Archive for the 'Android' Category

The OnePlus One Offers Top-Tier Specs Android Phone Specs At $299

Wednesday 23 April 2014 @ 3:44 am
03 Not all smartphones are created equal, but the new OnePlus One (not to be confused with that other One, the HTC One) is roughly equivalent on paper with some of the most expensive smartphones in the world, albeit with a price that puts it much more within reach than most of those. The OnePlus One starts at $299 for a white 16GB version, and will also offer a 64GB variant in black for $349 when it… Read More

Gillmor Gang: Action Items

Saturday 19 April 2014 @ 9:00 am
Gillmor Gang Artcard The Gillmor Gang — Dan Farber, Kevin Marks, Semil Shah, Danny Sullivan, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor — played the latest favorite game of the Mobility Addicted. It's called Lock Screen, and some of us think it's where the early adopters meet the great unvarnished Silent Majority. Forget clicks or swipes or doing anything; it's all about glancing. What this means is that social scientists… Read More

Your smartphone becomes the key to your laptop with this tantalizing Chrome OS feature

Thursday 17 April 2014 @ 4:50 pm
Your smartphone becomes the key to your laptop with this tantalizing Chrome OS feature

Above: The 'Easy Unlock' dialog discovered in a developer channel of Chrome OS.

Image Credit: Android Police

Soon you might be able to log into a Chromebook just by bringing your Android phone close to it.

That would be a lot easier than typing in a password — as soon as your Chromebook detected that the phone was nearby, it would automatically unlock, using a feature helpfully named “Easy Unlock.” You might not even have to take your phone out of your pocket.

Will this really come to a Chromebook near you? Who knows. There is a tantalizing suggestion in the latest developer version of Chrome OS, according to Android Police, which first reported the “feature.” It’s an option that developers can enable — but once enabled, it doesn’t actually do anything except show a tantalizing first screen.

If it materializes, it won’t be the first time someone has tried to use a phone to unlock a device. A startup called Toopher showed a similar product in 2012. More recently, HP introduced a technology to use NFC-enabled smartphones to unlock office laser printers — just tap your phone to the printer and you can use all the toner you want.

Hat tip: TechCrunch

Android device owners, now you can control your desktop from across the room — or the world

Thursday 17 April 2014 @ 7:17 am
Android device owners, now you can control your desktop from across the room — or the world

Above: Chrome remote desktop on Android.

Image Credit: Google

Google released its Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android yesterday, enabling the Android crowd to access their Mac or PC from afar. The app is a mobile extension of Chrome’s remote desktop screen-sharing service, which has enabled machine control from Chromebooks and Chrome browsers since it arrived in 2011.

First-time users will need to install a helper application to get things going (and set up a Google account, if they don’t already have one), but then they can just boot up the Android app and get going.

An iOS version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app is coming later this year, Google promised in a blog post announcing the Android app release.

Google’s official app joins a bevy of remote desktop apps already available, including Microsoft’s Remote Desktop apps, which facilitate remote access to PCs from Android or iOS devices.

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HTC’s new One is a beautiful beast, a speed demon — but its camera stinks (review)

Saturday 12 April 2014 @ 6:00 am
HTC’s new One is a beautiful beast, a speed demon — but its camera stinks (review)
Image Credit: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

HTC fans have an underdog complex.

Before Samsung’s Galaxy series became so prominent, HTC was the top Android manufacturer in the world. Last year’s One phone was a reminder of those heady days.

But even though HTC claimed the One was its best-selling phone ever, it wasn’t enough to turn around the company’s dire financials.

So here we are with the new One, which improves upon last year’s flagship phone in just about every way. It features a bigger screen, a significantly faster processor, and an improved all-metal case. (At this point, this seems to be the common refrain for all new gadget reviews.)

And as I mentioned in my interview with HTC’s design leads, it’s the company’s most important phone to date.

It’s also a phone I’ve been looking forward to for some time. Last year’s One was the first Android handset that felt as well-made as Apple’s iPhone to me — so much that at the time, I ended up dumping it in favor of HTC’s device.

I found a lot to like about the new One after spending a week with it, but I was also constantly reminded of things that I wished HTC improved on more. It’s ultimately a solid upgrade over last year’s model, but it may not be the massive improvement HTC needs.

The good: Still the best-designed Android phone

In my initial hands-on with the new One, I called it the Cadillac of smartphones. That characterization seems even more apt now that I’ve spent some time with it. It’s big, shiny, and bold, like a classic Cadillac — but it’s definitely not a style that appeals to everyone.

HTC doubled down on its metal unibody design from last year. Now the phone’s metal case wraps all the way around, whereas last year’s One had a bit of plastic on its sides. The new One is now also better contoured to fit the curves of your hand, and the new polished metal case gives it a luxurious feel. But while the metal case does a good job of protecting the rear and sides of the phone, the One’s front bezel is unfortunately more prone to nicks and scratches (more on that below).

