The mainstream media is not dead


The next decade will be one of immense change. The future of humanity will be decided – do we go to space or stay put, do we survive the changes coming? Further, many establishments will die. The publishing industry, burdened and drowned by the long tail, will sink. Music and movies will take new shapes, shapes as revolutionary as the talkie was to the zoetrope.

Basically, stuff’s going to get weirder.

But stuff is already weird. Look at the so-called Mainstream Media. This cabal of lie-tellers are busy, if you believe the Internet, breaking the bonds of reason that the average person has with the world. Conspiracy theories abound. The MSM is at their heart. We are on a boat and the MSM has cut us adrift, aiming us for the rapids.

Bull.

The reason I’m burbling out this diatribe is three-fold. First, I believe in the free press and the mission of journalists to tell the truth. Journalists exist to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. This may not be completely accurate all the time but dammit if it’s not true most of the time. The average journalist has given up the opportunity for professional success to write about children escaping from Afghanistan to the UK. The journalist has given up a cosy summer house or a nice boat to report from the frontlines of poverty in West Virginia, California, and Calais. The journalist is a damn fool who writes for money and is not sly enough to grease the right palms to grab more.

Second, even in this murk, even in these dark years, the mainstream journalist deserves our respect and our appreciation. In a few years their jobs will be eaten by robots and Instagram stars but while we still have them let’s give the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume they’re not dead.

Finally impetus this was this piece in the Guardian in which a Carole Cadwalladr searched for “Mainstream is…” on Google and found that the closest match was “Mainstream Media is dead.” I hope that my drop in the SEO bucket will somehow help.

In the firmament of journalists many of us are blips on the horizon and don’t rate a place in even the most meager of constellations. But there are many up there now and many who have since passed who deserve a spot on Orion’s Belt or at the tongue of the snake. They have proven that a free, unfettered press is a luxury surpassing gold and fame. Their efforts at change have done more than any politicians. They have written truth despite the thousands of propagandists who plague them. They are big league.

So as we enter this mad season of anger and fear and outpourings of grief and rage and disbelief I encourage you to turn to the scribe in the corner, the one who hasn’t gone native, the one who tells stories and tells them straight. Turn to them and listen.

Because SEO and Twitter bots and Facebook will denude their truth, soon, other media will tear them down. We will lose national treasures. So follow them as long as you can. Follow the men and women who make you laugh and who can tell stories that make you cry. Avoid social media and look to real media – for the brief instant it survives. Sometimes there’s more light in a passing comet in a dead moon.

Maybe I’m whistling past the graveyard. Maybe we’re not going to make it. But if you appreciate the truth then your skills must be put to its dispersal. Your technology is empty if no one uses it. That’s why the world built the media: To tell the stories of the underdogs who win despite the bad odds. So, in a very self-serving way, I encourage you to support truth wherever you see it. It can be here, on this site. It can be at the New York Times or the Times Leader of Martins Ferry, Ohio. It can be far it can be near. It can be within your own ranks as you try your hand at methods to pay writers for their time and effort. But I ask you to make the security of a free press as important as the security of your water supply.

As we work to avert the death of this small planet we’re going to need some good, true news. Support it wherever you see it. And tell the robots and the arguers and the propagandists that they cannot win. After all, they never have.

Featured Image: Bettmann/Getty Images

Lenovo’s Yoga 720 packs gaming-grade graphics into a 2-in-1

Why it matters to you

The Mobile World Congress show was used by Lenovo to showcase its new products slated to arrive this spring.

As expected, Lenovo unleashed a truckload full of new device announcements during the Mobile World Congress 2017 show. The new bundle of hardware goodness includes the Yoga 720 convertible laptop slated to arrive in two sizes this April, the Flex 5 (Yoga 520) targeting May, the Miix 320 2-in-1 device, and two tablets built for adults and children alike.

That said, the convertible laptops and 2-in-1 devices are based on the latest seventh-generation processors from Intel. The Miix 320 is based on an Intel “Cherry Trail” Atom chip while the tablets rely on ARM-based Qualcomm processors. Some of the notable features scattered throughout the new MWC 2017 portfolio include discrete graphics, Thunderbolt 3, fingerprint readers, and more.

Yoga 720

This is the flagship of Lenovo’s MWC 2017 rollout: a convertible laptop with 15.6 inch and 13.3 inch screens. Depending on the configuration, they will include Full HD or Ultra HD resolutions, touchscreen support, and a discrete GeForce GTX 1050 graphics chip provided by Nvidia, which should make PC gamers on a budget quite happy.

What’s interesting with the Yoga 720 models is that the 13.3-inch unit will be sold with up to 16GB of DDR4 system memory while the 15.6-inch model will be maxed out at 8GB. However, the larger model will still support 16GB of memory, indicating that the upgrade may be quick and painless on the customer end. The 15.6-inch model provides an extra USB 3.0 port too as well as a bigger battery.

