3 years ago

Trainyard review - when painting trains gets confusing


The free version of Trainyard was recently launched on Android, which was our queue to get up close and personal with the full version. The premise of laying down tracks so trains can get to their destinations seems easy enough, until you start factoring in switches for overlapping tracks, merging trains into single entities, and crossing them over one another to change their color.

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3 years ago

What are delta updates (and why you'll forget about it tomorrow)


You're probably seeing a bit of news that the delta updates for Play store applications that Google talked about at I/O 2012 have went live today. Coders, web developers, and Android geeks love this sort of thing, but I'll imagine quite a few of you are asking yourself what these new delta updates mean for me, and do I need to do anything or worry about it? Let's try to answer that.

A delta update is a broad term that means only changes to a package will be downloaded and the changes will be merged into the existing files inside the package. In this case, the package is the apk file that's installed on your phone. To try and keep things simple as possible, let's use an imaginary app called Cool Widget. If you already have Cool Widget installed on your phone or tablet, and the developer makes a change that gives it a new background, you won't have to download the whole thing. Google will do a version check, then send out a patch that merges changes the developer made with the files you already have. Besides the obvious -- the new background image itself -- there may be changes to some of the code, or in the manifest file, so you'll get a delta update that copies the new image to the apk file, erases the old, and merges those code changes in. It's new for applications in Google Play, but it's how Google has been sending out OTA updates for Nexus devices (and a few others) for a while now. In the end, it means less data is used and sent.

For users (that's you and me!) it's not a big deal. Sure, we'll save a little bit of bandwidth by only downloading parts of a big file, but the really big downloads (think game assets) are usually hosted elsewhere and installed after the app is loaded the first time. Every byte saved counts though, especially if you don't have unlimited data. Just don't go thinking this will make a difference in your monthly allotment -- keep using Wifi to download big stuff if you need to monitor your usage. The real benefit is to Google, who serves millions of files through Google Play every day. Small amount add up quickly when you're talking millions, and less data being sent means less bandwidth and server time used. 

As for what we need to do, that one's easy -- nothing. This was a server side change. Keep on installing and using apps from Google Play as you always have, and update them just like you're used to doing. The best changes are transparent to the users, and this is one of those cases. Nothing about the way you install or update your apps has changed. Google does a lot of things that confuse (and infuriate) us, but this time they did it right. In fact, if it weren't for all the eyes of some smart people on the Internet, we wouldn't even know it was changed. 

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3 years ago

Big Android BBQ 2012 initial speakers list announced


With the Big Android BBQ 2012 dates getting closer a lot of folks have been curious as to who will be hosting sessions and speaking at the event. Luckily, we're now getting a look at the initial list and it's looking pretty great all around.

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3 years ago

Acer Liquid Gallant E350 manual reveals forthcoming lower-end offering


Once more we're catching sight of a forthcoming Ice Cream Sandwich smartphone from Acer. Following the Cloudmobile and Liquid Glow going up for pre-order and sale respectively, the latest offering is set to be called the Liquid Gallant E350. And, like the other two, it isn't a bad looking thing. 

Spec wise, the Gallant is closer to the the Glow than the Cloudmobile, and if this render is anything to go by it will also be available in the UK. The device has been outed on Acer's website, where the full manual for the phone has been posted. 

So, what are we looking at exactly in the specs column. Nothing that'll be setting the world on fire but lets take a look:

  • Android 4.0
  • 1GHz MediaTek MT6575 single-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 4GB onboard storage, microSD card slot
  • 4.3-inch qHD display
  • 5MP rear camera with LED Flash
  • 1500mAh removable battery
  • 9.9mm thin

Additionally, as we see the Gallant has on-screen buttons, unlike the Glow which almost looked like it was designed with Gingerbread in mind. Flicking through the manual further also shows that Swype will also come pre-installed on the Gallant. The selection of screenshots contained within also shows off what looks pretty much like stock Ice Cream Sandwich. There are a few customizations, like widgets in the notification tray, but even the camera application is stock. Not bad for what is essentially an entry-level device. 

As this is just a manual, there is no indication of markets to expect the Gallant, or how much it would cost. But, based on the UK price for the Liquid Glow, we'd not be expecting anything too far away from £150 ($236) SIM free. 

