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printed September 19, 2014
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Android L to Have Encryption Turned On By Default

Yesterday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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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T-Mobile Dials Music Freedom Up to 13

Aug 27, 2014, 8:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 27, 2014, 8:10 AM

T-Mobile today expanded the availability of its Music Freedom program to include six new music services. Music Freedom already allows T-Mobile customers to stream music from iHeartRadio, iTunesRadio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Samsung Milk, Slacker, and Spotify for free. The music streamed across T-Mobile's LTE network doesn't count against customers' data buckets. Beginning today, customers will be able to stream music from AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, Radio Paradise, Rdio, and Songza, too. Further, T-Mobile said Google's Play Music service, chosen by T-Mobile customers through a poll, will be available later this year. T-Mobile claims its customers have streamed 7,000 terabytes of music across its network since Music Freedom began in June.


California Signs Smartphone Kill Switch Into Law

Aug 26, 2014, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that will mandate all smartphones to come with a kill switch by July 2015. The law's goal is to curb smartphone thefts. Lawmakers believe that allowing smartphones owners to render their device unusable after it is stolen will reduce the appeal to thieves, who won't be able to use or sell them. Minnesota enacted a similar law earlier this year, and the CTIA Wireless Association said all carriers will support kill switches by July 2015, too. Apple already added a kill switch functionality to iOS, and Google and Microsoft are working on similar tools for Android and Windows Phone.


Google Debuts New Slides, Sheets, Docs Apps for iOS

Aug 25, 2014, 1:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today refreshed its productivity suite for iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad. To start, Google is making a stand-alone Slides app available for the first time. Slides allows iOS device owners to create and edit slide presentations on their device, including those originally made by Microsoft's PowerPoint app. The Docs and Sheets apps have been updated with performance enhancements. All three apps can be used to create documents, spreadsheets, or presentations even when offline. Google Slides, Docs, and Sheets, part of Google's Drive productivity suite, are all free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Huawei: No Tizen and No More Windows Phone for Us

Aug 25, 2014, 11:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei recently said it has no plans to release a Tizen-based smartphone, and also said it will no longer make smartphones using Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. "Some telecom carriers are pushing us to design Tizen phones but I say 'no' to them. In the past we had a team to do research on Tizen but I canceled it," said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, to The Wall Street Journal. "We feel Tizen has no chance to be successful. Even for Windows Phone it's difficult to be successful." Tizen is a Linux-based platform created by Samsung and Intel. Samsung, Tizen's primary backer, has delayed plans to realize a Tizen phone indefinitely as it builds up the app ecosystem. Huawei remains a member of the Tizen Association, but its new stance on the platform further clouds Tizen's potential. As for Windows Phone, Huawei complained of losing money on the platform for two years. "We have tried using the Windows Phone OS. But it has been difficult to persuade consumers to buy a Windows phone," said Yu. "It wasn't profitable for us. So for now we've decided to put any releases of new Windows phones on hold. We have worries about Android being the only option, but we have no choice. And we have a good collaboration with Google." Google's Android platform holds about 85% of the global smartphone market, with Apple's iOS holding 11% and Windows Phone holding 2.5%. BlackBerry's share of the market is less than 1%.


Google Grabs Gecko Design for Project X

Aug 22, 2014, 3:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today confirmed it has acquired Gecko Design, a mechanical engineering and design firm. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Jacques Gagne, president of Gecko Design, said he and Gecko's four employees will join Project X within Google. Project X is the internal unit responsible for Google's hardware projects, such as Google Glass, Project Ara, and Loon, its high-altitude balloons. Gecko Design previously worked on the One Laptop Per Child device, as well as gear for Fitbit.


Google Search Speaks More than One Language at a Time

Aug 22, 2014, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has improved the multilingual capabilities of its voice search feature. The latest version of Google Search allows users to speak up to five different languages without requiring that they change the settings each time. User need only tell Google Search the five languages they expect to use once, and voice search will be able to recognize them automatically when spoken. Android device owners can perform voice searches with more than 50 languages at present, and Google expects to add more over time. According to Google, users need to stick to one language per sentence in order for voice search to recognize and translate the language. Google Search for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Yahoo Adds More Magazines to Mobile App for Android

Aug 21, 2014, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today made more content available to the Yahoo app for Android in the shape of digital magazines. The app now includes Yahoo Food, Tech, Travel, Movies, Beauty, and Health. The digital magazines use a visual storytelling style that Yahoo believes is more immersive. The app lets Android device owners access a wide range of content across Yahoo's properties. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Offers Photo Sphere App to iPhone

Aug 19, 2014, 12:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today published a version of its Photo Sphere app for iOS. The app allows iPhone owners to stand in one spot and capture a 360-degree view of whatever is around them. Photo Spheres can be published to Google Maps or shared with various social networks. Before today, Photo Sphere was only available to Android smartphones (similar apps are already available to iPhones from other companies). Photo Sphere is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