Yoga 720-15 Yoga 720-13
Operating system: Windows 10 Home Windows 10 Home
Display size: 15.6 inches 13.3 inches
Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
3,840 x 2,160
1,920 x 1,080
3,840 x 2,160
Display type: IPS Touchscreen IPS (No Touch)
Processor: Up to seventh-gen Intel Core i7 Up to seventh-gen Intel Core i7
Graphics: Up to a GeForce GTX 1050
(discrete)
Intel HD Graphics 620
(integrated)
Memory: Up to 8GB DDR4
(16GB max)
Up to 16GB DDR4
Storage: Up to 512GB PCIe SSD
Up to 1TB HDD
Up to 1TB PCIe SSD
Audio: JBL Speakers
Dolby Audio Premium
Dual Digital Microphones
JBL Speakers
Dolby Audio Premium
Dual Digital Microphones
Camera: 720p HD fixed-focus
CMOS camera
720p HD fixed-focus
CMOS camera
Connectivity: Wireless AC (2×2)
Bluetooth 4.1
Wireless AC (2×2)
Bluetooth 4.1
Ports: 1x Thunderbolt Type-C
2x USB 3.0
1x Microphone/headphone combo
1x Thunderbolt Type-C
1x USB 3.0
1x Microphone/headphone combo
Battery: 72 Watt hour
FHD model – up to 9 hours
UHD model – Up to 8 hours
48 Watt hour
FHD model – up to 8 hours
UHD model – Up to 7 hours
Size: 14.33 x 9.5 x 0.74 inches 12.2 x 8.38 x 0.56 inches
Weight: Starting at 4.41 pounds Starting at 2.9 pounds
Color: Platinum Silver
Iron Grey
Platinum Silver
Iron Grey
Copper
Additional features: Backlit keyboard
Lenovo Active Pen 2
Backlit keyboard
Lenovo Active Pen 2
Preloaded software: Lenovo App Explorer
Lenovo Companion 3.0
Lenovo ID
Lenovo Settings
MacAfee LiveSafe 30-day trial
Microsoft Office 365 30-day trial
Lenovo App Explorer
Lenovo Companion 3.0
Lenovo ID
Lenovo Settings
MacAfee LiveSafe 30-day trial
Microsoft Office 365 30-day trial
Availability: April April
Starting price: $1,100 $860

Yoga 520 (aka Flex 5)

Here in the United States, this device is called the Flex 5. Like the Yoga 720, Lenovo is serving up this convertible laptop in two flavors: 15.6 inches and 14 inches. However, unlike the Yoga 720, these units are sold with Windows 10 Signature Edition, meaning customers won’t get tons of bloatware as seen with Lenovo’s other devices. It’s a clean installation, which translates into better device performance.

Outside the obvious screen size differences, the two convertibles are unique in small ways. Both sport the same memory and storage configurations, but the 15.6-inch model packs a better processor, a discrete GeForce 940MX graphics processor, a higher screen resolution, and a bigger battery. Both units include a fingerprint scanner that supports Windows Hello.

Flex 5 15.6-inch Flex 5 14-inch
Operating system: Windows 10 Home SE Windows 10 Home SE
Display size: 15.6 inches 14 inches
Display resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 1,920 x 1,080
Display type: IPS Touchscreen IPS Touchscreen
Processor: Intel Core i7-7500U Intel Core i5-7200U
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX
(discrete)
Intel HD Graphics 620
(integrated)
Memory: 16GB DDR4 16GB DDR4
Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
1TB HDD
256GB PCIe SSD
1TB HDD
Audio: Harman Speakers
Dolby Home Theater
Dual Digital Microphones
Harman Speakers
Dolby Home Theater
Dual Digital Microphones
Camera: 720p HD fixed focus
CMOS camera
720p HD fixed focus
CMOS camera
Connectivity: Wireless AC
Bluetooth 4.1
Wireless AC
Bluetooth 4.1
Ports: 1x USB 3.1 Type-C
2x USB 3.0
1x SD card reader
1x HDMI
1x Ethernet
1x Audio jack
1x USB 3.1 Type-C
2x USB 3.0
1x SD card reader
1x HDMI
1x Ethernet
1x Audio jack
Battery: 52.5 Watt hour 35 Watt hour
Size: 14.3 x 9.72 x 0.75 inches 12.9 x 9.02 x 0.78 inches
Weight: Starting at 4.4 pounds Starting at 3.74 pounds
Color: Onyx Black Onyx Black
Additional features: Backlit keyboard
Fingerprint reader
Backlit keyboard
Fingerprint reader
Preloaded software: None None
Availability: May May
Starting price: $800 $800

Miix 320 2-in-1

Lenovo’s new Miix unit can be used as a laptop or as a tablet, as the included keyboard is detachable. Unlike the convertibles, this device is based on an Intel Atom processor, a chip we presumed had gone extinct in the mainstream market. While Lenovo didn’t list the specific Atom chip in its pre-launch specs, the description matches the x5-Z8500 released in the first quarter of 2015.

More: The Lenovo Flex 4 2-in-1 convertible is getting a refresh with a thinner frame

Models will be shipped in Windows 10 Home and Pro flavors along with 4G LTE connectivity. Configurations will consist of up to 4GB of system memory, up to 128GB of internal storage, and loads of pre-installed software. Other notable features include a 2MP camera on the front, a 5MP camera on the back, Wireless AC connectivity, and a 1,920 x 1,200 screen resolution.

