Instagram will support uncropped photos (but only in Direct Messages)

Instagram is introducing a way to share photos in portrait and landscape orientations, but only in private messages. You’ll still have to work your Instagram magic to share photos the old fashioned way, but now at least when you’re messaging your friends you can send memes back and forth without having to worry about the size of the image.

That’s not the only new feature for Instagram Direct, however. You can also send links to your friends in direct messages, including things for websites and other images, as well as phone numbers and addresses.

These are small changes, but they’re crucial to Instagram building up its messaging component to truly compete with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and others. Ironically, Facebook owns most of these, but at least you can’t complain about feature parity.

Giveaway: Win a LeEco audio bundle (headphones + speaker)!

It’s nearing the hotter months of the year in many places, so we’re partnering with LeEco to give you a bundle of products that takes audio anywhere you are without wires. Both LeEco and Talk Android know how bad you want to listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks on the beach, at the park, while working out, or wherever you feel comfortable. Through this giveaway you can get headphones and a speaker by simply submitting entries in a few seconds.

Here’s what the bundle includes:
  • LeEco Leme Bluetooth Headphones (EB30A) – White
  • LeEco Letv Bluetooth Speaker – Blue

The giveaway is live now, and you’ll be able to submit entries until June 1 at 11:59PM ET. We’ll contact the winner via email; therefore, be sure to keep your eye on your inbox. If the winner does not respond to our email within 24 hours with a valid mailing address, we’ll have to choose someone else.


T-Mobile portfolio now includes Kyocera DuraForce Pro and Alcatel Go Flip

While many  consumers are able to find a satisfactory standard smartphone from many of the big name manufacturers, that does not mean some niche markets are still looking for options. Today T-Mobile announced they are adding a pair of devices to their on-line and retail sales channels for buyers with some unique needs. Both the Kyocera DuraForce Pro and Alcatel Go Flip are now available on the magenta network.

The Kyocera DuraForce Pro is a ruggedized phone for those users who need something tough, whether it is from the way they use it or the environments they work in. The list of rugged features is impressive and extensive. The device is IP68 certified for water and dust resistance. That is just the beginning though as it also meets “Military Standard 810G for protection against dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, blowing rain, low pressure, humidity, immersion, temperature shock, icing/freezing rain, solar radiation and (no joke) salt fog.” Along with all of this protection, buyers get a Snapdragon 617 chip, a 5-inch full HD screen, 32GB of storage, a fingerprint sensor, a 13MP rear camera and 5MP front camera all powered by Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Equally unique in a different way is the Alcatel Go Flip phone. Yes, you read that right – it is a flip phone. The components are not very impressive, as you may have guessed. It has a 2.8-inch display running at 320 x 240 resolution, a 5MP rear-facing camera and only 4GB of internal memory. If you are buying a flip phone though, hardware specs are probably not a concern to you. The device does support 4G connectivity, so using something like the browser or email will at least be fast.

The Alcatel Go Flip only costs $75 retail or it can be bought on an installment plan for $3 per month. The Kyocera DuraForce Pro lists for $425 full retail or $17 per month on an installment plan.

Donald Trump’s only app on his smartphone? Twitter

Not too long ago, Donald Trump finally ditched his old and unsecure Galaxy S3 in favor of a more modern iPhone. That was good news for anyone concerned about the digital security of the President of the US, but it doesn’t look like he’s adapting to the capabilities of a newer phone.

According to sources at the White House, there’s a single app installed on Trump’s iPhone. And if you’ve kept up with his antics for the past couple of years, you can probably guess that single app is Twitter.

Those officials say the key to keeping Trump from tweeting legally dubious things is to keep his schedule packed with as little free time as possible. Not exactly a great look, but at least it’s less likely that he’ll have his Twitter account compromised.

Watch Andy Rubin talk about Essential at the Code Conference

Essential’s Andy Rubin will speak about his new company and phone tonight at the Code Conference 2017.

Today’s a big day for Essential. With the introduction of the Essential Phone, we’re seeing what mobile industry masterminds are able to produce together. Rubin hired talent from Google, Apple, HTC, and other companies to create this device. It combines an insanely durable body with high-end specifications you’d expect from a 2017 flagship.

The Code Conference, hosted by Recode, will have Rubin as a guest. He’ll discuss Essential, its first phone, and the mobile industry. Anything he says will likely be newsworthy; therefore, we highly recommend watching his appearance in Rancho Palos Verdes tonight. If you miss it, we’ll pull all of the important quotes and share them with you.

Andy Rubin says the Essential Phone should ship in about 30 days

Now we know when you should expect to see the Essential Phone ship in the United States.

Speaking with Walt Mossberg at the Code Conference hosted by Recode, Essential’s Andy Rubin revealed that its first phone should ship in around the next 30 days. Neither Essential nor Rubin would share anything about availability beyond pricing in the hours since the phone’s launch. The overall expectation was that, yes, the Essential Phone would ship in 2017; however, the exact date was kept secret. Finally, after being pressed a bit, Rubin said the device should be ready to ship in late June or early July.

Other topics covered included Essential’s plan to scale, how the company is trying to make itself different in a crowded space, and what the future of consumer technology is going to be like.

Head over to this page to re-watch Rubin’s appearance at the Code Conference 2017.

