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10 best cheap phones: $400 (or much less) buys an iPhone, Pixel, or Galaxy alternative

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Smartphones: Is there any innovation left?
In this fascinating video roundtable, ZDNet’s David Gewirtz, Jason Perlow, and Adrian Kingsley-Hughes sit down to discuss the future of the smartphone. It’s not what you may think. Read more: https://zd.net/2qBgHGj

Updated for May 2019: The Apple iPhone XS starts at $1,000, the iPhone XS Max at $1,099, the Samsung S10 Plus at $1,000, and the Google Pixel 3 XL at $899. These manufacturers and wireless carriers tend to offer monthly payment plans to help people accept these high prices, but no matter how you slice it the price of flagships is still a deterrent for many folks.

Thankfully, there are some outstanding low-cost alternatives and these alternatives have significantly improved over the past few years. Various manufacturers, including many from China and Korea, have compelling products and these products are finding their way into the mainstream market. Amazon has its Prime Exclusive Phones program that offers reasonable prices on current models and those that might be a year or two old, but are still a valuable option.

While many of these low cost phones are GSM phones that work on T-Mobile, AT&T, Metro by T-Mobile, and others, technology is adapting and many also work on Sprint and Verizon.

It’s tough to justify a $1,100 iPhone XS Max as your first phone, but any of these following phones may be great to get started with mobile technology, to get work done without forking over serious cash, for your elderly parent who needs an easy form of communication, or to have a second phone in case of an emergency. These phones are in order from lowest to highest price.

1. Coolpad Legacy for $129.99

coolpad-legacy-6.jpg

The new Coolpad Legacy, see my first take, is designed with a large display, huge capacity battery with Quick Charge 3.0, high-quality plastic and glass materials, a microSD expansion card, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and even launches with Android 9 Pie out of the box. There has to be trade-offs made at the $130 price, but it’s hard to see where these compromises were made on the Coolpad Legacy.

The Coolpad Legacy is being offered for $129.99 at Metro by T-Mobile. This means you get service with no annual contracts on a pre-paid basis. This is a great first phone, one for someone who needs a phone to last a couple days, or someone who wants a big display that is easy to read.

It has modern features and solid design aspects while performing reliably to help you get things done. I am still stunned by the low price of this phone and did not expect it to be this good.

2. LG K30 for $139.99

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Image: LG

The LG K30 has a full retail price of $179.99 (or higher), but it is currently priced at just $139.99 on Amazon.

The LG K30 has a 5.3-inch display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, an 8-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front-facing camera, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage with a microSD expansion card slot, rear fingerprint scanner, and a rather large 3,000mAh battery.

The K30 is priced at less than most insurance policies for flagship phones, so if you need a low cost phone or a backup, then this may be the one to consider.

3. Apple iPhone SE (64GB) for $160

iPhone SE

While the iPhone SE got a storage bump in March 2017, the underlying hardware remains the same as the original hardware released in March 2016.

You probably didn’t expect to ever see an Apple iPhone in this sub-$400 list, but the 64GB Apple iPhone SE is available now from Amazon in a couple of colors at various prices. You can also find 128GB models on Amazon. These are renewed phones that come with a 90-day Amazon guarantee.

Many people keep buying this iPhone because its the last of the small devices with a 4-inch display, but it still has all of the great iOS functionality. Other specs include a rear 12-megapixel camera, a front 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera, a fingerprint scanner integrated into the front home button, and 64GB of internal storage.

The Apple iPhone SE is powered by the Apple A9 chip and M9 motion coprocessor for a fast experiences with a standard 3.5mm headset jack still present on the phone.

4. Alcatel 7 for $179

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Image: Alcatel

Alcatel has been releasing some compelling, low-cost phones over the past year, and one of the premium devices in its lineup is the Alcatel 7. It is available from Metro by T-Mobile for $179 with special offers dropping it to as low as free with specific plan.

The Alcatel 7 and launches with Android 8.1 Oreo, has a massive 4,000mAh battery, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot, 6 -nch display, dual rear cameras, an IR blaster, and FM radio. The second 2-megapixel rear camera is designed to provide depth data for bokeh (portrait) mode photography.

The large display has an 18:9 aspect ratio, so you can enjoy video content on the phone. There is an Alcatel-exclusive CloserTV app that consolidates all of your online streaming services and cable TV service provider so you have one central location for enjoying your media.

