- Nexus 5 (16GB) Black International Giveaway
- Lumus – military grade technology in Android powered smart glasses
- Indie app of the day – Lux Auto Brightness
- Banter – first anonymous social network connecting people by interests and location
- Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 Review
- T-Mobile brings more data to most Simple Choice plans
- Galaxy S5 or Xperia Z2: what’s the best Android device of the moment?
- Deadlings arrives to Google Play, puts you in charge of zombie factory workers
- UK team announces Blocks, a Project Ara-like smartwatch concept
- Data Mining the Internet of Things
- Pebble 2.0 arrives, bringing Pebble App Store and much more
- Endomondo fitness tracker app updated – Bluetooth LE support and more
- Indie app of the day – Zofari
- Samsung releases Milk Music, a free radio streaming service for Galaxy devices (US only)
- Smash Hit arrives for Android, game’s main objective is to shatter glass
- 5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week – Google Play Weekly
- Motorola College Collection brings new colors, custom cases, and discounts for students
- Best Motorola Droid MAXX cases
- Livr social network only allows users to login if they fail a breathalyser test
- Galaxy S5 official covers up for preorder in the UK, and they are not cheap
- AT&T flicks the switch on LTE-A carrier aggregation, but you’ll have to wait to use it
- Google Play Music now lets you start radio stations based on playlists
- Texas Instruments’ new pico chipset makes possible 720p projection from smartphones
- Samsung snags patent for new pressure sensitive touchscreens
- Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Review
Welcome to the Sunday Giveaway, this week we are giving away a Nexus 5 (16GB) Black Android smartphone. Last week's winner of the Motorola Moto X is: Andreas. (Mexico) NEXUS 5 SPECS * SIZE: 137.9 x 69.2 x 8.6 mm (5.43 x 2.72 x 0.34 in) * WEIGHT: 130 g (4.59 oz) * PROCESSOR: Qualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800, Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400 * RAM: 2 GB RAM * DISPLAY: 1080 x 1920 pixels, 4.95 inches (~445 ppi pixel density) True HD IPS Plus capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors * STORAGE: 16/32 GB, * BATTERY: Non-removable Li-Po 2300 mAh battery * MAIN CAMERA: 8 MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels, autofocus, optical image stabilization, LED flash * FRONT CAMERA: Yes, 1.3 MP * OS: Android OS, v4.4 (KitKat)HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY You can earn entry tickets into the giveaway by completing the following tasks in the RaffleCopter widget located below. * [1 TICKET] BE SUBSCRIBED TO OUR NEWSLETTER. If you are already subscribed, no problem just enter your email address. If you haven't subscribed yet, enter your email address, you will be sent a confirmation email be sure to confirm you want to join your newsletter. * [10 TICKETS] REFER FRIENDS TO THE GIVEAWAY. You will be given a unique URL to share with your friends or social networks. You will receive 1 bonus entry (up to 10 max) for every person who you refer to the giveaway using your unique URL. JOIN NOW! a Rafflecopter giveaway _*Please note you will need to verify your email address, so ensure you enter a valid email address._ TERMS & CONDITIONS * The giveaway is an international giveaway (Except when we can not ship to your Country. * If we can not ship to your country, you will be compensated with an online gift card of equal MSRP value to the prize. * We are not responsible for lost shipments. * You must be age of majority in your Country of residence. * We are not responsible for any duties, import taxes that you may incur. * Only 1 entry per person, do not enter multiple email addresses. We will verify all winners and if we detect multiple email addresses by the same person you will not be eligible to win. * We reserve all rights to make any changes to this giveaway.
You may not have heard of Lumus, but they are on track to teach Google a thing or two in the eyeglass department of modern wearables. If you are an F16 fighter pilot, you probably already know Lumus for the really cool see-through heads-up display attached to your flight helmet. The rest of us get to learn about Lumus, and hope their OEM efforts are successful, as they show off a pair of concept consumer level smart glasses. Lumus is not exactly looking to get into the wearables market themselves. Their two consumer level smart glasses, the DK-40 single lense and the DK-32 dual lense, are still in development, and may never go into production. Their main focus is to be the supplier of their Optical Engine Module (OEM) to other manufacturers. LUMUS DK-32 The OEM, is Lumus' sub-assembled unit, combining their micro-display pod and Lumus Light-guide Optical Element (LOE) lens. If I had to generalize all this, I would simply call the OEM a computer display unit. A vendor would therefore need only add frames, a computer and a power source to turn the OEM into glasses. The micro-display pod of the OEM is capable of firing out 720p, 1280 x 720, video. The lense, which is more of an actual eyeglass lense compared to Google Glass' display, is only 1.6mm thick and completely see-through. Both Google Glass and Lumus utilize beam splitting in their lenses to direct a projected image toward your eye. Glass has a single splitter, that frosty cube looking thing. Lumus' lense includes several smaller splitters working as one, which allows it to be thinner, see-through and provide a larger image size.
Lumus' lense technology is able to display the equivalent of an 87″ screen at 10ft away, covering 40° of your field of view. Due to the lense being 78% transparent, the image is able to sit directly in the center of your field of view, allowing you to see the display and the real world behind it simultaneously. Aside from military applications, there are a few vendors that have put the Lumus OEM to use. One such wearables maker, Meta, has built a set of dual lense, 3D augmented reality glasses called the Meta Pro. The Meta Pro unit can mirror your smartphone display and functionality, and allows you to control your device using in-air hand gestures. However, Meta Pro encases the Lumus lenses into, what appear to be, oversized dark sunglasses and are suited to laboratory, or living room, use. The inability to wear Meta Pro throughout the day, combined with a $3650 price tag, may not give Google much to worry about, yet. Google's Glass does face significant conceptual competition in Lumus' own DK-40 and DK-32 glasses. Both sets utilize the Lumus OEM - the DK-32 uses the full 720p resolution and 40° field of view video in a dual lense setup, allowing for full 3D immersion. The new DK-40 model is a single lense solution that uses a slightly downgraded VGA resolution over 25° of your field of view. In place of the superior video, they have added motion sensors and a 5MP camera, allowing you to control the device with hand gestures, as well as perform other camera related functions. DK-40 also has a full copy of Android installed, offering a very compelling full computing experience that Glass should be paying attention to. LUMUS DK-40 Here is a short CBS clip on Lumus, featuring head of Business Development Ari Grobman showing off a pair of older DK-32 dual lense glasses. Grobman explains the idea of cutting the wires to the DK-32, making it wirelessly connect to your smartphone - this is exactly what the DK-40 brings to the table. Lumus offers no timeframe for any consumer ready smart glasses, speculating that most major vendors are watching where Google goes with their Glass. Certainly, Google has experienced the hardships that come with being a pioneer of an industry. Are you looking forward to eyeglasses being the next wave of wearable technology? Do you think that situating the image in the center of your field of view will prevent all day use of the Lumus glasses?
WHAT IS LUX? Lux Auto Brightness is an indie app that helps control your brightness. A lot of people really don't think too much about their screen brightness. It's not necessarily because people don't care but because stock Android and OEM skins offer only a modicum of control over screen brightness and thus people don't think about it that often. Lux changes that entirely. With this app you have as much control over your brightness as the operating system will allow you to have and that's way more than the stock auto brightness controls allow. With this app you can set custom brightness profiles depending on the time of day or you can select from a number of pre-installed profiles if need be. The app can use the light sensor and cameras on your device to determine the ambient light brightness and then adjust accordingly. So what you end up with is a phone that's the perfect brightness all the time. It also includes things like filters to help give your screen a custom look. For instance, Lux has what it calls Astronomer Mode. In this mode, there is a red hue that gets laid over the screen so people can look at their phones at night without losing their night vision. For anyone who has tried looking at their phone in a dark bedroom in the middle of night, you know just how bright and annoying a phone screen can be. That's just one example as there are many filters and settings to tweak your phone screen. For those who are purveyors of the rooting arts will find that there are a few additional features that require root access. They allow for even more control and customization of your screen's brightness beyond what the operating system will allow. Of course at that point your mileage may vary because you're dealing with the limits of your device's screen. During our testing we were able to find no outstanding problems with Lux. There were a few instances where the brightness settings took a moment to set themselves but otherwise it actually worked really well. There are some people in the user reviews who had the occasional problem here and there but there was nothing bad enough to single out. ------------------------- FINAL THOUGHTS Lux Auto Brightness proved itself to be useful pretty much as soon as we downloaded it and turned it on the first time. What we didn't see coming were the myriad of fringe cases where this app could be useful. There was a testimonial from a person who gets migraines who stated that the extra brightness control helped them use their phone even with a splitting headache. People rave over its usefulness at night because without it they're blinded by the light. In other words, it's difficult to find a reason immediately but once you start looking, you'll find a bunch of instances where this app can be useful. Even the price is reasonable at $3.80 and the developer offers a 1-week, no-questions-asked return policy so you don't have to worry about finding out what you like about the app in 15 minutes or less. Lux won't be loved by everyone but we think most people in our audience would enjoy this indie app. You can find it in the Google Play Store right now or simple click the button to get started. If you'd like to check out the free Lite version first, you can get to that by clicking here. _Check out yesterday's app of the day called Zofari!_
Banter Chat Inc. has launched what they are calling the first anonymous social network to connect people through interests and location. Available for Android and iOS, Banter employs a bare-what-you-dare approach to user profiles, allowing users to remain completely anonymous, if they so choose. Banter focuses on creating a fluid, real-time conversation based on specific topics, allowing users to include images, gifs, links, videos, emoji and more to enrich the conversation. Topics are divided into separate chat rooms, reminiscent of the chat rooms of old. To help with both the anonymity and fluid nature of the conversation, Banter says they kill all public messages after 24 hours. Public chat rooms are already running for topics such as Cuteness, Food, Games, Sports and more. A cool extra feature is Chat Near Me, in which they pull your GPS coordinates and suggest chat rooms based on businesses or events near you - similar to the Nearby stream in Google+. In addition to public chat rooms, there are private rooms - none are running now, but they promise access controlled chat rooms so you can communicate with just your chosen Banter friends.
