TIME Smartphones

Samsung’s New Galaxy S6 Went On Sale Today

AUSTRALIA-SKOREA-SAMSUNG-PHONE-S6
Peter Parks—AFP/Getty Images The new Samsung Galaxy S6 is seen on display in a Samsung store in Sydney on April 10, 2015.

The company is predicting record-breaking sales

Samsung launched its latest flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, in the U.S. on Friday, marking the South Korean device maker’s latest attempt to revive smartphone sales after a year of tumbling profits.

The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were widely praised by reviewers as Samsung’s best looking smartphone to date, replacing the plastic chassis of the previous model with a smooth metal frame. Samsung also included eye-catching design flourishes, such as a touchscreen on the S6 Edge that gently curves around one side of the phone.

Samsung executives predict record-breaking sales for the latest Galaxy smartphones, which, at a starting cost of $600, will compete in the same price bracket as the iPhone 6.

TIME Smartphones

The 13 Best Free Smartphones You Can Buy

Motorola Mobility Portfolio Launch Event
Daniel Boczarski—2014 Getty Images Motorola announced the new Moto X and G, Moto Hint and Moto 360 by opening its headquarters for media to meet the engineers and designers committed to offering people more choice, control and accessibility in their personal technology.

$0 down can actually go a long way

Walk into any AT&T or Verizon store, and you’ll see a shelf full of $0 phones, complete with cheap knock-offs, devices that can’t connect to the Internet, and old handsets from 2012. Make no mistake: when it comes to free phones, you usually get what you pay for.

Here and there, however, you can find a great phone for $0 down. Some companies will offer discounts on devices in a less popular size, while others will drop prices significantly a year after release. Even some of the best flagship models from top brands—like Apple, Samsung, HTC and LG—will eventually drop their prices to $0, as long as you know where and when to look.

With this in mind, we set out to find the best free phones on the market today. Each of the devices on this list will cost you $0 from at least one carrier, as long as you’re starting a new contract.

How did we pick and rank the list? We started with a list of phones that can be purchased for $0 with a new contract. We then looked at specs, features and expert reviews to calculate a Smart Rating for each device. Finally, we ranked our list by the overall ratings, using release date to break ties (the newer the device, the better).

We’ll start with number 13 and work our way to the best free phone of all.

LG Enact

Smart Rating: 79/100
Release: August 2013

For customers who miss physical keyboards, the LG Enact hides a full QWERTY set-up right underneath its full 4-inch display. It’s the sort of design you’d have to pay half a grand for in 2007. Today? You can snap one up for $0 with a contract.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

Smart Rating: 84/100
Release: May 2013

Samsung fans hoping to save should give a hard look at the $0 Galaxy S4 Mini, a phone with signature Samsung quality, but costing hundreds of dollars less than the newest models.

Motorola Moto G

Smart Rating: 84/100
Release: November 2013

Praised for its pure Android experience (no needless frills or odd augmentations), the 2013 Moto G remains a smart, sensible buy for people who live on Google services like Gmail, YouTube and Maps.

BlackBerry Z10

Smart Rating: 88/100
Release: January 2013

The Z10 was BlackBerry’s best attempt to produce a modern-style smartphone—complete with the familiar grid of app icons and no physical keyboard. To this day, it’s still a great option for BlackBerry fans who like the way iOS looks but don’t care for Apple’s ecosystem. And best yet, it doesn’t cost a penny.

Motorola DROID Mini

Smart Rating: 89/100
Release: August 2013

Generally speaking, bigger phones tend to have larger—and thus longer lasting—batteries. Take the iPhone 6 versus the 6 Plus: the 5.5-inch Plus boasts over 70% more battery than its smaller cousin. The $0 DROID Mini defies this trend—a 4.3-inch phone with a whopping 28 hours of battery. It’s a rare combination at an unbeatable price.

