- Is Google working on a sub-$100 Nexus smartphone?
- Pokemon Online – Indie app of the day
- Dolphin Browser update adds Jetpack 6.1 support on Android 4.3 and 4.4
- ES File Explorer returns some SD card support to your KitKat device (root required)
- Smart watches and glasses: More ‘tech’ than ‘wearable’?
- Leaked images show off OnePlus One, StyleSwap covers too
- Project Tango will power NASA’s SPHERES robotic platform, will launch into space later this summer
- What is your dream Project Ara phone?
- Android Pirate gets busted, agrees to go undercover for the Feds – but is this the right approach?
- HTC One M8 gets a new software update on Verizon’s network
- Samsung’s no-cost ad-free Milk Music isn’t ad free after all
- 5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week – Google Play Weekly
- Samsung Gear Fit review
- HTC hires the guy who created the Galaxy brand
- Motorola reportedly getting ready to launch XT1021 series, could be cheaper than Moto G
- After massive delays, Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition finally arrives to Android
- 10 hidden Galaxy S5 features, according to Samsung
- Optical zoom could be coming to HTC smartphones next year
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – official game release and Xperia theme pack
- FarFaria – Indie app of the day
- Amazon expanding Fire TV voice search to Hulu Plus, Crackle and Showtime
- Entry-level Philips W6618 promises 66 day standby time, 33 hours talk time
- Will the smart, connected automobile be the next big thing in mobile?
- MLB.com At Bat adds Chromecast support, lets you enjoy the game on the big screen
- Tactus working to bring us physical buttons that rise out of our touchscreen
The rumor mill is piping up this afternoon with word of a possible sub-$100 Nexus device. There are no specifications to speak of just yet, but unnamed sources and rampant speculation lead to the idea of a low-mid range phone with a MediaTek chipset, 1GB of RAM and 2G/3G connectivity. The rumored Nexus device is not expected to be Google's next flagship smartphone, that has been reserved for what is dubbed the Nexus 6 which is speculated to be built by LG. It is not in Google's typical naming scheme, but this new sub-$100 phone is starting to feel like what other manufacturers call a 'mini' version - Nexus 6 Mini, perhaps? As for the pricing, we're already seeing Lenovo launch their A-series tablets for a little over $100 equipped with MediaTek chipsets, speaking to how the chipmaker could have Qualcomm and others worried. Is It Inexpensive, Or Just Cheap? This is a valid concern for Android device shoppers. We have seen more than a few cheap Android tablets creep onto the market in the last couple years. However, some prominent device makers have also created exceptional equipment at affordable pricing. Take the Moto G for example, the Moto G is a sub-$200 phone that was released in January. It is a solid device that also packs 1GB of RAM and does not have a 4G radio, we've taken the Moto G for a full review, read all about it here, and checkout the video below. Looking a little higher end than the Moto G, set to be officially announced in the next week, the OnePlus One is looking to possibly hit the market as the most powerful smartphone to date. The young company lives by the motto "never settle," and is expected to have their 'flagship killer' smartphone launch for as little as half the price of the Samsung Galaxy S5. Google themselves have already shaken the 7-inch range tablet market, launching the Nexus 7 tablet back in 2012, with a redux in 2013. Built by ASUS, the Nexus 7 still feels very much like a premium device, but it too sells in the $200 price range.
We’ll compare the Moto G with pricier phones, because its price tag casts a new light on all of its features. - Joshua Vergara, Android AuthorityThese devices have set in motion a trend and a realization for smartphone manufacturers, there is a huge global market for quality, yet affordable equipment. Motorola is rumored to be bringing a new low-cost smartphone to Mexico - called the Moto E, the rumor has it as a very similar unit to the Moto G, capitalizing on a phone model that has already been a top seller for the company. Is There A Market For A Sub-$100 Nexus Device? A sub-$100 Nexus device is an intriguing prospect. On the one hand, we hold the idea that Nexus devices are for those that are in the know when it comes to Android - specifically built for developers to have access to all of the OS features and hardware sensors that Google has put into their pure Android. On the other hand, Nexus devices have proven to be excellent phones at an affordable price. The Nexus 5 has been a favorite for many, starting at $350, it has been the best answer for many new-to-Android users that ask "what phone should I get?" Check out our review of the Nexus 5 to see why. The success of a sub-$100 Nexus device may come down to two main factors. First, who is Google building this device for? If the phone is built as an extremely affordable developers test phone, normal consumers may be put off by a lack of features, such as external SD card support. Second, in one word, marketing. The Nexus 5 may be made to capture the moments that matter, but I have never met it in any ads outside of Google's own websites, or seen people dancing with it to Michael Jackson. Whether Google's purpose is to make a number one selling phone or not, a sub-$100 phone removes the barrier to entry to the Android ecosystem, which may prove crucial to gaining new users, especially in emerging markets around the globe. We look forward to learning more about this sub-$100 Nexus device. Until then, what are your thoughts on a Nexus branded sub-$100 phone - will Google make a knockout product for an amazing price, or just a decent entry level unit that anyone can afford?
WHAT IS POKEMON ONLINE? Pokemon Online is one of the few Pokemon experiences you can get on Android without going through the hassle of downloading an emulator and the games. The idea behind the app is simple. It strips away all the RPG and story elements and lets battle your Pokemon team online against other players. The purpose is to hone your battle strategies, see which teams do the best, and figure out strategies for beating harder opponents. Despite the lack of story elements and RPG mechanics, the game manages to offer quite a bit of content. You can either have a team selected for you at random or you can carefully craft your own. By craft your own, I mean you get to pick which Pokemon you want, their abilities, and their level. This means you can go with your favorites or experiment with ones you've never used before. Given the number of Pokemon available, the number of permutations are quite large. Once in battle, you play as though it were a typical Pokemon battle by selecting moves and abilities against a live opponent. This means connecting to a server which means you'll need to have an internet connection in order to play. Aside from choosing your Pokemon team and moves, you can also play by various rule sets. If you want to play by the old school Pokemon Red or Blue rules, you can choose those or if you want to play by a newer rule set, you can. Playing by different rule sets can cause different effects depending on what attacks you use. That adds a fun layer of complexity on top of an already decently fun battle system. Along with battling people, you can also participate in chat rooms and private messages if you so choose. It's also worth nothing that there is a desktop version of this for the big three desktop operating systems which allows you to transport teams and face people cross platform. There is also a fairly active community of players complete with forums if you decide you want to get even further into the community. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS APP? The worst that's been reported are server connection issues. Every now and then people will not be able to connect in order to play against other people. Another bug that has been frequently reported is the in-game menu button not working for some people. It seems to be pretty random so it's a roll of the dice. If you don't get those issues, it seems to be a fairly stable and solid application. Of course, like any online community populated by hardcore fans, there may be a little animosity but those are the risks we all take when joining new communities. ------------------------- FINAL THOUGHTS Overall, this is a fun little game. It's not the classic Pokemon that everyone knows and loves, but if you've always been into the battling part of Pokemon then this is an app you can't miss. There are the occasional server issues and a few bugs, but nothing too bad. It is important to remember that this is the battle part of Pokemon only. If you're more of a fan of the story and didn't enjoy the battling part so much, you probably will not enjoy this app. If you want to check it out, use the button below. _Check out the last indie app of the day: FarFaria_
Dolphin Browser is one of the most powerful and popular web browsers out there and today it received a sizable update. Among the new stuff included is better Flash Player support, better full screen HTML5 videos, and the Dolphin Jetpack integration with Android 4.3 and 4.4. Here is a quick list of all the features as per the Google Play Store. * Dolphin Jetpack 6.1.0 integration on Android 4.3 and 4.4 devices * Better flash playing experience; How to play flash in Dolphin http://goo.gl/zE6U68 * Better fullscreen experience for HTML5 videos * Auto-fit web content when pinch to zoom under desktop mode By far the most important of which is the Jetpack 6.1 integration. For those who do not know, Dolphin Jetpack is an improved webkit that uses Dolphin's HTML5 rendering engine to give you a better web experience. In other words, it makes HTML5 sites vastly more enjoyable to browser and use. Along with the Jetpack integration, the update also provides better support for full screen HTML5 videos, improved Flash support, and improved text auto-fit on web pages. Chances are if you have Dolphin browser you've seen this update already. If you're not a Dolphin user and want to check it out, you can find it in the Google Play Store here.
