Project Ara is in the news today because of the big developers conference planned for April, but maybe the best news so far is Google's target price for the entry-level unit — $50.
Dubbed a "grayphone" the unit is pretty barebones. You have the touchscreen, a Wifi module, and the internals to run them both. Nothing more, but how much more can you expect for a measly $50?
Former DARPA director and current head of Google ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) group Regina Dugan and team have bold plans after the sale, as well. They want specialized kiosks where customers can purchase and customize their grayphones, complete with the tooling to add the needed modules.
While the goal of a $50 device may be unobtainable in the long run, Google is focused on making the product a great way to get another five billion people on the Internet instead of making the product profitable. Look for a working prototype soon, and there's talk of the retail version hitting the market in early 2015.
In this day and age of malicious apps and intrusive government surveillance, you might be wondering how to keep your data secure. You could turn to a solution like the up-and-coming Geeksphone Blackphone, with a modified version of Android and sets of secure communications services. Or you could do what the government does and turn to Boeing.
Yes, Boeing. The company that makes massive jetliners, fighter jets, satellites, and all sorts of high tech military hardware is getting into the smartphone game. Their Android-powered entry is the ominously-named Boeing Black. Because stealth.
Entering this contest is as easy as you might think: just leave a comment on this post on CrackBerry.com saying which one of those seven prizes you'd like to win. Entries are open until Sunday at midnight Pacific Time. Commenting is easy — as a member of Android Central, your Mobile Nations Passport account already logs you in to CrackBerry. Just click on over and enter away!
Barnes & Noble is in a tough spot. Their book selling business, anchored by a nationwide chain of massive and expensive stores, isn't doing well in the face of digital competition. Their effort to jump into the digital realm themselves, first with the Nook e-reader and then Android-powered Nook tablets, did well for a while and has since floundered. In the last quarter, Barnes & Noble's Nook division (encompassing devices, digital content, and accessories) saw revenues of $157 million — down 50.4% from the year prior. Device sales made up two thirds of that revenue, and even with an increased userbase, Nook saw a drop of 26.5% in digital content sales. That's revenue, though. Losses in the Nook division topped $129 million, a 67.5% increase from last year.
"We remain committed to delivering world-class reading experiences to our customers through our reading centric e-Ink and color reading devices. Barnes & Noble is actively engaged in discussions with several world-class hardware partners related to device development as well as content packaging and distribution. As a result, we plan to launch a new NOOK color device in early fiscal 2015."
So Nook isn't dead, nor is Barnes & Noble, at least not yet. We generally liked the previous Nook tablets — they offered a decent bang for your buck — but it's hard to say how they'll be able to compete against today's budget offerings, both from Google and a more direct competitor like Amazon. Let us know in the comments if a new Nook tablet interests you.
The Asus Dock for Nexus 7 (2013), aside from having a tremendously descriptive name, is a fancy USB dock. The dock is designed to work in vertical and portrait orientations, supporting the tablet when turned on its side with a little ledge, and in both orientations kicking back a few degrees to make the viewing angle more comfortable. It also has an HDMI-out port so you can use it to hardwire a line to your TV (or you can get a Chromecast).
The Asus PW100 Wireless Charging Stand, on the other hand, it's Nexus 7-specific, but it's still designed to work with it. It's a Qi charger, but tilted up at 60° so as to hold the tablet up at an angle you can use instead of sitting flat on a table. The charger also has a handy little light at its base that illuminates when it's done charging. Unlike the plug-in dock, the PW100 Wireless Charging Stand works with Nexus 7 cases (assuming they're not too thick).
It's Wednesday, and that means a slew of Google app releases and updates. We've seen Chrome get a small one, and the Google Launcher made a big splash in the Play store, but we can't not talk about the big Google+ update slowly trickling out.
If you're the type who loves taking and sharing pictures, you'll love this one. All the major changes are for the Google photos side of the app, and they all look really nice.
Non-destructive photo editing across devices — Starting today you can start your edits on one device, and continue (or start over) on another. This means you can backup full-resolution photos from your desktop, edit them in seconds on your phone, then add some finishing touches from your tablet. (And you can revert to your originals at any time!) The technical term for this experience is non-destructive editing in the cloud, and we think you'll really enjoy it.
Brand new filters and creative tools — Now when you edit your photos, you’ll have a powerful set of tools (like crop and rotate), 1-touch filters, and Snapseed-inspired enhancements (like Drama, Retrolux, and HDR Scape). Mix and match to make your photos look their absolute best.
A single view of all your photos — The new ‘All’ view displays your entire photo library — whether it’s on your current device, or backed up in the cloud. If your library is really large (> 10s of thousands of photos), the app won’t show all your photos initially. But stay tuned, because we’re supporting larger and larger libraries over the next few weeks.
An easy way to browse your photos by date — In addition to search, there’s now another way to find your photos fast. Just swipe through your photos in the ‘All’ view, and look for the scroll bar on the right. Dragging the scroll bar up or down will quickly move you forwards or backwards in time.
As usual, this is the standard slow rollout from Google, so you may not see the update for a little while. Feel free to try your luck using the Google Play link up top.
Google wants to help others build smartphone parts
Google has announced that the first Project Ara developer conference will be held this April 15 and 16 in Mountain View. The events will also be streamed with an interactive question and answer set up, as admission to the event itself will be limited.
What they're going to do here is the really cool part. Project Ara is the continuation of Motorola's Lego-like modular phone design concept. Different modules can be built, and when pieced together you've created a custom smartphone. It's ambitious, to say the least.
To bring a concept like this closer to reality, you need people able and willing to design the custom modules. The Ara Module Developers’ Kit will be unvieled in April, and it will be the focus of the conference. Google says there will be detailed walkthroughs and feedback sessions, which sounds like an excellent way to get things started. The full conference agenda will be posted soon at http://projectara.com.
This sounds like a great way to make this exciting project come to life. My dreams of the Jerryfone have only just begun!
New version will roll out to users over the next few days
Google has updated the Chrome browser for Android today, bringing the version number up to 33.0.1750.132. Along with the usual performance and stability tweaks, there are several changes highlighted by the Chrome team.
Download progress notification for file downloads using the Chrome network stack
Updated help and feedback UI
Support for <datalist> tag
The new help and feedback UI is a simple modification that opens the help center in its own view, with its own action bar. The functionality is the same, just with a new look.
The new version will follow the usual Google #trollout, and all users should expect to have it within the next few days. Try your luck by using the Google Play link above.
So… there's an all-new HTC One coming, and it has speakers that are good for a man making awesome sounds, moose mating calls, Viking sopranos, and two horns. The original HTC One's dual front-facing stereo BoomSound speakers sported a Class-D audio amplifier for the loudest, highest quality speakers we'd seen heard on a smartphone. The all-new HTC One, apparently, has redesigned audio components that make it more [womp womp]. We'll find out more next month.
It's not just easy swiping access to Google Now. That omnipresent search box is updated in the Google Now Launcher to be always listening for the phrase "Ok Google" — just say it to launch voice search. And it's a visual update with larger icons, relocated widget preferences, and other tweaks that make it easier and faster to use.
So long as your Android device is a Nexus or Google Play edition (that'd be the HTC One, LG G Pad 8.3, Moto G, Samsung Galaxy S4, and Sony Z Ultra) running Android 4.4, you can install the Google Now Launcher. It's not visually perfect on our HTC One Google Play Edition (there's some weird spacing), but it's nothing that can't be fixed with a few tweaks and an update. Check it out and let us know what you think.
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