- CTIA and FCC come to an agreement on mobile device unlocking policies
- Google announces winners of its ‘Player’s Choice Awards’ for best apps and games
- Google Maps 7.5 for Android brings Gmail integration for flights, reservations (download)
- SwiftKey 4.5 Beta brings emoji support and dedicated number row
- Motorola Camera update hits Google Play, introduces manual control of focus and exposure
- HTC One 2 (M8) specs and features imagined in concept video
- Best large tablet, possibilities of flexible displays, and more – Android Q&A
- Android 4.3 rolling out to international Galaxy S3 LTE (GT-I9305)
- Rumor: Galaxy Note 3 Lite has entered mass-production
- Xperia Z, ZL Android 4.3 10.4.B.0.569 firmware leaked
Back in mid-November we reported that the FCC’s Chairman Tom Wheeler was putting additional pressure on the CTIA to make policy changes that would make mobile device unlocking policies much clearer. At the time, Wheeler said he hoped to have something worked out before the December holiday season. So where are we at with everything? As of today, the FCC and CTIA have reached an agreement -- at least with the five largest U.S. Carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and US Cellular. A set of six rules have been agreed upon between the carriers and the FCC. These rules apply to both smartphones and tablets, and are as follows: * DISCLOSURE. Each carrier will post on its website its clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking. * POSTPAID UNLOCKING POLICY. Carriers, upon request, will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information to unlock their devices for their customers and former customers in good standing and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan or payment of an applicable early termination fee. * PREPAID UNLOCKING POLICY. Carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements. * NOTICE. Carriers that lock devices will clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking at the time when their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock devices remotely when devices are eligible for unlocking, without additional fee. Carriers reserve the right to charge non-customers/non-former-customers a reasonable fee for unlocking requests. Notice to prepaid customers may occur at point of sale, at the time of eligibility, or through a clear and concise statement of the policy on the carrier’s website. * RESPONSE TIME. Within two business days after receiving a request, carriers will unlock eligible mobile wireless devices or initiate a request to the OEM to unlock the eligible device, or provide an explanation of why the device does not qualify for unlocking, or why the carrier reasonably needs additional time to process the request. * DEPLOYED PERSONNEL UNLOCKING POLICY. Carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers. As you can see, the biggest change here is that carrier’s policies are going to be much more transparent than ever before. Is the new system perfect? No, though it is certainly a step in the right direction. There’s quite a few positive changes here. It’s nice to see that carriers are expected to respond to requests for unlocking in as little as two days and that they will either unlock your device automatically or at least give you notice when your device becomes eligible for unlocking. In my humble opinion, the biggest downside to the new policy changes is that you still have to wait up to a year to unlock a prepaid device from a major carrier, that and the fact that there smaller regional carriers and MVNOs that didn't agree to these rulings. This means that these same policies aren't necessarily going to be enforced among the tinier regional carriers in the U.S. Despite the few weaknesses in the new rules, it’s still great to finally see some progress in an issue that really does matter to many mobile device users. Unfortunately there is one major catch to these rules: the carriers have up to 12 months to act. Although some carriers might make the changes reasonably quickly, we wouldn’t be surprised if at least a few of them end up waiting until the tail end of 2014 before implementing the above policy changes. What do you think of the new cellphone unlocking rules? Are you satisfied with the upcoming changes or not?
The final month of 2013 is nearly half over and that means right now is the time we start seeing tons of articles and blog posts that look back at some of the best phones, accessories, apps and just about anything under the sun. Joining the list-creating craze this year is Google, who today announced the winners of its first annual Player’s Choice Awards. The Google Player Choice Awards was established to recognize just a few standout games (and apps) that have arrived at the Play Store throughout the year, as voted on by actual Google Play users. Google created six different categories for its Player Choice Awards: most addictive game, best franchise game, best game based on a movie, best app for enhancing the everyday, best app for booking and buying, and finally the best Google App. Without further ado, here are this year’s winners: * Knights & Dragons (Gree) _- Most addictive game_ * Bejeweled Blitz (Electronic Arts) _- Best franchise game_ * The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth (Kabam)_ - Best game based on a movie_ * Duolingo: Learn Languages Free(Duolingo)_ - Best app for enhancing the everyday_ * Flixster (Flixster, Inc.) _- Best app for booking and buying_ * YouTube (Google)_ - Best Google app_ Aside from the official categories, Google also gave awards out for apps and games that received the largest amount of write-in votes (in no particular order): * SwiftKey Keyboard (SwiftKey) * Ingress (Google) * Samurai Siege (Space Ape Games) * NewsHog: Google News & Weather (SoLoMob, Inc.) Some of these apps you probably know well; others might be totally new to you. The biggest takeaway is that out of all the many apps found in the Play Store, more than a million voters determined that the apps listed above were the finest this year had to offer. To learn more about each of the individual apps or to download them for yourself, head here for the official list. Do you agree with all the apps on the list? Any other great Google Play apps that you feel deserve an honorable mention? If so, shout them out in the comments below!
