Motorola updates Touchless Control app with new “What’s up?” voice command

Motorola this evening has released an update for its Touchless Control app that adds a few new features. Most notably, the update adds a new feature that allow you to ask your phone “What’s up?” to have your notifications read back to you. Simply say “Ok, Google Now, what’s up?” or “Ok, Google Now, read notifications” and the app will read your notifications back to you, allowing you to make the decision of whether they are important or not. Obviously, this is most useful while driving and can help you find out why your phone is buzzing without putting yourself or others at risk.

In addition to the “What’s up?” command, the update enhances end-of-speech detection for improved accuracy and faster responses and includes some bug fixes. The full change log is below:

What’s New
  • Enhanced end-of-speech detection for improved accuracy and faster responses
  • New “What’s Up” / “Read Notifications” voice command that reads out new notifications so you never miss a thing
  • “What’s Up” / “Read Notifications” fully launched for U.S. English, Spanish, and Italian and in beta for other languages / regions.
  • Compatible only with Android 4.4 KitKat
  • Bug fixes

The update is live on the Play Store now. It’s important to note, however, that Touchless Control is only compatible with the Moto  X, DROID ULTRA, DROID MAXX, and DROID Mini.

Google updates Play Games with ability to send invitations, see what games your friends are playing

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Originally released back in July, Google has just updated its Google Play Games app from version 1.1 to 1.5. The update adds some useful enhancements to help it compete with the likes of Apple’s Game Center.

First off, Play Games now supports the ability to send and view invitations to join multiplayer games. Previous versions of the app only allows you to join games from within the app and did not support invitations. Further improving the social and game discovery aspects of the app, the update has also added the ability to see what games people in your circles are playing.

A few slight interface tweaks have also been made. the settings have moved from the Action Bar to the side bar. The side bar also contains a new menu called “Matches” that allows you to manage your invitations. New “Recommended Games” and “Find Games” tabs have also been added.

The update is gradually rolling out to devices now, but if you can’t wait, head over to Android Police, where they have the download now.

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Evernote for Android updated with handwriting support, faster camera, more

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The Evernote team has released an update for its Android app today that adds a few very useful features. Most notably, the updated has added support for handwriting. Evernote touts that this is more than just a handwriting add-on and that the feature is throughly integrated throughout the app. You can easily switch between typing and handwriting, which is very useful if for instance, you are taking notes during a lecture and want to draw a chart or graph. The handwriting is also searchable, assuming it’s readable, so that you can search both text and writing when needed.

The editor has also received several enhancements, including a new text highlighter, better support for notes in other formats, and the ability to edit content in tables created on other platforms. The update also adds the ability to create a note link, allowing you to quickly jump between notes, as well as the ability to duplicate a note. Finally, the camera has also received some enhancements and is easier and faster to use.

Check out the full change log below and download the update on the Play Store.

Handwriting

  • Write and sketch inside your notes!
  • Keep handwriting, text, photos, and files in the same note
  • Choose from several colors and line thicknesses

Editor improvements

  • New: Text highlighter
  • Better support for notes made on other platforms
  • Edit content in tables created on other platforms

Note improvements

  • Create a note link to quickly jump between notes
  • Duplicate a note
  • Better, Faster Camera

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 12.2 shipping March 9th

Samsung already launched the Galaxy Note 12.2 tablets it announced at CES earlier this year, and today the company has announced the availability date for the Galaxy Tab 12.2 version. Starting March 9th, customers can purchase the 12.2″ Android tablet starting at $649 in black or white versions with 32GB and 64GB configurations through Samsung.com, Best Buy, Amazon, and other retailers. Read more

Samsung posts two new videos introducing the Galaxy S5, Gear 2, and Gear Fit

Samsung today published two new YouTube videos detailing its latest products. The first video runs through just about every imaginable feature of the new Galaxy Gear devices, from fitness applications to customizing the interface, to Android smartphone integration and, you know, checking the time.

A second video, embedded below the break, shows off the company’s Galaxy S5 smartphone. This video recounts the various specs and statistics that most smartphone buyers are familiar with before jumping into a breakdown of the phone’s form factor and design (GOLD IS BEST!).

