antutu benchmarks. Photo: Antutu.

Compared to the Mega 5.8 with Broadcom chipset, the Galaxy Mega Plus will perform 40% better thanks to its Qualcomm Soc. Overall, the phone scores 17,049 points in AnTuTu as opposed to 12,075, and it performs very similar to the Motorola Moto G, as the benchmark data shows.

Galaxy Mega 2 benchmark compairsons by Antutu. Photo: Antutu.

One other major change in the Galaxy Mega Plus is the addition of dual SIM support, which is perfect for the Chinese market where the smartphone is currently set to launch. There is no word yet from Samsung on if the Smartphone will be available anywhere else.



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