Friday, January 30, 2015

Google Earth Pro features now available for free to everyone

Google has announced that they are making Google Earth Pro features free to all users. Google Earth Pro adds a number of features and on top of the standard Google Earth desktop setup that allow you to measure 3D buildings, record HD video of your virtual flights, and more. You'll now be able to record your virtual trip to your favorite city absolutely free.
To use Google Earth Pro for free, you can download the desktop app and grab a free key from Google. Enter your user name and license key when you open the app and you'll be good to go. Existing Pro users don't need to do anything, and their license keys will continue to work just fine.
Source: Google

Lollipop delayed for some carrier versions of HTC One M8 and M7

After releasing Lollipop for the M8 on a few Canadian carriers just yesterday, HTC has announced today that it won't be able to hit the promised 90-day window for a rollout to some carrier versions of the HTC One M8 and One M7.
Mo Versi, HTC's VP of Product Management wrote of the development in a blog post today, saying:
We've been working hard in the labs with Google and our carrier partners ever since the code release and are making great progress so far, but if you've been following the progress of this rollout you will know that Google has had to address several issues with this release. We've been diligently working to fix some of them on our end and incorporating Google's fixes as quickly as possible, but despite everyone's best efforts some carrier versions of the HTC One (M8) and HTC One (M7) will not meet our 90 day goal, which is February 1st. While we are committed to delivering within this time period, we are even more committed to ensuring these updates result in an even better experience with your device because that is what the updates are intended to do.
It's important to emphasize this is for certain carrier editions only. HTC has already managed to push Lollipop to both unlocked and Google Play Edition devices so far. There's no timeline on when users can expect the update to eventually rollout to their carrier version, but Versi notes that they are committed to hitting as close to that 90-day windows as possible.
Source: HTC

Google Now gets integration with 40 third-party apps

If you were looking to pick a little more information in your Google Now cards, there's some good news today: Google has rolled out integration with third-party apps, enabling them to surface information within their own Now cards.

Google says it worked with a wide variety of developers to initially add support for 40 different apps. From its blog post:
In the morning, catch up on news of the day with cards from The Guardian. On your commute, Pandora can give you recommendations for music to play, based on what you like, or you can be reminded to complete your daily French lesson on Duolingo. During your downtime, you can take care of the groceries, with a card from Instacart reminding you to stock up on the things you often order. If you're planning a trip and looked up places to stay on your Airbnb app but couldn't make up your mind, you'll see Now cards from Airbnb for the location and dates you've researched. And when you land at an airport, you'll see a card to order a Lyft.
We haven't yet seen any cards from third-party apps on our devices, but Google notes that you should make sure you're on the latest version of its Google app to start seeing the new cards. Still, Now cards just got a whole lot more convenient. If you'd like to browse a list of currently supported apps, you can find that here. For more information on the integration itself, you can hit up that source link below.
Source: Google

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Z Launcher beta update brings preliminary icon pack support, UI improvements

After making its Z Launcher open to the public in beta form last fall, Nokia has issued the first major update for the app. In this update, Nokia is laying the groundwork for icon pack support, along with various UI and design improvements.
Here's the full breakdown of what's new and improved in beta version 1.1.0:
  • Preliminary support for icon packs
  • Long press on text - you can uninstall or hide app app from the ranked list, in addition to existing long-press behavior such as long-pressing the icon to drag it to the favorites bar
  • UI improvements for a wide range of Android devices
  • Improved design and performance of carousel widgets
  • Improved Scribble handwriting recognition
  • Play store icon will load Play store without pre-searched text (We heard you on this one!)
  • Bug fixes
One of the hallmarks of Nokia's launcher replacement is its predictive nature. In other words, the launcher tries to predict what you're going to want to do with your device and populates a list of apps or actions at your fingertips based on those predictions.
If you're intrigued by this launcher replacement, feel free to hit up that Google Play badge above and grab the update — provided you have a compatible device. 