HTC One Trades Android for Windows Phone

Aug 19, 2014, 9:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 19, 2014, 9:32 AM

HTC today announced the One for Windows Phone, a variant of the One (M8) that swaps Google's mobile platform for Microsoft's. The One for Windows Phone runs the latest operating system from Microsoft and carries over a few HTC apps, such as Blinkfeed, the HTC duo-camera, SenseTV, Video Highlights, and BoomSound. The One for Windows Phone adopts some of the M8's motion gestures, such as double-tap to wake, but also loses a few. Apart from the operating system, the hardware is identical to the One (M8) with Android. It has the same 5-inch 1080p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, Ultra-pixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera, and premium aluminum design. The HTC One for Windows Phone is exclusive to Verizon Wireless. It is available online from VerizonWireless.com beginning today and reaches Verizon stores August 20 for $99 with a new contract or $30 with Verizon Edge.

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Sprint Formally Debuts Sharp Aquos Crystal

Aug 19, 2014, 9:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 19, 2014, 1:41 PM

Sprint today announced the Sharp Aquos Crystal, a mid-range handset that it will sell later this year. The Sharp Aquos features a nearly bezel-less design, with narrow edges running along the top and sides of the phone. The screen measures 5 inches and offers 720p HD resolution. The device offers a handful of software features developed by Sharp, including Clip Now, which takes screen shots with a swipe and makes them easily sharable via link. Speaktoit Assistant is a natural language assistant that can perform a number of tasks, such as answer questions, open apps, place calls, and send texts. The device comes with Harman Kardon Clari-Fi and LiveStage audio technologies for improved music reproduction, and Direct Wave Receiver technology, which uses the display panel to create sound for phone calls. The device runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and includes the usual suite of Google services, in addition to OfficeSuite for editing Microsoft documents. Other hardware features include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The Aquos supports microSD cards up to 128GB. The camera captures 8-megapixel still images and 1080p HD video. It also has a 1.2-megapixel camera for selfies. The Aquos will cost $240 at full retail, or $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $10 with Sprint. Sprint subsidiaries Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will also sell the device at the price of $150. Virgin and Boost do not require contracts.


Vringo Loses Patent Appeal

Aug 15, 2014, 12:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A U.S. court today handed Vringo a defeat in its patent claims against Google and other companies. Earlier, Vringo won a guilty verdict against Google over how search results are filtered. Google appealed and today's decision effectively overturns the earlier verdict. The court declared both Vringo's patents invalid and tossed the case. Vringo said it is evaluating its options. There's no word from Google yet about its exoneration. Vringo purchased the rights to a wide swath of mobile technology patents from Nokia in 2012 and has sued several companies, including Google and ZTE, in order to protect its intellectual property.


Samsung to Buy SmartThings

Aug 15, 2014, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung said it has agreed to purchase a startup called SmartThings. SmartThings, which is based in Washington, develops technology for the Internet of Things. It sells a home controller device for $99, but has also created an online service to help developers design and create their own internet-enabled and smartphone-controlled gadgets. The company claims 8,000 apps and 1,000 devices use its platform. SmartThings will move its operations to Palo Alto, Calif., where Samsung has a developer facility, but SmartThings' CEO Alex Hawkinson said the company will be run independently. The move is largely seen as a way for Samsung to counter steps made by Google and Apple to expand the functionality of their smartphones and tablets to control household items. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.


HTC to Offer Zoe, Other Apps to All Android Phones

Aug 13, 2014, 7:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC is prepared to make a version of its Zoe application available in the Google Play Store. The app is intended for all Android devices, which will be able to shoot their own Zoes and share the creative video-making process with others. HTC's Zoe is a camera feature specific to a select few of its smartphones, such as the HTC One (both M7 and M8). The new app will allow Samsung, LG, and other Android devices to shoot video clips and pair them with themes and pictures to create 30-second masterpieces. The critical element of the new app is the ability to share Zoes online and contribute to them. For example, HTC envisions multiple people using Zoe to capture an event, such as a wedding, and then adding their own clips to a longer community video that provides for a more compete representation of the event. Zoe will reach the Play Store later this week. HTC is not stopping at Zoe, according to Re/Code. HTC plans to make other apps available to all Android devices. The company has already broken out some of its proprietary apps, such as the gallery and calendar, so they may be updated more frequently outside of full OS upgrades. HTC has assembled a team of 260 people, collectively called HTC Creative Labs, to work on its apps both for HTC and non-HTC phones. HTC didn't say which apps might arrive next.


HTC One (M8) to Add MirrorLink Support for Cars

Aug 11, 2014, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC and the Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that a forthcoming software update will make the One (M8) MirrorLink compatible. MirrorLink is a connectivity tool for pairing smartphones and cars. It works across smartphone platforms and car manufacturers, and, according to the CCC, is the only vendor-neutral standard available. With MirrorLink aboard, the One (M8) will be able to connect to select in-car infotainment systems,m allowing drivers to more safely access their phone's content when behind the wheel. It's unclear how many cars currently support MirrorLink, but the CCC hopes with HTC's support more will choose to support it. Apple and Google both recently announced their own connectivity solutions for cars, which are expected to appear in iOS 8 and Android Release L, respectively. HTC said it will add MirrorLink support to mode devices down the road.


