Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Analysis claims the Samsung Galaxy S6 is tied with Note 4 for best smartphone display

Samsung sent DisplayMate, which regularly tests smartphone and tablet screens, pre-production models of both the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 edge to check out. Both have the same type of display, with a 5.1 inch high resolution Quad HD 2560x1440 pixel screen with 577 pixels per inch, with the only real difference being that the S6 edge has a curved screen.
DisplayMate gave the Galaxy Note 4 the title of having the best smartphone display in September 2014. In today's report, the research firm says:
The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 4 are neck-and-neck record holders for display performance, effectively tied or alternating between first and second place in almost all categories except screen size for the much larger Galaxy Note 4, and the much higher pixels per inch for the Galaxy S6. What is especially impressive is that the overall display specs and performance of the Galaxy S6 have been maintained or improved after being scaled down by 20 percent in area from Galaxy Note 4. So… The Galaxy S6 matches the Galaxy Note 4 in overall display excellence and record performance and joins it as the Best Performing Smartphone Display that we have ever tested.
DisplayMate also compared the Galaxy S6's display against that of Apple's iPhone 6. It stated:
The Galaxy S6 has more than double the resolution and more than 4 times the number of pixels as the iPhone 6. It also has significantly higher peak Brightness, significantly higher Contrast Ratio in both low and high Ambient Light, significantly higher Absolute Color Accuracy, significantly better Viewing Angel performance, and has 4 selectable screen modes instead of a single fixed one on the iPhones.
Source: DisplayMate

Instagram pics now share beautifully on Google+

We're usually pretty quick to point out when things are broken. And so we should strive to be just as fast to point out when they're fixed. And while I don't know exactly when Instagram posts began sharing properly on Google+ — chances are it's been working longer than I realize, a fact someone surely will point out in the comments, thus proving my point — but it's a welcome change, for sure.
Of course, now we can (and should) remind ourselves (and Facebook) that while there are buttons in the Instagram app to easily share with Facebook and Twitter, you'll have to separately share the link to the Instagram post on Google+.
One thing at a time, I suppose.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

LG's mobile chief hints at design overhaul for upcoming G4

LG notably opted not to announce the next entry into its G series at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, but it sounds like the company has big plans for an overhaul of the design and user experience of its upcoming G4 flagship. The Korea Times reports:
LG said the G4 will be radically different from the G3. It will have major overhaul in surface design and deliver significant improvements in user-experience (UX).
"We will announce LG UX 4.0 before announcing the LG G4. I think it is simply the best and the issue is how to best fit the new UX system into the G4 smartphone," Cho told reporters.
Juno also said that LG is looking to push production of its own processors to power future devices, reducing its current dependence on chip offerings from Qualcomm. This is something LG has already taken a shot at with the release of the G3 Screen in October of last year.
While we don't yet have a launch date for the LG G4, the Korea Times notes that it is expected to be revealed sometime next month. LG previously unveiled the curvaceous G Flex 2 at CES in January, which was the first Android device to carry Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 processor.
Source: Korea Times

BBM for Android passes 100 million downloads

BBM is now showing in the 100 million-500 million installs category. BlackBerry also notes that this is just a part of their total, given their availability on iOS, Windows Phone, and of course, BlackBerry.
BlackBerry had this to say on their milestone:
BBM for Android has officially achieved a milestone on the Google Play Store: 100 million installs. That puts BBM in the top tier of messaging apps on Google Play, and we got there in a little over a year as we first posted BBM for Android in late October 2013. We have 3.7 million reviews, and just shy of 2.4 million of them are five stars.
BBM recently added some major new features. These include Custom PINs, which allow you to create your own BBM PIN for a small monthly fee. Also added was support for Android Wear, letting you view notifications and even reply to messages, all from your wrist.
If you're not one of the 100 million, you can download BBM for Android from the Google Play Store now.
Source: BlackBerry

Facebook's Slingshot app update makes it easier to find people to follow

Facebook clearly would love for Android devices users who are addicted to Snapchat to try out Slingshot, which got its worldwide launch in June. Here's what the company had to say about Slingshot's new feature:
Explore is a place to discover funny, inspiring and creative people from across the globe. It features popular people who are active on Slingshot. You can view their shots and then decide who you want to follow. If you don't want to be featured in Explore, you can turn on Approve Followers in Settings.
Source: Slingshot blog