Banter also makes it easy to keep up with multiple conversations at once. Starting up the app places you in your Stream, which includes all messages from all of the chat rooms that you have opted into. Your Stream is read-only providing one click access into the individual rooms. Other anonymous messaging systems have become popular lately, apps like Secret or Whisper allow users to anonymously chat with others, but do not offer the same sort of interests based public chat rooms. Most other anonymous chat tools require personal info, such as an email address, to register. Banter does not require personal info, simply create a username and password to get started. Banter is available now from the Google Play Store. Have you been looking for a new tool to anonymously and frivolously chat in a public forum?
By adding the PRO moniker to its latest line of tablets, Samsung was making it clear that uncompromising performance is what defines its latest series. The smallest of the bunch may quite easily be the best mid-sized, but not mid-range, tablet currently available. Here's our in-depth review of the Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 8.4!When it comes to design, the TabPRO 8.4 looks a lot like a blown up Galaxy Note 3. With the flat profile all around and slightly rounded corners, it's an unassuming design, until you get to the back, which features the same faux leather plastic that was also first introduced with the Note 3. The button layout is signature Samsung, with a physical home and two capacitive buttons, with the only difference being the capacitive menu button being replaced with a recent apps button, to allow for simplified multi-tasking. The power button and volume rocker are on the right side, when looking at the tablet in portrait orientation, with a microSD card slot on the opposite side. At just 331 grams and 7.2 mm thick, the Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 is not only an attractive powerhouse, but also pretty easy to hold because of the form factor and flat sides that make it easy to grip with one hand. It's one of the lighter tablets on the market, and offers a near perfect balance of screen size to display size, all while still being graspable by one hand. Many among us who have owned larger 10 inch tablets will attest to the fact that 7-8inch tablets are the near perfect form factor in that they offer the perfect blend of portability and screen size. At the top and bottom of the screen is a nicely-sized bezel that does help with landscape handling, but with the capacitive keys so close to the bottom edge of the device, you might trigger those buttons accidentally from time to time. Overall we're looking at a device that isn't all that flashy in design, is very "Samsung" in its look, but houses a lot of power underneath its simple exterior.
8 MP rear camera, LED flash
2 MP front camera
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, GPS and GLONASS
Android 4.4 Kitkat
219 x 128.5 x 7.2 mm, 331 grams
AT A GLANCEPROS * Absolutely stunning high resolution display * Nice light weight * Expandable storage * Can be used as TV remote * Very quick performance CONS * Touchwiz still lacking * Battery can be withdrawn quickly if used in a demanding fashion
DISPLAYThe 8.4-inch Super Clear LCD is the smallest of the PRO line, but comes with the same amount of power with a super high 2560 x 1600 resolution makes for one of the highest resolution to size ratios on any tablet. With a pixel density of 359 ppi, and considering the distance this tablet might stay from your face, this is a very sharp display that provides a great experience. Samsung's experience in producing best in class displays is more apparent than ever here, as we're looking at the highest pixel density of any tablet ever released on the market with the release of the Samsung Galaxy TabPro 8.4. Samsung proves its prowess once again with a screen that really exudes its colors well and provides wonderful viewing angles. You might argue that a lot of content isn't made for such a high resolution, but that won't stop you from enjoying all of the media you might throw it. Everything from YouTube videos to Netflix, to even games, like my current obsession, Riptide GP2, look and perform great without any issues.
PERFORMANCEYou'll find a lack of hiccups even during heavy gaming, because of the uncompromising processing package inside. A quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.3 GHz, and the Adreno 330 GPU provide a snappy experience all around. To put it mildly, the Galaxy TabPro 8.4 simply flies, which is interesting, considering how many pixels the GPU has to push all the time. It ranks as the most powerful and fastest device we've ever tested, according to Antutu's benchmark. Our extensive testing revealed very few hiccups, with some stutter. Samsung's UI powering does struggle at times, but we think this is more due to the fact that it has such a high resolution display to power more than anything. Web browsing with multiple tabs, multitasking, and copy and pasting on this professional grade device were all a real pleasure. That being said, TouchWiz, even this slightly updated version, has its issues with speed and occasionally stutters. It's a little more noticeable here than with other devices, but I believe this is more an effect of the super high resolution of the display as opposed to a shortcoming in the processing. However, getting things done isn't hard on this tablet, and even in more intense tasks like multi-window, there is little to complain about with a slate as powerful as this.
HARDWAREHardware takes on a media motif first with its microSD card slot that can bolster the 16 GB or 32 GB in-built storage, which always an advantage for people big on media. Dual speakers, that are found on the bottom of the tablet near the microUSB charging port, perform quite decently actually. Sound isn't particularly rich, but loud enough to allow you to share any media with friends that are watching with you. Samsung does love to add on as much as they can, so along with the usual bevy, you also get an IR blaster for WatchOn. As far as power goes, you do get a decent amount of battery life with the 4,800 mAh unit of this tablet, though the high-resolution display does gulp up the battery quite a bit.
An 8 MP shooter at the rear of the Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 provides a decent experience, but falls in line with pretty much every other tablet camera out there. As is the case with most Samsung devices, the camera software is packed with features, but pictures are decent and not of the highest quality, which is expected from a device with a camera that you'll only use as a backup anyway.
SOFTWAREThe updated version of Touchwiz comes with a new tiled interface, called the Magazine UX, which really takes advantage of the screen, especially on the larger tablets in this line, but also works very well on the smaller 8.4-inch screen of this device. Think of a stretched out Flipboard to imagine what the Magazine UX is like, as it is a front-end to what you would basically find in the Flipboard app. It is pretty easy to set up for news sources and social media feeds. That being said, what I didn't like about it is that it doesn't often take you straight to the content, and instead just opens up the relevant app, requiring you to find our way to the content again anyway. It's a nice addition that allows for quick and easy glances at what you want to see, but the list of available widgets is rather limited for now, and the app controllers are restricted to just the Samsung specific apps. Other than the new Magazine UX, TouchWiz is still TouchWiz, with its bright and colorful design. Even with the move to circular buttons in the power widget, not much as changed. Functionality like multi-window does set this UI apart from others, but if you've been hoping for a big change, you probably didn't get it with the latest PRO line of tablets.
