Thursday, February 26, 2015

Qualcomm introduces first LTE chips to take advantage of unlicensed 5GHz spectrum

The new technology, called LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U), works by taking advantage of unlicensed spectrum on the 5GHz band instead of licensed and controlled spectrum — typically in lower frequencies — traditionally used by phones. One of the main concerns some may have with this technology is how it will affect current Wi-Fi networks that run on the 5GHz band. Qualcomm says:
In order for LTE-U to provide maximum benefit, it must operate harmoniously alongside billions of existing Wi-Fi devices. Qualcomm Technologies is working to integrate LTE and Wi-Fi at the system level, and employs a robust set of protection features to promote the best possible co-existence between LTE-U and Wi-Fi networks. These innovations are designed to ensure users can connect to the Internet however they prefer, while operators can make unified use of all available spectrum to increase capacity. This is designed to result in easier and cost-effective network deployment and operations for carriers and a seamless experience for their consumers.
The company also says that its LTE-U solutions, which include a new RF transciever and small cell SoC will allow users to take advantage of better performance than either LTE or Wi-Fi by themselves.
The company plans to show the technology off at Mobile World Congress next week, where it will hold demonstrations using its user test equipment. As far as availability, the company says that it expects LTE-U integrated SoCs to be available in the second half of 2015 — the question then will be how long before phone makers and carriers want to integrate it into their own plans.
Source: Qualcomm

Distrust between US and Korean offices reportedly to blame for Samsung's mobile stumbles

Citing unnamed sources, Business Insider says that the relationship between the branches became especially strained in 2012 when Samsung's Korean office reportedly sent a team to audit the U.S. branch's Dallas office:
The Dallas-based employees had to go through all materials they used to sell and market Samsung's mobile products. They were accused of falsifying sales, bribing the media, and a bunch of other damaging actions that hurt morale in the office. The same US-based office that helped turn Samsung into a brand as recognizable as Apple was suddenly being punished for its work.
After three weeks, the Korean auditors found nothing wrong with the way the US office had been operating and went home. But the damage had been done, and the perception remained at the Korean headquarters that despite its success, the US team was up to no good.
Overall, the piece is a pretty crazy read, and it will be interesting to see if the company is able to use its upcoming Galaxy S6 launch as a platform to turn around its recent slumping smartphone sales. For much more, check out the full article at the source link below.

Visa announces partnerships for new mobile payment services on Android devices

Visa has announced partnerships with a number of banking institutions for new mobile payment services. These new services center on contactless payments, and will be supported by apps from companies such as U.S. Bank, BBVA, and Cuscal.
These services will be enabled on through apps from banks and other financial institutions on the Google Play Store. The apps will enable you to pay with your Visa account from your phone:
Following a one-time enrollment process, customers of participating financial institutions who download and install the application will be able to pay in-store with their Visa accounts by waving their Android mobile phone in front of a contactless reader. These capabilities are an integral part of Visa Digital Solutions, a comprehensive suite of offerings that facilitate secure payments across a broad range of Internet-connected devices and wearables.
Apps from BBVA Cuscal have already launched their apps. Applications from Banco do Brazil, PNC Bank, N.A., and U.S. Bank are all expected in the near future.
Visa's new payment service partnerships are an outgrowth of Visa Digital Solutions, an initiative launched by the company last year. It includes Visa's own SDK, their Token Service, and their support of Host Card Emulation, which allows payment information to be validated and stored off-site, making NFC payments more widely available.
Source: Visa

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sony accidentally reveals Xperia Z4 Tablet ahead of March 3 unveiling

It looks like Sony accidentally let a few details about an upcoming Xperia Tablet slip today. According to an appearance on the official Xperia Lounge application, the tablet is (predictably) called the Xperia Z4 Tablet and features a 2K display, along with an "ultra fast processor."
The post has since been pulled, but not before the folks at Xperia Blog managed to snag a screenshot showing off a side view of the tablet, pictured below.
There wasn't much else revealed outside of the references to the display and processor. However, the post does note that the tablet will be shown off during Mobile World Congress on March 3. In any event, keep it locked on Android Central for much more coverage from Barcelona next week.
Source: Xperia Blog; Via: Android Police

