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Samsung Gear Live, LG G Watch, Motorola Moto 360: Android Wear info roundup

No more rumors, no more mysteries (well, except for the elusive Moto 360), no more questions and no more speculation. The first Android Wear smartwatches are here, are square, get used to it. Yeah, you too snarky haters in the back acting like you know better and would never touch a fugly wearable piece with a ten-foot pole.

Android-wear

Remember how rookie Android “smartphone” efforts looked back in the day? They were absolutely disgusting. So be sure to cut Samsung and LG designers some slack. They’re just starting to feel their target audience, and need a few months, one, maybe two years to deliver beauties on-par with, say, the Galaxy Note 3 or LG G3.

And granted, the Android Wear OS still screams “work in progress”. In a bad way. But need I remind you of Android 1.0, 1.1, 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.2, 2.3, heck, even 4.0 at the very beginning? Fret not, it ain’t going to take Google so long this time around to reach the smoothness, sheer simplicity and beauty of KitKat.

My guess is by version 2.0, 3.0, worst case scenario, Wear will have blossomed into this cohesive, sleek, powerful ecosystem of its own, separate of the Android smartphone experience yet in line with Big G’s overall direction.

Android-Wear-Watches

So you see, boarding the Android wearable bandwagon at this stage is an act of courage, a way for us all to support a bold initiative that’s perhaps a few years away from hitting maturity. But make no mistake, the future of tech is in projects like Wear. For now, let’s focus on the present and check out what the Samsung Gear Live, LG G Watch and Motorola Moto 360 are all about:

Samsung Gear Live – everything you need to know

Price: $199.99

Availability: up for pre-orders on Google Play starting today, shipping July 7, coming to Amazon and Best Buy on July 7 too

Samsung Gear Live

Specs and features:

  • 1.63-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen with 320 x 320 pixels resolution
  • Dual-core 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 4 GB internal storage space
  • Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity
  • Accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, heart rate monitor
  • IP67 certification for dust and water resistance

Gear-Live-Product-Specifications

  • 300 mAh battery
  • Google Now, Google Voice, Google Maps, Gmail, Hangouts pre-loaded
  • 37.9 x 56.4 x 8.9 mm dimensions; 59 grams weight
  • Color options: black and wine red
  • Compatibility with smartphones running Android 4.3 or up

Well, they’ve done it again. Shrewd Samsung played mind games with both their rivals and Android geeks, making it seem like they’ll be sitting a Wear round out when in fact they’ll be the ones to first ship a gadget with the fledgling OS pre-loaded. Beautifully done, Sammy.

True, if you ask me, the Gear Live is uglier than the G Watch and a lot uglier than the Moto 360. Also, it’s way too similar to Tizen-running second-gen Gears. But at the end of the day, the low price may carry more weight than the dubious design.

LG G Watch – information roundup

Price: $229

Availability: pre-orders live in 12 Play Store branches, including the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea and Japan; shipping starts July 7; coming soon to retailers in 27 additional markets (Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, etc., etc.)

LG-G-Watch

Specs and features:

  • 1.65-inch always-on LCD IPS panel with 280 x 280 pixels resolution
  • Dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 chip
  • 512 MB RAM/4 GB storage
  • 400 mAh battery
  • Bluetooth 4.0 support
  • Gyroscope, accelerometer, compass
  • IP67 certified for protection against water and dust

LG G Watch_lifestyle

  • 37.9 x 46.5 x 9.95 mm dimensions; 63 grams weight
  • White gold and black titan paint jobs
  • 22 mm changeable strap
  • Compatible with Android 4.3 and up smartphones

So let me get this straight, LG. Aside from taking more than three months to get the G Watch ready, you’re asking 30 bucks north of Samsung for… 100 mAh extra battery juice? All while snubbing the gimmicky but useful for some heart rate monitor and, most importantly, offering a less crisp display with sub-par 280 x 280 pix res? Sorry to be so blunt, but are you on crack?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the G Watch is a smidge more elegant, at least in my book, but it’s both thicker and heavier than the Gear Live. Nuh-uh, this won’t stand, I’m sorry. Slash the price down to $200, maybe $180, and try again.

Motorola Moto 360 – enough with the secrecy already!

Price: probably $250. Probably.

Availability: “later this summer” on Google Play

moto-360

Specs and features:

  • Circular design
  • OLED screen (of some kind)
  • Sapphire glass protection (hopefully)
  • Compatible with Android 4.3 and up devices
  • ???

Okay, Google (get it?), I think we’ve been patient enough. I mean, we understand, it’s a lot more complicated to produce a round wearable piece, and so waiting until, say, August to see it go up for grabs isn’t a problem.

But waiting without knowing anything is. Throw us a bone, price tags, measurements, the CPU’s make and model, whatever. Oh, and make the prototype hands-on (wrist-on?) videos stop. They’re just too painful to watch.

Third-party Android Wear apps – the promising beginning of a beautiful platform

I’m sure you all know by now Android Wear is extremely Google Now-centric. Everything revolves around notifications and cards, plus, obviously, the rest of Google’s services: Maps, Gmail, Hangouts, etc.

