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printed October 21, 2014
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Google Updates Play Music with Songza Features

Today, 11:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today pushed out an update to its Play Music service that adds new, curated play lists. The refreshed service gains its tools from Songza, which Google purchased over the summer. Play Music now offers a playlist- and song-recommendation engine that uses variables such as the time of day and location to cultivate selections. Google says users of the app will be prompted to play music for a time of day, mood, or activity. Each station has been created by real people to make sure they truly match the mood or activity at hand. Users can download stations for offline playback, see upcoming song selections, and add, remove, or reorder tracks on a whim. Google also updated its Listen Now web site to make it easier to discover and listen to new music. Last, Google Play Music now wears the Material Design look that Google is putting on most of its apps. The new Google Play Music app is available to Android and iOS devices, as well as on the web.


Nokia HERE Maps Expands to More Android Handsets

Today, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today announced its HERE Maps app is now available to a wider range of smartphones. The company offered HERE Maps only to Samsung handsets earlier this month. Now, most devices running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and up with 1GB of RAM can install and use HERE Maps. The app, which is being offered as a beta, cannot be found in the Google Play Store. Instead, anyone interested in using HERE Maps on their Android handset will need to download the app directly from Nokia's web site and sideload it onto their device. HERE Maps offers a number of compelling features. For example. HERE Maps allows users to download entire countries or regions, which makes the maps available even when the device is offline. Downloaded maps perform faster when panning and zooming since new segments don't need to be loaded from an internet connection. HERE Maps for Android devices include free, voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. Users can plan routes via car, public transport, or foot. Live traffic updates and real-time transit schedules require a data connection. Nokia says maps are available for about 200 countries with turn-by-turn directions available in about 100. Transit maps are available in 750 metro areas across 40 different countries, with more being added all the time.


Google Publishes Android 5.0 Preview, Updates SDK

Friday, 11:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made available several significant tools for developers ahead of the general release of Android 5.0 Lollipop. First, Google released updated developer images for the Nexus 5, Nexus 7 (2013), ADT-1, and the Android emulator. Developers can install these near-final builds of Android 5.0 on their hardware and use them for testing purposes. Google also updated the software developers kit for Android 5.0. The Android 5.0 SDK includes improved tools that allow app writers to develop against the latest Android platform using API level 21. It also lets developers take advantage of the updated support library to implement Material Design on smartphones and tablets, as well as the leanback user interface for Android TV apps. The preview images and SDK can be downloaded through Google's Android developer portal.


FBI Wants Congress to Force Phone Makers to Add Back Door

Friday, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FBI Director James Comey has again voiced his displeasure with the new encryption tools added to Android 5.0 Lollipop and iOS 8. Both Google and Apple added the default encryption to their mobile operating systems in order to protect user data. Comey says this is an impediment to law enforcement, making it more difficult -- if not impossible -- to intercept real-time communication, such as phone calls and text messages. Comey said more and more criminals are turning to technology to hide or enable their unlawful activities. He beseeched Congress to create legislation that will require tech companies to provide back-door access to encrypted communications between suspected criminals. The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees. "Any effort by the FBI to weaken encryption leaves our highly personal information and our business information vulnerable to hacking by foreign governments and criminals," said ACLU director Laura Murphy. Congress has not responded publicly to Comey's comments.


Sony Says Entire Z Series to Earn Android 5.0 Lollipop

Oct 16, 2014, 12:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today committed to updating a wide range of its smartphones and tablets to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Some of the handsets slated for Android 5.0 include the Xperia Z, ZL, Z1, Z1S, Z1 Ultra, Z1 Compact, Z2, Z3, Z3v, and Z3 Compact. Sony says its Google Play Edition devices will receive Lollipop first, followed by the Z3 and Z2 series devices in early 2015.


