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printed September 16, 2014
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iOS was created by Apple, and is used exclusively on Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

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Microsoft Ports OneNote to Android Wear

Today, 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.


Google Releases Trio of Android One Phones in India

Yesterday, 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.


RadioShack Weighing Bankruptcy

Sep 11, 2014, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

RadioShack is considering whether or not to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as its cash reserves dwindle. The company ended its most recent quarter with just $30.5 million in cash on hand, with debts totaling $658 million. It has lost money 10 quarters in a row as electronics buyers shun the chain for larger retailers or the web. Filing for bankruptcy would help protect RadioShack's remaining cash reserves, and could set the stage for a reorganization of the firm. The company is also weighing taking on investments and cited liquidation as a last resort. Earlier this year RadioShack announced plans to close 1,100 stores, but later reduced that number to 200 after investors balked. RadioShack sells wireless service from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, as well as several prepaid brands.


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.


Apple to Deliver iOS 8 September 17

Sep 9, 2014, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said iOS 8 will be available to existing iOS devices beginning September 17. It is compatible with the iPhone 5s, 5c, and 4s; the iPad 2, iPad with Retina Display, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPad Mini with Retina Display; and the iPod 5th generation.

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Apple Shows Off iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

Sep 9, 2014, 12:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 9, 2014, 2:02 PM

Apple today revealed new iPhones during a special event held in California. The new devices have curved designs, a protruding camera module, and Apple's signature metal design. The phones have a glass front, aluminum frame, and a steel Apple logo on the back. The iPhones have Retina HD displays that measure 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively. The smaller screen has 1334 x 750 pixels and the larger one has 1920 x 1080 pixels. The iPhone 6 measures 6.9mm thick, the 6 Plus measures 7.1mm - both are thinner than the iPhone 5s. The iPhone 6 Plus offers a wide array of landscape-optimized apps, such as a two-panel view in messaging, along with a wider keyboard. A double-press of the home button will move the UI elements normally positioned at the top of the screen down so they are easier to reach with one hand. Apple said content designed for the different iOS screen sizes and resolutions will now scale up to match whichever device is being used. The phones feature a 64-bit A8 processor that uses a 20nm processes that Apple says is 20% faster than the iPhone 5s' A7 chip, and provides a 50% bump in graphics performance. The iPhones also use Apple's M8 Motion coprocessor to help manage sensors for fitness apps. The sensors are able to differentiate between cycling and walking, and can calculate speed and elevation changes. The new handsets feature 20-band support for LTE networks, and include carrier aggregation, VoLTE capabilities, and Wi-Fi calling (from select carriers). The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus both feature an 8-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.2 and what Apple calls True Tone flash. The cameras can shoot panoramas up to 43-megapixels. Thanks to a new image signal processor, the cameras are faster to focus, and faster to detect faces/blinking. The 6 uses digital processing for image stabilization, but the 6 Plus uses optical image stabilization. The cameras can shoot 1080p HD vide at 30/60fps, as well as slow-motion video at 120/240fps. The user-facing camera, which Apple calls FaceTime, has an all-new sensor that is faster at detecting faces, allows in 81% more light than the 5s, and can capture selfies in rapid-fire bursts. The iPhone 6 will cost $199, $299, or $399 for the 16-GB, 64-GB, and 129-GB models, respectively. The iPhone 6 Plus costs $299, $399, and $499 for the 16-GB, 64-GB, and 128-GB models, respectively. Those prices are available only with two-year contracts. Both iPhones go on sale September 19, with preorders beginning September 12. The iPhone 5s will remain available for $99, the 8GB iPhone 5c will be available for free.


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.


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.


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%.


Vine Adds Support for Videos Stored in Camera Roll

Aug 20, 2014, 11:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine today pushed out an update to its iOS application that should make it easier for people to share videos. To start, users can now upload older videos from the camera roll on their iPhone. Previously, videos had to be shot new within the Vine app. The app also adds a number of new editing functions, such as the ability to duplicate clips, lock focus of either front/rear cameras, and delete the last video captured. Other tools include a level, shooting grid, and support for the flash for shooting in the dark. Vine for iOS is available for free from the iTunes App Store. A similar update should be available to Android devices soon.