Device type: 2-in-1 with a detachable keyboard
Operating system: Windows 10 Home
Windows 10 Pro
Display size: 10.1 inches with Touch
Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,200
Processor: Intel Atom x5-Z8500 “Cherry Trail”
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics (integrated)
Memory: Up to 4GB DDR3L
Storage: Up to 128GB
Audio: 2x one-watt Dolby Advanced Audio speakers
Analog microphone
Camera: 2MP on front
5MP on back (with auto-focus)
Connectivity: Wireless AC (2×2)
Bluetooth 4.2
4G LTE
Ports: 1x USB 3.0 Type-C
2x USB 2.0 (on dock)
1x Micro HDMI
1x Micro SD card slot
1x Nano SIM slot
1x Microphone/headphone combo jack
Battery: 33 Watt hour (up to 10 hours)
Size (tablet): 9.8 x 7.01 x 0.35 inches
Size (dock): 9.8 x 7.20 x 0.33 inches
Weight: Wi-Fi model tablet only – starting at 1.21 pounds
Wi-Fi model with keyboard – starting at 2.25 pounds
4G LTE model tablet only – starting at 1.23 pounds
4G LTE model with keyboard – starting at 2.27 pounds
Color: Platinum Silver
Snow White
Preloaded software: Lenovo ID
Lenovo App Explorer
Lenovo CCSDK
Lenovo PC Manager
Garantia Estendida
Lenovo Cloud Disk
Dropbox with 25GB
Yandex
LEI
Lenovo Application Store
Availability: April
Starting price: $200

The Tab 4 Series Tablets

Finally, Lenovo introduced two tablet models built for adults and kids alike. There are four units in the entire Tab 4 batch: two with 8-inch screens and two with 10.1-inch screens. All four are based on Android 7.0 “Nougat” and are compatible with the Lenovo Kid’s Accessory Pack, an optional add-on that includes a blue light filter, two colorful stickers by 3M to help prevent scratches, and a shock-resistant bumper. The tablets also offer a dedicated Lenovo Kid’s Account packing a special browser and curated, safe content.

But that’s not all. The “Plus” units offer an optional Productivity Accessory Pack consisting of a Bluetooth keyboard that also serves as a protective sleeve or stand. When attached, this pack will automatically load a special productivity interface built into the two “Plus” tablets, providing mouse and keyboard optimizations, multi-window support, a desktop-like taskbar, instant app switching, and more.

First, here are the ingredients thrown into the two new 10.1-inch Android tablets:

Tab 4 10 Plus Tab 4 10
Operating system: Android 7.0 Android 7.0
Screen size: 10.1 inches 10.1 inches
Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,200 1,280 x 800
Panel Type: IPS IPS
Processor: Eight-core
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
(MSM8953)
2.0GHz
Four-core
Qualcomm Snapdragon
(MSM8917)
1.4GHz
Memory: 3GB and 4GB 2GB
Storage: 16GB and 64GB 16GB and 32GB
Audio: Dual speakers
Dolby Atmos audio
Dual speakers
Dolby Atmos audio
Cameras: 5MP (front)
8MP (back)
2MP (front)
5MP (back)
Battery: 7000mAh 7000mAh
Connectivity: Wireless AC
Bluetooth 4.1
GPS
4G LTE (optional)
Wireless N
Bluetooth 4.2
GPS
4G LTE (optional)
Ports: 1x USB 2.0 Type-C
1x Headphone jack
1x SIM card slot
1x Micro SD card slot
1x Micro USB
1x Headphone jack
1x SIM card slot
1x Micro SD card slot
Colors: Sparkling White
Aurora Black
Slate Black
Polar White
Sensors: Fingerprint reader
Accelerometer
Ambient light
Vibration motor
Hall sensor
Accelerometer
Vibration motor
Hall sensor
Size: 9.72 x 6.81 x 0.27 inches 9.72 x 6.73 x 0.32 inches
Weight: 1.04 pounds 1.10 pounds
Price: $249 $149
Availability: May May

Now here are the two new Tab 4 8 units:

Tab 4 8 Plus Tab 4 8
Operating system: Android 7.0 Android 7.0
Screen size: 8 inches 8 inches
Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,200 1,280 x 720
Panel Type: IPS IPS
Processor: Eight-core
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
(MSM8953)
2.0GHz
Four-core
Qualcomm Snapdragon
(MSM8917)
1.4GHz
Memory: 3GB and 4GB 2GB
Storage: 16GB and 64GB 16GB and 32GB
Audio: Dual speakers
Dolby Atmos audio
Dual speakers
Dolby Atmos audio
Cameras: 5MP (front)
8MP (back)
2MP (front)
5MP (back)
Battery: 4850mAh 4850mAh
Connectivity: Wireless AC
Bluetooth 4.2
GPS
4G LTE (optional)
Wireless N
Bluetooth 4.2
GPS
4G LTE (optional)
Ports: 1x USB 2.0 Type-C
1x Headphone jack
1x SIM card slot
1x Micro SD card slot
1x Micro USB
1x Headphone jack
1x SIM card slot
1x Micro SD card slot
Colors: Sparkling White
Aurora Black
Slate Black
Polar White
Sensors: Fingerprint reader
Accelerometer
Ambient light
Hall sensor
Vibration motor
Accelerometer
Ambient light
Hall sensor
Vibration motor
Proximity (LTE only)
Size: 8.26 x 4.84 x 0.27 inches 8.7 x 4.88 x 0.32 inches
Weight: 0,66 pounds 0,64 pounds
Price: $199 $109
Availability: May May

