Mihaita Bamburic

Get ready to enjoy that reversible USB Type-C connector

USB Type C Render

USB 3.0 Promoter Group announces that the much-awaited USB Type-C connector, which can be plugged in both ways, is now finally ready to enter mass production. It makes way for faster transfer speeds, courtesy of the USB 3.1 standard, increased power delivery, more compact device designs and, arguably, fewer moments of frustration thanks to its reversible orientation, which is similar to that of Apple's Lightning connector which launched in 2012.

"Interest in the USB Type-C connector has not only been global, but cross-industry as well", says USB 3.0 Promoter Group chairman Brad Saunders. "Representatives from the PC, mobile, automotive and IoT industries have been knocking down our door anticipating this new standard. This specification is the culmination of an extensive, cooperative effort among industry leaders to standardize the next generation USB connector as a long-lasting, robust solution". Here is what else you should know.

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Meet Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Silver

It is well known that Samsung has often been criticized for giving its premium smartphones a not-so-premium look and feel. But, in spite of all this, in the land of upscale Galaxy handsets, an all-plastic body, with a bland design, has always prevailed. Until now.

Today, Samsung finally shows us that a premium Galaxy smartphone can break away from the norm, as it reveals the new Galaxy Alpha boasting a metal frame and an attractive design. The device's main rival is likely to be Apple's upcoming iPhone 6, which is expected to ship with a similarly-sized display.

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Why Facebook Messenger for Android needs those permissions

Why Confused Question Mark Woman Wall

Seeing Android apps requesting various permissions in order to install can be disconcerting for inexperienced users. How can one know if there is a valid reason to trigger them, or if an offering will maliciously use those permissions? Those are valid concerns, after all, as a third-party, that we have little control over, is entrusted with access to critical features, like the microphone or contacts list. In this day and age, you can never be too cautious.

Facebook has decided to drop the chat functionality from its Android app, asking users to turn to Facebook Messenger to message their friends. And, naturally, quite a few of its users, who are likely new to the offering and find themselves forced to use it, are voicing their concerns over its permissions, as they allow it to do some potentially dangerous things.

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Microsoft pitches Surface Pro 3 to the wrong crowd

indifferent not listening ignoring wife woman husband man

Microsoft will have a hard time convincing consumers who wish to buy Apple's MacBook Air to get Surface Pro 3 instead. That is not because the former is the better purchase, but because these devices aim to please two different crowds. You're either a Mac or a PC, as the old Apple commercials would say today.

I believe that Microsoft does not realize that it is pitching Surface Pro 3 to the wrong crowd. Swaying would-be MacBook Air owners in the hybrid's direction is not a simple matter of touting feature benefits, as in Surface Pro 3 can be more and do more than MacBook Air. People have to be convinced that those features are things they want; just because they are offered does not automatically mean that they will immediately gravitate towards the device that has them. Yes, some do not want more just because they can get more. And, would-be MacBook Air users do not want more. It's more likely that would-be Surface Pro 3 users do.

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Microsoft bets on dumb phone to help Windows Phone

Nokia-130-Single-SIM

Microsoft is right to ditch Nokia brands that may interfere with its Windows Phone plans. X devices of questionable value and out of fashion Asha feature phones do not represent the future. But, the company's homebrew smartphone platform might, and it needs all the attention it can get to become an immediate rival to Android and iOS. Right now, consumers are not seeing Windows Phone as a top pick, so changing this perception should be the one and only task Microsoft should undertake as far as phone-making is concerned.

Yet, today, Microsoft announces a new dumb phone, known as Nokia 130, which it calls "the most affordable mobile phone with video and music player". It costs €19, which is much, much less than what a prospective buyer can expect to shell out for an entry-level Nokia Lumia Windows Phone, like, for instance, Lumia 520. So why is Nokia 130 here?

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What you should know about Windows Phone Store (other than it has 300,000 apps)

Windows Phone 300,000 apps

Windows Phone boasts more than 300,000 apps in Store. Now that the news is out of the bag, let's move on to something that actually matters.

I'm skipping the obvious comparisons because that number is meaningless to the average consumer making up the bulk of smartphone buyers today (and who is unlikely to take advantage of even 1 percent of those titles). It doesn't tell prospective buyers how many great apps are available in Store, or how many great apps are missing. It's just a figure that serves only one true purpose, and that is telling fans, enthusiasts, pundits and other tekkies how much progress was made since the last serving. But that doesn't make you feel all warm and fuzzy, does it? Here's what should.

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LG unveils another smaller G3 variant

LG G3 A

South Korean maker LG has unveiled another smaller variant of its G3 Android flagship. Called G3 A, the smartphone features hardware specifications similar to last year's G2 flagship, but in a body which resembles that of G3. It is the second smaller version of G3 announced by LG so far, with the first being G3 Beat, also known as G3 S.

Like G2, G3 A has a 5.2-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1,080 by 1,920. It is powered by a 2.26 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, which features 2 GB of RAM, and a 2,610 mAh battery, which is removable. So far, its hardware specifications are more impressive than what G3 Beat brings to the table.

