Wednesday, December 31, 2014

HTC apparently has 'some huge surprises' coming in 2015

According to HTC's Jeff Gordon (he's their Senior Global Online Communications Manager), 2015 is going to be a big year for HTC. Of course, as their head online PR guy he's not going to say that 2015 will be a ho-hum year for the Taiwanese manufacturer of some of our favorite smartphones and the latest Nexus tablet, but we can't help but be interested in what HTC is planning on bringing to bear in the coming year.

Who knows, maybe we'll get our first glimpses at what HTC has up their sleeves at CES 2015 in just a week's time. As always, we'll let you know what there is to know when it's time to know.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What is a Motorola ID?


It seems that every time you set up a phone, the manufacturer wants you to not only log into Google, but register for their own system. Acer ID, Samsung account, LG Account — and Motorola ID, which we're prompted for on our lovely Moto X or Moto G.
So, just was is this Motorola ID used for, and do you really need to use it?
Let's find out together.

Before you get the wires crossed, Motorola ID isn't just for the suite of Motorola apps, except for Motorola Connect — Motorola's method for letting you see/respond to texts and calls on the computer — and Moto Help, which is essentially a portal to the support section of the Motorola website. And the website is where your Motorola ID is key, but you may not even really remember making one. See, for most people, your Motorola ID is your Google account, which makes logging in a little easier.
Actually, a Google account is preferred, hence that little blurb under the Motorola ID login about how you can log in with a Motorola ID and then link it up to Google. Apart from the usefulness on your Moto device, it's also handy on support sites, such as the Motorola forums, where you can get help from fellow owners and Motorola staff — and where you can participate in the Motorola Feedback Network, which provides soak tests.

On your Moto X


On your Moto X, shortly after you initially set up the phone, you'll be asked in one of several staggered notifications about enabling features if you'd like to turn on the native anti-theft guards. These duplicate Android Device Manager in a lot of ways (most ways, actually), but unlike Android Device Manager, which won't prompt you for administrator access so it can wipe itself if you're ever mugged, Motorola asks for this up front so you're prepared.

Moto Help also uses your Motorola ID to help speed things along when you need to chat about what's wrong with your phone. As someone who's had to use this feature a fair bit, I can vouch for how nice it is to not have to answer 50 questions about who I am and where I am before I get down to what my problem actually is.

The last main app to use your Motorola ID is Moto Connect, which uses the Motorola ID in order to connect your phone and computer together and allow you access to your phone even when it's not right in front of you. Moto Connect will allow you to answer texts while working without switching screens every 30 seconds. It may not seem like much, but anything that helps cut down on eye strain is a blessing in my book.

On future devices


Motorola ID doesn't do too terribly much right now — though what it does is quite important — and considering most Motorola IDs are Google Accounts, we wish that there were a little more that they did. I, for instance, have been through three Moto X 2013s and am currently on a Moto X 2014, and with each device, I have to wait for it to re-learn my patterns in Moto Assist for Driving and the like. If Motorola ID were able to transfer this data, or at least part of it (the Bluetooth devices that are recognized as vehicles in Driving), I'd be a very happy camper.
So, when you get popped the question of logging in with your Motorola ID, don't panic. It's nothing invasive, and your login information is closer than you think. Is there anything else you wish it was used for? Or do you think Motorola ID has gone far enough?

Twitter has a new advertising channel: your following list


No matter your school of thought on how you use Twitter, the list of people you follow now includes advertising. The first customer: MasterCard. On the web, and in the official Twitter apps for iPhone and Android, you'll find that you, and everybody else, have MasterCard as a promoted entry in your Following list.
Now, this doesn't mean that you're actually following MasterCard — they have just 388,000 followers and not the quarter-million user base of Twitter. It just means that MasterCard has managed to get an ad inserted in every following list tempting you to follow them back (at least on the iOS and web interfaces it's clear that you're not actually following them, the Android app shows the same checkmark button for accounts you're actually following and the MasterCard promotional listing). The left-to-fallow official Twitter apps for BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone, however, aren't showing the sponsored listing, nor are third-party Twitter clients.
While for most of us that's not the worst thing in the world — you're not actually seeing all of MasterCard's tweets, it is an interesting concept for advertising, especially if you're the type that looks at the list of whom somebody else is following. MasterCard is there. Everywhere you look on Twitter's following lists, you'll find MasterCard. Even for Visa and American Express. We're sure they're utterlythrilled about that.
For public figures and companies that can create an interesting conundrum. Many are cognizant of what accounts they follow. As, of all people, William Shatner noted:

Some of suggested blocking the offending account, and it's true that it will remove MasterCard from the sponsored slot in your following list. Problem is, it's simply replaced by another entry like IFC.com.
So yes, your Following list and every Following list you see now contains ads masquerading as follows. You're not actually following them, and Twitter isn't explicitly saying that you are, but MasterCard is there, holding down a spot in your top ten most recent follows.

Gmail service sees partial restoration in China


It appears that Gmail service has been partially restored in China. It was reported yesterday that the Chinese government was blocking access to the service through third-party apps, while the Gmail website has been blocked for years. While many are reporting that service has been restored, others are still experiencing delays or outages.
From the Financial Times:
The episode ended as mysteriously as it began — users of Gmail via POP and Imap servers, who had been frustrated for days trying to send and receive email, suddenly saw their inboxes full again, though some were still reporting delays in receiving emails and others said that their service had not returned.
According to Google's Transparency Report, Gmail traffic in China has experienced a small but noticeable uptick since this morning. Today's rise in traffic is the first noticeable movement since the outage began a few days ago.
Source: Financial Times

HTC wants you to desire more, teases upcoming launch at CES


It looks like HTC may be planning to unveil a new product in the Desire series at CES 2015. The Taiwanese manufacturer has shared an image with the tagline "Always Desire more" on its social media channels in China, along with a reveal date of January 6.

Other than that, there is no indication as to what HTC is planning for CES. We will be on the ground covering the event exhaustively, so be sure to stay tuned for more on the upcoming product. HTC has been focusing its attention on the mid-tier segment this year with offerings like the Desire 816 and more recently the Desire 820, which offers a 5.5-inch 720p display along with a octa-core 64-bit Snapdragon 615 CPU:

Monday, December 29, 2014

Xiaomi completes latest funding round of $1.1 billion, now valued at $45 billion


Xiaomi has completed its latest round of funding, raising $1.1 billion, at a valuation of $45 billion. Funding at this level was reported a couple of weeks ago, and as the report said, the funding was led by All-Stars Investments.
In a statement, Xiaomi president Bin Lin said that the company will continue towards its goal of making high-quality devices for everyone. Lin also said that they would debut their next flagship device, expected by many to be called the Mi 5, in January 2015:
We just completed the latest round of funding last week, raising US$1.1 billion at valuation of US$45 billion. Investors include All-Stars Investment, DST, GIC, Hopu Fund and Yunfeng Capital among others. This is an affirmation of Xiaomi's stellar results in four years, and heralds a new phase for the company.
We will strive to continue bringing innovation to everyone, with a goal of producing high-quality, high-performance devices with great user experience. In January 2015, we will be unveiling our next flagship device. Big thanks to all Mi fans, business partners and investors for your strong support.

China blocks access to Gmail through apps


Access to the Gmail website has been blocked for some time in China, but now the Chinese government is also blocking access to Gmail through apps. The block affects not just the official Gmail apps, but also accessing Gmail through third-party apps.
Said Google in a statement:
"We've checked and there's nothing wrong on our end."
Traffic to Gmail from China, according to Google's Transparency Report has plummeted to next to nothing, indicating that there are still some Chinese users that have managed to circumvent the block by using a VPN, but most are currently out of luck. Gmail joins Google Search and Google Maps in being blocked by Chinese authorities, as well as Facebook.

Qualcomm teases a mystery phone for CES, perhaps the LG G Flex 2?


CES 2015 is coming up fast, and Qualcomm wants you to know that you'll be seeing new hardware with a Snapdragon 800-series processor inside. The close-up graphically-transparent (probably not actually like that in real life) phone in question has hints of an LG design, down to the metal-but-not-actually-metal finish back panel set around the signature back-mounted power and volume buttons. It's not any LG phone we've seen so far, and for all we know if might just be a generic render that just so happens to have design features in common with what we'd expect from LG... so what might this be?