Modular phones aren’t quite dead yet, but the Alcatel A5 doesn’t impress

The Alcatel A5 has swappable back covers that enhance the phone, kind of like the Moto Z phones.
The Alcatel A5 has swappable back covers that enhance the phone, kind of like the Moto Z phones.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Modular phones were supposed to be the next big thing in mobile. But interest in phones with swappable parts waned as companies like Google and LG abandoned their pet projects.

All hope isn’t lost, though. Lenovo’s still staying the modular course with its “Moto Mods” for the Moto Z phones, and now you can add Alcatel’s A5 to an extremely small list of device’s with customizable components.

Alcatel’s A5 is “modular” in the same sense the Moto Z is: it offers something more like augmentation than a full device overhaul. 

Left to right: Regular cover, Extended battery cover, A5 without cover, LED cover, and Speaker with kickstand cover.

Left to right: Regular cover, Extended battery cover, A5 without cover, LED cover, and Speaker with kickstand cover.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Pop off the A5’s back cover and you can swap in other “customizable back covers” (CBCs) to enhance it. If you’re thinking this all sounds like a less elegant version of the Moto Z, which doesn’t require any cover to be removed, you’re right.

Without a cover, the A5's guts are exposed.

Without a cover, the A5’s guts are exposed.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Hell, the CBCs Alcatel showed off for the A5 are all virtually the same. One of them is a speaker with a kickstand that adds slightly more bass and louder sound and another is a 3,000 mAh battery pack.

The speaker with kickstand cover adds slightly more bass and enhances volume.

The speaker with kickstand cover adds slightly more bass and enhances volume.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Unlike the Moto Z’s “Mods” that snap right onto the phone’s back, you really need to use a fingernail to pry the A5’s covers off. I struggled to successfully remove the covers a few times.

One thing I did appreciate is that the phone doesn’t turn off when you swap in a new cover. 

The extended battery cover.

The extended battery cover.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Specs-wise, the A5 is not very exciting with mid-range hardware: 5.2-inch 720p display, 1.5GHz octa-core MediaTek 6753 processor, 16GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM, 2800 mAh battery, 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and 5-megapixel selfie camera.

It’s a total snooze-fest for anyone who likes nerding out over the latest and greatest phone tech, but, hey, modular phones aren’t technically dead… yet.

Given the specs, hopefully the phone and covers will at least be cheap.

A close up of the CBC connector.

A close up of the CBC connector.

The LED cover.

The LED cover.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Finally, a phone that’s perfect to bring to an EDM festival

The Alcatel LED A5 has customizable LED back.
The Alcatel LED A5 has customizable LED back.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Tons of phones have been announced at Mobile World Congress this year, but none look as electrifying as the Alcatel A5 LED. It features lights on its backside that can be programmed to get the party started.

Whereas some Android phones have an LED light for notifications, the Alcatel A5 LED has 35 large LEDs and hundreds of little ones that can display a variety of different light shows when you get a notification or incoming call.

The LEDs can even pulse to music like an equalizer. The light effect is similar to the pulsing LED lights on the JBL Pulse speaker.

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Aside from a “Color Catcher” feature that uses the camera to pick out colors from a scene and then uses those colors to create a system theme, the LED show is pretty much the only noteworthy thing about the A5 LED. 

The rest of the phone is pretty meh, with midrange specs. There’s a 5.2-inch 720p display, 1.5GHz octa-core MediaTek 6753 processor, 16GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM, 2800 mAh battery, 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and 5-megapixel front camera.

And, unlike your fragile iPhone, the A5 LED’s durable, plastic build quality means it’ll probably survive a night of crazy dancing and partying.

Plus, because the A5 LED is basically just an Alcatel A5 with an LED “customizable back cover,” if you ever get sick of the trippy lights, you can just swap on a regular cover, or the one with the speaker or extended battery pack.

I’m not going to lie — the specs suck — but just imagine bringing this thing to an EDM festival! Sure, all your friends will probably laugh at your cheapo phone, but you’ll definitely score cool points for bringing your own light show. In the world of boring phones that look the same, Alcatel deserves credit for trying something new and fun.

The 5.2-inch 720p screen is OK.

The 5.2-inch 720p screen is OK.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

<img class="" data-credit-name="RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE
” data-credit-provider=”custom type” data-caption=”The backside of the A5 LED when the lights are off.” title=”The backside of the A5 LED when the lights are off.” src=”http://techio.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/finally-a-phone-thats-perfect-to-bring-to-an-edm-festival-2.jpg” alt=”The backside of the A5 LED when the lights are off.” data-fragment=”m!c555″ data-image=”http://i.amz.mshcdn.com/fWcucuifbc5WbDiSSQhs2t0hSsU=/https%3A%2F%2Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fuploads%2Fcard%2Fimage%2F395086%2F8e2837ee-a3c9-4c0f-aff1-17e703851438.jpg” data-micro=”1″/>

The backside of the A5 LED when the lights are off.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

A closer look at the lit phone.

