Oculus VR Founder Laments Failure to Communicate on Pricing

oculus-rift-palmer-luckey-pricingOculus VR founder Palmer Luckey on Wednesday said the company did a poor job of communicating the price of the consumer version of the Oculus Rift headset.

However, similarly priced products, such as TVs and smartphones, cost less to manufacture than the Rift VR headset, he said in a Reddit Ask Me Anything, or AMA, session.

A bare-bones Oculus Rift kit wouldn’t cost much less than the bundle’s US$599 price tag, Luckey noted. The bundled games, the Xbox One controller and carrying case “just don’t significantly impact the cost.”

A Moment of Clarity

Luckey gave an “ill-prepared” statement last year when he responded to the message his company had been pushing, which was that the cost of the Rift and a Rift-ready PC would be around $1,500, he said.

Some outlets confused that $1,500 with the retail price of the Rift itself, he said. He was trying to suggest that the price would be closer to the $350 price that was originally floated than $1,500, so he said “roughly” in the ballpark of $350.

When asked about the price of the VR platform’s delayed Touch controllers during the AMA, Luckey said he was done offering ballpark figures, although he went on to throw out another ballpark figure when asked about the cost of content in the Oculus store.

The Rift’s bundles, the first of which start shipping in late March, will include space combat simulator Eve: Valkyrie and third-person platform Lucky’s Tale as freebies, but gamers can expect the higher-priced AAA, or blockbuster, experiences to cost somewhere around the price of a new console game. That price is $60 standard.

Price Points

Those who have Rift-ready PCs — computers kitted with an Nvidia GTX 970 or an AMD 290 GPU — or are trying to get there likely already are accounting for the cost of the Rift in their budges, according to Christine Arrington, senior analyst for games at IHS.

“Many of these gamers update or upgrade their systems frequently, so it will just be another upgrade in a long string of upgrades for core gamers,” she told TechNewsWorld.

“I think the focus on Eve: Valkyrie shows that Oculus is well aware that the buyer at this price point is going to be in the niche core PC gamer segment,” Arrington added.

Over time, the price of the Rift will become more attractive for the broader market, she said.

With a price that’s “not far off from the cost of a high-end display,” Oculus VR already has attracted the early adopters, noted Ted Pollak, senior games analyst at Jon Peddie Research.

“However, mass-market adoption of virtual reality for gaming is a long ways off,” he told TechNewsWorld. “The use of VR as a primary gaming environment is still not proven for the mainstream, and enough software must be developed to justify the investment by gamers.”

In the meantime, the price of VR equipment shouldn’t do much to hamper consumer interest in the tech, according to Arrington. The pricing is in line with strategies for other high-end gaming equipment.

“The launch price is generally high. Early adopters race to be the first to experience the technology. As more people buy, companies iterate the technology and the price drops,” she said. “I think we will see the Rift go through the same process.”

Samsung Places Fridge at Center of Smart Home

samsung-family-hub-refrigerator

Samsung on Wednesday unveiled the Family Hub Refrigerator at CES, ongoing in Las Vegas through Saturday.

The new refrigerator sports a 21.5-inch full HD LCD screen on the upper right outside door, which doubles as a communications center.

The screen lets users post, share and update calendars, as well as pin digital photos, share images and leave notes.

The Family Hub Refrigerator supports WiFi, Samsung said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld by company rep Kate Knox.

Fridge Features

The Family Hub Refrigerator has built-in speakers for music streaming, and it can connect to Bluetooth wireless speakers.

Users can view TV programs on the screen, using screen mirroring with their Samsung smart TV.

Three interior cameras capture images every time the fridge door closes — to take stock of its contents — and then send them to the user’s smartphone.

Users can check the contents through the Samsung Smart Home app.

The refrigerator also supports the “Groceries by MasterCard” app, codeveloped with Samsung, to aid online grocery shopping.

The Samsung Family Hub refrigerator will be available in the United States in May, in counter-depth and full-depth versions. In both stainless steel and black stainless steel.