LG Lucid 3

Smart Rating: 89/100
Release: April 2014

The LG Lucid 3 was made specifically for the tasteful budget phone shopper—someone who wants smooth operation and clean hardware design for next to no cost. The device is also a nice, compact alternative to LG’s parade of big-screen, 5.2- to 6-inch phones.

Motorola DROID MAXX

Smart Rating: 90/100
Release: August 2013

The Motorola DROID MAXX still offers one of the best batteries on the market, capable of going two full days on a single charge. Sure, the performance doesn’t match the latest flagship phones, but if you simply need something reliable, cheap and long-lasting, this is your handset.

iPhone 5C

Smart Rating: 90/100
Release: September 2013

Apple’s pricing structure is steady and predictable: the newest models start at $200, the year-old model at $100, the two-year-old model at $0. This time around, however, the free model (the iPhone 5C) is noticeably different than its more expensive cousins. The newer models feature bigger screens and metal bodies; the 5C sports a plastic shell and compact screen. For some customers, the 5C will be exactly what they want anyway—and they won’t be able to beat the $0 price tag.

LG G Flex

Smart Rating: 90
Release: January 2014

The LG G Flex has a novel, curved display—the sort of unique hardware design you’d normally have to pay extra to enjoy. By now, however, enough time has passed—and a new model has surfaced—to make the original G Flex free with a 2-year contract. The curved display isn’t for everyone, but if you’re intrigued, you can try it for free.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Smart Rating: 90/100
Release: September 2014

Samsung’s small-screen Galaxy Alpha has a premium feel and solid performance. It’s the ideal phone for Samsung fans who never joined the big-screen revolution. With the impending Galaxy S6 launch, Samsung has slashed the price on the Alpha, making this an excellent time to buy.

Amazon Fire Phone

Smart Rating: 93/100
Release: July 2014

Yes, the Amazon Fire Phone flopped hard. Sure, the 3D effects were nothing more than a gimmick, and the internals weren’t anything special. A year later, however, the Amazon Fire Phone might actually be underrated. For the Prime subscriber and Amazon shopping addict, there’s still no better phone for optimizing your retail experience. And you can get the whole experience for $0 on day one—a happy consequence of all the bad press.

LG G2

Smart Rating: 94/100
Release: September 2013

You might worry that the LG G2 is a little too old to warrant a purchase, as it was first released in fall 2013. Consider, however, that the LG G2’s performance was at least six months ahead of its time, and that the phone served as the prequel to our Editors’ Choice for Best Smartphone of 2014 (the LG G3). A $0 price tag? On that device? Crazy.

And it’s the best Android phone on this list.

HTC One (M8) for Windows

Smart Rating: 95/100
Release: August 2014

Normally, you have to sacrifice quality to get a free phone, but the HTC One M8 for Windows is both free and one of the best handsets on the market. Why? It all stems from popularity. Most people are on either iOS or Android, so HTC sells the Windows version at a discount. What’s more, HTC still isn’t as popular as Apple or Samsung, so the company is willing to cut costs to compete. Add it up, and the HTC One M8 is the best free phone you can get. If you haven’t tried Windows on a phone before, this is the perfect place to start.

TIME Smartphones

Watch the Samsung Galaxy S Evolve Before Your Very Eyes

The Android-powered iPhone rival has come a long way

The Samsung Galaxy S has come a long way since it first launched in 2010. With its latest versions — the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge — set to go on sale on April 10, take a look at how the Android-powered iPhone rival has changed over the years:

Evolution of the  Galaxy S
gadgetlove.comEvolution of the Samsung Galaxy S

For a larger, interactive version of the GIF, head over to gadgetlove.com.

TIME Vietnam

Scaffolding Collapse Claims 14 Lives at a Vietnamese Port

Vietnam Scaffolding Collapse
Cong Tuong—AP Rescuers work through the rubble trying to find survivors after scaffolding collapsed in an economic zone in Ha Tinh province in central Vietnam on March 25, 2015

The workers were reportedly employed by a sub-contractor of Samsung

At least 14 workers were killed and 30 wounded in Vietnam Wednesday night when scaffolding collapsed at a seaport project in the Vung Ang economic zone of Ha Tinh province.