SPECIFICATIONSDisplay 8.4-inch Super Clear LCD with 2560 x 1600 resolution, 359 ppi Processor 2.3 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Adreno 330 RAM 2 GB Storage 16/32 GB, expandable Battery 4,800 mAh Camera
PRICING AND FINAL THOUGHTSPriced at $399, you are definitely paying for a premium tablet, but it does live up to its price tag. The Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 provides all of the power the PRO name suggests, while keeping it all in a manageable size. While the tablet will let you get a lot of work done, it's an absolute blast to use for fun and games, making this the all purpose device for tablet lovers. The size makes it a shoo-in for e-book reading while the nimble weight and size make it about as portable as it can get. Yes, you have to pay quite a bit for it, but if you need to do everything short of make calls on it, the price may well be worth it for you. GET THE WHITE SAMSUNG GALAXY TABPRO 8.4 GET THE BLACK SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB PRO 8.4
T-Mobile is making a few changes to its Simple Choice plans that will give most subscribers more data, and bring free international texting to everyone on March 23. The new plans from the Un-carrier increase the LTE data caps on the cheapest, $50 plans, giving them 1GB of LTE data instead of 300MB. After using that 1GB of data you’ll be downgraded to 2G speeds. The new base plan also includes 1GB of tethering. The next tier up, the $60 a month plan, currently offered 2.5GB of LTE data and 2.5GB of tethering, when the new plans take effect on March 23 both of those caps will be increased to 3GB. T-Mobile subscribers who currently have unlimited data plans are the ones who are arguably hurt by the new plans. Their $70 per month plans now only include 5GB of LTE data instead of unlimited data. To help soften that blow, T-Mobile increased their tethering data caps to 5GB. The Un-carrier isn’t doing away with unlimited data, though. It’s just asking for a bit more money for it. As the chart about shows, the new $80 per month plan gives subscribers unlimited LTE data and 5GB of tethering data. T-Mobile’s new plans are great for almost everybody that uses the Un-carrier. Nobody’s going to complain about having more data available to them. To some 1GB of data isn’t a whole lot, but it’s enough for many users, and it’s impossible to ignore that $50 on the other three big U.S. carriers gets you a fraction of the data. pay those pesky early-termination fees so you can switch to a Simple Choice plan. If you’re currently on an unlimited data plan on T-Mobile these moves may be frustrating, especially if you can’t afford the extra $10 a month for unlimited data. The 5GB data cap is still pretty roomy, though. You may find that you’ll have no problem keeping within the cap each month. But hey, if nothing else at least you have some more tethering data available. Are you excited about T-Mobile offering more data, or are you miffed that you’ll have to pay more for unlimited data later this month?
Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments! JOE HINDY
I think the reason why this has launched into such a heated debate is because there are so many things between the two devices that are a matter of preference. It's all about whether or not you like the design of the phone itself, the UX put in place, and other things like that. People who prefer the Samsung way of doing things are obviously going to prefer Samsung whereas proponents of Sony (and people who just plain don't like Samsung) are going to be rooting for the Z2. Let us also not forget the All New HTC One will be in contention in 2 1/2 weeks. It really is difficult to decide a clear cut winner. Both have the Snapdragon 801, Adreno 330, SD card support, 16GB of internal storage, essentially the same sized screen (.1″ is not big enough of a discrepancy to declare one better than the other), and both are running the latest version of Android. So all the important stuff is more or less the same. Hell, they're both even water and dust resistant. For me personally, I like the Xperia Z2 but I've always preferred Sony's angular design choices and colorful UX. Other than being able to say "this is what I prefer", I have no objective reasoning to choose the Xperia Z2 over the Galaxy S5. I simply like it better. I've also owned 3 of the last 6 flagship Samsung phones released and now that I'm all but positive the Xperia Z2 will actually show up in the United States, it makes me really want to try out an Xperia. BOGDAN PETROVAN
Galaxy S5 or Xperia Z2? It’s a legitimate question, especially in the light of the awards we gave out at MWC last week, which stirred quite a bit of controversy in the comments section. Android Authority chose the S5, but the Xperia Z2 deserved the award probably just as much. Alas, we could only pick one for the winner. I was disappointed that the S5 is basically unchanged in the essential areas from last year’s S4. Yes, the back plate feels way nicer than the glossy plastic, but overall the difference is not that large, especially if you throw a case on it. The same can be said about the UI, which for me is a hodgepodge of old and new that lacks consistency. However, I’ll give Samsung fans this – the S5 is a great phone, even if it doesn’t bring that radical overhaul I’ve been hoping for. The Xperia Z2 is even more iterative, so why are people not disappointed with Sony? It’s because Sony, legendary as it may be, is still perceived as an underdog in the mobile industry. And that’s okay, I too have a soft spot for them. What phone would I pick? The choice is difficult, but I think I’d get the Galaxy S5, preferably in blue, which looks awesome in real life. I guess I prefer its lighter, smaller footprint, to the angular bulkiness of the Xperia Z2. Oh, yes, and AMOLED is still unmatched in my opinion. Yes, Sony’s Android implementation is sleeker and more attractive than Samsung’s, but while you can use launchers and ROMs to change the UI, you can’t do anything about hardware. So, Galaxy S5 it is. ANDREW GRUSH
I’m just going to get this out of the way now: Neither handset is really so impressive to me that I want to rush out and buy one of them, and both are very similar to their predecessors in many ways including hardware design, software and more. That said, no one really expected the Xperia Z2 to be a massive departure from the Z1. Sony is known for pumping out flagships in relatively quick order to ensure the latest possible mobile tech is always available under the Sony brand, which is a good or bad thing depending on your take. For what it’s worth, the Z2 did address many of the Z1’s shortcomings, such as the much better display viewing angles. The Galaxy S5 is really more of a jump forward from its predecessor than the Xperia Z2, but the problem is we expected more. From the many rumors out there to the comments made by Samsung execs, we had our expectations extremely high. Ultimately, the Galaxy S5 will sell well and is a worthwhile member of the S family -- if not a radical departure. Honestly, 2014 will likely be the year of incremental upgrades for most of the major manufacturers, at least as far as the first half of the year is concerned. We already have evidence of this from Sony and Samsung, and HTC’s all-new One also looks to essentially be just an incremental upgrade to the original. If I were to pick up either the Xperia Z2 or Galaxy S5? It would be the Xperia Z2. Why? Because it’s closest to what I’m looking for in an Android device: a near-stock experience (at least compared to Touchwiz) with excellent aesthetics. Of course, that doesn’t mean the Galaxy S5 isn’t a nice handset, and I highly recommend it for those that enjoy the expanded apps and features found with customized UIs like Touchwiz.KEVIN NETHER
If you were to ask me this question two months ago, I would suggestion the Galaxy S5. The S4 was a phenomenal device. I always felt the “S” line of devices were the flagship, and they were on the cutting edge after each rendition. The bar was set with the “S” devices. The other OEM’s needed to take its crown. Let’s fast forward to the S5 announcements. I will be the first to admit it, I felt a bit disappointed. Sure the camera may change the game, but the other features are nothing that really interests me so much. The finger print scanner to unlock the phone is a cool idea, but it’s been done. Also, if it does not work correctly the first few time, its something that would be disabled. The heart rate sensor on the back of the device also is a fun idea, but once again, something I would not use. I rather have a device that monitors that for me without going into an extra app. Samsung is running into a problem. When you are on top, it’s harder to innovate. Why make changes to something so popular? If you make too many changes you could ruin the very thing that made that product so well received. Rather roll out small features and see what people think about it. Each product sadly becomes an incremental update. Sony on the other hand is the underdog. They’ve been a non-factor for a while in the market now, and here is their chance to strike. They are not going to outsell the S5, but they will have a chance to make a splash. The Z1s was a highly rated Android phone, but still didn’t have much traction behind it. I’m sure Sony’s advertising dollar does not shake a stick at Samsung’s. It has been rumored that Sony will be pushing more advertising dollars within North America so people can really get to know these devices. They have the spec sheet to back it up as well. Things that is important the phone has, great camera, quick software, water resistant body, and great build quality. At this time, the ball is in their court to really get these phones into the consumer’s hands. The hard work has been done. For me, I’m more so excited about the Z2 rather than the S5. S5 feels stagnate at this time, and I’m ready for a change.DARCY LACOUVEE
The Galaxy S5 represents the pinnacle of mobile technology. We will always be disappointed with their flagships, we live and breathe bleeding edge and we hold them to an unreasonable standard. That being said, Sony's strong command of design, their support of the developer ecosystem, and their adherence to a stripped down version of Android make them a fan favorite. This is likely to be a signature year for Sony, but they will never be able to challenge the technological leadership or marketing prowess of Samsung. If it were up to me, which device would I have in my pocket? The Galaxy S5 - but in a slim case. If I exercised more and went out on the town like I used to? Most likely the Sony Xperia Z2. Both are exceptional. Both are amazing. The camera in the s5, it's 128gb expandable memory capability, faster download speeds and beautiful AMOLED display make it the best device I've seen so far. I'm all for underdogs but Samsung really hit it out of the park this time around. Flame on.