If we were to go out on a limb, we might say this is the LG G Flex 2, a follow-up to the amazing bendy LG G Flex. LG originally pointed to 2014 for a release for the G Flex 2, but they're very quickly running out of time to unveil it. Might as well wait for CES, the biggest technology media extravaganza of the year, no?
And if we want to get really speculative, those buttons do have a squared-off look to them that's shared with the original G Flex, while bringing some of the design language of the LG G3 to the flex phone party.
Either way, we'll find out soon enough.

New Moto G model pops up sporting LTE and larger battery


It looks like Motorola may have more in store for its lower end offering — in Brazil at least. According to the company's Brazilian page, a newer model of the 2nd generation Moto G could be on the horizon. This model packs LTE connectivity along with a slightly bigger battery.
There's no telling when this particular model will make its appearance, but it looks as if the LTE model will be packing a 2390mAh battery — slightly larger than the original's 2070mAh offering.
We were already pretty darn impressed with Motorola's budget alternative to the Moto X, but this bump in specs is sure to make an already great device even better. However, it is important to note that there is no confirmation of this particular model coming to other markets; this could simply be a Brazilian exclusive. In addition, this move shouldn't seem too surprising as the company released an LTE capable version of the first generation Moto G as well.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

So you just got a new Android smartphone ...


So, you just got a new Android smartphone — that's pretty exciting! But once the initial awe of this new gadget wears off, you realize you actually need to use that phone. For those of us who read (and write for) Android Central regularly a new phone isn't such a big deal, but if you've just received your firstAndroid phone it can be a bit daunting.
But that's what we're here for — with a little research you'll have your new Android up and running, and you'll be a pro in no time at all. Read along with us and see the first things you need to do with your new phone.

Where to get started

  • First thing's first — you'll need a Google Account to get started with your Android phone. If you have Gmail you have a Google Account already, and if not you can make one either online or when you first set up your phone. This single account unleashes the power of Google Play for apps, but also Gmail, YouTube and sync in Chrome.
  • Just as important, let's talk about security. Set up Android Device Manager so you can keep your data safe if your phone is lost or stolen.
  • Coming from an iPhone? You'll probably want to know how to get your iTunes music over onto Android.
  • Once the music is on the device, check out our favorite music player apps.
  • Don't care for the look of your phone's software? Consider a third-party launcher to customizethings a bit.
  • You'll probably spend some time in Google Play grabbing some new apps. Check out our app reviews for information, read our weekly list of app picks every Sunday to see what we're all using and browse the app gallery for all of the apps we recommend.
  • For further learning, read all of the basic help and how-to posts we've written on our main How To page.

Samsung announces an even-faster Galaxy Note 4


The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is already a speedy phone, but there's a new version that can download over LTE even faster than before. The current version of the Galaxy Note 4 includes LTE-A with dual-band carrier aggregation — the ability to combine two frequency bands (carrier, in this case, is frequency on which the tower is broadcasting) — for downloads up to 150Mbps. The new version, however, bundles together three bands for downloads that can reach up to 300Mbps.



Of course, getting downloads actually that fast require that your phone be connected to a tower that also supports tri-band carrier aggregation as well as having ideal conditions (i.e. you're standing right in front of the tower) and the line delivering bandwidth to the tower also being capable of such speeds. Carrier aggregation also reduces the number of available bands for users, so you'll want to be hooking up when there are fewer people around.

All of this falls under the umbrella of "Category 6" LTE service, and the tri-band Note 4 will also support LTE-A Category 9 with up to 450Mbps download speeds, but that's not expected until later in 2015 (and will see the same restrictions as noted above for Cat 6).

It's not just you: Twitter's all jacked up tonight


If Twitter suddenly logged you out of your mobile apps and won't let you back in — or a device or a desktop, actually — you're not alone. In fact, you're in damned good company. We're locked out, too.
Question is if any of us remembers how to communicate with each other with more than 140 characters. I have a hunch we'll be OK.
For more, check back with Twitter's status page, which should update sometime long after everything is fixed, if history repeats.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The 'Frozen' soundtrack is free on Google Play


You might well hate yourself, but your kids will love you. The (admittedly excellent) soundtrack for the "Frozen" movie is available for free today on Google Play. (At least it is here in the U.S.)
If you've got kids, do 'em a favor and give in and download this ASAP. They'll love you for it. And we won't tell anyone that you already knew all the words anyway.