Pinterest-AndroidWear

But a handful of base applications does not a solid OS make. Enter PayPal, Pinterest, Soundwave, Eat24, Allthecooks and Lyft, the first third-party apps developed specifically, or rather forked, to work on your wrist.

The neat thing is, once you synchronize a smartphone to an Android Wear smartwatch, the former automatically sends the latter the equivalents of apps installed on your handheld. As for the six mentioned above, they’re pretty straightforward but no doubt handy.

soundwave-android-wear

Paypal lets you, well, pay things and transfer money with your wrist, Pinterest notifies you when a previously pinned location is nearby, with Soundwave you can easily share music, Allthecooks is a neat little culinary assistant, Eat24 is dedicated to food delivery services, and Lyft can give you a lift in seconds.

So yeah, nothing spectacular, but baby steps in the right direction. Agreed? No? Disappointed with what Google showcased so far in terms of Android Wear software and hardware? Sound off your likes and dislikes below.

Samsung Galaxy S5: the good, the bad and the ugly

No one, or rather no sane person with the tiniest shred of common sense, expected Samsung’s Galaxy S5 to revolutionize the mobile landscape as we know it. There simply was no way, unless it packed fingerprint recognition, eye scanning features and the ability to cook dinner from scratch.

samsung-galaxy-s5

Ultimately, it came with just one of the three in tow, which sparked plenty of bickering between die-hard Samsung fans, who simply can’t admit their heroes dropped the ball, and everyone else.

Of course, it’s not only the lack of master chef skills that prompted unbiased tech-savvy folks to declare their deep displeasure with the “next big thing”. It’s also the scanty RAM (by 2014 high-end standards), ho-hum processor (by the same standards), skimpy battery, and uninspired design.

Galaxy S5 colors

In the end, only time will tell if Samsung made the right decision to roll out the Galaxy S5 now, with this seemingly lackluster spec sheet, or not. Which won’t stop us from trying to find the answer early, by putting the S5 under the microscope, and analyze its top features, as well as not so top features:

Samsung Galaxy S5 – the good

  • Water and dust protection

Just because Sony did it before Samsung, it doesn’t mean the Koreans don’t deserve praise for finally shielding a flagship device against water and dust out the box. They experimented with the Galaxy S4 Active last year, and now they’re taking things to the next level.

And for the record, yes, you can dunk your GS5 in a fish bowl brimming with fluids without worrying you’ll make fools of yourselves like the CEO of Archos. This bad boy is full-on waterproof, not splash-resistant, though the fine print of its IP67 rating clearly states it can handle up to 30-minute swims in 1 meter-deep waters.

  • Finger Scanner

I know, I know, it’s gimmicky, insecure, some say a little clunky, others outright useless. Yet we have to admit, it worked out better than expected. Maybe not better than the recognition system found on Apple’s iPhone 5s, but definitely superior to the rear sensor on HTC’s One max. It can store up to eight different prints and, most of all, it’s not just a fancy way to unlock the phone. It supports Paypal payment authorization as well.

  • Heart rate sensor and S Health

Another gimmick, another function many will scoff at, but fitness fanatics are over the moon with how easy they can monitor their heart rate. Plus, S Health 3.0 is a lot more convenient than previous builds, has boatloads of actually useful features, and a sleek, easy to master interface.

  • 5.1-inch Super AMOLED Full HD display

Look, I realize it’s not what everyone dreamed it would be, but let’s get one thing straight: the real-life benefits of Quad HD, or 2K resolution are close to zero. Balanced with potential battery life drawbacks, they’re nearly negligible, so let’s stop asking for moar when moar may in fact be less.

Galaxy S5 Galaxy S4

  • 16 MP rear camera with 4K video recording

Pretty much the same goes for GS5’s main snapper, with one extra comment: unlike the screen, Samsung made considerable strides here, boosting the sensor, as well as the already hefty list of features. Sure, it’d have been nice to get optical image stabilization too. Or a 20 MP+ sensor to put Xperia Z2’s cam to shame. Yet there’s only so much we can complain about without coming off as crybabies.

Samsung-Galaxy-S5-camera

Samsung Galaxy S5 – the bad

  • Plastic again?!?

We really bought into the metal rumors this time. I mean, there were so many of them they couldn’t possibly be all bogus. Yet here we are, pining for HTC One’s elegant, sturdy, sexy aluminum unibody once again. We’re losing patience, Samsung!

Galaxy S5 official

  • Size and form factor

It’s bad enough the GS5 is essentially as cheap-looking as the S3, but what’s up with the monster bezels? Seriously, is there something I’m missing? Maybe something to do with grip, I don’t know, because I’d like to think Samsung’s design team was not simply too lazy to go for a smarter, more compact mold. Fun fact: the 5.1-inch S5 is physically taller and wider than LG’s 5.2-inch G2 (142 x 72.5 vs 138.5 x 70.9 mm). Also, heavier.

Galaxy S5 in hand

  • 2 GB RAM

In a sense, we probably need 3 or 4 GB RAM on an Android handheld nowadays as much as we need Quad HD resolution. But as long as you put 3 gigs on the Galaxy Note 3, it’s stupid foolish to pack the S5 with two thirds of that, and try to market the 5.1-incher as the next big thing. It’s the second big thing, both literally and figuratively.