It could cost around US$5,000, according to reports, but Samsung did not comment on pricing.

Shopping for Groceries

The “Groceries by MasterCard” app supports the latest versions of both Android and iOS, said MasterCard spokesperson Chaiti Sen.

It lets consumers order groceries from FreshDirect and ShopRite.

“We have a strong relationship with both … and they share our vision of connecting consumers to stores in a way that is most convenient to them,” Sen told TechNewsWorld. More grocers will be added to the app as the rollout continues through this year, through MasterCard’s partnership with MyWebGrocer.

Other Partnerships in the Works?

Samsung’s arrangement with MasterCard may not be exclusive.

“Our focus is launching the Family Hub … and [we] have not made any other announcements as yet,” Samsung said.

“Looking ahead, we continuously seek and evaluate new partnerships that enable us to innovate in order to create new benefits for our stakeholders,” Sen remarked. “MasterCard may explore other joint development opportunities with other partners.”

Leaping into bed with Samsung first might have been a good strategic move, because “MasterCard wants to be first,” suggested Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. “They might get a few more transactions than if they didn’t.”

The Security Issue

With an increasing number of household devices connected to the Internet of Things, concerns about hacker attacks have been on the rise.

However, the threat “is not much worse than anybody stealing magnetic strip information from credit cards, so in terms of relative security against the credit card, it’s not that bad,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld. “Identity theft is another issue.”

All customer card and personal data will be stored in MasterCard’s secure wallet, and all card data is encrypted using the latest technologies, said MasterCard’s Sen. “Further, we have plans to tokenize the purchases made through the grocery app.”

From CES to Main Street

There will be 50 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020, Cisco has predicted.

“For MasterCard, this [Family Hub Refrigerator] launch is another important step towards our goal of bringing commerce to every device,” Sen remarked.

So, is it safe to assume that smart fridges soon will reach the mainstream?

“Two years ago, Samsung put a PC in a fridge, and that didn’t do well,” Enderle pointed out. “Then they tried a tablet in the fridge, and that didn’t do well either.”

The problem is that a refrigerator’s service life is eight to 10 years, while the high-tech hardware — chips and boards — have an 18-24-month life, Enderle noted. “The hardware will become obsolete, and people won’t want to pay extra for that.”

Apple releases 9.2.1 beta 2 for developers, public testers

On Monday, Apple updated its iOS beta program for the first time since before the holidays, with a new build of iOS 9.2.1, coming three weeks after the last one and with the build number only updated three times, suggesting that either development work slowed during the Christmas season or possibly hinting that changes are extremely minor, meaning that a public release is likely to come soon. The new build, 13D14, is just three increments higher than the previous build in mid-December.

No change log has been published for the new build, but the update is thought to be concerned only with minor tweaks and fixes along with the usual security improvements. The iOS 9.2 update, issued earlier last month, included a number of notable changes to Apple apps such as Music, iBooks, and News, as well as updating support for a new Lightning to SD card designed for the iPad Pro. The new beta is available on the Mac App Store to registered developers and pre-registered public testers.

 

Backing up iOS devices for sale, transfer, and safety

This is sort of a “part two” to the Pointers we wrote last week about how to back up your Mac, both for immediate common-sense reasons and for other goals, such as long-term archival preservation, or for preparing to transfer data to a new machine, for example. This week, we’ll do the same for iOS devices, where — as with most things iOS — the process is quite a bit simpler. We’ll explain how to back up your iTunes purchases, your other data (and keep it safe), and how to transfer it to a new iOS device.

Most of what we’re discussing here was tested on very recent iOS devices, including an iPhone 6s, an iPhone 5s, an iPhone 4, and an iPad Air 2 — and at least one of these was not running iOS 9, but in fact limited to iOS 7 (have a guess which one). The methods described are the same on all the devices, and are important regardless of what you keep on your iOS device. If you’ve never backed up your iOS device, you should do so now — and we’ll explain how.