Google Shows Off Nexus 6 Smartphone, Nexus 9 Tablet

Oct 15, 2014, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 15, 2014, 11:28 AM

Google today announced Android 5.0 Lollipop and with it the first few devices to run the new operating system, the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9. The Nexus 6 is a large-screened smartphone made by Motorola. It has an aluminum frame and a 6-inch quad HD display with a 13-megapixel main camera. The camera includes optical image stabilization and HDR+ for improved low-light shots. The device has stereo-speakers with high-fidelity sound and comes with a turbo charger for fast charging. Google claims the device can get up to six hours of battery time after plugging it in for just 15 minutes. The Nexus 6 will be available for pre-order in late October and in stores in November. Google will sell an unlocked version through the Play Store, and the Nexus 6 will also be sold by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. The device costs $649 at full retail, which is $200 more than the Nexus 5. The Nexus 9 tablet is made by HTC and features an 8.9-inch 2048 x 1536 screen with a brushed aluminum design. It is run by a dual-core Tegra K1 64-bit processor with each core clocked at 2.3GHz. Other features include an 8.0-/1.6-megapixel camera configuration; BoomSound speakers; dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and LTE; and a 6,700mAh battery. The Nexus 9 will be available for pre-order on October 17 and in stores starting November 3. The Wi-Fi model starts at $399.


Google Names Android 5.0 Lollipop

Oct 15, 2014, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 15, 2014, 11:04 AM

Google today said the next version of Android, which it has so far referred to only as Release L, will be called Android 5.0 Lollipop. Google previewed Lollipop earlier this year and has offered it in beta form to developers for several months. It includes a refreshed look and feel that Google calls Material Design. Google has been slowly updating the core Android apps with Material Design over the last few weeks. In Lollipop, Google has re-envisioned the lock screen to incorporate more of the notifications, as well as the ability to automatically unlock the device when a trusted wearable is nearby. Lollipop will also offer a new keyboard design. Moving forward, Lollipop will rely on the ART runtime engine instead of Dalvik, which has served for several years. Google says ART offers a two-times improvement in app performance across the platform. ART is also more memory efficient, and is optimized 64-bit processing. The platform includes the Android Extension Pack to improve graphics performance. Google took time to improve the platform's efficiency, too. Project Volta, for example, took aim at helping OEMs and developers improve battery life by more optimizing their apps. Further, Lollipop adds its own Battery Saver tool to help extend the life of a battery when it reaches critical levels. Lollipop builds in more malware protection and ways for Android users to secure their device and make sure apps are scanned for safety. For example, Google is adding a kill switch to Lollipop, which allows device owners to remotely disable their handset if it is lost or stolen. Android 5.0 Lollipop will be available on the Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet when they debut later this year.


Xiaomi Hires Another Google Exec to Run India Business

Oct 13, 2014, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi, the Chinese handset maker, recently announced it has hired Jai Mani to lead its product team in India. Mani worked on Google+ and other products within Google. Last year, Xiaomi coaxed Hugo Barra, part of the Android team, to leave Google. Barra, who said he and Mani worked together closely at Google, played a role in bringing Mani to Xiaomi. "You can think of it as the beginning of our R&D center development in India," said Barra to the Wall Street Journal. "The first person we hired is someone who's going to be the glue between our users in India, product feedback that we receive, and the engineering team we have in Beijing as well as the engineering team that we are going to be building fairly soon in India." Mani will be based in Bangalore. Xiaomi has already made significant progress against larger competitors such as Samsung in its home market of China, and has set its eyes on India as a place to grow further.


Google Play App Updated with Material Design

Oct 10, 2014, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has begun delivering a redesigned version of the Play Store application to Android devices. The biggest change in the app is the design itself. The Play Store has adopted Android L's material design, which includes flatter icons, new animations, and altered use of shadows. Google has been updating Android apps with material design over the last few weeks ahead of Android L's release. Android L is expected to arrive later this month.