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 (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.


Skype to End Support for Windows Phone 7 and Symbian

Aug 8, 2014, 9:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently indicated it will cease to support Skype on devices running Windows Phone 7 and Symbian. The company said it will retire the official Skype app for WP7, as well as any ancillary apps that support it over the next few weeks. "We want everyone to experience the best Skype has to offer – from enhanced quality to better reliability to improved security – and the newest version of Skype is the way to do that. So everyone can benefit from the latest improvements, we sometimes retire older versions of Skype across all platforms, including mobile devices," explained the company. Of Symbian, Microsoft said, "Symbian wasn't built for the cloud-connected world, so we are retiring the Skype for Symbian app and focusing on bringing the best possible experience to the most popular mobile platforms: Windows Phone, iOS, and Android." Symbian is Nokia's old smartphone operating system and was among the first to support Skype years ago.


Skype Improves Photo Sharing for Windows Phone

Aug 6, 2014, 9:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today updated its mobile application for devices running Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1. The new version of Skype makes it possible to send photos to one or more contacts at a time, as well as receive photos from other Windows Phone and iOS devices. Photos shared to desktop or Android machines will instead send a link rather than the actual file. The app also makes it possible to see more chat view history; supports text mark-up (asterisks for bold, etc.); adds favorites to the chat view; and makes several performance improvements. Skype said it continues to work on its mobile app across platforms and hopes to share these features with them soon. Skype is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.


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.


Google Adding Explore Function to Maps App

Jul 24, 2014, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes Android and iOS Maps users will take advantage of a new tool for exploring their surroundings. Google is adding a new button to Maps called Explore, which will tell people what's nearby. According to Google, the tool can be set to show what's as close as a 5-minute walk and what's as far as a 20-minute drive and everything in between. The Explore function doesn't just provide a list of nearby places, it is also contextually aware. For example, it will consider information such as the time of day and the weather so it doesn't send users to shops that are closed or to parks during a thunderstorm. The updated Maps app is being pushed out this week. It is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Skype for Android Makes Finding Friends Easier

Jul 23, 2014, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced version 5.0 for the Android platform and added one big feature: the ability to cross-integrate contacts between Skype and the phone. Skype 5.0 can scan the local phone address book for other registered Skype users and will then automatically add them to the Skype app's people list. Skype will also be able to sync the Skype address book with other Microsoft services to make sure it finds and adds all possible Skype users. Android users will be able to turn this feature off if they wish, or pick and choose which contacts are added to Skype. Users' actual phone number will not be shared as part of their public profile. Skype said similar features will soon appear in its apps for other platforms, such as iOS and Windows Phone.


Facebook Rolling Out 'Save' Feature

Jul 21, 2014, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced a new feature that will allow users to save content for later viewing. The tool can be used to earmark links, places, movies, TV, and music. Facebook Save is headed to the web, as well as Android and iOS apps. Users will be able to save content on one platform and view it on another. Saved items will only be visible to the account holder unless they choose to share it with others. Facebook said it will periodically remind users about their saved content if it sits unread. Facebook Save is being rolled out slowly to all users over the next few days.


GoTenna Links Phones When Network Disappears

Jul 18, 2014, 9:40 AM   by Rich Brome

A new phone accessory allows users to create their own long-range wireless network between two or more phones. The goTenna is a six-inch wand that pairs with a phone via Bluetooth LE. goTennas connect to each other at 151-154 MHz, a frequency low enough to reach up to 50 miles with the 2-watt radio in the goTenna (but more typically, 3-10 miles.) Communication is limited to text messaging and location sharing, via the included app, which is available for both iOS and Android. Messages can be sent an individual, a group, or broadcast to all goTenna users in range. All messages are encrypted. The device is intended for people traveling in remote areas where mobile networks may be unavailable, such as hikers or camping families. The device is dust-tight, water-resistant, and has an integrated nylon strap. It is also useful for large events where the mobile network may become overloaded, such as concerts, festivals, and sports matches. The devices will retail for $300/pair in the fall, but can currently be pre-ordered for half-off, or $150/pair.