Backups: iCloud or iTunes?

There are two ways to back up the data on an iOS device: using iCloud, or using iTunes. The former has certain advantages, and so does the latter. The key difference is how they back up and what they back up — surprisingly, this is different. If you haven’t “tied” your iOS device to any Mac or PC, then you only have the iCloud option for backup. Doing a backup through iTunes, if you haven’t done it before, “ties” it to that particular machine (but don’t worry, when the time comes you can transfer that backup to your new machine, no problem).

The iCloud backup method is very quick, and wireless of course. The reason its quick is because it doesn’t back up absolutely everything, but it backs up the important things: the record of which apps you have, the iTunes Stores purchases, documents you’ve saved within the applications, photos, settings, and all that kind of thing. Since it already had a record of what you’ve bought, it doesn’t actually upload most of that, just the stuff you’ve added to them.

There is, however, an important limitation: iCloud accounts can only store 5GB worth of data for free, and that includes whatever else you’re using your iCloud account for (like email), so that might create an issue if you have a lot of stuff on your iOS device that wasn’t purchased from the iTunes stores. You may need to pay for more storage (this is fairly cheap, however: 99 cents per month for 50GB, and you may only need this extra storage for a month), or you may opt to back up through iTunes on your computer instead.

Backing up to your computer through iTunes has the advantage of backing up everything, including stuff like chat logs, music or videos that weren’t purchased through iTunes, photos that aren’t stored in the Camera Roll, your call history, homescreen arrangement, and more that an iCloud backup skips. The only thing an iTunes backup doesn’t automatically include is your health data; you need to turn on the encryption option to password-protect your backup before it will include that information. Make sure you create a password you can remember or retrieve, since there could be a lot of health-related data (like steps taken and heart rate) that you may not even be actively aware of. We generally recommend encrypted iTunes backups of iOS data as a matter of course.

When you get a new iOS device

Backing up your iOS data is a smart move and you should do it periodically; at least once a month would be our suggestion. This way, it rarely takes that long (if you’re doing the iTunes backup wirelessly, it can seem a bit slow; you can connect it directly via USB to improve the speed quite a bit) and it protects your data from getting lost if, for example, your iOS device was ever lost or stolen and not recoverable. The backup is also insanely great to have when you get a new iOS device.

Ideally, you would make a backup of your old device just before moving over to the new one, so that you had the most up-to-date backup possible. Regular backups, however, will minimize loss if the old device is no longer available — either because it is missing or because it just died on your, or is at the bottom of a lake or something. Plug the new device into your Mac or PC where the old device was backed up, click on the option to restore it from your backup, and before you know it you are back with all the stuff you had on your old device. The USB direct connection is fastest, again, but whatever works best for you is fine.

When you sell your old iOS device

What if it’s the other way round — that you’re selling your iOS device to someone else and you want to make sure it’s wiped clean? The procedure for this is simple, but it’s very important that you do all the steps. The first step — and the most important for avoiding future hassles — is to turn off “Find My iPhone” (or iPad, or iPod touch) on the device. You’ll be asked if you are sure, because this will disable an important tracking tool for finding a lost or stolen iOS device which we hope you have previously had on — but turn it off.

Next, sign out of iCloud. This also signs you out of all the things that use your Apple ID on the device, such as your Apple Mail account (if you have one), iTunes and the iTunes Stores, and so on. Finally, you then go to Settings, General, scroll all the way to the bottom (Apple made this hard to find on purpose), tap Reset, tap “Erase All Contents and Settings,” tap the confirmation — and a few seconds later you will have an iOS device that behaves exactly like it was just turned on for the first time, fresh out of the box. All your information is gone off the device — and safely stored in your backup on iCloud or iTunes until you restore it to another one.

