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3 years ago

It might be your music, but it's still not your cloud

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This week brought a painful reminder that for as awesome as the ol' World Wide Web may be, it's still a pretty sorry state of affairs when it comes to online music. As a quick recap, Google implemented a limit on the number of devices you can unauthorize from Google Music in a year. You can still have up to 10 activated at any given time, but you can only swap out four of them for new devices. Sounds simple enough, right? And for the vast majority of folks out there, being able to play your music anywhere (in supported nations, anyway) from 14 different devices -- from smartphones and tablets to desktops and laptops and Google TVs -- is overkill several times over. But for others of us, our 10 slots were full, and any attempt to unauthorize a device -- something we'd previously been able to as often as we pleased -- was met with an orange-and-white message:

"Sorry, you've unauthorised too many devices."

Funny, I didn't feel like I'd unauthorized too many devices. (Also funny is that I've got the British spelling, where z's are traded for s's, but that was the least of my worries.) The problem I and many others had run into was that duplicate devices were taking up slots, and we now had no way of getting rid of them. for most folks, it was from flashing custom ROMs. For me, it was from my janky Logitech Revue, which requires a hard-reset every few weeks when it decides to forget some of the apps installed on it. (The latest victim to get sucked into the ether, ironically enough, was Google Play Music.) And so when the hammer came down, I was stuck with a Galaxy Nexus, the EVO 4G LTE, Nexus One, AT&T One X, international One X, a PC, a laptop and two instances of the Logitech Revue taking up precious device slots, with no way to get rid of any of them until 2013. Or, God forbid, until May 2013, if it doesn't go by calendar year.

(I'll be the first to say that that's hardly an embarrassing list of devices, though.)

Google's made me lazy, I think. I've gotten too used to having my music in the cloud. No longer do I have to worry about keeping my music synced from my desktop and laptop to my home NAS. So long as I'm not traveling, I use Google Music to listen to my music when tooling around town. When mowing the lawn. On the odd occasion that I exercise. 

I say "my music" because that's what I think of it as. My music. I've got the files somewhere and uploaded them to Google Music. It's my music.

Only, as soon as I decide to upload it to Google Music, it ceases to be mine. Well, it's still mine, but I've lent it to Google to share back to me. So it's no longer mine. It's subject to the rules and regulations of Google, which means it's subject to the wiles and whims of the music labels. Never mind that it's my music. I bought (most of) it. It's mine.

This week's deauth debacle is a reminder that while it might be my music, it's not my cloud. And while Google Music is the object of my ire, it's hardly alone here. Amazon Music's also subject to the record labels. Same for the streaming services. Even Apple has to go through negotiations with a bunch of old white men so that you can get your Bieber on over the air. 

This isn't a new issue. The good news is that Google's sorting things out on its end and in the meantime is letting us clean up our authorized devices. (A personal plea: Maybe some sort of exemption for those of us who test phones for a living?) But this week serves as a reminder that it's easy to become complacent, to accept the ease of streaming in exchange for sharing our files with a master whose best interests seldom are in line with our own. 

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3 years ago

How can Android vendors compete with Samsung?

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 Industry research firm Gartner just released its latest data on mobile phone sales for the first quarter of 2012. There are some interesting points to be pulled out of this report that I wanted to address. Samsung dominates Android. Gartner’s data says that Korea-based Samsung shipped over 40 percent of all Android handsets last quarter. So that still leaves 60 percent of the market to other vendors, right? Yes, but according to Gartner none of these other vendors make up more than 10 percent of Android volume. None. In terms of handset brands, Samsung is also now the No. 1 phone maker in the world, ahead of Nokia. Nokia may have the No. 2 position in the market, but we need to remember that most of Nokia’s volume is based on the dying Symbian OS. Very little is based on its Windows-powered future at this point. So, considering that we’re looking at the death of the dumb phone over the next few years, let’s look at smartphone vendors and volumes. Samsung is the #1 player, having shipped 38 million smartphones. Most of these are Android powered, with a smaller number of Bada OS phones. Here’s how smartphone market share looks, by vendor, based on the Gartner data:

  1. Samsung with 26 percent market share
  2. Apple with 23 percent
  3. RIM with 7 percent

These are essentially the top three smartphone players right now. I realize that ZTE, LG and Huawei have a larger portion of the mobile market than RIM, but RIM is a pure play on smartphones whereas these three are not. Remember that other Android vendors have less than one quarter of Samsung’s volume.

