Lenovo emerges as the favorite smartphone brand of 2015

Lenovo emerges as the favorite smartphone brand of 2015: Flipkart

E-commerce website Flipkart has announced that this year has been big in the affordable 4G smartphone segment and Lenovo, has emerged as the favourite smartphone brand of the year. The popularity of 4G smartphones this year clearly shows how digital customers are making a shift to the 4G segment, along with the desire to opt for affordable smartphones.

According to #FlipTrends, a year ender report by Flipkart, Lenovo A6000 Plus and Lenovo K3 Note were the top two most sought after smartphones in 2015. Motorola closely followed with two smartphones, Moto G 3rd Gen and Moto E 2nd Gen featuring at the third and sixth position respectively. Xiaomi Mi 4i and Redmi Note 4G took fourth and fifth spots followed by Samsung Galaxy On7, Samsung Galaxy J7, Micromax Canvas Xpress 2 and Asus Zenfone 5 respectively.

Lenovo, also the owner of Motorola, is also among the top five smartphone brands in India. In the bid to climb the ladder further, the company aims to double local production as well.

According to a report by The Economic Times, Lenovo aims to take the second spot in India and is looking to almost double the local production to 10 million units annually by this year. The report also adds that Lenovo plans to export from its Chennai facility and will make more models in India.

Lenovo K4 Note to launch in India today; to feature ‘killer display’, 3GB RAM and more

Lenovo K4 Note to launch in India today; to feature ‘killer display’, 3GB RAM and more

Lenovo will unveil the new K4 Note smartphone today in New Delhi. After hinting at a ‘killer display’ along with a 3GB RAM, the company also stated that the device will include front-facing speakers as well.

The company had shared a video on Twitter along with the tag line, ‘Killer sound, Killer phone’ and also states, “When is audio more than just a sum of its decibel levels? Take centre-stage with the K4 Note.”

In a recent teaser, Lenovo also revealed that the smartphone will pack in 3 GB of RAM. This is said to be accompanied by a MediaTek Helio X10 processor and pack in 32 GB of internal storage. A teaser image released earlier also provided speculation regarding the construction of the handset, which is expected to sport a metal frame. The current K3 Note sports an all-plastic body. In terms of features one can also expect the Lenovo K4 Note to pack in a fingerprint scanner and an NFC chip as well.

Recently, Flipkart also announced that 2015 has been big in the affordable 4G smartphone segment and Lenovo, has emerged as the favourite smartphone brand of the year. The popularity of 4G smartphones this year clearly shows how digital customers are making a shift to the 4G segment, along with the desire to opt for affordable smartphones.

Asus ZenFone Max with 5000mAh battery, 5.5-inch HD display launched in India

Asus ZenFone Max with 5000mAh battery, 5.5-inch HD display launched in India at Rs 9,999

Asus has introduced the ZenFone Max smartphone to its new ZenFone-series at a price of Rs 9,999. The device is now available for pre-order from Flipkart and Amazon starting today. The main USP of the device is its huge 5000mAh battery which can deliver up to 914 hours of standby time and up to 38 hours of talk time, in addition to working as a power bank to other devices.

The device was unveiled during IFA 2015 in Berlin and was rumoured to launch in October.

In terms of specifications, the smartphone features a 5.5-inch HD IPS display with a 720 x 1280 pixel resolution. It is powered by a 1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor paired with 2GB RAM. The smartphone also packs in an internal storage of 16GB which can be further expanded up to 64GB using a microSD card.

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The Asus ZenFone Max runs on ZenUI 2.0 based on Android 5.0 Lollipop and comes equipped with a 13MP rear camera with dual LED flash along with 5MP front facing camera. In terms of connectivity, the device includes 3G, GPRS/ EDGE, GPS, Glonass, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.

Intel’s new smartphone has a Kinect-like 3D RealSense camera

intel logo

At CES 2016 this week, Intel revealed that their new smartphone will feature a 3D-sensitive camera that is able to recognize 3D objects and gestures. This ‘RealSense’ camera, identified as ZR300, works together with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and a lens offering a wide field of view for broad motion capturing.

