FIRST LOOK: Microsoft's next operating system looks like it's building on the best parts of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, and it contains attributes of both, but deep down inside it's something new.
From the recent release of the latest Apple iPhone 6 models to fresh Samsung Galaxy smartphones and a myriad of tablets and smartphones from other vendors, it sure has been a busy season for mobile device aficionados. With that in mind, we here at eWEEK put together this broad roundup of some of the latest popular smartphone and tablet models available today or very soon through the Big Four cellular carriers. Some of the offerings are special limited-time deals, such as AT&T's discount tablet offers for customers who buy a new smartphone and activate a new line of service, but most are just the seasonal product updates and refreshes that happen regularly in the busy smartphone and tablet markets. For business users, highlighting the recent announcements is BlackBerry's new Passport smartphone, which is aimed at enterprise users and is tied deeply into the company's hopes to again find relevancy in the crowded smartphone world after ceding much of its business to rivals in recent years.
Apple and Google will soon start competing against each other in yet another new field. This time, the companies are vying for dominance in a relatively new space—mobile payments. Both companies are offering mobile payment services for people who don't want to take cash or their credit cards out of their wallets, but desire to make payments simply by authorizing transactions using digital wallets on their mobile devices. The competition is sure to start heating up as soon as Apple Pay goes into operation. For the average customer, however, deciding which product to use might be difficult. While Apple Pay is new and fresh, it's not clear to everyone whether it's really the best solution. However, Google Wallet has been available in the United States since September 2011, but has yet to fully captivate consumers around the world. Simply put, the mobile-payment business is open for any company to take the lead. Now, consumers will have a chance to decide which payment service works best for them and, in the process, help drive wider acceptance of mobile payments around the world. This slide show will compare Apple Pay and Google Wallet to provide insights to help consumers decide which service is right for them.
REVIEW: The increase in screen size is less than an inch over the iPhone 5, but that's enough to make a huge difference in usability.
The open-source GNOME 3.14 desktop release is the second major update to the popular Linux user interface in 2014. Version 3.14, which the GNOME Project released Sept. 24, follows in the footsteps of GNOME 3.12, which debuted March 26. As was the case with GNOME 3.12, as well as GNOME 3.10, the emphasis is on the refinement of features and function as opposed to any larger-scale desktop overhaul. That doesn't mean that there are not a whole lot of changes in GNOME 3.14. According to the GNOME Project, the new release includes 28,859 changes that 871 contributors made. While many of the changes are bug fixes and under-the-hood improvements, there are also a number of user-facing feature and function improvements. GNOME 3.14 offers a renewed emphasis on multi-touch capabilities, including improved gesture support. Window animations have also been improved giving the overall desktop more polish and refinement. Within GNOME, the included bundled applications also have been updated with the new release. Among the updated applications is the Maps tool, which now gains an integrated navigation capability. eWEEK looks at new and enhanced features in the GNOME 3.14 release.
The Hewlett-Packard Stream line of tablets and notebooks shows that the company is still willing to take chances and make major new investments in the mobile device and PC markets that haven't been very kind to the company in recent years. After all, HP has watched its efforts in the mobile space fail on a couple of occasions even as its place as the dominant force in the PC market slipped out of its hands, with Lenovo taking hold of that prize. Still, HP presses on in hope of changing its luck and increasing its standing in those markets. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the company's new line of Stream devices. While the focal point of the Stream lineup is its rash of notebooks, HP is also redoubling its efforts in the tablet business with slates that run Windows. This slide show looks at how HP is positioning the newly announced Stream models in an increasingly crowded market. While the Stream products are not necessarily the most powerful or groundbreaking, for anyone who's looking for new tablets or notebooks for personal or business purposes, they are worth checking out.
BlackBerry's newest device—the Passport—is aimed at a specific market: managers in the C-suites of the enterprise. Apparently the company assumes that these executives need access to lots of data at a single glance, which explains the unusual width of the device. But the company also apparently assumes that these managers aren't frequent typists, which explains the unusual shape of the physical keyboard. The result is a device that's the same size and shape as a passport. In reality, it appears that a Canadian passport was used as the model, since the BlackBerry Passport is actually slightly larger than a U.S. passport. The Passport runs BlackBerry OS 10.3, which adds several new features to the QNX-based mobile operating system. Most of those new features are aimed at taking advantage of the greater screen width, including ones for the BlackBerry Hub that improve convenience for handling messages. The new features are nice, but even after several days of use, the form factor takes a lot of getting used to.
As a proud new iPhone 6 Plus owner, I've had the opportunity to test out Apple's new mobile operating system, iOS 8. Although I've only spent a few days with the new operating system, I have found a number of nice new features here and there. Overall, I've also been pleased with its design, which doesn't stray too far from iOS 7. But like anything else, the operating system isn't perfect. The Health app's lack of real usability and the few improvements to Apple Maps keep iOS 8 from being the perfect operating system. But there are enough modifications to what was already a solid OS to make it a worthwhile upgrade for many iPhone owners. Apple's iOS 8 has some slick new features, important upgrades to existing apps and zippy performance. But it also has some quirks that Apple will need to address over time. Taken altogether, iOS 8 is a microcosm of what we've come to expect from first-run Apple products. It isn't perfect. It will need some updates. But overall it delivers a fine experience for those who are part of the Apple world and like being there. Read on to learn more about what I've discovered in Apple's new operating system.