Microsoft Debuts Xim, a Cross-Platform Photo-Sharing App

Oct 8, 2014, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced Xim, an app and service that allows people to share photos with select groups of people. Xim was created by Microsoft Research's FUSE labs and is compatible with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Users can select up to 50 photos to share and create a Xim. Users can pluck photos from their camera roll, Facebook, Instagram, Google Drive, or OneDrive. The Xim can then be viewed by whoever the user invites, including those who don't have the app (viewed via the browser). The app includes a group chat feature that allows everyone invited to a Xim to chat with each other. Xims are impermanent, sort of like Snapchat, and expire after a short period of time. The Xim app should be available in the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, and Windows Phone Store today.


Google Updates Chrome and YouTube for iOS

Oct 7, 2014, 3:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today pushed out minor updates to two of its iOS apps. First, it improved Chrome for iOS with better support for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus screens. The app also now allows users to download files from the browser directly to Google Drive. YouTube gained only bug fixes. Both apps are free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Google Voice Now Supports MMS on Select Networks

Oct 7, 2014, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has enabled MMS within Google Voice on more than 100 networks in North America, including AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the U.S. Google Voice was previously limited to sending and receiving only SMS messages. For the moment, Verizon has not enabled MMS via Google Voice, and Google didn't say whether or not it intends to. Some of Google Voice's features have recently been ported to Google's Hangouts app/service, such as the ability to make voice calls.


Gmail for iOS Updated with Support for iPhone 6 / 6 Plus

Oct 6, 2014, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Gmail application for Apple's iOS devices. The new version supports the screen sizes and resolutions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Gmail is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Edge are MirrorLink Compatible

Oct 3, 2014, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung and the Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge are both MirrorLink compatible. MirrorLink is a connectivity tool for pairing smartphones and cars. It works across smartphone platforms and car manufacturers, and is the only vendor-neutral standard available. With MirrorLink aboard, the Note 4 and Note Edge will be able to connect to select in-car infotainment systems, allowing drivers to more safely access their phone's content when behind the wheel. Apple and Google have both announced their own connectivity solutions for cars, which are part of iOS 8 and Android Release L, respectively.


Google Refreshes Play Newsstand with Material Design

Oct 2, 2014, 9:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released a new version of Google Play Newsstand, its magazine and news reading app, for Android devices. Google fine-tuned the experience so magazine articles are easier to read within Newsstand. Google says users will now see a list of articles with big images from each magazine that can be toggled through and read. Further, Play Newsstand has been refreshed with Google's Material Design. That means it has bigger images, more contextual headers, and smoother transitions. Google says it is easy to swipe left and right to change topics, or up and down to dive deeper into individual topics. Last, the Explore section gains more topic cards so users can discover content that interests them. Google Play Newsstand is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google has updated a handful of its applications ahead of Android L's general release, which is expected to arrive in the next few weeks.


OneDrive for Android Gains New Photo Viewer

Sep 29, 2014, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new version of OneDrive for Android smartphones and tablets. The updated cloud storage app includes what Microsoft calls the All Photos View, which makes it easier to browse and see photos across OneDrive. OneDrive also adds new business tools, including a search function and a file viewer to find documents that colleagues have shared with the user. The updated app for Android devices is free to download from the Google Play Store. Microsoft recently doubled the amount of free storage from 15GB to 30GB - as long as users choose to automatically upload photos from their phone to OneDrive.


Vine for Android Updated with Camera Roll Support

Sep 26, 2014, 3:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine today updated its Android application and brought it closer to parity with the iOS version thereof. The chief new feature in Vine for Android is support for the camera roll, which allows Vine users to import video they've already shot (rather than record live). Vine users are free to piece together multiple segments from their phone to create 6-second masterpieces. Vine for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Bags 'Google Currents' for iOS, Intros 'Play Newsstand'

Sep 23, 2014, 12:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rebranded and relaunched its Google Currents app for iPhones and iPads. The new name of the magazine and news service is called Google Play Newsstand - a named markedly similar to Apple's own Newsstand app. Along with the new name, Google redesigned the app. It features new navigation tools to help users find articles more quickly; a 'read now' tool for jumping to fresh articles amongst the user's subscriptions; and an expanded library that stores all the user's articles in one spot. Google Play Newsstand is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Google Boosts Chrome for Mobile Apps with Notifications

