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4 years ago

From the Editor's Desk: After Google I/O

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Three days just isn't enough to absorb all the info from Google I/O. In fact, it's physically impossible to get to every session, be it due to overlaps, overcrowding (only so many seats) or overexhaustion. It's a good problem to have, though, and Google handles it quite well.

In case you've been living under a rock, in addition to streaming a number of the key sessions live, Google also records them, so you can watch at your leisure. And that's what I've been doing since returning home from San Francisco, the better to get a grasp on all the new features and services announced. And if you've never seen one of these developer sessions before, you might be surprised just how entertaining and engaging they can be. This was my fourth Google I/O, and it still catches me a little off guard.

You can watch the developer sessions on YouTube.

Another surprise this year was the keynote address. Consolidated into a single address this year (as opposed keynotes the first two days at previous events), it went a whopping 3.5 hours. (Longer if you could the time spent waiting in line.) And it was time well-spent. There was so much information crammed into our brains in far less time than it took many of us to even get to San Francisco. But between all the new Google Play services, and the new Google Maps, and the improved Google+, and the Google Play game services -- and that's just the major Android stuff -- I could have gone another hour, easy. 

There's not a lot I can say about Larry Page's appearance -- his first such speech at Google I/O in the years I've attended -- that you can't get from watching the recording. (And I recommend you do.) But I will say this: I've always believed a good CEO should overreach a little. The more Apple-friendly pundits love to poke fun at some of the things Eric Schmidt has said over the years, and perhaps rightfully so. There's certainly a fine line between cheerleading, inspiring and downright crazy talk. And occasionally crossing that line opens you up to jokes and criticism, but I love the sort of head-first-into-the-wall mentality. It's what makes Google Google, it's what gets things done, and it's what moves us forward.

A few more thoughts on the week that was:

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4 years ago

Apps of the Week: Hubble Space Center, Sonic the Hedgehog, Field Trip and more!

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A game and a couple of tools highlight this abbreviated list of picks

The combination of Google I/O going on in San Francisco and BlackBerry Live in Orlando this week has our team a little sparse, but we think there are a few great picks to be seen this week regardless. Whether its just four apps or ten, we do our best every weekend to bring you apps that each of the Android Central writers have been using regularly the previous week.

Stick around after the break and see how this week's picks stack up against the rest.

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4 years ago

Verizon increasing data allowances on prepaid plans

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New plans available to existing customers now; new customers can take advantage June 6

As an update to a previous blog post detailing changes to its prepaid plans, Verizon stealthily made yet another change that will give prepaid customers even more data. Verizon keeps things simple on its prepaid smartphone offerings, with two tiers -- $60 and $70. Both have unlimited talk and text, and previously either 500MB or 2GB of data. Verizon is now bumping those up to 2GB and 4GB, respectively, with no price increase. The plan changes go into effect right away for existing customers that have either of the two plans, but new customers will have to wait until June 6th to have the option available when starting a line.

If you're new to Verizon's prepaid plans, you have to also remember that they are restricted to just its 3G service, and there's no indication of when (if ever) LTE will be included. With that being said, these are still a couple of good options that just got a little more competitive in the steadily expanding prepaid market.

Source: Verizon

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4 years ago

Mystery Google media player drops by the FCC

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Could a Nexus Q successor be on the way?

Google's kept pretty quiet about the Nexus Q since removing it from sale last summer. Last we heard, the company was still working on refining its streaming sphere, and that was back in January. In recent days, the lack of Nexus Q support in the new Google Play Music app had led some to believe that Google had abandoned the project. However, freshly-filed FCC documents indicate that Google could be preparing another media player device for release.

The "H840 Device" is revealed in FCC documents to function "as a media player," and was given with the model number H2G2-42, an apparent Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference. As is customary for unreleased products, Google has requested that diagrams and photos of the device remain confidential.

Testing documents reveal that it was tested hooked up to a 24-inch Dell monitor, and that it possesses Wifi a/b/g/n support and a USB port. What's more, it gets its power from a separate power supply unit, so we can safely assume this isn't a smartphone, tablet or wearable device.

Google unveiled the ill-fated Nexus Q at least year's Google I/O conference, where attendees were given complementary spheres. The Q went up for pre-order shortly afterwards, but before going on sale Google withdrew the device and shipped Qs out to pre-order customers free of charge. Despite being a no-show at this year's I/O, Google's official stance remains that it's "hard at work" improving the multimedia orb. So could this "H840" device be the result of the past year's efforts? We'll have to wait and see.

Source: FCC; via: Liliputing

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4 years ago

Google expanding mark up tools to select partners to influence Google Now cards

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Specific partnerships not yet named; hotels, flights and reservations are the focus

Speaking on one of the countless Google Developers Live talks at Google I/O, one of the creators of Google Now Baris Gultekin explained how select partners will get better access to Google Now going forward. When commenting on how Now can offer more useful information to users, Gultekin announced that certain Google partners will now be able to use mark up tools to put flags in emails that will get them directly noticed by Google Now. Similarly to the way Gmail currently looks for flight numbers, package shipment confirmations and hotel reservations, select third parties can now alert Gmail to look specifically at its email and find the relevant information to then push to Google Now.