Early backer Kickstarter pricing for Pebble Time increased to 30,000 watches

Due to the insane interest and backing that Pebble's latest endeavor, the Pebble Time, has received, the company has issued an update announcing that it has decided to increase the number of units it will ship in May from the $179 tier to 30,000. In addition, the Pebble team says that it will open up a new reward tier with a June ship date after the current tier is full.
The Pebble Time was announced earlier today, and features a color screen, weeklong battery life, and a stainless steel bezel. In addition, the new watch also features a quick release for bands, and an accessory port that allows the watch to interact with accessories created by third-party developers.
If you want to pledge and get in on the May ship date, you can do so at the source link below. However, you may want to move quickly, as there are only around 12,000 units left

HTC One M9 leaks show an iterative design

More images of the HTC One M9 seem to have leaked ahead of the HTC flagship's expected reveral at Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona. The design is rather iterative, building on the curvy all-metal language established by the One M7 and One M8 before it.
A few days ago, the German retailer Cyberport posted an early listing of the HTC One M9 that included a number of renders of the smartphone. While the listing has since been removed, once something's online it's nigh impossible to bring it back in. You'll see a few of those suspected press images below.

Today, noted Internet gadget leaker Upleaks uploaded a couple of additional press images of the HTC One M9 on his Twitter account:
Of course, this is just a look at what the phone is expected to look like, which is notably different than the two glass-fronted designs for the M9 that leaked out a month ago. Where there's smoke, there's fire, and right now there's a lot of smoke in the vicinity of this more evolutionary M9 design. We'll know more for sure in a week when HTC makes it official — and we'll be there at MWC to bring you all the latest on HTC's new flagship smartphone.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Google to expand Inbox to select Google Apps customers in March

Google will soon roll out invites for their Inbox email app to some Google Apps customers. First launched in October 2014, Inbox is Google's new take on email management. The roll out begins in March, with Google choosing a select few companies for the early adopter program at first, wanting to work with each business closely.
From Google:
To start, we plan to work very closely with the early adopter companies, so not everyone that applies will be accepted right away, but the program will continue to expand over the coming months.
To sign up, a Google Apps administrator must apply for entry into the early adopter program at

Marvel Mighty Heroes will soon bring superhero co-op fighting action to Android

Fans of Marvel's superheroes will soon have yet another mobile game to check out that pits their biggest characters against one another. Today, DeNA and Marvel Entertainment revealed that Marvel Mighty Heroes is coming soon to Android devices on the Google Play Store. The free-to-play brawler will feature online co-op for up to four players in a game that has a cartoon-theme art style.
Marvel and DeNA stated:
Marvel Mighty Heroes lets players choose their favorite Marvel comic book characters, including Iron Man, Groot, Captain America, Star-Lord, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Spider-Man, and dozens of their allies and nemeses. Players will build a dream-team of Super Heroes and Super Villains, each utilizing different skills and special abilities to clobber, shoot, smash, and blast their way to victory. Multiplayer in Marvel Mighty Heroes will give players a chance to test their skills against competitors and earn a spot on the leaderboard or combine forces with friends to save the universe one battle at a time.
People who pre-register at the game's official website can also vote to see if either Hulk or Rocket Raccoon will be a special free character for its launch. Mobile gamers can already check out the fighting game Marvel Contest of Champions, which launched in December via publisher Kabam. That same company will also release a Marvel-themed mobile role-playing game sometime in the fall of 2015.

Google launches new YouTube app for kids

YouTube (and the internet in general) can be quite the daunting place for parents to have their kids roaming free on. Google has released a new YouTube app,specifically developed for younger audiences. It's a new portal for parents to have their children learn about various topics and discover exciting resources.