Microsoft reportedly invests in Cyanogen Inc., world predictably freaks out

The Wall Street Journal today on its Digits blog dropped word that Microsoft is "putting money into Cyanogen." No dollar amount figures were listed by the Journal's anonymous sources, thought it is noted that Microsoft "would be a minority investor in a roughly $70 million round of equity financing."
This, of course, means that Google is doomed and Android as we know it is over. The Internet said so shortly after the rumor broke.
Except that's not what it means at all.
Android truly is becoming a commodity. And the future is all about services. Google's gotten it right. Or, more correctly, it's gotten a lot of things right as it continues to build out new services. (And it's not like Google's ceased development.) Other companies either have their own services — say, Amazon and its Prime Instant Video — or license other services, such as maps. Microsoft half-heartedly attempted to do the same thing with Nokia X in emerging markets in 2014 — Android underneath, and Microsoft services on top.Never mind the talk of the 50 million CyanogenMod users. Or 9,000 volunteer developers. That's rhetoric and a good bit of fuzzy math (and, editorially speaking, a whole lot of padding out a little bit of news), especially when you consider just how many Android devices are out there in the world. (Something like 1 billion alone in 2014, to say nothing of the boom years before it.) And never mind that (excellently worded and predictably misused) "we're attempting to take Android away from Google" quote from Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster that opened his Q&A with The Information. (paywall)
And Bloomberg chimed in as well with its own anonymous source with more of the same, saying this investment is "about creating a version of the Android mobile-operating system that's more friendly to Microsoft services."

Google Play drives growth in 'other revenues' section of Google business to $1.95 billion

Google released its Q4 2014 earnings today, showing strong numbers all around, but on the earnings call we also got word on the strength of Google Play. Google CFO Patrick Pichette said today on the call that Google's "other revenues" segment grew by 19 percent year-over-year (6 percent quarter-over-quarter) to $1.95 billion, driven primarily by growth in Play Store sales.
"Other revenues" doesn't sound too important, but it actually makes up a full 11 percent of Google's revenues as of Q4, which is nothing to sneeze at. The growth came despite critical shortages of the Nexus 6, which Google confirmed earlier in the call.
The Play Store isn't going to become a substantial portion of Google's revenues any time soon, but it's clearly heading in the right direction.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sony teams with Spotify for new streaming service to replace Music Unlimited

Sony is teaming up with Spotify to launch PlayStation Music, a new streaming music service coming in spring 2015. The service will replace Music Unlimited, which will shut down everywhere that it is currently available on March 29, 2015. Beginning Feb. 28, current active Music Unlimited subscribers will get free access to the service until its closure.
Users will be able to link their PlayStation ID to their existing Spotify account, allowing for an easier sign-up process. PlayStation Music will be available for both the PlayStation 3 and 4 gaming consoles, as well as a number of Sony's Xperia devices.
From Sony:
The new service will launch initially on PS4 and PS3, as well as Xperia smartphones and tablets. You'll of course be able to listen to your favorite playlists – including existing playlists from current Spotify users as well as Spotify curated playlists – and enjoy the service on all of Spotify's supported devices.
PlayStation Music will be launching in 41 markets, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Brazil. Sony will also change the name of its Video Unlimited service to PlayStation Video in February but it will not be getting a third-party partner.
Source: SonySpotify

Your typical mobile gamer today spends two hours every day face-down in a tablet

A new survey of mobile gamers conducted by the NPD Group says that they are playing, on average, over two hours a day on their devices. The survey, conducted in late 2014, indicates a 57% increase in the average play time for mobile gamers, compared to just 80 minutes a day in 2012.
NPD's report is based on an online survey of 5,566 individuals ages 2 and older. It states:
Kids ages 2 to 12 are spending the greatest proportion of their device time on gaming versus other activities. This age group is also playing more games (average of 5 games), as well as more games that were paid for (average of 3 games). The average amount of money spent by this age group over the past 30 days on new games, and in-game purchases is also one of the highest, second only to mobile gamers in the 25 to 44 age group.
Tablets are the mobile devices that are used the most for games, according to the survey. Tablet gamers also are more likely to pay for games and to spend more money on average than smartphone gamers. However, just one in five players that were surveyed play games exclusively on smartphones and tablets; the rest also play games on other devices and platforms.
Be sure to check out our recent looks at gaming on Android devices, including the best RPGs and the best free games.
Source: NPD Group