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Game of Thrones, Batman and DC Comics-based mobile games in the works

After revealing plans to launch a version of Mobile Kombat X for mobile devices sometime in April, the publisher has four other games in the works, all based on well known franchises. Here's the list:
Batman: Arkham Underworld (Developed by Turbine)

  • Rule Gotham City! Build your hideout, then recruit and train an army of henchmen to do your bidding. Command iconic super-villains from the Batman: Arkham universe, including the Riddler, Harley Quinn and Killer Croc, to become Gotham City's next criminal kingpin. Sign up for beta atwww.arkhamunderworld.com.

LEGO Batman: Beyond Gotham (Developed by TT Games)

  • The Caped Crusader joins forces with the super heroes of the DC Comics universe in this premium game and blasts off to outer space to stop the evil Brainiac from destroying Earth. Now the greatest super heroes and the most cunning villains must unite and stop Brainiac before it's too late.

DC Comics Legends (Developed by WB Games San Francisco)

  • Gamers will grow their collection of legendary DC Comics super heroes and villains, customizing super teams with the right heroes for each encounter in this mobile RPG.

Game of Thrones (Developed by Turbine; Game title to be revealed at a later time)

  • Conquer Westeros in an epic combat strategy game based on the hit television series from HBO. Prove the wit of your spies and the might of your forces on the battlefield as you extend your dominance across the seven Kingdoms. Join an alliance, rise to power, and then try to take the Iron Throne if you dare!

Release dates for these four games have yet to be announced.

Chrome 42 will be the last version for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Ironically, Google first launched Chrome for Android many years ago for Ice Cream Sandwich users. Now that era is ending for the browser. In a post on the official Chromium blog today, Google stated:

In the last year, we've seen the number of Chrome users running ICS drop by thirty percent. Developing new features on older phones has become increasingly challenging, and supporting ICS takes time away from building new experiences on the devices owned by the vast majority of our users. So, with Chrome's 42nd release, we'll stop updating Chrome on ICS devices. After Chrome 42, users on ICS devices can continue to use Chrome but won't get further updates.
It's likely this change will only affect a few users. Most Chrome users have likely bought a new smartphone or updated to one with a more modern version of Android.
Source: Chromium blog

Samsung reportedly overtaken by Apple in Q4 2014 smartphone sales

This is the first time since 2011 that Samsung has not been on top of Gartner's worldwide smartphone sales list on a quarterly basis, and it's most likely due to high sales of Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Gartner stated:

"Samsung's performance in the smartphone market deteriorated further in the fourth quarter of 2014, when it lost nearly 10 percentage points in market share," said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner. "Samsung continues to struggle to control its falling smartphone share, which was at its highest in the third quarter of 2013. This downward trend shows that Samsung's share of profitable premium smartphone users has come under significant pressure."
Overall, Samsung still sold more smartphones than Apple for the entire year of 2014, with 307.6 million units worldwide. That number is well ahead of Apple's, which sold 191.43 million smartphones last year.
Source: Gartner

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sony releases theme creation tools in beta for Xperia line

Sony has released a tool to allow for easy creation of Xperia themes for Androids running their version of the operating system. This application installs on your computer, and when used in conjunction with an image editor (Photoshop is recommended and well-supported) allows you to customize over 300 different assets. Using custom icons, buttons and backgrounds it's now pretty easy to create your very own theme for Xperia phones and tablets.
The tool is still in beta, so expect a few issues here and there, but Sony has set up a support forum to address the inevitable questions. To learn more about the tools and for installation instructions, visit Sony's developer site.

Dungeon Hunter 5 slashes its way onto Android on March 12

Dungeon Hunter 5 continues the legacy of the previous games by improving on its impressive graphics and introducing a new multiplayer mode and evolution system for gear. Here's just some of what you can expect when the game launches on March 12:

  • Embark on an epic single player campaign through 5 realms and countless dungeons
  • A new asynchronous multiplayer mode called Strongholds.
  • Customize your Stronghold, manage and defend it, and raid opponents' Strongholds to ravage their loot
  • Next generation AAA graphics with full support for Metal on iOS at launch
  • All new evolution system: loot gear and evolve it to level up your power
  • Hire your friends or other players as Allies to help you on your journey
  • Daily and Weekly Events: tackle daily dungeons and weekly Wanted Challenges for more rewards
Overall, Dungeon Hunter 5 looks like a worthy follow-up to Dungeon Hunter 4, which many players enjoyed for its deep RPG and multi-player elements. If you want to check out more than the trailer above, Gameloft also recently showed off a couple of Gameplay videos on its YouTube channel, which you can check out at the source links below.