Provincial People’s Committee Deputy Chairman Dang Quoc Khanh announced on national television that many of the injured had been hospitalized. Authorities were working to uncover two bodies still buried within the debris, Reuters reports.

Phan Tran De, deputy chief of the zone’s managing authority, told local media that thousands of workers were on the construction site and casualty numbers may rise.

The seaport was being built on the grounds of a complex owned by the Formosa Group, a Taiwanese company. The government-owned Thanh Nien newspaper reported that the hurt workers, all of whom were Vietnamese, were sub-contracted from a branch of South Korea’s Samsung Group.

Vung Ang hit the headlines last year when riots erupted targeting Chinese workers.

TIME Autos

How Silicon Valley Suddenly Fell in Love With Cars

Tesla Model S.
Tesla Tesla's battery makes it cleaner than gas-guzzling alternatives—but think about what else it's made of.

The last great remaining American preoccupation tech hasn't yet tackled is the automobile. That's about to change

“The American really loves nothing but his automobile,” Gavin Stevens says in Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust. “Because the automobile has become our national sex symbol.” Given that longtime infatuation, you’d think Silicon Valley’s tech companies would have been eager to get into the auto industry before now. Instead, many are surprised that it’s happening at all.

Ever since the personal computer became mainstream, Silicon Valley has been inventing or reinventing new gadgets: the music player, the phone, the computer itself, first as a portable, now as a tablet. Amazon remade the shopping mall and put it on a screen. Netflix and YouTube subverted the TV set, and now Google’s Nest is going after other household appliances. This year, Apple is reworking the wristwatch, casting tech as jewelry.

The last great remaining American preoccupation that tech hasn’t yet tackled is the automobile. Much of this has to do with logistics–selling phones or music players is child’s play next to the expensive, highly regulated business of manufacturing cars–but there’s also a historical mindset at work. Detroit, with its combustion engines and metallic gears, was the epitome of an analog era that Silicon Valley displaced. The car was an anachronism, however beloved.

No longer. Google has been working on self-driving cars for a number of years. Uber has started looking into them as well. Now, according to the ever-churning Apple rumor mill, the Cupertino giant is working on a stealth car project. For tech companies, the automobile has gone from a super-sized docket to park a smartphone while you drive to a gadget that can be reimagined from the ground up with digital technology.

The sudden shift is happening for a few reasons. First, with PCs, tablets and smartphone markets close to saturation, tech giants are looking for new markets to invade with their innovations. Second, the car market seems ripe for a makeover. American automakers like GM may be reviving post-financial crisis, but the U.S. looks to have reached “peak driving:” Annual miles driven per person is down 9% from 1995, and even more among young drivers.

But the biggest single reason tech suddenly loves the car is Tesla. The company founded by Elon Musk in 2003 to make electric cars has become much more: It has fused the automaker with the tech company, and not only built a cultural bridge between Detroit and Silicon Valley but showed that both were converging toward each other.

Tesla was a wake-up call to automakers that had grown complacent about innovation. It showed that technology was a powerful way to differentiate a particular model from the herd, and that if automakers wanted to reach out to younger consumers, they should embrace the kinds of technology they enjoy. Soon, you began to hear auto executives talk about “smarter cars” and roadways as “connected networks” structured like the Internet (15 years ago, that simile ran mostly in the opposite direction).

Read more: How Apple Is Invading Our Bodies

Google CEO Larry Page has said his interest in driverless cars stems from the inefficiency of roadways, which not only cost lives but waste worker time in traffic jams. (It doesn’t hurt, either, that driverless cars could offer commuters more opportunity to look at Google ads.) Uber is also researching self-driving cars to lower costs for its passenger service as well as a planned delivery service.