Sep 23, 2014, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated the tools available to Chrome App for Mobile developers, who can now add more native-app functionality to their web apps. Chrome App for Mobile, which was launched earlier this year, gives developers a way to package up web apps and make them available in the Play Store or App Store. According to Google, it has added Chrome APIs for managing identity, Google Cloud Messaging, and rich notifications. This means developers will be able to take advantage of these new capabilities and build them into their Chrome-based web apps for Android and iOS devices. Google said it also improved developer workflow and extended the modern WebView capabilities to versions of Android back to Ice Cream Sandwich. Developers are free to access the new tools through Google's Chromium developer portal.


Chrome for iOS8 Adds Support for Extensions

Sep 23, 2014, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Chrome browser for iOS devices. The latest version of Chrome adds support for iOS8, and with it support for extensions. App extensions will allow web sites and developers to enable more ways to post and share content between Chrome and third-party apps. The update also makes stability improvements and fixes bugs. Chrome for iOS is free to download from the App Store.


Android L to Have Encryption Turned On By Default

Sep 18, 2014, 6:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said that encryption will be turned on automatically in the next release of Android, which is expected to arrive next month. Encryption will make it harder for law enforcement to access user data on such devices. "For over three years Android has offered encryption, and keys are not stored off of the device, so they cannot be shared with law enforcement," said company spokeswoman Niki Christoff to the Washington Post. "As part of our next Android release, encryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won't even have to think about turning it on." With encryption turned on, only those who enter the correct password will be able to gain access the device and the information stored on it, such as photos and videos. New devices that ship with Android L will benefit from this immediately. In the mean time, Android device owners can turn on encryption manually in the settings menu. Earlier this week, Apple said it took similar steps with the latest release of its mobile operating system, iOS8, which is also encrypted.


Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to Have Kill Switch

Sep 17, 2014, 6:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple's new iPhones will include a kill switch that owners can use to remotely lock or wipe them, reports Reuters. The feature has been part of iOS for several years, but the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will have the feature turned on by default. The feature can be installed on older iPhone models, as well. The news comes from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, rather than Apple itself. Earlier this year, Apple, Google, and Microsoft all agreed to add kill switches to their devices by July 2015. Most major wireless network operators in the U.S. have agreed to a similar framework. Lawmakers believe the presence of the kill switch will eventually deter street crime and reduce the thefts of smartphones. The logic behind the effort is to reduce the demand for stolen goods by allowing owners to render them useless and valueless to thieves.


Google Now Pushing Play Services 6.1

Sep 17, 2014, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google said it is delivering Play Services 6.1 to most Android devices running 2.3 Gingerbread and up. This update targets three aspects of Play Services: analytics, Google Drive, and Google Fit. Developers will be able to use the Enhanced Ecommerce tools in Google Tag Manager to assess the success of their apps and ad campaigns. Google enhanced the Google Drive Android API with a new Completion Events feature. This lets developers see when their apps are talking to the server. The Drive API has also been updated with Material Design in the UI, and adds support for Recent and Starred views. Last, the Google Fit Developer Preview has been refreshed so developers can test their fitness apps on any Android device. Google expects to complete rolling out Play Services 6.1 over the coming days, at which point it will make the updated SDK available to developers.


Microsoft Ports OneNote to Android Wear

Sep 16, 2014, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its OneNote application to support Google's Android Wear platform. The app allows Android Wear owners to wake their device and use OneNote to dictate notes that are saved on the host Android smartphone. In addition to Android Wear compatibility, Microsoft also updated OneNote for both the iOS8 and Windows Phone platforms. The iOS8 version of OneNote adds extensibility, which allows users to save files to OneNote without leaving the app they are currently using. The Windows Phone version of OneNote was updated to allow users to convert photographs into PowerPoint or Word files. The updated OneNote apps are free to download from the Play Store, iTunes App Store, and Windows Phone Store.