Apple Joins Forces with IBM to Bring iOS To Enterprise

Jul 15, 2014, 4:36 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple and IBM today announced a partnership that will see more business-oriented apps developed for iOS, and IBM selling iPhones and iPads directly to its large corporate customers. The two companies will jointly develop the apps, of which there will be about 100, targeted as various industries. IBM is today primarily a software and services provider, implementing complete IT solutions for large companies.


Google Maps for iOS Gains Local Guide

Jul 11, 2014, 1:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 11, 2014, 1:39 PM

Google updated Maps for iOS devices today and added a number of new features. To start, search results now appear with descriptions directly on the map, and search results can be easily switched between list and map views. The details of search results are presented on cards similar to those used by Google Now on Android devices. The locations of reservations and appointments culled from Gmail are visible and labeled on maps, and the new explore tool provides users with recommendations based on location and time of day. Google Maps is free to download for the iPhone and iPad.


BBM Arrives as Beta for Windows Phone

Jul 10, 2014, 3:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today followed up on its promise from earlier this year and released a beta version of BlackBerry Messenger for the Windows Phone platform. The app covers the BBM basics, which means it can be used to chat with individuals or groups, as well as share pictures, voice notes, contacts, and location. The app also supports group chats, in which users can discuss shared calendars, files, and photos. BlackBerry said the beta is limited for now ahead of a wider release. The company will work to add features, including stickers, BBM Voice, BBM Channels, and Glympse in future releases. BBM is already available for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry devices.


Google Pushing Play Games 2.0 and Associated Dev Tools

Jul 10, 2014, 1:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Play Games 2.0 available to Android handsets via the Google Play Store. The updated gaming center provides an entirely new profile interface and has otherwise been redesigned. The app offers users far more personalization tools, as well as the ability to interact with gamers using iOS devices. In addition to the Play Games update, Google published a new set of SDKs and APIs for developers so they can take advantage of the changes to Play Games 2.0. Google improved the Google Play Games C++ SDK with more cross-platform support, while the Play Games iOS SDK was updated with support for Quests and Saved Games. Play Games 2.0 will eventually reach most Android devices. Developers can access the new SDKs from the Android developer portal.


Apple Adds Extras to iTunes, iOS 8

Jul 10, 2014, 10:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 10, 2014, 10:57 AM

Apple today released iTunes 11.3 and discussed new features headed to the iPhone and iPad later this year. iTunes 11.3 adds new support for "extras" that are often available with purchases of HD movies. Extras typically contain interviews, shorts, and other production content associated with movies. Moving forward, extras will be added to prior HD movie purchases automatically. Extras will also become available for viewing on the Apple TV for the first time. Last, extras will be available to devices running iOS 8 when it launches later this year. Apple is currently beta testing iOS 8, which is expected to debut in September or October.


Rok Mobile Launches Today, Requires Invite

Jul 4, 2014, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Rok Mobile officially launched today, allowing select invitees to try its music-focused wireless service. Rok Mobile is an MVNO that resells access to Sprint and T-Mobile's 3G and LTE 4G networks. Rok doesn't just provide wireless service, it also bundles in its own streaming music service. Rok charges $50 per month for unlimited voice, messaging, and data in addition to music streaming, downloading, and caching. Rok offers customers access to 20 million tracks and lets people create their own playlists, as well as automatically generate playlists based on crowd-sourced favorites. Interested customers can bring their own device, or purchase an iPhone or Android smartphone from Rok. Rok offers iOS and Android apps to provide access to its music service. Anyone wishing to trial Rok Mobile can request an invitation from its web site.


Vine Updated with Loop Counts and New Design

Jul 2, 2014, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine has updated its Android and iOS applications and added several new features to the video-sharing social network. The app now displays loop counts, which show how many times individual Vine videos have been played by others. Vine refreshed the design of the app, cleaning up the look and making videos larger. Last, Vine redesigned the Activity screen, which now provides more info about account milestones and makes other notifications easier to discern. Vine is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Apple Releases iOS 7.1.2 to Squelch Bugs

Jun 30, 2014, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released a minor update to iOS for iPhones and iPads. The small system jump resolves several bugs and can be downloaded and installed over the air for free.