Source: Acer

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3 years ago

Sony wins EISA green smartphone award for Xperia P


Sony's aluminum-clad Xperia P has been dubbed the "European Green Smartphone of 2012-13" by industry body EISA (European Imaging and Sound Association). The win, which places the Xperia P in good company with fellow EISA winners the HTC One S and Samsung Galaxy S3, is the company's third award from the organization. Last year Sony scooped up two awards for the Xperia Arc and Xperia mini (cameraphone of the year and green phone of the year respectively).

In a statement, the EISA praised the Xperia P's power efficiency, as well as Sony's use of environmentally friendly materials --

“The smart phone market is developing rapidly as models come packed with ever-increasing functionality. Unfortunately, the trend towards the use of bigger screens and embedded batteries can make recycling harder. The Sony Xperia P outperforms the competition in terms of energy performance while making efficient use of materials of environmental concern, such as precious metals and has a low copper content. With the Xperia P, Sony successfully follows the performance of last year’s winner, its Xperia Mini.”

In our review of the phone back in June, we were impressed by the Xperia P's build quality and value for money. And the phone's due to receive an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich soon, which should drastically improve its UI and overall responsiveness.

We don't often focus on the environmental cost of smartphones -- though we've seen eco-friendly models like the Samsung Replenish attempting to tap into this market previously. In any case, kudos to Sony for coming out on top on green credentials for a second year running. Would something like this affect your choice of smartphone? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Sony Xperia Product Blog, EISA

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3 years ago

Pinterest for Android review - mobile scrapbooking for fashion enthusiasts


Pinterest finally launched an Android app, offering all of the scrapbooking appeal of the growingly popular social network in a mobile format. Right off the bat, it’s clear that the Pinterest guys took their time and made sure that experience was as smooth and reliable as the web version.

Just like the site, users can browse through boards of items surrounding themes they’re interested in, post pins to their own boards, repin items from others, leave comments and likes on specific items, and share pins out to other social networks.

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3 years ago

Instagram 3.0 adds photo maps, new profile pages and speed


If you've been itching for a new Instagram update, your wish has been granted. Instagram 3.0 has now landed in the Google Play Store and it brings along plenty of changes. A new feature called photo maps allows you to showcase where you’ve taken your photos and check out where others have taken photos. In addition to that, new profile page changes are in effect and various other bits within the app have changed as well. Nothing drastic but it cleans the app up nicely.

Finally, the most welcome change for me and likely others -- speed. Instagram has been updated to allow for faster, endless scrolling and overall browsing of the app has picked up the pace. Users should notice less jerkiness in the app and images loading relatively faster. Instagram has dropped a new video highlighting the changes; you'll find it down below if you're looking for a walkthrough. Otherwise, go ahead and fire up the Google Play Store and get to downloading Instagram 3.0.

Source: Instagram

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3 years ago

Google Wallet users can now save their Discover card


If you've got a Discover card and want to get in on the Google Wallet action, you'll be happy to hear that you can now save your card for easy access on your Android device. Just head on over to the Discover page to link your card, and before you know it, you'll be tapping, paying, and earning rewards from your phone. This is the first public partnership to use the Save to Wallet API, which helps keep rewards consistent, plus the Discover card shows up nice and identifiably within the app. 

I'm in Canada, so Discover cards and Google Wallet are both entirely foreign things to me, but gawrsh, do they sound exciting. How many of you guys have been using Google Wallet since the update earlier this month that allowed users to add whatever credit card they wanted? Are there a lot of stores in your area that support it?

Source: Google Commerce

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3 years ago

AT&T 4G LTE expanded to two new markets - Waco, TX and Fayetteville, AR


While Verizon is proclaiming to have their 4G LTE rollout now covering more than 75 percent of the U.S. population, AT&T has announced two new markets to their rollout. Fayetteville, Springdale and Rogers, Ark., and Waco, Texas have been lit up for 4G LTE and customers in those areas can start enjoying faster access on their compatible devices. Are you in one of those areas? If so, drop by the Android Central forums and let everyone know what kinds of speeds you're seeing.

