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printed May 5, 2016
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Google Adds Q&A Feature to Slides for Android and iOS

Yesterday, 4:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced an update for its Slides presentation tool that adds the ability for presenters to easily field questions from attendees/viewers. Slides now include a link within presentations that viewers can click on to submit questions for the presenter. All viewers can see and vote on the submitted questions to help the presenter prioritize which to answer. Viewers can submit questions anonymously, or with their names attached. Slides also now allows people to present slides through a Hangout from an iPhone or iPad, or push the presentation to nearby screens using Chromecast or AirPlay. Last, the web version of Slides gains a new laser pointer. Slides for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


Kyocera's DuraForce XD Picked Up by T-Mobile

Yesterday, 2:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 2:29 PM

Kyocera today said T-Mobile will soon be selling the DuraForce XD rugged Android smartphone. Starting May 11, the DuraForce XD will be available online and in stores for $449.99. The DuraForce has a 5.7-inch display, 3,700mAh battery, and 1.6 GHz quad-core processor. The phone had been available from AT&T since earlier this year.

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Cricket to Sell LG Stylo 2 Starting May 13

Yesterday, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today said it will kick off sales of the LG Stylo 2 on May 13. The phone will cost $169.99. Cricket does not require contracts. The Stylo 2 has a 5.7-inch screen with stylus, a 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel selfie camera, memory card slot, and 3,000mAh battery. The phone is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor and has 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Cricket said consumers who switch to Cricket from other carriers will receive a $50 gift card, and consumers who switch from T-Mobile will receive a $100 gift card. The Stylo 2 is also being sold by Boost Mobile.


Opera Mini for Android Puts the Kibosh On Ads

Yesterday, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera today released a new version of its Opera Mini browser for Android and gave it a native ad blocker. Opera claims the ad blocker serves two purposes: 1. It speeds up page load times by 40%, and 2. It reduces data consumption up to 14% to help lower phone bills. Faster load times are always desirable, but especially so when network conditions are not at their best. Similarly, many consumers subscribe to metered service plans, which makes every bit of data count. The ad blocker in Opera Mini is not on by default, users must activate it in the settings menu. Opera says the browser also now allows users to set home screen shortcuts to specific web pages, and features a redesigned Discover section for curated news feeds. Opera Mini for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Spotify Redraws Its iPhone App

Tuesday, 3:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Spotify has refreshed the user interface of its iPhone app in an update rolling out today. Notably, the new UI ditches the "hamburger menu" tool that adorned the left side of the screen to call up options. Spotify for iOS now uses a navigation bar positioned at the bottom of the screen that contains the same options (home, browse, search, radio, and your library). Spotify says it tested the revised navigation tool and found an uptick in usage and satisfaction among subscribers. The new Spotify app is available from iTunes beginning today in U.S., U.K., Germany, Austria, and Sweden. Spotify said it will expand the UI change to other regions — and the Android app — over time.


Amazon to Sell Nextbit Robin for $299

Tuesday, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon is kicking off sales of the Nexbit Robin with a limited price. Anyone who buys the phone from Amazon between May 4 and May 10 will pay $299, rather than $399. The sale price is only available in the U.S. Nextbit will continue to sell the phone directly at the full price of $499 through its own web site. Nextbit recently updated the Robin handset, making improvements to speed, reliability, the camera, and sound quality. The Robin was designed by former HTC employees and is unique in that it dynamically offloads files and apps to make room for new content.


Twitter Adds 'Connect' Tab to Help Find Accounts Worth Following

Tuesday, 10:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today announced a new tool meant to make it easier to find new people and accounts to follow. The "connect" tab will appear on Twitter for the web, and in the Android and iOS mobile apps beginning today, where Twitter will curate a list of accounts it believe users might like to follow. Twitter says it makes recommendations based on who users already follow, which tweets they like, global events, and what's popular nearby. Twitter says it will refine its recommendations over time. The connect tab also integrates with the user's address book, making it simple to follow contacts en masse. Twitter says the connect tab is rolling out for all users. Twitter is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Dish Will Send a Tech to Your House to Fix Broken Phones

Tuesday, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Dish today launched a new service called Smart Phone Repair that involves technicians making house calls. Smart Phone Repair is available to Dish and non-Dish consumers. Dish charges a $35 travel fee to send a tech, who can replace broken screens or dead batteries for the Apple iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus. Dish says techs can fix one or many phones once on site, and pricing for the repairs will be the same nationwide. Dish plans to expand the service to other handsets over time. Dish mentioned that it uses "respected third-party replacement parts," which means it does not use genuine Apple screens or batteries. Dish offers next-day appointments, available seven days a week, in all 50 states. The company is pitching the service as a more convenient way to deal with phone repairs. Pricing varies by model.


BlackBerry Adds Swipe Typing to Priv's Keyboard

Tuesday, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry Priv smartphone owners can now swipe across the keyboard to input text, rather than press individual letters. BlackBerry says Priv owners have to turn on Type By Swipe manually, and can choose to swipe either on the software keyboard or the physical keyboard. Turning on swipe, however, disables the existing swiping gestures (for accessing symbols, deleting entire words, etc.) that are part of the Priv's physical keyboard. BlackBerry said it is looking at ways to allow Type By Swipe and its other swiping gestures to work at the same time. The Type By Swipe input tool was added to the Priv with the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update. Privs still running Android 5.1 can access these features by installing a new version of the BlackBerry keyboard app, available in the Google Play Store.