ROBERT TRIGGSAs we've all mentioned over the past few days, these are two top of the line handsets with very little to tell between them. You preference is likely to boil down to little differences in display type or aesthetics, and for me I'd choose the Xperia Z2 for its software. As someone who prefers stock Android over Touchwiz, I'm drawn to the OS and UI offered by the Xperia Z2. Snappy performance and useful pieces of first party software, like Sony's Walkman app, appeal to me much more than bloat like Samsung's S Health. Of course your opinion will change based on your own upgrade path, and might not feel the same way if I already owned an Xperia Z1 or Galaxy S4. Hardware wise, I feel that Samsung has done a better job at offering new features for brand loyal customers than Sony has, party because the Z1 was a mid generation handset. Unless you really can't live with the Z1′s display, there's very little point in hopping across to the Z2, whilst Galaxy S4 owners will receive better performance and new features, like waterproofing and a fingerprint scanner, if they chose to move on up to the Galaxy S5. Then again, for consumers willing to swap between brands, the choice is very tough to call. Fortunatly us Android owners are completely spoilt for choice with flagship handsets, and neither is a bad upgrade in my book. _WHAT DO YOU THINK?_
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If you’re looking for a fun distraction this weekend, you might want to take a look at _Deadlings_. This brand new zombie-themed puzzle-platformer has you take on the roll of Death, who in his loneliness has decided to create a factory where he can put the undead to work. Yes, the story is certainly quirky to say the least. As for the gameplay? If you've ever played Lemmings, Deadlings is a somewhat similar experience, though with some distinct changes that make it standout on its own. In the game, you’ll play as Death, who is working to train the zombies to complete various task in the factory. This might sound simple, but don’t be fooled. There are multiple types of deadlings, and each are best equipped for certain kinds of tasks, with the ultimate goal being to solve the 100+ puzzle levels that the game contains. The game also contains both a strategy and arcade mode. Deadlings is free to try, though unlocking the full experience will set you back $1.99. To learn more about the game, you’ll want to head on over to Google Play.
While the now-Google-led Project Ara promises us a future filled with modular smartphones that can easily be upgraded as you go, the idea of modular technology can just as easily be extended to other mobile efforts like the smartwatch. With that in mind, a UK team has recently went public with its “Blocks” concept, which it says they have been working on since their founding in November of 2013. The idea behind Blocks is simple: you have a smartwatch strap that can contain multiple blocks that can be swapped out and upgraded in order to bring you the ultimate smartwatch experience. The display is also theoretically swappable for e-ink, LED or perhaps even technologies like mirasol. Like Project Ara, the idea is to eventually allow just about any developer get involved with creating “Blocks” for the watch. Just as Ara, Blocks also has a long road ahead of it before it reaches commercial status. The big difference, however, is that Google has much deeper pockets and the developer connections needed to get Ara off the ground and running. Not to mention that Ara’s module developer kit is on its way in April.
The idea behind Blocks is certainly an intriguing one, though likely it will come down to just how practical it is to develop such a platform, and how much it costs.So when might we see Blocks move past the theoretical and into the realm of reality? According to the Blocks team, they already have a functional prototype that proves the concept, and are planning to start crowdfunding for the project in not-too-distant future with a commercial product launch aimed for mid-2015.
We currently have a functional prototype that proves the concept. More specifically — that the connections are reliable enough to send data from block to block, and that the communication protocol can support the data rate at which the information is being transferred around the device. Serge Vasylechko Member of Blocks teamAs for what OS Blocks will run on? Although the team has yet to make its final decision -- considering the project is still in the conceptual stages -- they have reportedly ran tests using Android. The idea behind Blocks is certainly an intriguing one, though likely it will come down to just how practical it is to develop such a platform, and how much it costs. Speaking of the latter, Blocks’ Serge Vasylechko says the goal is for a base model (with processor, battery and display) to cost about the same as Pebble, with the actual modular component prices ranging depending on the functionality they provide. What do you think, could a smartwatch that is upgradable and truly customizable through modular blocks be what’s needed for the smartwatch market to really explode in popularity? Or do you feel that this is nothing more than a pipe dream?
_Flickr - Tau Zero_ In 1994 my wife came to me while I was at a fledgling startup department at MCI, providing Internet at college campuses with their CampusMCI service. She said to me, “Someone should start a company that has every movie ever made and you can watch them on demand over the internet.” I brushed her suggestion aside. “Video requires huge amounts of data. It simply couldn’t be delivered fast enough, especially as a widely available service.” Having seen data speeds jump from 300 baud to 56k, I still couldn’t comprehend a world where widespread 10mb cable connections would be prevalent or where fiber would threaten to make those speeds seem archaic. It was my “why would you want more than 640k of memory,” moment. Years later when Netflix announced streaming service, she enjoyed reminding me.
The ChromeBook is realization of the vision that Ellison had in his head all those years agoThat same year an executive at MCI came to me and asked me to create a report analyzing the prospects for thin-client computing. Oracle’s CEO, Larry Ellison just wouldn’t shut up about how disruptive thin-client computing was going to be to technology industries. Centralized management, lower total cost of ownership and operation, better security, the benefits were just too large for corporate America to continue to ignore. My recommendation - without complete shifts in the underlying nature of network infrastructure and back-end servers, thin-client computing was a step backwards to the early days of big-iron mainframe and minicomputers connected to dumb terminals. Now, 20 years later, we stand at the cusp of a fundamental shift to lower cost, lower powered personal computing devices that rely on cloud based web applications and services. But we still can’t say Larry was right, because we’re still not there. The ChromeBook is realization of the vision that Ellison had in his head all those years ago, but consumers still aren’t flocking to adopt this approach to personal computing. There is hesitation, mistrust and what I think is the good sense to understand that the promise of ubiquitous and persistent wireless connectivity to remote cloud services is not a reality yet and without that thin-client computing is a hollow promise full of compromise.
Now, we really don’t think of ChromeOS and cloud based services as the realization of Larry Ellison’s proposals on thin-client computing today, but they are.
Many of the barriers to widespread adoption that keep thin-client solutions at bay apply to connected machinesSo what does the slow adoption of thin-client computing have to do with the Internet of Things and Machine to Machine (M2M) technologies? A lot more than you might think at first glance. There is the same sense of hyperbole and exaggeration around the impact and speed with which IoT will change society. Additionally, many of the barriers to widespread adoption that keep thin-client solutions at bay apply to connected machines. Consumer reluctance and privacy concerns, cost management and benefit, technological maturity and the ability to rapidly and inexpensively transfer, analyze, interpret and act on the data are all hurdles to widespread M2M adoption. We’ve seen much analysis of Google’s acquisition of NEST, and quite a bit of speculation as to why Google was willing to pay more than $1 billion more than the market value to ensure that this property would become part of their family. While that is an interesting part of the story, I’m going to focus on something a little more mundane that hardly ever gets mentioned in the M2M discussion. GM is a pioneer in this field. Their OnStar system is exactly the kind of automotive telematics system frequently used as an example of what the future holds for machines connected by the Internet of Things. But GM has been doing it since 1996. Your Nike Fuelband doesn’t seem so innovative and revolutionary now, does it?
Several years ago I purchased a used Escalade. My first experience with OnStar was driving in a heavy storm looking for a house I had never been to before. In these horrible conditions I drove around the streets of a suburban subdivision at 5MPH for 45 minutes. Suddenly I heard a phone ringing. I pulled out my phone to answer it, but that wasn’t it. I asked my friend if it was his phone, he replied, _“Is it your car?”_ I looked down at the odometer and instead of the mileage I saw the word, “ring”. I then recalled seeing an icon of a phone somewhere on the dash. After a few moments of frantic searching, I remembered where it was. I pressed the button and was greeted by an operator who asked for the previous owner of the vehicle.
It took us a few moments to convince the operator that I was the new owner of the automobile. She then asked if I needed assistance. This is the double-edged sword of a connected M2M. My vehicle was constantly uploading telemetrics to servers at GM’s data-center, and those servers were analyzing all incoming data against algorithms. In turn, those routines looked for anomalous patterns and once detected, an operator was alerted to call and ensure that everything was okay. It is simultaneously comforting and troubling to think that a computer could determine something was amiss and that someone was standing by to make sure everything was okay. It was more troubling that I wasn’t even signed up for the service and had neither opted in nor out. It is worth noting that the operator unintentionally revealed personal information about the previous owner.
It is simultaneously comforting and troubling to think that a computer could determine something was amissI did end up subscribing, which was expensive and rarely used. When I had a flat tire on a highway in Montana, I would have had to wait 2 hours for roadside service and the agent could not tell me over the phone how to remove my spare tire. My sister-in-law’s iPhone and Google came to the rescue and we did it ourselves. On that same trip the telemetrics were not advanced enough to alert me that my transmission was running hot and causing damage. Once the damage was done and the car was damaged, OnStar agents ascertained that I had a fault code. Their suggestion was to turn the vehicle off to reset the code, wait 30 minutes, then try again. When the symptoms returned, my second call resulted in the advice to stop driving the car immediately.
These examples help illustrate the concerns and the immaturity of M2M connected devices and sensors. They are already here in a very primitive form. Since 1996 OnStar has morphed from a high end luxury feature on the most expensive GM vehicles to an aftermarket 3rd party addition that can be purchased for almost any make - but the subscription cost is still prohibitive. The bulk of that cost is the same thing that prevents thin-client solutions like ChromeOS from being viable. Your Fuelband connecting to your smartphone via BT to then upload data over your regular subscription’s wireless carrier is one thing. But the truth is that the ongoing debate about Net Neutrality has a huge impact on how quickly IoT technologies can be adopted.
