Mihaita Bamburic

SONICable promises to charge your iPhone, iPad or Android device twice as fast

SONICable

To compensate for that bigger, higher-resolution screen, faster processor and other power-hungry components, manufacturers put larger batteries inside our smartphones and tablets. Batteries have evolved very little over the past couple of years, so increasing their size feels like a logical thing to do. After all, who wants a big and fast device that lasts only a couple of hours with light usage? It would be terrible.

However, having a bigger battery also means longer charging times, excruciatingly long if you charge your device using a PC. So what can you do about it? Well, you can get SONICable, a new charging cable which promises to charge your iPhone, iPad or Android device twice as fast.

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Android 5.0.2 Lollipop now available for 2013 Nexus 7, 10 -- here's how you can install and update

fearlolli

Android 5.0 Lollipop is far from perfect, arriving with nasty bugs that have affected battery life, performance, Wi-Fi and more. The first update that Google launched, version 5.0.1, managed to fix some of the problems users have reported, but some major ones persist even to this day. Personally, I am seeing my 2013 Wi-Fi Nexus 7 running excruciatingly slow at times, even with the first update in tow.

Fortunately, Google also launched a second update not long after the first, which fixes even more bugs, however it only launched it for the first-generation Nexus 7. Now, the search giant is making Android 5.0.2 Lollipop available for the 2013 Wi-Fi Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 as well, in the form of new factory images.

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Xiaomi reveals its iPhone 6 Plus competitors

Xiaomi Mi Note Pro

Chinese maker Xiaomi is going after iPhone 6 Plus with two new premium phablets unveiled today at a special event in Beijing. Called Mi Note and Mi Note Pro, the two Android handsets feature high-end hardware and, in typical Xiaomi fashion, lower price-tags than their Apple-made rival.

Xiaomi is calling both devices a flagship, although, judging by the specs alone, Mi Note Pro is clearly more deserving of the title, as it features the latest-available technologies. It is also better equipped to take on iPhone 6 Plus, which has proven to be quite successful for a phablet.

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Samsung introduces first Tizen smartphone, more devices will follow

Samsung Z1 Tizen

Introducing a new platform comes with great challenges. It cannot successfully compete right away with established players, and it will take years to catch up. Gaining any real traction requires having lots of money to burn through, before turning a profit, let alone breaking even. The vast majority of consumers will be looking to buy the best products around, and emerging platforms do not often make the cut -- even longstanding players can struggle here.

So, it's a tough road ahead for Samsung as it tries to bring Tizen into mainstream. It is already used in some types of products -- like cameras and wearables -- but the real challenges come from popular categories, like smartphones. So far, Samsung only announced a Tizen-powered smartphone, but it didn't hit the market. Today, Samsung is at its second attempt, as it announces what is the first Tizen smartphone to actually hit store shelves. It's called Z1.

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Microsoft announces Lumia 532, 435 -- its most-affordable Windows Phones yet

Microsoft Lumia 532 Windows Phone 8.1

Windows Phone is most-preferred by low-end smartphone buyers. In fact, Nokia Lumia 520 alone accounts for more than 25 percent of Windows Phones currently in use. However, for consumers in developing and emerging markets even a smartphone as affordable as Lumia 520 may be priced out of their budget.

Less-expensive options are needed for the platform to increase its user base, so, today, Microsoft announces its most-affordable Windows Phones yet -- Lumia 532 and Lumia 435. The two devices are designed to offer basically the same Windows Phone experience as their more expensive siblings, but at prices starting at as low as €69, before any local taxes and subsidies are factored in.

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Apple to EU customers: Abusing our returns policy? There's a cure for that!

hand stop

Apple has a system in place to deal with EU customers who are abusing its new returns policy, which it introduced in late-December to comply with local regulations. What is it? Well, those in question have to agree, upon future purchases, that they will no longer be able to return -- basically, ask refunds for -- digital content, once it is downloaded (or streamed).

Apple allows its EU customers to return digital content -- apps, music, and videos -- within 14 days after purchase, which has been interpreted by many as a green light to unlimited refunds. Mal-intended users could seemingly buy, say, games, enjoy them until right before the returns period ends, then ask for refunds, and repeat the process as they please. Such a policy could, indeed, negatively impact the bottom line of content creators, but it is, however, not the case.

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Samsung's new A7 smartphone is big, fast and thin

Samsung A7

Samsung has long been criticized for making smartphones that look and feel cheap. This has not only been the case with its low-cost offerings, but also with its mid-rangers and flagships -- you don't need to look further than the Galaxy S line -- which is supposed to be Samsung's cream of the crop in regards to design -- to understand the problem.

Fortunately, Samsung has paid attention lately, proof being the introduction of the A lineup as well as the design changes made for the Galaxy Note 4 flagship, which will trickle down to future premium offerings. And, today, Samsung is expanding the A lineup by adding the A7 phablet into the mix. It is the biggest, most powerful and thinnest of the bunch.