When you change computers

If it’s not the iOS device that changed, but the computer, generally this will not be a big issue. You bought a new Mac or PC, and now you want your iOS device to be “tied” to it. Assuming you made a backup that was stored on iCloud or the old machine, you can restore from iCloud or by using Migration Assistant to connect your old machine to your new one — Migration Assistant will transfer over all your stuff, including your iOS backups, so everything will be just as it was.

When you plug the device into your new computer, your iTunes will recognize it and carry on — and if you do happen to get the computer saying it doesn’t recognize the iOS device, just have iTunes restore the device from your stored backup and it will get “back to normal.” If you didn’t associate your device with your computer previously and don’t want to this time, that’s fine too — just restore from your iCloud backup instead. With recent iOS versions, devices like iPhones and iPads don’t have to be associated with a computer if you don’t want them to be, though as we’ve mentioned there are some advantages to having a local backup.

There’s one other reason you may want to get more regular about backing up your iOS devices, and in particular your iTunes Store purchases: avoiding obsolescence. Although Apple will let you re-download anything you’ve purchased from them previously for free, there are some caveats to that. The biggest one is that sometimes — usually only temporarily, but “temporarily” can mean years — an artist or record company will pull songs or albums you purchased from iTunes for whatever reason.

You purchased it, it belongs to you, it’s right there on your iOS device as proof — but you can no longer re-download it if you happen to lose the copy you currently have. Similarly, movies and TV shows can get pulled, and much more frequently apps are discontinued and removed from the App Store (I have a handful of apps that fall into this category). If you’ve made backups, however, you’re covered from loss — those songs and videos can be put back on if you ever lose them or get a new device, and those games or other apps can carry on working for you as long as they are functional on the current iOS version.

Discounted apps for your new iOS device

In Part One of this article, we listed some of the many, many great deals on Mac apps and games that the new Mac owner might be interested in. We’ve also routinely posted iOS app deals when they come along, sometimes as part of the Daily Deals column and also as standalone specials, such as we did on Thursday. This time, we’re looking at apps and games you might want to download if you’ve just gotten a shiny new iOS device, either your first one or just your latest one.

While many of these specials cover the holiday period, don’t forget that new iOS device owners get Christmas every day by qualifying for a range of free Apple programs they can download, including the full “iWork” suite of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, along with other apps. Apple has also listed couple dozen great apps and games in a collection where each of the programs can be had for a mere 99 cents. From the “Pocket” version of drawing app Procreate to the note-taking app Notability to highly-regarded or cultishly-popular games such as Alto’s Adventure, I Am Bread, Bleek, and Goat Simulator. There’s at least one there that will go well beyond the fine apps your iOS device included, and remember — you can also gift these great app deals to others who got iOS devices this year.

Non-game iOS apps

While there is an astonishing amount of stuff you can do with an iPad or iPhone that doesn’t involve games, let’s not kid ourselves: games is the biggest and most popular category of apps, because the number one thing people do when they have some downtime is pull out their iPhone, whether its to check their messages, post their food on Facebook, or while away the waiting time with a quick round or two from a favorite game.

As mentioned above, Apple has a few non-game ideas on sale, but we also dug up a few more, includingDuet Display (which lets you use the iPad as a second Mac monitor) for $10 (normally $16), and 2Do (one guess what that does) which is now $8 (was $15). If you’re looking for a diary or journal, there’s Momento for half off (now just $1), and Day One for $1 (normally $5).

Readdle is discounting a bunch of their highly-regarded apps: we particularly like Scanner Pro (was $3, now $1), but there’s also Calendars 5, an alternative calendar program that ties nicely into Google Calendar (was $10 now $5); PDF Expert 5 for working with PDF forms (was $10, now $5); and Printer Pro, for sending documents from your iOS device to your printer (was $7, now $3). Darsoft has two of its PDF programs on sale as well: PDF Forms (was $9, now $4) and PDF Printer (was $6, now $4).