As one would imagine, the app is designed to make it easier for younger web surfers to check out the massive catalogue of videos tailored to children, whether they be hunting Pocoyo or the latest episode of Sesame Street's The Furchester Hotel. There's also no requirement to type and search as the app sports big bold icons and images, allowing those who haven't quite yet learned how to read and write to find new content.
Since it's tailored for children, parents have access to a variety of settings to choose what their young ones can watch. Browse categories or search for videos in particular interest to your family. Then you have the smaller features like an app timer, sound settings, and more to really customise the experience for your child. It's a neat concept from Google we're sure many will appreciate.
The app is available on Google Play so go grab it.
Source: Google

Next-generation Pebble smartwatch with color screen found on company's servers

This might just be what the next-generation Pebble smartwatch will look like. The render of the smartwatch was found on the company's servers, hidden away with its wider design and color screen. Pebble is expected to officially announce the device Tuesday, February 24, at 10 am Eastern time, which is when the current countdown on their website reaches "zero".
The render would appear to confirm earlier rumors that the next generation Pebble will have a color display but maintain the same four-button control scheme of the current devices. The image also shows what looks like a bigger bezel than the current Pebble design. We expect that we'll be learning a lot more about the new Pebble tomorrow.
Source: Pebble; Via: 9to5Google

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Google Play promotion offers up tons of hit movies for only $5 each

If you're looking for a good way to spend your Friday night, you might want to check out Google Play's most recent movie promotion. Currently, you can score a number of hit movies from the storefront, such as Inception, Anchorman, and Looper, for a cool $5.
There are far too many titles to list, but the deal is definitely worth checking out — especially if the threats of heavy snow and blistering cold temperatures are keeping you inside this evening.
Source: Google Play

Samsung drops even more Galaxy S6 teasers — are you not teased?

If there was every any doubt that we're going to see more metal in the Galaxy S6, Samsung's latest teaser pretty much puts that to rest. "Tomorrow, metals will flow," the latest video croons. "Beauty will be powerful. Borders will disappear. Reflections will be free. Colors will leap. The future will be the present."
It's probably one of Samsung's better promo videos, actually — never mind that the phone isn't yet official and we don't really see it here. Still, there's a lot to glean from those 45 seconds. More metal construction certainly is in line with what we've seen from Samsung in its last few releases since the Galaxy S5 a year ago.
"Borders will disappear" may well be a reference to more curved "edge" displays, which are starting to look like they might be on the top and bottom of the new phone, at least if you stare at this tweeted teaser long enough.
And "the future will be the present"? Well, we'll have to wait for March 1 for that. We'll be in Barcelona at Samsung Unpacked to bring you the whole thing.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Samsung begins production of an Exynos 7 Octa CPU with a 14nm process

Samsung has begun mass production of a new version of its Exynos 7 Octa processor, made with a 14nm FinFET process technology. The company previously announced the Exynos 7 Octa in October, but made using a 20nm process.
Samsung stated:
As the most advanced technology available today, 14nm FinFET process is able to achieve the highest levels of efficiency, performance and productivity. When compared to Samsung's 20nm process technology, this newest process enables up to 20 percent faster speed, 35 percent less power consumption and 30 percent productivity gain.
The Enynos 7 Octa processor contains four ARMv8 Cortex A57 cores and four Cortex A53 cores. It is expected to be inside the company's still unannounced Galaxy S6 smartphone, which will likely be revealed on March 1 at Samsung's Mobile World Congress 2015 press event. Samsung has confirmed that the 14nm process will be used on other products later in 2015.
Source: Samsung

LG goes for the 'Urbane' look with latest G Watch iteration

LG today has unveiled its latest Android Wear building on the original LG G Watch R and coming up with a more stylish and formal and all-metal "LG Watch Urbane" that's "designed for a sophisticated and cosmopolitan wearer." Available in gold or silver, it's still a standard 22mm model, so you'll be able to swap out straps if you like. LG's slimmed down the bezel, as well as the overall size and thickness. The stainless steel handle also has improve protection against scratches and corrosion.
Spec-wise, you're pretty much looking at the same as the original G Watch R, including a 1.3-inch, 320x320 Plastic OLED display, which is the best we've seen on a smartwatch thus far.
LG says its new analog watch face on the Urbane is the closest thing we've seen to a real analog face on a smartwatch. And it's not quite as ornate as the special-edition Audi watch we broke the news on at CES, but it's close.
We'll get a closer look at this guy in a couple week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