HTC Gallery update adds cloud viewing support and Face Fusion photo editor


HTC has released an update to its HTC Gallery app in the Google Play Store that adds a number of new features to the photo application, including a way to view photos and videos on the cloud and a new Face Fusion editor.
HTC has this to say about these two new features:
Just connect your Facebook, Dropbox, Flickr and Google Drive accounts to see your favorite memories in one convenient place. There's no need to worry about filling your phone's storage space because Cloud Gallery only uses space-saving thumbnail images for browsing. You can choose to download the full-size photo or video from the cloud anytime. Using this feature doesn't upload your local content to your online accounts.
If you're feeling slightly silly, check out the Face Fusion photo editor. It lets you blend the features of two faces together to create an entirely new person. Try blending your best selfie with a snapshot of a celebrity.
In addition, the new HTC Gallery version has these new features:
  • Tag view
  • Tag images on your phone with keywords
  • Search files on your phone by tag
  • See and search tags from Facebook and Flickr (coming soon in some regions)
  • Updated timeline layout for feed view and grid view
  • Improvements
The new cloud photo viewing feature is not available in all regions yet. Also, keep in mind this app is strictly for some HTC smartphones such as the HTC One M8.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Up to $220 worth of apps are now free via Amazon's Appstore Christmas bundle


Amazon's holiday Appstore promotion is now live, and includes over $220 worth of apps that are being given away for free. The highlights from the giveaway include apps like Plex and Fleksy Keyboard, and games such as Angry Birds Space, Colin McRae Rally, Worms 3, Cogs and more.
Here's a list of all the content that is available for free until December 26:

Fun & Games

  • Age of Zombies: Season 2 ($0.99)
  • Angry Birds Space (Ad-Free) ($0.99)
  • Angry Birds Space HD (Fire Edition) ($2.99)
  • Anomaly Warzone Earth HD ($3.99)
  • COGS ($2.99)
  • Colin McRae Rally ($1.99)
  • Construction Simulator 2014 ($2.99)
  • Farming Simulator 14 ($2.99)
  • Five Nights at Freddy's ($2.99)
  • Quell Reflect ($1.99)
  • RPG Soul Historica ($3.99)
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ($2.99)
  • Terraria ($4.99)
  • Tetris ($2.99)
  • To-Fu Fury ($1.99)
  • Worms 3 ($4.99)

Music & Entertainment

  • djay 2 ($2.99)
  • iReal Pro - Music Book & Play Along ($12.99)
  • Plex ($4.99)
  • TuneIn Radio Pro ($9.99)
  • Ultimate Guitar Tabs and Tools ($7.99)

Photo

  • InstaPlace ($1.99)
  • Color Splash FX ($0.99)
  • Photo Transfer App ($1.99)
  • PicShop - Photo Editor ($2.99)
  • ShutterFolio, an app for Shutterfly ($2.99)

Health & Fitness

  • Endomondo Sports Tracker PRO ($4.99)
  • Just 6 Weeks ($1.99)
  • The Muscular System Manual: The Skeletal Muscles of the Human Body ($64.99)

Utilities

  • Calculator Pro ($0.99)
  • ElectroDroid Pro ($2.71)
  • Fleksy Keyboard ($1.99)
  • InstaWeather PRO ($1.99)
  • Jump Desktop (RDP & VNC) ($9.99)
  • Mirroring360 - AirPlay Receiver ($6.99)
  • My Alarm Clock ($1.99)
  • Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 8th edition ($30.99)
  • Root Explorer ($3.99)
  • Splashtop Remote Desktop ($4.99)
  • Wolfram|Alpha ($2.99)
The following games will be available at a discounted price of $0.99 (down from $6.99):
  • Wheel of Fortune
  • Leo's Fortune
  • The Amazing Spider-Man
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Angry Birds Star Wars Premium HD
  • Angry Birds Seasons HD
Amazon is also discounting in-app purchases in titles such as Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds Stella, Episode – Choose Your Story and The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth. To download the content, you're going to need to install Amazon's Appstore, which can be done from here.
Along with the deals on apps, Amazon is offering discounts on TV shows, movies and books in addition to Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon Fire TV and much more. Head on over to Amazon's Appstore from the link below to check out all the content on offer.