Source: AT&T

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3 years ago

Ubi plug-mounted Android device gives your phone eyes and ears in the home


A Kickstarter project out of Toronto called Ubi recently reached its funding goal for a tiny Android-powered computer that plugs directly into a power socket. It's riddled with sensors and hooks up to the local Wi-Fi network so it can push out notifications to your phone about the room's conditions - lights, temperature, sound, movement... Even humidity. It's got a full-sized USB and headphone jack and RF and Bluetooth capabilities for added connectivity. There's an LED light on the back plus speakers so the Ubi can do some communicating of its own, plus a decent amount of horsepower under the hood to keep things running (800 MHz processor, 1 GB of RAM). The unit itself will ship with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and is going to have its own app ecosystem with a handful launching with the device.

  • Voice-enabled Internet search
  • Speakerphone
  • Indicator light (light changing based on events, e.g. weather, stock, email)
  • Home speaker system with sound piping
  • Virtual assistant (audio calendar, feed reader, podcast etc)
  • Voice memos
  • Alarm clock
  • Intercom system
  • Baby monitor
  • Noise pollution monitor
  • Controlling the climate of your home perfectly (through web enabled thermostats like Nest) 

It's a pretty sweet little device by the looks of things. In some ways, I prefer Belkin's Wemo, since it has the ability to power on or off home appliances within a wide range of criteria, but maybe these two home accessories could work in tandem (especially if Ubi has support for IFTT). The main use case here is going to be making voice-activated web searches without even having to pick up your phone, but no doubt developers are going to find all sorts of other fun things to do with the Ubi. 

The funding campaign is ongoing, so if you want your own unit, you'll need to pitch in $189. They should be hitting retail in early 2013 for $199. Who's biting?

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3 years ago

ESPN Goals updated with soccer video streams


ESPN UK announced an update to their Goals app for Android with a bunch of new features for soccer football fans. Here's a run-down of the major changes. 

  • Fans can watch video from selected ESPN studio-based programming, such as its pre- and post-match studio analysis around its live televised football coverage, and video previews of upcoming matches featuring ESPN’s line-up of football experts.
  • Introducing in-app social media functionality: video highlights can be shared with other ESPN Goals users and friends who do not have the app
  • Enhanced video quality and design across all platforms: a new club personalisation tab allowing fans to track all videos, fixtures, news and scores around their clubs
  • Goal and video alerts including half time, full time and weekend round-up clips
  • Key season stats – top scorers, assists and discipline
  • New Android version plus widget on home screen displaying live information when games are on

They also announced another Android app to go along with their new ESPNFC brand, though details on that are a bit skimpier.  Anyone in the UK will be able to download the latest version of ESPN at the Google Play link above. Any football fans in the house? Which apps do you use to keep tabs on the latest matches? 

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3 years ago

Dunkin' Donuts goes mobile with the release of payment and gifting app


The daily grind can be tough on some folks. For that there is coffee. Mass amounts of coffee. Looking to keep up with competitors such as the infamous Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts has now gone ahead and launched a new app that will help caffeine deprived individuals get their fix a little bit faster. It's a combination app that allows you to process payments, send virtual gift cards, look up store locations and finally, check out the menu and nutritional facts.

  • Purchase, manage, and reload a Dunkin’ Donuts Card: Guests can purchase a new mobile Dunkin’ Donuts Card (selecting from multiple designs for many occasions), add money to an existing card, and view all previous card transactions. The Dunkin’ Mobile App supports American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and PayPal.
  • Pay right from the app using a virtual Dunkin’ Donuts Card: Guests can purchase Dunkin’ Donuts products with the Dunkin’ App by simply tapping the mobile Dunkin’ Donuts Card and presenting the screen to the crew member to be scanned. Balances are updated immediately after purchase.
  • Send an mGift: Dunkin’ Donuts Cards can be sent to friends, family, or colleagues via email, text, or Facebook. Dunkin’ Donuts is now the only national coffee retailer to offer people all of these options for sending an mGift. Dunkin’ Donuts Cards can be sent in denominations between $2 and $100.
  • Locate the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts: A detailed restaurant locator makes it easy to find directions to and information about local Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants, including store hours, in-store Wi-Fi, drive-thru availability, and more.
  • Find nutritional information: The Dunkin’ App makes nutritional facts available for guests’ favorite Dunkin’ Donuts menu items.
  • Link to Dunkin’ Donuts’ social media communities: Dunkin' Donuts is actively engaged within leading social media channels, with more than 6.8 million Facebook fans and 160,000 Twitter followers. Easy links to “Like” Dunkin’ Donuts on Facebook or follow @DunkinDonuts on Twitter can be found in the “Social” section of the Dunkin’ App.