Gultekin didn't mention any specific names in relation to this initiative, but he did note that it was focused on things like flights, hotels and dinner reservations. Getting all of the major airlines and hotel chains on-board with this program could help ensure that Google Now never misses an important event surrounding travel, which is very important if people are going to trust Google Now to give them relevant information.

The entire 22 minute talk (seen above) is quite interesting if you're at all interested in Google Now, but if you want to jump ahead to the specific part where Gultekin mentions the partnerships you can find it at about the 16 minute mark. This surely won't be the only little gem that gets noticed as people wade through the hours of footage coming out of GDL at Google I/O this year.

Via: TechCrunch

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4 years ago

Hangouts updated to correct tablet compatibility issues

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Nexus 7 and other tablet users can now update to replace the Google Talk app

Following its announcement at Google I/O, the new Hangouts app from Google has had a bit of a rocky rollout to certain devices. Because it replaces a pre-installed system app (Google Talk), there are some complications with pushing an update that makes so many changes. When the app first hit the Play Store many users wouldn't get the option to update, especially if they were on tablets. Google has just pushed out an update today that should fix those issues, making the app compatible with tablets of all sizes.

The app's description has also been updated to note that it is aware of some compatibility issues, and that Hangouts is actually being rolled out over the course of several days. That would explain why some users that were eager to install saw some hiccups. Rest assured that as of now most devices (using Android 2.3 and up) should be good to go with an update from the Play Store directly.

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4 years ago

Google Play Services gives control of Android back to Google

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With API services outside of the core operating system, Google is taking back control of Android

We didn't get a new version of Android this year at Google I/O. You can read all the lamenting and gnashing of teeth over this across the web, so I'll spare you the play by play of how it was supposed to happen (a proverbial lock), but didn't.

Instead, I'll tell you a little bit about what we did get -- a huge updated version of Google's service APIs, which turns out is much better.

Wait. Better? How can an app I never wanted that got magically pushed to my phone be better than a newer, higher number in my about phone screen? That's crazy talk, right?.

Turns out, that little app is a powerful beast. Read on.

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4 years ago

Pocket Casts updated with improvements and fixes galore

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Continuous playback over notifications and more bug fixes than you can shake a stick at

Since making the move to a completely new design with Pocket Casts 4, a few lingering bugs have been piling up. Those are getting squashed today, along with a few new feature adds, with a big update to the app today. First up, the update brings the option to have playback not be interrupted by notifications, which is still set to be off by default. The sharing menu for podcasts has also received a tweak that gives you three simple options -- email, other apps, copy link -- to cut down on the interface clutter. You can now mark every episode from a certain podcast as "unplayed", and long-pressing on the "next" button will skip to the next item in a playlist.

Some of the big user-facing bugs, such as duplicate episode downloads and action bar bugs that showed extra action buttons have been notably fixed. When episode downloads fail, they now properly show up in the "not downloaded" filter once again. There are also many more back-end issues that have been fixed as well. If you haven't had a chance to see Pocket Casts in action, now may be the time -- grab a download from the Play Store link above.

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4 years ago

Sony brings AOSP open-source Android to Xperia Tablet Z

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Vanilla, open-source Android available for 10-inch tablet on Sony GitHub

Like the Xperia Z before it, Sony has announced that it's bringing the Xperia Tablet Z into its version of the Android Open-Source Project (AOSP). The project brings the latest vanilla Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean to the tablet, with the caveat that it's not "certified or intended for daily use," and many of the features from the shipping ROM will be missing.

You'll also need to do a bit of legwork yourself if you want to get AOSP up and running on your Xperia Tablet Z. The code is available on the Sony GitHub, just as it is for the Xperia Z, but you'll need to download and compile it yourself. So this is by no means a quick, easy fix to turn the Tablet Z into a Nexus-style device, but active development from Sony -- not to mention community developers -- could eventually make this a tablet of choice for Android hackers.

You'll find more technical details over on the official Sony blog, linked below. The Xperia Tablet Z is already available in some countries around the world. The Sony U.S. store is currently taking pre-orders, with an estimated ship date of May 24.

Source: Sony Blog

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4 years ago

Sprint closes deal to buy spectrum and customers from U.S. Cellular in the Midwest

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PCS spectrum and 420,000 U.S. Cellular customers part of deal

Sprint has announced that it's closed a deal to purchase PCS spectrum and a large number of customers from U.S. Cellular in the Midwest. As part of the deal, Sprint gets its hands on 20MHz of PCS airwaves in " various Midwest markets including Chicago, South Bend, Ind., and Champaign, Ill.," and 10MHz in St. Louis. As part of the transaction, Sprint will also inherit around 420,000 U.S. Cellular customers. That transition, Sprint's press release reveals, will last "several months."