3 GB RAM

  • 2,800 mAh battery

Ultra Power Saving Mode? It might come in handy, but we’d rather have a 3,000+ mAh juicer. The G2 has one, the Xperia Z2 likewise, so why on Earth would you ever settle for 2,800, Samsung? For crying out loud, it’s a measly 200 mAh north of S4’s ticker, and with Snapdragon 600 traded for 800, the real-life autonomy will either stay the same, or wane. My bet is the latter.

Galaxy S5 battery

  • Quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor

I know full well Snapdragon 805 is not ready for a commercial launch, and for some reason, Exynos chips don’t look capable of gaining traction. Not worldwide, that’s for sure. So yes, this so-called Snapdragon 801, which, let’s cut the crap, is an S800 really, was the best possible option right now. But why did Samsung have to announce the GS5 now? Why not wait until May or June, and deliver an actual upgrade instead of a lousy rehash?

Galaxy S5 MWC

Samsung Galaxy S5 – the ugly

Baffled. It’s the only way to describe how I felt when I saw the Galaxy S5… from behind. And it’s probably the understatement of the century. It was at least three levels over mystification. Was I shocked? Flabbergasted, or whatever’s its negative equivalent? It still doesn’t cut it. I mean, look for yourselves and try to put your feelings into words. Can you do it? Exactly.

Galaxy S5 back

Tell you what, if I ever end up purchasing Samsung’s Galaxy S5 (for, like, $400 outright when it’s no longer cool), the first thing I’ll do is buy a case and hide the atrocity from sunlight. Maybe that will kill it. Fire is my back-up plan.

Top 5 Reasons Google’s Nexus 5 Will Crush The Competition (Even The iPhones and Galaxy Note 3)

Following an unusually hot spring in the smartphone landscape, which saw the Galaxy S4 and HTC One battle it out for gold (though sadly it wasn’t much of a contest in the end), and a much quieter summer, the fall season got off to an explosive start courtesy of two major IFA announcements.

LG-Nexus-5-mockup

The contenders

You can’t not love Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, what with its crazy compact body, faux leather back, 3 gigs of RAM and all, but at the same time Sony has finally stepped up to the plate, with an Xperia Z1 that probably doesn’t strike you as elegant, but compensates with inner beauty (i.e. Snapdragon 800 power and tremendous battery life), plus a top-notch 20.7 MP rear-facing camera.

It didn’t take long for Apple to join the party as well, with a somewhat underwhelming iPhone 5c, but also a 5s that, as much as we hate to admit it, is a clear and fierce contender. Yet I’m here to tell you, nay beg you to hold off for a month or so before deciding to commit to any of these beasts.

Nexus 5

I know, the temptation is suffocating, everyone’s upgrading around you, also pressuring you to get with the times. But what if you cough up $700 tomorrow and realize in just 30 days it was all just a huge mistake?

What if the true game-changer, the big kahuna, the top cat is right around the corner? Impossibru, you say? Hardly, since Google and LG are, as we speak, putting the finishing touches on the Nexus 5. And here’s how the N5 will blow your minds away, wiping out the Z1, Note 3 and 5s competition in the process:

No more cutting corners

Big G already went all in this year with the second-gen Nexus 7, which is no longer a mid-ranger anyway you look at it, and there’s no reason to think they’ll skimp on N5 specs either. Comfortably sized, Full HD screen? You got it. The best, zippiest mobile processor around? Check.

LG-Nexus-5

Plenty of RAM to go around? Not a problem. Massive battery, optional 4G LTE, NFC, up-to-date, silky smooth software, high-quality camera? A resounding yes sir all around.

True, the coveted microSD card slot will likely still go missing, as will a fingerprint scanner, but on the whole you won’t be able to complain about having to make sacrifices with the Nexus. And besides, who needs fingerprint recognition anyway?

Budget is still the word of the day

It may seem a bit far-fetched, you’ll probably not buy it until you see it, but we have every reason to believe the N5’s pricing will not be considerably bloated. Sure, a slight upping compared with the N4 is probably to be expected, but not more than $50 or $100 extra.

nexus-5-leak

And come on now, do you really need to hear the other three reasons if the N5 is to start at roughly $400 outright while not cutting any significant hardware or software corners? Jeez, you’re demanding.

Ramping up production

Aside from not packing LTE speeds and downsizing a little in the display or camera department, what was the number one issue with the N4? Limited availability, you got it. I’m pretty sure you all remember how fast the phone was flying off shelves, and not (just) because it was so popular.

Nexus-5-Render

But mostly, because Google and LG weren’t ready to handle decent demand. Well, mainly LG. So what makes me think this year will be any different? Call it a hunch. The truth of the matter is I don’t have proof the Nexus co-branders have or plan to ramp up production. Yet if Google decided once again to put its trust in LG, my guess is they did it based on more than words.

Also, with Samsung going forward with Tizen plans and HTC reportedly working on its own mobile OS, Android needs to develop a sort of independency from hardware manufacturers. And what’s the best, easiest way to do that? Make the newest “pure Google phone” a hit, bingo.

iOS? iOS who?

