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Archive for the ‘Android’ Category

Mobile Apps are a $30 Billion Big Business

posted by Allison Howen @ 12:30 PM
Monday, November 26, 2012

Mobile applications are a $30 billion business, according to new Market Data from ABI Research.

The market intelligence company reveals that cumulative mobile app revenues are forecasted to pass $30 billion by the end of this year, which is nearly double the amount that was reached by the end of 2011. The cumulative revenue includes money made from pay-per-downloads, in-app purchases, subscriptions and in-app advertisements.

“Consumers’ high interest in apps has for a long time been obvious from download volumes, but it’s 2012 that will go down in history as the year when the economic side of the business finally took off,” said ABI Research Senior Analyst Aapo Markkanen. “We’re no longer talking only about a short-term gold rush. Apps have become a major digital industry.”

It is also important to note that even though Apple was the catalyst behind monetizing mobile applications, Markkanen claims that Android developers are estimated to receive about one-third of annual app revenues.

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Mobile Traffic Declines in July (And More Statistics)

posted by Michael Garrity @ 7:30 AM
Monday, August 20, 2012

Affiliate Window, one of the United Kingdom’s leading performance marketing networks, has unleashed upon the world its July report concerning mobile and m-commerce statistics.

Most curiously, the company found that the share of Web traffic through mobile devices actually dropped from over 12 percent in June to making up around just nine percent of total traffic in July. This isn’t terribly peculiar, as May saw a slight decrease, as well, following month-by-month increases for the first four months of the year.

On the upside, however, the volume of mobile clicks actually increased. And not only that, but the share of sales through mobile devices also rose, finally crossing the nine percent threshold at 9.42 percent. Ultimately, this figure, coupled with the drop in traffic, seems to show a closer alignment between mobile conversion rates and those of their desktop counterparts, as mobile conversion rates improved throughout July, increasing to 3.14 percent.

The report also breaks down mobile and m-commerce statistics by mobile device. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that Apple is (still) leading the pack, with the iPhone driving 38 percent of all mobile traffic by the end of the month. However, it’s not all sunshine for the brand, as iPad traffic actually ended up dropping below 40 percent. On the other hand, iPad sales reached a high of 63 percent of all mobile sales by the end of the month, and the iPhone ended up accounting for 24.87 percent.

Android devices saw traffic increases in July, with the number resting between 18 and 19 percent, up from June’s 17.5 percent. BlackBerry and “Other” devices both decreased, driving 1.5 and two percent of July’s mobile traffic, respectively. In terms of sales, Android saw another increase, ranging between 11.5 and 13 percent throughout the four weeks of July, while BlackBerry and “Other” devices both stayed below two percent.

From a year-to-date perspective, iPads have driven 57 percent of all mobile sales, with iPhones coming in second at 27 percent, and followed by Android (11 percent), BlackBerry (3 percent) and other devices (2 percent). Adding to this, Affiliate Window found that the iPhone, Android and “Other” devices allow showed an improvement in conversion rates in July; in fact, they were all almost identical at around 2.1 percent.

I think it’s fair to say that if you take anything away from this report, it’s not to put too much stock in the future of BlackBerry.

 

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Full-Screen Banner Ads Come to AppsGeyser

posted by Allison Howen @ 2:30 PM
Wednesday, August 15, 2012

AppsGeyser, the free Android application building platform, is helping developers monetize their apps with the launch of full-screen banner ads.

The company decided to launch full-screen banner ads after preliminary testing revealed that when full-screen ads were run upon opening an app, revenues for the app increased tenfold. This is especially true for "once-a-day" apps, such as a weather app, which users typically only open for a short period of time everyday.

In order to activate the ads, developers will need to qualify for monetization, and then select the full screen option in the Monetize Apps tab. It is also important to note that full-screen ads will be in addition to banner ads, not instead of banner ads. For developers who aren't sure whether the full-screen ads are a good fit for their app, AppsGeyser recommends testing it out by creating more than one version of the app and analyzing which version obtains more revenue per user.

"Giving developers a free Android app builder to ease development is only the first step in our process,” says AppsGeyser Co-founder Vasily Salomatov. “We measure our success by the success of our developers. We're eager to help more developers increase their revenues by a factor of ten!"

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Android Releases Jelly Bean Source Code to Developers

posted by Michael Garrity @ 9:30 AM
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Not too long ago, Google released the Android Jelly Bean raw source code for its Android Open Source Project. This makes it possible for developers to work on updates and releases for tablet and smartphone apps far more easily, and it also provides greater support and more features to the Jelly Bean operating system.

Developers should have a greater array of customization options, as well as the ability to add a greater number of features to their Jelly Bean applications, because its compatible devices and their binaries are already prepared to work with the source code.

The full, latest version of Jelly Bean is available for use; the first device to utilize the OS is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus HSPA+. This version is reported to have new features and faster, more efficient app updates, on top of being easier to use. It also offers resizable app widgets, improved speeds, better notifications, extended Android Beam Bluetooth capabilities, and more.

Following this release, Australia-based mobile app development company Smarter Apps announced that it would be bringing in a set of feature-rich products and services to its clients that are interested in developing for Jelly Bean.

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The Most Popular Smartphone Is…

posted by Allison Howen @ 11:30 AM
Monday, July 16, 2012

Here is the proof that 2012 is the year of mobile…

A recent study by Nielsen reveals that two thirds of new mobile buyers in the U.S. are now opting for smartphones, which has led to more than half (54.9 percent to be exact), of U.S. mobile subscribers now owning a smartphone.

And although this is good news for the mobile market, as well as for Web workers who are already monetizing off of this new channel (retailers, marketers, affiliates, etc.), it is not good news for some companies who have put many dollars into mobile, yet are still being left in the dust – we are talking about you, Microsoft.

The Q2 smartphone study shows that the Windows 7 phone is only used by 1.3 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, while other Windows phones only make up 3 percent of the market. This means that less people have a Windows phone than still have a Blackberry, since RIM devices make up 9 percent of the U.S. smartphone market.

The study also reveals that Android leads the smartphone market in the U.S., with 51.8 percent of smartphone users owning an Android device. And Apple is currently in second place, with more than a third of smartphone owners (34.3%) using the company’s iPhone. However, it is also important to note that Apple has the highest manufacturer share of smarphone handsets. Additionally, among smartphone owners who bought their device during June 2012, 54 percent said they chose an Android phone, while 36 percent bought an iPhone.

           
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Adobe Shadow: Synchronized Mobile Website Testing

posted by Alex @ 1:00 AM
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
No matter how advanced your skills in mobile website development are, testing is what you can’t live without. Adobe Labs created a perfect solution - Shadow - software for mobile website developers allowing to provide simultaneous website testing on numerous devices.
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PayAnywhere Adds Two SDKs for Android

posted by AllisonH @ 9:30 AM
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mobile payment processing solution PayAnywhere has announced the addition of two Android software developer kits (SDKs) to its developer library, which will join the company’s current SDKs for iOS devices.

The new Android SDKs – Basic and Advanced – enable developers to embed credit card point-of-sale functionality into apps that run on any Android device, which makes it possible for those apps to accept and process Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit card purchases.

After being enabled by PayAnywhere APIs, mobile apps can accept swiped credit card transactions via the PayAnywhere credit card reader and payment processing service for smartphones and tablets, as well as accept keyed-in transactions when cards aren’t present.

In addition to credit card processing, the PayAnywhere SDKs offer a host of other features such as the ability to capture signatures, attach invoice numbers to transactions, print or email receipts, keep a record of transactions, view detailed transaction reports and more. 

“The handling of credit card transactions and moving money from consumer to merchant is quite an involved and complicated process,” says Gordon Rimac, chief technology officer at PayAnywhere. “That’s one reason many enterprises, even those with extensive developer resources, approach PayAnywhere about incorporating our transaction and payments processing solution into their apps. Handling payment processing is something PayAnywhere does exceptionally well, and through our SDKs, PayAnywhere is making it very easy to leverage our core business expertise while letting developers stay focused on theirs.”

While both SDKs allow developers to add credit card transaction capabilities into apps, the Advanced SDK enables merchants to fully brand their app so that consumers don’t know that PayAnywhere is handling the transactions. Developers can learn more about the PayAnywhere APIs here.

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Monitor Your Websites 24 x 7 with New Mobile App

posted by Michael Garrity @ 9:00 AM
Friday, June 1, 2012

Website and Web application-monitoring service provider Site24x7 is releasing a new app for Android devices that will allow users to connect with its services at any time from any where.

Whenever a user has a need to check critical website metrics on the go, including availability status, outage reports, service-level agreements (SLAs) and more, they are just a click away. Site24x7 is also offering Root Cause Analysis reports, which are gathered using a tool that combines traceroutes, ping, DNS analysis and screenshots of a Web page at the time of an error or outage.

Site owners can even opt-in to instant alerts via push notification that will let administrators and developers know immediately any time a website or server goes down. The app also features manage-configured monitors that let users easily track availability and the current status of their configured monitors.

The application is available for users with a Site24x7 account with devices running Android 2.2 or higher, and a mobile Web client is offered for non-Android users.

 

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Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet review [Video]

posted by Technology @ 6:59 PM
Saturday, January 28, 2012


Motorola’s Xyboard tablet line is just about everything I wished the Motorola Xoom had been when it was released not even a year ago.

The Xoom, Motorola’s first attempt to build an iPad-competing tablet, was critically acclaimed when it launched last February. It even won the Best of Show award at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

But the Xoom, which sported a 10.1-inch screen, was a bit too heavy (1.6 pounds) and much too expensive (launching with an $800 price tag), and the 3G and 4G models were available only through Verizon. The 4G capabilities were also delayed about seven months, and when they did arrive, Xoom owners had to mail in their tablets to get a 4G hardware upgrade.

Thankfully, in the Xyboard, it seems Motorola has made up for most (but not all) of its missteps with the Xoom.

For one thing, the Xyboard prices are more acceptable.

The Wi-Fi-only version of the Xyboard starts at $399.99 for the 8.2-inch model and at $499.99 for the 10.1-inch model. The Verizon-exclusive 4G version, known as the Droid Xyboard, starts at $429.99 for the 8.2-inch model and at $529.99 for the 10.1-inch model — that is, as long as you sign a two-year data plan along with the tablet. (All four of the prices named are for tablets with 16 gigabytes of storage.)

Both the 8.2-inch and 10.1-inch Xyboards have touch screens with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.

The Motorola Droid Xybaord 10.1, left, next to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Apple iPad 2.

The Xyboard 10.1 is thin and light, and physically felt much more competitive with Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, the two high-end tablets against which I think the Xyboard 10.1 will be competing most for consumer dollars. The Asus Transformer Prime tablet, a tablet I haven’t yet tried, is likely be in this category as well.

In my time testing the 4G-equipped Droid Xyboard 10.1, it was clear more than just the pricing strategy was different with Motorola’s new tablets.

Inside, the Xyboard 10.1 is fitted with a 1.2-gigahertz dual core processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM, which powers the tablet to speedy performance that lived up to its price tag.

In the front and rear are 5-megapixel cameras, which shoot detailed photos and 720p video out back too. They aren’t as sharp as some 5-megapixel cameras I’ve seen on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Apple iPhone 4 and Nokia Lumia 710, but they’re far better than the lackluster cameras in the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab.

The Xyboard 10.1 is just 0.35 inches thick and weighs 1.32 pounds, making the inclusion of such high-resolution cameras and a rear LEG flash all the more impressive. It also has dual stereo speakers in the back, which sound good for a tablet (better than speakers on the iPad and the Galaxy Tab 10.1) but don’t replace a good set of headphones.

The displays on the Xyboard 10.1 were another high point, responding to touch input quickly and rendering websites, apps and videos sharply, clearly and brightly. Unlike the iPad or the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Xyboard has a mini-HDMI port built in, so it’s easy to hook the tablet up to a TV set.

The Xyboard 10.1 is also compatible with a stylus (sold separately) that works well for taking notes and simple sketching. Motorola has preloaded the tablet with is own Floating Note and Evernote apps, which both work well.

I do have a major complaint with the Xyboard’s inability to let a user rest his or her palm on the tablet while using the stylus. Anyone who draws regularly knows that your hand often rests on the surface you’re drawing on. The need to raise your hand above the screen makes the Xyboard basically unusable as a drawing tool for long periods of time. The Xyboard isn’t going to replace artist tablets such as Wacom’s products.

The Xyboard 10.1 is covered in a water-resistant nano coating. For the sake of testing, I poured liquids on the tablet and easily whipped the device on, and it worked with no problems. I still wouldn’t recommend dropping the Xyboard into a bucket of water to see how it holds up, but the water resistance makes a lot of sense. I would love to see this feature on more tablets and hopefully phones too.

The edges of the Xyboard 10.1 and 8.2 are coated in a grippy rubberized material that is comfortable to hold while surfing the Web, watching videos or reading an ebook for a long period of time.

But this thoughtfulness of design didn’t carry over to the power and volume buttons, which are on the back of the tablet and nearly flush with the surface. The result: I frequently flipped around the Xyboard to see the buttons I wanted to use. After a while, I did get somewhat used to this, but the buttons are among the least convenient I’ve found on a tablet. This was a problem on the Xoom as well.

I averaged about seven to eight hours of battery life out of the Xyboard 10.1, which is good for a 4G tablet. But charging from an almost depleted battery took about three or four hours, which is much longer than I would like. 

Verizon’s 4G service was fast, but unless you plan to use the Xyboard outside with no nearby Wi-Fi signal, opting for the Wi-Fi-only version makes a lot more sense to me, and it would save you from having to pay at least $30 a month in data-plan charges for the next two years.

All in all, the Xyboard has some quirks and some forward-thinking features that, in my opinion, place it ahead of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as a daily-use tablet running Google’s Android Honeycomb operating system. THe Xyboard is due for an upgrade to Android Ice Cream Sandwich, which I’m excited about. But for now, Honeycomb is a solid OS for a tablet.

If I had to choose an Android tablet to own, I’d choose the Xyboard 10.1 over the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which is a fine piece of hardware in its own right. The Xyboard 10.1 feels as though it’s made with better materials — the Galaxy Tab has a plasticky feel, and the Xyboard’s speakers and cameras are higher quality as well.

What really prevents the Xyboard from topping the iPad 2 as my favorite tablet is the app selection found on Android. This isn’t Motorola’s fault — it seems to be a side effect of Android tablet sales being much smaller than iPad sales. With low Android tablet sales across the board (in the last three months of last year, Motorola sold 200,000 tablets while Apple sold 15.43 million iPads), developers largely have not designed apps specifically for Android tablets.