The conclusion is clear - we simply do not have pipes big enough to deliver the Internet of Things promised usCentral to the debate about Net Neutrality is the concept that modern web apps and services are designed to deliver the most satisfying multimedia experience as if there are no limitations to bandwidth capacity. According to wireless carriers, telcos and ISPs, our demand for bandwidth intensive content is breaking the internet’s back. While I think they exaggerate, I know that if not for my grandfathered unlimited Verizon plan I would exceed the standard 2GB cap frequently. While the incremental data created by a single Fitbit is unlikely to cause total collapse of the carrier backbones, when multiplied by a billion connected cars, refrigerators, thermostats, streetlights, and anything else you can extract data from - the conclusion is clear - we simply do not have pipes big enough to deliver the Internet of Things promised us. Making that a reality will be expensive. Who will foot that bill? The cost savings provided by the analytics has to be amazing to offset the increased costs to move all that data around, store it, analyze it and act on it. The truth is that the transmission of data remains the most expensive part of the equation.
I’ve said before that Google put the cart before the horse with Chromebooks, and I think that M2M faces similar hurdles. For their part Google has proactive initiatives to bring competitive fiber to large metropolitan areas. While bringing 34 additional cities high speed internet is an aggressive roadmap, that only puts us a notch closer to supporting a M2M future.
Many argue that privacy is an illusion, and that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. I remain unconvinced that I want to give Google, Pepsico, Microsoft, GE, GM or any other corporation such unprecedented vision into my personal life.Back to NEST acquisition concerns, M2M benefits come with a unique set of trade-offs. Google Now is a great example of the double-edged sword of data analytics able to anticipate needs and predict behaviors. With Google Now I saw the promise of the “personal” part of PDA for the first time since the Apple Newton. A personal assistant adds value by working so closely with you that they learn your routine and can act as an extension of your will. In return for that, you trust that individual to understand you better than anyone else. Likewise with a PDA, in order for it to really learn you, you opt in to allowing it to collect, store and analyze very personal data. Many argue that privacy is an illusion, and that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. I remain unconvinced that I want to give Google, Pepsico, Microsoft, GE, GM or any other corporation such unprecedented vision into my personal life. Do you want a chip bag that tracks how many times a day and at what times you access it and how many chips you eat per session? Ruffles does, and that is part of the scope that makes analysts claim that M2M and IoT will be huge. Recently I toured a food manufacturing plant and talked to an operator about the data that the various hoppers, baggers, feeders and other machines and robots were sending back to the central interface. The depth of detail was incredible. Reports were generated in real time as machines malfunctioned, as spice bins fell beneath critical thresholds, as other alerts were triggered. Then I watched in disappointment as he impatiently dismissed alerts repeatedly and expressed frustration at the volume of unnecessary data generated. I was shocked to find that the plant only had a single T1 and that the manufacturing network was isolated and not sharing data with the operations side.
While the Pebble appstore has been available in beta form since early last month, today the Pebble 2.0 app and accompanying firmware are leaping out of beta and onto the stable track! Upon downloading the latest version of the app, Pebble will prompt you to connect your watch and it will start downloading firmware 2.0. Once complete, you’ll find that the Pebble app’s interface has been completely redesigned, with the center focus being the ability to easily find and install watch apps and watchefaces without having to search various 3rd party sources to get the apps you want. Another major feature in the latest version of Pebble is the “Locker”. While Pebble still limits the amount of watch faces or apps installed on your watch to just 8, the locker makes it possible to easily switch out your apps for new ones.
Pebble 2.0 takes away the complication of manually finding, installing and switching out your appsBottom-line, Pebble 2.0 greatly enhances the Pebble experience, and takes away the complication of manually finding, installing and switching out your apps. For even more details on what to expect with the AppStore and other new features like the Locker, be sure to check out our first look at the Pebble AppStore. Keep in mind that, at the time, we were reviewing the beta version -- though the features should be essentially the same, except for speed improvements and other enhancements: To grab the newest version of Pebble, you’ll want to head over to Google Play. For those that have already tried it out, what do you think of the changes? Any noticeable changes from the beta, aside from overall increased stability and bug fixes?
Popular fitness tracking app Endomondo is getting a pretty massive update today, bringing heart rate monitor via Bluetooth LE support. Although heart rate monitor support is the biggest change here, there's also a new lock screen widget, Google+ sharing, improved maps and more. Here’s the full change-log, for those interested: * Bluetooth Low Energy: HR monitors. * Improved Maps: Support for more map features, such as terrain map, rotate and tilt gestures, compass and more. * Lock Screen Widget: View your workout data while the screen is locked with our new widget (Android 4.2 and up). * Updated Graphs: Enjoy bigger and better graphs on the map. (Premium and Pro). * Get Started Tutorial. * Google+ Sharing: Share your workouts on Google+. * ANT: New ANT+ implementation using "ANT Plugins". Please reconnect to your sensors! Overall, the update is a welcome one for Endomondo users. For those that have yet to try the app? Honestly, if you are already enjoying Runkeeper or any of the other popular trackers out there, the feature set is similar enough that there is probably no reason to switch now. That said, if you are new to the world of fitness trackers, Endomondo is certainly worth trying out. It's important to note that while there is an ad-supported free version of the app, the full experience will set you back $4.99. To grab the latest update, or learn more about the app, you’ll want to head over to Google Play.
WHAT IS ZOFARI? Zofari is a new application that helps you find fun things to do in your general area. It's not unlike many travel apps you've seen before like TripAdvisor or Kayak except that it focuses more on recommendations rather than just listing things that are near you. It can be handy for travelers or even if you're into finding new stuff in your city. The app itself looks really nice. It uses a lot of the same design cues that catapulted apps like Cal Calendar into the public view. When moving around the app, everything seems to be in the right spot although we wish the instructions on how to use the app were a little more clear. It's not difficult to use, but the app works in a different way than most apps. Instead of searching for things you want, you're supposed to search for things you like and then the app delivers results based on that. So don't go trying to use this app to find your local Taco Bell or you might get confused. Once you get the hang of the app, it's actually quite enjoyable to use. You can find anything from restaurants and bars to live music and other forms of entertainment. The interface remains consistent across the entire app so everything begins to look familiar in a short period of time. Zofair also has a number of stations that come with the app so you can see stuff quickly such as live music. They are also great guidelines for seeing what kind of stuff you can search for. The most unique part of this app is how it stores your searches. Instead of just saving a search, the app will create a station. Each station carries with it a set of preferences about things that you like. So if you search for "a good burger joint" it will create the good burger joint station. No matter where you are, you can activate that station and it'll find stuff that fits that description wherever you are. So this is definitely an amazing app for people who travel. Like any app, Zofari does have its problems. The performance is a little lacking. Even on a Galaxy Note 3 the app has a tendency to lag doing what seems to be simple tasks. Combine that with the unique way this app works and the lack of detailed instructions and the first five or ten minutes with this app can be truly frustrating. Also, it said there were no Taco Bell locations in my area, so it's blatantly obvious that the app still has a long way to go before everything gets indexed for search and discovery. The only other problem that I could find is that not every city is present. Most big cities are there but if you don't live in a state capital or an otherwise big town you won't have much use for this app. Zofari appears to be available to users in North America only for now. We hope that's only a temporary thing. -------------------------
FINAL THOUGHTS All in all, Zofari has good bones but it doesn't yet feel like a complete app. It's an awesome idea because discovery apps and exploration apps are getting more and more popular. I've no doubt that one day in the future after the bugs are fixed and more places are supported that this app will be considered a must have. If you don't mind the hiccups that come with early adoption, this is a good app to have around if only to play with every now and then. It's free in the Google Play Store and that's always a plus. If you travel frequently or you're into apps like this, then we recommend you give a download and check it out. _Check out yesterday's indie app of the day: Fishing Paradise 3D!_
There is certainly no shortage when it comes to streaming radio and music services on Android, with some of the best-known solutions including Spotify, Pandora, Google Music and the recently released Beats Music. Now get ready to add one more to that ever-growing list, as Samsung has officially announced Milk Music. What sets the oddly-named music service apart from the competition? First, it’s exclusively for select Galaxy customers in the United States, specifically the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Mega, Galaxy S4 Mini and the upcoming GS5. Samsung says it is considering expanding to other markets and more devices down the road, but for now the service will have a limited audience.
Milk Music is free to listen to and has no adsAnother major difference from the competition is that Milk Music is free to listen to and has no ads. As for the content? The service is powered by Slacker Radio and gives you the ability to choose from 200 pre-made stations or you can even make your own stations based around your customized tastes. Probably the biggest downside to Milk Music is that there is no offline mode or any ability to purchase the tracks you like for offline listening, though reportedly such capabilities are under consideration. There is no premium version of the service, either, though music is unlimited with the ability to skip up to six songs per hour per station. You can get your hands on Samsung’s new radio service right now from Google Play, at least if you happen to have a supported device. Samsung is also considering pre-loading the software onto future Galaxy devices, though the Galaxy S5 will likely still require you to download the app when it arrives. For those that have tried it yet, what do you think? Impressed by the free service or are their other free alternatives that you feel do a better job?