This is not easy to admit, but for years and years and years we Android aficionados have looked with envy at the simplicity, ease of use and smoothness of iOS. But no more. Jelly Bean has already stepped things up considerably compared with Ice Cream Sandwich and Kit Kat is bound to put Android on top of iOS in each and every possible way.

Android_KitKat

Though we’re still a little light on 4.4 details, specifics and updates, I have a hunch (another one) that all those Key Lime Pie-focused rumors were not in vain. Meaning that Kit Kat should come with improvements to multitasking, a rehashed UI, and, to shut iSheep Apple fanboys up, support for 64-bit chips.

Mind-blowing CPU and GPU performance

This actually ties with the first reason mentioned a little earlier (and in a way, with the fourth), but I feel it needs a bit of an emphasis. It’s no secret anymore, the Nexus 5 will come packing a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip and Adreno 330 graphics processing unit.

qualcomm snapdragon

Not exactly a very special combo, since the GNote 3, Xperia Z1 and LG G2 are essentially built the same way, right? Wrong. Based on a couple of leaked benchmarks, the N5 may just top the performance of the iPhone 5s, and, for that matter, of every other high-end phone around.

How come? Well, probably because Android 4.4 will help the system take everything to the next level. And that’s not something we usually say about Nexus devices, is it?

Now do you understand why you have to wait until mid-October?

Google Nexus 5 Rumor Roundup – Everything We Know So Far (Specs, Features, Pricing And More)

For a smartphone that everybody knew was coming this fall and that started making the rumor rounds… essentially as soon as its predecessor saw daylight (almost a year ago), we have to admit Google’s Nexus 5 was covered in a darn thick veil of mystery for quite some time.

Google-Nexus-5

Just think of what we knew about the N5 a month or so back. Exactly, nothing. Not even the name of the OEM that was going to help Big G with the handheld’s manufacturing. And let’s not remember how we all got fooled into trusting the fifth-gen Nexus phone was to come pre-loaded with Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie, which, as it turns out, is not a real thing.

In the meantime though, plenty of things have come to light in a seemingly synchronized avalanche of revelations. As if someone (cough, Google, cough) wanted it all to be unraveled in order to raise hype and awareness.

Hopefully, the KLP hoax came to a full end once KitKat became official and at least a big chunk of the intel that I’ll summarize below will gain credibility as time goes by. Without further ado, here’s everything we (think we) know as far as the Google Nexus 5 is concerned.

Design and build quality

Before sinking our teeth in N5’s looks and probable build materials, let’s get something out of the way really quick. Something that’s now obvious, but that wasn’t until a few weeks back. Just as its forefather, this year’s Nexus phone will be co-branded by Google alongside LG. End of story.

LG-Nexus-5-mockup

Now, about that design. There’ve been a number of legit-looking fan-made concepts flying around the new media in the past weeks or so, but by far the strongest, most credible hints we have concerning N5’s exterior appearance came by way of the infamous Android 4.4 promo, several FCC internal certification documents and, last but not least, two awfully short “hands-on videos”.

Based on all of this (though I find the latest leak, caused by the alleged forgetting of a working N5 prototype in a bar, a tad fishy), we can be sure (or close enough) the LG G2 worked as an inspiration for the latest “pure Google phone”. And in a way, the new Nexus 7 too.

Nexus 5

As far as we can tell, the Nexus will be ever so slightly smaller than the G2, chunkier, with thicker bezels and, the most important change of all, with no physical buttons on the back. Likely entirely made of plastic, the N5 will not be shallow or cheap-looking, but it won’t breathe elegance through its every pore (like the HTC One or Galaxy Note 3) either.

Hardware features – display, processor, camera

There’s absolutely no way Google and LG will go for a screen resolution clocking in below Full HD numbers (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), but the size is not yet set in stone. There’s concrete proof from the FCC that the LG D820 will boast a 5-inch panel (give or take 0.05 inches), albeit I’d personally like to wait for more evidence supporting the D820 and Nexus 5 are one and the same. And I mean something other than @evleaks’ notorious retraction of one of his tweets.

LG Nexus 5

Meanwhile, if Google wants to take on today’s Android heavyweights, a quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU and 2 GB of RAM should run the beneath-the-hood show. Other rumored yet not so certain features include a state-of-the-art 16 MP rear-facing camera with optical image stabilization, plus all the works in the connectivity department (NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi and even 4G LTE).

As far as software goes, it should all start with 16 gigs this time around (not 8), almost definitely sans external expansion options, whereas the battery is tipped to pack 2,300 mAh, which is 200 mAh more than the Nexus 4, but a whopping 700 mAh less than the G2.

Software

A fairly bonkers theory is being currently circulated online following the fishy discovery of that purported Nexus 5 pre-release unit in a public house, namely that the handheld might actually end up running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean out the box and not 4.4 KitKat. Chances of that becoming reality? Zero.

Android-4-4-KitKat

More so as details about specific 4.4 updates and tweaks have started trickling in. Like redesigned notification widgets and new Gallery Visualization. Now granted, KitKat is unlikely to considerably up the ante in the aesthetics or performance departments compared with Jelly Bean.

But that’s exactly why there’s absolutely no logical reason why Google would want to hold off on flavoring the N5 with the new OS. And besides, who doesn’t like Kit Kats? They’re sweet, crunchy and just all-around scrumptious.