Motorola Makes Moto Voice Available to 2013 Droids

Sep 16, 2014, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola recently published a version of its new Moto Voice app that is compatible with the 2013 Moto X, as well as the Droid Ultra, Droid Mini, and Droid Maxx. Moto Voice, formerly Touchless Control, combines several of the key functions found on the 2013 Moto X, such as the Active Display, Google Now voice prompts, and Google Assist. It allows users to customize their own catchphrase; and adds voice command support for YouTube, Facebook, and WhatsApp; allows users to switch modes via voice commands; and includes support for Moto Hint and Moto 360. Moto Voice requires Android 4.4 KitKat and is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Releases Trio of Android One Phones in India

Sep 15, 2014, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and its partners today revealed the first three Android One handsets. Google initially spoke about Android One in June. The idea behind Android One is to bring low-cost handsets to the largest-possible populations around the world. To that end, Google worked with hardware makers, component suppliers, and wireless network operators to develop inexpensive smartphones for India. The first three devices are the Karbonn Sparkle V, the Micromax Canvas A1, and the Spice Dream UNO. The phones include front and rear cameras, large touch screens, MediaTek processors, dual SIM card slots, memory card slots, FM radios, and removable batteries. All three phones are being sold for about $105. According to Google, the devices ship with Android 4.4 KitKat, but will be among the first to receive Android L later this year. Google, rather than the local network operators, will provide all the system updates for these devices. Google said it has signed more manufactures to the Android One project, including Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, Asus, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo, and chipmaker Qualcomm. Google plans to expand the Android One program to Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka later this year, with more to follow throughout 2015. The main goal is to connect as many people as possible - more than 5 billion - to the internet.


Google Gives App Buyers Two Hours to Return Apps

Sep 11, 2014, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has extended the time during which Android device owners can seek a refund for app purchases. Google used to allow app buyers a mere 15 minutes to decide whether or not they liked an application enough to keep it. Now, app buyers have two hours to make that decision. According to Google, users will see a "refund" button in the My Apps section of the Play Store during a 120-minute window after they purchase apps. Once the refund button disappears, the app can no longer be returned for a refund. Device owners will still be able to uninstall unwanted apps at any time.


Hangouts Gains Free Voice Calls

Sep 10, 2014, 10:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Hangouts service with the ability to make free voice calls from Android and iOS devices, as well as from the web. Hangouts users can call one another and regular numbers in the U.S. and Canada without incurring any costs. Google says calls to other countries will require fees, but its rates are low. Google plans to make Hangouts version 2.3 available to Android devices over the next few days, and users wishing to make calls will need to install an additional dialer. The feature will show up automatically in the iOS and web versions of Hangouts. Hangouts users are already able to use the app to send IM and SMS messages, as well as make video calls.


Amazon Makes Prime Video Available to Android Phones

Sep 9, 2014, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today made Amazon Instant Video, a service available to its Prime customers, available to Android phones for the first time. The service lets people stream movies and television shows to their handset. Before today, Amazon Instant Video was reserved for Amazon's own tablets and Apple's iOS devices. In order to install Amazon Instant Video, Android phone owners need to update the main Amazon shopping app. Only then can you use the in-app tools to download and install Amazon Instant Video, which is a plug-in that operates inside the Amazon shopping app. Amazon Instant Video is not available from the Google Play Store. Users also need to allow app installs from "unknown sources" in order to get Amazon Instant Video up and running. Checking this setting is often viewed as a security risk. Amazon Prime membership costs $100 per year, and includes streaming music and video services, as well as reduced shipping costs and cloud-based storage. Amazon Instant Video is still not available to Android tablets.