In a recent update to the Android operating system, Google made some changes to how external SD cards can be handled by apps within the system. The result, basically, is that applications have been stripped of their former ability and permissions to read and write files on an sd card. With file explorer apps being some of the hardest hit by this change, ES File Explorer has decided to fight back, having launched an update to their app that brings back full SD card read/write access, at least for those that have their phone rooted. ES File Explorer is a wonderful application, it offers solid file management tools and an ever expanding list of extra features that you may not have expected out of a file explorer. For file management, you can expect much of the same functionality as you would find on any other operating system. Create folders, move/copy/paste your files between folders, rename files and folders, it can even zip and unzip (RAR) compressed folders. This same functionality extends well beyond your local device, as you can access your Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and other cloud storage locations using the same tools. The tabbed interface will also let you get into FTP servers, SMB/Windows shares and Bluetooth shares alike. The folks behind ES File Explorer have thought about almost any method of file storage and access that you may need, as such, extra features to the app include a download manager, a built-in web browser, the ability to not only access FTP servers, but to turn your device into an FTP server itself to share specified folders, and more. ES File Explorer can even start up its own wifi hotspot for other devices to connect with. In the end, there is little that you cannot do with ES File Explorer when it comes to accessing your files, and once you've got them, the app even has built-in photo gallery and media players to put your files to use. Google's decision to remove external SD card support has been met with some hostility. Users are not happy about this decision, especially those that have invested hundreds of dollars on buying SD cards and applications which have been incapacitated by this change. ES File Explorer had a history of bypassing the default Android constructs by offering root capabilities, including access to system files. This same spirit is evident in their recent update, version 3.1.2 brings the root-only ability to once again read and write files to an external SD card. Check for the update on your device, or hit the Google Play Store to download a fresh copy. The update to ES File Explorer will not bring back the required permissions to all of your affected apps. It is still great to see a big player at least create a workaround to an otherwise annoying security upgrade. We hope that Google finds a way to securely return this functionality in the future, or at least to introduce a new level of app permissions to let us users decide if we trust apps with all of our precious files saved on our external SD cards. Have you been affected by the KitKat external SD card limitation? What is your number one app that you can no longer use as you used to? Are you more willing to root your devices, or find a cloud storage solution for your files? So many questions, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
In the recent months we have seen an influx of wearable technologies, with various manufacturers scrambling to get their devices out into the market. These include smart watches, smart glasses, health bands, and all sorts of devices meant to be worn as part of our clothing or apparel. Wearable technology is not really new, as developers have been trying to blend gadgets and apparel for decades now. But with the recent introduction of platforms like Android Wear, the technology for wearable devices is beginning to become more standardized. Google even introduced Glass early on, having first approached early adopters and those on the bleeding edge of tech. But even that has been met with some criticism amid privacy issues. Wearable technology faces a few challenges, and it might not be quite as easy for devices like smartwatches and smart glasses to gain mass acceptance. Wearability concerns can be broken down into these challenges: physical and cultural and financial. DESIGN AND PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS
The Moto 360 attempts to break the mold in terms of wearability, considering most smartwatches today are bulky, rectangular devices.In terms of design, smartwatches and smart glasses are still bulkier than we would want them to be. If you remember the Casio calculator watch of the olden days, these were a brazen sign of one's geekiness, with their standout keypads and size. Perhaps it's the same with most smartwatches that are being announced and launched these days, most of which are rectangular, thick and bulky -- except perhaps for the Moto 360, which attempts to achieve a more traditional wristwatch design. Smartwatch designs are still currently based on processors and components meant for smartphones, which is quite limiting in terms of size and form factor. According to analysts, however, this will improve over time. "I think there's a lot of work to be done on the design," said Chris Jones at Canalys Insight. As components become slimmer and internal components tailor-made for watches instead of phones, devices can start becoming sleeker and more wearable. The key here is wearability, says Pebble principal designer Myriam Joire. "It becomes much more personal than just being in your pocket," she said, comparing smartwatches to smartphones. As smartphone users, we are already highly connected in the first place, with an internet-enabled device in our pockets. But the main difference of smartwatches is that these are meant to be visible at all times, and not just hidden in one's pocket. "You have to feel a connection with it aesthetically," said Joire. SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE
Google Glass is banned in certain establishments due to privacy concerns.Apart from physical challenges, there is also a potentially bigger concern with wearable devices, which involves social acceptance. It's hard enough to accept the fact that virtually all mobile phones today have the potential for being spying devices, with their photo, video and audio-capture abilities. But when you start wearing a camera-enabled device on your face, this opens up a whole new set of challenges and criticisms. You may have already heard of Google Glass being banned from certain commercial establishments like bars and restaurants. There's a running meme about Glass users being considered "glassholes" because of potentially rude or socially unacceptable behavior. Google itself claims that the biggest challenge with Glass is not developing the platform itself, but building up the technology such that it becomes socially acceptable. When people start mauling Glass users because of privacy concerns -- perceived or actual -- it's a sign that social acceptance might still be a long way to go. Google has started sending home try-on kits for prospective users to see how they look with Glass on, which might help encourage users to warm to the idea of wearing -- and seeing -- Glass. The company has also started partnering with popular eyewear brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley, which is also a good sign, especially since eyewear makers are keen on being part of the trend. PRICE
Google has partnered with eyewear brands like Oakley and Ray-Ban. Will this help popularlize smartglasses or at least drive down prices?And then, of course, there's price. When a piece of eyewear costs $1,500, it's not exactly chump change. This is one reason why wearables are mostly popular with early adopters. Those on the bleeding edge can afford to shell out big sums just to keep ahead of everyone else. "Because of the price point, [wearable devices] tend to really be only for early adopters," says Rob Chandhok, VP at Qualcomm Technologies, which manufactures the Toq smartwatch. These devices will become more appealing when they start offering better functionality, however, says Canalys Insight's Jones. Smartwatch prices are expected to fall, however, especially as component manufacturers start designing and building parts especially meant for these devices. And with big manufacturers running equally big marketing campaigns for their wearables, that's a good sign for those who are on the lookout to become more connected without having to take out one's smartphones from one's pocket every so often. What do you think is the biggest challenge for wearable devices? How will designers, manufacturers and users overcome these challenges?
The other day we reported on sketches and OnePlus One marketing/packaging materials that hinted at what the front and back of the upcoming handset might look like. If you weren't sure what to think based on those pictures, the good news is we now have a more detailed look at press renders of the device, alongside what appears to be the StyleSwap covers that will allow you to change up the look of the device. As you can see, the overall shape and look of the OnePlus One in these photos falls in line with the design language shown off in the packaging/retail materials that leaked the other day. The OnePlus One appears to employ a minimalistic design approach that is very Oppo-like in nature, with the handset borrowing heavily from the design of the Oppo Find 5 in particular. Of course, considering the founding members of OnePlus came from Oppo, this makes sense. Whether the OnePlus One's design is something you'd consider the phone to be_ "more attractive than just about any [device] on the market, with the exception of maybe the iPhone"_ is probably a matter of taste. That said, we have to admit those stylish swap covers certainly have us more than a little excited. Before we get too ahead of ourselves, however, it's important to note that we can't say with any certainty that these images are legit. While they certainly fit with what we'd expect from the handset, it's possible these could be merely fan renders, so we'd take all of this with a grain of salt for now. Curious to learn more about the OnePlus One? Click here for our previous coverage, or here to get a closer look at the device's specs. If this is a legit look at the OnePlus One, what do you think of the design -- impressed or not? _Thanks to Luka, over at the Android Authority forums for tipping us about the images seen above!_
While Project Ara is more immediately aimed at providing a commercial solution for improving the lives of smartphone users around the globe, the equally ambitious Project Tango is currently geared towards developers and organizations looking to find unique ways to make use a device that is essentially aware of its own surroundings. Project Tango utilizes a pair of cameras and an infrared projector to measure depth and observe movement, and then takes this information and creates a 3D map of the space around it. Aside from this, the specs inside the Tango ‘phone’ aren't much different from your typical handset, such as its quad-core SoC and 2GB of RAM.