Intel explained that their RealSense Camera ZR300 uses time stamping between sensors to provide advanced feature tracking and synchronization.  Since it is able to stream at VGA resolution at 60 frames per second, this makes its tracking extremely nuanced. It supports Google’s Project Tango’s specs, and its indoor area mapping technology and area-learning capabilities make this tech a natural partner for augmented reality, virtual reality, and drone control.

intel logo x mwc 2015

The camera might not sport the highest quality resolution – the main camera is an 8 MP RGB and the selfie-snapper is 2 MP RGB – but what this device brings to the table is camera functionality that seeks to wed the smartphone more fluidly with emerging technologies, not transform its user into the next Ansel Adams.

And camera aside, the rest of the device is a pretty solid upper-mid-range smartphone. This is a developer’s smartphone, not a device for the mass public. It’s intended for users who want to experiment with the RealSense camera on a mobile platform and put it to use in apps. The $399.99 price tag makes its 2GB of RAM and Atom x7-Z8700 processor justifiable, but some users may balk at its lack of 4G LTE support: 3G is as high as you’ll go with this device.

What do you think of Intel’s RealSense camera and the smartphone housing it? If you’re interested, you can pre-order a developer’s kit from Intel. As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to click the button below to keep abreast of all our CES 2016 coverage!

Lowe’s adds professional monitoring to its connected-home offering

Iris family of products

We’ve consistently dinged connected-home systems—including the DIY Iris by Lowe’s—that don’t offer professional monitoring. A loud siren is good for scaring an intruder away, a security camera is terrific for collecting forensic evidence after a break-in, and getting alarm notifications on your smartphone is all well and good too. But nothing delivers the peace of mind of knowing that a professional is monitoring your system and can summon the police in response to a break-in, or the fire department when your house is ablaze.

So we think it’s a good move on Lowe’s part that the company will soon offer optional professional monitoring to its Iris by Lowe’s customers—and at a very reasonable price, too. Lowe’s press release includes a lot of caveats, though, about several of which we’ve asked for more details. Here’s what we know today.

When the service rolls out in the second quarter of this year, Iris by Lowe’s customers will be offered the option of professional monitoring, which will be subcontracted to United Central Control, Inc. (UCC). UCC—which has been in this market for more than 33 years, according to Lowe’s press release—will dispatch emergency responders to the subscriber’s home “in the event of an intrusion, smoke, carbon monoxide or panic alarms….” If this service is typical of others we’ve seen, UCC will attempt to contact youbefore they call emergency responders, to reduce the potential for false alarms that can result in fines in some cities.

Iris Hub

This is very similar to what full-service connected-home service providers such as ADT, Vivint, Frontpoint, and others offer, but it looks as though Lowe’s’ service will cost considerably less: $20 per month, and that includes the Iris Premium Service—which costs $10 per month on its own—and cellular service for an optional GSM module that will keep your system connected to Lowe’s servers and to UCC’s service should your regular broadband service go down.

You will need to purchase the $50 USB GSM module to actually benefit from the GSM backup service, but the usual $5-per-month fee is rolled into the $20-per-month subscription fee (so you end up paying for something you’re not getting if you don’tpurchase the Novatel dongle).

The best part of Lowe’s new service is that the big-box retailer won’t require you to sign a long-term contract for monitoring—you’ll be able to switch between the basic free plan, the premium plan, and the monitored-service plan as your needs change. You can read the details about the first two plans in our hands-on review.

As for those caveats: Lowe’s says the monitoring service will be available to “customers in select markets and where licensing allows.” The press release says the company will announce those markets at a later date. It also includes this somewhat curious statement: “A minimum of two monitored security devices will be required to help reduce false alarms….” While that’s not an onerous requirement—Lowe’s $99 Security Pack includes two door/window sensors and one motions sensor—we’re not entirely sure why it’s necessary to have at least two devices. We’ve asked for clarification and will update this story when we get it.

Asus unveils photography-focused ZenFone Zoom, coming in February

zenfone zoom

The newest smartphone from Asus is all about photography. The company showed off the ZenFone Zoom at CES on Monday, pledging that the device is the “world’s thinnest” phone to come equipped with a 3X optical zoom lens. And if that sounds familiar, it’s because Asus announced the same phone one year ago at CES, and is just now bringing it to the U.S.