The loudest buzz surrounds Project Titan, a rumored Apple car that in reality could be pretty much anything: an electric vehicle, a leased minivan, a driverless car, a ploy to acquire Tesla, a bluff to pressure automakers into putting its CarPlay software in their vehicles, or a clever Apple hoax trolling Apple rumor-mongers. Wall Street analysts, though, think an Apple car is the likely bet, and if so the marriage of Detroit and Silicon Valley is a matter of time.

If nothing else, Apple’s rumored entry into automobiles seems to have turned up the heat. Last week, Musk said Tesla would start offering “autopilot” technology in its cars this summer. Google said its more ambitious driverless-car system would be ready for broad consumption in five years.

But the dark-horse in this new race may be Samsung, which according to Thomson Reuters has “has the largest and broadest collection of patents in the automotive field including a very large interest in batteries and fuel cells for next generation vehicles.” If automobile technology boils down to a patent race, Samsung may end up having an edge. Samsung even has some history in car manufacturing.

The end goal of these tech aspirations in the automotive industry may well be partnerships with established manufacturers. After all, what company is dying to break into a low-margin heavy industry? Many auto executives scoff at the idea that jumping from smartphones to cars is good idea. They may be surprised. Cars are just another form of technology, albeit one in need of an upgrade. And who is better positioned to upgrade them Apple or Google?

TIME Smartphones

Why Xiaomi Terrifies the Rest of the Tech World

Xiaomi Mi Note
ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images Lei Jun, chairman and CEO of China's Xiaomi Inc. presents the company's new product, the Mi Note on Jan. 15, 2015 in Beijing, China.

China's top smartphone maker has set its sights on tech's biggest companies

You can tell a lot about the state of the tech industry by looking at the company that’s currently scaring the crap out of everybody. A decade ago, it was Google. More recently, Facebook became the 800-pound gorilla in social media and photo sharing. This year, the heavy is one that was unknown in the US until a year or so ago: Xiaomi.

Out of countless smartphone makers that have emerged to build on the Android mobile operating system, Xiaomi has not only broken apart from the herd, it’s quickly given other smartphone manufacturers a run for their money. Xiaomi’s share of the global smartphone market rose to 5.3% in late 2014 from 2.1% a year earlier, according to Statista.

A big reason for Xiaomi’s sudden success is that it designs its own hardware as well as the firmware that rides on top of Android’s open-source software. Xiaomi’s MIUI interface evokes the speed and sleekness of an iPhone or a high-end Samsung phone, but often retails for half the price. Most Android phone sellers, by contrast, rely on similar design templates offered by third-party manufacturers like Foxconn.

Xiaomi’s simple strategy of high-quality gadgets at lower prices is threatening the business models of some of the biggest names in technology, including:

Samsung. In China, where the bulk of Xiaomi’s phones have been sold to date, the company’s market share has risen to 15% from 5% a year earlier. Samsung’s, meanwhile, has fallen to 12% from 19%. According to IDC, Samsung’s smartphone shipments in China declined by 22% in 2014, while Xiaomi’s surged 187%.

Samsung has been a big presence in other emerging economies, but Xiaomi announced in January that it would be pushing aggressively into Brazil, Russia and other emerging markets. After launching in India in July, Xiaomi already has a 4% market share. And the company raised $1.1 billion in December, proceeds that could go to building manufacturing and marketing presences in new countries.

Apple has emerged as the predominant smartphone company at the high end of the market. So with Xiaomi offering stylish phones at lower prices, Samsung may find itself pinched between iPhones and low-cost commodity Android phones. Now Xiaomi is gunning for another core Samsung market: TV sets. In November, Xiaomi paid$200 million for Midea Group, a maker of consumer electronics, and said it would spend $1 billion to build out its TV ecosystem.

GoPro. Xiaomi is also planning on launching a site to sell its goods in the US. But for various reasons like the complex subsidies US carriers pay to offset sticker prices, Xiaomi won’t sell smartphones here but instead will sell its fitness tracker, headphones and other accessories.