Google and NASA are working to integrate Tango with NASA’s own robotic platform, SPHERES.Project Tango has a lot of potential, and Google has already been releasing the device into the hands of various partners over the last couple months. One of these partners is NASA, and today Google revealed a bit about what NASA intends to do with Project Tango. PROJECT TANGO AND ITS ROLE IN SPHERES Since the summer of 2013, Google ATAP’s Tango team has been working closely with a NASA team at the Ames Research Center. The focus of their relationship has been on working to integrate Tango with NASA’s own robotic platform, called SPHERES. The goal of the SPHERES platform is basically to create autonomous robotic assistants that can eventually handle the more menial tasks for those aboard the ISS space station. Where does Tango play into all this? Basically the smartphone plugs into the SPHERES robotic prototype, providing it with the “eyes” needed to properly navigate around the space station. When might SPHERES and Tango actually make their way beyond testing and into space? Sooner then you’d think. If all goes well, Project Tango and SPHERES should be launched into orbit later this summer. This is certainly a unique use of the technology behind Project Tango and makes it clear that Tango's long-term effects could go way beyond simply giving us a cool 3D sensing handset to play around with.
In this Friday Debate, we talk about Project Ara, Google's crazy modular phone concept that is rapidly turning into a real product. Despite the skepticism, Google seems to have figured out solutions for some of the biggest problems facing Project Ara, and, if everything goes to plan, the first commercial devices could become available next year. The promise of a modular phone is to make it possible for users to select the components they want, bringing true customization to the hardware level. So, if you had the power to select the modules in your phone, what would you pick? Would you go for more storage? The best possible camera? No camera at all and a larger battery? What components you couldn't do without? Join us in the comments and answer our poll! ROBERT TRIGGS
The great thing about Project Ara is that I’d probably end up designing a couple of configurations depending on how I wanted to use the handset. I can see myself having at least two Ara setups, one energy efficient design for use as a smartphone, and a more powerful design for when I’m sitting at home nearer a charger. If I was designing my ideal practical smartphone, I’d try to cram in as many battery and memory modules is as possible, for music playback, etc. I’d be tempted to grab the biggest skeleton size simply so that I could have access to the most module spaces, but I guess that would also require a larger and more expensive screen. Perhaps the medium 3×6 size would be the sweet spot for me. For other components I’d be quite boring, a modest quad-core SoC would suit me fine and I’d probably opt for a 720p display over 1080p simply to save on power consumption. No QWERTY keyboards for me either. As awesome as QHD displays and high performance SoCs are, for a mobile device I really just want it to last as long as possible without me having to set it aside to charge. I’d essentially design my Ara around battery life first, with performance adequate enough to playback videos, some basic games, and run Android smoothly. Depending on component prices, I’d be tempted to try out some more experimental stuff too. Hopefully Ara will work with dual rear camera configurations so that I can try out some 3D image and video capture. I can’t really say that I’m interested in heart rate or fingerprint scanner modules, but I’d love for someone to make a gamepad that slots into a front module instead of a keyboard. Perhaps I should enter that idea into the Project Ara challenge! So I guess my second device would be more of a gaming and media oriented machine. I could swap out the camera module for some extra RAM, and maybe even change out the SoC for something with a bit more grunt in the GPU department. You know what, they should bring out a cheap tablet skeleton too, so I could just swap my stuff over from smartphone to tablet when I get home. GARY SIMS
For me it is all about battery and storage. I think I would go with the biggest skeleton, but with only a 720p screen and a modest quad-core processor. An 8MP camera would be just fine and the rest of the space I would use to squeeze in as much storage and battery as possible. If the modules are truly hot-swappable it would be quite cool to have at least two battery segments and an external charging systems that allows me to charge the batteries modules separately. I could then have 4 to 6 battery modules which I charge and hot-swap as each one becomes depleted. Since the phone would always have at least one battery pack connected the other one can be replaced without having to shutdown the phone. You could even do it while on a call! ANDREW GRUSH
As many times as I’ve written articles and opinion pieces about Project Ara, I’d say I’m very excited about the project’s future. As for what my dream phone would look like? Honestly I like powerful phones even if they are overkill, so odds are I’d go with the most recent Qualcomm SoC avaliable and would load up on the RAM, probably settling around 3GB. Another major area for me would be battery life, which somewhat conflicts with my interest in having a high-end phone. So basically, I’d shove as big of a battery as possible in there without adding too much bulk or weight. I’d also be sure to carry an extra battery module with me for on-the-fly switching. For most of the rest of the specs, however, I’d be a bit more modest. While I can appreciate the quality of the 1080p display on my Nexus 5, I feel that QHD has few real advantages and yet takes a hefty toll on battery life. So bottom-line, I’d opt for 1080p. Screen size? Somewhere around the 5 to 5.4-inch mark. I like big displays, but I still want my phone to be reasonably pocketable. Storage would probably only need to be somewhere around the 16 to 32GB mark, since I rely heavily on the cloud for music and movies. I’d probably want microSD if at all possible though. Cameras would also be pretty ‘basic’, at least matching my Nexus 5. Honestly I just want image that look decent and can bring out my DSRL for those times when I want higher quality. Of course, that’s just my dream phone. In reality, my Ara phone would probably be more akin in prowess to my Nexus 5 and I am most interested in Project Ara for one reason: I can slowly upgrade. As a family man, I have limited extra funds and so the idea of being able to upgrade key elements without getting a new phone every year or two is a big draw.
Wikimedia Over the last few years, the United States Justice Department and Homeland Security's Immigration & Custom's Enforcement (ICE) have been seizing various websites through charges of criminal copyright infringement with questionable tactics and disputed legal authority. In 2012, three Android-focused websites were seized by the Department of Justice. With help from French and Dutch police, the FBI took over applanet.net, appbucket.net and snappzmarket.com, a trio of so-called Android piracy sites. On Monday, American prosecutors announced that two of the four men involved with the sites have pleaded guilty to copyright infringement. The case marks the first time that U.S. authorities have successfully prosecuted a case involving pirate app stores.
The case marks the first time that U.S. authorities have successfully prosecuted a case involving pirate app stores.Now, via TorrentFreak, the Department of Justice is reporting that the third defendant, Kody Jon Peterson -- who was involved in the operations of SnappzMarket -- pleaded guilty this week to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. The plea agreement also notes that the Government attorneys and agents are allowed to contact Peterson with no notice and communicate with him without his own attorney being present:
_“Peterson also agreed to cooperate with the authorities in the investigation, including producing all relevant records and attending interviews when required. However, in addition to more standard types of cooperation, the 22-year-old also agreed to go much further. A copy of his plea agreement obtained by TF reveals that Peterson has agreed to work undercover for the Government.”___While the Department of Justice was successful in prosecuting this specific case, it's hard to see the justification for this type of effort towards these mobile app pirates. This reminds me of the severe over-reaction by ICE towards a number of vendors in South Florida who were repairing phones with aftermarket parts. ICE decided it was best to send 20 agents rushing into these stores as if they were taking down a drug raid. Meanwhile, stores like these, were fixing Apple phones at reasonable prices for people who most likely could not afford to fix their phones at an Apple store.