Release date, pricing and availability

As the Nexus 4 has been officially unveiled on October 29, 2012 and made available a couple of weeks later, the rumor about the sequel getting a formal intro on October 14, 2013 sounds just about right.

nexus-5-leak

But where does that put the commercial launch? Sometime around November 1, one would assume, though who knows, maybe Google will want to surprise the world and thus roll the thing out a week or so after the announcement.

In terms of pricing, I hope you’re up to date with your heart medication, because chances are the Nexus 5 will start at an incredibly cheap $300. Off-contract. With 16 GB of internal storage space. No LTE, of course, but even the 4G-enabled variant could cost as less as 400 bucks. Sheesh, next thing you know, Larry Page will be handing these for free on the streets. Not that anyone’s complaining. Far from it, eh?

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs. HTC One Max – (Early) Specs Comparison

Battle of the giants, take two. The duel between Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, which split the Android world into two this first part of the year, might have ended with a no contest win for the former (as far as sales are concerned, at least), but something tells me the GNote 3 vs. One Max brawl is to be much more evenly matched.

samsung_galaxy_note_3_vs_htc_one_max

Of course, HTC continues to be the underdog, as Samsung has turned everything it’s touched in the past couple of years in solid, pure gold. Then again, there’s no more debating the Taiwanese have the upper hand in terms of build quality while being on-par with the competition in hardware and close enough in software.

And yeah, I know it seems far too early to put the Note 3 and One Max in a head-to-head bout, but come on, it’s not like their looks and spec sheets are a big secret anymore. That said and without further ado, I give you the clash of the century second part of 2013, the royal rumble, the ultimate smackdown or however you want to call it:

Design and build quality

Technically, the Note 3 and One Max are brand new phones. In essence however, they’re nothing but jumbo-sized versions of the Galaxy S4 (with S Pen support) and HTC One respectively. Which makes this duel so very easy to settle.

HTC-One-Max

Granted, the big plastic vs. metal debate is far from wrapped up, with still as many fans of the former as of the latter, but given Samsung’s execs have themselves caved in and will reportedly seek to “improve” the image of upcoming Galaxy stars, I think it’s very clear who comes out on top here.

Winner: One Max

Display

It’s funny. Until now, Samsung had the upper hand in display size (5 inches vs. 4.7), while HTC prevailed in pixel density (469 ppi vs. 441). The One Max however will be larger than the GNote 3 (5.9 vs. 5.7 inches) and sport the exact same 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution (aka Full HD), so the resulting ppi will be lower (373 vs. 386).

Galaxy Note 2 Note 3

With that in mind, you’d probably be quick to hand this win out to Samsung, especially that the Koreans seem to have done a fantastic job in boosting the usable screen real estate compared with the Note 2 while keeping the total size of the chassis under control.

But as usual, it’s a matter of taste. Dig larger screens? Then go for the One Max. Want something a little more compact (though by no means tiny) and with a top-notch ppi? The Note 3 is your man.

Winner: It’s a tie

Processing speed, RAM and cameras

Here’s where things get a little tricky. While the One Max is nearly guaranteed to pack a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU and 2 GB of RAM, Note 3’s internals remain under contention. Most likely, Sammy’s “next big thing” will come in two flavors, one with S800 heat and the other powered by an Exynos 5 Octa processor.

Qualcomm-snapdragon-800

But what about the RAM? Will there be the traditional 2 gigs or will that get bumped up to 3? And the camera, will it be a traditional 13 MP unit as well or up the ante in pixel count and/or with optical image stabilization?

As soon as we get definitive answers to all those questions, we can name a winner in this battle. For the time being, we’ll call it a draw also, even if chances are One Max’s UltraPixel snapper will be no match for the Note 3 regardless.

Software and battery

Pre-loaded Android 4.2 Jelly Bean or Android 4.3? Probably the latter will be valid for both phones, but if you ask me the bigger, more important question is which of the two will get upgraded to 5.0 Key Lime Pie first. Sorry, HTC, but as much as you stepped up to the plate lately, I still don’t trust you when it comes to swift software updates, so point Samsung.

Android-5.0-Key-Lime-Pie

And another point for Samsung as far as the battery is concerned – the Note 3 is rumored to come with a 3,450 mAh ticker (and remember, smaller screen), compared with the One Max, tipped to carry a 3,200 or 3,300 mAh battery.

Winner: Galaxy Note 3

Others

No microSD support for One Max, non-removable battery, but a never before seen (in Western smartphones, that is) fingerprint scanner. Hmm, this is a tough one, so my guess is it will all go down to pricing, availability and, as cynical as it might sound, marketing.

HTC-One-Max

Yes, marketing, and I’m not ashamed of admitting it. I, like most of you out there, am a victim, nay a product of consumerism, which bases its foundations on advertising. Though you may not realize it at times, many of your purchases are aided or influenced by how much buzz surrounds what phone, tablet, TV or blender.