A closer look at the lit phone.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The pocket-sized Kado Wallet is the world’s thinnest phone charger

Why it matters to you

Smartphone chargers don’t get much more portable than the credit card-sized Kado Wallet.

Battery life is still a major bugbear for most smartphone owners. What do you when you don’t have a charger with you? Do you lug around a portable battery pack? Though they’re definitely getting sleeker and more compact, you may prefer something smaller still. The Kado Wallet is easily the slimmest phone charger we’ve ever seen. It’s so svelte, in fact, that you can slot it into your wallet.

There are two parts to this charger. One has fold-out prongs, so it can be plugged into a standard power outlet. The other has a coiled cable that you can pull out to plug into your phone. It feels about the thickness of three credit cards, and it’s very light.

MoreThe best portable battery chargers

The Kado Wallet comes with a 2-foot-long Lightning, MicroUSB, or USB Type-C cable built in, but that’s not all, because you can also slide the charger apart in the middle to reveal a USB connection that allows you to plug it into a laptop or computer for data transfer.

The maximum power output is 10 watts, so the charger will support some of the latest quick charge capabilities. The Kado Wallet will be available this summer and is set to be priced around $40 to $50. It’s not the only slimmed-down charger Kado has been working on. The company is focused on making charging easier and more portable.

“We call it the vicious cycle of mobile immobility, because we are always looking to increase our mobility, and in order to do so we increase the charger speed, but this increases the charger size,” Kado co-CEO Itay Hasid told Digital Trends. “We want to create truly portable solutions to keep your gadgets charged.”

Kado has also developed a portable wall charger for your laptops and tablets. The Kado Sleeve is the width of a pencil and sports two USB ports at one end. Fold it in half and you’ll reveal the prongs to plug into a standard wall outlet. It’s a 70-watt charger and can be used to charge up two devices simultaneously. It’s also expected to go on sale this summer and it will cost around $100.

These slim chargers are impressive, but what we’d really like to see is a portable charger with a built-in battery that could fit in our wallets. According to Kado’s Co-CEO, Itay Hasid, it’s in the works. We’ll keep you posted.

Motorola’s crazy concept Moto Mods include a photo printer, and more

Why it matters to you

Motorola’s Moto Mods are one of the Moto Z’s best attributes. And Motorola committed to them in a major way at Mobile World Congress.

One of the most unique — and arguably best — features of Lenovo’s Moto Z series is Moto Mods. The growing portfolio of modular add-ons includes cameras, speakers, batteries, and more, and on Sunday at Mobile World Congress, Motorola announced several additions to the lineup.

New Mods

Motorola debuted a new Power Pack that snaps onto the Moto Z like an external battery. It gives any Moto Z up to 50 percent more power, the company said, and automatically detects the phone’s level of charge, replenishing the battery only when it’s “most efficient.”

More: The Timewave is a Moto Mod that will give your phone Moto Z Touch superpowers

It’ll be available starting in March for $50.

Another charging accessory, the Charging Adapter, is designed to recharge any new and existing Moto Mod. It’s a tiny box that fits over the metal connector on the Mod to be charged and plugs into an outlet, or other external charging device.

Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

One of the most impressive of Motorola’s new Mods adds wireless charging capabilities to any Moto Z on the market. It features a glass design.

Finally, Motorola’s new Gamepad Moto Mod adds console controls to Moto Z devices. It snaps on the back and adds two joysticks, a directional pad, trigger buttons, and a lanyard loop. It comes preloaded with games, but Motorola didn’t elaborate.

Amazon Alexa

That’s not all Motorola announced.

Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service, a set of APIs that allow hardware makers to integrate the Alexa voice assistant into their products, will hit Moto Z devices later this year in the form of a specially designed mod. It features a glowing blue light that illuminates when Alexa is activated, and a pyramidal base that doubles as a desk stand.

More: Is a Hasselblad camera module coming to the Moto Z? Leak says it’s possible

Interestingly, the Alexa-equipped Moto Mod can do more than Amazon’s own Alexa-equipped Echo speakers in some ways. It pairs with a companion app that shows search results based on voice queries — if you ask about the weather in Barcelona, for example, it’ll show a three-day weather forecast.

Motorola said that later in the year, Moto Z would gain “deeper integration” with Alexa. It will respond to Alexa’s wake word from the lock screen, and show results in a companion app.

Concept Mods

Motorola took the time to show concept Mods, or ideas for Moto Mods that might (or might not) make it to market.

The first, a Polaroid-like printer for Moto Z devices, spits out photos on compact sheets of paper. A robotics module adds motors and connectors that transform any Moto Z into the brains of a Lego remote-controlled car or automaton. And a mutlilevel docking station serves as a charger for multiple Mods.

Two other concept Mods skewed a bit more practical. One, a giant, tablet-like stand with a docking station that fits a Moto Z Force, is more than a little reminiscent of Motorola’s Atrix laptop dock and Lenovo’s PadFone. The other, a virtual reality headset, uses a Moto Z handset’s screen as a VR display, much like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear.