The Department of Justice seems to handle all the alleged piracy sites the same way: Pull down with no warning, give no hearing and give no due process.Two years ago, TechDirt did a fantastic job covering the seizure of a domain named Dajaz1. It took the Department of Justice over a year to admit that they had no evidence. In fact, after the site had been withheld by the government for over a year, Congress seemed to finally take notice that the government was holding the site hostage without bring an actual lawsuit. The Department of Justice seems to handle all the alleged "piracy" sites the same way:_ Pull down with no warning, give no hearing and give no due process._ Before last year's Super Bowl, ICE seized 313 websites without any adversarial hearing along with a "few" arrests for counterfeit Super Bowl merchandise. ICE did not publicize the fact that they also had seized legitimate merchandise. Several weeks ago, the Homeland Security's ICE division joined with GoDaddy to censor a Mexican political protest site. GoDaddy suspended the domain and ICE would not give an explanation as to why they were taking down the site. When Mike Masnick over at TechDirt was looking into filing FOIA requests about this case, he asked for a fee waiver, which is standard procedure. Under FOIA, government agencies can charge for the requested work, but they're supposed to waive the fees if the request is for the public interest or reporting. ICE rejected his fee waiver request. Why? Because…ICE actually told him they rejected his request “because” with no additional information.
determined that your fee waiver request is deficient because .You may remember that ICE is the part of the government who interrogated a man because he wore Google glasses into a movie theatre. They also got into the news several months ago by shooting and arresting the wrong man. They also have a person employed that encourages the mass murder of whites and the “ethnic cleansing” of “black-skinned Uncle Tom race traitors.” Piracy in general has been over-stated for years now by the same groups that are seeing record profits every year. The US movie industry's overall revenues are up four percent globally in 2013 to $35.9 billion. It is almost a weekly occurrence that we hear the MPAA telling anyone who will listen that the sky is falling for the movie business due to the effects of online piracy (which mirror their rhetoric towards VCRs in the 1980s). If it makes you all feel better, the Government may soon have the ability to remote access any computer (with a warrant of course, wink wink).
_"If passed as currently drafted, federal authorities would gain an expanded ability to conduct “remote access” under a warrant against a target computer whose location is unknown or outside of a given judicial district. It would also apply in cases where that computer is part of a larger network of computers spread across multiple judicial districts. "_
Earlier this month, Sprint became the first U.S. carrier to introduce an update for the recently released HTC One M8. Now Verizon is following suit with an update of their own, though for very different reasons. Unlike the Sprint update, Verizon’s M8 update doesn’t bring the M8’s extreme power saving mode, and instead is essentially a bunch of bug fixes and performance improvements. Specifically, the change-log for the update mentions the following: * ERI Update to remove the roaming indicator icon displayed on some HTC One M8 devices(Out of Box) * Resolved issue related to webpage and application connection errors in certain conditions * Bluetooth connectivity improvements * Gallery: Integrated a new Copy/Paste feature * Gallery: Mute/Edit buttons on the Video Highlights tile * Improved sync behavior while closing the flip with Dot matrix case It seems odd that Sprint was able to squeeze out power saving mode so quickly, but not Verizon. Still, it’s good to see that Big Red is working hard to improve the HTC One M8 experience on its network. The update should be rolling out in stages, and is about 122MB in size, so you’ll want to be on Wi-Fi before downloading.
A month ago Samsung introduced its own radio streaming service powered by Slacker, under the odd name of Milk Music. At the time it was announced as an ad-free experience with no subscription costs and the ability to skip up to 6 songs in hour. The only catch was that the service was only compatible with a few select Galaxy devices. Fast-forwarding to today, Samsung has apparently changed its mind on the whole ‘free’ part. While the service will continue to be offered, Samsung isn't giving it away for nothing anymore, and has formally announced its plans to bring ads to the service. Let’s be honest, this is an annoying move, especially since the service was only announced a month ago. Of course, we can’t say we are surprised,offering free unlimited radio with no ads seemed too good to be true at the time -- and we were right. For those that don’t mind putting up with ads, Milk Music is still free to use and could possibly be worth keeping around. For those that can’t stand ads? Samsung will offer a $4 monthly subscription that removes the ads and is said to bring a few premium features, though Samsung hasn't specified what exactly. Hopefully the subscription at least gives us unlimited skips. Anyone currently using Milk Music? Will Samsung’s addition of ads and a ‘premium’ subscription drive you away?
Welcome back to Google Play Weekly! A lot has happened this week and it's mostly Google being awesome as usual. To start, Google Calendar got updated with a fun and new location feature. There was a Google+ development build leaked to social media that shows a new re-design. Word is Age of Empires is coming to Android this summer. Samsung and Amazon struck a deal to bring the Kindle app to Samsung devices with a free eBook every month. There's a new Humble Bundle in town and it's a pretty great one. Finally, here are five more Android apps you shouldn't miss this week! ------------------------- DOMO - ICON PACK [Price: $1.99] First up this week is Domo icons. This icon pack is from the well-known and respected kovdev and features more than 1650 icons, a cloud-based wallpaper gallery, a category based icon library, and Muzei live wallpaper support. It’s $1.99 and for that many icons, that’s not a bad deal. If you’re in the hunt for a new icon pack, give these a shot. ------------------------- FARFARIA [Price: Free Trial / $3.99/month] FarFaria is an app that lets you download and read children’s books. It features over 600 books that you can download whenever and either read to your kids or let your kids read on their own. It does require a subscription which may deter some people but they do give you a trial so you can see if you like it first. They add new books every week day and once you’ve bought in, you can download and read any book in the library. This is a great app if you have younger kids because reading is good. ------------------------- TODAY - CALENDAR [Price: Free Trial / $2.99] Today Calendar was released this last week to highly positive reviews. It’s based on the AOSP calendar but makes a number of visual and performance improvements. The most noticeable of which is the more modern design with color accents. The developers also include widgets as separate downloads that have also been redesigned. If you like the AOSP calendar but wish it looked different, this is an app to try out. ------------------------- CHROME REMOTE DESKTOP [Price: Free] Part of the awesome week Google has been having includes the release of Chrome Remote Desktop. As the name implies, this allows you to mirror your desktop onto your Android device so that you can manage your desktop from mobile. It seems to work pretty well for most people but there are some quirks and incompatibilities here and there. Thankfully it’s free so you don’t lose anything by trying it out. ------------------------- GOOGLE CAMERA [Price: Free] The new Google Camera was released this last week and it’s really been the talk of the week. I reviewed Google Camera and we’ll have that linked here at the end of the video and in the video description below so I won’t spend much time talking about it now. Google Camera is a simple camera application with a refreshingly simple and active interface with some fun features like Lens Blur. Check out the full review for more details.
Buy the Samsung Gear Fit now for $204.95 from Amazon Advances in technology have certainly played a big role in making our lives a whole lot easier, but with almost everything now available at the tip of your fingers, it has also been a contributing factor in making us a lot lazier. Various tech companies are now taking up the cause for our health and fitness needs, or at the very least, keep a track of it. Samsung is the latest in an every-growing list of companies that is throwing their hat into the fitness ring, with the aptly named Samsung Gear Fit. With the Gear Fit, Samsung tries to bridge the gap between fitness bands and smartwatches, by attempting to offer the best of both worlds. Do they succeed in the first try? We find out, in this comprehensive review of the Samsung Gear Fit!
DesignIf you thought that the Gear line of smartwatches were a little less than accessible, or even just a bit of eyesore, the Gear Fit addresses that issue with a refreshingly accessible, and easy to look at, design. The Gear Fit is comprised of a 1.84-inch curved OLED display, a single button, along with a charging connector and a heart rate monitor on the back, that fits into a rubber band that is replaceable and available in numerous colour options to suit your style. If you've ever used a fitness band like Fitbit or the Nike FuelBand before, the Samsung Gear Fit takes up that particular motif, but features a lot more functionality due its unique display experience. As far as the band goes, it is surprisingly easy to put on, compared to the Gear smartwatches, which were a little confusing at first. A double pin fastener fits right into the holes on the other part of the band, allowing you to easily wear and remove the Gear Fit without any fuss. While the Gear Fit is bigger than most other fitness bands, the overall size of the entire setup does keep it from getting too bulky. In fact, it is quite light and fits snugly on your wrist without weighing it down, and as is the hope from any fitness band that you'd have on for long periods of time, after a while, you won't even notice that you have the Gear Fit on.