It’s a shame because even apps that could be considered essential, such as Twitter’s own Twitter app, don’t work as well on Android tablets as on iPads. On the Xyboard and the Galaxy Tab, the Twitter app is simply a stretched-out version of the Android phone app. The experience is far from ideal and it sure isn’t pretty.

Other apps designed for the large screen, such as news reading app Pulse and Amazon’s Kindle reading app, look and work great on Android tablets, but these experiences are few and far between.

Until developers start treating Android with the same attention and care that they do iOS, great hardware like the Xyboard 10.1 will be hamstrung by inadequate apps.

  • Motorola's Droid Xyboard 10.1, left, next to a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and an Apple iPad 2. {Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • A stack of tablets with the Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 on top, the Apple iPad 2 in the middle and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 on bottom. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The volume rocker and power buttons on the back of the Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Motorola Xyboard 8.2 tablet on top of the Droid Xyboard 10.1. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Motorola Xyboard 8.2 tablet on top of the Droid Xyboard 10.1. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The back of the Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1, left, and the Xyboard 8.2 tablets. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Motorola Xyboard 8.2 tablet on top of the Droid Xyboard 10.1. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The 5-megapixel, 720p camera on the back of the Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Yes, the Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 is water resistant. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
Screen Shot 2012-01-28 at 4.56.42 PM

ALSO:

Amazon Kindle Fire review [Video]

Motorola Droid Razr, from Verizon, review [Video]

Galaxy Nexus, on Android Ice Cream Sandwich, review [Video]

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Pouring water on the water-resistant Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

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Motorola sells 200,000 tablets, reports $80-million loss

posted by Technology @ 11:19 PM
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 at CES 2012

Motorola Mobility sold 1 million tablets in 2011 – with only 200,000 Xooms and Xyboards sold in the fourth quarter of the year, a quarter in which the company also reported an $80-million loss.

The consumer electronics maker reported the low tablet sales and negative earnings on Thursday in its quarterly earnings report. The loss came on revenue of $3.44 billion in the fourth quarter. A year earlier, the company reported a fourth-quarter profit of $80 million on $3.43 billion in revenue.

For the full year, Motorola reported a loss of $249 million on $13 billion in revenue, up from an $86-million loss on $11.5 billion in revenue in 2010.

Product shipments are also down year over year for the fourth quarter. Motorola shipped 10.5 million phones and tablets (all of which run Google's Android operating system) in the last three months of 2011, down from 11.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

In 2011 as a whole, Motorola shipped 42.4 million mobile devices, up from 37.3 million devices shipped in 2010.

Motorola also said it remains "energized by the proposed merger with Google and continue to focus on creating innovative technologies." The Google takeover is still awaiting approval from regulators in a number of countries, but Motorola said it expects the $12.5-billion deal to "close in early 2012 once all conditions have been satisfied."

ALSO:

Google agrees to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion

Apple earnings: $97.6 billion in the bank, and other highlights

Motorola Mobility sues Apple over patents, probably with Google's blessing

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Motorola's Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet on display at Motorola Mobility's booth at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Credit: David Becker/Getty Images

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Android-apple

The power of mobile technology: Never before have consumers been able to hold so many lawsuits in their hand.

Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. has just thrown another baton in the smartphone lawsuit parade that has stretched to courtrooms across the globe, as phone-makers sue one another over similarities in their mobile devices, which are packed with patent-protected circuits and widgets from dozens of companies.

Motorola has  filed suit against Apple Inc., purveyor of the mega-blockbuster iPhone (the device lifted Apple to $46 billion in sales in its most recent quarter).  Apple is an increasingly bitter rival of Google Inc., which agreed to buy Motorola in August, a deal that is still awaiting regulatory clearance.

As patent observer Florian Mueller noted, Google probably had to approve Motorola's lawsuit, given that part of the buyout terms appear to forbid Motorola from filing lawsuits without Google's explicit permission.  Google has not directly sued or been sued by Apple in this matter — the two compaies are fighting their legal war by proxy.

Phones that run Google's Android operating system have collectively outsold the iPhone, and Apple is none too happy about that.  The Cupertino electronics maker has initiated a flurry of lawsuits against Android phone manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics and HTC Corp., alleging that the companies "slavishly copied" the iPhone's signature look.

But Apple is finding that big legal wins are hard to come by.

Now Motorola is trying to make things even more difficult for its rival. In its second action against Apple in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, the company wants the court to ban iPhone sales.  Motorola alleges that Apple devices infringe on six of its patents, including one for a phone with a "concealed antenna," and another about keeping data on "multiple pagers" synchronized.  Motorola, as children of the 1990s will recall, made a lot of pagers — they still do.

For updates in this saga, make sure to keep your pagers on.

RELATED:

Apple loses bid to block U.S. sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Apple vs. Samsung: Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban lifted in Australia

ITC sides with Apple over HTC in initial ruling on patent suit

– David Sarno

Image: "Hungry Evil Android".  Credit: asgw / Flickr

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Microsoft releases Hotmail app for Amazon’s Kindle Fire

posted by Technology @ 10:03 AM
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Hotmail for Kindle Fire app listed in Amazon's Appstore for Andoird

Microsoft's Hotmail service now has a Kindle Fire app.

OK, this may not be as exciting as Google releasing a Gmail app for Apple's iPhone, and there is still no native Gmail app for the Fire. But the Hotmail app for the Fire should be a worthwhile release for many owners of Amazon's popular 7-inch tablet due to the addition of Exchange Active Sync.

Unlike Amazon's included email app on the FIre, which merely downloads your messages via POP3, Microsoft's Hotmail app will synch emails, contacts, folders and subfolders, said David Law, Microsoft's director of Hotmail product management, in a blog post.

While the free Hotmail app for the Fire is technically an Android app, the version for Amazon's tablet is different from the standard Hotmail Android app used by more than 3 million people, Law said.

The differences between the Fire Hotmail app and the standard Android Hotmail app have to do with the changes Amazon made to Android to create the Fire-specific operating system it runs on its tablet, which as we've noted before is unlike any other version of Android out there.

"Because the Kindle Fire uses a different implementation of Android, we needed to make some updates to our previous Hotmail app for Android to ensure it worked well," Law said. "Now that we've finished the work and the app is ready, we're excited to give customers a great Hotmail experience on the Kindle Fire."

RELATED:

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Amazon Kindle Fire software and Kindle iOS apps updated

Tablet, e-reader ownership in U.S. jumps to 19% over the holidays

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of the Hotmail app listing in Amazon's Appstore for Android. Credit: Microsoft / Amazon

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Droid Razr Maxx with bigger battery to launch on Verizon

posted by Technology @ 7:40 PM
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Motorola Droid Razr Maxx

When I reviewed the Motorola Droid Razr in November, I had a lot of good things to say about the Verizon-exclusive handset, but I also had a complaint when it came to battery life.

"Daily charging would be a part of life with the Razr and anyone considering buying this phone should have a charger at home, work and in the car," I wrote.

And evidently, I wasn't the only one who thought the Razr could do better when it came to holding a charge — lots of other tech critics complained too. Motorola seems to have agreed also, which is why the company is releasing the Droid Razr Maxx through Verizon on Thursday.

The Razr Maxx, as I reported before, is the same fantastic phone as the Razr, but it features a bigger battery.

With a bigger battery comes a thicker phone, so the Razr Maxx will be 0.35-inches thick compared with the Razr, which is just 0.28-inches thick. Yeah, they're both pretty thin, but the Razr Maxx won't be able to claim its place as the thinnest 4G phone on the market the way the original Razr does.

Other specs included a 4.3-inch screen, 1.2-gigahertz processor, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera that can shoot 1080-pixel video, a front-facing camera for video chat and 32 gigabytes of storage (16 gigabytes of storage built into the phone and the rest coming on a 16-gigabyte microSD card).

The price for the Droid Maxx will be the same as the skinnier Razr when it launched — $299.99 on a two-year Verizon data plan. The first Razr was dropped to $199.99 earlier this month. Both run on Google's Android Gingerbread operating system.

RELATED:

Motorola Droid Razr, from Verizon, review [Video]

Galaxy Nexus, on Android Ice Cream Sandwich, review [Video]

Verizon cuts price and memory storage of Droid Razr, as expected

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: The Motorola Droid Razr Maxx. Credit: Verizon Wireless/Motorola

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Apple loses bid to ban Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Netherlands

posted by Technology @ 11:42 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
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For the second time, a Netherlands court has denied Apple its request for a ban on sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, whose design Apple says illegally copies the iPad's.

The Samsung victory, first reported on the blog Foss Patents run by patent expert Florian Mueller, came Tuesday in The Hague, where an appeals court ruled that the Samsung device — which runs on Google's Android operating system – doesn't steal from the iPad's patented design.

The Dutch court's decision, which upheld a lower-court ruling made in August, is another setback for Apple in its worldwide patent battle against South Korea-based Samsung.

Last month, a U.S. district court in San Jose denied Apple's request for a ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 before a July trial on Apple's lawsuit in that court. Also in December, a temporary ban on the Samsung tablet in Australia expired. The dispute is set to go to trial in Australia in March.

Apple last week filed two new patent suits against Samsung in Germany, seeking a ban on 10 Samsung phones and five tablets.

RELATED:

Apple loses bid to block U.S. sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Apple vs. Samsung: Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban lifted in Australia

Apple sues Samsung again in Germany, calls for ban on 10 phones 

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Netherlands. Credit: Robert Vos / EPA

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Capsule
Capsule, an event-based sharing platform, launched out of private beta with a website and free iPhone and Android apps this week.

The Manhattan Beach start-up provides a suite of tools to help users capture the "entire life-cycle of group events," including invites and RSVPs, group texting, instant photo-sharing in real time and archiving. 

During a demo for The Times, co-founders Cyrus Farudi, who is chief executive, and Omri Cohen, who is chief technology officer, said they were trying to create a central location for events that would enable participants to better plan and share their experiences together. Before Capsule, they said, the process was much more disjointed — for instance, receiving an invite through Evite, texting friends individually before and tweeting during the event, and checking each participant's individual Facebook accounts afterward to see photos. 

"No one has that complete solution over the marketplace, and I think that's one thing that sets us apart," said Farudi, formerly of Flipswap. Capsule "solves the event life-cycle management problem."

Farudi, 31, and Cohen, 29, said they came up with the idea after having to attend 14 weddings and nine bachelor parties in one year. Founded less than a year ago, the start-up is angel-funded and joins a fast-growing group of emerging tech companies in the Los Angeles area, which some people have dubbed Silicon Beach.

On Friday, a day after Capsule was released to the public, Farudi declined to say how many people had joined but said the launch was "going really well." Capsule can be found at www.trycapsule.com.

RELATED:

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– Andrea Chang

Twitter.com/byandreachang

Image: Screen shot of Capsule's home page. Credit: Capsule

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6a00d8341c630a53ef015436d40de1970c-600wi

One of my major complaints when I'm reviewing just about any top-of-the-line Android smartphone on Verizon is the price.

Samsung's Galaxy Nexus and Motorola's Droid Razr and Droid Bionic each launched at a price of $299.99 and each phone packed 32 gigabytes of storage. Verizon isn't alone in this high-end, high-price approach; AT&T and Sprint release similar handsets at similar launch prices.

My beef isn't so much that new smartphones with 32 gigabytes of storage debut at the $300 price point as much as it is that there is often no option of getting the same phone with less storage for $200 at the same time.

This approach to leave out the $200 option at launch is, of course, by design. After the hot new handset is on the market for a few weeks or months, the price, and often the storage capacity, goes down. It happened with Samsung's Nexus S, which came out before the Galaxy Nexus, and the Droid Bionic. On Tuesday, Verizon announced that it is happening with the Droid Razr too.

The Razr, a Verizon exclusive, is available with 16 gigabytes of storage at $199.99 on a two-year 4G contract. Gone is the more expensive 32-gigabyte model for $299.99. The difference between the phones, aside from price, is that the 16-gigabyte microSD card has been removed in the lower-priced version.

If you want the Razr with more than 16 gigabytes of storage, the newest version still contains a microSD card slot, which can support up to a 32-gigabyte microSD card.

In the $300 price point, the upcoming Motorola Droid Razr Maxx will replace the Droid Razr for Verizon. The Razr Maxx is essentially the same phone as the Razr, but it adds a thicker battery that Motorola promises will offer all-day battery life and the ability to handle a 21-hour phone call — something I've never seen before in a 4G phone.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Motorola Droid Razr. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times

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Apple sues Samsung again in Germany, calls for ban on 10 phones

posted by Technology @ 10:34 AM
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
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Apple has reportedly filed another patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung in Germany, this time calling for a sales ban on 10 smartphones it says violate its design rights.

Filed in Dusseldorf Regional Court, Apple's suit — which calls for a ban on the Galaxy S II, Galaxy S Plus and eight other models — isn't the only front in the ongoing international patent battle between the two firms, reports said Tuesday. Apple also filed a suit against five Samsung tablets "related to a September ruling" that imposes a sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, according to a Bloomberg report.

Apple alleges that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 copied the design of the Apple iPad in a way intended to confuse customers. After sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 were halted in Germany, Samsung released the re-designed Galaxy Tab 10.1N, which the Dusseldorf court said in December is different enough from the iPad that "it is unlikely to grant an injunction" against the new design, Bloomberg said.

"An appeals court also voiced doubts about the reach of Apple's European Union design right that won the company the injunction against the Galaxy 10.1," the report said.

For now, Apple's new smartphone suit against Samsung is set to "come before the court in August and the case against Samsung's tablets will follow in September," according to PCWorld.

If this all sounds a bit familiar, it is. Apple and Samsung have been suing and counter-suing each another across Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Australia for months, each alleging patent infringement over the design and operation of their respective phones and tablets.

In December, Apple failed to win an extension of a temporary sales ban against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, where the dispute between the two tech giants is set to go to trial in March.

According to the news site ArsTechnica, the ongoing patent battle between Apple and Samsung has caught the attention of the European Commission, which is conducting an antitrust investigation with the two companies regarding the suits.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in The Hague, Netherlands, in August. Credit: Robert Vos / European Pressphoto Agency

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Does Steve Wozniak really prefer Android to the iPhone?

posted by Technology @ 4:37 PM
Monday, January 16, 2012

Steve Wozniak

The Rolling Stones vs. the Beatles

The Yankees vs. the Mets

IPhone vs. Android.

Some debates rage eternal.

Today the iPhone-vs.-Android debate came to the fore when Steve Wozniak — the man who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs back in 1976 — told the Daily Beast that despite loving the simplicity and beauty of the iPhone, he thinks that in some respects the Android just works better.

Sacrilege!

The Beast made the absolute most of the news by slapping a controversial headline on the story: "Even Woz Thinks the Android Bests the iPhone."