Android 5.0 Lollipop now running on 3.3 percent of devices

The March numbers for Android version distribution are out today, and Android 5.0 Lollipop saw a slight bump to 3.3 percent device coverage compared to 1.6 percent when it first landed on the chart last month.
KitKat enjoyed a slight bump to 40.9 percent of devices, up from 39.7 a month ago. Jelly Bean (versions 4.1 through 4.3), on the other hand, dropped slightly from 44.5 percent of devices in February to 42.6 percent in March. Earlier versions are, of course, down as well, with Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread holding onto 5.9 percent and 6.9 percent of devices respectively, and with Froyo still clinging to 0.4 percent of the device share.
Though the number of devices running Lollipop is still pretty low, it looks like its rollout to various carrier flavors of devices like the LG G3 and the Galaxy S5 has helped to boost things slightly. As always, keep in mind that these numbers are comprised of all devices that visited the Google Play store in the 7 days leading up to March 2.
Source: Google

Sony retires 'Walkman' brand for its built-in music player

Once synonymous with portable music, Walkman has been one of Sony's most iconic brands. From classic cassette-based offerings of the early 1980s to the wackier, Android-based versions of 2015, the purpose of a Walkman product is clear — it's all about music on the go. So it wasn't surprising to see Walkman name used in Sony's own music app, which is preloaded on all the manufacturer's Android smartphones. Renders of new Xperia phones would give valuable screen realestate to the purple Walkman icon, and it'd also be preloaded on the default home screen.
But not anymore. As Sony unveiled its first 2015 Xperia products, the Xperia Z4 Tablet and Xperia M4 Aqua, the familiar Walkman icon and name are no more, the app having been renamed to the more generic "Music."
The new app name appears on phones running updated Lollipop-based firmware; older phones onKitKat continue to show the current Walkman-branded music app. Sony reps on the show floor at MWC confirmed that "Music" would indeed replace "Walkman" as the default Sony music player going forwards.
It's not the first time we've witnessed this kind of change from a brand once used interchangeably with portable music. Apple stopped calling its iPhone music app "iPod" back in 2011, as the rise of smartphones — including its own — made portable media playback more of a feature than a standalone product. Of course Apple still sells iPods, just as Sony will still let you drop up to $1200 on a new Walkman.
It's taken longer, relatively speaking, for Sony to move on from the Walkman brand on its smartphones and tablet, but perhaps it's inevitable given the brand's diminishing value. Let's face it, it's increasingly unlikely that anyone under the age of 30 will have feelings of nostalgia for this iconic Sony product. And arguably, as streaming services continue to dominate music on mobile devices, standalone music apps are becoming increasingly obsolete anyway. Indeed, Sony will soon be retiring its Music Unlimited service in favor of a deal with streaming giant Spotify.
And so as Sony as a whole continues to experience turbulent times, the music will go on — only without a very significant Sony brand on mobile.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

BlackBerry to bring SecuSUITE enterprise service to Samsung Galaxy S6

As part of its Mobile World Congress announcements, BlackBerry that it will offer its SecuSUITE service, created by its subsidiary Secusmart, for enterprise customers who get the Galaxy S6 in collaboration with the Samsung KNOX security software. Another BlackBerry service, WorkLife, will also be integrated into Samsung Knox. Both WorkLife and SecuSUITE will be launched for Samsung KNOX later in 2015.