DisplayOf course, the eye-catching part of the Gear Fit is its vibrant display, and you should definitely get ready to answer questions about the device when the display turns on to show notifications, or when you check the time. The touchscreen capabilities are easy to use and allow for quick access to various functions, but touch sensitivity was a little spotty at times, as I was forced to press a button multiple times until I was finally able to get in. If you watched my first hands-on with the Gear Fit, you'll know that I found the landscape orientation a little bit odd considering the way the band is positioned on the wrist, which led to me suggesting wearing the Gear Fit backwards on your wrist for better reading comfort. This still holds true, but is helped a lot by the fact that you have the ability to make the display go into portrait mode, which is what I use on a semi-permanent basis now. When you view your notifications, you can set it to go into landscape mode whenever you open one, but reading a whole notification in this orientation can lead to some uncomfortable stretching of the arm and wrist. There is little to take away from the display of the Gear Fit as it primarily shows the potential of such devices in the future. Basically, if Samsung is able to outfit its device with such a great display in its first attempt, we're really excited to see how far this form factor can go in general.
Performance and BatteryGiven how much, or rather how little, the Gear Fit is supposed to do, its performance was never in question. Swiping between functions was smooth, and there were never any issues getting to what I needed. As far as battery life is concerned, it is capable of going for a couple of days, which isn't particularly terrible, but definitely pales in comparison to the capabilities of the other fitness bands that can go for far longer than that. Of course, those fitness bands also don't have a large display to power, so the difference in battery life is certainly understandable. It should be mentioned though that the charging module that snaps into the back of the device is really small, and basically looks like a small hunk of plastic, which means that if you aren't careful, you could end up losing it quite easily.
Software and UsageLeaving out all other factors, what ultimately matters is ease of use, and the Gear Fit is certainly an impressive first attempt, but unfortunately falls victim to the usual Samsung trope, and ends up trying to be too many things at once, without being really excellent at any one. Of course, the main component of the Gear Fit is fitness. Functionality as a fitness band includes things like tracking steps, you sleep cycle, and distance-based activities. There's nothing more that you'd really be able to use this for, so it all depends on your fitness regime. For example, if you exclusively do a lot of weight training, you won't be getting as much use out of the Gear Fit. The pedometer is a required feature of any fitness band, but proves to be quite inaccurate in this case. Walking around the LA Arboretum for a camera shootout resulted in around 3000 steps in one hour, which is certainly way too high to be accurate. The other issue with the pedometer, as well as the sleep tracker, is that they are not always firing, and you have to actively turn them on before you actually do the activities, which can definitely get frustrating if you forget to turn it on a few times. Fitness tracking with the Gear Fit allows for the recording of the distance travelled, how long the workout was, and also the general amount of calories you've burned. All this information is collected in the S Health application, which is quite robust by itself, but anyone looking for more from their workout data may not be satisfied here. Unlike the heart rate monitor found on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S5 that is capable of only single readings, the HRM on the Gear Fit is capable of constantly monitoring your heart rate, but only after you turn on a coaching mode, which will constantly track the heart rate and let you know to take it easy in case of a high BPM. The holes in its operation are what make the Gear Fit less than favourable companion for anyone who is very into fitness. It requires a lot of manual input to even work, the fitness tracking options available are quite basic and minimal, and while having an always-on heart rate monitor during workouts is definitely a positive, the Gear Fit doesn't add anything to the fitness band game other a pretty screen. On the other side of the coin is the capabilities of the Gear Fit as a smartwatch. You can of course, look at the time, and basic weather information on the homescreen, the background of which can also be set to a specific image that can be set from the Gear Fit Manager app on your Galaxy device. You also get a Find My Device app that notifies you if either of the devices are too far away from each other, and a Media Controller that lets you skip tracks or change the volume, and was the feature that I ended up using the most. Notifications are the marquee function provided by having a nice screen, but like I alluded to before, it's far from a perfect implementation. When using the Gear Fit in portrait mode, notifications that come up are often scrunched up due to formatting issues. You can, of course, view notifications in landscape mode as well, but not only does this require quite a lot of scrolling, it is also hard to read it without straining your arm to line it up just right. Notifications are also on a view-only basis, so while you can set up basic templates for responses, you'll still find yourself reaching for your phone more often than not.
Final ThoughtsAnd so there you have it, the Samsung Gear Fit. While it has its flaws, it does help when you consider that this is probably just the beginning. With all that Samsung missed in this first attempt at providing a fitness orientated experience, users will probably be more excited about the prospect of having fully capably displays on their wearable devices. This is the first wearable capable of some smartwatch capabilities, that is very easy to use and wear throughout the day, and while having it on will add to your geek cred, the moment you realize you forgot to personally turn on the pedometer or the sleep tracker, is when you realize this is definitely more geek-orientated than catered to fitness buffs. The first order of business is fixing the current issues, and that should be enough for Samsung to unlock the potential of what was an exciting development in the world of wearable tech. Buy the Samsung Gear Fit now for $204.95 from Amazon
Paul Golden introducing the Galaxy S-based Samsung Continuum on stage in November 2010. Courtesy of EngadgetBack in 2011, Samsung’s _The Next Big Thing_ campaign was making Apple’s marketing boss Phil Schiller jealous. Now the man in charge with Samsung’s marketing at the time has joined HTC. Paul Golden has become an adviser to HTC’s Chairwoman Cher Wong sometime in the past few weeks, according to _Bloomberg. _ Golden was Samsung US's Chief Marketing Officer/VP of Strategic Marketing between 2008 and early 2012. That period overlaps with Samsung’s rise in the smartphone business from a second-tier player to the biggest force bar Apple. On his LinkedIn profile, Golden says he “created and launched the highly successful Galaxy brand for Samsung” and that he “led all marketing functions including brand strategy, advertising, traditional and digital media, [and more]”. Now Paul Golden will advise HTC’s leadership and he’s focus will probably how to tell the world how good the One (M8) really is. HTC declined to comment on the hire (which hasn’t been finalized, with Golden coming for an initial three-month stint). The company’s brass has long promised more focus on marketing, which everyone agrees is one of HTC’s weaknesses. Just last month, Chairwoman Wang and CEO Peter Chou told media they would have a “very aggressive” marketing campaign for the One (M8). But better marketing was a motif of HTC’s public communication ever since the One X. To be clear, HTC can only invest in marketing a small fraction of what Samsung spent to build the Galaxy brand. But, with people like Golden on board, fortunes could turn for the beleaguered company.
The first details about Motorola’s next-gen Moto X have already been leaking out recently, but what else can we expect from the company? While so much about Motorola’s future is up in the air as the Lenovo deal marches towards finalization, it appears that the Moto X+1 isn't the only new handset in the works. Thanks to Brazilian-based _Tecnoblog,_ we have learned that three new Motorola handset models have passed through Anatel -- Brazil’s equivalent of the FCC: the XT 1021, XT 1022 and XT 1025. All three models are basically said to be the same device but with the first having just a single SIM slot, the second with dual-SIM and the third with both dual-SIM and a digital TV tuner. It’s interesting to note that this isn't the first evidence of the new Motorola XT 102(x) series, as the XT 1021 actually passed through the FCC a little over a month ago, rocking AT&T-friendly 3G capabilities.
Juding by the specs, this new handset could be even cheaper than the already extremely affordable Moto GSo what exactly can we expect from the Motorola XT 102(x)? If Tecnoblog’s leaked details prove correct, this could be a very modest entry-level handset. Specifically the phone is said to offer a 1.2Ghz dual-core CPU, 1GB RAM, a 4.3-inch display, 4GB storage and a 1900 mAh battery. Reportedly the handset will also offer Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box. As you can see, that puts this new handset even a bit lower down the budget chain from the already extremely affordable Moto G, which falls in line with former Motorola CEO Woodside’s past comments about attempting to drive down phone pricing even lower than we saw with the G. So how low could the XT 102(x) go? It’s hard to say for sure, though reportedly the higher-end XT 1025 will come in at around 599 Brazilian reels, or roughly $267.75. That means the base single SIM model could be considerably cheaper if and when it launches internationally, though how much cheaper is anyone's guess. The Motorola XT 102(x) is said to be preparing for a launch as early as May in Brazil, though no word on when it might arrive beyond this. Of course it’s important to note that Motorola has yet to confirm the existence of this upcoming device, and that means you should take the above-mentioned specs and other details with a hefty grain of salt. IF the rumors are accurate, could the Motorola XT 102(x) be a budget market game-changer like the Moto G? Would anyone be interested in picking up such a device if the price was sub-$150?