Nest Cam IQ officially makes WiFi cameras even smarter

Remember that Nest smart(er) camera that leaked out a little over a week ago? It’s official, and it even hit that end-of-May deadline. The indoor WiFi camera, dubbed the Nest Cam IQ, has picked up several nifty new features that should help Nest stave off competition from newer players in the market.

The Cam IQ is focused on intelligent features, primarily around being able to detect things like people’s faces. However, unlike other cameras that simply tell you “I saw a person” the Nest Cam IQ will instead be able to learn people that regularly pass through the camera’s range, so it will know whether or not it’s detecting a stranger or, say, your friends that come over every Saturday night.

Just like the earlier leak indicated, this camera shoots in 4K video, but doesn’t beam 4K resolution streams to any of your devices. Instead it uses its high-resolution capabilities to create smaller 1080p videos that look significantly better, which Nest calls Supersight.

In addition to the ultra clear videos, Supersight can also use the camera’s wide angle lens and high resolution to track someone walking across a room, all while zooming in up to 12x. Intelligent really seems like an understatement for some of these features.

There’s plenty of top-shelf hardware to back all of this up, too. Nest included three microphones on the Nest Cam IQ for noise suppression and echo cancellation, and a crisp speaker to dole out intelligent audio alerts.

The camera will run $299 and is expected to ship by the end of June.

New batch of Moto Mods focuses on gaming, music, and charging

Alongside every new phone are new accessories. Lenovo has introduced new Moto Mods to pair with the Moto Z2 Play and other devices. They’ll work with the newest phone, upcoming models belonging to the Moto Z2 family, and even previous devices from 2016.

Here’s what they are:

  • Moto GamePad: Pop your phone into this and you now have a controller with a built-in display. So actually you have yourself a handheld gaming console to take everywhere. The Moto GamePad has two analog sticks, a D-pad, and four action buttons. There’s a 1035mAh built-in battery as well to keep your phone lasting even when playing graphic-intense titles.
  • JBL SoundBoost 2: Remember last year’s model? This is an upgrade. Now you get 1 hours of playtime, a water-repellant coating, and colors choices. The SoundBoost 2 comes in red, blue, or black and each includes a high-end fabric and “improve contours” to be more comfortable in your hands.
  • Moto TurboPower Pack: If partners aren’t going to step forward, Lenovo will do the work itself. That’s evident in the Moto TurboPower Pack. Rather than letting outsiders create slow-charging external batteries, the company is releasing an offering that utilizes its in-house TurboPower technology. This Moto Mod can charge your phone with strengths up to 15W. You should expect to get an entire day of battery life added to your phone with the 3490mAh battery built-in.
  • Moto Style Shell w/ Wireless Charging: Missing from Moto devices has been wireless charging, so this Moto Mod is a pretty big deal. It’s a Style Shell that enables wireless charging for Moto Z and Moto Z2 family devices. Lenovo hasn’t showcased a wireless charging pad yet, but there are plenty of third-party choices out there. Anyone who prefers looks over functionality will choose this Moto Mod over the Moto TurboPower Pack, even if it means you can’t charge on-the-go.
Pricing isn’t available on any of these Moto Mods, but we do know they’re scheduled to be released in July. The Moto Z2 Play, too, should be released in July then.

New Pokemon Mobile Game ‘Pokeland’ Coming To Android

Pokemon is seeing a resurgence on the backs of Pokemon GO and the changes that Sun and Moon made to the longstanding handheld game series, and The Pokemon Company is now seemingly preparing a Pokemon Rumble spin-off for mobile devices called Pokeland. The game allows players to control toy Pokemon and sends them out exploring a series of islands rife with different pocket monsters. Players will encounter 134 different Pokemon across 52 stages spanning six islands and can head to a 15-floor Champion’s Tower to test their Pokemon in battles. Players can also use in-game currency to buy items and perks and can utilize various gear to strengthen their companions. The game is currently in a closed alpha, with all of its 10,000 Japan-only slots already filled. In the future, more maps will be developed that players will be allowed purchase with diamonds.

For those unfamiliar with Pokemon Rumble, the game gives you a collection of toy Pokemon to play as. You can expand your roster by sheer luck as defeated Pokemon will occasionally turn into collectibles on the battlefield. The game is simple at its core; you have a few key stats, and a couple of moves for each Pokemon. You head through a stage, defeating Pokemon as you go, until you eventually encounter a boss Pokemon and a number of its lackeys, one of which can be seen in a promotional image below. The boss Pokemon are often rare, such as legendaries or starters, and infrequently turn into collectibles when defeated. You can, however, always repeat a stage in an effort to catch all rare pocket monsters.

Google Allo Debuts Selfie Clips

Google Allo is debuting a new feature today, which is Selfie Clips. This is a new way for users to express themselves to their contacts. It basically is a selfie GIF that you can send to other people. It’s a pretty cool feature and really takes the selfie to the next level. It makes it easier express yourself to other people with a simple selfie. Allo has made it very easy to create a Selfie Clip using your smartphone’s camera. There’s no editing, nor another app needed to create these selfie clips.

This feature is rolling out to everyone, and it’s not US only. The update is rolling out as a server-side change, so it will be available to everyone pretty soon. It’s not an updated APK, so there’s nothing to download and sideload to your device. Google Allo is still working on a desktop version of their messaging app, but many users are a bit confused because Allo launched this feature before a desktop version of Allo. Which is understandable, since there’s no way to use Allo on desktop at this point, which is keeping many people from using Allo.