5. Honor 7X for $200.99

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Image: Honor

The Honor 7X has been available for a year now, but is still a solid phone at the $200 price point. I wrote a full review last year where I awarded it an 8.4/10 rating, and I know a couple of people that have been very pleased with my recommendation.

If you are looking to spend $200 or less, I highly recommend this phone as a first choice. You can find it in various colors, including a cool red. Like most of these low cost devices, storage can be inexpensively expanded via a microSD card too

The Honor 7X looks and feels like a device priced at least twice this cost. It’s all metal body has an excellent fit and finish with minimal bezels, dual rear cameras, a fast Kirin 659 processor, 3.340mAh battery, 3GB of RAM, FM radio, and more.

6. Moto G6 for $239.99

moto-g6.png

The Moto G6 is available as an Amazon Prime Exclusive phone and may be one of the best available for just over $200.

ZDNet’s Ross Rubin stated that the Moto G6 was the way forward for Motorola, and then Sandra Vogel posted her full review of the G6 Plus. For just $239.99 you can purchase the Moto G6 in black or oyster blush from Amazon. An indigo blue one with 64GB of internal storage is available for $299.99.

The Moto G6 has a 5.7-inch display, dual rear cameras, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot, and 3,000mAh battery. It is a mid-level phone available at an entry level price.

7. LG Stylo for $249.99

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Image: Amazon

The Samsung Galaxy Note standout feature is the S Pen, but the Note line starts at $1,000 and goes up from there. If you are a fan of using a stylus with your phone, then you are in luck, as you can find a much more affordable option on Amazon with the LG Stylo 4. This LG phone comes with a large 6.2-inch 1080p display and a stylus pen that even supports screen off memos, which is one of my favorite features on the Note 9.

The LG Stylo 4 has 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot, Android 8.1, and is powered by a Snapdragon 450 processor. It has a 13-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera with a 3,300mAh battery and USB-C port for charging.

Facial recognition is used for convenient unlocking while a rear fingerprint scanner is present for secure situations.

8. Nokia 7.1 for $349

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Image: Josh Miller/CNET

The Nokia brand is back with compelling mid-range phones from HMD Global. The Nokia 7.1 can be purchased from Amazon, WalMart, and Best Buy for $349. Available colors include Gloss Midnight Blue and Gloss Steel.

A large 5.84-inch 19:9 ratio display made with Gorilla Glass 3 is powered by a Snapdragon 636 running Android 9 Pie. You will still find a standard 3.5mm headset jack on this phone with dual rear cameras with Zeiss optics. USB-C is available for charging and a 3,060mAh battery keeps you going for hours.

The phone incorporates a rear fingerprint sensor. This is an Android One device so you can count on timely updates too.

9. Moto Z3 Play for $349.90

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(Image: Sebaztian Barns/ZDNet)

The Moto Z3 Play also uses the Snapdragon 636 processor to power its 6-inch Super AMOLED display, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB internal storage. This is one of the most powerful phones under $400 and supports the use of Moto Mods.

Dual rear cameras are present, along with a 3,000mAh battery in a slim and sleek form factor. It’s a bit of an upgrade to the Moto G6 with support for the Moto Mods platform.

The Moto Z3 Play runs a stock Android experience with useful utilities from Motorola, such as the gesture to launch the camera or toggle the flashlight.

10. Google Pixel 3a for $399

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Google

Google’s Pixel line of phones has been competing with flagships from Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. Just last week at Google I/O, Google revealed the Pixel 3a at just $399. It’s a mid-level phone, but the standout camera from the Pixel 3 is included so if you want the absolute best phone for under $400 that will be updated for years, then you can’t go wrong with a Pixel 3a in Just Black, Purple-ish, or Clearly White.

Even better for the masses, Google will be selling these in T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint stores. US carrier stores often have launch specials and special pricing offers too so look around and even visit your store to test one out.

The Pixel 3a is running Android 9 Pie and is assured of getting updated to Android Q on a timely basis. It has a 5.6-inch display with a rear 12.2-megapixel camera and front 8-megapixel camera with Google’s fantastic image processing software.