Press release:
Mobile World Congress 2015, Barcelona – BlackBerry Limited (NASDAQ: BBRY; TSX: BB), a global leader in mobile communications, and Samsung Electronics Co, Ltd. announced today continued progress in their partnership with the planned integration of Samsung KNOX with two new BlackBerry enterprise services: WorkLife by BlackBerry® and SecuSUITE. The companies also announced that BlackBerry enterprise solutions will be offered through Samsung Business Services.
WorkLife by BlackBerry brings to KNOX the most comprehensive solution available for enterprises to accurately split mobile billing, respect employee privacy and protect corporate assets. It is the only solution that can separate work and personal voice and SMS as well as data usage. WorkLife will integrate seamlessly with Samsung KNOX, making it straightforward to split work and personal use. It's a very flexible approach; enterprises can choose to pay for all employee usage within the KNOX container, or they can select specific work applications to be billed to the company.
BlackBerry subsidiary Secusmart and its SecuSUITE solution offers highly security-conscious organizations like governments virtually tap-proof voice and SMS communications that are secure enough for world leaders. BlackBerry and Samsung are working closely together to bring this government-grade security to KNOX-enabled smartphones, including the newly announced Samsung Galaxy S6. SecuSUITE for KNOX will use the Secusmart Security Card that, in conjunction with BES12, will provide hardware-based end-to-end encryption and cryptographically secured subscriber authentication. Voice and SMS as well as data from the KNOX Workspace will be fully encrypted and protected.
In addition to integrating solutions, Samsung will offer the growing selection of BlackBerry enterprise products and services through its new Samsung Business Services. This service will offer enterprise customers a single point of contact to help manage and support their Samsung mobile devices, along with a range of associated services and solutions. Samsung Business Services' enterprise technology specialists will be able to provide customers guidance and technical support through the deployment and implementation of the tightly integrated, end-to-end secure solution that will bring together BES12 and Samsung devices with built-in KNOX security. That will include the new Samsung Galaxy S6, which offers mobile security through the newly launched Samsung KNOX 2.4, Samsung's premier platform for enterprise mobile security, safety and two-factor authentication.
"Working with BlackBerry allows us both to bring more compelling solutions to the enterprise," said Injong Rhee, Executive Vice President of Enterprise Business, IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics. "Workers are tired of carrying two devices and companies are growing sensitive to the risks of having company assets tied to personal smartphones. With the introduction of these new services from BlackBerry, the needs of both enterprises and their employees will be met with Samsung KNOX devices."
"Customers tell us that enterprise solutions have to provide flexibility in terms of device choice and mobile deployment models such as BYOD or COPE," said Billy Ho, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Product and Value Added Solutions, BlackBerry. "Working with Samsung, we'll be able to provide a great experience for both SecuSUITE and WorkLife on Samsung's KNOX-enabled devices. With these great choices, companies won't need to choose between security and compliance on one hand and employee choice and productivity on the other. With these easy-to-deploy services, they will have both."
Key customer benefits of WorkLife by BlackBerry
  • An option to give employees a company-owned work phone number on employee-owned devices that can be retained and reused when the employee leaves the company. Employees can quickly and easily switch between personal and company phone numbers for both voice and SMS communications.
  • The ability to add a personal line to corporately owned, personally-enabled (COPE) devices, allowing employees to carry one device for both work and personal use.
  • A split-billing solution that works when roaming, separating work and personal use even if the user is travelling in different countries.
  • The option to add a work line to an employee device using a simple management console, regardless of their mobile device management (MDM) provider.
  • Easy deployment by enabling companies to continue working with their carrier as traffic does not need to be routed through a different proxy server.
Key customer benefits of SecuSUITE
  • State-of-the art hardware based encryption technology that provides virtually tap-proof mobile voice and SMS communications.
  • An anti-eavesdropping solution already successfully used by several governments.
  • Security that is easy and intuitive to use.
"Samsung and BlackBerry are combining their long-standing reputation and experience to develop compelling solutions that meet unique industry challenges. The amount of sensitive corporate information transferred via voice as opposed to email/data is very large, and subject to relatively easy interception," explains Jack Gold, Founder and Principal Analyst of J.Gold Associates, LLC. "So the need to include enhanced encryption/security of voice communications is becoming mission critical. Further, as more regulations come about to separate accounting of personal and corporate use of devices, the ability to offer multiple SIM and/or split billing is moving from a 'nice to have' to a critical requirement for most companies."
Pricing and Availability
WorkLife by BlackBerry will be available on all Samsung KNOX-enabled devices and will be activated through carrier partners. BlackBerry and Samsung are working with carriers worldwide to enable the service and expect the service to launch later in 2015. Pricing and availability will be announced on a carrier-by-carrier basis. Enterprises can sign up here to be notified of availability.
SecuSUITE for Samsung KNOX will be available in the fall 2015. Pricing details will be announced at availability.
Samsung Business Services will launch later in 2015. Customers will be able to get BES12, including deployment and technical support, directly from Samsung. Other BlackBerry value added services will be added in the future.