HTC One M8 hands-on 7

Thanks to its 5-inch screen, HTC also had to make the new One slightly taller than last year’s model. It’s not a big change, but for some, it may make the new One difficult to hold with a single hand. (Then again, the new Samsung Galaxy S5 is around the same height, so consumers may just have to get used to bigger phones this year.)

The bigger screen is noticeably brighter than its predecessor, though you don’t always get access to the larger display area. This time around, HTC implemented the Android menu buttons via software, and not through permanent capacitive buttons. That means the Android keys appear and disappear depending on what you’re doing, and in some cases they end up using precious screen space. Still, moving to software Android keys brings HTC in line with most other Android phone makers (and it’s something Google has been pushing for a while).

At this point, it seems like it’s a given that the new One, like most other new smartphones, is a speed demon. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s newest quad-core chip, the Snapdragon 801, and 2GB of RAM. It feels noticeably zippier than last year’s One, especially when it comes to loading up hefty apps and games. But you’d be forgiven for not seeing a huge speed difference between the new One and any of last year’s quad-core Android phones. We’re long past the point of diminishing returns for smartphone processor speeds.

HTC One M8 hands-on 5

HTC also made some big upgrades to the One’s Blinkfeed, a defining feature of its Sense software that displays news and social media updates right on your Android home screen. HTC has finally opened up the Blinkfeed to third-party developers (something that was promised last year), and it has also redesigned the feature to focus more on large photos and headlines.

I liked Blinkfeed a lot with last year’s One, and this latest version is even more convenient for glancing at news. (HTC will also make its new Sense software available to owners of the previous One.)

Among other updates, I also appreciated the new Boomsound stereo speakers, which are louder and more detailed than last year’s version. HTC has also implemented a few new useful gestures, including the capability to double-tap the screen to unlock the phone, and swipe gestures from the sides to get directly to the Blinkfeed or your last open app.

Intriguing new camera features

Unlike every other smartphone on the market, the new One sports two camera sensors on its rear. One houses the 4-megapixel “Ultrapixel” camera we saw last year, which makes up for its low resolution with larger pixels for low-light photography.

As HTC design guy Drew Bamford told us last month, “It’s actually a new module with the same number of pixels [4MP] and the same size of pixels, but with new firmware that will give you better results.”

The second, smaller sensor captures depth data, which opens up new features like the ability to readjust the focus of a picture after you’ve taken it. Other depth-enabled effects can highlight the foreground subject in a photo, as well as turn a photo into a trippy, 3D-like experience (allowing you to tilt the camera to view different angles of a photo).

I was able to make some so-so pictures look truly gorgeous after tweaking their focus settings. If you’ve ever dreamed of being able to re-create a DSLR’s shallow focus with your smartphone, the One has got you covered.

HTC also packed in a new 5-megapixel front-facing camera in the One, which makes it an ideal selfie machine.

Unfortunately, I wish HTC worked as hard to improve the One’s core camera sensor as it did to utilize the new depth sensor.

Below, check out a few samples from the One’s camera. Click the photos for full-sized versions.

The bad: Core camera issues remain

HTC made a big deal about its Ultrapixel camera last year, which seemed like a breath of sanity in the megapixel race. But while it lived up to the company’s claims for low-light photo quality, last year’s One had trouble matching the sharpness of competing cameras. The Ultrapixel camera was particularly disappointing in brightly lit scenes, where those big pixels tended to bring in too much light and blow out the photo.

Strangely, most of those issues remain with the new One’s camera. Even though HTC is using a different sensor part, the 4MP Ultrapixel camera is pretty much the same as last year. (Does it make any sense to have a front-facing camera that actually has a higher image resolution than the rear camera?)

As you can see in the gallery above, the new One still blows out images when there’s too much light, and complex scenes with trees don’t look as detailed as photos from the iPhone 5S and other smartphones.

The company was aware of the criticisms of last year’s camera, but it still thinks the Ultrapixel method is the best balance for most photos.

As Bamford told us in an interview during the One’s launch, “What we’re trying to do is solve for the most frequent use cases. A lot of people are taking photos indoors in dim lighting, and we really want to optimize for that.”

Yes, the new One is once again a champion at low-light photos. But at this point, it seems unfair to force consumers between that and sharp daylight photos. Given the quality of images we’re seeing from the iPhone 5S and all of Nokia’s “PureView” camera smartphones, the One’s core camera quality is inexcusable.

Another issue worth mentioning: The One’s front bezel clearly isn’t as strong as the rest of its metallic case. I dropped the phone once on a wooden floor, and I immediately notice some slight chipping on the top of the bezel (below).

The One's front bezel started chipping after just one fall

Above: The One’s front bezel started chipping after just one fall

Image Credit: Devindra Hardaar/VentureBeat

The verdict: A decent upgrade that doesn’t go far enough

It’s a shame that HTC gets so much right with the One, but a widely known issue from last year continues to haunt it.