The device also uses a HOYA 10-element lens arrangement to bolster the image sharpness. The photographic prowess is packed into a 5mm metallic unibody case that with a leather rear panel. The PixelMaster camera is 13MP and includes a “Super Resolution” mode that the company says can snap and then compile four pictures into one high-resolution image. Like many other high-end devices, the Zoom uses optical image stabilization.

zoom procuct photo 3

On the spec front, the phone has either a 2.5GHz or 2.3GHz Intel Atom processor (depending upon the model) with 4GB of RAM. You’ll have a good amount of screen space to look at those images, with a 5.5-inch display with a pixel density of 403 PPI. You get 64GB or 128GB of storage, with the ability to add a total of up to 128GB with a microSD card.

As an added bonus, anybody who buys one gets 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years. The phone is launching with Android Lollipop, however, with no indication of when Marshmallow may arrive.The ZenFone Zoom comes to the U.S. in early February at $399.

Why this matters: Most smartphone buyers now place a high value on the camera. Asus appears to be hearing that call, and has promised big performance for its latest device. But it’s hard to take this seriously, when this is literally last-year’s phone for overseas markets, brought to the U.S. market as though it were new.

Netatmo’s Presence is a smart home security camera/outdoor floodlight mashup

Netatmo presence home security camera

Most home security cameras are pretty dumb. Sure, they’ll record video when something moves in front of them, and they might even send an alert to your smartphone when they do. But that’s about the extent of their intelligence. French manufacturer Netatmo is promising more with its Presence outdoor camera/LED floodlight combo. The company says its camera can distinguish between people, animals, and cars and will send you an SMS message to tell you what it’s seen—“person seen,” “animal seen,” or “car seen”—so you can pull out your smartphone and check the live situation for yourself.

The camera has infrared night vision, of course, but it can also be programmed so that its motion sensor will trigger its integrated LED floodlight to light up when someone or something moves in its 100-degree field of view. With the area in front of the camera fully illuminated, it can capture full-color video instead of the black-and-white that’s typical of night-vision recordings. Users can also turn on the light from their smartphone to light their way to their door at night—or to startle a would-be intruder. And for those times when you just want a little outdoor mood lighting, you can dim the floodlight.

Netatmo Presence home security camera

The Presence should be easy to install, since most users will typically replace an existing outdoor porch light. The unit connects to your Wi-Fi network, so there should be no requirement for new wires. And unlike too many home security cameras, there’s no cloud-storage subscription fee associated with the Presence. It captures video at 30 frames per second and stores it in MP4 format on an onboard microSD card (the camera comes with an 8GB card, which is enough to store about 100 events, according to Netatmo). Users can also back up video to a personal FTP server.

In addition to viewing live and recorded events, you can use the smartphone app to define zones where you want the camera’s motion sensors to be active. This way you can program it to ignore nearby trees and shrubs blowing in the wind. Netatmo’s app is accessible from a smartphone or tablet (Android or iOS), a PC or Mac, or an Apple Watch.

Netatmo says the Presence will be available in the beginning of the third quarter, but it has not disclosed pricing. We’ll update this story when we get that information.

Flir's Scout TK is an affordable thermal monocular

scout tk image25

Not everything in this world is made better by hooking it up to a smartphone. Sometimes you just want to be able to whip our your thermal monocular at o-dark-thirty to see if a fox is trying to sneak into your hen house again.

That’s where FLIR thinks its “affordable” Scout TK comes into play. Introduced at CES on Tuesday morning, the Scout TK is a waterproof, ruggedized monocular that lets you see in the infrared spectrum up to 100 yards away.

Unlike green night vision that amplifies light, thermal imaging lets you see a person or object’s body heat in pitch black.

The Scout TK can snap up to 1,000 images or hold up to 4 hours of video too. It recharges through micro-USB and the company says it can be used for five hours on a charge.

The resolution of the thermal images is fairly low at 160×120, but FLIR says it does image processing to clean up the image. I’d agree after seeing the sample images FLIR provided.

tk dog15

The refresh rate on the Scout TK is pretty low as well, at just 9Hz, but at $599, it’s actually pretty reasonable considering most thermal monocular devices are more than twice its price. (Anything over 30Hz gets you the attention of the federal government too.) The Scout TK’s only real competition now is Seek’s Reveal—another handheld unit that’s even lower in cost.