More Mods on the horizon

Mods are the number one reason people are buying Moto Zs, Motorola said. They’re putting them to use: The average Moto Z user swaps Mods an average of 14 hours a week, Motorola said.

To help spur the development of Mods further forward, Motorola has teamed up with manufacturers to formulate a development platform. It will continue to design Mods itself, but it’ll also co-design Mods with partners, and let approved third-parties make, sell, and market Mods entirely by themselves.

Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

In many cases, it’s jump-starting the development efforts itself. In India, Motorola recently hosted more than 100 developers, engineers, students, and partners to discuss new Moto Mod concepts. And it held hackathons in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and San Francisco last year.

More: Motorola’s modular Moto Z series is getting a few new Moto Mods

The pop-up events dovetail with Motorola’s Transform the Smartphone Challenge, a competition that saw enterprising young hardware developers pitch ideas for Moto Mods at events in New York and San Francisco. They subsequently launched crowdfunding campaigns on Indiegogo, and have a shot at meeting with Verizon and Motorola representatives to get their Moto Mods featured in Motorola’s online store.

Motorola said the fruit of those efforts will emerge as soon as March.

DT Daily MWC Day Zero: Phones from LG, Huawei, Motorola, Nokia, and even Blackberry

The sun was out in Barcelona, Spain, shining on the many companies holding press conferences at Mobile World Congress today. While the show itself opens its doors on Monday morning, most of the major new releases have been revealed, which means we have new smartphones from LG, Huawei, and Motorola. Samsung is also at MWC 2017, but it hasn’t brought the Galaxy S8, and instead came with a new tablet.

LG G6

LG launched the LG G6 and pulled off a miracle with the slick new device, because the screen may be large at 5.7-inches and boast a unique 18:9 wide aspect ratio, but the phone itself is really compact. This means LG could have fun with the user interface, and it added clever new camera modes so you can see previews of shots you’ve taken and use an Instagram-ready square-picture mode. LG never forgets the camera itself, either, and both have wide-angle lenses. We’re waiting for U.S. launch dates, but it won’t be long.

More: Huawei Watch 2: Our First Take

Huawei P10

Huawei is back after impressing us with the Mate 9 at the beginning of the year, this time with the beautiful P10. It has a dual-lens camera co-developed with Leica on the back, designed for taking amazing pictures of people, with a clever new portrait mode. Leica has also worked on the selfie camera, so pictures of yourself will also look great, plus the phone’s design really stands out thanks to a range of stunning colors. A U.S. release isn’t in the cards, though, and prices start at 650 euros in Europe.

Moto G5 and G5 Plus

MWC isn’t only about expensive phones. Lenovo’s Moto brand has two Android 7.0 Nougat phones that could end up costing you only $230. The G5 Plus is the one coming to the U.S., and it has a 5.2-inch screen with a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, and a 12-megapixel camera; all wrapped in a smooth plastic body. It’s coming out at the beginning of March.

More: Nokia’s back with three new phones, and one old-new phone

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

If Samsung didn’t bring the Galaxy S8 to Mobile World Congress, what did it show off? It’s the Galaxy Tab S3 tablet, and it’s an alternative for anyone who doesn’t want to buy an iPad Pro. Made from glass and metal, it has a 10-inch AMOLED screen with HDR, for showing really high contrast video. An S Pen stylus is included, and a keyboard accessory is available, but pricing and the release date are a mystery for now.

The show begins properly tomorrow, and we’ll be back with all the latest news, so join us then.

LG’s New Phone Does a Bunch of Things You Want and Nada Else

Last year, LG tried something different with its flagship phone. The G5‘s selling point was its modularity, the swappable battery and attachable camera “Friends” LG hoped would create a whole new smartphone ecosystem. Long story short, it didn’t go great.

With the G6, which LG announced today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Korean conglomerate went the other way. The G6 is the exact phone you’d get if you asked a bunch of people what they wanted in a smartphone, threw all their answers in a cauldron, and stirred mightily. LG has an answer for everything that ails smartphone users, but no new ideas about what those users might want going forward. Venture capitalist Benedict Evans recently called Facebook and Google “index companies,” meaning they don’t have opinions but rather try to reflect their users at all times. The LG G6, for better and for worse, is an Index Smartphone.

Smartphone User Feedback Item One was apparently that people want big screens but tiny phones. LG’s solution to this paradox was to give the G6 a 5.7-inch screen, but surround it with such tiny bezels that the phone feels smaller than, say, an iPhone 7 Plus or a Google Pixel XL. It’s a big phone, certainly, but in my brief time using it I was shocked by how usable it is in one hand. The screen’s 18:9 aspect ratio (which I’d like to point out is 2:1, and that all these numbers are nonsense) also makes the screen a touch taller. The logic behind 18:9 is mostly long-winded explanations about mathematical averages of major cinematic formats, but basically it’s so that video will look great on your phone. Which it definitely does, though the slightly rounded corners look a little odd.