Withings Activité wearables getting Android compatibility March 2

In addition to general Android compatibility, tomorrow's update will bring compatibility with Google Fit, the fitness platform announced by Google at I/O 2014. Users will be able to upload their Withings Health Hub data to Google Fit, including their Weight data, steps, and heart rate.
The Withings Activité is available now for $450, while the Activité Pop will go on sale for $149.95.

The Future of Wearables comes to Android

Withings range of analogue watches with built-in activity trackers and fashion forward design are now compatible with world's biggest mobile platform
March 1, 2015 - Withings, the leader in the connected health revolution, has today announced that both the Withings Activité and the Activité Pop will be compatible with Android mobile platform tomorrow, March 2. The two analogue watches are innovating the space of wearable health trackers by making the convergence of fashion and mobile technology accessible to everyone, including Android users across the globe. Withings also reiterates its commitment to the Android ecosystem by announcing compatibility with Google Fit, the new health hub by Google.
Activity trackers made for everyone
Activité and Activité Pop are at the crossroads between timekeeping and activity tracking, they are fashionable accessories that bring a new face to smartwatches. By fitting into anyone's lifestyle, Activité and Activité Pop are the first watches that will address a global audience, going beyond the tech-savvy user. The introduction of the two analog watches at CES 2015 has generated high expectations about their potential. Android compatibility was then a priority for Withings; it is now available, one month after the European launch of Activité Pop, and right on time for the US launch.
"Following on from the overwhelming reception that both the Activité and Activité Pop have received on their elegance and design, we have listened to our dynamic Android community and it seemed natural for us to quickly provide Android compatibility for each product," said Cédric Hutchings, CEO of Withings.
Withings and Android, a long term relationship
Withings has always acknowledged the potential of the Android community, and was committed to provide compatibility as soon as possible. Most devices of the ecosystem are already Android compatible, such as the Smart Body Analyzer, Withings' bestseller, and the Smart Blood Pressure Monitor, now coming with Bluetooth connectivity. Withings Aura and Home will also soon be compatible.
Moreover, Withings Health Mate app offers the same features for iOS and Android; the app allows its users to track their steps on the largest range of iOS and Android smartphones.
Withings is also announcing compatibility with Google Fit, the new health hub by Google, to enable its users to automatically upload their Health Mate data into Google fit application. With its wide range of devices, Withings will be a key actor for Google Fit users, sharing the following measures:
  •    Smart Body Analyzer: Weight
  •    Withings Pulse 0x: Steps and Heart Rate
  •    Withings Health Mate app: Steps
Activité and Activité Pop, revolutionising activity tracking Apart from their design and dual compatibility, both Activité and Activité Pop include a set of game-changing features that make them truly wearable in the long run. Always up-to-date, Activité's hands move automatically when it crosses time zones or the clock changes. There is no need to recharge it as a single standard watch battery powers it and lasts up to eight months. Activité and Activité pop are both waterproof up to 30 meters and can be worn during any type of activity.
"The activity tracker category has a huge problem with abandonment, and so consumers don't really get to see the benefit of long-term data and the impact it can have on their health," said Cedric Hutchings. "The Activité and Activité Pop's design, ease of use and now Android compatibility combine for the most accessible activity tracker that we've ever seen." Availability
Activité is available to buy from Withings.com for a MSRP of $450.
Activité Pop will be available at Best Buy stores nationwide and online in March 2015 for a MSRP of $149.95.

The first Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge promotional video is all about its design

The first promo video shows a lot of the sleek looks for both smartphones, but shows little about the hardware inside.

Now that both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge have been officially revealed to the world, the company has also released its first promotional video for both smartphones. The clip puts most of the emphasis on the design of those devices.
The video shows camera fly-bys of the smartphones' cases and puts some special attention on the dual display found on the Galaxy S6 edge. However, there's really nothing in this clip about what's inside these smartphones, such as Samsung's own Exynos processor and more. You will just have to go check out our hands-on impressions of the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge to learn more.
Update: Samsung just posted up yet another promo video for the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge that has a bit more information on the hardware inside.