A Snapdragon 670 powers the Pixel 3a with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 3,000mAh battery, and stereo speakers. A fast rear fingerprint scanner unlocks the phone while it also still retains a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Disclosure: ZDNet earns commissions from some of the products featured on this page.

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Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch

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The cost of cybercrime has been growing at an alarming rate of 15% per year, projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. To cope with the challenges that this poses, organizations are turning to a growing range of AI-powered tools to supplement their existing security software and the work of their security teams. Today, a startup called Cymulate — which has built a platform to help those teams automatically and continuously stress test their networks against potential attacks with simulations, and provide guidance on how to improve their systems to ward off real attacks — is announcing a significant round of growth funding after seeing strong demand for its tools.

The startup — founded in Tel Aviv, with a second base in New York — has raised $70 million, a Series D that it will be using to continue expanding globally and investing in expanding its technology (both organically and potentially through acquisitions).

Today, Cymulate’s platform covers both on-premise and cloud networks, providing breach and attack simulations for endpoints, email and web gateways and more; automated “red teaming”; and a “purple teaming” facility to create and launch different security breach scenarios for organizations that lack the resources to dedicate people to a live red team — in all, a “holistic” solution for companies looking to make sure they are getting the most out of the network security architecture that they already have in place, in the worlds of Eyal Wachsman, Cymulate’s CEO.

“We are providing our customers with a different approach for how to do cybersecurity and get insights [on]  all the products already implemented in a network,” he said in an interview. The resulting platform has found particular traction in the current market climate. Although companies continue to invest in their security architecture, security teams are also feeling the market squeeze, which is impacting IT budgets, and sometimes headcount in an industry that was already facing a shortage of expertise. (Cymulate cites figures from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology that estimate a shortfall of 2.72 million security professionals in the workforce globally.)

The idea with Cymulate is that it’s built something that helps organizations get the most out of what they already have. “And at the end, we provide our customers the ability to prioritize where they need to invest, in terms of closing gaps in their environment,” Wachsman said.

The round is being led by One Peak, with Susquehanna Growth Equity (SGE), Vertex Ventures Israel, Vertex Growth and strategic backer Dell Technologies Capital also participating. (All five also backed Cymulate in its $45 million Series C last year.) Relatively speaking, this is a big round for Cymulate, doubling its total raised to $141 million, and while the startup is not disclosing its valuation, I understand from sources that it is around the $500 million mark.

Wachsman noted that the funding is coming on the heels of a big year for the startup (the irony being that the constantly escalating issue of cybersecurity and growing threat landscape spells good news for companies built to combat that). Revenues have doubled, although it’s not disclosing any numbers today, and the company is now at over 200 employees and works with some 500 paying customers across the enterprise and mid-market, including NTT, Telit, and Euronext, up from 300 customers a year ago.

Wachsman, who co-founded the company with Avihai Ben-Yossef and Eyal Gruner, said he first thought of the idea of building a platform to continuously test an organization’s threat posture in 2016, after years of working in cybersecurity consulting for other companies. He found that no matter how much effort his customers and outside consultants put into architecting security solutions annually or semi-annually, those gains were potentially lost each time a malicious hacker made an unexpected move.

“If the bad guys decided to penetrate the organization, they could, so we needed to find a different approach,” he said. He looked to AI and machine learning for the solution, a complement to everything already in the organization, to build “a machine that allows you to test your security controls and security posture, continuously and on demand, and to get the results immediately… one step before the hackers.”

Last year, Wachsman described Cymulate’s approach to me as “the largest cybersecurity consulting firm without consultants,” but in reality the company does have its own large in-house team of cybersecurity researchers, white-hat hackers who are trying to find new holes — new bugs, zero days and other vulnerabilities — to develop the intelligence that powers Cymulate’s platform.

These insights are then combined with other assets, for example the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a knowledge base of threats, tactics and techniques used by a number of other cybersecurity services, including others building continuous validation services that compete with Cymulate. (Competitors include the likes of FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Randori, AttackIQ and many more.)

Cymulate’s work comes in the form of network maps that detail a company’s threat profile, with technical recommendations for remediation and mitigations, as well as an executive summary that can be presented to financial teams and management who might be auditing security spend. It also has built tools for running security checks when integrating any services or IT with third parties, for instance in the event of an M&A process or when working in a supply chain.