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Mercedes-Benz says Android support coming when Google brings in-car system to market

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Back in January Google announced a new Open Automotive Alliance that would see the company work with automakers to bring Android-based entertainment systems to vehicles. We’ve seen hints of those partnerships start to trickle out and the latest comes from Mercedes. Following a job listing from Mercedes last week looking for a software engineer to work on a “Google Projected Mode” that would integrate content from Android devices into an in-car system, the company has once again mentioned using Android in a press release today.

While announcing that Apple’s just announced CarPlay feature for iOS would be demoed on a new Mercedes-Benz C-Class at the Geneva Motor Show, the company also said it would offer Android support as “as soon as Google brings its own in-car infotainment system to market.” Read more

Samsung Galaxy S5 to come with suite of “Galaxy Gifts” worth more than $500

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After unveiling the first ad for its Galaxy S5 flagship last, and briefly breaking Twitter with a selfie, Samsung has just announced a suite of premium app deals for Galaxy S5 customers.  The app suite will come bundled for free with Galaxy S5 purchases and includes a variety of premium services, subscriptions, and apps for free.

Evernote, Bitcasa, and LinkedIn are all offering 3 months of their premium services for free to Galaxy S5 customers. Bloomberg is offering a free yearlong subscription to Businessweek, while the Wall Street Journal is giving customers a 6 month subscription for free. Previous Galaxy devices offered free DropBox storage this time around, however, users will get 50GB of storage on Box for 6 months.

The full breakdown of offerings is below:

  • Run Keeper – 1 year free premium service ($20 value)
  • Lark – 1 year premium service ($36 value)
  • Skimble – 6 months free premium service ($42 value)
  • Map My Fitness – 6 months free premium service ($36 value)
  • Wall Street Journal – Free 6 month subscription to Wall Street Journal ($160 value)
  • Bloomberg Businessweek + – Free Subscription: 12 Months ($30 value)
  • PayPal – Enjoy special offers (totaling $50 or more in value) from your favorite stores when you pay with PayPal
  • LinkedIn – Free LinkedIn Premium account for 3 months ($75 value)
  • EasilyDo Pro – Free app purchase ($5 value)
  • Blurb – Free $5 Coupon ($5 value)
  • Cut the Rope 2 – $10 in-game credits ($10 value)
  • Flick Dat – Free download of $2 paid app ($2 value)
  • Box – Free 50 GB for 6 months ($60 value)
  • Bitcasa – Free Premium Service: 1TB storage for 3 months ($30 value)
  • Evernote – Free Premium Service for 3 months ($15 value)

All of these deals put together total out to more than $500 in savings, which is pretty impressive and certainly makes the Galaxy S5 slightly more enticing.

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“All New HTC One” detailed in 12-minute hands-on video ahead of official announcement

Rumors of HTC’s upcoming flagship have been around for a while now, especially now that Samsung’s Galaxy S5 has been announced. HTC has an event scheduled for March 25th, but that hasn’t stopped numerous pictures of the device from being leaked, including a clear press shot of the device in gold. Now, a kid from Schaumburg, IL has posted an exhaustive 12-minute hands-on video with the device, nearly three weeks ahead of the phone’s official unveil.

The video doesn’t show a lot that we didn’t already know. We do get to see the latest version of HTC Sense in great detail. The kid calls it Sense 6.6, which doesn’t seem very logical, as it is expected to be Sense 6.0. The video also shows the welcomed addition of a microSD card. Most notably, there are now two rear cameras, as expected, while the power button has been moved to the top right and the headphone jack to the bottom. The camera interface has also been greatly simplified with a focus on speed. There are six shooting modes, as well, including: Camera, Video, Selfie, Zoe, 360 Panorama, and Dual Capture.

HTC is set to officially unveil the device on March 25th, but in the meantime, checkout the video up above and let us know if you notice anything neat. Full gallery of images below:

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Ashton Kutcher and Lenovo announce a line of smartphones, will be released later this year

Ashton Kutcher

After announcing its acquisition of Motorola late last month, Lenovo is ending the month with another big bit of news. According to a new report from Re/Code, Lenovo has inked a deal with Ashton Kutcher, star of “Jobs” and “Two and a Half Men”, to release a line of smartphones later this year.

