Headlines

1 week ago

Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick can now access HBO Now

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In July, the HBO Internet cable TV service officially launched for Android along with Amazon's Fire tablets. Now the same service is available on Amazon's Fire TV set-top box and the Fire TV stick HDMI dongle.

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1 week ago

iHeartRadio's Chrome Extension lets you control what you are listening with ease

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iHeartRadio has released a Chrome Extension which makes it easier to control what you are listening to, without having to change what is on your screen. Often times when listening to music, if you don't like what you hear, you need to hunt down the app and then change the song. With the new Chrome Extension, you can quickly, and easily, access all of the players functions, including skip, thumbs up/down, favorites and more.

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1 week ago

How to take a scrolling screen capture on the Galaxy Note 5

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This got tucked into our larger post on how to take a screenshot on the Galaxy Note 5, but it's cool enough that it deserves a mention of its own. Using the "Screen write" function of Samsung's new software, you can do a "Scroll capture" of whatever you've got on your screen. Want to share an entire web page or vertically scrolling app? Not a problem. It takes just a few taps, and Samsung does a really nice job of stitching it all together for you.

Check it out.

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1 week ago

ASUS ZenPad tablets now available in the UK from a variety of retailers

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Customers in the UK who are looking to get their hands on ASUS' newest ZenPad tablets can now do so from a number of retailers both in-store and online. This year, ASUS announced a number of tablets with varying specs, and now 8 of the models are available for purchase in the UK, with prices starting at just £79.99. The tablets are available in 7, 8, and 10-inch models, with varying storage and other options.

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1 week ago

Bing for Android now allows users to access search data inside other apps

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Microsoft has updated the Bing search app for Android to give users a way to access its search and data information inside other apps. This new feature should allow users to access helpful information without having to leave, for example, Facebook or YouTube.

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1 week ago

Sony's latest SmartBand can monitor your heart rate and stress levels

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Sony has announced the SmartBand 2, with the fitness tracker now featuring a heart rate monitor that can check your pulse, and even your stress levels in conjunction with the accelerometer. While it does not feature a display, the SmartBand 2 does offer customizable LEDs that you can use to configure between calls, messages and emails. The SmartBand 2 is compatible with all Android smartphones running Android 4.4 and above, and iOS devices running iOS 8.2 and up.

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1 week ago

Honor 7i with 13MP flip camera, Snapdragon 616 now official in China

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The latest offering from Huawei's sub-brand is the Honor 7i, which features a 13MP flip camera that can rotate 180 degrees. The rotatable nature of the camera means that you can use it as a front-facing shooter to take selfies as well. Another interesting feature on the phone is a fingerprint sensor on the side, marking a departure from the more conventional use cases we've seen thus far.

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1 week ago

Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 and S6 edge+ head to South Korea

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Samsung has launched the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ in South Korea, with the launch coinciding with the debut of Samsung Pay in the country. The Galaxy Note 5 will be sold in White Pearl, Black Sapphire and Gold Platinum color variants, while the Galaxy S6 edge+ will be available in Black Sapphire and Gold Platinum options.

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1 week ago

A look at the Moto app on the Moto G 2015

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Moto

Motorola has enabled some features from the Moto app for the new Moto G 2015. We first saw these "smart" — and fully disableable — features with the original Moto X, and they have been refined to work better with newer versions of Android. To Motorola's credit, the current version provides three simple, yet powerful functions that work well — even on the "lesser" hardware of the Moto G 2015.

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1 week ago

How to take a screenshot on the Galaxy Note 5

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Taking a screenshot on your phone is one of its most basic functions, but the Galaxy Note 5 has a trick up its sleeve that helps it go well beyond a standard one-screen capture. Though you still have two simple ways to take a regular full-screen screenshot to share or keep for yourself, there's also a new option called "scrolling capture" that lets you automatically stitch together multiple screenshots into a full scrollable and editable image.

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1 week ago

Samsung wants to take its patent fight with Apple to the Supreme Court

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Samsung is planning to take its ongoing tussle with Apple to the Supreme Court, according to recently filed court documents. Following a rejection by the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a decision that could see Samsung paying out hundreds of millions to Apple, Samsung is hoping to take its case to the highest court.

