Smartphone news roundup: Microsoft, HP, and Huawei shake things up

Despite a slowdown in smartphone sales, the market continues to charge forward.

Microsoft Cortana iOS Android HP smartphone Windows Phone Huawei CES 2016

It's two weeks to Christmas and almost a month to the Consumer Electronics Show, so you would think smartphone vendors would put a moratorium on news.

Fat chance. The news is coming hot and heavy, so let's run down the news and rumors of the past few days.

Cortana now on iPhone and Android

Well, there goes one last viable reason for buying a Windows Phone. Cortana has been released for iPhone and Android. After several months of beta testing, Microsoft's virtual assistant and competitor to iPhone's Siri and Google Now is available in the app stores for both platforms.

They won't be equal, though. On Android, saying "Hey Cortana" will activate the virtual assistant, but they can't do it on the iPhone due to the closed nature of iOS. Android users will also be able to get text notifications sent to their Windows 10 PC, something Apple won't support.

Cortana for iOS and Android are currently only available in the U.S. and China at launch, but will eventually find their way to other markets. You'll need a device that runs iOS 8 or Android 4.1.2 or higher to run the Cortana apps.

HP getting back into smartphones? 

There are several benchmark apps that make available the database of all the benchmarks they gather, and occasionally an unreleased product shows up on these lists. What usually happens is someone at the company building the phone runs the benchmarks, not realizing the site will publish the results for all to see. It happens with the Android AnTuTu benchmark site all the time.

And the eagle eyes over at Digital Trends spotted something very interesting on GFXBench. It was benchmarks for a product called HP Falcon, a hefty Windows Phone device with incredible specs. According to the test, the HP Falcon comes with a 5.8-inch screen with 2560x1440 pixel resolution, a Qualcomm Adreno 530 quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, 43GB of storage (I'm assuming 64GB total but a good chunk taken up by the OS), a 12MP rear camera and a whopping 20MP front-facing camera.

HP doesn't have a great track record with smartphones, what with the Palm debacle and the failed Slate 6 and Slate 7. And now they are throwing in with a platform that is all but dead in the water? I'm curious where this is headed. 

Huawei coming to America?

As HTC slowly sinks, Huawei has risen to a prominent position in the Chinese market. Now their CEO is making noise about bringing its Honor brand of phones to the U.S., with an announcement due at CES in early January. 

Huawei is probably not a name you know, but if you've seen or used the Google Nexus 6P then you've seen what Huawei could do. LG made the past few Google phones, but the 6P is a Huawei production and it has gotten some hefty praise as a fine phone. With the Samsung Galaxy 6 failing to impress and HTC sinking beneath the waves, this might be Huawei's chance.

A smartphone with a 10-day battery 

Smartphone batteries just don't compare to their older flip-phone counterparts, but that's because we do so much more with a smartphone. Well, a Chinese manufacturer named Oukitel has come up with an Android phone that packs an insane 10,000 mAh battery that it claims will last 10 to 15 days under "normal" use. 

By comparison, the iPhone 6 has a 1,810 mAh battery and the Galaxy S5 has a 2,800 mAh battery. And yes, there is a catch. The phone, dubbed K10000, sacrifices pretty much everything else for the sake of battery life. The CPU is a quad-core 1GHz MediaTek processor, the screen is just 720 pixels, the back-facing camera has 8 megapixels, and the front-facing camera just 2 megapixels. 

The enormous battery charge has a reverse-charge option, meaning you can use it to charge up other devices. It will ship next month for a modest price of $239.99.

KDDI introduces a washable phone

Let's face it, our phones get pretty gross, especially if you have a habit of using it while eating. So a Japanese firm has come up with a fix: the world’s first smartphone that can be washed with soap and water.

There have been waterproof smartphones on the market for a while, but KDDI, a telecom in Japan, says its Digno rafre phone is the only one that can withstand a thorough soap bath. "Our development team washed the smartphone more than 700 times to test its durability," a company spokesman told the Japan Times.

The phone will sell in Japan for ¥21,600 (US$175) and is aimed at parents who want to keep their smartphones clean for their small children. For now it will only be sold in Japan, which is not surprising. Japan keeps a lot of its best inventions for itself.

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