The truth, of course, is a little more nuanced than that.

For starters, keep in mind that this is a man who stood outside an Apple store in Los Gatos for 18 hours just a few months ago in order to be first in line when the iPhone 4S was released.

Wozniak's main issue with the iPhone is Siri, which he said no longer works as well as it once did.

“I used to ask Siri, ‘What are the five biggest lakes in California?’ and it would come back with the answer," he told the Beast.  "Now it just misses. It gives me real estate listings. I used to ask, ‘What are the prime numbers greater than 87?’ and it would answer. Now instead of getting prime numbers, I get listings for prime rib, or prime real estate.”

He also said GPS navigation is better on Android phones, and that the battery life on the iPhone is frustrating.

Still, Wozniak said he still thinks most users would prefer the iPhone to the Android because, in the end, it's easier to use.

“The people I recommend the iPhone 4S for are the ones who are already in the Mac world, because it’s so compatible, and people who are just scared of computers altogether and don’t want to use them," he said. "The iPhone is the least frightening thing. For that kind of person who is scared of complexity, well, here’s a phone that is simple to use and does what you need it to do.”

Not so sacrilegious after all.

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– Deborah Netburn

Photo: Wozniak demonstrates Siri, the personal assistant app on the iPhone 4S, on a new handset outside an Apple store in Los Gatos on Friday. Credit: John G. Mabanglo / EPA

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As General Motors introduced its first efforts to bring apps from your smartphone into your dashboard at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Ford expanded its Sync AppLink system — which does just that and launched about a year ago.

Ford Sync Destinations

When AppLink made its debut, Pandora was the only app a Sync user could operate via in-dash touch screen. Later, Stitcher radio gained Sync compatibility, which includes voice control as well.

Ford announced at CES in Las Vegas this week that apps for iPhones, BlackBerrys and phones that Google's Android would be added to the AppLink-friendly list, including NPR News, Slacker Radio, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio and Ford's own Sync Destinations turn-by-turn navigation app.

To see NPR News and Slacker Radio in action in a new Ford Mustang GT, check out our video from CES above.

Ford says that more apps that work with Sync's voice recogniton software are on the way. Oddly enough, Sync (which was developed through a partnership between Ford and Microsoft) has no AppLink compatibility with Windows Phone apps.

Just as with GM's in-car-app systems — Chevrolet MyLink and Cadillac CUE — AppLink can use apps only if it’s connected to a smartphone with the app installed, and it accesses data through the phone. Ford isn't selling any AppLink data plans.

For now, AppLink is available only in Sync-equipped Fiestas, Mustangs, Fusions, F-150s and Econoline vans, but the U.S. automaker is considering pushing AppLink out to other Ford brands, such as Lincoln, as well as to vehicles running older versions of Sync.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Ford's Sync Destinations app. Credit: Ford

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GM to launch OnStar API for apps that can control cars

posted by Technology @ 11:15 AM
Friday, January 13, 2012

General Motors, Ford, Mercedes, Subaru and even QNX (owned by Research In Motion) each showed off their respectively differing approaches to getting apps into the dashboards of our cars at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

And while the idea of apps in the car is a dream for some, so far, most of the apps center around replicating smartphone or tablet experiences from the driver's seat.

OnStar RemoteLink app for iOS

OnStar, the GM-owned telematics company, has a slightly different idea to piggyback off the work developers are doing building apps for use in both smartphones and cars.

OnStar wants developers to create apps that use its wireless service to actually control cars in new ways that utilize what it already can do — automatic crash response, stolen vehicle tracking, turn-by-turn navigation and roadside assistance for subscribers of its wireless in-car assistance service.

This isn't Google's self-driving car but rather OnStar is hoping developers will follow what it started when it launched its OnStar RemoteLink app for Apple iPhones and iPads last year.

OnStar RemoteLink enables users (who also own select 2010 or newer Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick or GMC vehicles) to view real-time data such as mileage, fuel in the gas tank, oil life and tire pressure from their car or truck. The app also allows users to remotely unlock doors, honk horns, shine lights, start the engine and, of course, contact a dealer.

It's these sorts of capabilities that OnStar is now offering developers through its API, and the first developer to build on that is RelayRides, a neighbor to car-sharing service. A new RelayRides app, which we got a preview of at CES (as seen int he video above), will launch later this year on Apple's iOS and allow car owners to unlock their cars remotely after the person renting their vehicle arrives, or even track where a renter has taken their car.

OnStar's API isn't yet available to all developers; company officials said that would take place in the first half of this year, but what RelayRides is working on shows a bit of its potential. GM said at CES that any developers interested in using the OnStar API should email the company at developers@onstar.com.

RelayRides says its new OnStar integrated app, in both an iOS and Android-friendly HTML5 form, will launch "early this year."

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of OnStar's RemoteLink app for Apple's iOS. Credit: OnStar

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Vizio previews new 10-inch tablet at CES

posted by Technology @ 9:19 PM
Thursday, January 12, 2012

New televisions, laptops, all-in-one desktops and a "Stream Player" set-top box that can add Google TV software to any HDMI-equipped television set — Vizio had a lot of announcements to make at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.

A bit more quietly, the Irvine company also previewed a new tablet that it says will launch this year as a follow-up to the 8-inch Vizio Tablet that launched late last year.

Vizio 10-inch tablet

Vizio let us get a few minutes of hands-on time with its new tablet, but details on what the device would be made up of were few and far between.

VIDEOS: 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

The new tablet sports a 10-inch touch screen and front and rear cameras, and it felt a bit lighter than the current 8-inch model.

Rob Kermode, a senior product manager at Vizio, said the company was declining to say anything about the tablet's price or release dates or about what processor, how much RAM, how much storage or what screen resolution the tablet would be.

In my short time using the tablet, I felt a step up in performance compared with its 8-inch predecessor. The device reacted faster to my touch, launched apps more quickly and seemed not to stutter as much when it handled simple tasks such as playing animations Vizio has programmed into the operating system.

The prototype tablet was running Google's Android Honeycomb software with Vizio's VIA Plus user interface over the top of it, which looks very similar to the version of Android Gingerbread found on the 8-inch tablet. Kermode said Vizio was looking into Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android, but wouldn't promise that the new tablet would ship running that OS.

To see the new tablet in action, check out our video from CES in Las Vegas above.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Vizio's 10-inch tablet. Credit: Vizio

Vizio's 10-inch tablet. Credit: Vizio

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Motorola is building Android phone with Intel CPU for late 2012

posted by Technology @ 2:10 PM
Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Intel reference-design smartphone. Credit: Intel

A Motorola smartphone with Intel inside is due to arrive in the second half of 2012, the two companies announced at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The phone will be the first product of a multi-year agreement that will extend to not only smartphones but tablets too, Intel said.

Intel® Atom™ Processor Z2460 Package. Credit: IntelAlthough the firms didn't disclose much about what the device would look like, how much it would cost or what it wouldd be called, Intel did say that the first of its processors used by Motorola would be the new Atom Z2460.

No word yet on which carrier the handset will make its way to either, but in a meeting Tuesday night, Motorola Chairman and Chief Executive Sanjay Jha said the new phone would run Google's Android operating system.

Hopefully that means the first Motorola and Intel smartphone will be running Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Atom Z2640 is a 1.6-gigahertz processor with integrated graphics capabilities and low power consumption, Intel said in a statement.

The partnership is an important one for both companies, especially Intel. Motorola currently uses processors from both Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, two chip suppliers that have found a lot of success in the smartphone and tablet market. Intel's mobile chips, meanwhile, have had a tough time catching on with hardware makers as many have chosen processors from rivals.

Though Intel, the world's largest processor maker, has so far failed to match its dominant positon in the laptop and desktop market on the mobile side, a deal with Motorola might help boost its influence in smartphones and tablets — particularly if Google's $12.5-billion purchase of Motorola Mobility is approved by federal regulators.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Images: (Top) Intel's smartphone reference design and (bottom) its Atom Z2460 processor. Credit: Intel

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LG Spectrum phone has 4G speeds, HD display

posted by Technology @ 12:30 PM
Monday, January 9, 2012

LG Spectrum

LG introduced the Spectrum, a new high-end smartphone coming this month to Verizon, at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday morning.

The new handset checks nearly all (but not all) the boxes a consumer might want from a current top-of-the-line smartphone.

VS920_Back_LRThe Spectrum features a 4.5-inch scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (yes, that's a high-definition display) and a pixel density of 329 pixels per inch.

That pixel density is important because it could offer something similar in look to Apple's retina display on the iPhone 4 and 4S, which both feature a pixel density of more than 300 per inch. Any display with a ppi of 300 or greater is said be so dense that pixels are indistinguishable from one another to the human eye at a distance of 10 to 12 inches.

LG is capable of producing some impressive screens for mobile devices, as we've seen on the recently released LG Nitro HD for AT&T and the Barnes & Noble Nook Color and Nook Tablet slates.

Inside, the Spectrum will come with 16 gigabytes of storage on a microSD card, and run on a 1.5-gigahertz dual core processor from Qualcomm.

The Spectrum will run Google's Android Gingerbread operating system which is, for now, the one area on paper where the Spectrum is a bit behind as it's not running the newer Android Ice Cream Sandwich software out of the box. But LG did say on Monday that an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich would arrive sometime after the Spectrum's release Jan. 19.

For $199.99 on a two-year contract, the Spectrum will also offer up an 8-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 1080p video, paired with a single LED flash. Up front is a 1.3-megapixel camera for video chatting.

ESPN will also provide high-definition streaming video to its Score Center app, which will come preloaded on the Spectrum, so sports fans can take advantage of the phones' HD display.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Images: The LG Spectrum smartphone. Credit: LG

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Marvell unveils the brains inside next generation of Google TV

posted by Technology @ 8:53 AM
Thursday, January 5, 2012

Marvell, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based semiconductor designer, announced Thursday that the next generation of Google TV will be built around one of its chipsets

Marvell, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based semiconductor designer, announced Thursday that the next generation of Google TV will be built around one of its chipsets. The specifications of its reference design show, predictably, a considerable advance in power and chip integration over the first generation of Google TV: For example, Marvell’s Armada processor is a dual-core chip, as opposed to the single-core Intel Atom processor found in Logitech’s first-generation Google TV product. That’s welcome, but the main problems with Google TV thus far have been business-model and software shortcomings. In other words, even if a Marvell-powered Google TV is more powerful and less expensive, it won’t necessarily be more appealing.

According to Marvell co-founder Weili Dai, the semiconductor platform her company designed can handle high-definition 3-D movies and video games in addition to smart-TV applications. One complaint about the initial Google TV products, which debuted in October 2010, was that the roster of apps was thin. But Dai argued in an interview Wednesday that the open platform provided by Google TV will attract the same kind of attention from developers that the Android operating system has for smartphones.

“Many people are writing apps on that platform,” Dai said. “Every day, every hour [they are] building that capability. … What you saw for Android and smartphones in general is happening now with the smart TVs and the Google TVs of the world.”

A bigger hurdle for Google has been the decision of many important suppliers of television programming online — including Hulu, the four major broadcast networks and several popular cable channels — to block Google TV from displaying the online versions of their shows. That reflects the networks’ fear that Google TV could encourage people to swap their cable TV subscriptions for free TV online, undermining an important source of revenue for the industry.

The programming and software issues have been so significant that one of the two original Google TV vendors, Logitech, abandoned the product last month. That was a few months after the company revealed it had more returns on the unit than sales in the second quarter of 2011, prompting it to slash the list price from $250 to $99.

Dai said Marvell has cut the cost of the box’s chips to the point where companies can “build very affordable devices.” She also said she believes that consumers’ experience with the connectivity, utility and flexibility of smartphones makes them hungry for a similar capability on the big screens in their home. But she conceded that it’s up to Google and the TV industry to come up with a business model that persuades more content providers to embrace the Google TV platform.

“When Android was born, there was the learning curve. The Google TV side is the same thing,” Dai said. Google has opened up the TV business model, but now “they need to work within the ecosystem,” she added. “I’m hopeful they will resolve that.”

Google TV products based on the new Marvell chips are expected later this year. Dai declined to identify any of the manufacturers, but at least some of them are likely to show off prototypes at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week.

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– Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times’ Opinion Manufacturing Division. Follow him at @jcahealey.

Photo: Marvell’s reference design for its Foresight Platform, which powers the next generation of Google TV. Credit: Marvell

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Sony’s Tablet S gets $100 price cut

posted by Technology @ 2:28 PM
Monday, January 2, 2012

Sony Tablet S

Sony has cut $100 off the price of its first tablet, the Tablet S, in a move to entice consumers to its Android slate.

Those who buy a Tablet S also receive a free 180-day trial of Sony's Music Unlimited service, as well as five free rentals from Sony's Video Unlimited Service.

Through the end of January, the company is offering up five free downloadable "Classic PlayStation" games in its PlayStation Store app for new Tablet S owners as well.

The price drop, as listed in Sony's online store, pushes the Tablet S down to $399.99 with 16 gigabytes of built-in storage or $499.99 for 32 gigabytes of storage.

The dual-screen Sony Tablet P, which made its debut alongside the Tablet S as a prototype in April, still hasn't been released or given a launch date, although the tech giant promises it is on the way.

The Tablet S features a 9.4-inch touchscreen with 1280 x 800 resolution and a wedge-like shape that makes the slate feel something like a rolled magazine in the hand. A Wi-Fi Internet connection is needed for use.

The device also has a 5-megapixel camera in the rear and a 0.3-megapixel camera up front, 1-gigabyte of RAM and a dual-core Nvidia Tegra2 processor. The tablet runs on Google's Android Honeycomb operating system, but Sony has promised an update to the newer Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A Sony Tablet S running Sony's Video Unlimited service. Credit: Sony

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Galaxy Nexus, on Android Ice Cream Sandwich, review [Video]

posted by Technology @ 3:51 PM
Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is one of the best smartphones on the market and in my opinion, it's the best all-around Android phone out there.

Just about everything you could want from a smartphone, the Galaxy Nexus has — and that's a really good thing considering that the phone is selling in the U.S. for $299 on a two-year 4G LTE data plan from Verizon.

Hardware

The phone, which Google and Samsung teamed up on to design, is just .37-inches thick, which is about the same thickness as Apple's iPhone. Inside, the Galaxy Nexus is packed with a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1-gigabyte of RAM, 32-gigabytes of built-in storage and near field communications technology.

On the outside, you'll find a gigantic 4.65-inch touchscreen, which may be a bit too large for some. But, in use, the screen doesn't feel as massive as it is thanks to a thin bezel around the display.

Samsung Galaxy NexusThe resolution of that screen is an impressive 1,280-by-720 pixels, which is high enough to be classified as high-definition. This provides a big, beautiful, bright canvas on which to watch videos, browse websites and read e-books.