Ever had one of those days where you really want to hit something, or rather, you want to completely smash it into pieces? We've all been there. Instead of taking it out on that glass coffee table, however, you might want to turn your attention to_ Smash Hit_. Smash Hit is the latest game from the makers of Granny Smith and Sprinkle, but instead of bringing us cartoony graphics and quirky storylines, Smash Hit’s premise is very simple: you are placed in various rooms where your goal is to destroy all the glass in sight by launching balls at them. The game is basically one part physics game and one part rail shooter, and while it sounds fairly basic, it is also very addicting and gets more challenging as you progress. To further immerse you in the casual smash-everything experience, there’s also compelling music and audio effects that sync everything together. The free version of Smash Hit is available for download right now from Google Play. For those that want to save progress via check-points and access your save files on any device through the cloud, there is also a premium version that can be unlocked for $2.
Hello and welcome back to Google Play Weekly! March started out with quite a bit of good news. Square Enix has announced a new mobile RPG called Rise of Mana. Ouya is looking to expand their platform. XBMC Gotham is in beta and is boasting some great fixes for Android. There's a new Humble Bundle with some awesome Android games inside. Finally, happy birthday to the Google Play Store! Now onto five more Android apps you can't miss this week. -------------------------
THE1LUCENT ICON THEME [Price: $1.99] First up in our trending apps this week is the1Lucent icon pack. This is a brand new icon pack out of the popular icon themer the1dynasty. It’s a neon-themed icon set with over 450 HD icons available. It also comes with 2 wallpapers and support for pretty much every launcher that can support custom icons. We decided to put this up this week in celebration because the Aviate Launcher now supports icon packs and we thought what a better way to celebrate than to get an awesome new icon pack like this one?
ALLCAST [Price: Free / $4.99] AllCast seemingly makes our show every other week and that’s because every couple of weeks Koush does something to AllCast that’s worth talking about. In an update that hit this last week, the app has fixed or improved many features like transcoding on certain devices, general performance improvements, and the ability to change the streaming bitrate to help stop laggy playback. It also now includes Muzei support, a new user interface, and a new icon. In short, it’s a pretty darn huge update.
SHAZAM [Price: Free] This may be a bit pre-emptive because the next Shazam update hasn’t been rolled out yet, but we have it on good authority that some big changes are coming to Shazam so the app is worth keeping an eye on. According to reports and teasers, the upcoming update will feature a brand new user experience which will undoubtedly include a new user interface, new features, and some more new stuff. Millions have tried it and the Play Store rating is really good so it’s worth checking out.
RPG RUSTED EMETH [Price: $3.99 on sale, $7.99 regular] Kemco Games is probably the most known name in the mobile RPG space aside from Square Enix and they have just released a brand new game called Rusted Emeth. In this JRPG you play as a young man who rides golems. During the course of the game you hunt down bounties while you try to figure out what destroyed your homeland and why. It’s $7.99 usually but for a limited time it’s $3.99 so if this looks interesting, get on it quick while you can get it on sale.
ANOTHER CASE SOLVED [Price: Free] Last up this week is a goofy little puzzle game called Another Case Solved. In this game, you play as a customizable detective who solves crimes. The premise is you’re in a world where candy is illegal –you can also think of it as a world where King.com gets to make the rules—and you must hunt down criminals who are stealing candy and doing other nefarious things. It’s free to play, it’s goofy and fun, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s definitely worth checking out.
March Madness is coming, and Motorola wants you to show support for your college, preferably with a color-matched Moto X and an custom-decked case. Motorola’s College Collection brings nine new colors to the Moto Maker customization program, so you can design a device decked in your college’s colors. Helpfully, the soon-to-be-owned by Lenovo company has put together a gallery of designs representing some of the top teams competing in NCAA’s basketball competition. There’s also a collection of clear cases featuring the logos of 40 major schools. The best part of the College Collection promo is the $60 discount that Motorola is giving to all customers with a valid .edu address. That means students, alumni, and faculty. You will need to be able to access that address in order to retrieve your promo code, which entitles you to a Moto X for just $339. While customizing the phone is free, the special college cases will cost you $35. As usual, this is a limited time deal, so if you’re interested in a special Moto X, head over here right now.
The Motorola Droid MAXX is one of the few smartphones that addresses a prevalent issue with our smartphones, battery life. Combining the best features of a Moto X with a massive 3,500 mAh battery, this is one device where you don't have to worry about running out of power in less than a day. There are a lot of great accessories for the Motorola Droid MAXX, and today, we'll be focusing on one type of accessory in particular - cases. Be it for style, comfort, and of course, protection, we round up some of the best cases for the Motorola Droid MAXX. Let's get started! -------------------------
Slim Fit CasesCRUZERLITE BUGDROID CIRCUIT TPU CASE The Cruzerlite Bugdroid Circuit cases are made from shock absorbent and scratch resistant TPU, and adds practically no bulk to the device, making it perfect for protection from accidental bumps and spills. A raised bezel around the front of the phone protects the screen while face down. Precise cutouts allow easy access to all ports, while the buttons are covered, but still easy to press. The Bugdroid Circuit is available in numerous color options, including black, blue, orange, and purple to name a few. Buy now on Amazon for $9.90. INCIPIO FEATHER The Incipio Feather Case features rigid Plextonium frame that adds protection while remaining slim and inconspicuous, and adds practically no bulk to the device. The soft touch finish allows for enhanced comfort and grip, and its snap-on design makes the case is very easy to install and remove. Available color options include grey, black, cyan, and pink. Buy now on Amazon for $18.45. HONORABLE MENTIONS: * Diztronic Flexible TPU case ($9.90) - Buy now on Amazon * TUDIA Ultra Slim Melody Series ($9.90) - Buy now on Amazon * Verizon Hard Shell case ($29.99) - Buy now from Verizon -------------------------
Hybrid CasesINCIPIO DUALPRO The Incipio DualPro case offers dual layer protection with its impact resistant silicone core and a hard shell Plextonium frame. The case also features protection for the button layout at the back of the device, without affecting response. The case offers great overall protection without adding too much bulk. The Incipio DualPro is available in multiple color options, such as white, black, pink, and cyan. Buy now on Amazon for $17.78. SPECK CANDY SHELL The Speck CandyShell Grip cases features specialized finger pads on the back of the case for maximum grip, along with a glossy, hard polycarbonate outer shell for impact protection, and rubbery lining to absorb shock. This lining also extends to serve as a protective bezel around the display of the device, that protects your screen from falls, as well as provide a no-slip stability when the smartphone is kept face down. Precise cutouts are available for access to the headphone jack and micro-USB port, with all the buttons protected by rubberized covers. Available color options include black and teal. Buy now on Amazon for $24.81. -------------------------
Flip/Wallet CasesGREATSHIELD SHIFT PU LEATHER WALLET The GreatShield SHIFT Wallet case features a polycarbonate snap-on hard shell that holds the device firmly in place, and a soft-touch high quality faux leather exterior, in a slim and stylish profile that adds minimal bulk. The case comes with slots to hold your ID, credit cards, or cash, and also includes a convenient hand strap. Magnetic closure keeps the flip cover closed in case of an accidental fall. The case also features a built-in kickstand that lets you prop the device up in landscape orientation. Available color options include black and pink. Buy now on Amazon for $9.95. -------------------------
Cases with KickstandCY INFUSE HYBRID COVER The CY Infuse Hybrid Cover case combines a glossy hard shell with a rubberized bumper to provide dual layer protection for maximum grip and shock absorption against scratches and impacts. The rubber bumper also has a raised bezel, for additional display protection. The case features a foldable kickstand that supports the device in landscape orientation, and is ideal for media viewing. Also included in the package is a free CYStore stylus. Buy now on Amazon for $4.99. HONORABLE MENTIONS: * MPERO Impact SR Series ($5.95) - Buy now on Amazon * E LV Hybrid Armor ($6.99) - Buy now on Amazon * Motorola Hard Cover case ($11.33) - Buy now on Amazon -------------------------
Cases with Beltclip/HolsterVERIZON BLACK SHELL CASE WITH KICKSTAND AND BELT CLIP The Verizon Black Shell Case for the Droid MAXX features a black hard shell back made of hard plastic that has been treated with a rubberized powder for durability, with a ribbed texture pattern for additional grip. The case features precise cutouts for easy access to all buttons and features, and also includes a kickstand that lets you prop the phone in both landscape and portrait orientation. The phone holster is also made with a hard plastic that has a rubberized texture coating, with the interior of the lined with a micro-fiber material that protects the display of the device. The phone is very secure within the holster, which also features a belt clip, that can turn and lock in 13 different positions. The case also works with any wireless charger. Buy now on Amazon for $11.90. OTTERBOX DEFENDER Otterbox is well known for its rugged cases, and the Otterbox Defender offers the ultimate protection. The Defender case is made up of a two-piece polycarbonate inner shell that deflects impact force, a built-in clear membrane screen protector that guards against scratches and scrapes, and an outer durable synthetic rubber slip cover that absorbs impact. Port covers block dust and debris from entering and accumulating in jacks and ports. Every Defender Series case comes standard with a belt-clip holster. The clip rotates to any position and holds the device face-in or face-out. Locking the clip in place allows you to use it as a kickstand as well. Buy now on Amazon for $38.99. -------------------------
Rugged CasesTRIDENT CYCLOPS The Trident Cyclops case offers the best of both worlds, combining features of the Aegis and the Kraken series, with the Cyclops boasting the same superior protection meeting military standards for vibration and drop tests, along with the relative sleekness of the Aegis case, but with a built-in screen protector. This also case features protection for device power-ports and audio-jacks with TPE plugs to keep out dirt and debris. Multiple color options include black, blue, green, pink and red. Buy now on Amazon for $27.80. OTTERBOX COMMUTER Unlike the heavy duty Defender cases, the Commuter series offers the perfect compromise between protection and form factor. The case features dual layer protection, silicone plugs to cover all ports, and easy access to to all buttons, which are also protected. Also included with the Commuter case is a separate self-adhering screen protector. Multiple color options include black, glacier, hornet, and primrose. Buy now on Amazon for $26.99.