One consequence of the aspect ratio: the screen becomes perfectly divisible into two squares. LG redesigned its entire interface around that fact. In Contacts, the top half of the screen is a photo and the bottom’s the info; same in the Phone app. I’ve always wished LG would just leave Android well enough alone, and I still do, but at least this time LG seems to have a reason for its meddling. One bit of good software news: the G6 is the first non-Pixel phone to have Google’s Assistant right there on the home button. It surely won’t have that title for long, but it counts for something.

The G6 has two cameras, one crazy wide and one a little tighter, so you get real zoom for your photos.

LG gets particularly square-crazy in the camera app. The camera’s been upgraded in a big way (Smartphone User Feedback Item Two), with two different 13-megapixel sensors on the back that offer the same sort of optical zoom you get on the iPhone 7 Plus. If you use the Grid mode, you can take four square pictures in a single grid, seeing your viewfinder at the top and your unfinished grid at the bottom. Guide shot shows you an old photo, to help you stage a new one the same way. The idea across the board seems to be that having more space doesn’t just mean you make everything bigger; instead you add more stuff. It looks like chaos but it seems genuinely useful.

The G6 is IP68-rated waterproof, so you can take it to the beach or in the shower (Item Three), and its metal body is sturdy enough to withstand lots and lots of drops (Item Four). It has a big battery (Item Five) that LG swears won’t get worse over time (Item Six), and charges wirelessly on any pad you can find (Item Seven). It also has a power button on the back, which I guarantee nobody asked for.

I’ve only spent a few minutes with the G6 so far, but it appears to be a very nice phone—the best and most universally appealing LG’s made in a while. The camera didn’t have much detail, and the camera app kept crashing, but those are likely pre-production problems. In general it’s a very thoughtful phone that does a bunch of things people really want and absolutely nothing else whatsoever. In that way it feels like LG may have swung the pendulum a bit too far back from the G5—that phone lived in left field, but now LG’s competing in the cluttered middle with a lot of phones just as good and a lot less expensive. Samsung at least has curved screens and exploding batteries to remember it by. (Too soon?)

What LG’s doing points to the conundrum facing every smartphone maker right now. In this unprecedentedly large smartphone market, there’s too much money at stake to take risks. But making a good, middle-of-the-road phone is trivially easy, so you have to try new things. Or you don’t, and you just take all that R&D money and pour it into out-marketing everyone you can. That last approach is winning, and it’s leaving us with the best and most boring smartphones ever made.

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Samsung and Oculus’ new Gear VR Controller looks kind of like a Wiimote

Why it matters to you

Samsung and Oculus’s new Gear VR Controller makes navigating menus and controlling games much easier.

Generally speaking, Samsung’s Gear VR is great in a pinch. It doesn’t deliver the visual fidelity of, say, Facebook’s Oculus or HTC’s Vive, but it’s significantly more portable. And it boasts a growing library of hundreds of games, apps, movies, and videos. The only problem? It doesn’t have a controller.

Navigating around menus and games required finagling with a directional touchpad on the Gear VR’s side, which wasn’t exactly intuitive. But at Mobile World Congress on February 26, Samsung unveiled a solution: The Gear VR Controller.

The Gear VR controller, which was developed by Facebook’s Oculus division, looks a little like a shrunken Nintendo Wii controller. It sports a prominent touch-sensitive trackpad that doubles as a clickable selection button. Below it are home, select, volume, and back buttons; on the underside is a trigger; and near the bottom is a wrist strap to prevent users from loosing their grip during “vigorous play.”

More: The best VR headset you can buy

On the Gear VR’s inside are sensors that track motion, allowing users to point, drag, drop, tilt, shoot, and more.

The Gear VR controller will have broad support at launch. Oculus said that more than 70 new controller titles are already in development, and the firm will make the Gear VR Controller’s software development kit available to all developers in the coming weeks. (Developers can submit their applications for the SDK — and Gear VR hardware — via the Oculus website.)

More: Samsung Gear VR review

If the Gear VR Controller looks familiar, that’s probably because the idea is not exactly a first. Google’s Daydream virtual reality platform launched with a controller, and both the HTC Vive and Oculus leverage motion controllers. But with Samsung’s backing, VR motion controls will be placed in the hands of more developers than ever before.

“We’re thrilled to welcome this addition to the Gear VR and all the potential it holds for mobile VR,” an Oculus spokesperson said. “[Some] of the best experiences […] benefit from a controller to tap their full functionality. We can’t wait to offer the freedom of improved, streamlined controls to the entire Gear VR community soon!”

The Gear VR controller is compatible with the Galaxy S7, S7 edge, Note 5, S6 edge+, S6, and S6 edge. The Gear VR with Controller, a slightly revised version the Gear VR headset, has 42mm lenses with 101-degree FOV (field of view) as well as distortion correction technology that minimizes motion sickness. It supports both MicroUSB and USB Type-C ports with an included converter.

Nokia 6, Nokia 5, and Nokia 3: Our first take

Why it matters to you

Nokia’s back … sort of. HMD is taking the reins, and the company is highlighting durability and battery life as highlights of its new phones.

HMD Global, the company licensing Nokia’s name, unveiled two new smartphones Sunday, as well as a feature phone to drum up the nostalgia factor for the iconic brand.