Robert Downey Jr

And since there’s a good chance the Note 3 and One Max will cost about the same and hit the same carriers at around the same time, what will drive most of you to buy one or the other will likely be how much you’ll see of Robert Downey Jr. and how many billboards and anti-Apple ads Samsung will invest dough in. End of story, though I welcome as usual all opinions and thoughts, especially those contrary to my own. You have the floor.

Welcome the New Google Maps for Android…

I think everyone agrees that the latest version of Google Maps for Android is an improvement over the previous versions. The interface has been streamlined and new features have been added. Unfortunately, as Google has been prone to do lately, it has also done some house cleaning. The changes to offline maps was discussed in an earlier article at this link. Some features were removed altogether.

…Bye Bye Terrain and Measure

TerrainandMeasure
Terrain and measure displayed some useful information

Two layers have been removed, the terrain and Wikipedia views. Also missing is Google Labs where the company placed some new features it was still testing like Measure, Bigger Text, Directions and Intersection Explorer. I only used two of the six features Google decided to remove, and I guess that might explain their removal. Most people probably did not use these features. The two I did use, Terrain and Measure I will miss sorely.

Unless you are fond of recreational hiking or climbing, I doubt you will miss the Terrain. The terrain view would show you the contour of an area of the map with elevation information displayed as height over sea level. Measure, was a nifty feature which I think many people would appreciate. But hidden away in labs, I suspect many users never knew it was even there. Measure would allow you to measure the distance between two or more points. Measure would also display how high you would ascend going from one point to the other, or cumulative ascent in the case of multiple points. You can still access the Terrain View from Google Maps online. Sadly, I have not found an equivalent alternative to Measure in either the online Google Maps or Google Earth.

Okay, Google Maps is the best mapping application around, and I like the new cleaner looking app. Still, I wanted to take this moment to lament the loss of Terrain View and Measure, which are now consigned to the Google project graveyard.

If you feel the same way, post your thoughts below. Who knows, Google might just be listening.

Facebook Unveils Verified Pages and Profiles

Facebook

Facebook Facebook has just announced they are introducing verified accounts and pages; they have taken a leaf out of Twitters book. Verification gives high profile accounts an added level of authenticity so that the users know that the account that they are subscribed to is legit. Verified accounts will have a small blue check next to the name of the person or group to indicate that in fact the page or profile is authentic.

Verified pages and accounts are being rolled out to the elite accounts on Facebook for celebrities, brands and businesses. Facebook have said that they will be rolling out verified  profiles very soon to go along with verified pages. Also like Twitter there is no way for users to ask for a verified account, Facebook will come to you if they feel that verifying your account will be useful for other users to find the real page.

The verified pages feature is already live on Facebook and can be found on certain celebrities pages, the last big feature to be added to Facebook was the Subscription feature. This allowed users to essentially follow others without the need for the person to authorize the mutual friendship, this feature was also inspired by Twitter.

Source – TechCrunch

10 things to love about HTC One – Part 1

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1. Screen
The latest flagship device from HTC comes with the 4.7-inch Super LCD 3 screen with full HD resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. Doing the math, the display has got a pixel density figure of a whopping 468 pixels, which makes it perhaps the best display in the segment. The screen on the HTC One is so far the best one according to me and that’s one of the strongest points that will help the device sell better.

2. Processing Power
HTC one is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor unit that works in conjunction with the Adreno 320 GPU. The processor is clocked at 1.7 GHz and is a quad-core processor, and it has crushed benchmarks. According to the reports, the Snapdragon 600 would perform 40 percent better its predecessor, Snapdragon S4 Pro. We still don’t know how many apps are optimized enough to make the processor noticeably faster than the competition in real life usage, but it does have the power.

3. BoomSound
Apart from the screen, what makes HTC One stand out of the crowd is the dual front stereo speakers. We have so many smartphones currently available in the market with puny speakers, but the speakers on the HTC flagship are pretty loud and clear at the same time. It’s an HTC product, and since HTC has got stakes in Beats audio, the smartphone gets the Beats audio branding as well. The placement of speakers on the face of the smartphone ensures that sound does not get muffled when the phone is resting on a surface.

4. Camera
HTC devices are always known to have a hump at the rear for the camera unit, which is also prone to scratches. With the latest HTC One, the designers of the phone have solved the problem and the camera unit is safe from getting damaged.

5. Ultrapixels
All the smartphone manufacturers are participating in the megapixel race, whereas it is a well established fact that higher megapixels doesn’t lead to better quality. HTC believes Megapixel business is a thing from the past and has moved on to Ultrapixels now.

“The pain point we really wanted to focus on is: Do we really want to be honest with consumers and give them the best possible photography experience, or do we do what the entire market has been doing for years on end,” Chris Park, a product marketing manager at HTC, told Mashable. “UltraPixel refers to the fact that pixel size is more important than total number of pixels.”

According to the company, the output image will be a mere 4-megapixel picture, but it will be much better when compared to competition’s camera with higher megapixels. The pixels on the HTC One are of 2.0 microns, which means each pixel gets 300% more light than the 8 megapixel normal camera units, and as a result the final image will be of better quality and photo will be captured with more precision.

Continued over here.