How to adjust video auto-play settings in the Facebook app

Facebook changes a lot of things on us automatically, whether it's on the web or on your phone, and one of the more annoying "features" turned on automatically is auto-play videos. From Facebook's perspective auto-play videos seem great — videos are loaded in the background so they play instantly, and as you scroll through your timeline they catch your eye since they're playing without your interaction.
What's best for Facebook may not be best for how you use the service, though, so we're going to show you how to turn off auto-play videos in the Facebook app. Read along and find out how — it only takes a few taps.

Just like most Facebook features, the ability to manage your video auto-play settings is quite buried in the app but simple once you get there. Tap or swipe over to the app menu by hitting the menu button, which is in the top right corner of the Facebook app, then scroll down and tap App Settings. Once in the App Settings, you'll want to scroll down until you find Video Auto-play and tap it.
Chances are by default the app has set auto-play video to "on," which will let the app download videos in the background when it sees fit so they're ready to go whenever you open the app (note: sound does not automatically play with the video until tapped). This causes higher data usage from the Facebook app, and we wouldn't recommend leaving this setting on. You can go all the way to "off" so videos are never downloaded ahead of time nor do they play in your timeline as you scroll by — also a good option. The healthy middle ground is "Wifi only," which as it sounds will only download videos in the background while on Wifi, meaning there will be no hit to your mobile data. Once downloaded videos will still play automatically in the timeline, but at least you aren't wasting mobile data on videos you'll never watch.
There's just that one simple setting to toggle, but it can make a world of difference in terms of how the Facebook app acts on your phone. You can always toggle between the three options as you see fit, but knowing where they are and how to use it is the important part.

Monday, January 26, 2015

How to factory reset your Nexus 6

here are a few reasons why you might want to factory reset your Nexus 6, reverting it back to its out-of-box condition. Maybe you've decided to sell your device. Perhaps you want to eliminate any problematic apps and start again from scratch. Whatever the reason, it's easy to clear out your apps, photos and other content and start again from scratch.
Factory resetting your Nexus 6 is a simple enough process. And it's pretty similar on most phones running Android 5.0 Lollipop.
  1. Open the Settings app, either by finding it in the app drawer or tapping the cog icon in the notification shade.
  2. Scroll down to "Backup & reset"
  3. At the next screen, tap "Factory data reset"
  4. To confirm you choice, tap "reset phone."
The following screen will show you everything that'll be removed if you follow through on the reset process. As the name suggests, factory resetting the Nexus 6 will return it to its out-of-box condition, as it was when it left the factory.
Once you're done, your phone will reboot, wipe all your apps and other personal data, and start over from the usual Lollipop setup wizard.

Facebook's testing a 'Lite' app for emerging markets

Facebook has quietly launched a new and small version of its app called, appropriately enough, Facebook Lite. However, the app has been made and is currently only available, for a few emerging markets and is targeting low-end Android devices that are stuck on slower 2G networks where bandwidth conservation is a priority.
Facebook Lite is only 252k in size, and apparently only available, at least for now, in just eight countries in Africa and Asia: Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. Facebook Lite is based on the company's Snaptu-built feature phone client, it does have some Android-specific features like push notifications and camera integration.
Overall, this new app would seem to be an effort by Facebook to expand its user base even more. It's seeing limited testing markets at the moment, but we wouldn't be surprised to see it expanding to more markets in the coming months. If you happen to live in one of those countries, check it out on Google Play and let us know what you think.
Source: TechCrunch

Official NFL video and more coming to Google and YouTube

The NFL has entered a content agreement with Google that will see official highlight clips and more appear both on Google as well as YouTube. Highlight clips will be available on YouTube and in Google's search results. Meanwhile, searching for a team will get you detailed information about upcoming games and more.
From Re/code:
Starting this week, official NFL highlight clips will show up in Google's YouTube, as well as in Google search results themselves. Google will also provide detailed information about games and scores — including kickoff times as well as the networks that are airing the games — via its "OneBox" results format, which it uses to show off extended answers to search queries instead of simple links.
Google and the NFL will share revenue of ads sold against official content on YouTube, and Google will actively promote the league on YouTube and elsewhere. Starting this Sunday, Feb. 1 with the Super Bowl, users will be able to view in-game clips from the game, though the NFL still wants viewers to tune-in live for the game.
Source: Re/code