LG Watch Urbane specs

ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor at 1.2 GHz
Operating SystemAndroid Wear
Display1.3 inches plastic OLED (320x320, 245ppi)
Memory512MB LPDDR2 / 4GB eMMC
Sensors9-axis (gyro / acceleration / compass), barometric pressure sensor, heart rate sensor
OtherWaterproof and dustproof, IP67 certified
ColorsGold and Silver


Elegant, Full Metal Smartwatch from LG Coming to MWC 2015
SEOUL, Feb. 16, 2015 ― LG Electronics (LG) will unveil its first all-metal luxury Android Wear device, LG Watch Urbane, at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015. As its name suggests, the smartwatch is designed for a sophisticated and cosmopolitan wearer that delivers unparalleled technology and performance. LG Watch Urbane is the perfect device for wearers looking to add both style and high-tech flare to their everyday lives.
The LG Watch Urbane follows closely in the footsteps of the LG Watch R, the first smartwatch with a full circular Plastic OLED (P-OLED) display, which LG launched in October 2014. While the LG Watch R was designed with the active user in mind, the LG Watch Urbane is more formal with a thinner profile making it perfect for either men or women. Resembling a luxury timepiece, LG combined a classic design and innovative features to add style and convenience to everyday life while raising the already high standards set by its predecessor.
The LG Watch Urbane is crafted around the same 1.3-inch full circle P-OLED display as the LG Watch R but features a narrower bezel that gives it sleeker lines. The LG Watch Urbane has all of the hallmarks of a fine watch, making it the perfect fashion accessory. Its stainless steel body is available in polished silver and gold finish and is complemented by a beautifully stitched natural leather strap for a more classic look. The strap can be replaced with any 22mm wide band to suit the occasion or the wearer's mood. Powering all of this is an intuitive touch-based user interface that makes the LG Watch Urbane compatible with smartphones running Android 4.3 and above.
Like the G Watch R, LG's latest Android Wear device includes a photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor that can measure a wearer's heart rate and average pulse during exercise. Always-On ambient mode shows the time on the display at all times in dimmed mode, saving battery life.
"The LG Watch Urbane's classic design and smart features make it the perfect smartwatch to complement our G Watch and G Watch R, which were designed as more casual and active devices," said Juno Cho, president and CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. "LG Watch Urbane is an important part of our strategy to develop wearable devices that are worn and viewed as everyday accessories, not electronic gadgets."
Additional details including price will be announced in local markets at the time of availability.

No LG G4 until at least April, Korean news outlet reports

File this one under expected and obvious: Korea Times is reporting that LG isn't announcing the next version of its flagship line — the LG G4, if the naming convention remains consistent — until at least April. That would give it distance from the Samsung Galaxy S6, which we're expecting to see at Mobile World Congress on March 1.
On the other hand, LG hasn't ever announced its flagship phone at Mobile World Congress. Instead, it used that stage in 2013 and 2014 to announce the LG G Pro and LG G Pro 2, respectively. We're not expecting a new G Pro model, with the LG G Flex 2 supplanting that line.
The LG G3 was announced in late May 2014 at events in New York and London.
From Korea Times
"LG Electronics decided not to release the G4 at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) exhibition in Barcelona in March," a source said. "It may release it in April." The G3 was released on May 27 of last year.
Source: Korea Times

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Series premieres for Better Call Saul and Game of Thrones free on Google Play

The series premieres for two of the most-talked-about shows right now are currently free on Google Play. Those shows would be Better Call Saul, which premiered just this month on AMC, and Game of Thrones, whose fifth season premiere is due out in April. The first episodes of each — Uno for Saul and Winter is Coming for Thrones — are free to watch for a limited time on Google Play.
Of course, you can watch these on any device that supports Google Play, including your desktop browser or Chromecast. Go with either of those options when watching Better Call Saul and you can instead fire up the second screen app to get more to go with your viewing experience.
All other episodes of these shows are currently purchase options, with Better Call Saul clocking in at $1.99/episode or $16.99 for the entire first season (only the first two episodes are currently available on Google Play) and Game of Thrones running $2.99/episode or $28.99 for each of the four released seasons. So either way, whether you're wondering what all the fuss is about for the Breaking Bad prequel or considering jumping in and getting caught up on Game of Thrones before the next season premieres and you're left out of even more watercooler discussion, you can check them out for free right now.
(Of course, there are likely region restrictions at play here, so you might not see these episodes for free where you are if where you are is outside of the United States. Sorry.)