Samsung Galaxy Note II Camera Review

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The Galaxy Note II has surpassed my expectations on the quality of camera that would be offered in the device. It captures images of the highest quality, even in low-light situations. In example, our Christmas tree was recently put up. Just about all of the lights were off, and the tree really wasn’t generating a whole lot of light at all. I turned on the “Low-light” feature in the options and managed to take a picture like all of the lights in the room were suddenly turned on and focused around the tree. There are tons of different camera options to choose from, including what they call “smile detection.” When smile detection is on, the camera will automatically take a picture when it detects that the person in front of the camera has smiled. It’s just small little things like this that make the Galaxy Note II’s camera great.

Camera features were definitely not the first thing I checked out when I first managed to get the device. In fact, camera features were not a huge worry for me simply because I didn’t use it a whole lot on my Motorola Atrix II due to how terrible the quality was. I was used to using a bad camera on my phone, so it wasn’t a huge worry. Now that I’ve been able to experience all of the features that the Note II offers in its camera, I doubt I’ll be going back to any other device aside from anything in Samsung’s Note lineup.

Features like “best face” and “best photo” allow the user of the camera to take multiple images in a short span of time and then choose which image they see as the best shot. After choosing what image was the best shot, the Note II will delete all of the images that didn’t make the users approval. While I have seen all of the ads and videos that showcase the camera features on the Note II, I didn’t expect it to actually have such good facial detection due to ads tending to over exaggerate things.

The camera does have an 8-megapixel shooter, which actually takes some nice pictures that are nicer than my 8-megapixel shooter on the Atrix II. I’m no camera geek, but I tend to think that a lot of the image quality is on the software side of things instead of the hardware itself. Sure the hardware has a lot to deal with the image, but I’ve honestly never seen such a clear image on a smartphone before. The Note II surpasses all of my expectations in this area.

Now, if someone were looking for a smartphone that had a good camera, I’m not sure I would suggest the Note II to that person. The device sits at a $299 price tag and is loaded with all types of features that I’m sure not everyone would be interested in using (e.g. the numerous S-compatible apps). If I were to suggest a Note-like device for camera features, I’d point that person in the direction of the Galaxy S III. Yes, it has a lot of features the Note does, but isn’t as expensive, especially for someone looking to use their smartphone as their main camera device.

If you’ve got the money to throw out though, the Note II is something you don’t want to pass up.

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New features in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Google was supposed to launch three new nexus products – Nexus 10 tablet, Nexus 4 smartphone and updated Nexus 7 tablet – but the event was canceled, thanks to hurricane Sandy. Though the physical event was canceled, Google went ahead and launched the Nexus products anyways. Apart from the device launches, Google also launched a new version of its Android operating system, the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Yeah, it was thought that Android 4.2 will be nicknamed as Key Lime Pie, but that isn’t the case apparently and the name is still Jelly Bean.

Android has definitely evolved a lot since it was first debuted in October 2008 on the T-Mobile G1. Since its launch, the operating system has gone ahead and become the world’s most popular platform.

Android does have some negatives, such as the sluggishness in the interface. The launch of major update, the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and the arrival of Palm and webOS chief designer Matias Duarte was of course a breakthrough moment, and the OS has seen more refinement in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, adding the smooth performance that the platform needed badly.

Android 4.2 just carries the legacy and focuses on the user. There are tons of improvements which makes Android more user friendly. Below are some of the features which have been added to Android 4.2:


Lock Screen Widget: Lockscreen has been one of the most unproductive areas of Android, but Google has taken care of it in Android 4.2 and now it’s possible to add widgets on the lockscreen. You can add any kind of widget to the lockscreen, making it instantly productive. In order to access the widgets, you have to simply swipe left or right without needing to unlock the device. Google’s Matias Duarte demonstrated how exactly a user can access the camera by just swiping towards the right. Same can be done with other widgets too, including gmail and others.

Gesture typing: By the looks of it, it just looks like Swype, but Google wants to convince us that it’s so much more than it. Very much like Swype, the user can ‘glide’ over the keys to spell a word without lifting his finger from the screen. To make things more convenient, spaces are added automatically and the keyboard will predict your next word. It is definitely a great addition to the existing keyboard and will improve the typing experience on the touchscreen device nevertheless.

Quick Settings: As mentioned before, Android 4.2 is built keeping user experience in mind. In order to make things smoother, Google has added an all new Quick Settings menu which is equipped with all sorts of toggles that will fulfill most of the needs. An average user may not have to open the settings menu at all as most of the settings are covered under Quick Settings.

Play Store with Music Explorer: The Google Play Store now has more to offer. It has been updated with artists discover option which reveals similar artists to what you are listening to.

What are your thoughts on Android 4.2?

Samsung Working With Various US Carriers To Strip Phones Of Infringing Patent Features

According to a post by the Wall Street Journal, Samsung isn’t wasting any time on keeping the eight smartphones Apple is demanding injunctions against on store shelves. Nope, this isn’t about the appeal they were talking about either. This is about stripping them of features described in the infringing patents owned by Apple. Samsung is currently working with carriers such as AT&T to strip at least five of their phones of the features that have been described in some of the software patents that was deemed to be infringed upon as part of the ruling on Friday night from the Apple vs Samsung case. Some of these features being stripped include the scroll bounce back, tap to zoom, and the multitouch scrolling features.

