When Motorola started updating device to Android 4.4 KitKat, it also slipped in an updated camera app that gave better control over focus and exposure with that little reticle that turns green when you're in focus. (Jerry wrote about it in detail here back in November.) Today, Motorola updated the app in Google Play to keep everything on the same track.
The official changelog reads thusly:
Manual control of focus and exposure
Locked exposure during Panorama capture
Enabled additional language support
So the focus stuff we already knew about — and that's really the main thing you'll notice if you've not already been on the newer camera app. Regardless, Motorola's doing the right thing here, offloading system apps and keeping them updated in Google Play.
Add a little on-demand holiday cheer to any photo you take
The latest update to the Google+ app (and therefore the Photos app) lets you add on-demand animated snowfall to any picture you take. If you've been using Google+ to share photos lately and have "Auto Awesome" effects turned on you may notice many of your holiday-themed pictures adding snowfall and twinkling highlights automatically, but you can now do that under your own direction with the latest update.
Simply grab the new version of Google+, rolling out gradually today, and view one of your pictures in the app (or the Phtoos app, same thing). Give your phone a little shake while viewing the photo full-screen, and you'll see the same falling snow animation that was applied by Auto Awesome. Shake your phone again, and you'll save that new version of the photo and can share it out to your circles.
It's a fun little holiday-themed update to the app, and we're sure more than a few people will take advantage of the new feature.
Direct messages from strangers require extra step before receiving
Following a general rumble of expectation for weeks, Instagram has just launched its own private messaging service. With the latest update to version 5 of the app, you can now send images and videos directly to individuals and groups rather than your entire follower base.
You'll be able to select where your image goes — to "Followers" or "Direct" — after you've taken and edited your picture or video, and if you select Direct you'll have a choice of sending to just one or several people you choose. Once sent, you'll see an indication underneath the picture of who has seen and liked the photo, along with a standard Instagram comment thread underneath. It's the same Instagram experience you know, but with a smaller audience.
You can go straight into the Direct portion of the app with a new inbox button in the top left of the home screen, where you'll see both read and unread messages, along with "Direct Requests" from people that you don't follow. The latest update is already live in the Play Store, so have at it.
Lists are inescapable this time of year, and Google today announced the winners of its "Players' Choice: Top Google Play Apps and Games" poll.
The categories included "most addictive game," "best Google app" and "best franchise game," among others, Some of the winners you likely know. Some might be your introduction to something new and special. Check out the list after the break, and be sure to swing by the collection on Google Play. And while you're at it, there's still time to nominate your favorite hardware and software in our year-end awards, too.
Google today announced that it is (for better or worse) finally going to get rid of that annoying "show images" button in Gmail.
The gist is that embedded images will be routed through Google's severs and then transcoded, ensuring you won't get hit with any malware. If you're worried about bandwidth — or just don't want to fix something that's not broken for you in the first place — you'll be able to keep the status quo in the settings.
The web version of Gmail is up first, and the mobile apps will see this feature early next year.
Manufacturer may resume shipping HTC One Mini into the UK
HTC UK has released a statement saying it's been granted a stay on the injunction preventing shipments of the HTC One Mini into the UK. This follows a High Court ruling earlier this month which found that a component in the device infringed upon patents owned by Nokia, resulting in an injunction against the handset. At the time any action against the HTC One, which was also found to infringe upon the Finnish manufacturer's patents, was delayed by the judge to give HTC an opportunity to appeal. With today's developments the HTC One Mini now finds itself in a similar situation.
HTC says it'll "continue to aggressively appeal" against the decision on the Nokia patent, while working with suppliers to source alternative parts.
We've got the company's statement in full after the break.
More data for existing customers, and some 3G contract subscribers can transition to 4G at no extra cost
With competition in the UK 4G LTE marketplace heating up, network operator O2 has refreshed a couple of its contract price plans to tempt festive buyers. The main effect of the change is that O2's 4G LTE network just got a bit less expensive. 4G price plans now start at £17 per month on O2 Refresh, rising to £22 or £27 per month for 5GB or 8GB respectively — though as this is a "Refresh" tariff you'll pay a monthly fee of between £5 and £15 for your handset on top of this.
For customers wanting a 12-month SIM-only plan on O2 Simplicity, 4G prices start at £21 per month for 1GB, £26 for 5GB and £31 for 8GB. All O2's 4G plans come with unlimited texts and data, and the carrier also offers 3G-only Simplicity deals with unlimited texts — between 100 and 750MB for £8-16.
In addition, existing O2 4G customers will see an increase in their data limits, and existing 3G contract customers on at least a 1GB plan can transition over to 4G provided they have a compatible handset. Folks upgrading to 4G can also save 25 percent on outstanding line rental when they upgrade to a LTE-capable smartphone.
Keyboard adds over 500 emoji images, emoji prediction and optional number keys added in latest beta
Popular Android keyboard app SwiftKey has rolled out a new beta version today with two frequently requested features. First up is emoji support, recently enabled in Google's own keyboard in the latest Android 4.4 KitKat release. Emoji can be accessed from the smiley menu in the bottom right corner, and SwiftKey says there are over 500 to choose from. What's more, SwiftKey now supports emoji prediction — type the icon you want exactly and one of the options will be an emoji. For instance —
And regular SwiftKey users might notice another change in the shot above. In SwiftKey 4.5 there's the option to add a dedicated number row above the standard keyboard rows — this can be activated from within the Themes & Layouts menu.
SwiftKey can also use emoji as part of its prediction engine, for instance, if you frequently use a certain icon after a word or name, you might start seeing it showing up in predictions. Emoji are only supported on KitKat and Jelly Bean — on the former, colored icons are used, while the latter has black and white icons.
The new beta, which also includes an updated installer, can be downloaded from the SwiftKey beta site.
And finally, Sprint's Moto X has begun getting its update to Android 4.4 KitKat, according to our inbox and folks in our Moto X forums. That makes all four major carriers (and US Cellular) to have updated the Moto X to the latest version of the Android operating system, within about six weeks of the code being made available.