Saturday, January 24, 2015

LG says U.S. G3 getting Lollipop update 'soon'

If you live in the U.S. and you've been eager to get your hands on some sweet, sweet Android 5.0 Lollipop for your LG G3, your wait may be almost over. The smartphone maker recently took to its U.S. social media channels to tease the update, saying it's "coming soon."

This follows on a previous rollout to devices in the UK and Europe. There's no telling how soon LG is talking, but with this teaser, the update shouldn't be too far off.
Source: LG on Twitter

Watch the Google Cardboard presentation for Sundance in your living room

VR experiences are making a big splash at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and Google is among the names showing up to deliver a visual thrill to attendees. Rather than leave those of us who aren't attending in suspense, you can install and watch two of the experiences being shown off inside of Google Cardboard right now. Kaiju Fury is a cinematic short that Oculus Rift users may already be familiar with, which lets you sit in the middle of a city being ravaged by giant monsters, while VRSE should be new for just about everyone. The VRSE app is actually a collection of VR experiences, with the all new Evolution of Verse headlining. Both are well worth checking out if you've got your Cardboard handy, but Evolution of Verse in particular will leave your jaw on the floor.
Source: Google

MakerBot Mobile for Android brings 3D printing to your phone

MakerBot has released its official app for Android on Google Play. MakerBot Mobile adds convenience to the 3D printing process. You'll be able to access designs from your MakerBot Cloud library, or download designs from the MakerBot Thingiverse and print them wirelessly from the app.
You can manipulate and prepare designs before printing them. MakerBot Mobile allows you to optimize and scale your design, and slice it for 3D printing on a layer-by-layer basis, all powered by MakerBot's servers. If something isn't in your library, you can print it from the MakerBot Thingiverse app, which will send designs to the MakerBot Mobile app for printing.
When you're ready, all you need to do is confirm the print on your MakerBot Replicator 3D printer. You can use the app to control your printer, and watch through the Replicator's camera as your build progresses.
MakerBot Mobile is available on the Google Play Store right now, so download it and get printing.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Samsung to showcase three new Gear VR experiences at Sundance Film Festival

Those who attend the Sundance Film Festival this year are in for a little something extra. Samsung will be showing off its Gear VR virtual reality headset at the festival's New Frontier exhibition from January 23 to February 1.
Over the course of the exhibition, Samsung will be showcasing three virtual reality experiences created Felix & Paul Studios:
  • The World Première of Herders – Mongolian pastoral herders are one of the world's last remaining nomadic cultures. For millennia they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the grasslands. Through a series of virtual reality experiences, the viewer is invited into the reality of a nomadic family of yak herders. (7 minutes)
  • Wild - The Experience – Fox Searchlight and the Fox Innovation Lab present this virtual reality experience drawing from the film Wild. Viewers enter a fully immersive media environment to join an intimate moment on the Pacific Crest Trail between a woman, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon), and her mother, Bobbi (Laura Dern), a vision from the afterlife. (3 minutes)
  • Strangers with Patrick Watson – Viewers are invited to spend an intimate moment with the musician in his Montréal studio on a winter's day. (5 minutes)
While a film festival may seem an odd choice of location to show off the Gear VR at first, it will be interesting to see what new experiences film makers can create with the technology. If anything, it gives festival goers a chance to virtually hang out with Reese Witherspoon and her ghostly (fictional) mother.
Press Release:
Samsung is heading to Park City to showcase content from Felix & Paul Studios on the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition powered by the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Recognizing the crossroads of film, art, and media technology as a hotbed for cinematic innovation, New Frontier is a venue showcasing innovative media installations and panel discussions that explore the expansion of cinema culture in today's rapidly changing media landscape.
As part of this year's exhibition, taking place from January 23 – February 1, attendees will find themselves immersed in the three cinematic virtual reality experiences created by Felix & Paul Studios, using Samsung's Gear VR technology:
· The World Première of Herders – Mongolian pastoral herders are one of the world's last remaining nomadic cultures. For millennia they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the grasslands. Through a series of virtual reality experiences, the viewer is invited into the reality of a nomadic family of yak herders. (7 minutes)
· Wild - The Experience – Fox Searchlight and the Fox Innovation Lab present this virtual reality experience drawing from the film Wild. Viewers enter a fully immersive media environment to join an intimate moment on the Pacific Crest Trail between a woman, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon), and her mother, Bobbi (Laura Dern), a vision from the afterlife. (3 minutes)
· Strangers with Patrick Watson – Viewers are invited to spend an intimate moment with the musician in his Montréal studio on a winter's day. (5 minutes)
Felix & Paul Studios is currently focused on the development of original narrative and non-narrative virtual reality experiences in collaboration with a range of leaders in the entertainment and virtual reality industries. The program will be available to experience at New Frontier, located on the top two floors of the historic Claim Jumper, at 573 Main Street in Park City. Admission to all New Frontier installations is free.