The display is one of the best I've seen on just about any smartphone. It's a pentile display, which can lead to some pixelization from time to time, but the high resolution of the screen allows for smoother images than I've seen on low-resolution pentile screens.

Battery life on the Galaxy Nexus is pretty good for a 4G phone with such a large display. Over about a week and a half of testing, I regularly found that I could make it through an entire workday before I had to recharge the phone. Of course, the more you use the phone, the faster the battery life goes, and 3G phones still have better battery life. But as far as 4G phones go, the Galaxy Nexus is among the best I've used battery wise.

Phone calls were clear and reception on the Galaxy Nexus was also solid with Verizon's 4G service being fast and plentiful around Los Angeles during my testing.

Cameras

The Galaxy Nexus sports a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera above the display, which works well for video chatting in a Google+ Hangout or with other video calling services. On the back is a 5-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 1080p video, paired with an LED flash.

Video shot on the phone looks good, but in the rear camera's still photos is where I found one of my few complaints with the Galaxy Nexus. By no means is 5-megapixels a weak camera, but the sharpness and color reproduction of photos I shot on the Galaxy Nexus wasn't at the level of 8-megapixel shooters I've seen on other top handsets such as the iPhone, the Motorola Droid Bionic and Razr and the Samsung Galaxy S II.

One huge plus on the Galaxy Nexus for still photos is the ability to take photos with almost no shutter lag at all. Snapping a picture is nearly instantaneous and while this results in taking some blurry photos from time to time, it should also allow Galaxy Nexus owners to miss fewer moments with their phones than with many other handsets.

Design

The look of the Galaxy Nexus is clean and simple. If you've seen the Galaxy S II, then you won't be too surprised style-wise with the Galaxy Nexus. It's thin and even has a slight bump at the bottom, housing a speaker and microphone, just as the Galaxy S II does.

Samsung's Galaxy Nexus (left) and Galaxy S IIThe front of the phone is thankfully devoid of any Samsung, Google or Verizon logos, which is something I'd like to see from more smartphones. On the right side, toward the top is a power button that also wakes the phone or puts it to sleep. On the left is a volume rocker. A mini-USB port for charging the phone is on the bottom, as is a headphone jack.

The whole of the device, except for the screen, is covered in a dark gray plastic which offers an understated look. The back of the Galaxy Nexus has a removable plastic cover, which conceals the SIM-card slot and battery. Unfortunately, this panel has a thin, flimsy feel to it that is also reminiscent of the Galaxy S II.

You won't find any premium materials on the Galaxy Nexus as you may find on other rival high-end handsets. But while the phone doesn't feel luxurious, it's still durable and well-built.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Though the hardware offered is mighty by current standards, the best part of the Galaxy Nexus is undoubtedly its software — Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Galaxy Nexus is the first device on the market to run Ice Cream Sandwich, which is the biggest overhaul of Android since its debut in 2008. Ice Cream Sandwich is also the first version of Android designed to run on phones and tablets.

Ice Cream Sandwich feels like a turning point for Android. Sure it's the most widely used mobile operating system in the world, but Android has never felt as polished, easy to use, fast or efficient as Apple's iOS. It lacked the design cohesiveness seen in both iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone too.

Things now are a bit different thanks to Ice Cream Sandwich. Nearly everything has been redesigned and given a new look. This is the first version of Android that I truly enjoyed using — every tap, touch, pinch and swipe. And that can be attributed to its clean style and the fact that Ice Cream Sandwich is simpler and easier to use than any Android before it.

Gone are the four physical buttons built into the front of Android phones. In Ice Cream Sandwich, all the buttons used for the OS and apps are on-screen and can appear or disappear as needed. The OS makes use of three buttons instead of four: a back button, to get you out of whatever you're doing at the time; a home button, which takes you to your default home screen, and a recent apps button for easy efficient multitasking.

Hit the recent apps button, and a column of screenshots of recent apps will show up (similar to multitasking in Android Honeycomb, the previous version of Android built specifically for tablets). But now, closing down an app running in the background is much easier to do. To close an app, just swipe it to the right or left and it will smoothly roll off screen and out of your queue.

In the pull-down notification center, to discard a notification, just swipe it left or right. If you're in Ice Cream Sandwich's Gmail app, reading an newer or older email requires a left or right swipe as well. This repeated gesture feels like one more example of a new level of thoughtfulness brought to Android in Ice Cream Sandwich.

Other improvements include a contacts app that pulls in contact information from Facebook, Twitter and Google+. For Google+ users, contacts can be viewed by circles of friends, co-workers or whatever groups you set up. The Google search bar now follows you as you swipe across the five home screens of Android.

Face unlock on the Samsung Galaxy NexusVirtual buttons rotate to different sides of the screen as you rotate the phone from portrait to landscape orientation. And now, finally, Android has app folders — just move one app icon onto another to create a folder, it's that simple.

A new font designed for Ice Cream Sandwich called Roboto is used throughout the new OS, adding to the feeling that Android finally has an identifiable style, which it previously lacked.

Google also built tools into Ice Cream Sandwich's settings menu that detail how much data has been consumed by your phone toward the 2.0-gigabyte cap Verizon puts on its users. You can also view how much data is used by each specific app and set a data usage limit to keep from using so much data that overage charges rack up.

Of course, there are some downsides as not all apps are optimized for Ice Cream Sandwich or the Galaxy Nexus' huge screen and iOS still has a superior app selection.

Also, Ice Cream Sandwich offers users the option of a "Face Unlock" feature that uses facial recognition technology to open the phone from its lock screen. It works fast and is an alternative to not locking the phone, or locking it with a passcode or gesture. But the phone doesn't just recognize actual faces, it also recognizes picutures of faces. With Face Unlock turned on, I was able to unlock the Galaxy Nexus with an iPhone displaying a photo of myself — not exactly the most secure option.

The bottom line

Android Ice Cream Sandwich is without question the best version of Android thus far. When combined with such fantastic hardware, its hard not to pick the Galaxy Nexus as the best overall Android phone on the market.

  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android Ice Cream Sandwich. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The back of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus in front of its box. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich's keypad. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Taking a photo with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Android Ice Cream Sandwich on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Face Unlock on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Face Unlock on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Gesture Unlock on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Face Unlock on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The 5-megapixel camera on the back of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, left, and the Samsung Galaxy S II. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, left, and the Samsung Galaxy S II. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, left, and the Samsung Galaxy S II. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy S II, left, the Galaxy Nexus, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy S II, left, the Galaxy Nexus, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
21

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

Twitter.com/emamd

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Motorola Droid Xyboard tablet prices drop $50, with Verizon plan

posted by Technology @ 11:03 AM
Friday, December 30, 2011

Motorola Droid Xyboard

Like the Xoom tablets before them, Motorola's two latest Android tablets, known as the Droid Xyboard 8.2 and Droid Xyboard 10.1, sit on the high side of tablet prices.

Thankfully, Verizon has dropped the price of the Xyboards by $50 — as long as you sign up for a two-year data plan for your device as well.

When the Xyboard line launched earlier this month, the Xyboard 8.2 (with an 8.2-inch display) was priced at $430 with 16 gigabytes of built-in storage or $530 for 32 gigabytes of storage, on a 4G LTE contract.

At launch, the Xyboard 10.1 (with a 10.1-inch screen) rolled out in three storage options and three different prices on contract. A Xyboard 10.1 with 16 gigabytes of storage fetched $530, a 32-gigabyte model sold for $630 and a 64-gigabyte unit ran $730.

With the $50 across-the-board price cut, the Xyboard 8.2 starts at $380 and the Xyboard 10.1 starts at $480, each with a two-year data plan.

While the price is lower and undercuts the Apple iPad (which is the best selling tablet on the market), it's still on the higher end of current tablet prices.

As noted by The Verge, which first reported on the price drop, it isn't clear whether or not this price drop is a permanent move or a temporary cut. Verizon is currently running a $50-off 4G LTE tablet promotion that ends Saturday. Verizon officials weren't available for comment on Friday morning.

If you're looking for a Xyboard and don't want to take on the two-year contract, the price of the tablets won't be receiving a price drop. Instead, the Xyboard 8.2 starts at $599.99 and Xyboard 10.1 starts at $699.99 free of contract.

Aside from the different prices, screen sizes and storage options, the Xyboards are largely the same. The tablet line runs on Google's Android Honeycomb operating system, although an upgrade to the Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system is said to be in the works.

Regardless of screen size, the Xyboards feature a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera with an LED flash, a front-facing camera for video chatting, and micro USB and HDMI ports. Unlike the Xyboard 8.2, the Xyboard 10.1 can also make use of a stylus.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: The Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet. Credit: Motorola/Verizon Wireless

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Samsung ships 1 million Galaxy Notes, says U.S. release coming

posted by Technology @ 11:06 AM
Thursday, December 29, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Note

With a stylus and a 5.3-inch touch screen, the Samsung Galaxy Note has prompted the question, is it a phone or a tablet?

For about 1 million people in Asia and Europe, what it's classified as may not matter much.

Samsung said in a statement posted to the photo-sharing site Flickr that it has shipped more than 1 million Galaxy Notes globally and that "worldwide sales of Galaxy Note are also on the rise in Europe and Asia including France, Germany, Hong Kong and Taiwan."

The Korean tech giant didn't disclose specific sales numbers, but said that the "rapid global sales of Galaxy Note are notable since it is creating a new market for something between smartphone and tablet pc."

The Galaxy Note, which does make phone calls, will also arrive in the U.S. sometime next year, Samsung said. A tip-of-the-hat goes to the Verge, which first reported on Samsung's Flickr statement.

The device has been released thus far running a modified version of Google's Android Gingerbread operating system, but Samsung has said that the Galaxy Note will be updated to Android Ice Cream Sandwich in the first quarter of 2012. Samsung has yet to offer up a U.S. retail price.

So what do you think? Is the Galaxy Note just a big phone? Or is it really a new class of gadget? If so, what should it be called — maybe a phoblet or a tabone? Sound off in the comments.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo:  D.J. Lee, executive vice president of Samsung, unveils the Galaxy Note at Berlin's IFA mobile trade show in September. Credit: Odd Andersen / AFP/Getty Images

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Windows Phone reportedly passes 50,000 apps

posted by Technology @ 3:02 PM
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Foursquare app on Windows Phone 7 Mango

Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system has reportedly passed 50,000 published apps, hitting the milestone just 14 months after its launch.

The 14-month time frame for 50,000 apps is second only to Apple's iOS, which hit  50,000 published apps in 12 months, according to a report from All About Windows Phone, a website that tracks Windows Phone apps and hosts a Windows Phone app directory as well.

Google's Android reached 50,000 apps published in its Anroid Market in 19 months, the report said.

For its part, Microsoft declined to comment on the report, neither confirming nor denying that it has passed the 50,000 mark. All About Windows Phone, a site not affiliated with Microsoft, said it compiled its data "from our own tracking system," which is also used to power its directory of Windows Phone apps.

"It took just over a year to get to 40,000 apps, but just 40 days to add the next 10,000 apps," showing increased growth for the Windows Phone operating system, Rafe Blandford, who runs the All About Windows Phone site, wrote in the site's report.

But just because more than 50,000 apps published doesn't mean that every Windows Phone user has access to all of those apps, Blandford said.

"Of the 50,126 items published to the Marketplace, just under 6,000 are no longer available," meaning they were removed by Microsoft or withdrawn by the publisher, he said. "In addition, some apps are only available in select markets. This means the number of available items to a consumer, in a given market, is lower than the number of published items."

In the U.S., about 42,655 apps are available for download, the report said.

Of the apps published to the Windows Phone Marketplace storefront, about 58% are free, compared with about 69% of apps being free in Google's Android Market and about 43% free in Apple's iOS App Store, Blandford said.

Both Android and iOS have published about 10 times more apps than Windows Phone so far, he said, though the two rivals have been offering downloadable apps since 2008.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Foursquare app running on a Windows Phone handset. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

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Android Ice Cream Sandwich coming to Sony Tablets

posted by Technology @ 9:54 AM
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sony Tablet S (left) and the Sony Tablet P

Sony has announced that its tablets, the Tablet S and Tablet P, will receive upgrades to Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system.

The tech giant, however, isn't yet saying when Ice Cream Sandwich will hit its tablets, of which only the Tablet S is on sale.

The Tablet S, which features a tapered shape resembling a rolled-back magazine and a 9.4-inch touch screen, went on sale in September at a price of $500.

Meanwhile, the Tablet P — a clamshell device with two 5.5-inch touchscreens and a hinge running through the middle of the displays that allows it to close on itself, screen to screen — was announced in April but has yet to hit stores or even get a solid release date.

Both devices currently run Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but that will soon change, Sony said in a forum posting on its website, as first reported by PCMag.com.

"We're happy to confirm that an update to Android 4.0 will be available for Sony Tablet," Sony said in a statement posted to its company forums. "Details including timing will be announced in due course, so please stay tuned."

Sony also said in the forum posting that it recently released a software development kit for the dual-screen Tablet P to help aid developers looking to create apps specifically for that device.

The company has previously stated that Ice Cream Sandwich, the first version of Android designed for use on both phones and tablets, will be heading to 11 Sony Ericsson smartphones next year as well.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: Sony's Tablet S, left, and Tablet P. Credit: Sony

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Nearly 7 million Apple, Android devices light up on Christmas Day

posted by Technology @ 7:00 PM
Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Flurry_DeviceActivations_Xmas_vs_Dec1-20_Total-resized-600

Apple and Android mobile devices lit up like Christmas lights on Dec. 25 as people the world over pulled a smartphone from their stocking.

People fired up 6.8 million Apple and Android devices on Christmas Day, more than doubling the 2.5 million that they activated on the same day last year, according to Flurry Analytics, a mobile metrics firm that tracks activity from 140,000 apps. 

On the days leading up to Christmas, people activated about 1.5 million Apple and Android smartphones and tablets each day.

But on Christmas itself, activations shot up more than 350%, to 6.8 million.  (The report does not disclose whether Apple or Google-powered devices accounted for a larger share of that number). 

Perhaps a bit predictably, Christmas Day app downloads began to rocket up around 6 a.m., and remained high throughout the day until they hit a peak around 8 p.m. — that is, after dinner, when sated revelers can play with their new toys in earnest.  More than 15 million apps were downloaded between 7 and 9 p.m. alone, if you line up all the world's time zones.

The Flurry report notes that app downloads have shot up in 2011, with Apple users downloading close to 10 billion this year, as many as in the previous three years combined.  Google's Android devices have seen similarly rapid growth.