What these data mean to Android manufacturers

If you look at the Gartner chart we’ve shown above, it’s crystal clear that most Android manufacturers are not having a lot of success right now. Even HTC, who was a former darling of the stock market, has been getting hurt. At the high end of the market, competing with Samsung is difficult. It’s tough to differentiate from an OS perspective because everyone’s using Android. There are only so many UI skins you can bring forward. I think one way to compete in the Android space is to develop amazingly useful middleware that turns your brand into a platform more than just a piece of hardware. But even then, Samsung is already heading down this path by recruiting Android developers for cloud-based middleware. At the low end, the biggest opportunity remains killing Nokia’s positioning. There is a lot of low hanging fruit here. Symbian is dying, and the only real challengers here are Android and BlackBerry right now. Windows Phone isn’t going after the low end yet, and neither is Apple. The bottom line is that Android manufacturers can’t think of themselves as competing against other Android manufacturers. That’s a recipe for disaster. They need to compete against Nokia’s 20 percent market share or build cloud services that differentiate their product from Samsung at the high end. Otherwise they’ll just be commodity hardware makers who earn no profit. But hey ... that’s still all good for consumer smartphone adoption.

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3 years ago

Samsung Galaxy Nexus vehicle dock launches in the UK on May 22

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When the first official accessories for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus started appearing late last month, one piece of kit was conspicuous in its absence -- the long-awaited car dock. Today, however, we have news that Nexus owners' wait for an official vehicle mount for their phones is finally over. British online retailer Clove Technology has announced that it'll be stocking the official Samsung vehicle dock -- that's the one that connects with the gold contacts along the side of the phone -- from next Tuesday, May 22.

The price is a predictably high £49.99 (~$80) including VAT, but then expensive first-party accessories are nothing new. In the box you'll find the dock itself, along with suction cup, and a microUSB car charger that connects the dock's microUSB port to your cigarette lighter.

There's still no word on U.S. availability for this accessory, but we'll keep you posted if anything emerges.

Source: Clove Technology

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3 years ago

HTC and Samsung make up 86% of UK Android sales according to new report

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According to a new report, almost 9 in every 10 Android devices sold in the UK belong to either HTC or Samsung. Android itself is also said to account for half of all smartphone sales, vastly outnumbering the Apple iPhone

The information provided by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech show that Android has a 50.1% market share in the UK, up from 44.6% 12-months ago. In the last three months alone, Samsung and HTC between them have accounted for 86% of all Android devices sold. The launch of the HTC One series does no harm, as does the continued success of the Samsung Galaxy range. With the imminent arrival shores of the Galaxy S III on British shores, these numbers are not likely to slide much over the coming months. 

The report also shows that Sony is still struggling to make serious headway in the smartphone market. It's slipped to 10.4% of the Android market, despite the recent launch of the Xperia S. It could be worse for Sony though. LG accounts for less than 1% of all Android sales in the UK. And, with stories of yet more lengthy waits for updates to existing devices, the company's image isn't likely to improve much further. This is despite the forthcoming launch of the Optimus 4X HD next month, which looks like a solid high-end product from the Korean manufacturer.

All in all, it really isn't surprising that HTC and Samsung have such a stranglehold on the British market. Samsung push their phones in the UK really hard. HTC have upped their marketing too since the launch of the One line, with a massive marketing campaign that even sees an advertisement nestled within the Virgin Media Tivo interface. The sheer scale of the two's dominance is still slightly surprising though. 

Source: CNET UK

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3 years ago

Crazy Optimus 4X HD trailer reminds us LG's flagship is on its way

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If you ever wanted to see a smartphone turn its cores into wheels and start flying through a Tron-like backdrop, then LG's got just the thing for you with its latest Optimus 4X HD trailer. The video highlights a few key specs and features of LG's opcoming flagship, which is due to launch internationally soon. Among the hardware clout the 4X HD brings to the table is a quad-core 1.5GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, a 4.7-inch 720p IPS "True HD" screen. There's also a thin, compact frame punctuated by a unique prism design around the trim, similar to what LG's got going on with the Prada 3.0.

As we reported a few days ago, the Optimus 4X HD is due to go on sale in Europe from next month.

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3 years ago

Samsung Galaxy S III appears for pre-order from T-Mobile UK

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Following its initial pricing announcement, T-Mobile UK has today unveiled its full line-up of Samsung Galaxy S III price plans, at the same time as putting the phone up for pre-order. Heavy users will want to check out Tmo's 24-month "Full Monty" plan, which includes unlimited texts, data, Tmo-to-Tmo calls and 2000 minutes of calls to other networks. That'll set you back £49.99 up-front, then £36 per month thereafter.