While nearly all of the apps we mention here are universal for all iOS devices, some still have separate iPad and iPhone versions. One example is astronomy app Star Walk for iPhone and Star Walk HD for iPad (both were $3 each, now $1 each). There’s also Awesome Note 2 for iPhone and for iPad, both now just $3 each (normally $4 and $5, respectively). Speaking of note-taking apps, Notes Plus is exclusively for iPad, and it’s down to $7 from the normal $10.

If you need some weather info, Instaweather Pro is free (normally $3), and Thermo-Hygrometer (what the what?) is half-off at $1 (usually $2). If you want to wake up, try Red Clock (was $2, now $1). Need another calculator, we think you’ll like Digits (was $4, now $1), and if you’re impressed enough with these apps that you want to try making your own, check out AppCooker (was $30, now $20). We also have a few apps where we mentioned the discounted Mac versions, including to-do list Clear (was $5, now $2), Deliveries for tracking packages (was $5, now $3) and Macphun’s FX Photo Studio (now free, was $1). Speaking of photo apps, Halftone will turn your photos into comics for $1 (normally $2).

Some other little non-game gems you might enjoy include photo-captioning app Word Swag (was $4, now $1), sound-sampling app Loopy HD (was $4, now $3), Awesome Calendar (was $7, now $3), City Maps 2Go Pro (was $5, now $1), and Fitness Buddy for just $3 instead of the usual $4. Related to that, don’t forget aboutFit Men Cook for healthy recipes, now just $1 (was $3).

Moar gamez!

We mentioned a couple at the start of this in the Apple collection, but we omitted the awesome Leo’s Fortune,Tiny Guardians, Trick Shot, and Ski Safari 2 that are also part of that sale. Some really big-name titles are priced to move as well, including all three of the Infinity Blade series (I, II, III), all now priced at $1; and a ridiculous number of Final Fantasy titles (II, III, the iPad version of Final Fantasy III, IV, IV: The After Years, V,VI, and VII for both iPhone and iPad, along with Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions available separately for iPhone and iPad). All the Final Fantasy titles are half off, which saves you between $5 and $8 per game from the regular price. We may have just set a record for the most links in a single paragraph ever, just there.

Some of our other personal favorites that are now on sale include the gorgeous quest puzzlers Oceanhorn(was $9, now $5) and Bastion (was $5, now $1), and Sid Meier’s Starships (was $10, now $5). We are also fond of Badland (was $5, now $3) and a favorite from our SNES days, The Secret of Mana (iPhone only, was $8, now $4). The Room and The Room 2 are both on sale; the former is iPad-only, and free (usually $1), while the latter is universal, and now $2 (normally $3). We also love Chrono Trigger (was $10 now $5), old-fashioned board game Ticket to Ride (was $7, now $3), and Lara Croft Go (Apple’s Game of the Year, was $5 now $2).

There’s no way we can document them all, but we do want to mention a couple of dozen others that caught our eye, including the Hitman Essentials bundle (includes Hitman Go and Sniper, was $8 now $1),DuckTales: Remastered (was $10, now $1) and Toca Lab (was $3, now $1) for the kids, XCOM: Enemy Within (was $10, now $5), and a raft of cheap sports games, including NBA 2K16, NHL 2K, WWE 2K, and RBI Baseball 15, all of which are sale-priced for between $1 and $4, and generally half to two-thirds off their normal price.

Oh, that egg nog is calling our name, but before we go, here’s some final other great app deals: there’s still a couple of games that are temporarily free that we didn’t mention previously, such as the excellent Attack the Light, God of Light, and Burn the Corn. Games that are down to just $1 include Hyper Square, Duet Game,Kingdom Rush Origins (iPhone only, that one), King Oddball, Space Inversion 2, Skip-Bo, Phase 10, Surgeon Simulator, and To-Fu Fury.

For a mere $2 apiece, games like Goat Simulator: GoatZ, the entire series of Lego Harry Potter games (Years 1-4 and Years 5-7), and the Lego Movie Video Game and Lego Lord of the Rings could be yours, along withSpace Invaders Infinity Gene. For $3 each, you can grab Goat Simulator MMO, the outstanding Broken Age,Kingdom Rush HD for iPad, and Transistor, all at at least 33 to 50 percent (if not more) off their normal price. If your family thought you kept your nose buried in your iOS device before, they haven’t seen anything yet. Enjoy, and have a “app-y” holiday.