Earlier this month, Xiaomi said it would also start selling the Yi Camera, a 1080p high-definition action camera that sounds a lot like the best-selling Hero sold by GoPro. Only the Yi will sell for $64, or about half the price of the Hero. The Yi even improves on the Hero with a 16-megapixel camera shooting 60 frames a second. So again, high-end quality at half the price.

GoPro’s brand is much stronger in the US than Xiaomi’s. If that changes, GoPro faces a tough choice between slashing the Hero’s price or watching its market share erode. GoPro’s stock has already lost 39% this year amid concerns about whether it can maintain its torrid growth pace. The bigger the splash that Xiaomi’s camera makes in the US, the more those concerns will grow.

Google. As a thriving smartphone company built on Android, you’d think Xiaomi’s success would be a positive for Google, which still makes the vast bulk of its revenue from online ads. But Google’s services and mobile apps are either blocked or hamstrung in China, so local companies like Alibaba and Baidu have long since learned to work on Android phones without Google’s API.

Google has never had a strong footprint in China. What isn’t clear is what role Google apps will play on Xiaomi’s phones sold outside of China. On the one hand, Google takes a hard line on companies that use Android without its services. On the other, Xiaomi VP (and former Googler) Hugo Barra indicated last week that Xiaomi may not export to new markets the app store it uses for its Chinese customers.

Apple. Given the popularity of the iPhone 6 in China and across the globe, Apple seems to be immune for now to any threat posed by Xiaomi. But glance a few years down the road and it’s not hard to imagine the Chinese manufacturer competing with the best products offered by the reigning king of Silicon Valley.

Xiaomi’s MIUI is several years younger than Apple’s iOS. But despite Apple’s early lead, Xiaomi has quickly created an interface that is not only drawing more comparisons with the look and feel of iOS, it’s designed to be used on a wide array of devices from phones to tablets to wearables.

Xiaomi’s expansion trajectory also looks a lot like Apples: a smart TV console that streams digital content, a fitness tracker that could easily mature into a smartwatch, headphones that offer stylish looks and gold-colored metal. There were even reports this week of a Xiaomi electric car–spurious, to be sure, but it fits the idea that the most innovative companies are interested in the car market.

Apple’s earlier iPhones suffered phases when their features weren’t terribly distinctive from other top phones on the market. If that happens again, and Mi’s user experience comes closer to that of the iPhone, Xiaomi could steal some of Appple’s market share. In the meantime, the two emerging rivals have already taken tothrowing shade on each other.

Xiaomi is sure to face speed bumps as it races forward, like the patent suits it’s already facing in India. Competitors may use patent litigation to slow Xiaomi’s global expansion, but then again, a company worth $45 billion and planning an IPO can easily raise enough cash to buy a substantial patent portfolio of its own. Beyond that, it’s hard to see what will slow Xiaomi’s steady march ahead.

Read next: The Biggest Misconception About Apple

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MONEY Weird News

Your Dog Needs This $30,000 Hot Tub Palace

150306_EM_DOGHOUSE
David Parry—PA Wire/Press Association Images

Samsung’s one-off Dream Doghouse also features a treadmill and snack dispenser.

If you’ve ever attended or watched one of the any international dog shows, you’ll surely see dozens of pets that are treated with the kind of opulence most humans will never get to experience. But only one lucky canine is the proud owner of Samsung’s Dream Doghouse, a $30,000 pooch pad that features an AstroTurf-covered treadmill, hydrotherapy pool, entertainment wall, and paw-controlled snack dispenser.

As the International Business Times reports, a team of 12 designers and builders collaborated on the project, which took six weeks to complete. On top of the treadmill and hot tub, the tiny home has a vinyl wall that can be covered with photos of the owner’s choosing, while the opposite wall features a Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablet, for whatever the dog feels like doing online.

“The Samsung Dream Doghouse looks sleek and modern, featuring the kind of tech the discerning dog of the future will need,” Andy Griffiths, president of Samsung Electronics U.K. and Ireland, said in a press release. “From dogs who have social media profiles, to owners who use video calling to check on their pet while away, technology is fast becoming an integral part of everyday life.”