Back in January of 2013, Beamdog revealed they had run into a snag with the Android version of Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, leading to a delay. And that was pretty much the last we heard about the whole effort, until today. Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition has finally arrived to Android, priced at $9.99. While this is a pretty hefty cost for a game that was released in 1998, it’s worth it if you’re at all a fan of the series or enjoy roleplaying games. Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition is more than just a straight port of the original, bringing a large number of improvements to the interface, high-resolution fonts, dynamic zooming, and several other tweaks.
Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition has finally arrived to Android, priced at $9.99As for the content? There’s at least some new elements here as well. In addition to three new hero characters that can join your party, there’s also two major expansions that enhance the original 60-hour game. The expansions are “tales of the Sword Coast” and “the Black Pits”. For those looking for even more content, there are also some in-app purchases present. I know, IAP on a $10 game might sound like a bit of a turn off, but remember none of these purchases are required to fully enjoy the game. According to the game’s app description, the following content can be purchased from within the game: * Brothers Lost: Lend your aid to Rasaad yn Bashir, the Sun Soul monk, as he scours the Cloud Peaks in search of his lost brother. * Neera and the Red Wizards: Save the wild mage Neera from the cruel machinations of Thay’s dreaded Red Wizards. * Path of the Bloodied: Join the blackguard Dorn Il-Khan in taking revenge against those who betrayed him in Luskan. * Gallery of Heroes: Reimagine your character with eleven never-before-seen character portraits from acclaimed Icewind Dale artist Jason Manley! * New professionally recorded voice sets to choose from to further customize your character. Is Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition really worth your time and money? Yes and no. If you thoroughly invested in the original PC game, keep in mind that largely it’s still the same experience as you played all those years ago -- just enhanced and somewhat expanded. In other words, if you don’t like ‘re-beating’ games, you might want to pass. For those that love the nostalgia that comes with giving a game another run through or who never had the full opportunity to check out the game, you'll absolutely want to consider picking this one up. Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition should play nicely with just about any Android device running ICS 4.0 or higher, though a larger screen is recommended. Those with 5+ inch handsets should be able to get by okay, though a tablet is preferable.
The Galaxy S5 has been on the market for a week now, and with dozens of reviews and hands-on posts hitting the web, fans of the device probably already know about its main features. But Samsung reckons there are some hidden features on the Galaxy S5 that you might not be aware of, and helpfully listed them in a post on its Samsung Tomorrow blog. Without further ado, here are Samsung’s top 10 hidden features of the Galaxy S5. 1. WRITE WITH A PENCIL ON THE SCREEN No need for an S Pen - for scribbling and doodling on the Galaxy S5 you can use a regular pencil. Just enable the _Increase touch settings_ option from Display settings. 2. TILT FOR SUGGESTED TRACKS In the stock music player, you can tilt the phone (while in landscape mode) to get a list of tracks that are similar to the track you’re currently listening to. 3. QUICKLY ACCESS APPS WITH TOOLBOX Not exactly hidden this one, but it’s certainly useful. Toolbox gives you an always-on-top shortcut widget for fast access to your favorite apps. 4. HIDE SENSITIVE CONTENT WITH PRIVATE MODE If you want to keep documents, pictures, or videos away from prying eyes, Private Mode gives you a protected mode you can access from the lock screen. 5. KEEP IT SAFE FOR THE KIDS In Kids Mode, the Galaxy S5 turns into a child-friendly device, complete with cartoony graphics and limited access to apps. 6. ACCESS CAMERA FROM THE LOCK SCREEN For those moments when seconds matter, you can add a shortcut to the camera app on the lock screen. No more fumbling for the shortcut. 7. PLAY WITH SOME LESS KNOWN CAMERA FEATURES Did you know there’s a mode in the Galaxy S5 camera app that lets you take shots of say, a new apartment, and then stitch them together in a virtual tour? 8. CHOOSE YOUR PREFERRED CONTACTS We all have dozens, even hundreds of contacts stored on our smartphones. With Priority Senders, you can select the people you care about the most and have them displayed at the top in the messaging app. 9. CHECK CALLER INFORMATION AT ANY TIME Even when you are on a call, you can bring up a list of recent interactions with the caller, as well as their recent Google Plus posts. Nifty. 10. RECEIVE CALLS WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR CURRENT APP Don’t you hate it when you are in the middle of a game and a call ruins everything? If that’s a problem, the Call Notifications Pop-up feature could come in handy. For more on these top 10 hidden Galaxy S5 features, check out Samsung’s original post, which contains screenshots and instructions on how to activate each feature.
“Huge advances” in camera optics are coming to HTC devices within 12-18 months, said the company’s top camera specialist. In an interview with Vodafone’s UK blog, Symon Whitehorn, Director of Special Projects at HTC, said optical zoom on smartphones is within reach for the Taiwanese company. Formerly with Kodak, Whitehorn is known as HTC’s resident imaging guru, having supervised the development of the HTC One (M8)’s UltraPixel sensor and Duo Camera setup. The exec claims smartphones could even rival expensive DSLR cameras in the close future, an achievement that has long been considered impossible.
I think we’re looking at about 18 months to two years until that lens barrier begins breaking down and it becomes much harder to justify buying a dedicated camera outside of specialist or nostalgia reasons.Whitehorn is bullish about HTC’s medium-term camera roadmap:
Optical zooming in a smartphone is not too far off at all for HTC. I can’t give too much away, but within 12-18 months we’ll see huge advances in phone optics. Everyone wants optical zooming, and that’s on the horizon. We’re trying to match the performance of dedicated cameras where one piece of glass inside it costs £3000 alone. We’re never going to match that in the short term but we are getting towards those effectsHTC is about to crack one of the hardest problems in smartphone imaging, if Whitehorn is to be believed. While advanced sensors and powerful software has enabled some smartphones to beat point and shoot cameras in image quality, the lack of optical zoom has so far prevented smartphones from posing any threats to DSLR cameras. Attempts to put optical zoom on smartphones have resulted in clunky hybrids that failed in the market, with the Galaxy S4 Zoom coming to mind as an example. Whitehorn went on to defend HTC’s choice of a 4MP sensor on the M7 and M8, and said 4K video recording would only make sense on a 8MP sensor or higher. “That kind of ballpark is where we’ll be very happy to be in the future, as long as we can maintain the large pixel model,” he said, suggesting that HTC may double the resolution of its third generation UltraPixel sensor coming in 2015.
Every great superhero movie deserves a matching video game to bring extra life to the story and an extended experience for fans. Gameloft is making this happen today for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, available to download now for $4.99 from the Google Play Store for Android 4.0 and up. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 offers console-like 3D graphics with high-quality voice acting cinematic cutscenes that will bring the movie experience to life. Explore a large open-world map of Manhattan in 6 different districts from Times Square to Central park. As you might imagine, all this makes for a rather large 1.2GB game file. Gameloft promises the The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will offer an original story that expands on the upcoming Marvel film of the same name. Combining elements of the comics, Gameloft adds new characters like Black Cat and Screwball to the game alongside some of our favorite villains like the Green Goblin and Venom. Help Spider-Man bring the beat-down to street thugs and super villains alike throughout the expansive world, and in Mysterio's arena. Bonus: Extended playthrough video Part 1 | Extended playthrough video Part 2 In-app Payments Before you get too excited about installing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, please be aware that Gameloft has included in-app purchases to the game. That's right, $4.99 to get you started in the Google Play Store, then in-app payments to help your favorite blue and red spandex wearing hero save the city. Sony Xperia Devices You know what doesn't have in-app payments? The Xperia™The Amazing Spiderman2 theme for your Sony Xperia device running Android 4.3 and above. This one has been out for a while now, but users of Xperia devices are able to install this full system theme pack that brings Spider-Man to every aspect of your device. Wallpaper, system icons, UI navigation tweaks and more. Install the theme from the Google Play Store for free. What do you think, has Gameloft taken Spider-Man to the next level, or is the combination of a paid game with in-app payments going too far?