In an interview with the publication, Lenovo Chief Marketing Officer David Roman noted that while the deal does sound kind of odd at first, Kutcher is an engineer and fits the role very well.

“I know on one level, it sounds corny, but it is real. He not only sees himself as an engineer, but he is an engineer. If he sees a problem, he wants to solve it.”

Lenovo and Kutcher have been working together since October, with the actor taking on the role of developing and promoting the company’s Yoga line of devices. Kutcher won’t have much of a say in terms of the design of the phone, but look and feel of the software experience will very much be his.

Kutcher studied biochemical engineering at the University of Iowa, so he certainly is qualified. Although, he did drop-out to pursue a modeling career before graduating. He’s invested in numerous technology start-ups, however, including FourSquare and Uber.

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Boeing enters smartphone race with the secure, tamper-proof Android ‘Boeing Black’

Following reports last night when the device was spotted going through the FCC, Reuters reports Boeing today officially announced a new Android smartphone with a number of innovative security features. Dubbed “Boeing Black,” the device will be marketed towards government officials and other organizations that highly value keeping their data secure. The tamper-proof device builds in a number of security features for encrypting calls and more and is designed to wipe itself clean of any data if someone attempts to open the physical casing of the phone. Here’s a bit more from Boeing’s website: Read more

Google’s Android Head Sundar Pichai talks Galaxy S6, Tizen, security and Nokia X range

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Google’s Android head Sundar Pichai has been answering questions at Mobile World Congress and French site FrAndroid provided a roundup of a few of the more interesting snippets (in addition to his denial that Google tried to buy WhatsApp).

Update: Google provided a direct transcript (though no video was made available) in which not surprisingly Pinchai is a little less self criticizing:

Sorry, the premise of the question is because Android is open, it has more security issues? Respectfully, I’m not sure that’s a correct premise of the question. Open platforms historically undergo a lot of scrutiny, but there are a lot of advantages to having an open source platform from a security standpoint. I would argue that it’s the best way for a platform to be secure, because every researcher in the world can inspect it, every developer in the world can inspect it, and I think that contributes a lot to Android security.

Android was built to be very, very secure. The thing that you’re seeing is because Android is an open platform, many people can ship Android in many different ways and so there are some partners when they ship devices, they have an older version of Android. And sure you can have a security vulnerability there, but that doesn’t mean Android isn’t secure. We go to great lengths–the depth of work in Android to make it secure; the depth of work done by Google Play…Google Play automatically scans and verifies thousands of applications for malware. We track data on this. It’s state of the art in terms of what we do. What you see across the ecosystem…people will ship good phones and keep them updated…you will have some phones that will not be updated. That’s where we see issues. Not Android at a fundamental level.

As long as you’re on a phone and able to update, Android is very very secure.It’s designed to be very very secure. I would go as far to say — open systems are far more secure. We do this on the browser side. Chrome is very secure. The fact that some things are open, by any stretch of the imagination, does not make it any less secure.

Malware targets where users are. When you say numbers like 90% of malware is targeting Android, you know, I hate to point out that if you’re a smart business person running this malware company, that’s what you should do. It’s the wrong way to look at the lens. Obviously, you will always see more malware targeting Android because Android is used more than any smartphone platform by a pretty substantial difference. I think that drives a lot of it so I understand that part of it. What matters much more is – as a user, if you use Android, are you fundamentally more compromised? We don’t think so.”

Responding to a question about malware on the Android platform, Pichai said:

We cannot guarantee that Android is designed to be safe, the format was designed to give more freedom. When people talk about 90% of malware for Android, they must of course take into account the fact that it is the most popular operating system in the world. If I had a company dedicated to malware, I would also be addressing my attacks on Android …  Read more

Google’s first Ara Developers’ Conference coming April 15-16 alongside Ara Module Dev Kit

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Project Ara, the modular phone project announced by Motorola’s ATAP team last year, will be getting its own developer conference this April. Google announced the event on the Project Ara website (via AndroidPolice) and noted that a live stream with “interactive Q&A capability” will be available online for those that can’t attend. The conference will take place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and Google says there will be a limited number of attendees. The event will focus heavily on a new Ara Module Developers’ Kit that will be released online in early April: Read more