While a smartphone based thermal imager such as FLIR’s One is cheaper (well, when you don’t count the cost of the phone) it’s more delicate and doesn’t have the same run time. Getting it up and running also takes longer so you won’t be able to spy that fox skulking through your yard.

Kevo Convert makes your dumb locks smart on the cheap

kevo convert

We’ve seen a few smart deadlock options at CES so far, including some aimed at retrofitting traditional locks. Kwikset is one of these companies with a solution, and now has a version of its Kevo line with a name representing exactly what it does: the Kevo Convert.

Very little installation is required. All you do is replace the interior portion of the deadbolt with Kwikset’s smart locking mechanism. That’s it. Just like other Kevo locks, Kevo’s app allows you to lock and unlock your old dumb lock just like any smart lock, including remotely via the Internet and when in range of the lock via smartphone or wearable through Bluetooth.

Kevo’s app also gives information on lock status, and you can assign temporary or permanent access to Kevo Convert locks. Fair warning: remote unlocking is only available to subscribers of Kwikset’s Kevo Plus service.

What I like most about this lock retrofit solution—versus others like the Danalock—is the fact that the exterior mechanism doesn’t change. My family’s home is a 1920’s Sears and Roebuck kit, so there’s a few folksy things, including antique style doors and whatnot, that would make a modern smart lock with keypad and all look a little out of place.

Even so, this house is getting a new life through smart home connectivity, and the Kevo Control seems the most appealing. Better yet, it does interface with several connected home technologies including Nest and Honeywell Total Control thermostats and the Ring Video Doorbell, and I’m hoping with platforms like Iris, SmartThings, and Wink down the road.

Kwikset plans to release the Kevo Convert later this year, although has not set a retail price yet. It should however cost less than current Kevo locks, which retail for $170-220 depending on who you buy it from.

Intel's smartphone with integrated RealSense 3D camera to ship

idf15 bk keynote 5386

Intel has developed a new smartphone with a 3D RealSense camera that can recognize objects and detect motion and gestures, much like a Kinect camera.

The smartphone is being made available as a reference device for anyone interested in discovering new uses for 3D cameras in handsets. The 3D camera is a smaller and more advanced version of the RealSense cameras in PCs and tablets.

For $399, users will get an Android smartphone with a 6-inch screen that can display images at a 2560 x 1440-pixel resolution. The RealSense ZR300 depth camera, which is placed at the edge of the phone, can capture 10 million points per second. The phone also has a 2-megapixel front camera and 8-megapixel rear camera.

The phone isn’t for daily use, but more for capturing 3D images, taking cool selfies and experimenting with the RealSense camera. It has only 3G connectivity, so aside from the camera features it isn’t very useful beyond making basic phone calls. It has an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor, which is in Microsoft’s Surface 3, so don’t expect long battery life. It has 64GB of storage, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and an HDMI port.

Users can reserve the smartphone; Intel did not provide a shipping date. It will only ship to U.S. customers.

Most smartphones today have 2D cameras. Some uses for the 3D RealSense camera were demonstrated in wearables and virtual reality headsets at CES.

The 3D camera can go deep inside images to determine the size, shape and contours of objects. As a result, it can capture and identify real-life objects and export them to virtual worlds. The smartphone can be plugged into a headset—like a Google Cardboard—and real world images taken with the smartphone’s camera can be played back as a 3D VR experience.

The 3D camera’s gesture and motion control features allow users to hold or interact with objects in a virtual world. That could make playing 3D games via VR headsets more interactive and fun. In the future, Intel also wants to combine voice recognition with VR for better user experiences.

In PCs, Intel’s 3D camera has already made Skype chats more fun by adding animation and backdrops. Dell’s Venue 8 7000 tablet with RealSense can measure the distance between objects.

Intel also has plans to develop 3D cameras that can recognize mood and reading habits. By analyzing facial expressions, a 3D camera mounted on a tablet, for example, could determine whether people are happy or sad, or bored with what they are reading. That would involve the RealSense camera recognizing faces and analyzing the shape of lips, eyes and cheeks.

The reference smartphone supports the Google Project Tango and Intel RealSense software development kits.