The new One remains one of the better Android phones on the market, especially if you can stomach the slightly lower photo quality, I’m just disappointed it’s not a phone I can recommend without any hesitation. That’s especially disheartening given just how much HTC needs this phone to succeed.

The company is also pursuing a new marketing strategy this year, so perhaps the One’s camera issues won’t keep consumers away. Then again, HTC’s new ads (starring actor Gary Oldman) are all focused on “asking the Internet” about the One’s superiority — that’s not exactly a smart suggestion when most of the Internet is complaining about the camera.

VentureBeat Mobile SummitOur fourth annual VentureBeat Mobile Summit, April 14-15 at the scenic Cavallo Point Resort in Sausalito, Calif., will gather the top mobile 180 executives to tackle the biggest growth opportunities in the industry today. Request an invitation.

Google Strengthens Android App Security With Continuous Post-Install Scans

Thursday 10 April 2014 @ 9:00 am
Google is making a change to its Android security systems today that is meant to ensure that users who install apps from outside of the Google Play store are a bit safer from malicious apps. Currently, Android users can have Google scan their apps for malicious code at the time of installation. Going forward, Google will expand this program with a more service-based system that will… Read More

Apple Puts iOS 7 Adoption At 87% As iOS 6 And Older Fade To Black

Monday 7 April 2014 @ 1:22 pm
Apple has just released updating figures around iOS version adoption as measured by its own tracking of app usage, and iOS 7 and up now accounts for 87 percent of all iOS devices by that measurement, with iOS 6 making up 11 percent and older versions accounting for just 2 percent of the total picture. That’s a very thoroughly homogenous mix, given the comparable Android numbers;… Read More

Google Prepares To Launch Android TV (Report)

Saturday 5 April 2014 @ 12:01 pm
Google has plans for another smart TV product, according to a report in The Verge. Apparently this set top box will be less ambitious and easier to use than one of the company's previous initiatives, Google TV. In the words of Google documents that The Verge said it has obtained, "Android TV is an entertainment interface, not a computing platform." Read More

Trial docs show Apple worries cheaper Android ‘phablets’ will hurt iPhone sales

Friday 4 April 2014 @ 2:05 pm
Trial docs show Apple worries cheaper Android ‘phablets’ will hurt iPhone sales
Image Credit: Apple

Apple’s sales team is genuinely concerned that iPhone growth will slow due to the growing number of Android smartphones with larger screens — at least according to recently released internal documents.

The internal Apple documents, which came to light today during round two of the Apple v. Samsung trial, were prepared by a sales team member for a fiscal 2014 offsite meeting.

Specifically, the documents called out the variety of Android devices with screens larger than the iPhone that cost over $300 and others that are under $300. There was also some concern over the large amount of money Android makers are spending to promote and market their devices.

During the trial, Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller did note that he didn’t agree with the sales team’s assessment — suggesting that others on Apple’s leadership team might not be that threatened by the rise of Android handsets.

Via Re/code

VentureBeat Mobile SummitOur fourth annual VentureBeat Mobile Summit, April 14-15 at the scenic Cavallo Point Resort in Sausalito, Calif., will gather the top mobile 180 executives to tackle the biggest growth opportunities in the industry today. Request an invitation.


Intel plans new ‘Braswell’ chip for PCs, over 20 Chromebooks

Thursday 3 April 2014 @ 7:23 am
Intel plans new ‘Braswell’ chip for PCs, over 20 Chromebooks

Above: Intel entrance

Image Credit: Flickr: keitamiyoshi

Intel showed off its new processor code-named Braswell today at the second day of its Intel Developer Forum event in China.

Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president at Intel, said that Braswell will be a follow-on to the code-named Bay Trail processor that is now used in laptop-like Chromebooks and sub-$500 Windows computers. Intel said its processors are used in more than 20 Chromebooks, which are based on Google’s Chrome OS.

Braswell is a system-on-a-chip, or SoC, and it is built with a next-generation manufacturing process where the circuits are 14 nanometers apart. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

The world’s biggest chip maker also showed off software, including a 64-bit Android kernel. The Android KitKat 4.4 has a 64-bit kernel optimized to run on Intel chips. That will allow developers to more easily create apps that run on future Intel-Android devices. Intel has said it plans to enable dual-boot machines that can run either Windows or Android software.

Skaugen also showed a media box from QVODTechnology. Available later this year, the box uses Intel Bay Trail processors. Intel is also working in a future WiDi-enabled set-top box, or one where you can cast images wirelessly from a laptop to a WiDi-enabled TV.

Intel said that its Sofia 3G mobile-focused product, a dual-chip SoC, will begin shipping in the fourth quarter of this year. Yesterday, Intel announced a $100 million venture fund to invest in smartphone and tablet technologies in China.

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