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– David Sarno

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LG: Android Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade due for 11 phones

posted by Technology @ 10:29 AM
Tuesday, December 27, 2011

LG Nitro HD

LG has detailed its Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich plans and 11 of its smartphones are due for the update to the latest Google mobile operating system.

The updates will begin in the "second and third quarters of 2012, which will be followed by a global rollout," LG said on its company Facebook page on Monday. "During the second quarter of 2012 upgrades will begin for the following smartphone models: the LG Optimus LTE, Prada phone by LG 3.0, the LG Optimus 2X, the LG Optimus Sol, the LG my Touch Q and the LG Eclipse.

"These upgrades will be followed by upgrades for the following smartphone models during the third quarter of 2012: the LG Optimus 3D, the LG Optimus Black, the LG Optimus Big, the LG Optimus Q2 and the LG Optimus EX."

Not all LG Android phones will get the upgrades. Noticeably absent from the list was AT&T's recently released LG Nitro HD, T-Mobile's LG G2X and the LG Thrill 4G.

However, these phones may yet get the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade since they are rebranded versions of phones that are scheduled for updates. The Nitro HD is a rebranded version of the Optimus LTE, the G2X is a redubbed Optimus 2X, and the Thrill 4G is a renamed Optimus 3D.

Also missing from the list was the dual-screen LG DoublePlay and T-Mobile's LG MyTouch, which is largely the same phone as the MyTouch Q but without the MyTouch Q's sliding keyboard, and G-Slate tablet.

Officials at LG were not available Tuesday to comment on the upgrade status of the Nitro HD, G2X, Thrill 4G, DoublePlay, T-Mobile MyTouch and G-Slate.

"The exact start dates can vary by market, as each country can have different requirements, depending on the carrier and the smartphone model," LG said in its statement. "Further details on the ICS OS upgrade, including their exact start dates, will be released prior to their commencement."

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The LG Nitro HD smartphone, available from AT&T. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

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Five ways to get started with your new Android phone

posted by Technology @ 11:33 AM
Sunday, December 25, 2011

THe Motorola Droid Bionic (left) and the Samsung Galazy S II

Did you unwrap your gifts this Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus to find that you're the proud new owner of an Android? If so, welcome to the world of Google-powered smartphones.

Millions of others around the globe own phones running Google's Android operating system, across dozens of devices with varying screen sizes and specs. These phones might be from one of more than a dozen hardware makers, running on just about every wireless network out there.

Given the variation, Android can be a bit fragmented, but no matter what your Android looks like, here are a few basics that can help you get started if you're new to smartphone ownership.

1. Set up your Google Account: To use an Android phone you'll need to have a Google Account, which means you'll have to set up a Gmail.com email address if you don't already have one. Your Google Account is, of course, the login identity that follows you as you use all things Google — Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Blogger and anything else Google produces. This can add some convenience to your life by automatically syncing your contacts and calendars across your computer and your smartphone if you make use of Google's services for keeping track of all that information.

2. Get yourself some apps: The major differentiator between smartphones and other cellphones, aside from the ability to send and receive email, is the mobile app. Android phones have the second largest app store, behind only Apple's App Store for its iPhone/iPod/iPad lineup. Unlike Apple's i-devices, Android users have the option of getting their apps from Google or from third parties. The top two places to find apps currently are Google's official Android Market and the Amazon Appstore for Android. Both stores offer a wide selection of apps and games that have been tested and vetted before being sold, to help prevent apps filled with viruses and other malware from making it out to Android users. Amazon also allows you to test many apps, which can be helpful before downloading. Some basic apps we really like for Android: Pulse is a great news reading app if you like to read news from multiple websites and Cut the Rope is a fun game that can be a bit tougher than Angry Birds but is just as fun.

3. Social networking: Android phones are among the best choices for staying on top of your social networks. The official Twitter app is thoughtfully designed and can help you keep up with the fast-paced social network. Path is a social network that is by default private and designed for easily sharing what's going on in your life with close friends, but you can also share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare from Path as well. And, of course, there is Google+. The Google+ Android app isn't the greatest social networking experience in mobile apps, and falls far below Twitter, Path and Facebook in terms of looks and usability, but if you were lucky enough to receive the Galaxy Nexus smartphone this holiday, which runs Ice Cream Sandwich (the latest version of Android) this might not be as big of a problem. In Ice Cream Sandwich, Google has baked-on Google+, allowing for automatic photo sharing and the ability to even read emails in your Gmail inbox by circles of friends on the network.

4. Check out Google Music: For many, the smartphone is also a portable music player, and if you're not already a big iTunes or Amazon customer for music, Google's own Google Music is worth a serious look. Google Music on a PC isn't as easy to use as iTunes, but it does allow you to sync your purchases and music library to the cloud for streaming or easy downloads on the go. Also, Google so far has done a great job on pricing, with hundreds of songs as low as 49 cents and albums as low as $4.99.

5. Talk to friends: As suggested by my colleague Deborah Netburn in her "Five Ways to Get Started With Your New iPad" post, talking to others who own and use Android on a daily basis is a good call. This shouldn't be too tough considering that Android is the most widely used mobile operating system worldwide.

Do you have any other suggestions for new Android owners? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Motorola Droid Bionic from Verizon Wireless, left, and the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch from Sprint. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times

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Samsung Galaxy Tab

Samsung on Friday confirmed that yes, the original Galaxy S phone and Galaxy Tab tablet won't receive upgrades to the latest version of Google's Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich.

The disappointing news seemed to be coming after Samsung announced which of its Android devices would get the Ice Cream Sandwich update on Tuesday, while leaving the popular Galaxy S and first-generation Galaxy Tab off the list.

But on Friday, Samsung explained itself in a company blog post on its Korean website, which was reported on by the websites Xataka Movil and The Verge.

In its post, the South Korean company says that the Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab won't be upgraded because the two devices lack the necessary hardware, namely not having enough RAM and ROM, to power Ice Cream Sandwich after Samsung puts its TouchWiz user interface changes over the top of the software.

The argument seems understandable for the sluggish performer that is the first Galaxy Tab, which launched in U.S. stores November 2010. But the Galaxy S, which launched in June 2010, isn't a performance dud by any means, with a 1-gigahertz processor, 512-megabytes of RAM and either 8 or 16 gigabytes of built-in storage.

As noted by The Verge, the Galaxy S has the same internal hardware found inside the Samsung Nexus S, which has been upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich.

So why is the Nexus S getting Ice Cream Sandwich and not the Galaxy S? The reason, according to Samsung, is that the Nexus S runs a pure version of Android with no third-party changes to the operating system, while the Galaxy S has to maintain TouchWiz and other carrier-specific software additions as well.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Taking a photo on the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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Hasbro sues Asus over use of Transformer Prime name

posted by Technology @ 12:59 PM
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Asus Transformer Prime tablet and keyboard dock

Transformer Prime — does this name make you think of Android tablets or toy robots that can disguise themselves as semi-trucks and sports cars?

Hasbro, the toymaker that owns the popular Transformer's brand, is suing consumer electronics manufacturer Asus over its latest tablet, the Transformer Prime, alleging that consumers might get confused and think the toys and tabs are somehow related, when they're not.

Optimusprime-cpThe suit, first reported by the website PaidContent.org, cites Hasbro's ownership of the Transformers name and a pending trademark for the Transformers Prime cartoon.

Also worth noting, one of the main characters in the Transformers toys, cartoons and movies goes by the name Optimus Prime.

Officials at Asus and Hasbro were not available for comment on Thursday, but Hasbro said in the PaidContent report that the suit was a move to protect its Transformers brand.

"Hasbro continues to aggressively protect its brands and products and the specific actions we are taking today against Asus underscores yet again Hasbro's willingness to pursue companies who misappropriate our intellectual property for their own financial gain," the company said in the report.

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Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Top image: The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime and its keyboard dock. Credit: Asus

Bottom image: Optimus Prime as depecited in the Transformers movies. Credit: Hasbro/Paramount Pictures

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Google’s Andy Rubin: Over 700,000 Android devices activated daily

posted by Technology @ 11:28 AM
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Andy Rubin on Google+: More than 700,000 Android devices activated daily

Google's Android, the world's most widely used mobile operating system, keeps on growing and is activated on more than 700,000 smartphones and tablets each day.

Andy Rubin, Google's senior vice president of mobile, who oversees the Android operating system, announced the latest Android statistic in one quick sentence on his Google+ page and on Twitter, writing:

There are now over 700,000 Android devices activated every day

Later, Rubin added on Google+:

…and for those wondering, we count each device only once (ie, we don't count re-sold devices), and "activations" means you go into a store, buy a device, put it on the network by subscribing to a wireless service.

To put that all in a bit of perspective, Android activations are up from more than 500,000 a day in June and 300,000 daily activations in December 2010.

Last week, the research firm NPD Group said that Android's share of smartphone sales in the U.S. grew to 53% from January through October, up from 42% in 2010.

Since January of this year, Android has been the most widely used mobile operating system worldwide as well.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of Google executive Andy Rubin announcing on Google+ that the Android mobile operating system has passed 700,000 daily activations. Credit: Andy Rubin/Google

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Holiday helper apps on your smartphone

posted by Technology @ 6:35 PM
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ah, there's a bite in the air, the lines are longer at the shopping centers and the shelves seem to have been picked clean. The neighbors' gaudy lights twinkle as if in a synchronized taunt to your bare house.

Yes, the last-minute rush is on to prep for the holidays. As always, there's an app or two to help you. (Sorry, not with stringing the lights, though.)

Searching for a tree

Find My Tree app
The season has arrived. Hanukkah is here, and Christmas is Sunday. But you're still looking for a tree? Android users can try out one of several free tree-finding apps: Tree Lot Finder, My Perfect Tree and  Find My Tree.

The app locates you and, on a Google map, identifies where some tree lots are located. These all seem to be the same app, down to the font. There are some fairly generic instructions on tree care.

We weren't all that impressed with these apps since none of them seemed to include details about some of the tree lots that pop up throughout town. The closest lots listed for, say, Glendale were actually in West Los Angeles, Burbank and Whittier — certainly far from the closest lots.

You might have better luck just looking up from your phone while you drive through the neighborhood.

Making a list

I'm still looking for an app to wrap my gifts for me. No luck yet.

Just keeping gifts straight can be a task for the overprogrammed. Of course, there's always Evernote for every device, for free. But if you're looking for something a little more festive, here are a few options.

All I Want From Santa appAndroid users can try the All I Want From Santa app, available in English and Spanish on Motorola Xoom, Kindle Fire, and Nook Tablet and Color.

Each child in the house can create a unique account to make a wish list, prioritize the items and send the lists off to Santa. His helpful tech elves forward a copy to Mom or Dad. And, for the etiquette conscious among us, there's a feature to help with writing thank-you cards. 

Another Android app that helps with organizing and planning your holiday shopping is  Free Christmas List. It includes gift and cost tracking by person and a cost summary.

On iPhone, among the many options is the Christmas List for 99 cents. It's a handy way to keep track of what you have bought for whom, from which store and how much you've spent. You can also track the process — to do, purchased, wrapped, shipped, received.

You can create groups for your gift giving. It's a nice interface, complete with scrollable photo list. And, if for some reason you just must, you can tweet the number of shopping days left by tapping the bird at the bottom of the app.

For budget-conscious shoppers, seeing what you've spent per person and the overall tally can really help keep the shopping in check. You can also share individual lists either via email, on Facebook or with someone else who has the app too.

Better Christmas List, also 99 cents, does much of the same but also includes pass code protection to keep lists secret from snoops and an archive of gifts received in years past, which can be handy.

Sending holiday cards

Think it's too late to send out your holiday wishes?

No!

You can create a virtu-real card on Android phones and iPhones/iPads with the free app Sincerely Ink. The app offers more than 30 photo cards and illustrated designs, including religious, secular, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year themes. You can personalize with your own photo, name and message, and send it to folks right from your contact list. Although the app is free, the service isn't. One card, including postage, goes for about $2.

The folks on your mailing list will get 5-by-7 inch, thick, glossy photo postcards at 300 dpi resolution. Sincerely Ink says their cards arrive within seven days.

Red Stamp for iOS devices and A card for that for Android phones do the same thing.

And if you want to take it to the next level, Holiday Video Cards by vlix for iOS lets you record a family video greeting, complete with seasonal tunes and effects. You use the video camera on your iPhone — front or back — to record a message up to a minute long. Then you can add text to introduce and close your video. The free app also offers 17 holiday effects and 16 holiday music tracks.

The video is quickly stitched together and added to your camera roll. You can also share it via email, Facebook, YouTube or vlix feed.

The app is compatible with iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, the fourth-generation iPod Touch and iPad 2. 

Since my family is super late with the preps for the holiday, we'll definitely be using this to spread our holiday cheer to our connected family members and friends.

Having holiday fun

Santa's Big HelperOne last little fun iPhone app for 99 cents is Santa's Big Helper.

It boasts nine different features: Santa tracker, elf cam, Christmas countdown (clever interface), video elf updates (so awful they're kind of funny), naughty/nice list, letters to Santa, ask an elf, magic compass and Christmas sound board.

The elf cam videos are what make the app worth considering.

You take a picture of your living room or fireplace and, through elfin magic, Santa appears with gifts in hand in your own home.

You have video proof of his visit!

 

 

 

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Michelle Maltais

Photo at top: Screen shot of Find My Tree app. Credit: Find My Tree

Center photo: Screen shot of All I Want From Santa app. Credit: All I Want From Santa

Photo at bottom: Screen shot of Santa's Big Helper app. Credit: Santa's Big Helper

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Samsung Galaxy phones, tabs to get Ice Cream Sandwich in 2012

posted by Technology @ 10:33 AM
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung said Tuesday that upgrades to Google's new Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system are due early next year for its lineup of Galaxy smartphones and tablets.

That should be welcome news to owners of Galaxy devices who might feel a bit behind after last week's launch of the new Galaxy Nexus phone, the first device to run on Ice Cream Sandwich.

All of Galaxy phones and tablets for sale will receive the software upgrades, Samsung said in a blog post. The Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note phones will be updated in the first quarter 2012 "and other Galaxy devices will soon follow," Samsung said.

Among the other Galaxy products promised for updates are the Galaxy R phone and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Galaxy Tab 8.9, Galaxy Tab 7.7 and Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus tablets.

Older Galaxy devices no longer on sale, such last year's original Galaxy Tab, aren't set to receive the upgrades.

Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, is the first version of Android designed to work on both smartphones and tablets and adds many new features such as "face unlock," which removes the needs for passwords to unlock a phone by enabling the phone to recognize its owner's face looking at the screen.