WHAT IS FARFARIA? FarFaria is a children's eBook platform that's designed specifically for getting children engaged with reading. You can use it to read books to your kids or you can download books and let your kids read them. Since education is extremely important, that makes FarFaria instantly interesting. Here's how the app works. You download it and then you'll enter into the free trial. In the free trial you'll get a book to download and then your kids (or you) can read them. From there you must start paying a subscription fee of $3.99 per month to continue using the platform. However, if you do choose to pay, you'll get instant and unlimited access to over 600 eBooks aimed at kids and the developers state that they add more every week day. That's pretty much it. It's a simplistic eBook reader with an eBook platform attached not unlike Kobo, Amazon, or Nook. Each ebook comes with a reader badge to let you know how advanced the book's reading level is so you don't accidentally download a book that's too advanced for your child. There is also a Read To Me feature that will read the books to your kids that is available with the entire library. Overall, the interface is also very simple and since this is geared toward children, that's a good thing. WHAT IS WRONG WITH FARFARIA? The app itself appears to work very well in terms of compatibility and performance. There haven't been any outstanding issues reported in terms of crashes or performance issues. It appears as though the app has a limited language support as some have asked if FarFaria will support new languages. About the only other problem people have had is with the length of the free trial. Some believe you should get more than a single book to try the app before paying for it but of course that is up for individual interpretation. ------------------------- FINAL THOUGHTS Overall, this is a great platform for kids. 600 books may not sound like a lot yet, but they are adding new ones every week day and it won't be long before the library is double or triple the size that it is now. Maybe even larger. You don't get a lot of room to try things out before you have to buy it but you can cancel your membership at any time if you're not satisfied. If you have kids, you should at least give the free trial a chance. Letting kids read is always a more preferable option than sitting them in front of the idiot box. _Check out the last indie app of the day: F-Secure Freedome VPN_
Amazon Fire TV is barely out the gate, but it’s already doing quite well and is arguably one of the most powerful streaming solutions on the market today. One of the more compelling features for the Fire TV is its voice search functionality, despite the fact that voice search is limited to only Amazon content and music videos from Vevo. Thankfully, voice search is about to get even better. Today Amazon announced it is bringing voice search to Hulu Plus, Crackle and Showtime Anytime. Noticeably missing from the list is Amazon Video’s most direct competitor -- Netflix. It remains unknown whether or not Netflix voice search support is purposely being held off, though here’s to hoping the functionality eventually supports Netflix as well. Amazon has yet to give an exact timeframe for when it will be expanding voice search, aside from indicating that its coming this summer. While it would have been nice if Amazon would have had these features ready from day one, it’s good to see that Amazon is commited to improving the experience. For more details on Fire TV you’ll want to check out some of our previous coverage, including a more detailed look at how the Fire TV compares to solutions like the Chromecast.
We’ve come to a point where there’s only so far we can go when it comes to improving a smartphone's raw power. This means that most of today’s flagships aren't the massive jumps we once saw, and instead are more like incremental updates when compared to their predecessors. Instead of attempting to fight in the spec war with increasing RAM sizes, powerful processors and high resolution displays, some manufacturers are choosing to turn to their attention to improving other aspects of the smartphone experience. For Motorola, the focus has been the user experience with its Moto X. Companies like OnePlus are trying to give us a reasonably low-cost device with high-end specs and a near-stock-like CM experience. And for Philips, the focus for the Philips W6618 is battery life. The Philips W6618 is not at all a high-end device by any means, with a price tag of 1699 Yuan in China, or about $273. In fact, the specs are pretty boring with a 1.3GHz MediaTek quad-core CPU, 1GB RAM, microSD, and a 5-inch qHD display. Where the W6618 stands out is in the presence of a massive 5300 mAh battery, though that also means it is a bit thicker at 11.6mm.
Where the W6618 stands out is in the presence of a massive 5300 mAh batteryAccording to Philips, the handset can provide more than two months (66 days) of standby time, and as much as 33 hours of talktime! Of course actual battery life might be a lot lower if you’re running a bunch of apps or playing a bunch of games, but it’s hard not to be at least a little impressed. The Philips W6618 is more than likely never going to make its way outside of select markets in Asia and perhaps Europe, and even if it did, the specs are probably too weak for most folks to care. That said, for modest first-time smartphone users that are used to feature phone battery lifecycles, something like the W6618 could be exactly what they are looking for. What do you think, would you like to see other manufacturers take Phillips approach of shoving in a larger battery size at the sacrifice of thickness and weight? Would anyone be willing to buy a lower-powered device in exchange for battery life that can last days without much worry?
As I write this, Apple is currently showing off Carplay integration at the New York International Auto Show using partners Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai. All three companies will be releasing cars equipped with CarPlay latter this year, bringing us the next generation of ‘smart’ connected automobiles. Meanwhile, Google is also working with automotive partners to push forwards its own Android-powered initiative under the banner of the Open Automotive Alliance. Of much less significance, Microsoft is even brewing its own Windows-based solution. Each of these platforms and initiatives have their own potential pros and cons, and each will likely appeal to different types of users, just like mobile devices such as the smartphone do today.
Will ‘smart’ connected automobiles have as big of an impact on the world as smartphones?The big question, however, is whether ‘smart’ connected automobiles will have the same impact on the world as the smartphone has. In just a few short years, the smartphone has grown from a niche device to a near-essential way of life for many of us. Not only does the smartphone improve our communication with the world around us, it also helps us better manage our time through select apps, works as a navigation tool and so much more. Right now, smart connected cars are mostly a niche, primarily aimed at those that are either driving luxury cars or are merely tech obsessed. But 5, 10 years out? Could the smart, connected automobile eventually have the same or even more of an impact than smartphones have had on our modern world? Absolutely. AS AUTOMOBILES INCREASE IN COMPLEXITY, A SMARTER CONNECTED SYSTEM MAKES SENSE While I’m using the word ‘smart’ car, the reality is that today’s cars are already plenty smart and much more complex than those of just a decade or two ago. There was a time when you’d push on the gas and a cable would open the throttle, that’s not the case these days. For most vehicles, stepping on the gas sends a digital message across the CAN (Controller Area Network) bus, which in turn causes an engine controller to increase throttle.
Every aspect of our car is already connected tightly through the power of modern computing and speciality sensors.Every aspect of our car is already connected tightly through the power of modern computing and specialty sensors. And that’s just the beginning. I’m sure you've seen commercial for -- or perhaps you own -- a vehicle that can park itself or will warn you when it comes too closely to another automobile. There’s also initiatives to take this further and bring true auto-pilot to select vehicles in the not-so-distant future. As the powers of our automobiles advance, a flexible operating system and organized platform will be needed to ensure it all plays nicely together. It’s unclear what platform will rise up to take on this challenge, though all the big players of the mobile world seem interested in getting involved before the market explodes. WHAT KIND OF FUNCTIONALITY SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM A “SMART CONNECTED CAR?” That’s a tough question. Like the smartphone, you can expect these next-gen _smart_ automobiles to start out fairly modestly. For lack of a better way to describe it, we are in the RIM or PALM age of high-tech cars right now. While there are already systems in place, most of them are primitive and don’t function as smoothly as we like, and they are also mostly developed in-house by select automotive manufacturers.