The app is available in the Google Play Store right now, though it does seem as though it's only available for folks in the U.S. and it doesn't appear to be compatible with any Android tablets. If you prefer Dunkin' over Starbucks, it might be worth checking out.

Source: Dunkin' Donuts via: CIO

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3 years ago

Google Play gift cards are real - and here's what they look like


We've already seen the Google Play Store app getting prepped for gift cards -- and now we've scored the cards themselves. (Or, at least, a look at the outer wrapping.) We've been slipped a few pics of $10 and $25 gift cards, clearly branded for Google Play, with "Music Movies Books Apps & More" listed at the bottom.

It'll be interesting to see how they get positioned at retail alongside the likes of iTunes and Barnes & Noble and lord knows how many other gift cards, but this much is certain -- that triangular logo we were never too sure about should stand out pretty well.

Also unknown is where, exactly, the cards will be available. On a micro level, that means individual stores. Best Buy? Target? Wallmart? We'll see. But nearly as important is the global level. Developers hate seeing U.S.-only launches and, frankly, we're not fond of them either. (Not like we'll turn it down, but we'd prefer everyone has a chance to play. Google likely would agree.)

So, yeah. Gift cards are coming, and it looks like they're coming sooner rather than later.

We've got a couple more pics after the break for good measure.

Thanks, anon!

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3 years ago

Draw Lloyd fan art and win a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1!


As you probably know, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 was just released and is now available to buy all over. If you're itching to get your hands on a Note 10.1, but were wishing that maybe someone would just give you one, then you might be in luck! Lloyd (that's our little green guy up top) decided that he is going to give one of you your very own Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1!

All you have to do to enter to win is show Lloyd how much you love him by creating a bit of fan art. Make it funny, make it serious, but definitely make it awesome. (Bonus points if you create it on your Android phone or tablet.) Once you've got your creation, post it in this Android Central forums thread and tell us a bit about it (inspiration, what you drew it on, etc) as well as why you want to win the new Galaxy Note 10.1. Be sure your entry is in before Sunday at midnight PST. We'll announce the winner at the beginning of next week.

The competition is open to all readers worldwide. Good luck!

More: Lloyd fan art contest on the Android Central forums

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3 years ago

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean leaks for the Samsung Galaxy S3, we go hands-on


An early Samsung-made Jelly Bean firmware for the international Galaxy S3 has leaked, and we've taken it for a spin

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first Android 4.1 leak for an existing phone. Following the appearance of a blurry-cam video of the ROM yesterday, a pre-release Jelly Bean firmware for the international Galaxy S III (Galaxy S3, GT-i9300) has leaked out online over at SamFirmware​. The ROM is based upon Android 4.1.1, carries the build name I9300XXDLG4, and was built a couple of weeks ago on July 31. It's a test ROM that's not of release quality, so expect crashes and bugs if you decide to install this one.

On the surface, the Galaxy S3 running this leaked firmware is still a Galaxy S3, and the TouchWiz Nature UX is still the UI you'll see most of the time. However, new Jelly Bean features like Google Now and the redesigned notification area are present in this build. The latter is a little janky in the leaked ROM -- location services don't seem to be working, but the voice-activated Google Search was fully functional, and fast as ever.

Performance-wise, the leaked Jelly Bean ROM doesn't offer huge performance boosts over ICS, but the S3 was a beast even on Android 4.0, so we'd argue there isn't much room for improvement in this area anyway. The Jelly Bean-specific launcher enhancements weren't shown in the this ROM -- for example, you're not able to make widgets resize to fit into a certain space, or nudge icons out of the way. We're not sure whether Samsung will include this in its final Jelly Bean firmware, as it likes to do its own thing in the TouchWiz launcher anyway.

Finally, NFC support was enabled in this build, though the phone became a bit confused when trying to transfer files to and from other Jelly Bean devices -- essentially, it would try to use S Beam even when the other device didn't support it. Again, not surprising for a leaked pre-release ROM, and something we full expect to be sorted before the final Jelly Bean update hits.

Check out our hands-on video above, or, if you're feeling brave, you can find instructions for flashing the ROM itself on your international (not U.S.) Galaxy S3 at the source link below. We've also got a couple more screenshots after the break.

Source: SamFirmware

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