This is one of the most novel, and humorously named, ideas that I’ve seen in a while – Livr, the social network for drinkers. The social network can only be accessed via a breathalyser test, which plugs into your Android device’s USB port. If you score a sufficiently high blood alcohol content level, the app will allow you to enter. The idea here is that sober members of society can’t simply hop onto the app and see what you’ve been up to on your nights out, so no more trying to explain those drunken pictures to your mother. Livr also comes with its own drinking themed features, such as a crowd sourced truth or dare game and the ability to “drunk dial” other users who are signed into the app. If it all gets a bit too messy, the developers have even included a “Blackout” button to reset and wipe out all record of what you got up to that evening. Alternatively, there’s the option to send a morning report if you got up to something that you'd really like to share. There’s also a section for drinks deals in the nearby area and after hours places that are still serving. If you want to take a look at some of the other features and inspirations behind Livr, check out the video below. The app will be arriving this spring, but the pricing isn’t clear at this point. One thing’s for sure though, you will need to buy the breathalyser before the fun can begin. Can you see yourself drinking up to log in, or are new social networks stretching a bit far to find a unique edge?
Samsung showed off accessories for the new Galaxy S5 last week at MWC, but now we have some prices to associate with the pretty pictures. UK-based accessories retailer MobileFun put up for preorder cases and covers for the Galaxy S5, leaking at the same time the first press shots of these accessories. The caveat is retailers sometimes guestimate prices for products they put on preorder, so there’s a chance these price tags are not accurate. However, judging from the cost of similar Galaxy S4 accessories, we believe that these prices are close to reality. While the Galaxy S5 is still a month away, here’s what you can order right now: * Galaxy S5 Hard Case Cover (grey) – €24.49 * Galaxy S5 Flip Wallet Cover (White, Blue Black, Blue Topaz, Rose Gold, Glam Pink) - €36.99 * Galaxy S5 S-View Cover Case (White, Blue Black, Topaz Blue, Rose Gold, Glam Pink) - €54.99 * Galaxy S5 S View Wireless Charging Cover (white or black) - €66.99 As for when exactly you will get to spend close to 100 bucks on a phone cover, MobileFun lists shipping times as two months. And here’s what your investment will net you: allegations that Samsung is locking down the accessories ecosystem in order to reap more profit for itself. In January, a software update for the Galaxy Note 3 caused some third-party smart covers to stop working, but the ensuing backlash caused Samsung to backtrack and blame an error. With the Galaxy S5, Samsung has the chance to implement restrictions from the beginning without infuriating customers. It’s also possible that Samsung gave up on the idea after the Note 3 debacle. We’ll see in a couple of months.
We’ve been hearing about LTE-Advanced networking for a little while now, and whilst the option is slowly gaining momentum all across the globe, AT&T appears to be the first company in the US to roll-out its LTE-A service, or at least the carrier aggregation part of it anyway. AT&T SVP of Network Technologies Kris Rinne told _Gigaom_ in a recent interview, that the new network configuration has just been activated in several regions across the US, but only confirmed one city in which the service is currently live - Chicago. So why the silence about the network upgrade, especially considering that AT&T will be the first to offer this service in the US? Well, it’s likely due to the fact that only a handful of the company’s customers can actually take advantage of it, AT&T hasn't officially announced any smartphones that can make use of the service. Although handset and chip manufacturers have been gearing up for faster data speeds for a while, the vast majority of these handsets are being sold in areas like South Korea, where LTE-A connections are more readily available. AT&T only recently announced its Unite hotspot carrier-aggregation device, which is currently the only device certified by the company to make use of these new speeds. The first smartphone that we are likely to see make use of AT&T’s upgraded network could be the new Samsung Galaxy S5. At Mobile World Congress, Samsung confirmed that the S5 would support carrier aggregation on some US networks, of which AT&T could be one.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 comes with Cat 4 LTE support, offering data speeds up to 150Mbps.
So far, AT&T has only confirmed its new LTE-A service in Chicago, but other areas are set to follow suite, possibly including Baltimore, Dallas, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., all of which are currently undergoing 2G/3G to LTE transformations. There are also many other cities, like Chicago, where AT&T owns the AWS spectrum. AT&T may well be the first U.S. provider to make use of LTE carrier aggregation, but all of the major operators have the technology in their roadmaps too. Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint have all been buying up the necessary spectrums, and should also be switching on their services in the not too distant future. Are you looking forward to the LTE-A data revolution?
Version 5.4.1413N of Play Music brings the ability to start radio stations based on playlists that you created, a boon for those who have very particular tastes in music. Previous, you could only start radio stations (playlists that are auto-generated based on tunes you listened to) from an artist or a specific song. Now you can create a playlist of different tunes that you like and click on the three-dot menu button to start a station based on it. For instance, Play Music creates an auto-playlist of all songs you thumbed up, so starting a radio station based on that should result in a selection of tunes that closely matches your tastes. This is really the only visible change coming in version 5.4.1413N of Play Music, and the update should hit your device any time now. You can install Play Music or check for updates in the Play Store here. Do you Play Music or prefer Spotify, Pandora or some other service?
Texas Instruments has built a new chipset for pico projectors. The 0.3″ HD TRP DLP® Pico™ chipset is TI's smallest, most efficient chipset, capable of generating 720p HD displays and can fit inside of compact devices, such as tablets or smartphones. TI is a major producer of pico projection technology. We caught up with them last year to sample their DLP pico projectors, check out the video here. They have really stepped it up with their new 0.3″ HD TRP, claiming 30% greater efficiency and 100% higher brightness over their previous best model. Better yet, the 0.3″ HD TRP uses 50% less power. The chipset is based on proven DLP Cinema technology, the same tech that TI claims is used for projection systems in 8 out of 10 theaters.
What this all means is that with the 0.3″ HD TRP DLP Pico chipset containing twice the number of pixels for its size, it is realistic to see 720p projection built right into future smartphones. We took a good look at the Samsung Galaxy Beam a couple years ago, which hit the market with a projector built in. The Beam was a relatively underpowered phone itself, and the battery was only good for up to 3 hours with the projector turned on. It was able to spit out 15 lumens brightness and cast images up to 50-inches wide at 640 x 360 resolution. TI's new tech is so far beyond the Galaxy Beam that it is not entirely unrealistic to imagine projecting lifesize Game of Thrones on the wall. However, the 0.3″ HD TRP may go to a few different uses first. Current customers are using the chipset to do nifty things like project an image right onto the human eyeball - they claim it is for medical purposes, but I am just thinking Google Glass in fullscreen. Other use on mobile devices may be for a projected keyboard onto the desk in front of you, with additional sensors to calculate input, thus providing touchless typing. For those that are interested in the tech itself, the 0.3″ HD TRP DLP Pico chipset is a 0.31-inch orthogonal micromirror array with 1280 x 720 aluminum micrometer sized mirrors. It has a 5.4-micron micromirror pitch and a ±17° micromirror tilt angle. It accepts side illumination to keep things flat and runs on an 8-bit subLVDS input data bus. All this in a package size of 18.2mm x 7mm x 3.8mm. Thanks to TI, we can reasonably expect to 720p projection to be built into future mobile devices. The question is, do we really want our phones to be projectors? The Galaxy Beam was not exactly a huge success, should we leave projection to dedicated pico projectors instead?