There’s only one problem with this move from Samsung. It may not help their case at all. Apple is in their right and entitled to injunctive relief under the design patents that Samsung was also deemed to infringe upon. That said, these efforts may not work, but it is good to see that Samsung is working to do something in order to keep their devices selling in the United States. As you probably guessed, Samsung can’t possible work around design patents, it’s not like they can virtually alter the physical look of the phone. But, on the bright side of things, the eight devices that Apple is demanding bans on aren’t really going to do anything as they are older products from Samsung. That said, they aren’t exactly cutting-edge when it comes to technology either.

The only device from Samsung that could just possible escape the banishment by removing some of the software features is the Galaxy Prevail, which you probably haven’t heard of as it is a Boost Mobile budget device. For some of these handsets, this could mean some updates to slightly newer versions of the Android operating system (Samsung Electronics actually has none of these infringing features in their 2.3.5 Gingerbread builds). For other Samsung handsets, like the Galaxy S II, it means absolutely nothing at all. The Galaxy S II handsets and variants of the handset are already on the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich build, which should have supposedly removed the infringing features (meaning that possibly Samsung knew about this infringement?). For a few device though, it’s going to mean some straight feature-stripping in order to save time so that they can keep the device (possibly) selling in the United States.

Hopefully Samsung Electronics finds a way to keep these devices in the States though. Sure they aren’t really cutting-edge, but it’s still unfortunate to see them have a ban put on them. If you’re looking for the devices that will be banned, see below:

  • Galaxy S 4G
  • Galaxy S2 (AT&T)
  • Galaxy S2 (Skyrocket)
  • Galaxy S2 (T-Mobile)
  • Galaxy S2 Epic 4G
  • Galaxy S Showcase
  • Droid Charge
  • Galaxy Prevail

Hopefully we’ll be seeing the update roll out within the next couple of weeks.

source: Android Police

First Thoughts: HTC One S Mini Review

This post was originally posted on Nibletz

HTC sent us their latest device for T-Mobile (announcement is coming shortly from NYC) the One S. This device is part of “the new HTC” a return to form by the Taiwanese company after a devastating 4Q 2011. After an onslaught of very similar models across the “high-end” of the Android OS market the brand was becoming diluted. Last year saw (in the US)  the launch of Thunderbolt 4G, Evo Shift 4G, Droid Incredible 2, Merge, Sensation 4G,  Evo 3D, Status, MyTouch 4G Slide, Rhyme, Hero S, Wildfire S, Amaze 4G, Evo  Design 4G, Vivid, and lastly the Rezound. 16 phones, nearly half of which were considered high-end devices.  HTC Chief Financial Officer Winston said “We simply dropped the ball on products in the fourth quarter.” Q1 2012 was a huge disappointment as TheDroidGuy reported two weeks ago.

So, how about the One is it “the one“?

Hardware

Beginning with the first touch I thought, this feels like their mid to low-end devices – SPECTACULAR.  I mean that in all sincerity.  I loved the quality and construction of both the Status AND the Radar 4G (Windows Phone 7) devices.  They were constructed out of solid pieces of aluminum.  I was baffled why two of the best devices were made of this amazing metal but not the “halo” devices like Sensation 4G, Amaze 4G, or  Evo 3D.  The screen is a 4.3″ SuperAMOLED qHD (960×540) resolution*.   It comes with Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and Sense 4.0 HTC’s custom UI overlay.  The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU, 1GB DDR2, and it operates on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ (42 Mbps) network.  It also comes with Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-FI 802.11 b/g/n, and HDMI via MHL connector (not included).  The storage is non-expandable 16GB (available space is split into 2.2 GB system and 9.9 GB external partitions). HTC has teamed with Dropbox to give an additional 25 GB of “free” storage – if you don’t include data usage, that is.

The battery, which you cannot remove, is 1650 mAh.  This is much smaller than the Motorola Droid Razr 1780 mAh (another device without a removable battery).  We will see if this was a mistake or a HUGE mistake on the part of HTC.  I’ve never personally owned a HTC device without owning at least one more battery for it.

More after the break
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PayPal Updated, Scan Checks Using Your Camera

If you are like me and many others, PayPal is a life saver and their application for Android is pretty nice. Recently, PayPal has updated their application and added a new feature for us PayPal users.

Right now there are many options available within PayPal, buy from almost anywhere, send money, receive money, view balances, and many many other features. While the PayPal app already does the majority of those features, they still decided to add one more for us PayPal lovers. (more…)

Slacker Radio’s HUGE update

This has been a long time coming, way back in September, myself, Kyle (TDG), RussellHolly, Aaron BuckNAH, and Aaron Kasten all went to NYC to a press event.  If I remember correctly there were 75+ vendors showing that day.  In the middle of the show floor was the Slacker booth.  After a lot of walking, taking photos, talking, and basically being completely overwhelmed – I found myself talking to the Slacker Radio crew.

They walked us through the Slacker app for Android, spoke of some of what was coming, and then dropped this bombshell regarding Slacker Premium.  I have been a Slacker fan for a long time.  I basically completely dropped Pandora after the Slacker app dropped for Android.  There have always been a few changes I wished they would make, but never enough to stick with any other streaming service.

More after the break
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