Motorola begins rolling out Lollipop to Moto G in India and the US

Motorola has announced on Google+ today that the company has started rolling out Lollipop for the Moto G in the US and India. The company notes that this is a phased rollout, but should you own the affected Android smartphones in the mentioned regions, at least you'll be aware of the imminent update hitting your device.
The second generation Moto G is the device grabbing Lollipop in the US, while both generations of the handset are being updated in India. The company recently teased the update, which would be hitting 2013 and 2014 devices soon enough. If you happen to own the mid-range device, be sure to be on the lookout for the update notification.
Source: Google+

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WhatsApp cracks down on users of unofficial clients

It looks like WhatsApp has begun to crack down on users of third-party clients for the messaging service today. The company recently began instituting 24-hour bans for users of WhatsApp Plus, specifically. However, there have been various reports of WhatsAppMD users being affected as well.
WhatsApp has officially acknowledged the bans via a support FAQ on its website. It states
WhatsApp Plus is an application that was not developed by WhatsApp, nor is it authorized by WhatsApp. The developers of WhatsApp Plus have no relationship to WhatsApp, and we do not support WhatsApp Plus. Please be aware that WhatsApp Plus contains source code which WhatsApp cannot guarantee as safe and that your private information is potentially being passed to 3rd parties without your knowledge or authorization.
WhatsApp then goes on to state that uninstalling the unauthorized application and installing the official app should remedy the situation.
As frustrating as this may be for users of these third-party apps, it really shouldn't come as a big surprise. Not only are the apps not listed on Google Play in any capacity (requiring side-loading the APKs to get them on a device), but they also make use of WhatsApp's network without permission. Really, it was only a matter of time before action was taken.
Thanks to everyone who sent in tips on this one!
Source: WhatsApp

Instagram begins beta testing program on Android

If you consider yourself an Instagram connoisseur and want to be on the bleeding edge of future updates (read: filters) to the network, the company just took the wraps off of its beta program for Android.
The photo-sharing network made the announcement via Twitter earlier this evening:

If you'd like to get in on the action, simply follow the link in the Tweet (or click here) to join the beta testing group with your email address associated with your Google Play account. After that, simply follow the instructions on that page to get started.
Keep in mind that, if you aren't comfortable with dealing with bugs in your day-to-day Instagram experience, you may be better off sticking with the release version of the app.
If you do decide to take the dive, however, our own aspiring Instagram queen, Jerry Hildenbrand has a word of advice:
Protip: You'll notice a persistent notification if you install the beta. It's there for the folks who are doing serious testing and nothing that requires any attention if you're just checking it out.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Samsung may extend its current partnership with BlackBerry, but won't buy it