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Google to Pull Quickoffice from App Stores

Jun 30, 2014, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently said it will yank its Quickoffice app from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store in the coming weeks. Google is making the change because it has published stand-alone Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps for creating and editing documents within its Google Drive service. This change applies to both the Android and iOS versions of Quickoffice. Customers who've already downloaded Quickoffice will continue to be able to use the software, but Google will no longer update the app and new customers will no longer be able to download it.


Google Makes Android Release L Available to Developers

Jun 26, 2014, 1:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made good on its promise to release a preview of the next-generation Android platform to developers. The L Developer Preview is available for download from Google's developer web site. It is compatible with the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 (2013 Wi-Fi model). The operating system will need to be installed manually. The preview is not meant for general consumers; it is for developers or others with the technical know-how to install the operating system. Google warns that the preview may not be stable, and may not work properly with all third-party applications. Google is expected to make Android Release L available to consumers in the fall. Google is providing developers with an early look at the operating system so they may prepare their applications. Apple does a similar thing with iOS, releasing successive betas between the time the OS is first announced and when it goes live.


Opera Overhauls Mini Browser for iOS

Jun 26, 2014, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera Software today released a brand new version of Opera Mini for the iPhone. The light-weight browser has been redesigned from the ground up and now more closely matches the native user interface of iOS 7. It includes several themes so users can pick the appearance that suits them best. The browser offers three distinct modes for surfing the web. Opera Mini Mode uses server-side compression to crush web sites down by 90% in order to reduce mobile data usage. Opera Turbo Mode uses less compression and offers a more desktop-like browsing experience. Data Savings Off discards the use of compression for full web site compatibility. Opera Mini now has a combined search and address bar, adds a QR reader, makes editing URLs easier with a slide bar, and lets users select their favorite search tool, such as IMDB, Amazon, eBay, and Wikipedia. Opera Mini 8 is available from the iTunes App Store today. It is free.


Google Updates Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides

Jun 25, 2014, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out updates to its core productivity apps associated with Google Drive. The chief new feature is the ability to edit Microsoft Word documents - online or offline - natively with no need for plugins or conversions. Google Docs users will be able to make whatever edits they need to Word documents and send them back as Word files. Google Drive also brings Slides to mobile devices for the first time. Android smartphone and tablet owners can now create, edit, and interact with slide presentations on their mobile devices. Another new feature is called Suggested Edits. Using a new tool called Commenting Access, document owners can give others the ability to add comments or suggestions to documents, but not the power to make actual edits. This leaves the document owner in control. Last, Google has given Drive a performance boost both on mobile devices (Android and iOS) and the web. Google says Drive now takes advantage of background syncing so files load faster, and the cloud-based storage service delivers search results quicker, too. The new versions of Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides will be available in the Play Store and iTunes App Store beginning today.


Google, Microsoft Commit to Smartphone Kill Switches

Jun 19, 2014, 11:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Microsoft today indicated they will add theft deterrent tools to their respective mobile platforms. The commitment comes after major cities, including New York and San Francisco, saw significant drops in iPhone thefts during the first few months on the year. Apple added kill switch tools to the iPhone when it introduced iOS 7 last September. Google has yet to spell out the specifics of its kill switch feature, but Microsoft said it will add a kill switch to all devices running Windows Phone 8 and up. The Windows Phone tool will allow owners to: remotely wipe personal data from the phone; render the smartphone inoperable; prevent reactivation without the owner's permission; reverse the inoperability if the phone is recovered; and restore user data if the phone was erased. These functions will be added to Windows Phone's Find My Phone tool. Microsoft said it will have the tool ready before the July 2015 deadline set by the CTIA for implementing such features. Lawmakers have been urging phone makers and carriers to add these tools for well more than a year. The CTIA Wireless Association, which lobbies for the wireless industry in Washington, voluntarily set up a timeline for theft deterrent tools which are to be added to all new phones by next year. The commitments from Google and Microsoft should help speed up those efforts. The long-term goal is to reduce the number of smartphone thefts, which are popular targets due to their value.