Update for T-Mobile Galaxy S7, S7 Edge Tweaks Performance

Tuesday, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile is pushing a minor update to its variants of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge that improves performance of several features. Specifically, the revised system should offer enhanced voice services on both phones. A bug impacting the volume and power buttons has been eradicated. Last, the update makes unspecified changes to Samsung Pay. The update is available as an over-the-air download. T-Mobile suggests S7 and S7 Edge owners download it via WiFi. The update may take a few days to reach all devices.


Bing for iPhone Let's You Search via Pictures

Tuesday, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated its Bing search application for the iPhone and added the ability to search for images captured by the camera. The tool, similar to Google Goggles, lets users take a picture and then use the picture to perform a search. Bing will examine the image and return results that include more pictures of the same thing, as well as information about it. The updated search app can now also provide alerts about movie availability, and help find bus routes and schedules. Microsoft took time to improve the app's launch time, too, and stomped out several bugs. Bing search for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Google Keyboard Lets Users Adjust Key Height

Monday, 2:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is rolling out an update to the Google Keyboard application with a handful of new functions. To start, Android users can now adjust the height of the keyboard between short and tall, with five different heights available in between. This feature reflects what one seen on LG phones for several years. The keyboard can be set to left- or right-handed mode, allows full-word deletion, and adds a dedicated phone-like number pad for faster number entry. The Google Keyboard 5.0 is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Details May Security Update for Android

Monday, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today highlighted its May security patch, which is first being delivered to Nexus smartphones and tablets. The patch resolves 25 issues, of which six are considered critical. The most severe could enable remote code execution via certain media files, as well as through a Qualcomm WiFi driver and an Nvidia video driver. Google says it discovered the vulnerabilities earlier this year and alerted its parters to the risks on April 4. Google has already made the patch available in factory image form via the Google Developer Site. It will release the associated new builds to the Android Open Source Project within the next 48 hours, and will push the update over the air to Nexus handsets in the next few days. Google said, as far it is aware, none of the vulnerabilities were exploited. Google provides monthly security updates to Nexus-branded Android handsets.


HTC 10 System Update Tunes Camera, WiFi Performance

Monday, 12:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 12:53 PM

HTC has begun distributing a system update to the 10 smartphone ahead of its general release that improves the camera and connectivity functions. Specifically, low-light images should be sharper and brighter, as should images captured outdoors. The laser-assisted autofocus user interface has been tweaked, and the HDR function has a wider range of light sensitivity. Last, purple noise should no longer be visible in photos captured in Pro Mode. WiFi performance is also improved thanks to Smart MIMO. This update is reaching unlocked European versions of the 10 first, and will soon hit the unlocked model that's for sale directly from HTC. U.S. carriers will begin to sell the 10 over the course of the next week. It's not clear how quickly this system update will be made to carrier models.


Nvidia and Samsung Strike Patent Deal, Drop Lawsuits

Monday, 11:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nvidia today said it has settled its patent-related litigation with Samsung. The company first sued Samsung in 2014 over smartphone patents and was later sued in turn by Samsung. In October 2015, Samsung was cleared of violating Nvidia's patents. In December 2015, a law judge with the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Nvidia was guilty of violating Samsung's patents. That initial ruling was set to be reviewed today by the full ITC panel. The settlement sees each company licensing a few minor patents from one another, but it does not establish a broad cross-licensing agreement, nor does it establish large royalty payments. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.


Qualcomm Brings Machine Learning to Snapdragon 820

Monday, 7:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Smartphones powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor are about to get a boost in intelligence. Qualcomm today introduced the Neural Processing Engine SDK for Snapdragon 820, which will allow smartphone makers to add their own machine learning programs to devices with the 820 aboard. The Neural Processing Engine SDK relies on Qualcomm's Zeroth Machine Intelligence Platform. Zeroth is already baked into the Snapdragon 820 where it helps detect malware. Qualcomm says the SDK will enable typical deep learning behaviors such as scene detection, text recognition, object tracking and avoidance, facial recognition, and natural language processing. Most importantly, devices that rely on Zeroth will not need a network connection to learn or execute these actions. The SDK itself will include a bevy of tools to help developers create and add such learning behaviors to their smartphones. Qualcomm expects the Neural Processing Engine SDK for Snapdragon 820 to become available during the second half of the year.


LG Innotek Devises Under-the-Glass Fingerprint Sensor

Monday, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG Innotek revealed a new fingerprint sensor that works through glass, allowing LG and other smartphone makers to create devices free from buttons. LG Innotek was able to do this by carving a small furrow out of the back side of the glass. It then glued the sensor in this furrow with a new, strengthened adhesive. LG Innotek says the embedded fingerprint sensor is just as accurate and quick as those within physical buttons, and has a false positive rate of 0.002%. LG Innotek claims the cover panel glass is still impact resistant, despite the thinner area where the fingerprint sensor is located. The company believes the solution will give phone designers more freedom to innovate, for example, by creating waterproof, buttonless phones. LG Innotek did not say when it expects its under-the-glass fingerprint sensor to ship. Synaptics developed a similar solution last year.


Intel Cancels Several Phone Chips

Saturday, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel said it will discontinue a handful of processors meant for smartphones and tablets as it continues to shift its business toward more profitable products. In particular, Intel has cancelled plans to sell three of its SoFIA processor-baseband combination chips. The company also plans to can its ARM-based Broxton tablet processor. Two of the three SoFIA modules included support for LTE, which Intel has been slow to add to its lineup. Intel has struggled to compete against industry veteran Qualcomm and others. Early this month Intel announced a strategic shift away from mobile devices; instead, Intel plans to focus on products for PCs, servers, and the internet of things. Intel is also in the process of cutting some 11,000 jobs to trim expenses as it transforms its focus.

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