The Nokia 6, which first launched in China last year, will be available globally. It will be followed by two lower-performing and smaller devices — the Nokia 5 and the Nokia 3. HMD said it’s committed to keeping up with the monthly security updates from Google for the operating system, as well as being timely with new Android version updates.

Speaking of Android, all of these devices will have the Google Assistant now that Google is bringing its artificially-intelligent bot to all Android phones running Android 6.0 or higher.

More: Nokia to rebrand Withings portfolio, redesign HealthMate app

All in all, the entire lineup seemed to be the best-built budget phones we’ve seen. Let’s take a closer look.

Nokia 5

The sequence of names really don’t make much sense, but it’s not hard to figure out that the Nokia 5 is the middle child of the group. The 2.5d glass on the 5.2-inch display offers a 720-pixel resolution, and it feels durable thanks to its aluminum unibody. The screen offers extra visibility in direct sunlight thanks to a polarizer.

The power button and volume rocker sits on the top right, and the bottom-front features capacitive navigation buttons. The middle button, however, doubles as a fingerprint sensor. The aluminum unibody really helps make this phone feel like a premium device — and you’ll certainly be surprised that it costs 189 euros (or about $200 U.S.).

Powering the smartphone is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 430 with 2GB RAM, which seemed to keep the phone running smoothly in our brief time with it. What likely helps is how the Nokia 5 runs stock Android 7.1.1 Nougat, but don’t expect to do any intensive multitasking or play graphics-heavy games.

More: Nokia has confidence its VR cameras, smartphones, 5G tech will drive growth

It sadly only comes with 16GB of internal storage, which is much lower than the standard offerings from phones in this price range. Thankfully, there’s a MicroSD card slot that supports up to 128GB of extra storage. It surprisingly has a massive 3,000mAH battery, which should keep this low-resolution device chugging along for quite a while.

There’s only a single speaker (but thankfully a headphone jack), and at the bottom sits a MicroUSB charging port. It’s unclear why Nokia went with MicroUSB over USB Type-C, which a lot of other budget phones have adopted. At least there’s an NFC sensor, meaning you can use Android Pay.

The rear camera packs 13 megapixels, and the front has 8 megapixels and a wide-angle lens. There didn’t seem to be much shutter lag, but we’ll have to explore the camera more when we get a review unit.

You can choose from blue, copper, black, and silver for the Nokia 5.

Nokia 3

The Nokia 3 is the most affordable of the lineup and also the smallest. An aluminum frame protects the 5-inch screen from accidental drops, but the back is made of polycarbonate. What’s remarkable is how Nokia makes this phone feel like it’s made of metal, as there’s a nice weight to it.

Like the others in the series, the Nokia 3 follows a minimalist design. The back is plain, save the camera; the buttons are on the right, and you’ll find capacitive navigation buttons on the front.

More: BlackBerry sues Nokia, alleging networking patent infringement

Like the Nokia 5, the device only has a 720-pixel resolution. It has a MediaTek 6737 processor with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage that again can be expanded up to 128GB by using the MicroSD card slot. It has a slightly smaller 2,650mAh battery, which charges via the MicroUSB port on the bottom. It also comes with an NFC sensor.

The front and rear cameras both pack 8 megapixels, though the primary one has an LED flash.

This Nokia 3 runs Android 7.0 Nougat, and it’s likely to get upgraded to 7.1.1, as the company said it would be committed to timely version updates from Google. There are white, black, blue, and silver color options, and the phone will only cost 139 euros, or about $147.

Nokia 6

The Nokia 6 debuted last year in China, but it will finally be available globally. If you need a refresher on the specs, the 5.5-inch device is the only one of the trio to feature a Full HD display. The phone’s immersive sound comes via dual speakers and a dedicated amplifier with Dolby Atmos certification.

The extra metal protection along the sides of the phone make it feel very durable, and the Nokia 6 truly does feel like a high-end phone, both hardware- and software-wise.

Running Android 7.1.1 Nougat, the Nokia 6 is powered by the same processor in the Nokia 5 — the Snapdragon 430 — but it has an extra gigabyte of RAM. It also has more storage — 32GB to be exact, and MicroSD card support. It also carries the same 3,000mAh battery. You get a primary 16 megapixel camera with dual-tone flash, along with an 8 megapixel front-facing camera.

More: BlackBerry KeyOne Our first take

There are five colors to choose from, but the the glossy Arte Black was specially made for the phone’s global release. It’s quite the fingerprint magnet, though. Other available colors are black, blue, silver, and copper.

The Nokia 6 will cost 229 euros ($242), but if you want the fancy Arte Black special edition, you’ll have to shell out 299 euros, or $316.

All three devices seemed to perform well, but what’s unique is their build quality. HMD seems to have gone extra lengths to make sure Nokia devices are still known for their durability. The devices also seem to have big batteries — when paired with low-end specs, that usually means you’ll see great battery life. We’ll have to dig deep when we get our review units.

All three phones are expected to launch or have expanded availability in the second quarter of 2017, or sometime from April through June.

Highs

  • Excellent build quality
  • Stock Android
  • Promise of monthly security updates, timely version updates
  • Snappy performance

Lows

  • Design can be a little plain
  • Poor internal storage capacity