And no, Griffiths isn’t just doing this for laughs. The company surveyed 1500 dog owners and found that a quarter of them wanted their pets to have their own treadmill, as well as a tablet or TV. Of the dog owners surveyed, 64% believed their pets would benefit from more technology and gadgets, and 18% said they’d like their furry companion to have its own hot tub.

Samsung only made one of the Dream houses and gave it away via a social media contest that ran until March 2nd. In the meantime, the house will be on display at the Crufts Dog Show, which runs March 5-8 at Birmingham, England’s National Exhibition Centre.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME technology

New Report Says Apple Is Now the World’s Biggest Smartphone Maker

Apple Samsung Sales
Chris McGrath—Getty Images The Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus at their launch at the Apple Omotesando Store on Sept. 19, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.

According to data from research firm Gartner

Apple is now the world’s biggest smartphone maker in terms of worldwide sales at the end of last year, according to a new estimate that puts its fourth quarter figures ahead of rival Samsung’s numbers.

While Apple reported worldwide sales of 74.8 million smartphones during the fourth quarter of 2014, a report by research firm Gartner published Tuesday estimates Samsung sold 73 million units during the same period. If accurate — Samsung doesn’t report out its smartphone sales — that would mean Apple overtook Samsung as the world’s top smartphone maker by global sales for the first time since late 2011.

The new figures come on the heels of a recent report by Strategy Analytics that said Apple tied Samsung in worldwide shipments during the fourth quarter, which includes sold and unsold smartphones.

Apple’s strongest sales tend to occur during Q4 due to its fall iPhone releases. Last year’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus offered the sales push Apple needed to beat out Samsung, per Gartner’s data:

But Apple still has a ways to go if it wants to beat Samsung in annual global smartphone sales — a goal that seems possible given how Apple’s annual sales are rising faster than Samsung’s:

Here’s a look at the history of Apple’s iPhone:

MONEY Tech

Wireless Charging Coming to an Ikea Nightstand Near You

Furniture giant Ikea is introducing lamps and tables that will recharge your smartphone — no power cord necessary.

TIME Smartphones

See Why Samsung Needs the Galaxy S6 To Be a Massive Hit

Samsung Galaxy S6 Apple Shipments
Lluis Gene—AFP/Getty Images The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (L) and Samsung Galaxy S6 are presented during the 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on March 1, 2015.

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge will go toe-to-toe with Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

After months of teases, Samsung unveiled its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S6, and its curved-screen cousin, the Galaxy S6 Edge, at Mobile World Congress on Sunday.

The new phones couldn’t arrive quickly enough for Samsung. Just a few weeks ago, a Strategy Analytics report estimated that Apple tied Samsung in global smartphone shipments last quarter, thanks to massive iPhone 6 sales.

If accurate — Samsung doesn’t report smartphone sales on its own — that would mark the first time Apple has matched Samsung’s quarterly global shipments since the end of 2011, when Apple’s figures slightly surpassed those of Samsung. (Note that Apple’s global shipments tend to spike each Q4 due to its annual fall iPhone releases and the holiday season, while Samsung releases smartphones year-round.)

 

Samsung, whose last flagship Galaxy S5 posted disappointing sales, isn’t shy about comparing the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, whose sales bested Apple’s previous records. During Samsung’s unveiling, it subtly mocked the iPhone 6 Plus’ Bendgate controversy while comparing the S6 phones favorably to their iPhone rivals.

The good news for Samsung is that it’s still number one when it comes to annual global smartphone shipments. But that’s hardly comforting when Samsung’s sales fell slightly from 2013 to 2014, while Apple’s sales show no signs of slowing down—putting even more pressure on the Galaxy S6.

 

Still, early reviews of the Galaxy S6, which goes on sale April 10, suggest the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge might be exactly what Samsung needs to remain competitive with Apple.

 

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