Looking to simplify the electronics and reduce costs of pressure sensitive touchscreens, Samsung has a patent in the works for what they call "Touch Display Apparatus Sensing Touch Force." The general idea is pretty simple, current pressure sensing touchscreens require the installation of additional sensors and processing to measure input. Samsung's invention incorporates force sensing into the touchscreen itself. This is done by including a processor right into the display. Thin flexible layers of piezoresistive material, made of carbon nanotube or graphene, are layered into the display. Pressure is then measured by reading variances in resistance output produced by resistors embedded in the piezoresistive layer, which change value based on the physical pressure applied. To complete the functions required to both operate touch commands and measure pressure, Samsung uses predefined time constants for each sensing electrode, if that time constant changes, a touch is determined to have occurred. For the full details, checkout the info for Patent #: US20140055407 here.
We are looking forward to seeing how this can help evolve devices with pressure sensitive touchscreens. Certainly, we look forward to seeing a greater adoption of devices with pressure sensitive displays, if only to improve our throttle and steering controls for our favorite racing games. Aside from gaming, what do you see as being the greatest use of pressure sensitive displays?
GET THE SONY XPERIA Z1 COMPACT ON AMAZON It seems the companies have figured it out - smaller form factors aren't a fringe product but are in very real demand. But "mini" versions of flagships tend to lose some of what make their bigger siblings appealing in the first place, unfortunately. Sony, though, appears ever aspirational in its quest for greater consumer loyalty and market share, and wanted to buck that trend with a "compact" offering that literally just shrinks down their best device.
20.7 MP rear camera with Sony G Lens and Bionz mobile
2 MP front camera
WLAN (2.4/5Ghz) a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, A-GPS+GLONASS, microUSB 2.0 (MHL), BlueTooth 4.0 LE
Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, planned upgrade to Android 4.4 Kitkat
127 x 64.9 x 9.5 mm, 137g
AT A GLANCEPROS * Best in class performance * Fantastic 20.7 Megapixel camera * strong battery life * Water resistant, dust proof, and very durable device * Best compact phone on the market with no compromise CONS * Bezels are a tad thick * Could fit a larger display in same form factor
In an attempt at creating a best in class device that offers little to no compromise over its larger, and equally powerful older sibling, the Sony Xperia Z1, Sony brings us the Xperia Z1 Compact. Is the Z1 Compact the accessibly sized phone that we've all been waiting for? You can find out in our review.
DESIGNSony took the shrink ray to the Xperia Z1 and brought everything down to size. The glass finish with an aluminum frame takes the premium look and feel that only Sony really puts out consistently, and brings it to a smaller, easier to handle form factor. It's clever of them to identify an opportunity in the market in a way that seemingly no other manufacturer has, except for Apple. While smaller form factors remain popular in certain parts of the world, big 4.7-inch+ devices have become the norm, alienating huge swaths of people not used to negotiating seemingly gargantuan devices. And, without a doubt, while bigger devices the the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG G2, and even the Nexus 5 are certainly appreciated, the fact remains that not everyone wants a big device. Not everyone has large hands, and not everyone has access to both their hands at a time - something often demanded by anything with a display larger than 5 inches,
Button layout takes on the now classic Sony motif, as the big silver power button, the volume rocker, and the dedicated camera shutter button are on the right side. One problem we must mention here is that the camera button is a little hard to press, as it is really small and slim - it might be just a little difficult to easily snap a picture with it.
The left side of the phone has the microUSB charging port, the microSD card slot, and the SIM tray covered with pieces of plastic, telltale signs of the phone's resistance to water and dust.
Of course, the main story here is the smaller size and how easy it makes this phone to maneuver. The 4.3-inch display is surrounded by the rather thick bezels that Sony is known to employ, but, overall, the device is still in a pretty reasonable size, not too big and not too small. The smaller size works wonders in some cases - one particularly great experience I had was with typing - the already pretty great stock Sony keyboard allows for easy swipe typing, and its small size makes one-handed use a breeze. Bottom line, this is a refreshingly easy phone to work with.
DISPLAYThe 4.3-inch TFT LCD display on the Xperia Z1 Compact packs 720p resolution, which is a specification that flagship Android devices were rocking back in 2012. Does that mean the Compact is inadequate? Not really.
Color rendering on the Z1 Compact is excellent, thanks in part to Sony’s homegrown display technologies, Triluminos and X-Reality. The former means that the display uses quantum dots to render colors, which put simply, makes it possible for the display to show colors that exceed the typical vividness of LCD. It’s not quite AMOLED level of color intensity, but it’s a notch above what you get on most LCDs. X-Reality means that the phone processes images and videos on the fly to make them look at their best. It’s not a stretch to say that the Z1 Compact looks a bit like a very tiny Sony TV thanks to these technologies. A display may have the nicest colors, but it’s all for nothing if bad viewing angles spoil everything. Luckily, the Z1 Compact is clearly better in this area than earlier devices in the Xperia Z series. In a few cases, we noticed that apps don’t adapt well to the smaller size of the display, but overall this relatively small screen performs very well.
PERFORMANCEUnlike some competitors, Sony did not compromise in the power department with the Z1 Compact. There are no compromises affecting the user experience, which is a refreshing change. Quite literally, Sony took the high powered processing package of the Z1 and put it into the Compact. That means a Snapdragon 800 with a quad-core CPU clocked at 2.2GHz, backed by the Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Technically, there are some more powerful configurations on the market, but in terms of actual experience, this little ball of lighting is among the best. It helps that Sony uses a minimalistic user interface without many processing-intensive flourishes. But even in power-hungry applications, the Xperia Z1 Compact chugs along without nary a hiccup. In Riptide GP2, for instance, we smoothly cut through the waves even at the highest settings.
If you’re familiar – and happy – with the hardware features of the Sony Xperia Z1, you’ll feel right at home on its diminutive sibling. That starts with the 16GB of onboard storage and the presence of the microSD card slot that lets you bolster storage with an additional 64GB. All the sensors and connectivity features make the jump as well. Shrinking down the Xperia Z1 did result in some tradeoffs though. The speaker on the bottom of the device might seem capable due to its size, but the sound it outputs is nowhere near what we’d like in terms of volume and richness. Call quality from the phone speaker, however, is entirely satisfactory. The same can be said about the cell connectivity on T-Mobile’s LTE, both for voice and data.
CAMERAG Lens camera optics, which are supposed to be Sony’s best quality lenses, equivalent with the famed Carl Zeiss lenses.
Processing the signal is BIONZ, an image processor that Sony borrowed from its DSLR products.It’s possible that Sony improved the firmware on the Z1 Compact, compared to the Z1, as we low-light areas to be a little more detailed and less smudgy than on the Z1. Noise levels, however, are still higher than we would like.As we mentioned in the design section, the small and sharp camera shutter button is hard to press, but other than that, the size of the phone helps with the ergonomics of taking pictures. The speedy app and the ability to press the shutter button to start up the camera from anywhere in the phone make capturing passing moments a breeze.
SOFTWARESony's take on Android keeps the homescreens simple, while the app drawer only features the addition of a quick pullover on the left for some extra options. The notification dropdown comes with a very simple power widget, and that’s about it.
SPECSAs we've said so many times here in this review in so many different ways, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is the smallest, most powerful device on the block ;a device with little to no compromise.While some would decry the bezel slightly thicker than it has to be, it's likely that those voices will be silenced when comes time for the device to accidentally be dropped. Sony leads the pack in terms of durability and design construction. Often this comes at a price, wherein bezels are slightly thicker than industry leading peers like Samsung or LG. But those very same devices made by competing manufacturers are that much less likely to hold up to the accidental wear and tear that real humans subject their devices to. Regardless, here's the specs of this little ball of fire below. Display 4.3-inch Triluminos IPS display with 720p resolution, 341 ppi Processor 2.2 Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor RAM 2 GB Storage 16 GB, expandable via microSD Battery 2,300 mAh Cameras
PRICING AND FINAL THOUGHTSSmaller phones these days tend to be what we like to call everyman and everywoman devices, in the sense that they are affordable. That’s not the case, which lives up to its flagship aspirations when it comes to its price - $570 unlocked on Amazon. But for what you are getting, it's well worth it. A blazing fast, water resistant, durable device with incredible image taking abilities that will likely last you for years to come. Indeed, the Xperia Z1 Compact is a no compromise device, in its quality, features, but also its price tag. If you are looking for a smaller device than the current crop of high-end Android devices, the Z1 Compact sure is the best phone you can get, albeit at a price tag that you don’t see elsewhere in this segment. Let us know what you think of Sony's Xperia line of devices, and of the Z1 Compact! We always love hearing from you.