Google Adds Offline Playback for Movies/TV on iOS

Sep 8, 2014, 2:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated the Play Movies & TV app for iOS devices. The most significant new feature is support for offline playback. iPhone and iPad owners will be able to rent movies from the Google Play store, download them to their device, and watch them when offline though the Play Movies & TV app. Google also made stability improvements to, and enhanced performance of, the app. Google Play Movies & TV is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Amazon Slashes Fire Phone's Price to $1

Sep 8, 2014, 2:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon and AT&T today announced the Fire Phone is now available for the price of $0.99 with a new two-year contract. The Fire Phone was sold for $200 on contract when it launched just two months ago. Alternately, consumers can pick it up for $0 down and $18.75 per month (for 24 months) with AT&T Next 18. The Fire Phone runs FireOS, a forked version of Android, and uses Amazon's services rather than Google's. It has several distinctive features, such as FireFly for searching/shopping; Dynamic Perspective, which provides a 3D-like user interface; and a free year of Amazon Prime.


Chrome for Android Earns Its Material Design Stripes

Sep 5, 2014, 5:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated Chrome for Android devices. The update makes several changes to the browser. For example, signing into Chrome automatically signs users into all Google sites they visit. The app has also been updated with Google's Material Design, which has a new look and feel. The update also fixes bugs and improves performance. Chrome for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Motorola Turns Moto X Into True Flagship

Sep 5, 2014, 1:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Sep 5, 2014, 3:00 AM

Motorola today announced the 2nd-generation Moto X. The new Moto X sports a larger, 5.2-inch AMOLED full-HD screen, Snapdragon 801 processor, and 13-megapixel camera with 4K video capture. It's also thinner and sports an aluminum frame and sides and Gorilla Glass front with a curved beveled edge. The new Moto X is available with custom color combinations and materials through Moto Maker, now including leather backs and custom accent colors on the front. New infrared sensors allow the phone to automatically wake up and show the time when your hand is near the front, and wave gestures silence calls and alarms. The hands-free voice activation phrase can now be customized to something other than "OK Google Now". Turbo charging can add eight hours of battery life in just 15 minutes. A best-shot feature captures several photos before you press the shutter, and uses face recognition to automatically suggests a better shot if you were late to capture. The new Moto X will be available with Moto Maker customization on both AT&T and Verizon. It will cost $99 on contract or $499 unlocked and ship later this month.

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Google Settles In-App Purchasing Suit for $19M

Sep 4, 2014, 2:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over unauthorized in-app purchases made by children. Google will pay the FTC a fine of $19 million to settle charges that it was too easy for kids to spend money on applications without obtaining the account holder's consent. Google also has to put more safeguards in place so customers' accounts are not hit with unauthorized in-app charges. Apple reached a similar settlement with the FTC in January, though it is paying $32.5 million.


Sony Uses Android Wear in SmartWatch 3

Sep 3, 2014, 9:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 3, 2014, 10:01 AM

Sony today revealed its first smart watch to run Google's Android Wear platform. The SmartWatch 3, Sony's third-generation device, ditches its home-grown platform in favor of Google's platform for wearables. Sony says the SmartWatch 3 offers a wider range of stand-alone features when compared to other Android Wear devices. Some include a media player and built-in accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, and GPS for fitness tracking. The screen measures 1.6 inches across the diagonal and includes 320 x 320 pixels set in a stainless steel frame. The SmartWatch 3 is waterproof and dust resistant. It will be sold in several colors in the months ahead. Sony also announced the SmartBand Talk, a wearable that uses a 1.4-inch e-paper display for always-on functionality. The device has a built-in microphone and speaker and can be used as a Bluetooth phone accessory for making/taking calls. It is also waterproof and dust resistant. Both devices are compatible with Sony's Lifelogging platform for tracking fitness activity and sharing via social networks.