Microsoft Lumia 550 unboxing, comparison and first impressions

Over the last few weeks, we have seen the new Microsoft Lumia 550 begin to sell around the world. Unfortunately, in the U.S. there does not seem to be any carrier support for the release, so we had to buy ours from B&H for $150.

So, how does it stack up? We’re wrapping up our full review for the Lumia 550 hopefully by week’s end, but for now, you can watch our unboxing and hands-on video.

In the video, I’ll also compare the Lumia 550 to the aging Lumia 635 (which is still being sold) and the newer Lumia 640.

The takeaway? The Lumia 550 brings a lot of nice features that were previously found in only higher-end phones to the budget arena. Between the HD display, decent rear camera, 2MP front-facing camera, and Glance screen, the Lumia 550 is a solid phone.

Some have been dismissive of the budget focused device, but there are some considerations to keep in mind. For one, the phone ships with build 10586.0, but it had an update for 10586.29 ready to install. That update along with the 34 or so app updates seemed to have improved the user experience. Throw on the even newer Insider build of 10586.36 and we are sure things will get even better.

Microsoft Lumia 550 front

Category Lumia 550 Lumia 635 Lumia 640
Operating System Windows 10 Mobile Windows Phone 8.1 Windows Phone 8.1
Display 4.7 inches
1280 x 720 resolution
4.5-inches
854 x 480 resolution
5.0-inches
1280 x 720 resolution
Glance Yes No Yes
Rear Camera 5MP AF
f/2.4
LED flash
5MP AF
f/2.4
no flash
8MP AF
f/2.2
LED flash
Front Camera 2MP
f/2.8
None 0.9 MP
f/2.4
Processors Qualcomm Snapdragon 210
Quad-core
1.1GHz
Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
Quad-core
1.2GHz
Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
Quad-core
1.2GHz
Storage and RAM Internal storage: 8GB (expandable up to 200GB)
RAM: 1GB
Internal storage: 8GB (expandable up to 128GB)
RAM: 512mb or 1GB
Internal storage: 8GB (expandable up to 128GB)
RAM: 1GB
Sensors Accelerometer
Proximity sensor
Ambient light sensor
Accelerometer
SensorCore
Ambient light sensor
Accelerometer
Proximity sensor
Magnetometer
SensorCore
Location A-GLONASS
A-GPS
Cellular
BeiDou
Wi-Fi network positioning
A-GLONASS
A-GPS
Cellular
BeiDou
Wi-Fi network positioning
A-GLONASS
A-GPS
Cellular
BeiDou
Wi-Fi network positioning
Dimensions 9.9 x 67.8 x 136.1 mm 9.2 x 66.7 x 29.5 mm 8.8 x 72.2 x 141.3 mm
Weight 141.9 g 134 g 145 g
Battery 2100 mAh 1830 mAh 2500 mAh

For comparison, the Lumia 635 was sold off-contract on T-Mobile for $168 and that phone lacks a front-facing camera, proximity, and ambient light sensors, and had no Glance or rear flash, and a much lower resolution display (854 x 480 vs. 1280 x 720 in the Lumia 550).

For $150 a Lumia 550 owner is getting a lot more bang for their buck these days.

Microsoft Lumia 550 5MP camera

As to why Microsoft should even sell this phone? The answer is simple. If you are a Microsoft, you want to be able to stock store shelves with a low-cost Lumia phone with Windows 10 Mobile. The Lumia 640 and Lumia 635 still ship with Windows Phone 8.1 and many retailers are no longer selling those phones (which are getting long in the tooth). Sure, for the hip power user getting an ‘old’ Lumia 640 and installing an Insider preview may be an option, but for regular people just looking for something new, you need something new to sell them.