Android Police Google is getting ready to update its Google Maps Android application to version 7.5, which will apparently support Gmail integration, and which is already available for unofficial download. _Android Police_ has gotten its hands on the APK, which can be downloaded for Android devices running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or later, or Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or later (see _Source_ link below). The main feature of Google Maps 7.5 is Gmail integration, which will let the maps application display relevant data including hotel, restaurant and flight reservation taken from Gmail when users look for locations relevant to that sort of information, as you can see in the image above. In order to actually discover the feature, you have to search for locations that are related to upcoming events or travel plans that are listed in your Gmail emails. The publication speculates that initially, the Gmail integration feature will be available to U.S. Android device owners, as is usual with new software features offered by Google’s apps. However, it’s not clear when Google Maps 7.5 will be available for official download, although interested users can grab the file already and test drive the new Gmail integration feature. The same feature will reportedly also be available on iOS devices that will run version 2.5 of the app, which was released on December 11. Oddly though, the changelog for Google Maps 2.5 for iOS doesn’t mention Gmail integration.
The popular keyboard replacement app SwiftKey app continues to improve. After gaining the flexible Layouts for Living option in October, the latest update to the beta channel brings two long requested features – emoji support and a dedicated number row. SwiftKey 4.5 beta introduces a popup panel with over 500 emoji organized in five categories - people, objects, nature, places and symbols – that you can use (and abuse) to spice up your text messages. The feature is only supported on Android 4.1 and above; due to system limitations, Jelly Bean devices will show black and white graphics, while on KitKat you get emoji in all their colored splendor. The app that you use also plays a role here; for instance, Hangouts will show its own custom symbols, though the symbols themselves are the same. SwiftKey, known for the intelligence of its word prediction feature, baked a little of it in the emoji feature – typing “cat” or “Santa” will show the corresponding symbol in the suggestion bar, for easy insertion. Don’t worry, if you hate emoji, you can turn off the feature from the settings. Just like with words, the app also learns your usage patterns, so, for instance, if you often add a certain emoji symbol after the name of an individual, the app will begin to suggest it every time you write that specific name. Another highly requested feature coming today is the dedicated row for numbers, which should let you type even faster, especially if you have to enter figures often for some reason. This extra keyboard row can be turned off from the settings if you wish so. You can take the SwiftKey 4.5 beta app for a spin right now by downloading it here. If everything goes to plan, the new features should make it to the stable channel in a matter of weeks.
On the very last day of October Motorola brought its Moto X camera app over to Google Play as a way to make quick changes to its camera app without having to deal with pushing out system updates to individual carriers. With that in mind, Motorola Camera has now received a new update to version 184.108.40.206, which introduces a few small changes. So what exactly is different? While Motorola’s September camera update brought big changes such as better color accuracy and reduced noise for low-light images, today’s update introduces manual control of focus and exposure, locked exposure during Panorama capture, additional language support and a few unspecified bug fixes. The latest camera update further highlights just how different the “new” Motorola is from the Motorola of the past. When KitKat was first announced, we knew that Motorola would likely be one of the first to rollout the update, but no one would have guessed just how quickly they'd get the ball rolling. Separating its special 'core' apps and pushing them to Google Play for quicker updating is just another way that Motorola is becoming more like Google and less like a typical Android device maker. What do you think of Motorola now that Google is (obviously) taking a more active interest in the company’s direction? Impressed or not? For those that have tried out the latest camera update, what do you think?
