Reports of HTC’s withdrawal from the smartphone market are greatly exaggerated, says company

Photo: HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang, and Alice Sun's blog post

Photo: HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang, and Alice Sun’s blog post

A recent rumor that HTC was withdrawing from the smartphone market, and that the company would be offered for sale, have been denied by the company. HTC recently warned of a possible loss in Q3 following disappointing Q2 results.

The rumor was started by a post on the the Chinese microblogging site Weibo by EE Times Chinese analyst Alice Sun, a commentator with a generally good track-record. However, rumors of a denial swiftly followed, and Engadget has now received what appears to be a definitive denial of the sale – though interestingly no specific response is made to the suggestion that HTC is pulling out of smartphones …  Read more

Nexus 7 review: the best Android tablet gets even better

IMG_0367

Before Google I/O 2012, Android tablets hadn’t been all that successful, due in large part to their high price and lack of serious support from Google. Then, however, Google introduced the $199 Nexus 7 tablet and started a battle of who could make the best, most affordable tablet. More than a year later, it’s quite clear that Google was the winner of that battle. Other manufacturers could not release an affordable tablet that was worth buying– and its biggest 7-inch competitor, the iPad mini, remains a full $100 above the Nexus 7’s asking price.

When the first rumors hit claiming that the device would cost $229, $30 more than the original model, I was a tad worried, but once Google officially announced the specifications, all that worry went away. The new Nexus 7 improves on its predecessor in just about every way imaginable. It has a faster processor, higher resolution screen, a new rear camera, the latest version of Android, and more. All that doesn’t necessarily mean the device is better, however. Is the Nexus 7 still king of the Android tablet market? Can it compete with the iPad mini?

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Obama administration vetoes partial Apple product import ban over Samsung patents

President Obama and Vice President Biden with an iPhone

President Obama and Vice President Biden with an iPhone

United States President Barack Obama and his administration have issued a veto on a potential ban for iPhone 4 and 3G-capable iPad 2 models in the United States. The potential ban of those Apple products was due to patents owned by Samsung.

The news comes by way of a notice from the U.S. Government. The official ruling comes from Michael Froman, a trade representative for the United States:

In addition, on January 8, 2013, the Department of Justice and United States Patent and Trademark Office issued an important Policy Statement entitled “Policy Statement on Remedies for Standard-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary FRAND Commitments” (“Policy Statement”).2 The Policy Statement makes clear that standards, and particularly voluntary consensus standards set by standards developing organizations (“SDO”), have incorporated important technical advances that are fundamental to the interoperability of many of the products on which consumers have come to rely, including the types of devices that are the subject of the Commission’s determination. The Policy Statement expresses substantial concerns, which I strongly share, about the potential harms that can result from owners of standards­essential patents (“SEPs”) who have made a voluntary commitment to offer to license SEPs on terms that are fair, reasonable, and non­discriminatory (“FRAND”), gaining undue leverage and engaging in “patent hold­up”, i.e., asserting the patent to exclude an implementer of the standard from a market to obtain a higher price for use of the patent than would have been possible before the standard was set, when alternative technologies could have been chosen. At the same time, technology implementers also can cause potential harm by, for example, engaging in “reverse hold­up” (“hold­out”), e. g., by constructive refusal to negotiate a FRAND license with the SEP owner or refusal to pay what has been determined to be a FRAND royalty.

The would be, no-longer affected Apple devices include the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2 3G, and the original 3G-capable iPad. This ruling mostly affects the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4 as those are the pertinent products that Apple actually currently sells in the U.S. The President’s block of the ITC ban is the first block of this kind since the 1987 Reagan administration.

Both Apple and Samsung have both responded to the news. A Samsung spokesman told AllThingsD the following:

 

We are disappointed that the U.S. Trade Representative has decided to set aside the exclusion order issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC’s decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license.

You can read the full letter from the government below:

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Google launches ‘Android Device Manager’ to find and wipe misplaced devices

Android-Device-Manager

Google today announced on its Official Android Blog that it’s launching a brand new tool called ‘Android Device Manager’ that will let users easily locate and remotely wipe misplaced or stolen devices. Anyone familiar with the Find My iPhone feature that Apple has made available to iOS device users will already be quite familiar with how the software works.

Much like Apple’s service, Android Device Manager will let users locate their device on a Map in real-time, as well as remotely wipe the device of all data if happens to get into the wrong hands. You’ll also be able to make your device ring at maximum volume if you happen to misplace it in a nearby location.

If you ended up dropping your phone between those couch cushions, Android Device Manager lets you quickly ring your phone at maximum volume so you can find it, even it’s been silenced. And in the event that your phone or tablet is out of earshot (say, at that restaurant you left it at last night), you can locate it on a map in real time

Google’s announcement comes at a time when government officials are pressuring Apple, Google, and other smartphone manufacturers to implement new theft deterrent features. While Google’s new tool would be one step in the right direction, it doesn’t appear to go beyond what Apple has already had in place since back in 2010.

Recently, Apple announced a new Activation Lock feature that requires an Apple ID and password to reactivate a stolen phone after being remotely erased/wiped by the owner through the Apple Find my iPhone feature. The login information will also now be required to turn off Find My iPhone. If a user’s device is stolen, wiping the device clean will essentially leave the thief with a device that is inoperable without the user’s Apple ID and password. It doesn’t appear that Google’s new tool includes a similar feature.