Apple might not have the most mobile market share or sell the most units, but it can get more attention than any other mobile device maker. Year after year, it's able to build anticipation for its latest products to a fever pitch. That has become abundantly apparent in the wake of the iPhone 6 launch. While there are still countless devices available that might in one way or another top the iPhone 6 in terms of features or price, it's Apple's product that generates the most hype. But now that the iPhone 6 is shipping, consumers who aren't already totally committed to Apple's products will go back to calmly considering in the clear light of day which product offers the best deal—the iPhone or one of the many handsets that run Android. This eWEEK slide show looks at 10 Android smartphones ranging from lower-cost units to the top-of-the-line flagship models that might prove to be suitable alternatives to the iPhone. From the Samsung Galaxy S5 to the Amazon Fire Phone, there are Android handsets that can suit any mobile phone buyer's needs.
Fitness tracking has become a hot topic in the technology industry. Samsung and Nike, in addition to smaller companies like Fitbit and Jawbone, have been competing in the space for some time. And, now, with new smartwatches launching with health-related features built in, a new class of products has entered the market to change how people view fitness tracking. As a result, the market has gotten crowded. Trying to sort through the sheer number of fitness trackers and find something that best suits your needs will be a chore. While it was once easy to find products that focused solely on fitness, there are now a wide range of products that do much more in addition to personal fitness. Those devices can't be overlooked; they include the latest smartwatches, which can be considered fully capable fitness trackers in today's world. This slide show looks at dedicated fitness trackers as well as the new health-tracking features in the new smartwatches, and suggests which devices should do a decent job of helping users stay healthy and on-track with their fitness goals.
The smartwatch battle has officially begun. While a number of companies have released smartwatches in the past couple of years, none of them have really been such a hit with buyers to set a standard for design or features. It's time to see if that will change now that Apple has entered the market. But which of the current smartphones on the market does the Apple Watch match up with best? You can take your pick. But the Moto 360 has caught the attention of many consumers who don't like the typical square or rectangular design found in other products. Given the attention both products are receiving, it makes sense to compare the two now to see which one might do better in different feature categories. While Apple won't ship its smartwatch until early 2015, it's still the device that many consumers want to know more about. Motorola Mobility released the Moto 360 in early September, and it's just starting to make its way into the market. So this is as good a time as any to compare them head-to-head. Check out this side-by-side comparison of the Moto 360 and Apple Watch and decide for yourself which device wins out in each category.
Apple's iOS 8 is launching on Sept. 17, just two days before the company plans to release its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones. The operating system was announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, and in typical Apple fashion, the company argues that it's the "biggest iOS release ever." While Apple has done a solid job in the past of getting consumers to adopt each new version of its mobile operating system soon after launch, some iOS users—especially the enterprise users—hesitate to adopt a new OS before they fully understanding what it offers and whether it will have all the bugs worked out. The enterprise is also concerned about productivity and how the new features will affect business users who need to get work done on their iPhones and iPads. This slide show focuses on the important features in iOS 8 as Apple prepares to launch it on Sept. 17. While there is a lot that is familiar in iOS 8, there are quite a few enhancements that users will need to get acquainted with.
Apple took the unusual step of introducing two significantly different iPhone models to respond to the growing competitive demand for smartphones with larger screen sizes. The Phone 6 will come with a 4.7-inch display that is slightly larger than the iPhone 5S with its 4-inch display. But the iPhone 6 Plus will come with a 5.5-inch screen, the largest that Apple has ever built into an iPhone model. Some mobile market analysts have noted that Apple's decision to increase the screen size was more a response to pressure it's facing from similarly sized Android devices than a desire on its own to deliver something new or to respond to actual customer demand. However, iPhone fans see it as a logical progression for Apple. But there is a lot more in these new smartphones than just larger screens. In this slide show, eWEEK digs into the iPhone 6 Plus and discusses the features that set it apart from both its predecessors and its competitors. There are enough interesting features in iPhone 6 Plus to make it worth a second look before preorders start on Sept. 12.
Despite the attention garnered by the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones, it was Apple's announcement of the Apple Watch that stole the show at the company's big product rollout Sept. 9 in Cupertino, Calif. As usual, the mobile device maker managed to outfox the media by dubbing the latest addition to its mobile product line the Apple Watch rather than the iWatch, which is the name that had been bandied about in news reports for months. But now we finally have a clear view of Apple's plans for the smartwatch market. Apple is making sure that to take advantage of all of the Apple Watch's features, the smartwatch has to be closely integrated with the iPhone. But it's also clear that Apple decided to emphasize the watch in smartwatch. In this slide show, eWEEK discusses some of the important features in the Apple Watch that might make the device a strong alternative for those customers looking to purchase Motorola's Moto 360, the Samsung Gear 2 or other recently released smartwatches. Read on to learn more:
As it is inclined to do immediately following each Labor Day weekend, Apple held its requisite fall launch event Sept. 9 and introduced a pair of new iPhones—the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and a maxi-version, the 5.5-inch-screened iPhone 6 Plus. It also finally introduced the Apple Watch (which is not called "iWatch"). The company also touched briefly on the new iOS 8 operating system but didn't go into great detail. Everything introduced looks very promising, but perhaps the most abiding news Apple unveiled on a sunny day at the Flint Center in Cupertino was about a new service: Apple Pay. Using the near-field communication (NFC) capability embedded in the upcoming iOS 8, users with an iPhone, Apple Watch and an Apple banking app won't need to use credit or debit cards any longer to buy products and services at businesses supporting the app. Details are in this slide show. Bono and U2 showed up at the end of the event to enliven the already big party. (Photos by Chris Preimesberger, eWEEK)