Xiaomi has sold 1 million smartphones in India


China-based Xiaomi has now sold one million of its Android smartphones in India, according to an announcement today from its Indian chief Manu Kumar Jain on Twitter.



The company started selling smartphones in India just under six months ago. Until just recently, it had three devices on sale in that country; the Xiaomi Mi 3, the Xiaomi Redmi 1S, and the Xiaomi Redmi Note. However, Xiaomi got hit with a sales ban in India earlier this month, due to a claim from Ericsson that its smartphones violate several of its patents. The sales ban won't be lifted until at least Feb. 5. However, the company later got an Indian court to allow them to sell smartphones that have Qualcomm chipsets until Jan. 8, which allows sales of the Redmi 1S to continue. The Redmi Note 4G will go on sale in India next week.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Huawei's Honor line sees massive surge in sales over last year

Huawei's low-cost smartphone strategy appears to be paying off. According to a new report, the Chinese manufacturer has increased sales of its Honor lineup from 1 million to 20 million units in one year, which no doubt contributed to its rise to the fourth largest smartphone seller in the world.
According to Reuters, Huawei has managed this success through adopting an online-only approachcoined by its smaller rival, Xiaomi:
Given the early signs, Huawei executives hope to emulate the phenomenal growth of Xiaomi, which broke into the global top five in just a few years - a success not likely to go unnoticed by the growing ranks of low-cost Chinese smartphone makers.
This online approach is something that Huawei sees as a boon to reduce costs in the competitive low-cost smartphone market:
Honor brand president Jeff Liu said industry transition to an online sales strategy was inevitable given the competitive pricing, afforded by reduced distribution expenses that would otherwise make up 30 percent of handset costs.
Source: Reuters

Samsung closes flagship store in London amid sales decline


Samsung has shut down its flagship Experience Store in London's Westfield Stratford shopping center. One of ten such retail locations around the country, the store was located in a prominent section of the mall and was often the first retail outlet to commence sales of devices like the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5.
The deconstruction of the store was noted by visitors to the mall last night:

In a statement provided to The Verge, Samsung stated that its decision to close the store would not affect the operation of the remaining Experience Stores in the UK:
We remain fully committed to the operation of the remaining nine Samsung Experience Stores across the UK, and wish to reassure our customers that those stores will not be affected by this decision.
The closure of its flagship store highlights the downturn Samsung is witnessing of late. The South Korean manufacturer had its profits eroded by 60 percent in the third quarter of 2014, and has seen sales overshadowed by local vendors in emerging markets like China.
Some of the cost-cutting measures by Samsung include a reduction in its smartphone portfolio by as much as 30 percent in 2015, followed by a decision to end sales of Chromebooks in Europe. At this stage, it is unclear as to how the downturn in sales would affect Samsung's planned retail expansion in the territory.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Temple Run VR brings first person endless running to the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition


Classic endless runner Temple Run has made its way to the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition with the release of Temple Run VR. In the latest from Imangi Studios, you'll run through an Arctic wilderness avoiding enemies in one of the Gear VR's first games. This game brings the Temple Run action into the first-person perspective for the first time in the series.

Stealing an idol from an ancient temple, you'll need to dodge the deadly Arctic Demon Monkeys to make it out alive. You'll face a variety of hazardous environments, such as patches of snow and ice, rickety, icy footbridges, countless cliffs to jump over, and other obstacles.
Temple Run VR is available now for free from the Oculus Store.

HTC's 'Hot Deal' offers 20 percent off any of its phones through January 2


If you've been waiting to get an HTC phone, the company is holding a sale on all of its phones as this week's "Hot Deal". HTC is offering 20 percent off any of its phones from now until 9PM PST on January 2, 2015 when purchased through their website. There is a limit of one phone per customer.

To take advantage of the deal, customers must select their phone, then enter the code HTCHOLIDAY20 at checkout. While there is a device limit, unlike previous "Hot Deals," there doesn't seem to be a customer limit on today's offer, with phones on sale for all customers for the duration of the deal.

Source: HTC