Also, going forward, Microsoft will continuously update this phone with Windows as a Service (WaaS) likely bypassing carriers with monthly OS updates. Unless you are an Insider the same cannot be said for the Lumia 640 or Lumia 635.

Is it a good value? You can get a discounted Lumia 640 with Windows Phone 8.1 for pretty cheap these days in the U.S. But out the gate, a new phone likely can’t compete on price with a phone that has been on the market for nine months already.

Pricing

Microsoft Lumia 550 side

In the UK you can grab the Lumia 550 for £59.99 ($89 USD), in Ireland it’s €99 ($108 USD), and in India for ₹9,199 ($138 USD). Clearly there is a large gap in pricing reflective of each market. Regardless, in using the Lumia 550 for the last day, I can’t say it was a terrible experience.

Sound off in comments if you have a Lumia 550 or are considering one and let us know what you think. Stay tuned for our full review in the coming days.

Behance concept revamps Windows 10 Mobile

Windows Phone fans are passionate, as such, there’s no shortage of enthusiast-made redesigns of the OS.

This latest one comes from @JobsRobson, who paid close attention some of Windows 10 Mobile’s finer design flaws.

The full project makes a pass over the action center, start screen, Windows 10 Store, and even takes a look at how a popular app – Spotify – might fit into his proposed design language refinements.

The design introduces the frosted glass effect to Windows 10 Mobile. The effect was made popular in Windows 7, and found itself reintroduced into Windows 10’s Start Menu and Action Centre for PCs following Windows Insider feedback.

Robson’s take on Windows 10 Mobile makes better use of space available on-screen. Some of these composition issues are caused by Windows 10’s universal apps, which conform to different screens based on the size available. You can test how UWAs transform to reflect different screen sizes on your PC, simply by resizing the window.

Here are some of Robson’s proposed changes, be sure to check out the full project on Behance, right here.

Microsoft will no doubt iterate and polish Windows 10 Mobile’s design and apps moving forward to bring it more in-line with something like the above. Major features like the inclusion of music controls directly into the Action Center might take a little longer to materialize. Interactive live tiles, for example, have been proposed for quite a while now, although Windows Insiders have yet to see Microsoft’s take on the idea.

What do you think of these ideas? What aspects of Windows 10 Mobile do you think Microsoft should focus on improving first? Let us know in the comments.

Garmin lists Lumias that will work with its fitness wearables with Windows 10 Mobile

Garmin lists Lumias that will work with its fitness wearables with Windows 10 Mobile

Garmin has published a list of Lumia phones that are compatible with its collection of Bluetooh Low Energe-capable devices, which include a collection of GPS-enabled watches, exercise bands, and standalone GPS units. The phones on the list will need to be updated toWindows 10 Mobile in order to pair with Garmin’s list of products.

A range of Garmin devices will be compatible with the following Lumia phones:

  • Lumia 635
  • Lumia 640
  • Lumia 640 XL
  • Lumia 830
  • Lumia 929 Icon
  • Lumia 930
  • Lumia 950
  • Lumia 950 XL
  • Lumia 1020
  • Lumia 1520

Garmin also provided a chart, noting which Lumia phones have been tested with particular devices, and what features they can use. Even if a phone is marked as compatible with a particular wearable, not every feature of that wearable may have been tested with that specific phone.

If your phone is not on the list, it may still pair with Garmin’s products if it is running Windows 10 Mobile and in Bluetooth 4.0-compatible.

You can now order knock-off Lumia 950 and XL battery covers in Blue or Orange

Back when news of the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL was leaking in late summer reports of the phone coming in a Windows Blue color were circulating. We quickly squashed those rumors noting the blue color was only for the prototype, and instead the phone would be offered only in black or white. That came to be the case although third party manufacturers can indeed fill the gaps.

Now, a seller on AliExpress is offering replacement battery covers for the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL and besides black or white you can also grab them in bright orange or that Windows blue color.