Parallels App Lets Androids and iPhone Access PCs

Jun 17, 2014, 6:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Parallels today made it possible for Android smartphones/tablets and the iPhone to remotely access Windows and Apple computers. Parallels previously offered a version of its Parallels Access app to the iPad. Parallels Access lets smartphone/tablet owners log into their home or work PC using Facebook. Once logged in, Android users can launch desktop apps directly on the screen and control them through their phone. A file browser for the iOS variant of the app lets iPhone users browse and open files and apps. Parallels Access supports use of the smartphone's microphone for voice-controlled apps on the desktop machine, and allows users to alter screen resolution for the best performance on their device. The app costs $20 for a one-year subscription or $35 for a two-year subscription, which allows an unlimited number of iPhones/Androids to access and control up to five PCs. Parallels will charge only $30 for a two-year subscription to those who download the app before June 30. Parallels Access requires iOS7 and Android 4.0 and up. It is compatible with Windows computers using Win7, 8, and 8.1, and OS X machines running 10.7, 10.8, and 10.9.


Facebook Messenger Adds Video Clip Feature

Jun 13, 2014, 6:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has pushed out an update to its Messenger application for both Android and iOS and added several new features. The most significant new feature is the ability to record and send 15-second video clips to other Facebook users from within the app itself. This feature is found in competing chat app Snapchat, and will be part of the native messaging app in Apple's iOS 8 when it arrives later this year. The app also makes it easier to share photos and to insert stickers. The iOS version adds "Big Likes," which Facebook says are an even bigger version of its thumbs up graphic. Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


Amazon Brings Prime Music to Smartphones

Jun 12, 2014, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today launched Prime Music, its own streaming music service. Prime Music is free to those who subscribe to Amazon Prime ($99/year), which also offers perks such as discounted shipping and Amazon Instant Video. Prime Music is limited to about one million songs, as Amazon hasn't signed all the major record labels. Spotify, Pandora, and Beats Music each offers more than 20 million tracks. Reuters reports Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and other smaller labels have signed up, but Amazon is still negotiating with Universal Music Group, which is the largest of the labels. Prime Music can be accessed through a web browser, and also via the Amazon MP3 application on both Android and iOS devices. Amazon updated both mobile apps today and added Prime Music, allowing Android and iPhone owners to stream music from Amazon Prime to their device. The apps allow smartphone owners to listen to full albums or playlists, both of which can be added to their online Amazon library of songs. The Amazon MP3 app for Android and iOS is free to download and use, but requires an Amazon Prime subscription to stream Prime Music tracks.


Outlook Web App for Android Available to Limited Phones

Jun 11, 2014, 7:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today followed through on a promise it made earlier this year to deliver an Android version of its Outlook Web App. Outlook Web App is an email application that offers all the features and functionality of Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync technology. Microsoft released a version of OWA for iOS devices last year. OWA for Android is different from the Outlook.com web mail client that Microsoft already offers to Android devices. Instead, it is a business-class piece of software that allows mobile professionals to choose an Android device and still benefit from Microsoft's email service. Though the app is now available from the Google Play Store, it is only compatible with a very small number of handsets. According to Microsoft, it requires Android 4.4 KitKat or higher, an Office 365 for Business email account, and a device considered to be "small" or "normal" as defined by the Android operating system. Devices and accounts that meet these criteria can download and install Outlook Web App on their Android phone for free.


Microsoft Details Skype 5.0 for iPhone

Jun 9, 2014, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced a major new version of its mobile app will be available to the iPhone beginning next week. Skype 5.0 for iPhone has been rewritten from the ground up, according to Skype, and is the most significant launch for Skype on iOS since the first version of the app. Skype says the new app is five times faster than the old version; offers smooth scrolling within and transitions between conversations; improves group chat support and will deliver messages whether or not users are online; and is better at syncing notifications and read receipts between devices and platforms. Skype says the new iPhone app will be available in about a week, and will be followed with a separate version for the iPad.


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