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Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 will not reach HTC's 8S

HTC Windows Phone 8S

All Windows Phone 8 devices are supposed to be compatible with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, but it looks like one of them, namely HTC's inconspicuous Windows Phone 8S, will be stuck running Windows Phone 8.1 going forward. That's a shame.

Due to what appear to be hardware incompatibilities, HTC has announced that the first major update for Windows Phone 8.1 will not be offered to its Windows Phone 8S users. The Windows Phone 8X flagship, which it introduced in late-2012, will, however, receive Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1.

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Samsung will unveil Galaxy Note 4 early next month

Samsung-Unpacked-2014-Invitation2

The first Unpacked event of the year sees Samsung unveiling a new installment in the Galaxy S flagship series, while the second Unpacked event of the year is where the South Korean maker takes the wraps off its latest Galaxy Note premium phablet. Since, in 2014, Episode 1 brought us Galaxy S5, it does not take long to figure out that Galaxy Note 4 is coming at Episode 2.

Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 will be held simultaneously in Berlin, Beijing and New York, on September 3. And, even though Samsung only describes it as "the event to see 'the next big thing'", the press invite hints at the unveiling of Galaxy Note 4.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 3 coming to 25 new markets

Surface Pro 3

For some strange reason, Microsoft is repeating the same mistake over and over again -- whenever a new Surface tablet is launched, its availability is limited to a low number of markets. No surprise then that the lineup is a sales flop. Consumers may like what they're seeing, but if they cannot buy Surface they will get something else. I know I've been there. Fortunately, not long after launch, Microsoft fixes this problem.

Less than two months after it went on sale, Surface Pro 3 is finally heading to 25 new markets, announces Microsoft's Brian Hall. Prospective buyers will be able to get all variants of the slate (starting with the entry-level Intel Core i3 model and the Intel Core i7 flagship), from the end of this month.

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LG reveals stylus-toting G3

LG G3 Stylus 1

South Korean maker LG plans to introduce a stylus-toting version of its acclaimed G3 Android flagship. According to a new video posted by the company on YouTube, its upcoming handset will be called G3 Stylus.

G3 Stylus is revealed as a new device part of the G3 premium lineup, which at the moment only includes G3 and its smaller brother, G3 Beat, the last of which was announced last month. What else do we know about it?

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Xiaomi leads the smartphone market in China

winner victory

Xiaomi's name may mean close to nothing in western markets, but the smartphone maker is well-known in Asia for its powerful yet affordable handsets. Take the new Mi 4 flagship, for instance. It rivals HTC's One (M8) in the specs department, but can be had for less than what Google asks for its Nexus 5. There's a similar story with other Xiaomi-made devices, that are proving to be extremely popular with consumers in China.

Xiaomi's smartphones are so popular in China that, in the second quarter of the year, they allowed the manufacturer to overtake worldwide leader Samsung in the local Asian market, according to a new report from analyst firm Canalys. Xiaomi, which is a Chinese vendor, was responsible for 14 percent of smartphone shipments in the country, surpassing Samsung, Lenovo, Yulong and Huawei. The combined market share of top worldwide vendors Samsung and Apple was just 18 percent in China in Q2 2014, as the two were able to ship just 20 million units put together.

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Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 available via Preview for Developers

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1

Windows Phone users who are enrolled in the Preview For Developers program can now install Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. The major update, which was announced less than a week ago, is set to officially roll out to the masses in the comings months.

The most important user-facing changes that Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 introduces are Live Folders, a new feature which finally enables folders on the platform, and improvements to the stock apps, privacy and security. Of course, it also makes way for Cortana's first expansion.

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If you'd rather not own it, Leak it

Leak

If you have something to say, you can either say it to a person's face or resort to Leak, a new cloud service that lets you send anonymous emails that will likely never be traced back to you if some common sense is used. I prefer the open approach, but I sense that today quite a few people will embrace the latter.

The possibilities are endless. You can send any sort of message through the service, as long as you don't push things too far. Leak would rather you don't threaten or bully people, encourage damaging behaviors, send "graphic" images or porn, spam or share private information. Of course, based on the anonymous emails I am seeing (some sent "leaks" are publicly shared on the site), there are users who will do the obvious: abuse the service and act immaturely.

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Windows Phone 8.1 available for AT&T Nokia Lumia 925, Lumia 520

Nokia Lumia 925

Months after its unveiling in early-April at Build 2014, Windows Phone 8.1 is finally rolling out to compatible smartphones. Among the latest Windows Phone 8 devices to receive the coveted software upgrade are the AT&T variants of Nokia Lumia 925 and Lumia 520, the latter of which being a branded version of the most popular Windows Phone to date.

AT&T customers using Lumia 925 and Lumia 520 can apply the software upgrade right away, suggests the US mobile operator, by heading to the Settings menu, opening the phone update submenu and tapping on the check for updates button, the last of which will reveal the option to kick off the install.

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