If you're after a smaller monthly bill, plans starting as low as £10.50 per month are also offered, albeit with a much heftier up-front fee of £300. And if you really want a free Galaxy S III, then the network offers the phone without any up-front fee on a £41 per month plan which includes completely unlimited calls, data and texts.

More details over at the source link. T-Mobile's site indicates that orders placed today will arrive "after May 30," so even if you're pre-ordering, you might have to wait until after launch day to receive your phone. As we reported a couple of weeks back, the Galaxy S III will launch on every major UK network, so if Tmo's plans aren't doing anything for you, you'll have plenty of other options.

Source: T-Mobile UK

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3 years ago

Google Offers v1.3 update brings smoother app navigation

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Although it's a small update, it's an update nonetheless. Google Offers v1.3 has now been pushed to the Google Play Store and is ready for download. The change log for this release is rather small and only notes two overall changes:

  • Discover thousands of new, high quality deals from local businesses. Check the “Browse” section of the app to see offers near you.
  • Smoother app navigation

The first change, I assume means they added some new offer partners to the mix because the browse tab was there already. The smoother app navigation however, is nice to see because offers did tend to run a little laggy on all the devices I use it on.

If you're a Google Offers user, you can jump into the Google Play Store to grab the update or if you're looking to give it a go for the first time, the link below will take you to the install file.

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3 years ago

Late-night poll: If Google releases a Nexus line, will you jump carriers for it?

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We can't be sure that Google is really going to be selling what amounts to a Nexus line of devices, no matter how reputable the source. It's just too big of an idea to pretend to know all the particulars, and would be too big of a heartbreak should it not pan out, so being a bit skeptical is a wise choice. I'm sure something is going to happen, maybe even something wonderful, but nobody is sure exactly what that is just yet. There's a lot of speculation about this project being GSM only, at least at first. There's a pretty good reason for that, considering the last Nexus debacle.

So let's pretend that this will be the case. That means Verizon and Sprint are going to be on the outside looking in when it comes to using these mythical GSM-only Nexus phones. There's a whole lot of Android users on Verizon and Sprint, and plenty of them will be lusting after any type of pure Google offering.

If this sounds like you, will you switch? Sound off in the poll.

Will you switch carriers for the new Google Nexus line?

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3 years ago

Put a little sexy on your TouchPad moboot screen - webOS Nation style

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So you bought an HP TouchPad, threw Android on it (to make it worth a damn), and now you think you're done? You're not. It ain't done until you theme the moboot screen! And if you're gonna theme it, you have o check out the webOS Nation theme and show support for the other side of the TouchPad scene, where things are still webOS and they are gearing up for the open-source spectacular. 

The directions look simple enough, just flash a zip from recovery. Head over to the source link and give it a shot!

Source: webOS Nation

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3 years ago

Google addressing Music device de-authorization issues, back to 'normal' for now

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New: It might be your music, but it's still not your cloud

Google has made known that it is in the process of figuring out exactly how to handle the device authorization and de-authorization for Google Music, and for the time being they have reverted to the old method allowing unlimited device de-authorization. From Google Play's help pages:

Yesterday we made a change to our device policy for music on Google Play.  Any user can associate up to 10 devices to his or her account.  Once you have connected 10 devices, you may add a new device only by deauthorizing an existing one from your account, and you may do this up to four times per year.

We limit the number of times you can swap out new devices at the request of some of our music partners in an effort to limit abuse. We understand this has caused some issues for users who often deauthorize and reauthorize the same device, and we are currently re-implementing the solution in a way that works for our users and music partners.

We apologize for any inconvenience and will update this page as new changes are made.

We're not sure how they plan to address the issue, but we're sure glad they have given us all a chance to clear out all our old devices. Hopefully they can implement a fix that doesn't add the same device multiple times, but that still won't be a solution for folks who need to switch devices often. It's an interesting dilemma, and one that hits close to home. We'll keep our eyes on this one.

Source: Google; via The Verge

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3 years ago

Google IO sessions schedule listed - Android abounds

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We've got just a month and a half before Google IO hits San Francisco once more, and Google's just posted the list of sessions for this year's three-day event. As you can imagine there's more than a bit of Android on the agenda, with 20 sessions currently listed. (And it wouldn't surprise us in the least to see one or two more added before June 27 arrives.)

We've yet to find any hidden gems in the session listings -- no "Hey, come check out Jelly Bean" or anything like that -- but there's a whole lot that you coders (and us kibitzers) can look forward to. Hit the link below for the whole thing.