Google Helpouts is shutting down because not enough people were using it

Google's Helpouts service is shutting down on April 20. The move comes nearly a year-and-a-half after Helpouts launched, aiming to bring together experts and people needing, well, help via Google Hangouts.
The reason for the shut down is no surprise: it simply wasn't being used enough, as Google notes:
The Helpouts community includes some engaged and loyal contributors, but unfortunately, it hasn't grown at the pace we had expected. Sadly, we've made the tough decision to shut down the product.
So on April 20, 2015, Google Helpouts will go dark, though users that want an archive of their Helpouts activity will be able to download one via Google Takeout until November, when even the Helpouts archives will be scrubbed from the internet. In the meantime, though Helpouts is still online and active, Google's actively discouraging new listings and won't accept any new help providers.
Source: Google Helpouts

How to keep Facebook's app from making those annoying sound

Facebook has decided to have its app make all sorts of exciting sounds like "bleep" and "bloop" and "blop" when you do things. Like when you like a post. Or when you refresh the feed. Or when you leave a comment. It's annoying at best. (And heaven help you — and especially those around you — if you're on an already-bleep-bloop-blop-happy phone.)
The good news is it's easy to turn off — and you don't have to mute your entire phone to do it.
This should be pretty self-explanatory. But if you need a little help, here's what to look for:

Head over to that pseudo-drawer-looking right-hand column with all those items you probably never go to except for "Most recent." Scroll way the hell down to app settings, and then hit those sound effects where it hurts — in the checkbox. That's it.
But while you're here, in the deepest, darkest reaches of the Facebook app settings, now's as good a time as any to look over the other options and make sure things are the way you want them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Limbo expands its scary-but-cool gameplay to Android

Limbo, one of the best 2D side-scrolling games ever made for PCs and consoles, has finally made its Android debut. The game, from developer Playdead, is now available in the Google Play Store for the price of $4.99.

Limbo is a truly creepy game, as you control a boy who is out to find his sister and has to navigate his way through a series of traps and puzzles along the way. The game's biggest highlight is its black-and-white art style, creating a very spooky atmosphere. Limbo is a game that is truly memorable and it will be interesting to see how it is received by the Android gaming audience.
This game is a "must have" and you can get it now in the Google Play Store.

More than 720,000 Android Wear devices were shipped in 2014, led by the Moto 360

Android Wear seems to be off to something of a slow start, with 720,000 in shipped units last year. The numbers come from Canalys, who notes that Android Wear devices accounted for around 15% of the 4.6 million "smart wearable bands" shipped in 2014.
It's little surprise to see the hotly-anticipated Moto 360 noted as the leading watch amongst Android Wear devices, with the also-round LG G Watch R handily outperforming the square original G Watch. The breakdown of sales for each Android Wear watch wasn't immediately available, but given the pricing and the "TiVo problem" explanation (it's hard to explain the benefits of a smartwatch over just a smartphone without really experiencing those benefits) it's not a shock to see more mundane fitness bands overwhelming the category.
The closest competition to Android Wear right now is Pebble, which has sold 1 million watches since launching in 2013. Of course, things will change dramatically in 2015 with new Android Wear devices and the heavily-hyped launch of the Apple Watch.
Source: Canalys

Skype Qik now lets you directly share videos between apps

If you've toyed around with Skype Qik, Microsoft's video messaging app that it launched on Android last October, you'll be happy to know that the app got an update today that makes sharing those videos a bit easier. As of version 1.4, you can share videos to other apps or social networks directly from Qik without having to save them to the camera roll.
If you're already used to sharing stuff across apps on Android, then doing so from Qik should be familiar. From the Qik team:
Select one of your videos and tap on the ^ menu and now you'll see a share menu. This uses your phone's built in share option to send your video to whatever apps and accounts are registered for sharing video on your phone. You aren't limited to what we choose for you: you're free to share to any video platform YOU choose on your phone.
The update is available on Google Play now, and you can grab it from the badge above.
Source: Microsoft