Today the company focuses on network security, which is big enough in itself but also leaves the door open for Cymulate to acquire companies in other areas like application security — or to build that for itself. “This is something on our roadmap,” said Wachsman.

If potential M&A leads to more fundraising for Cymulate, it helps that the startup is in one of the handful of categories that are going to continue to see a lot of attention from investors.

“Cybersecurity is clearly an area that we think will benefit from the current macroeconomic environment, versus maybe some of the more capital-intensive businesses like consumer internet or food delivery,” said David Klein, a managing partner at One Peak. Within that, he added, “The best companies [are those] that are mission critical for their customers… Those will continue to attract very good multiples.”

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Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch

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Bitwarden, an open-source password manager for enterprises and consumers, has raised $100 million in a round of funding led by PSG, with participation form Battery Ventures.

Founded initially back in 2015, Santa Barbara, California-based Bitwarden operates in a space that includes well-known incumbents including 1Password, which recently hit a $6.8 billion valuation off the back of a $620 million fundraise, and Lastpass, which was recently spun out as an independent company again two years after landing in the hands of private equity firms.

In a nutshell, Bitwarden and its ilk make it easier for people to generate secure passwords automatically, and store all their unique passwords and sensitive information such as credit card data in a secure digital vault, saving them from reusing the same insecure password across all their online accounts.

Bitwarden’s big differentiator, of course, lies in the fact that it’s built atop an open-source codebase, which for super security-conscious individuals and businesses is a good thing — they can fully inspect the inner-workings of the platform. Moreover, people can contribute back to the codebase and expedite development of new features.

On top of a basic free service, Bitwarden ships a bunch of paid-for premium features and services, including advanced enterprise features like single sign-on (SSO) integrations and identity management.

Bitwarden

It’s worth noting that today’s “minority growth investment” represents Bitwarden’s first substantial external funding in its seven year history, though we’re told that it did raise a small undisclosed series A round back in 2019. Its latest cash injection is indicative of how the world has changed in the intervening years. The rise of remote work, with people increasingly meshing personal and work accounts on the same devices, means the same password is used across different services. And such poor password and credential hygiene puts businesses at great risk.

Additionally, growing competition and investments in the management space means that Bitwarden can’t rest on its laurels — it needs to expand, and that is what its funds will be used for. Indeed, Bitwarden has confirmed plans to extend its offering into several aligned security and privacy verticals, including secrets management — something that 1Password expanded into last year via its SecretHub acquisition.

“The timing of the investment is ideal, as we expand into opportunities in developer secrets, passwordless technologies, and authentication,” Bitwarden CEO Michael Crandell noted in a press release. “Most importantly, we aim to continue to serve all Bitwarden users for the long haul.”

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downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch

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As well as the traditional carbon offset resellers and exchanges such as Climate Partner or Climate Impact X the tech space has also produced a few, including Patch (US-based, raised $26.5M) and Lune (UK-based, raised $4M).

Now, Ceezer, a B2B marketplace for carbon credits, has closed a €4.2M round, led by Carbon Removal Partners with participation of impact-VC Norrsken VC and with existing investor Picus Capital. 

Ceezer ’s pitch is that companies have to deal with a lot of complexity when considering how they address carbon removal and reduction associated with their businesses. Whie they can buy offsetting credits, the market remains pretty ‘wild-west’, and has multiple competing standards running in parallel. For instance, the price range of $5 to $500 per ton is clearly all over the place, and sometimes carbon offset resellers make buyers pay high prices for low-quality carbon credits, pulling in extra revenues from a very opaque market.

The startup’s offering is for corporates to integrate both carbon removal and avoidance credits in one package. It does this by mining the offsetting market for lots of data points, enabling carbon offset sellers to reach buyers without having to use these middle-men resellers.

The startup claims that sellers no longer waste time and money on bespoke contracts with corporates but instead use Ceezer’s legal framework for all transactions. Simultaneously, buyers can access credits at a primary market level, maximizing the effect of the dollars they spend on carbon offsets.

Ceezer says it now has over 50 corporate customers and has 200,000 tons of carbon credits to sell across a variety of categories.
 and will use the funds to expand its impact and sourcing team, the idea being to make carbon removal technologies more accessible to corporate buyers, plus widen the product offering for credit sellers and buyers.

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