The head of Samsung's mobile phone division stated today that the company could extend its current partnership with BlackBerry. However, he repeated what the company said last week that Samsung has no plans to acquire BlackBerry itself.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Samsung's mobile phone leader J.K. Shin stated, "We want to work with BlackBerry and develop this partnership, not acquire the company." In November, Samsung and BlackBerry announced the two companies would team up to provide Android device owners better end-to-end security via BES12 and Samsung KNOX. In today's interview, Shin said, "We are satisfied with the progress of Knox, including the quality of security and protection that it enables, and remain committed to Knox over the long term."
Samsung might add more of BlackBerry's technology inside of its smartphones, according to the company, but details have yet to be announced. However, buying out BlackBerry itself is counter to the company's strategy, according to Shin. There has been speculation that Samsung might be interested in BlackBerry's 44,000 patents but Shin stated that was not true, adding that Samsung has over 110,000 patents it has on its own.

HTC One M9 internals detailed, HTC smartwatch reportedly on the way too

HTC is set to unveil this year's flagship — likely to be called the HTC One M9 — on March 1 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. According to Bloomberg, the device will feature impressive hardware, and will not be the only new product HTC showcases at MWC, as the Taiwanese vendor is alleged to also unveil its first smartwatch.
Citing an unnamed source, Bloomberg states that the device is codenamed M9, and that it contains a 20 MP camera at the back along with an UltraPixel camera at the front. The M9 is said to resemble the One M8 in terms of size and design, with HTC mulling gold, gray and silver color variants.
The upcoming M9 is reportedly powered by an eight-core Snapdragon 810 CPU, and will feature Dolby's 5.1 audio technology along with HTC's Sense 7 user interface. There's no reference to the exact screen size, but earlier leaks have suggested that the device will retain a 5-inch full-HD display. We're not sure if HTC would stick with the 5-inch form factor, but that is at least what most of you said would be the ideal size for the upcoming M9.
HTC announced a deal with Under Armour earlier this month which sees the vendor providing the athletic brand's UA Record utilities on its devices, and it looks like that partnership will move to the smartwatch as well. Bloomberg states that HTC's first smartwatch will integrate Under Armour's technology.
Not much else is known about the specs of the smartwatch other than the fact that it is the latest effort by HTC to move beyond the smartphone segment. We'll know more in the days leading up to the event. For now, what do you guys think of the reported specs of the One M9?
Source: Bloomberg

Samsung rumored to be preparing 'Galaxy S6 Edge' with two Edge displays

Samsung is rumored to be preparing a version of the Galaxy S6 that will feature two Edge displays. The Edge display first debuted late in 2014 on the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge. The "Galaxy S6 Edge", as the report calls it, will share many capabilities with the Galaxy Note Edge, in addition to new features enabled by Samsung's doubling-down on its edges.
From SamMobile:
The software feature set of the Galaxy S6 Edge is very similar to the one found on the Note Edge. However, Samsung did throw in some new features to make the S6 Edge a little unique. First of all, you will have the ability to activate the main edge panel on the right or left curve, depending on your primary hand. Then there's Glance Lighting, which will light up the Edge area when you receive a call or notifications, when you turn your device over. Also, you will have an option to choose favorite contacts and an ability to assign specific colours to them. So, calls and notifications from important people will show the designated color lighting on the edge area.
Note that as of now, this is just a rumor, and there are some questions that need answering about how useable a device with two Edge displays would be. As we discovered in our Galaxy Note Edge review, the first-generation Edge display was far from perfect.
Source: SamMobile

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Motorola Migrate gets Material Design touch ups, new transfer features

Motorola's Migrate app has been updated, adding Material Design updates and new transfer features. Migrate allows you to transfer data to your Motorola device from a number of sources, including other Android devices, iCloud, and non-smartphones, and the latest update makes that even easier.
For Android users, Motorola Migrate can now transfer the contacts from your old phone's memory to your new device. For transferring data from Apple's iCloud, the app now supports iCloud's two-factor authentication. Finally, for those transferring contact data from non-smartphones, Migrate supports the Motorola TracPhone w418 and w419, as well as a number of Motorola iDEN devices.
You can download this update for Motorola Migrate from the Google Play Store right now.