The cases themselves are super cheap at about $3 a piece. However, it should be noted that as far as we can tell they do not contain the Qi wireless or NFC components. Instead, they are just plastic covers and for all we know cheap knock-offs. Still, you could solder in your Qi pad even removing the one from your existing case if you are brave.

Shipping is also very cheap although since it is coming from China, you are looking at about a 2-week timespan. Expedited shipping goes past $100, which is just ludicrous for a $3 item. You are also limited to just two covers per order.

Needless to say, we have ordered up some covers for our Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL and will, of course, do a hands-on when they arrive. For now, if you want to take the gamble you can head to the store links below to order them up.

Hands-on with the T-Mobile Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL with Windows 10 Mobile

Alcatel OneTouch in partnership with Microsoft and T-Mobile U.S. are launching the new Fierce XL smartphone with Windows 10 in the coming weeks.

We managed to get a hands-on with the budget-friendly smartphone here at CES 2016 and figured we would give you the full tour. Watch our hands-on video to see what is coming.

Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL

  • Windows 10 Mobile build 10586.29
  • 5.5-inch HD Display (1280×720 pixels)
  • 1.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 Quad-Core Processor
  • Cyan color exclusive to T-Mobile
  • 4G LTE Cat 4 (B2/4/12)
  • 8MP AF Main Camera with x2 Digital Zoom + 2MP Front-Facing Camera
  • 2GB of RAM + 16GB of storage
  • 2500mAH battery for up to 14 hours of talk time and 820 hours of standby time
  • Additional Features: VoLTE, FCC Mandated Anti-Theft Protection and T-Mobile Wi-Fi calling compatibility

Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL

Impressions

Alcatel OneTouch has done an admirable job with the Fierce XL. The HD display is a little bit washed out when compared to the deeper blacks on some Lumias, but it is also much better than what we have seen from other budget OEMs in the past.

Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL

Being a 5.5-inch display with a curved body makes the Fierce XL feel great in the hand with no grip issues. The power button is placed on the right-hand side above the volume rocker, which is non-standard, but not as jarring as the split button setup on the Lumia 950 XL.

The cameras are fine and, of course, feature the Rich Capture ability found in the standard Windows Camera app. Images will be decent but at $140 the Fierce XL is still in the budget lineup so expectations should meet that category.

Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL

The cyan color, which is exclusive to T-Mobile for now, is a nice nod to Lumia fans of the past who liked a little personality with their phone.

The Windows 10 Mobile experience is vanilla with no customizations or unique apps, save for T-Mobile’s apps and Wi-Fi calling. That’s a good thing too as I don’t think manufacturers should feel obligated to try and improve upon the OS. Plus it saves everyone costs that get passed on somewhere.

Although the Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 is not a powerhouse of a processor the phone’s performance felt fine to me with no real lag. Performance is certainly helped by the unusual (but welcomed) inclusion of 2GB of RAM instead of 1GB found in most budget phones.

Takeaway

The Fierce XL from Alcatel OneTouch is a solid looking Windows 10 Mobile phone for budget conscious shoppers. More importantly, it gives those on T-Mobile who have aging Lumias in that price range somewhere to go for 2016.

Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL

I liked the Fierce XL, and, more importantly, I liked Alcatel OneTouch’s commitment to the Windows 10 Mobile ecosystem. They have made it clear to us that this is not their only phone coming this year with the Microsoft OS, and they will release phones in the high-end too, possibly near the summer time. It’s exciting to see a company this interested in Windows 10 Mobile and hopefully the Fierce XL on T-Mobile will do well for them.

The Fierce XL launches in the coming weeks on T-Mobile in the US for an estimated retail price of $139 with no contract. Unlocked variants will eventually be sold through Alcatel OneTouch and Microsoft Stores directly as well including support for AT&T LTE.

Don’t forget to check out our hands-on with the Alcatel OneTouch Pixi 3 – an 8-inch Windows 10 Mobile tablet with LTE. It is a very cool device for just $199!