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Is Samsung really suing Apple over emoticons? (*^_^*)

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Visitors walk past Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 on display in Seoul on Oct. 13. Credit: Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters

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ITC to ban select HTC Android phones in Apple patent win

posted by Technology @ 6:56 PM
Monday, December 19, 2011

HTC G1 (left) and Apple iPhone 4S

Apple landed a potentially major victory against HTC on Monday after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in its favor and found that some of HTC's Android smartphones and tablets violated one of its patents.

In its ruling on the patent dispute between Apple and HTC, the ITC also handed down a ban on the importing of specific HTC Android devices that goes into affect April 19, 2012.

The HTC phones or tablets banned by the ITC will include any that run on Google's Android 1.6 Donut to 2.2 Froyo mobile operating system, according to Gizmodo.

The decision doesn't specifically call for an import ban on phones running newer versions of Android such as 2.3 Gingerbread, 3.0 Honeycomb or the new 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Most newer HTC phones and tablets run on Android Gingerbread, and some (such as the HTC Rezound) are due for upgrades to Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

In its complaint to the ITC, Apple accused HTC of violating a number of its patents, each of which are older than smartphones themselves.

But the ITC found HTC in violation of only one of Apple's patents — patent 5,946,647, which Apple  was awarded in February 1996 and covers the "system and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data," or basically a patent for handling the actions that take place in the background when you do something as simple as tapping a link in an email to open it in a Web browser.

In an emailed statement, HTC lawyer Grace Lei said that the company was pleased that the ITC found that it wasn't in violation of all the patents Apple accused it of infringing. As for the one patent it was found to be in violation of — patent 5,946,647 — HTC said it would alter its use of Android to avoid the problem.

"We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it," Lei said. "However, the 647 patent is a small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all of our phones soon."

Apple officials were not available to comment on the commission ruling Monday.

From here, the ruling still has to be approved by the ITC's president, who has 60 days to sign off on the decision or veto it.

If the decision sticks and the import ban comes to fruition, HTC will still be able to sell whatever it has in the U.S. before April 19 of next year. The Taiwanese company also has until Dec. 19, 2013, to import refurbished devices "to be provided to consumers as replacements under warranty or an insurance contract (whether the warranty or contract is offered by HTC, a carrier, or by a third party)," the ITC said in its ruling.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The HTC G1, left, and Apple iPhone 4S smartphones. The G1 was one of a number of HTC smartphones found to be in violation of an Apple-owned patent. Credit: Eric Risberg / AP

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BT sues Google, alleges widespread patent infringement

posted by Technology @ 2:16 PM
Monday, December 19, 2011

Google headquarters

British Telecommunications, better known as BT, has accused Google of infringing six of its patents in a lawsuit filed in the U.S.

The company — which has customers in more than 170 countries and offers land-line and mobile phone service as well as Internet TV and IT services — alleges in its suit that a number of Google products violate its patents, including Google's search engine, the Android mobile operating system and Android Market app store, Gmail, Google+, Google Books, Docs, Maps, Music, Places, Offers and advertising operations.

Google plans to fight the suit, saying in an emailed statement: "We believe these claims are groundless and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them."

The suit, which was first reported by the website Foss Patents and filed in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., didn't specify what sort of damages BT is looking for, but did ask for an injunction against the products it accuses of infringing its patents.

The six patents BT accuses Google of violating cover broad technologies, such as products that tailor what information they present based on the location a user is in, as well as how user location and profile information is stored and accessed.

The BT suit is one of many Google is grappling with. The tech giant is dealing with a patent battle against Oracle, a suit from EBay/PayPal and suits from Apple and Microsoft directed at Google's hardware partners.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Google sign outside the tech giant's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Credit: Clay McLachlan / Reuters

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Samsung Galaxy Nexus finally has a U.S. release date: Thursday

posted by Technology @ 6:11 PM
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

The wait is over: The highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy Nexus will be available in the U.S. starting Thursday.

The smartphone — the first device to run Android's Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system — will be sold at Verizon Wireless stores and online for $299.99 with a new two-year customer agreement, a Verizon spokesman said. It will run on Verizon's 4G LTE network. 

Verizon, Samsung and Google said the Galaxy Nexus "brings an entirely new look and feel to Android," according to a news release posted on Droid Life. It offers customers a redesigned user experience with improved multitasking, notifications, near-field communications and a Web-browsing experience with "blazing speeds." 

"The lock screen, home screen, phone app and everything in between have been rethought and redesigned to make Android simple, beautiful and useful," the companies said.

Here are some of the phone's features:

– Redesigned user interface: Software navigation buttons, a first for Android smartphones, and a dedicated recent apps button to make multitasking easy.

– Face unlock: Use state-of-the-art facial recognition to unlock the Galaxy Nexus.

– Android Beam: Share Web pages, apps, contacts and YouTube videos with friends by tapping two compatible phones together.

– Redesigned camera: Introduces panorama mode, 1080p video capture, zero-shutter lag for instant photo capturing and effects such as silly faces and background replacement.

– People application: Browse friends, family and co-workers, see their photos in high-resolution and check their latest status updates from Google+ and other social networks.

– Cloud services: Keep email, contacts, photos, music, browser bookmarks and other data synced to the cloud, available across multiple devices so customers never lose important data.

– Google Music: Upload up to 20,000 songs to the cloud and stream it instantly on Galaxy Nexus and from the Web for free.

Customers who purchase a Galaxy Nexus will need to subscribe to a Verizon Wireless Nationwide Talk plan beginning at $39.99 monthly and a smartphone data package starting at $30 monthly for 2 GB of data.

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Photo: Models display the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone in Hong Kong in October. Credit: Kin Cheung / Associated Press

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Android, Apple lead U.S. smartphone market, others play catch-up

posted by Technology @ 10:43 AM
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Iphone

The Android operating system's share of smartphone sales grew to 53% from January through October, up from 42% in 2010, and Apple's iOS share rose to 29%, up from 21% last year, research firm NPD Group said Tuesday.

Research in Motion, which makes the BlackBerry, continued to see its share of the smartphone market decline, plummeting to 10% in the first 10 months of this year. In 2010, it held one-fourth of the market.

Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, Symbian OS and Palm/webOS had tiny shares of the market, with each operating system capturing no more than 3%. 

"The competitive landscape for smartphones, which has been reshaped by Apple and Google, has ultimately forced every major handset provider through a major transition," said Ross Rubin, executive director of Connected Intelligence at the NPD Group. "For many of them, 2012 will be a critical year in assessing how effective their responses have been."

Motorola is seeking to rebuild its share of the market, which was 36% five years ago but had fallen as low as 1% in the third quarter of 2009. After adopting Android, Motorola rose to 16% of the market in the fourth quarter last year but fell to 12% in the third quarter this year. But Rubin said Motorola is at least back in the game.

Another smartphone maker hoping to rebound next year is RIM. Rubin said few companies "have felt the impact of the shift to touch user interfaces and larger screen sizes as negatively," but noted that the company is beginning anew with a strong technical foundation and has already made incremental improvements this year with the release of its BlackBerry 7 operating system. In the second quarter of 2006, RIM held half of all smartphone sales, but by the third quarter this year, it had fallen to 8%.  

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Photo: An iPhone 4S. Apple's iOS share of smartphone sales grew to 29% from January through October. Credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters

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LG Nitro HD, from AT&T, review [Video]

posted by Technology @ 3:25 PM
Saturday, December 10, 2011

The LG Nitro HD reminds me a lot of the Samsung Galaxy S II, and if you’ve ever seen the two smartphones, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The two phones could be mistaken for twins, sitting side-by-side with 4.5-inch touchscreens, and similarly designed plastic backs with 8-megapixel cameras sitting rear-center.

However, aside from the outside looks, the overall experience of using the two phones is quite different and it’s on the software side where LG comes up short with the Nitro HD.

The Nitro HD is one of a new wave of smartphones (along with handsets like the HTC Rezound and upcoming Samsung Galaxy Nexus) that is upping the ante for screen resolution into high-definition territory, with a 1,280 x 720 screen resolution.

The Nitro HD’s display is one of the nicest I’ve seen on any smartphone so far. Streaming video, websites, apps all looked detailed and worthy of being called high definition. Colors came though balanced and accurate. Images looked smooth, with pixelation hard to find due to a density of 326-pixels-per-inch, which is the same pixel density as the iPhone 4 and 4S.

LG Nitro HD from AT&TThe display also features edges that are curved to roll into the sides of the phone’s body, so running your finger across the device for any swiping motion on-screen is extra satisfying. It’s such a small detail, but not having a hard edge to run into makes using the touchscreen a thoughtlessly pleasant experience. Nokia has taken a similar approach with its Lumia 800 and this is a design touch I wouldn’t mind seeing on more phones.

The internals of the Nitro HD are top-notch as well, with a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM and 4 gigabytes of built-in storage pared with an included 16-gigabyte microSD storage card.

Photos from the rear camera looked good, but colors came out a bit oversaturated for my taste; 1080p video shot by the camera was impressive. 

But all this goodness felt a bit held back by LG’s modifications to Google’s Android operating system and a few other gripes.

Every handset maker out there adds their own “skin” over the top of Android in an effort to stand out in the crowd. But LG’s version of Android adds app icons, widgets and even fonts used in the operating system that all feel a bit too big, as if LG is failing to take advantage of all the screen real estate the Nitro HD’s display has delivered.

Battery life was poor, as is pretty much standard for just about any 4G smartphone nowadays, especially phones with 4.5-inch screens requiring so much power. In a week of testing, I found that I needed to charge the Nitro HD before my work day was done, after charging the phone each night as well — so keep spare chargers around at home, work and in the car if you’re considering buying the Nitro HD.

The Nitro HD also has a quiet, flat sounding speaker that wasn’t good for talking to a friend on speakerphone, much less for video watching or music listening — so a nice set of headphones would be a good accessory as well.

At $249.99 on a 2-year data plan from AT&T, the Nitro HD is fairly priced (though it’d be a lot nicer at about $200), but the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and HTC Vivid are worth a look if you’re looking for big-screens and 4G speeds from AT&T.

Like the Vivid and the Galaxy S II Skyrocket, the Nitro HD runs on AT&T’s 4G LTE network if that network is available wherever you are, which so far isn’t very many places.

AT&T’s 4G LTE network is up and running in Atlanta and Athens, Ga.; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Las Vegas; Oklahoma City; Washington D.C.; San Antonio; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, with more markets planned to launch next year. If you’re outside of those markets, the Nitro HD (and other AT&T 4G LTE phones) run on the carrier’s HSPA+ 4G network or its 3G network, each of which are speedy in their own right, whenever you have a strong signal.

So, taking a look at the good and the bad of the Nitro HD, the new phone sits among the nicer phones available from AT&T at this time, but there is one major hurdle I see that would make me hesitant to purchase this device: the question of Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Nitro HD runs on Android Gingerbread and LG hasn’t yet said whether or not its flagship AT&T phone will be upgraded to the latest version of Android, known as Ice Cream Sandwich. It seems a no-brainer that LG would make the move to Ice Cream Sandwich eventually, but many hardware manufacturers have made a habit of leaving devices stagnant when it comes to Android. 

As great as the Nitro HD’s hardware is, it’s the software, both in its current form and its undefined future, that holds this phone back from living up to its potential.

  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T, the Samsung Galaxy S II from T-Mobile, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T, the Samsung Galaxy S II from T-Mobile, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The 8-megapixel camera on the back of the LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The back of the LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The LG Nitro HD from AT&T, with the rear cover removed. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The LG Nitro HD from AT&T, with the rear cover removed. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The mini-USB port on the LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
Lg_nitro-65

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The LG Nitro HD from AT&T. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times

Twitter.com/emamd

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Motorola Droid Xyboard tablets on sale, start at $430

posted by Technology @ 8:55 PM
Friday, December 9, 2011

Motorola Droid Xyboard tablet

Motorola's two latest Android tablets, exclusive to Verizon Wireless, went on sale online Friday; the Droid Xyboard 8.2 and the Droid Xyboard 10.1.

The two screen sizes come with different prices.

The Droid Xyboard 8.2 has an 8.2-inch display and sells for $430 with 16 gigabytes of built-in storage or $530 for 32 gigabytes of storage. Each price is based on signing a two-year 4G LTE data plan with Verizon.

The Droid Xyboard 10.1, with a 10.1-inch screen, is offered in three storage options and three prices. A 16-gigabyte Xyboard sells for $530, a 32-gigabyte model sells for $630 and a 64-gigabyte unit runs $730, again  with a two-year Verizon 4G contract.

While the Droid Xyboards went on sale online Friday, the new tablets actually land in stores Monday, Verizon said in a statement.

Aside from the differing screen sizes and storage options, each of the five variations of Droid Xyboards will run on Google's Android Honeycomb operating system, although an upgrade to the soon-to-arrive Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system will come later.

The Droid Xyboards also all feature a screen resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera with an LED flash, a front-facing camera for video chatting, and micro USB and HDMI ports. The 10.1-inch models also can be used with a stylus.

For a limited time only, Verizon said, those who buy a Motorola Droid Razr smartphone from Verizon can get a $100 discount off a Droid Xyboard tablet.

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Image: The Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet. Credit: Motorola/Verizon Wireless

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Ltaub5pd

The Galaxy Nexus and Google's Android Ice Cream Sandwich have finally arrived in North America — but not in the U.S.

On Thursday, Android fans in our neighbor up north were able to buy Samsung's new Galaxy Nexus smartphone as it launched on Canadian carriers Bell for $159.95 and Virgin Mobile for $159.99, along with each company's respective data plan.

But the Galaxy Nexus, which is the first device to run on the highly anticipated Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, still has no U.S. release date or price.

Making things a bit more painful for Google gadget lovers in the U.S.: The Galaxy Nexus has been on sale in Britain for weeks and is launching across Europe over the next few days.

Whenever the Galaxy Nexus hits the States, it'll be available on Verizon's 4G LTE network (something we've known since mid-October), sporting a massive 4.65-inch touch screen with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM.

The new handset will also have a 5-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video and a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front for video chatting, and no physical buttons on the curved face of the device. The back of the Galaxy Nexus looks, well, a lot like the Galaxy S II and the LG Nitro HD.

All of that measures up with other top-of-the-line smartphones out there — so nothing groundbreaking hardware-wise, but nearly all you'd want out of a current smartphone is included, on paper anyway.

So what makes the Galaxy Nexus remotely special? Again, Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Google's first operating system designed for both smartphones and tablets.

Ice Cream Sandwich is the version of Android that Google hopes will get hardware makers on the same page. In the past, many handset makers have failed to issue software updates for older phones when newer versions of Android are released.

Will Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich be any good? We'll have a full review of the Galaxy Nexus shortly after we get our hands on it. Stay tuned.