There’s a real need for a platform that will break ahead and help push automobiles to new directions that current infotainment/connected systems just don’t do.There’s a real need for a platform that will break ahead and help push automobiles in new directions that current infotainment/connected systems just don’t do. We need the connected automobile industry’s equivalent to the iPhone. Whether you like Apple or not, it’s hard to deny that the iPhone was the pebble that started massive ripples of change for the smartphone market. Carplay could be this pebble of change for automobiles or if it could be Google, that’s still undecided at this stage. As for the type of functionality we’d like to see from connected smarter automobiles within the next decade? Here’s our predictions, or rather, our wishlist for special _features_ from the ‘car of tomorrow’: A SEAMLESS, CONNECTED INFOTAINMENT EXPERIENCE We'd love to see an infotainment system that works seamlessly with your existing mobile devices, and can perhaps even communicate with your home PC and other devices using the power of mobile broadband. To be fair, most of this is already possible in existing solutions, but Carplay and Google's OAA initiative are looking to take this experience to the next level. Some of the things we hope this leads to is better syncing of information to and from your mobile devices. For example, you could use your phone to bring up navigation information outside of your car, and your GPS in the car automatically would turn on and display these details. CARS THAT TALK WITH ONE ANOTHER Imagine a seamless communication system between the automobiles around us. Many luxury cars already have sensors and mini-cameras that monitor your vehicle's proximity to others, with the power of Android or even a custom car OS, it would be amazing if smart cars eventually communicate anonymously with one another on the road to share proximity data and other information that could prevent accidents. What this means is that your car could even alert you and tell you to pull over to side of the road or take another route because an accident is up ahead, with the information of this accident coming straight from the automobile(s) that were involved in the collision. Flavio/Flickr YOUR MECHANIC COULD KNOW WHAT'S WRONG BEFORE YOU HAVE A PROBLEM A smart connected car might someday have a setup process not unlike when you first set up your Android mobile devices. That means you would link your Google Play account, set up your default email address and so forth. What if it also meant you could choose a "trusted mechanic" to add to the list, such as a local shop or perhaps a dealership? A few months (or years) later your car might not be showing any signs of issues, but as soon as the car is aware there's an issue, it would have the power to report the problem to its operating system. From there, the car would send the CEL (Check Engine Light) details and other diagnostic reports over to a chosen mechanic. The mechanic could then contact you and ask if you want to set up an appointment to have your vehicle looked at. DON'T WORRY, YOUR CAR HAS THE WHEEL It would be nice if our cars had the ability to self-drive, or at least take over in select situations. While full self-driving might still be a bit of a ways off, imagine that you start to drift off to sleep, smart sensors in your car recognize that you aren't focused on the road, they relay this information to your car, and it takes over while blasting a sounded alert to wake you up so you can take back control over your car. A CAR THAT KNOWS WHAT YOU WANT
A connected car would know when you need gas and could suggest the gas station closest to you with the lowest possible price.My car might follow me around as I go to the store or visit friends and family, but it knows little about me. The car of tomorrow will know where you are going, it will know your driving habits and it will be able to give you recommendations based on your own interests. Your car will know your favorite restaurants and automatically brings these top choices up first when you ‘ask’ your car to suggest something. Additionally, a connected car would also know when you are likely to add gas (maybe you always do it when it gets to a 1/4 tank) and could suggest the gas station closest to you with the lowest possible price. Your connected car could also make playlist suggestions for your music collection, it could give your traffic alerts and intelligent rerouting. The list goes on. Carplay -- Extreme Tech HURDLES THAT STAND IN THE WAY The idea of a future where smart connected cars provide us active notifications and make 'smart' decisions on our behalf might sound cool, but it probably also seems more than a little impractical at this point. Of course, ten years ago, a quad-core computing device that makes calls and runs millions of apps would have seemed a nice but far-off idea as well, and yet here my Nexus 5 sits next to me on my desk. If Google, Apple, Microsoft and their manufacturing partners can create a standard that works flawlessly, we’re going to not only see more smart/connected cars in the near future, we are going to see their capabilities expand dramatically in the next few years. Of course, there’s some very real hurdles in our way that will need to be addressed before connected ‘smart’ cars can truly live up to their full potential. 4G LTE, WHO’S BUYING? First, the idea of bringing mobile broadband into our cars might raise a few questions. The 2015 Audi A3 is the first vehicle to offer integrated 4G LTE in our cars, though Ford, GM and several other manufacturers are working on doing the same. Audi’s solution uses AT&T, but it’s not free. Instead, consumers will need to spend either $99 for six months or $499 for 30 months. While consumers of higher-end vehicles like an Audi might be okay with paying extra for web access, those owning a Dodge or Ford might not feel the same way. Right now, 4G LTE in your car is almost 100% about entertainment, but five years from now your car may be sending diagnostic information to your car maker, communicating with cars around it using the web, and so much more. Before we reach this point, we need to determine who should be responsible for fronting the costs. Obviously AT&T and other carriers aren't going to give us free service, so it comes down to whether the car owner should pay, or whether the cost should be worked into the automobile’s sticker price. TRUST ISSUES This is a big one, to be honest. A new survey is going around talking about consumer’s fear of future technologies. While the survey doesn't talk about connected cars, the survey did suggest 50% they wouldn't be willing to take a ride in a driverless car. A car that communicates with others on the road and can take over the wheel is going to have some PR issues. While these features are cool, manufacturers will need to find ways to ensure security, privacy and safety if consumers are to fully embrace the idea of a connected smart car. That includes removing distractions when possible -- after all, do we really need more distractions as drivers? RELIABILITY While Google Android is fairly reliable, your phone can still crash, get malware or have other issues. Having a problem with your phone is annoying, but it’s not life or death. If you automobile is glitching, things could be much more serious. The first wave of connected, smart cars will be nothing more than infotainment devices so this isn't a real problem just yet. It is something that will need to be addressed as these cars evolve into machines that can self-drive and ‘think’ for themselves on the road, though.
Having a problem with your phone is annoying, but it’s not life or death. If you automobile is glitching, things could be much more serious.Those are just three possible ‘issues’ standing in the way of the connected, smart super-car’s future, and there are likely many more. Bottom-line, connected cars are about to get more and more commonplace, but they still have a way to go before they truly impact our lives at the same level that smartphone have. Could we be there in just a few years, however? _MAYBE._ Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this posts poll.
There’s a lot to love about the Chromecast, such as its extremely affordable price tag and how it makes it easy to watch your favorite programming from Netflix, Hulu and several other popular sources. Even better, the Chromecast recently opened up its SDK to more developers and we've seen a stead trickle of brand new apps. For baseball fans, however, the Chromecast’s lack of support for _MLB.com At Bat_ has probably been a deal breaker up until now. The good news is that this changes today, as a new update has arrived to the At Bat app, making it easy to cast games over to the big screen. Of course there is a catch: you’ll need to pay either $24.99 a month or $129.99 for an annual membership in order to have access to an unlimited number of live MLB games. Still, if you are a potential cord cutter looking for a way to get your baseball fix without having a traditional cable subscription, today’s update for Chromecast support is certainly a major win. To grab the latest version of the app, you'll want to head on over to Google Play.
The smartphone industry has come along way in the last few years, and during that time mobile device form factors have evolved quite a bit. While Blackberry still continues to cling on to the physical keyboard approach, finding an Android device with a physical QWERTY keyboard is becoming harder and harder to do. As touchscreens improve, there just isn't as much need for physical keys as there used to be. But what if you enjoy that tactile feedback provided from pushing against an actual button? That’s where Tactus Technology comes in with its "morphing tactile surface” technology that could potentially give us the best of both worlds.
This unique tech seemingly allows keyboard buttons to magically appear out of thin airThis unique tech seemingly allows keyboard buttons to magically appear out of thin air. Okay, it’s not really magic, and instead the MTS tech utilizes a fluid-based layer that reacts to electrical signals and then creates bumps that serve as keys and various other buttons. Tactus’ MTS technology isn't technically new as they quietly showcased it earlier this year at CES 2014, but the big difference between now and then is that the tech is finally marching toward production. Teaming up with Wistron Corporation, the company will release its first MTS product later this year, an iPad Mini case. Although the first commercial product doesn't affect us as Android users, it’s a step in the right direction. Tactus also hopes to produce its own tablet sometime in early 2015, and it’s pretty much guaranteed said device will run on some form of Android. Ultimately the main advantage of this new technology is that it makes it easier to type, but Tactus says it could also be useful for replacement of home/return buttons, gaming controls, and so much more. It’s certainly a unique looking idea, though only time will tell whether or not MTS tech will be embraced by device owners and manufacturers in the future. What do you think, like the idea of temporary physical buttons that rise out from your screen, or is there no longer a need for something like this in your opinion?