Source: Google IO sessions schedule

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3 years ago

Sprint customers in the US can now pay for all Google Play Store purchases using carrier billing

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For pretty much a year now, Sprint customers have been able to make use of carrier billing for app purchases on the Google Play Store but now, Sprint in cooperation with Google have gone ahead and taken it one step further. We knew it was coming but starting today, Sprint customers in the US can now use carrier billing for all their Google Play Store purchases including apps, music, books and movies. Anyone on Sprint going to be making use of this now that it is finally live? I've always been curious how many people make use of carrier billing.

Source: Google

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3 years ago

Android 5.0, Sensation ICS update [From the Forums]

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Although Verizon and Google managed to capture most of the news today, there was plenty more happening than just what came from them. If you happened to miss out on anything, get yourself caught up here on the blogs and check out some threads below from the Android Central Forums:

If you're not already a member of the Android Central forums, you can register your account today.

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3 years ago

Multiple Nexus devices could be a game-changer for Google and Android

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Google's reported introduction of more manufacturers into the Nexus fold could be a stroke of genius, but it’s not without its risks.​

We don’t often present entire articles of opinion on unconfirmed rumors here at Android Central, but the report this week concerning Google’s Nexus plans is a doozie. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is dramatically altering the nature of its Nexus program, bringing up to five manufacturers on board this year, with the aim of launching multiple Nexus devices with the next version of Android in late 2012. Oh, and this lineup will apparently include tablets as well as phones.

Google isn’t commenting officially, and the reports will likely remain the focus of fervent speculation as we approach Nexus season later in the year. But for the purposes of this article, let’s assume they’re true, and that Google will indeed work with different hardware partners in order to launch up to five Nexuses around Thanksgiving. 

To Android fans, it sounds like a dream offering -- more variety and choice in hardware when it comes time for a new version of their favorite OS. And more opportunities to get the very latest version of Android -- pure, vanilla Android, unmolested by custom user interfaces or carrier-mandated crapware. And as Android users ourselves, we’re sure that if this does come to pass, it’ll be an overwhelmingly positive development for everyone who buys an Android smartphone. It’s an opportunity for Google to get new versions of its OS out to consumers faster than ever, on varied hardware, in more markets than would be possible with just one hardware partner. And having multiple phones in different markets with the same excellent vanilla Android experience will help Google to better establish stock Android among the other major flavors of the OS.

But a multitude of challenges will face Google and its new Nexus partners as they prepare the next generation of Android phones and tablets. First of all, let’s look at why Google’s (probably) doing this. The original WSJ article points to concerns from manufacturers that Google may look to prop up the loss-making Motorola, which it's nearly done acquiring, by giving it privileged access to Android code at the expense of other phone-makers. (For its part, Google's Andy Rubin has said said this wouldn't happen.) Google’s desire to placate its hardware partners is undoubtedly a factor. As are the company’s ambitions to establish itself as a hardware vendor through its “Play” Store. But it’s also a way for Google to remedy some of the ailments currently afflicting its mobile platform.

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3 years ago

HTC: Sense 4 multitasking and memory management working as designed

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The confusion over the Sense 4 multitasking methods is about to come to an end, albeit in a way that many of you aren't going to like. While we were pretty confident that our investigation into the matter gave us the answers, we reached out to HTC about the issue, and it has responded with the following.

"HTC is aware of some questions in the enthusiast community about how the HTC One X handles multitasking and memory management for background apps. We value the community's input and are always looking for ways to enhance customers' experience with our devices. That said, right now multitasking is operating normally according to our custom memory management specifications which balance core ICS features with a consistent HTC Sense experience."

So there you have it. HTC has taken open-source Android, and customized it to its liking. We're not surprised, nor should you be. HTC places more emphasis on the front-end user experience, at the expense of background tasks, and has modified the source code to better suit its software. This is how open-source operates, and HTC should deliver what it  feels is best for their customers.

I think the real issue here is users' expectations. Sense 4 is as far from stock Android as iOS is from BSD. The core code was made available, and HTC has spent three years refining it, adding to it, and making it its own. From the user standpoint, only the very nerdly few are going to be up-in-arms about HTC's changes, and all of us knew ahead of time that HTC's phones would be running HTC's software. Our option is to purchase what suits us the best.

I've been using Sense 4 on the HTC One S for a bit now, and I think HTC has done a bang-up job with it. It's certainly not stock Android, and there are a few things I miss from vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich, but as mentioned, I knew that going in.

We often say Android gives everyone a choice -- let's not get out our pitchforks and write those petitions to try to take one away.

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