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Photo: Andy Rubin, left, Google's vice president in charge of Android, and Samsung President J.K. Shin unveil the Galaxy Nexus smartphone in China on Oct. 19. Credit: Bobby Yip / Reuters

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China’s ZTE to launch high-end Android or Windows phone in U.S.

posted by Technology @ 10:28 AM
Thursday, December 8, 2011

ZTEusa.com AT&T Avail Android smartphone

If you're familiar with ZTE in the U.S., then you're familiar with low-cost or free phones from prepaid or contract carriers such as Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS, and from major carriers such as AT&T.

And you'd also know that ZTE's phones are nowhere near challenging top-tier handsets such as the Apple iPhone, or Androids such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Motorola Droid Razr. Like HTC used to do, ZTE often makes products devoid of their own brand for carriers looking for entry-level devices.

But next year, the Chinese company is looking to change things up and launch a high-end smartphone in the U.S., according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

A high-end ZTE handset, running on speedy 4G LTE networks, could arrive toward the middle of next year and "by 2015, we expect the U.S. to be the largest market for handsets for ZTE," said Lixin Cheng, ZTE's North American president, in a Hong Kong interview with the Journal.

Such a smartphone would offer iPhone-like features at a price still somewhat lower than Apple's handset, Cheng told the Journal, declining to go into specifics about price.

The newest version of the iPhone, the iPhone 4S, starts at $199 for a unit with 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, increasing to $299 for 32 gigabytes and $399 for 64 gigabytes.

The idea may seem a bit far-fetched if you've never heard of ZTE before, but the company's growth is very real. As noted by the Journal, ZTE grew to a 5% share of global cellphone shipments in the third quarter of the year.

That recent push propelled ZTE to pass Apple as the No. 4 shipper of cellphones (not just smartphones) in the world, according to the research firm Strategy Analytics. Aside from phones, ZTE also makes mobile hotspot and USB-wireless dongles for carriers such as T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon.

ZTE is "in talks" with U.S. carriers about selling its high-end phones, which may run either Google's Android operating system or Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 software, Cheng said in the report.

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Image: A screen shot of ZTEusa.com, ZTE's website for the U.S. market, which displays the AT&T Avail, an Android smartphone ZTE builds for AT&T. Credit: ZTE

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RIM denied BBX name, redubs new phone/tablet OS BlackBerry 10

posted by Technology @ 12:27 PM
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

RIM tweet announcing that BBX is now BlackBerry 10

Research In Motion's next BlackBerry smartphone and tablet operating system won't be called BBX after all.

Instead, RIM is going with the name BlackBerry 10 after a Federal Court in Albuquerque issued a temporary restraining order against the Canadian company, banning it from using the name BBX, which is a trademark of the New Mexico-based software firm Basis International.

Basis sued RIM in October over its use of the BBX name and rather than continue to fight the suit, RIM announced via Twitter on Wednesday that it's moving forward with its new operating system under the name BlackBerry 10.

In a tweet regarding the keynote speech at its BlackBerry DevCon Asia developer conference, currently taking place in Singapore, RIM said:

#BBDevCon Asia Keynote: BlackBerry 10 is the official name of the next generation platform that will power future BlackBerry smartphones!^BZ

Basis uses the name BBx — note the difference in capitalization — as branding for its Business Basic eXtended line of software developer tools. The BBx tools are used to build applications that can run on a number of operating systems that use the Java programming language, including Linux, Microsoft Windows, Apple's iOS and Mac OS X, and Google's Android, according to Basis, which says it trademarked the name in 1995 but has been using it since 1985.

RIM's formerly-known-as-BBX operating system has been under development for months and will be the first OS from the company to run on both smartphones and tablets — an approach taken by Apple's iOS and Google's new Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

The OS now-known-as-BlackBerry-10 is based on QNX, the current operating system found on the slow-selling BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. RIM recently announced a $485-million loss on unsold PlayBook inventory.

BlackBerry 10 will usher in increased touchscreen-based controls to new RIM phones and the OS will enable BlackBerry devices to run Android apps alongside native QNX and BlackBerry 10 apps, apps developed using Adobe's AIR software and HTML5 apps.

The software is expected to arrive on new BlackBerry phones and the PlayBook tablet early next year.

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Image: A screen shot of Research In Motion's message on Twitter announcing that its BBX operating system has been renamed BlackBerry 10. Credit: Research In Motion / Twitter

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Google’s Android Market passes 10 billion downloads

posted by Technology @ 1:25 PM
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

10 Billion Downloads! - Android Market

Google's Android Market has passed 10 billion app downloads, a major milestone for the world's most widely used mobile operating system.

"One billion is a pretty big number by any measurement. However, when it’s describing the speed at which something is growing, it’s simply amazing," said Eric Chu, director of the Android Developer Ecosystem, in a company blog post. "This past weekend, thanks to Android users around the world, Android Market exceeded 10 billion app downloads — with a growth rate of 1 billion app downloads per month."

The massive number is even more impressive when considering the fragmentation found on Android, with companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Yahoo hosting Android app stores of their own, in addition to independent app stores such as GetJar.

Apple passed 15 billion downloads from its App Store in July, noting that there are more than 200 million iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users worldwide.

More than 200 million Android smartphones and tablets have been sold and about 550,000 new Android activations take place each day, Google has said.

To celebrate passing the 10-billion-download mark, Google and a number of developers are offering selected apps for 10 cents for a limited time, Chu said.

"Starting today for the next 10 days, we'll have a new set of awesome apps available each day for only 10 cents each," he said. "Today, we are starting with Asphalt 6 HD, Color & Draw for Kids, Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro, Fieldrunners HD, Great Little War Game, Minecraft, Paper Camera, Sketchbook Mobile, Soundhound Infinity & Swiftkey X."

Each day, until the 10-day period is up, Google will offer another 10 apps for 10 cents each, as listed on the Android Market.

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Photo: A screen shot of Google's Android Market. Credit: Google

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Galaxy Nexus: Still no U.S. release date, could sell for $299.99

posted by Technology @ 10:38 AM
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich

The Galaxy Nexus smartphone, whenever it goes on sale in the U.S., may come with a $299.99 price tag on a two-year data plan.

So far, Verizon hasn't said when the Samsung-built, Google-approved handset will hit stores or at what price the eagerly anticipated phone will sell.

But, according to a Dow Jones report, unnamed sources "familiar with the matter" said the Galaxy Nexus would fall in line at the $300 level with the launch price of other top-tier Verizon smartphones, such as the Motorola Droid Bionic, the Motorola Droid Razr and the HTC Rezound.

Apple's iPhone 4S, which many consider to be the Galaxy Nexus' main competitor, sells at a starting price of $199.

Unlike the iPhone, the Galaxy Nexus will run on Verizon's 4G LTE network (the iPhone is still 3G-only) and feature a larger 4.65-inch touchscreen.

The Galaxy Nexus will also be the first device to run Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system. Ice Cream Sandwich is also the first version of Android that is designed to work on both smartphones and tablets.

The new handset is already on sale in Britain and is launching in Canada on Thursday from Bell for $159.95 and Virgin Mobile for $159.99 on each carrier's respective data plans.

The new Samsung phone will also feature a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (same as the HTC Rezound), a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video and a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front for video chatting. 

As soon as Verizon offers an official release date and price we'll let you know here on the Technology blog and we'll have a full review of the Galaxy Nexus as soon as we can get our hands on the new phone.

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Photo: Models hold up Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphones that run the Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system in Hong Kong last month. Credit: Jerome Favre / Bloomberg

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Sony Ericsson phones dropping ‘Ericsson’ in mid-2012

posted by Technology @ 8:19 PM
Monday, December 5, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

After a little more than a decade, Sony Ericsson is reportedly dropping the Ericsson, giving Sony a cellphone brand of its own.

The move to re-brand Sony Ericsson as just Sony follows the October announcement that Sony is buying Ericsson's half of the joint venture for about $1.5 billion. The mobile phone company was founded in 2001 and currently makes a wide range of smartphones, with some Google Android handsets among its offering.

Kristian Tear, a Sony Ericsson executive vice president, told the Times of India about the re-branding effort, stating that the switch should be completed by the middle of 2012.

"A lot of planning goes into getting the branding right but we will be done by middle of next year," Tear said. "It will also mean that the marketing and advertising investments will go up. We haven't been as fierce as we were a few years back but we will step it up, refocus and invest more in brand-building in select markets, and India is one of those markets."

The name change makes sense given Sony's pending sole ownership of the mobile phone maker.

As the Los Angeles Times has previously reported, Sony will also cross-license five essential patent families relating to wireless handset technology as a part of its takeover of Sony Ericsson.

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Photo: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play smartphone. Credit: Sony Ericsson

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Apple loses bid to block U.S. sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

posted by Technology @ 10:13 AM
Monday, December 5, 2011

Apple iPad 2, sitting next to a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung chalked up a victory in its ongoing patent battle with Apple when a federal judge ruled against a proposed sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the U.S.

Apple had requested a ban similar to the temporary injunction placed on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, but the U.S. District Court in San Jose on Friday decided that such a move wasn't necessary before the dispute goes to trial in July, according to Bloomberg Businessweek

Australian's ban on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is set to lift on Dec. 9, with the patent battle there headed for trial in March.

The two consumer electronics titans are involved in a running legal war over the rights to technologies used on tablets and smartphones in more than 10 countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, France and Italy, and with more than 20 lawsuits filed between the two companies.

So far, sales of Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones have been temporarily banned in 30 European countries, and Germany has placed a preliminary sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 7.7 (all devices which run on Google's Android operating system). Samsung went so far as to redesign and then re-release the German version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, but Apple requested a new ban of that tablet in that country as well, according to the Times of India.

When Apple and Samsung aren't fighting to keep each other's products off of store shelves, the two are actually business partners. Samsung, for example, manufactures Apple's A4 and A5 processors found in the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iPod Touch, among other components, such as flash memory, inside of i-devices.

RELATED:

Australia's Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban back on

ITC sides with Apple over HTC in initial ruling on patent suit

Samsung sues to ban Apple iPhone 4S sales in Japan, Australia

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Hague, Netherlands, in August. Credit: Robert Vos / European Pressphoto Agency

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Kobo Vox tablet review [Video]

posted by Technology @ 3:53 PM
Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Kobo Vox tablet feels like a missed opportunity.

Over the last year, the scrappy Canadian e-reading company has released the impressive Kobo Touch eInk eReader and polished its Kobo Reading Life apps into worthy rivals to Amazon’s Kindle apps and Barnes & Noble’s Nook apps on tablets and smart phones.

The company is in the process of being purchased by Japan’s equivalent to Amazon, the massive online retailer Rakuten. Despite Kobo’s largest U.S. retail partner, Borders, closing its doors, it seemed that Kobo was akin to a promising, aspiring prizefighter on the brink of being ready to challenge the heavyweight champs of e-reading, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Kobo Vox, on top of a Amazon Kindle Fire and a Barnes & Noble Nook TabletAnd then I used the Vox — Kobo’s answer to Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s one-two punch of the Nook Color and Nook Tablet.

With the Vox, Kobo has taken a step back, delivering a product that doesn’t come close to its rivals and one that doesn’t match up to the quality I expected given how much I like the Kobo Touch and Kobo reading apps on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS devices.

On paper, the Vox looked like a smart move, selling for $199.99 and featuring a seven-inch touch-screen with eight gigabytes of built-in storage — that’s the same included storage and price as the Fire and the same as the Nook Color (the Nook Tablet sells for $249). Just as the Nook Color and Nook Tablet do, the Vox features with a MicroSD card slot, which can accommodate a card of up to 32-gigabytes in size, if you don’t mind buying one.

Like the Fire and the Nook, the Vox runs a modified version of the Android Gingerbread operating system, designed by Google with phones, not tablets in mind.

But unlike those two others, Kobo has only made minimal changes to Gingerbread, most noticeably pinning reading-related functions to the bottom of the Vox’s Android home screens.

I was hopeful Kobo would deliver a competitive product, but instead I found myself disappointed at just about every turn in using the Vox.

The hardware, from the outside, isn’t bad looking. The back of the Vox is great to hold on to, with Kobo’s signature quilted pattern rendered in a soft and grippy plastic. On the review unit I tested, a light-blue rim of plastic sat between the back of the Kobo and its 1020 x 600 pixel resolution display.

It’s nice to see a company take a bit of risk design-wise, especially when compared with the boring looks of the Kindle Fire. The Vox is also offered with lime-green, pink and black rims.

But once I turned on the device, it was mostly downhill.

The Vox starts up slow, and I failed to ever reach the seven-hour battery life Kobo claims for the Vox. I usually got about four or five hours of battery life, but there were about four times in my week of testing that the device would shut itself off when falling below an 80% charge (a couple of those delays struck when we were shooting the above video).

When the Vox was up and running, it did so sluggishly. Loading apps, menus, Web pages; checking email; opening e-books; turning pages in e-books — everything took place slowly. It felt as though the Vox was always a step, or a second or two, behind my touch input. The display also fails to match the clarity, brightness, color range or viewing angles of the Fire and the Nook Tablet.

Snappy, speedy, responsive — these are not words I would use to describe the Vox. Too often I found myself staring at a rotating gray circle waiting for something to load. This complaint can partly be attributed to lower-end internal specs, such as an 800-megahertz processor and 512-megabytes of RAM, but if tuned enough with the right software, such hardware shouldn’t be so slow.

Kobo has a solid selection of books available for sale, more than 2.3 million titles. Major new releases are often available at a price that meets or beats those of Amazon or Barnes & Noble. But unlike Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Kobo has no app store — instead directing users to purchase apps from the independent online app store GetJar.

Like Barnes & Noble, but very much unlike Amazon, Kobo has no storefront for music, movies or TV shows, either.

Although I like the hardware of the Nook Color and Nook Table, and I like the software and Web services of the Fire, I can’t say that I’m happy with either the hardware or software offered by the Vox. At the same price as the Fire and the Nook Color, the Vox seems overpriced and more in line with tablets that sold for about $130 to $150 a year ago.

I wanted to like the Vox, but I didn’t. Instead, the Vox feels like a prototype, not a fully finished product ready for the masses. And that left me flatly disappointed.