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Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 packs hardware kill-switch -- Android, Windows Phone users rejoice!

lock key smartphone iPhone

Mobile devices equipped with a kill switch are starting to become fairly common, in no small part thanks to Apple and Google, which have added this nifty security feature to their respective operating systems, iOS and Android. Now, US chip maker Qualcomm is also joining the party, albeit using a different approach, which, on paper at least, appears to be superior.

That's because Qualcomm has decided to go for a hardware kill-switch, which will first ship in its flagship mobile processor, Snapdragon 810. The main selling points? Users will be able to take advantage of it no matter which operating system runs on their Snapdragon 810-powered device, or whether the operating system offers such a feature or not.

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Samsung's new PCIe SSD is both lightning fast and battery-friendly

Samsung SM951 SSD

Solid state drives are commonly used nowadays in premium ultrabooks, laptops and desktop PCs, mainly because they are faster and more energy-efficient, and run cooler than traditional hard drives. They are also favored by those who build their own PCs, and as aftermarket upgrades for older devices. SSDs are commonly connected using SATA, but, for the best results, PCIe is the better option.

So, naturally, Samsung has chosen to use PCIe with its latest SSD for ultra-thin laptops and workstations. Dubbed SM951, it promises lighting-fast performance, with speeds over 1000 MB/s, and excellent energy-efficiency, consuming less than 2mW in standby. It will be offered in 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB storage options.

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McDonald's backs Qi wireless charging in UK

WPA Qi McDonald's

The most important players in the wireless charging industry are fighting a cold war. On one side we have Wireless Power Consortium, backing Qi, while on the other side we have Power Matters Alliance, representing PMA. Each side has its influential supporters, like major device manufacturers and carriers, making it difficult to predict a winner. However, WPA just scored a major win against PMA, just days after the latter announced its merger with Alliance for Wireless Power.

McDonald's will add 600 wireless charging hotspots, featuring WPA's Qi standard, at more than 50 of its UK locations. This move is part of a partnership with Aircharge, the company which is responsible for said hotspots. So, while you're checking Facebook or Instagram and eating that Big Mac, you'll also be able to charge your phone or tablet. (I'm kinda jealous of my UK-based colleagues now.)

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Motorola returns to China in full swing, with rebranded Nexus 6 in tow

Motorola Moto X Pro China

With Lenovo holding the reins, it is no surprise that Motorola has announced its return to China, the biggest smartphone market worldwide. The venerable maker will start selling its best-known smartphones in the country starting early this year.

Consumers in China will be able to get their hands on the second-generation Moto X and Moto G -- the latter with 4G LTE connectivity -- as well as Moto X Pro. For someone who knows Motorola's lineup, Moto X Pro looks like a new smartphone. However, it is a rebranded Nexus 6.

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Samsung unveils portable SSD -- blazing fast, smaller than a business card

Samsung Portable SSD T1

If you need a portable storage device, then are you are most likely looking to buy an external HDD. They are available in lots of sizes, and they are also pretty affordable. However, they are also slow. Too slow, I would say. So, if you need something that is fast -- that can transfer files quickly and open everything almost instantly -- then a portable HDD is not the answer.

However, a portable SSD would fit the bill just fine. On top of being faster, it will also be more energy-efficient and less sensitive to shocks. Targeting this crowd, Samsung today announced Portable SSD T1, which is about to hit store shelves in three storage trims. And it is so small and light, you can carry it in your pocket.

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Apple now sells SIM-free, unlocked iPhone 6, 6 Plus -- be careful which model you buy

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple is now finally selling SIM-free, unlocked iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus through its online and brick and mortar stores. The new models, which come nearly four months after the two devices launched, are available in all storage configurations, starting at $649 and $749, respectively.

Apple makes things slightly complicated for those looking to purchase an unlocked iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, as the company is advertising two "Unlocked and contract-free" models, for each of the two devices, on its site. The model that is available starting today is labeled "SIM-free", while the other one bears T-Mobile's logo. Be careful which one you buy, if you plan on using it in US or abroad.

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LG unveils G Flex2 -- faster, smaller, and still curved

LG G Flex2 2

Consumers appear to have little to no interest in smartphones with curved displays. This much is clear, more than one year after Samsung's Galaxy Round first tried -- and failed -- to woo the market. Even the makers which have tried to drive up interest in this exotic form factor are still heavily relying on flat screens for most of their (popular) devices. Curved displays are just as rare of a sight today on smartphones as they were when they first came out.

Still, despite the cold reception, LG is not yet ready to leave smartphones with curved displays behind, as the South Korean maker today announces the successor of G Flex, called G Flex2. The new model, unlike its predecessor, is, however, more likely to have mass-market appeal in the premium segment, in no small part thanks to its less-intimidating size.

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4K is passé -- HP jumps on the 5K monitor bandwagon

Z27q HP 5K

It is difficult to imagine that 4K is no longer the best that you can get today. After all, it is just starting to gain traction among consumers, and the selection of available devices has not even matured yet. However, 5K is already here, knocking 4K down a notch.

Apple is the first major player in the industry to have embraced 5K, when it announced iMac with Retina 5K display a couple of months ago. And, now, HP is following suit with its own 5K offering, the new 27-inch Z27q.

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