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3 years ago

How does NASA keep time on Mars? With an Android app of course!

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The Mars Curiosity Rover mission is big news, and rightly so enjoying fantastic coverage around the globe. Keeping things ticking along when it takes a signal 14 minutes to travel to and from the red planet is no mean feat. And, that's without taking into account having to keep track of the time, on Mars. 

While a Martian 'day' is split into the same segments as an earth day -- 24 hours, 60 minutes per hour, 60 seconds per minute -- on Mars, a second lasts longer than on Earth. Each day then ends up 39.5 minutes longer than on Earth, meaning that Crackberry Kevin's $500 watch app is of no use to anyone. 

There are smartphones involved though. Telling the time on Mars used to involve custom built quartz watches, but there is another way. Turns out that some of the team involved use their smartphones to keep track of time with a Mars Time app. The question about Martian watches was raised during a Q&A session on Reddit, and prompted this response from Surface Systems Engineer, Eric Blood:

Some of us do, but a lot of us have iPhone and Android apps with Mars time.

-Blood

Even on Mars, there's still room for Android. The app cited on Reddit was MarsClock by Scott Maxwell, grab it from the Google Play link above!

​Original Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Source: Reddit via TPM 

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3 years ago

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 unboxing [From the forums]

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Someone once said that unboxings are lame. Never mind that now. Dude was wrong, especially when it comes to our readers doing some great work.

You need to check out this Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 unboxing from xeroslash in our Android Forums. The composition. The angles. The Galaxy Note 10.1. The angles. And the composition. Clearly, somebody is gunning for Alex's Jerry's my someone's job.

Keep it up, and you just might get it.

More: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 unboxing

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3 years ago

Bank of America update adds mobile check deposit

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Bank of America has finally updated its Android app to include a couple features that iOS users, as well as Android users with other banks (all the way back in late 2010, we might add), have enjoyed for a while now. The app has generally had a good and usable UI, but has lacked both mobile check deposits and notifications. We're happy to report that both of these features are now available and ready for download in the form of an update from the Play Store. Unfortunately, the tablet version of the app has yet to be updated with the same features.

Additional functionality is nice, but what we would really like to see is Bank of America choosing to follow Android style guidelines and remove the legacy menu button from the app. There's really no reason, almost a year after the release of Android 4.0, for any developer -- let alone one of this size -- to keep coding their app without an action bar and overflow settings button.

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3 years ago

The good ship Android, OTG cable support [From the Forums]

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Just in case you missed out on some of the Android news today, now is the time to go ahead and get yourself fully caught up. Here on the blogs and in the Android Central Forums there is plenty to talk about. Have some questions? Need some help or just looking to chat Android? You know where to go, check out some of the threads below to get started.

We've got nearly 1 million members helping members and nearly 2 million posts in our Android Forums. Are you one of them? Join today!

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3 years ago

Incipio Silicrylic case review - hybrid protection with style

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The Incipio Silicrylic case is built out of a silicone skin, hard plastic outer casing and screen protector to keep the display from suffering any dings. All of the hardware buttons, inputs, microphones, and cameras remain full accessible in the the Silicrylic case, while those more concerned about looks will be happy about the wide variety of colors available.

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3 years ago

Twitter bringing changes to API access that's bound to affect Android developers

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Twitter has announced that they will be bringing some pretty big changes in version 1.1 of their API, and these changes are something that will affect just about every third-party Twitter client . In a post today on the official Twitter blog, they explain things a bit, but there's really three major changes:

  • authentication is now required on every API endpoint
  • there's a new per-endpoint rate-limiting methodology
  • changes to our Developer Rules of the Road, especially around applications that are traditional Twitter clients

The first two deal with how often third-party applications can query Twitter, and whether they can do it anonymously. Come March 2013, all developers are going to have to use something like OAuth when making API requests, instead of the current methods that allow an anonymous grab of things like Tweets on a current trend, or with a certain string of text embedded. This really only affects scrapers and aggregators, so it's not that big of a deal for app developers. The rate-limiting will adjust how often apps can use the API, which currently sits at 350 times per hour. With the new changes, different types of API calls will have different limits. The example limits given by Twitter have 60 calls per hour, per endpoint listed. That means that you can send 60 Tweets, look at 60 user profiles, and refresh 60 times in an hour. These changes will be live in "the coming weeks". On the surface, these changes make sense, and developers should be able to work with them in most cases.

The last change is the big one. Twitter is tightening the rules for unofficial clients, in ways that isn't likely to go over very well with developers. The three "Rules of the Road" changes they have highlighted are new display requirements, pre-installed mobile applications must be approved by Twitter, and requiring developers with a large amount of users to work directly with Twitter. The new display requirements dictate how Twitter apps will look and feel, and cover things like @ links and re-tweet formats. The approval of pre-installed apps means folks like Samsung and HTC who build Twitter into their software will have to get approval if they continue to bundle in the service. If developers ship a product without this approval, Twitter may revoke the applications use of the API. The last portion, which affect popular clients like Plume, spells out that apps with more than 100,000 users will have to work with Twitter. This isn't immediate, as apps that currently have more than 100,000 users will be allowed to grow another 200-percent before they will get limited functionality from the API. 

At a quick glance, none of these changes seem too drastic. But the real stickler will be what Twitter will and will not approve. Twitter has been accused of not playing fair in the past, even leading to a probe from the FTC. Developers and Twitter power-users are rightfully concerned, as most of the third-party applications both on iOS and Android offer more than the official clients do. We can't say for sure that these changes will be a bad thing until we see them, but there's certainly plenty of ways things could go wrong. The Internet will be watching to see how this all plays out.

Source: Twitter

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3 years ago

Trainyard review - when painting trains gets confusing

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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