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1 week ago

Analysis claims the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has the best smartphone display yet

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Research firm DisplayMate, which regularly offers its opinions on the quality of smartphone and tablet displays, has conducted its usual, and extensive, series of tests on the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Note 5. The final result of those tests has the firm declaring that the display on Samsung's latest phone is the best one made for any smartphone yet.

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1 week ago

Your new phone will have less Google bloatware, and that's awesome

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Google Apps on a Galaxy S6 edge+

You might have heard that the new Samsung Galaxy Note 5 comes without Google+ preinstalled. While some are using this as more "proof" that Google+ is dead (that's another discussion for another time), in reality it's just one of several Google applications that are no longer required to be included by the folks who make our phones.

The way this whole Android thing works is difficult for some to understand. Google writes and updates Android itself, but gives the source code away to anyone. As consumers, we can get our own copy from the AOSP (Android Open Source Project) repository. Google even has pretty thorough instructions to help you build it into a fully functioning version of Android.

Phone manufacturers have access to the Android source code, too. They also get it for free. Like you and I, they are allowed to modify and change any parts they like. This is how things like the Amazon FireOS happen. And it's a very good thing.

If a phone manufacturer wants to include the Google apps suite they need to conform to a few rules

But things get a little different when it comes to installing Google's proprietary apps and services.

If a phone manufacturer wants to include the Google apps suite — things like the Play Store or Gmail (and more) — they need to conform to a few rules. Once they have done their thing to Android itself, they have to have their version tested for compatibility by Google. Once approved, they are given a package list of apps they must install.

In the past, we've seen all sorts of applications made by Google that many of us wish weren't installed. Samsung, or LG or HTC included them because they were part of the mandatory package list from Google. You either take them all, or you get none. That sounds pretty unfair, but Google never said they were fair. These apps aren't open source, nor are they part of the AOSP. If you want Gmail to be on your new phone from any manufacturer, you're also going to get other apps Google wants to be installed. It makes sense from a business standpoint, but it never felt very friendly. And it's not just Google who does this sort of thing. Apple bundles bloatware many don't want or need into every iPhone, as does Microsoft. These companies want you to see all of their services, and aren't afraid to push them on you.

Apple bloatware

Luckily, things are getting better. Recent changes to the rules phone makers need to follow to get a Google approved version of Android have allowed for certain apps to no longer be mandatory. Google Play Games, Google Play Books, Google+ and Google Newsstand now join the ranks with Google Earth and Google Keep as apps that aren't a required part of the Google applications package. They are still in the Play Store, are still regularly updated and will work just as well for those of us who want them. And this is how things ought to be. In fact, we'd like to see even more Google apps get sent packing, but still be there in the Play store for those who want them.

I don't want applications I'll never use to be preinstalled on my phone. Whether it's Google Play Newsstand, or Apple's iBooks, or Microsoft Money, these companies have an effective delivery method for folks who want to use them in their respective application stores. The less bloatware that gets tossed in my face, the better.

Of course, this doesn't stop the folks building our phones from installing their own applications. Nor does it stop the carriers from pre-installing every app they think they can make a few pennies from installing. You're still going to have apps like T-Mobile TV, Sprint Zone, AT&T Navigator and Verizon Messenger installed, whether you want them or not.

WhatsApp pre-installed on the Note 5

But at least you won't have to disable Google Play Newsstand, and that's a step in the right direction from Google.

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1 week ago

HTC One M9 on Verizon to receive Android 5.1 update beginning August 20

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Verizon will finally begin pushing the Android 5.1 update out for the HTC One M9 beginning on August 20. According to HTC's Mo Versi, HTC has received approval from Verizon to push the update, which will bring several other fixes in addition to Android 5.1.

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1 week ago

Open Radio, and why long lists don't work in Android Auto

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We've picked nits here and there about little things in some of the apps that are available for Android Auto. And mostly they're issues that could be cleaned up by Android Auto itself. And we've largely let them slide given that this is a new platform for Google and Android.

But we've finally found an Android Auto app that's left us scratching our heads.

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