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Asus Debuts Android Wear-based ZenWatch

Sep 3, 2014, 6:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus today announced the ZenWatch, its first smart watch to runs Google's Android Wear platform. The device has a classic design, with a stainless steel body and leather strap. The ZenWatch's 1.63-inch AMOLED display is gently curved and offers 320 x 320 pixels. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2GHz. The ZenWatch includes 512MB of RAM and 4GB of on-board storage. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 LE for connectivity and has a 9-axis sensor for monitoring and interacting with its surroundings. It features what Asus calls a biosensor, which is fitted into a ring that surrounds the watch face. When used with the proper app, ZenWatch owners will be able to check their heart rate by pressing their finger onto the display. Asus added other unique features, such as an SOS function that can place emergency calls if the ZenWatch determines that the wearer has fallen and needs assistance. The ZenWatch will be available later this year for about $260. Asus didn't say if the device will be sold in the U.S.

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Nokia Routing Maps Apps to Android and iOS

Sep 3, 2014, 6:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia is preparing to release versions of its mapping application for the Android and iOS platforms. Nokia executive Sean Fernback told The Wall Street Journal the apps will offer features not available to Google Maps and Apple Maps. For example, Nokia Maps users will be able to download maps of cities, regions, or states so they may be used when offline. This is a hallmark feature of Nokia's HERE Maps for Windows Phone. Nokia believes its offline maps will draw users away from Google and Apple's alternatives. The offline maps will support searches, as well. "I'm convinced people are looking for alternatives," said Fernback. "Google Maps is a good solution for many, their maps work very well, but it has looked the same and done the same for a long time." Nokia released a version of its HERE Maps for iOS back in 2012, but later pulled the app after it received poor reviews. Nokia plans to release the new Android and iOS mapping apps before the end of the year. Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft earlier this year, but retained ownership of its mapping business.


Google Plans to Add Bluetooth, GPS to Android Wear

Sep 2, 2014, 11:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is working on several updates to Android Wear that will introduce more features to the platform for wearables. Director of Engineering for Android Wear, David Singleton, told CNET that the first update to arrive will add certain Bluetooth functions to Android Wear. "We'll have an update coming that allows you to pair a Bluetooth headset with your watch. And that means you can play music stored on your watch directly on your Bluetooth headset," said Singleton. Google also plans to add support for GPS, meaning properly equipped devices will be able to track location data directly without an accompanying smartphone. These updates are expected to arrive later this year. The company is also working to make Android Wear compatible with a wide range of sensors. Google envisions Android Wear devices interacting with a broad scope of other devices in order to develop richer and more useful data for owners. According to Google, thousands of Android applications have already been updated with support for Android Wear, and Google created a separate section of the Play Store for compatible apps. Several Android Wear devices are currently available and LG, Asus, and others are expected to debut more Android Wear devices this week.


OneDrive for Android Adds Business Account Support

Aug 28, 2014, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its OneDrive cloud storage application for the Android platform. The primary new feature of the app is support for OneDrive Business accounts, which allows device owners to sign in with either or both of their personal or work-assigned accounts. Android device owners can access their personal and business files separately and easily save files to either account. Other new features include support for pin code lock, improvements to camera backup, and the ability to open OneDrive files with the storage access framework. OneDrive for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


LG Debuts Round Android Wear Watch

Aug 27, 2014, 9:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the G Watch R, a round smartwatch based on Google's Android Wear platform. LG already offers a square-shaped device called the G Watch. In designing the G Watch R, LG said it carefully weighed how consumers view watches as accessories and often require them to be stylish as well as functional. The G Watch R is made of stainless steel and features a 22mm calf-skin strap. According to LG, the G Watch R is the first wearable to feature a plastic OLED display, which measures 1.3 inches across the diagonal with 320 x 320 pixels. It is highly visible, even in direct sunlight. The G Watch R is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of built-in storage. It boasts an IP67 rating against water/dust intrusion, and can withstand up to 30 minutes in one meter of water. The device features a heart rate monitor, 9-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, and barometer. It has a 410mAh battery, but LG didn't offer information on expected battery life. The G Watch R can run all apps compatible with Android Wear, and includes a number of LG-designed fitness apps. The LG G Watch R will go on sale in select markets early in the fourth quarter. Pricing and exact availability will be announced on a market-by-market basis.

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