Google said the new Android Device Manager service will available later this month for devices running Android 2.2 and up, and an Android app will also be available to help users manage their devices.

Motorola confirms new family of “Moto X” devices, including a low-cost version, coming soon

Moto-X-White-ATT-01

Following yesterday’s launch of the Moto X and pricing and availability details for US carriers, Motorola today confirmed (via Pocket-Lint) that the device will not be available to consumers in the UK.  It’s not all bad news, however, as Motorola is hinting at a whole family of devices that will follow the branding of its new flagship Moto X and become available in additional markets.

A spokesperson for Motorola reassured Pocket-lint that Europe is still a key priority for the company, and that “Moto X is the first device in a new product portfolio, basically a new family of devices.”

“Because it is the first one, the Moto X has had a real buzz around it, but the US launch is not about the US being Motorola’s priority at all, there are devices coming to Europe. We can’t share what they are as of yet, but they are from the same family. They are cool and they are exciting and there is a lot in Europe coming up.”

Cnet dug up a little more on the upcoming devices, noting that one of them will be a lower-cost Moto X for US prepaid customers and other emerging markets: Read more

FBI can remotely switch on the microphone in Android handsets, claims former US official

mic

Photo: digitaltrends.com

A report by the Wall Street Journal on the FBI’s use of hacking tools claims that the Bureau has the capability to remotely switch on the microphones in Android handsets.

With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google Inc.’s Android software to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said. Google declined to comment …  Read more

New ads show off Moto X ‘Quick Capture’ & always-on voice command features

Motorola just posted a couple new videos showing off some of the unique software features that its including the Moto X. The first, above, shows the Quick Draw, or Quick Capture, feature that allows users to twist their wrist twice to quickly launch the camera app and snap a photo. The second, below, shows the always-on voice commands included with the device that will let users control their device without ever touching it. You can get all the details on specs and availability for the Moto X hereRead more

NVIDIA Shield Android handheld gets tear-down treatment as first reviews hit the web

The Frankenstein-like NVIDIA Shield, the handheld games console whose size and weight (1.5 pounds!) makes it seem like something invented in the 1990s, has been given the tear-down treatment by ifixit.

One thing is for sure—with its shields disabled, this device looks nothing like any tablet we’ve ever taken apart … or game console … or anything

Teardown photos and review roundup below the fold …  Read more

Google testing ‘hyper-local news card’ for Google Now

Google_Now_-_Travel_Cards_Update2Google is testing a new “card” for its Google Now service that would display local news that’s contextually relevant to the user. It’s not something that users have been able to try out just yet, but Quartz reports that vice president of search and assist at Google Johanna Wright tells them that Google is currently testing the feature internally.

There’s no word on whether or not the Google Now card would some how be integrated with Google’s current News service, but Wright provides an example of how the “hyper-local news card” might function: Read more

Official Google AdSense Android app now available on Google Play

There are a lot of third-party clients for Android that let users access their AdSense accounts, but today an official app from Google has made its way onto Google Play.

Google says that version 1 of the app provides ” key earnings information, top custom and URL channels, ad units and sites reports, payment alerts,” hinting that a future version will implement some of the other detailed reporting features offered in third-party apps and through AdSense on the desktop.

Unfortunately the app doesn’t appear to be compatible with all devices,  including Google’s own Nexus 7 and many newer devices like the HTC One. Read more

Google Play passes App Store in downloads for the first time, but not revenue

Google-Play-App-Annie-App-Store

According to data from App Annie’s latest download and revenue report, Google Play for the first time surpassed the App Store in app downloads during the second quarter of 2013. While Google was able to move past Apple with about 10 percent more downloads during the three month period, the report notes the App Store brought in nearly 2.3x the amount of revenue.

App Annie says that Google Play’s growth was driven by emerging markets including Brazil, India, and Russia, and while the App Store still leads by revenue, Google Play closed the gap slightly compared to last quarter and years past.

Google Play saw Brazil climb two spots to join India and Russia as another emerging market in the top 5 countries by downloads for Q2 2013…The United States, Japan and United Kingdom remained the leaders in the iOS App Store when looking at revenue generation, and Australia climbed to #4 after a strong Q2. iOS App Store revenue was driven primarily by the United States and Japan, which combined to account for about half of the total iOS App Store revenue in Q2.

App Annie’s report also includes its Games Index tracking mobile games on iOS and Android, which now account for around 40 percent of all downloads on both platforms. During Q2, Gameloft’s Despicable Me: Minion Rush grabbed the top spot for most downloaded iOS game, while publisher Tiny Piece took the honor on Google Play.

As for non-gaming apps, Vine increased by three positions to become the most downloaded app during the quarter on iOS, followed closely by YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram. Read more

Microsoft’s Office 365 app now available for Android smartphones

Microsoft is today launching a native Android app for its ‘Office 365′ subscription based productivity suite following the launch of the app on iOS devices earlier this year. The free app, which allows users to view & edit Office files stored in their SkyDrive account, requires users to sign into their paid Office 365 subscription.

The app is already starting to roll out on Google Play, but Microsoft doesn’t appear to be making a tablet version of the app available just yet. Much like on iPhone, perhaps Microsoft is going to stick with recommending users take advantage of the web apps on tablets. It would certainly help it continue its Windows 8 tablet campaigns mocking other tablets for not having Office.

KEY FEATURES: Read more