  • Photo: The Kobo Vox tablet, on its box. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
  • Photo: The Kobo Vox tablet, on its box. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
  • Photo: The Kobo Vox tablet, on its box. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
  • Photo: Kobo Vox power adapter. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
  • Photo: The Kobo Vox tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
  • Photo: The Kobo Vox's single speaker. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
  • Photo: The back of the Kobo Vox tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
  • Photo: The back of the Kobo Vox tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
  • Photo: The back of the Kobo Vox tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
  • Photo: The back of the Kobo Vox tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
Kobo_vox-40

RELATED:

Amazon Kindle Fire review [Video]

Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet review [Video]

Vizio Tablet: Mixes high and low-end features, but can it compete? [Video]

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+
Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Kobo Vox tablet, on top of an Amazon Kindle Fire and a Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
Twitter.com/emamd

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Australia’s Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban back on

posted by Technology @ 8:39 PM
Thursday, December 1, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung was set back again, temporarily, as an Australian High Court put back in place a sales ban on its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in an ongoing patent lawsuit the South Korean company is involved in with Apple over tablets and phones.

This go-around, the temporary sales injunction is on for just one week as High Court Justice John Dyson Heydon blocked the overturning of the ban through Dec. 9, according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek.

"A stay for one week will cost Samsung, in effect, one week's trade," but lifting the ban would probably "be injurious to Apple," Heydon said, according to the Bloomberg report.

The reinstatement of the preliminary sales injunction, which was overturned on Tuesday, will delay Samsung's plans to get the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which many see as the Apple iPad's current top competitor, onto store shelves as consumers are ramping up their holiday shopping.

Samsung has said it plans to give up on releasing the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which runs Google's Android operating system, in Australia if it can't sell the device there before Christmas.

Katrina Howard, a Samsung lawyer, told Heydon in court that "even one day can make a difference" and that holiday sales were crucial for the company. Samsung has no doubt already missed many sales opportunities for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 because of its suit with Apple — the sales ban has been officially in place since October, but Samsung voluntarily pulled the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from shelves in August.

Apple and Samsung, which are suing each other over alleged patent infringement on the technology used to make their respective tablets, are set to go to trial in Australia in March to settle their dispute.

The two tech giants are also in similar patent battles over tablets as well as phones in the U.S., France and 30 other European countries, as well as Japan.

RELATED:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban in Australia overturned

ITC sides with Apple over HTC in initial ruling on patent suit

Samsung sues to ban Apple iPhone 4S sales in Japan, Australia

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Visitors walk past Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 on display in Seoul, South Korea on Oct. 13, 2011. Credit: Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters

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Carrier IQ, the beleagured online metrics company that has been accused of installing spy software on millions of smartphones, has broken its silence to say the critics have it wrong.

"While a few individuals have identified that there is a great deal of information available to the Carrier IQ software inside the handset, our software does not record, store or transmit the contents of SMS messages, email, photographs, audio or video," the company said in a statement released late Thursday. 

The firm's defense came as as politicians and privacy organizations continued to question the little-known Mountain View, Calif., company, which designs communications analysis software used by some of the largest U.S. wireless carriers, including AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. The carriers say data collected on their behalf by Carrier IQ helps them improve their service.  

Last week, 25-year-old system administrator named Trevor Eckhart released a video (above) purporting to show Carrier IQ's app recording smartphone users' every keypress, and implying that the company was therefore able to intercept users' private communications.

But security researchers have disagreed with conclusions drawn from Eckhart's analysis.

"It's not true," said Dan Rosenberg, a senior consultant at Virtual Security Research, who said the video shows only diagnostic information and at no point provides evidence the data is stored or sent back to Carrier IQ.

"I've reverse engineered the software myself at a fairly good level of detail," Rosenberg said. "They're not recording keystroke information, they're using keystroke events as part of the application."

The difference is subtle but important. To perform commands, applications need to know which buttons a user has pushed: Your email app needs to know when you tap the reply button, and your phone app needs to know which numbers you press in order to dial. Applications therefore pay attention to which buttons a user is pressing.

But listening for a button press does not mean an application is therefore sending a record of those button presses back to the company, researchers said.

System-related apps like Carrier IQ often allow users or phone engineers to tap a series of keys in order to bring up administrative options or to display information on the phone's performance. In order to show that data, apps needs to know the correct code was tapped in — by identifying specific key presses, as it is shown doing in the video.

But Rosenberg said his look at the Carrier IQ program revealed "a complete absence of code" that would indicate key presses were being tracked and recorded or sent over the Internet by the phone.

Instead, the readouts on Eckhart's video that occur when he presses keys are "debugging messages" — informational feedback meant to help smartphone programmers verify that their applications are working correctly. In this case, Carrier IQ's developers appear to have set up the program to display a diagnostic message when a key is pressed or when a text message is sent.

"It's just spitting debug messages to the internal Android log service," sad Jon Oberheide, a co-founder of Duo Security. "It appears that Carrier IQ is indeed collecting some metrics, but I have not seen any evidence that keystrokes, SMS messages or Web browsing session content are being transferred off the device."

Carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have long disclosed that they collect and store information about users' locations, phone records and text messages. But what appeared to unnerve consumers and privacy observers was the possibility that the companies had gone a step further and were monitoring nearly every action a user performed on the phone.

That claim set off alarms among phone users, privacy advocates and now Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who demanded Thursday that Carrier IQ explain its software and the types of data it collected.

Though Carrier IQ denied it collected message text and other personal communications, it did note that it gathers "intelligence on the performance of mobile devices" and sends it to wireless carriers. The company said little more about the specific types of data it does collect, whether users can opt out of the collection or how long the company keeps collected data.

RELATED:

AT&T says attempted hacking was unsuccessful

Facebook settles privacy complaint with Federal Trade Commission

RIM Mobile Fusion to add BlackBerry security tools to Android, iOS

– David Sarno

Video: Trevor Eckhart's video about Carrier IQ.

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BrightCove App Cloud Available

posted by Website Magazine @ 3:30 PM
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wouldn't it be nice if you could develop that next killer app in the cloud? Well you can! Cloud content service Brightcove has made App Cloud, an end-to-end platform for the development, deployment and operation of native apps for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, available to the general public. 

App Cloud combines an open HTML5 Web development model with "intelligent" cloud services to accelerate app development, optimize performance, measure effectiveness, and enable dynamic updates to installed apps. Developers use HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and the App Cloud software development kit (SDK) to create apps. 

“The App Cloud beta program has been very well received over the past few months, and we have been impressed by the quality, breadth and creativity of the apps developed by our beta users,” said Ashley Streb, Vice President of Technology at Brightcove. “Now, any organization can take advantage of App Cloud to easily build, deliver, and manage dynamic, custom content apps across multiple devices for a superior end user experience.”

Brightcove indicated that more than 1,200 individual users have participated in the App Cloud beta testing program and several App Cloud-powered apps are currently available for download through the iTunes App Store and Google's Android Market including apps from the U.S. Department of State and Lifetime Networks.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban in Australia overturned

posted by Technology @ 9:29 PM
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

An Australian court has lifted its temporary sales injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, landing the Korean company a win in its patent battle against Apple in that country.

The sales ban had been in place since October, after Samsung voluntarily pulled the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from shelves in August.

No doubt, Samsung has to be pleased with the reversal of the preliminary injunction, given that the holiday shopping season is in full swing.

This is just the latest development in the Australian patent battle between the two tech giants, which is set to go to trial in March.

And as we've reported, the Australian dispute is just one piece of the puzzle. The patent battle between the two companies is raging in the U.S., France and 30 other European countries, as well as Japan, and has spread to encompass not only the Galaxy Tab 10.1, but also Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones, other Galaxy Tab tablets (all products that run Google's Android operating system), and Apple's iPhone and iPad products.

The suits and counter-suits cover disputes over touchscreen technology, the look and feel of products and even how the devices connect to the Internet.

RELATED:

Samsung wants Apple iPhone 4S sales ban in France, Italy

ITC sides with Apple over HTC in initial ruling on patent suit

Samsung sues to ban Apple iPhone 4S sales in Japan, Australia

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is displayed in Seoul last month. Credit: Park Ji-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images

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Apple iPhone 4S

Research In Motion announced on Tuesday that it will soon launch software that will bring security and management features once only found on BlackBerrys over to Android and iOS phones and tablets.

The new tools, which RIM is calling BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, will allow businesses to set up and control Apple's iPhone and iPad, as well as smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system, as they have done for years with BlackBerry phones and more recently, the slow-selling PlayBook tablet.

"We are pleased to introduce BlackBerry Mobile Fusion — RIM's next generation enterprise mobility solution — to make it easier for our business and government customers to manage the diversity of devices in their operations today," said Alan Panezic, RIM's vice president of enterprise product management and marketing, in a statement.

"BlackBerry Mobile Fusion brings together our industry-leading BlackBerry Enterprise Server technology for BlackBerry devices with mobile device management capabilities for iOS and Android devices, all managed from one web-based console," Panezic said. "It provides the necessary management capabilities to allow IT departments to confidently oversee the use of both company-owned and employee-owned mobile devices within their organizations."

In announcing Mobile Fusion, RIM touted itself as "the leading provider of enterprise mobility solutions with over 90 percent of the Fortune 500 provisioning BlackBerry devices today," a nod to its still-large market share of the business market for smartphones.

But the Canadian company also acknowledges that when it comes time for consumers to buy phones and tablets for themselves, they're increasingly choosing rival devices and then bringing those gadgets into the workplace.

"The enterprise market for smartphones and tablets continues to grow in both the company-provisioned and employee-owned (Bring Your Own Device or BYOD) categories," RIM said. "BYOD in particular has led to an increase in the diversity of mobile devices in use in the enterprise and new challenges for CIOs and IT departments as they struggle to manage and control wireless access to confidential company information on the corporate network. This has resulted in increased demand for mobile device management solutions."

Among the features RIM said Mobile Fusion will offer for Android and iOS phones and tablets is the management and configuration of devices, as well as security features such as remote locking and data wiping, the creation of multiple user profiles on shared devices, app management and control over how a device connects to the Internet, among other settings.

While some would seem to love having an iPhone or an Android that's as secure and easy to manage at the scale a large business would require, others such as ReadWriteWeb has asked if RIM isn't "shooting itself in the foot with Mobile Fusion?"

GigaOm described RIM's stance with Mobile Fusion as "If you can't beat iOS and Android devices in the market, you might as well secure them."

Currently, Mobile Fusion is in "early beta testing with select enterprise customers," RIM said. But the company is accepting "customer nominations for the closed beta program which will start in January." The commercial rollout of Mobile Fusion isn't expected until late March.

RELATED: 

Adobe gives up on mobile Flash Player, but RIM won't yet

RIM's PlayBook OS 2.0 pushed into Feb. 2012 with no BBM

RIM's BBX phones are 'going to surprise people,' investor says

— Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: An Apple iPhone 4S. Credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters

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Cyber Monday sales up 33%, new sales records set, IBM says

posted by Technology @ 10:47 AM
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cyber Monday sale on Target.com

Cyber Monday deals lured a record number of online shoppers, leading to a 33% jump in U.S. sales compared with the Monday after Thanksgiving last year, according to a new IBM report released Tuesday.

Consumers spent an average of 2.6% more this year than they did in 2010, with the value of an average online order rising from $193.24 to a record $198.26 this year, according to IBM's fourth annual Cyber Monday Benchmark study.

Also increasing this year was the number of shoppers who made purchases on their smartphones and tablets, the study said. On Cyber Monday, a record 10.8% of people used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, up from 3.9%  in 2010. Mobile sales also grew to 6.6% on this year's Cyber Monday purchases, up from 2.3% a year earlier, the tech giant said.

"Consumers flocked online, with shopping momentum hitting its highest peak at 11:05am PST/2:05pm EST," IBM said in a statement. "Consumer shopping also maintained strong momentum after commuting hours on both the East and West coast."

Two statistics not included in IBM's study was an estimate of how much in total was spent or exactly how many people were shopping on Cyber Monday. IBM produces its Cyber Monday shopping report by "analyzing terabytes of raw data from 500 retailers nationwide," the company said.

And, as a tech firm that sells software, tech infrastructure and consulting services to businesses, IBM's analysis of this data is a bit of a marketing opportunity for the company founded in 1911.

"Retailers that adopted a smarter approach to commerce, one that allowed them to swiftly adjust to the shifting shopping habits of their customers, whether in-store, online or via their mobile device, were able to fully benefit from this day and the entire holiday weekend," said John Squire, the chief strategy officer of IBM's "Smarter Commerce" team, in a statement.

So, how did Cyber Monday compare with Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving? IBM has some data on that too, reporting that it found Cyber Monday brought in 29.3% more online sales than Black Friday did (though many shoppers on Black Friday were in brick-and-mortar stores and not online).

According to a few other Black Friday reports, that day was a shopping sales record too. 

Most people who purchased items online on Cyber Monday and Black Friday did so using Apple's i-devices, which "continued to rank one and two for mobile device retail traffic" with 4.1% of shopper Web-surfing taking place on the iPhone and 3.3% on the iPad, IBM said.

Android came in third with a solid 3.2% of Cyber Monday and Black Friday Web traffic, the report said.

"Shoppers using the iPad also continued to drive more retail purchases than any other device with conversion rates reaching 5.2 percent compared to 4.6 percent," on other devices, IBM said.

RELATED:

Apple: No Cyber Monday deals, but free shipping until Dec. 22

Cyber Monday deals 2011: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Dell and more

Amazon: Kindle Black Friday sales quadruple; Kindle Fire tops sales

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Cyber Monday specials on Target's website. Credit: Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images

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LG Nitro HD: 4.5-inch 720p display, on AT&T 4G LTE, due Dec. 4

posted by Technology @ 7:38 PM
Monday, November 28, 2011

LG Nitro HD from AT&T

Smartphone screens keep getting bigger and thankfully, the resolution on displays is finally starting to grow too.

The latest example: the LG Nitro HD, which features a 4.5-inch screen with a 1,280 x 720 screen resolution. That'd be 720p, the lowest possible resolution that can be considered high definition.

As such, this will be AT&T's first HD-screen phone when it goes on sale Dec. 4 at a price of $249.99 with a two-year contract, the carrier said in a statement.

But the promising touch screen isn't all the Nitro HD has going for it. The new LG handset features a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core processor (that's the same clock speed as some laptops), an 8-megapixel and 1080p camera on the back with an LED flash, and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera.

Verizon has a 720p screen phone of its own in the $300 HTC Rezound, which I'm currently testing for an upcoming review. Both of the competing handsets run Google's Android Gingerbread operating system.

The Rezound, which has a 4.3-inch touch screen, runs on Verizon's 4G LTE network and the Nitro HD will run on AT&T's 4G LTE network. The Nitro HD will also offer 20 gigabytes of storage with 4 gigabytes built in and an additional 16 gigabytes on an included microSD card.

Stay tuned — we'll have a review of the Nitro HD soon as well.

RELATED:

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Motorola Droid Razr, from Verizon, review [Video]

Samsung Galaxy S II, Android on Sprint review [Video]

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: The LG Nitro HD, from AT&T, front and back. Credit: AT&T

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