The second-generation HTC One model – also known internally as the HTC M8 and unofficially called the HTC One 2 – is reportedly going to arrive at some point in early 2014, so we’re not surprised to see fans already imagine specs and features for the device in a new concept video. Created by the folks over at _Techradar_, the two-minute video above tries to imagine what the future M8 will bring, and how it may look like. As you can see, the M8 is expected to be fairly similar to its predecessor in terms of design, although the device is slimmer in the video, and features an edge-to-edge display. As for the hardware under the hood, here’s what the HTC One 2 – hopefully HTC will avoid using the silly name – will have to offer according to this concept: * 5-inch Supper LCD3 display with 2560 x 1440 “2K” resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 * 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor * 3GB of RAM * 16/32/64GB of storage * microSD support * 10-UltraPixel camera * 4000mAh battery * fingerprint sensor on the front of the handset * Android 4.4 KitKat with HTC Sense 6.0 on top At the end of the day, this is still a concept, both when it comes to imagined design and specs, so don’t get too excited about it. However, we do expect the HTC One 2 to be one of the best handsets of next year, and put up a formidable fight against the next-gen Galaxy S and Xperia Z or future Moto X successor. And let's not forget that a recent benchmark test may have actually revealed some of the real specs of the M8: What would you like to see in the future HTC One flagship smartphone?
Welcome to this week’s edition of Android Q&A! As always, we try to answer as many of your great questions as possible. This week, we talk about the best large tablet, the possibilities of flexible displays, and a lot more. Let's get started! ------------------------- QUESTION 1 What are the advantages of having a flexible phone? Does this mean that cases have to be flexible as well? - Vito Libido ANSWER Yes, understandably, flexible smartphones, as seen with the current crop of options such as the Samsung Galaxy Round and the LG G Flex is a bit of a gimmick. What's important to see here is not what's currently available, but what options this technology opens up for the future. If manufacturers can consistently mass produce flexible and bendable displays, it will pave the way for further technology, such as computerized clothing. For example, "smart clothes" would be able to monitor your vital signs, and in case of a medical emergency, call for an ambulance. And of course, it also furthers the development of what is known as the "Internet of things," or the connecting of everything! Not just your phone and your car, but other electronics such as your refrigerator, microwave, your clothes, and yes, even pets. ------------------------- QUESTION 2 What is the best 10-inch tablet, if I need a laptop replacement? Should I get the current Nexus 10? Or wait for the new version? - Tushar ANSWER There's no indication of when the 2nd generation Nexus 10 will be available, so waiting for it might not be recommended, depending on how urgent your need is. There are two tablets that you can look into before making a decision. First is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition). This tablet comes with a S-Pen, a large battery, and a better camera than other similar devices. Of course, it's also probably one of the more expensive tablets in this category. You may also want to consider the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity. The Transformer Pad comes with a keyboard dock, which is getting fantastic reviews, and also a great screen. It is also the comparatively cheaper option of the two. ------------------------- QUESTION 3 Android vs iOS apps. Why do developers still prioritize iOS users when Android has so many more users? There are still some games and other apps that do not support Android. - MrTheBarnie ANSWER This is a common question that keeps coming up, and the simple answer in this case is that it comes down to money. Apple was the first company put out an App Store, and teach and condition users to pay for digital content and mobile applications. They have over 200 million users who are more willing to pay for apps, and on average, iOS users pay more for apps then Android users. One of the reasons Google is behind is because of their late entry into the game. And secondly, it's important to note that Android has more users, because there are a lot of entry level devices running Android that are cheaper and extremely popular in developing countries, and places where users are less likely to use a credit card online. One way Google can play catch up and circumvent this problem is to make available Google Play cards in retail stores, corner stores, kiosks, and more all around the world, giving everyone the opportunity to redeem these cards and engage in the digital economy. ------------------------- QUESTION 4 I can't decide if I want to buy the (Samsung) Galaxy Note 3 or the (Sony) Xperia Z1. Which one do you recommend? - Mayer298 ANSWER It depends on exactly what your priorities are. If you already have a tablet, you might want to pick up the Sony Xperia Z1 with its smaller but great display, and features a better camera. If you don't have a tablet and are looking for a complete multimedia solution, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is definitely the right choice. It has a beautiful 5.5-inch display and great camera, a whopping 3,200 mAh battery, and of course, the S-Pen. Just some of the things to consider before making a decision. ------------------------- And another edition of Android Q&A comes to a close. This weekly show exists because of your great questions, so keep ‘em coming! Let us know what you’d like to see Android Authority cover, and don’t forget to send in your questions in the form below, or by commenting on the Google+ posts and Youtube videos of this show.