The customers affected by the purchase have already been informed, Sprint says, and it aims to offer them a smooth transition to its own network or one of its pre-paid brands, on a "similar or better" device at "little or no cost." The additional spectrum will help Sprint boost its network in these areas, as it looks to expand its 4G LTE coverage.

Source: Sprint

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4 years ago

Vodafone Smart III is new own-branded budget offering

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£95 up-front gets you Jelly Bean on a 4-inch screen

If you were wondering just how much smartphone you can get for under £100, Vodafone UK has your answer. The Vodafone Smart III is the latest entrant in the operator's Smart line, coming with mostly vanilla Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (despite the distinctly ICS-looking search bar) on a 4-inch WVGA screen. It's powered by an unnamed 1GHz processor with 512MB of RAM, and packs 5-megapixel rear camera, so there's nothing too fancy going on under the hood. But it's an attractive enough design, and we always like to see more vanilla Android out there.

The Vodafone Smart III sells for £95 outright on PAYG, and is given away for free on contracts starting at £13 per month. The device is on sale now in black and white color options.

Source: Vodafone

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4 years ago

Galaxy S4-compatible Samsung TecTiles 2 NFC tags now on sale

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Available today from Samsung, $15 for pack of five tags

Samsung has announced the availability of its second-generation TecTiles tags, tiny writable NFC stickers that can be used to trigger various actions on a smartphone. For example, used with the TecTiles app, they can be programmed to check in on social networks, or toggle various settings on the device when it's within range.

TecTiles 2 are compatible with all NFC-enabled Samsung phones, and the company says they may work on other Android-based phones with NFC too, though it's making no promises. Unlike first-gen TecTiles, TecTiles 2 are fully compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S4. (Go figure.)

The tags are available today from Samsung's online store, priced at $15 for a pack of five, and they'll be starting to appear in brick-and-mortar stores from June. Hit the Google Play link above to grab the TecTiles app, or the source link below to buy the tags themselves.

More: Samsung TecTiles

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4 years ago

HTC One production capacity to double in May

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Component supply issues behind it, HTC ramps up production of flagship device

Despite suffering some early setbacks due to camera component shortages, HTC is looking to ramp up production of its flagship HTC One handset. HTC North Asia president Jack Tong told Taiwan Focus that production will double in May and rise further in June to meet "strong demand." Speaking at a news conference, Tong added “We are optimistic about our high-end sales during April and June.”

Tong also highlighted the HTC Butterfly (the global version of the Droid DNA sold in Asia) as a strong performer, noting that sales had increased by as much as 50 percent since a price cut made it free on-contract in Japan. The Butterfly, Tong says, should also be getting a software update with Sense 5.0 and new features like BlinkFeed before the end of the month.

A shortage of specialized camera components resulted in shortages of HTC One stock around the phone's European launch, which had the knock-on effect of pushing back the U.S. release slightly. After a pretty dismal few months of financial results, HTC will be hoping that this increased demand for its phones will result in a stronger set of numbers in Q2.

Source: ZDNet, Focus Taiwan

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4 years ago

NVIDIA Shield up for pre-order ahead of schedule

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"Growing buzz" moves up pre-order date for gaming handheld

NVIDIA has announced that it's moved up the pre-order date for its Shield handheld gaming device, due to "growing buzz" from partners in recent days. That means you can now pre-order NVIDIA Shield right now, either directly from NVIDIA or through one of its retailer partners -- Newegg, Gamestop or Canada Computers. Pre-orders are live three days ahead of the planned May 20 date.

As was announced a few days back, Shield sells for $349.99, and devices pre-ordered today should be arriving "by the end of June." Alongside the console itself, NVIDIA's also offering pre-orders on the carrying case, which costs $39.99, and carbon fiber and glossy black replacement lids, which go for $19.99 each.

NVIDIA Shield has changed a bit since we first saw it under the "Project Shield" moniker at CES back in January. Check out all our recent Shield coverage, including our hands-on preview, to see what's new.

We've got pre-order links after the break.

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4 years ago

Fitbit app updated with Bluetooth 4.0 sync support for Galaxy S4

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Samsung's latest now syncs with your Fitbit

We might have to wait a while for native Bluetooth 4.0 support to make it into the Android code base, but while OEMs are shipping phones with their own implementation of the wireless standard, app developers seem more than willing to hop onboard.

As such, the Fitbit app for Android has today been updated to take advantage of Bluetooth 4.0 syncing on the Samsung Galaxy S4, with all the improvements in efficiency that it brings. As Bluetooth 4.0 support isn't yet standardized in Android, Fitbit says custom development work is required for each new handset. Naturally, Samsung's big-selling flagship was an early priority.

Here's hoping support will follow for other BT 4.0 handsets like the HTC One. In the meantime, you can grab the latest version of Fitbit for Android over at the Google Play link above.

Source: Fitbit Blog

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