HTC One Owners Can Now Share Duo Cam Shots Via Gallery App

Aug 7, 2014, 7:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today updated its gallery application and made it easier for owners of the HTC One (M8) to share the unique photos captured by the Duo Camera. The M8 has two cameras, which allows it to add perspective information to photos after the fact. The updated app introduces the Duo Effects Gallery, which is a web viewer that can be used to share the interactive images created by UFocus, Foregrounder, and Dimension Plus. Previously, these photos were only viewable on the M8 itself. Now M8 users can send a link to these files to anyone. The updated gallery application is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Scoops Up Directr Video App, Adds It to YouTube

Aug 7, 2014, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently acquired a small video app called Directr. The app helps users shoot better videos by offering templates they can use to build different shots before piecing them all together into a single, polished video. Two versions of the app are available, one for personal use and another intended for businesses. The app is free, but users need to pay $0.99 to download finished videos. The business app cost several hundred dollars per year and could produce higher-quality videos worthy of testimonials and/or advertisements. Google said Directr’s employees will join YouTube's video advertisement team. Google will eventually make all versions of the app free to use. Google did not disclose terms of the deal.


Google Makes More Android APIs Available to Developers

Jul 30, 2014, 9:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently released a new tool for developers who are writing apps for the Android platform. Google made the Google Play Developer Publishing API available to all developers, which will allow them to upload APKs to beta testing, staged rollouts, and production, as well as add publishing operations to their app processes. According to Google, the API should make it easier for developers to manage their in-app offerings and localize their in-app store's text and graphics. Google believes the API will help free up time developers might otherwise have spent managing their app releases so they can focus on their core mission instead. The Google Play Developer Publishing API is available from Google's developer portal.


Virgin Mobile Debuts Custom Plans

Jul 30, 2014, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 30, 2014, 8:11 AM

Virgin Mobile USA today announced a new plan that gives customers more flexibility in managing their account. Virgin Mobile Custom is based on the ItsOn platform, which was used by Zact Mobile, a Sprint-based MVNO. ItsOn is what gives customers the power to change the features of their plans any time they want or need to. Virgin Mobile Custom allows families to activate up to five lines on a single account starting at $6.98 per line. The Base plan includes 20 texts and 20 voice minutes per month. Customers can choose to add unlimited texting for $10 or unlimited voice for $18. The Unlimited talk and text plan costs $35 per month. Customers can also choose select add-ons, such as unlimited access to Facebook or music streaming, which can be added on a recurring or non-recurring basis. These plans can be adjusted at any time during the month, even daily, directly from the customer's device. Customers can add or subtract the amount of voice, text or data they use with real-time price adjustments so customers know exactly what they'll be spending. Virgin Mobile Custom will be available on three devices at launch, including the ZTE Emblem, the LG Pulse, and the LG Unify

  • ZTE Emblem: The ZTE Emblem is similar to the Savvy, which is being sold by TracFone. It has a 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz processor, and it runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. It costs $80
  • LG Pulse: The LG Pulse is a U.S. variant of the L70, which was announced earlier this year. It has a 4.5-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz processor, LG's QSlide and QuickMemo apps, and it runs Android 4.4 KitKat. It costs $100.
  • LG Unify: The LG Unify is a variant of the Optimus F3, which is already being sold by Virgin Mobile. It has a 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and LG's VuTalk and Q-Translator apps. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and costs $130.
The account holder can download the free Custom Control App from the Apple App store or Google Play Store to manage the devices and features of their various lines. Virgin Mobile Custom plans will be available beginning September 1.


Google Expands Voice Calling to Hangouts

Jul 25, 2014, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently made it possible to connect Google Voice phone calls through Hangouts on the web. When using Google Voice in a desktop browser, the phone tool now lists Hangouts as an option when making calls. Googler Alex Wiesen explained that it works even if the user isn't using Hangouts in Gmail, and it doesn't require a Google+ account. The change does not apply to either the Android or iOS mobile apps. Google Voice has been neglected of late and its future as a Google service is in question. This recent change marks another transitional step for the service, and expands the functionality of Google Hangouts.


Gmail for iOS Adds Drive File Sharing

Jul 24, 2014, 1:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out an update for its Gmail app for iOS devices. The update carries over a feature given to the Android app earlier this month: the ability to share files from Google Drive. iPhone and iPad owners can now insert documents from their Drive account into emails as they compose them on their device. The app makes it easy to save email attachments from Gmail to Drive, too. Gmail for iOS allows users to change their Gmail account picture, and those with multiple Gmail accounts can choose which signed-in accounts they want visible in the app. Gmail is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


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