Samsung has reportedly kicked off the update to Android 4.3 for the LTE version of the Galaxy S3 (GT-I9305), with Germany the first country to get the OTA. The Galaxy S3 LTE launched late last year with Android 4.1 on board, and, because Samsung skipped the 4.2 level for it, has been stuck with the dated version of Android ever since. Samsung released the same update to the HSPA-only Galaxy S3 (GT-I9300) in early November, but pulled it following serious issues with battery consumption and WiFi connectivity. The problems have since been solved and the update resumed, so the Galaxy S3 LTE should be, in theory, safe and stable. With Android 4.3 comes major changes to the user interface of the Galaxy S3 LTE, which is now in line with Samsung’s 2013 flagships. However, Samsung left the old launcher and widget style unchanged, according to the folks at _Sam Mobile_, who put the build through an early test run. The update brings compatibility with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, but for some reason lacks the promised addition of the Knox security suite. Other changes coming are TRIM support (should improve flash storage performance), updated GPU drivers, Daydream mode, Samsung’s new keyboard, the ability to move apps to the SD card, new features to the camera app, a new lockscreen and more. The update is rolling now to unlocked versions of the Galaxy S3 LTE – and always, carrier versions always take more time to show up. Is there anything in particular you hope to see in the 4.3 update?
A new report from South Korea, Samsung is going with its Galaxy Note 3 Lite plans, as the phone has already entered the mass-production phase. _ETNews_ reports that the company wants the phone to account for 30% of the total number of future Galaxy Note 3 sales, but, as expected, nothing is coming officially from the Android device maker. The company has recently announced it sold over 10 million Galaxy Note 3 units in two months since launching the phone. While the Galaxy Note 3 Lite will be to the Galaxy Note 3 (pictured above) what the Galaxy S4 Mini is for the Galaxy S4, the Lite model will not have a smaller display. Instead, Samsung will use the same 5.68-inch screen, in order for Galaxy Note 3 Lite users to be able to get the most of the phone’s S Pen’s features. However, in order to cut costs, some changes are to be expected, such as the replacement of the 13-megapixel camera with an 8-megapixel shooter and the use of an LCD display instead of an AMOLED one. Even so, this is still a rumor so far, so don’t get too excited / disappointed about the news. The phone is expected to launch in black and white versions, but the publication has not offered an actual release date or pricing details. The phone is expected to be unveiled at the MWC 2014 in February, a recent report said, so we can expect more details about the Galaxy Note 3 Lite to get leaked by then. Would you be interested in a cheaper Galaxy Note 3 Lite handset?
Sony Xperia Z and Xperia ZL owners interested in trying out Android 4.3 Jelly Bean on their devices should know that build 10.4.B.0.569 has apparently been leaked and is available to download. According to _Xperia Guide_’s, build 10.4.B.0.569 “has not been certified yet on PTCRB, but it was about to release.” Here’s an unofficial changelog for this update: * _White UI just like what Xperia Z1 has on Android 4.2.2 firmware._ * _New Camera app similar to Xperia Z1._ * _New Xperia home 6.1.2.A.0.1 version._ * _New Album app 5.2.A.1.26 version._ * _New Movies app 5.3.A.0.18 version._ * _New themes and wallpapers just like Xperia Z1._ * _You can choose new themes now, as there is “+” option tapping on it, you can download some cool themes from Sony Select app where the navigation bar and status bar color changes like to “blue” and the soft keys icons also._ * _New keyboard app._ * _No X-Reality for mobile, same old Bravia Engine 2 is there._ * _Performance enhancement and Bug fixing._ * _Screen calibrated for more brighter display._ * _Battery life, need to test it._ While this Android 4.3 build for the Xperia Z and ZL can be manually flashed on the handsets, we’ll remind you that it’s still not an official release, therefore we can’t advise you to install it. However, since you’re entitled to do whatever you want to your devices, make sure you follow appropriate installation instructions and back up your data before you proceed – whatever happens during the procedure falls under your responsibility. That said, have you tried build 10.4.B.0.569, or are you waiting for Sony to officially roll out the update?