Galaxy Gear reviews make for painful reading [Review roundup]

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The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch reviews are out, and that red glow you see on the horizon is from the blushing faces at Samsung, visible all the way from Korea. The reviews are not, to put it kindly, overwhelming in their enthusiasm for the device.

The Verge

A smartwatch the Galaxy Gear is not. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what it’s supposed to be. Samsung describes it as a companion device, and the Gear is indeed chronically dependent on an umbilical link to another Samsung device, but it never left me feeling like it was a helpful companion. The notifications are Orwellian, the media controls are exiguous, and the app selection has no substance to underpin the hype. Samsung’s attempt to turn the Gear into a style icon is also unlikely to succeed, owing to the company’s indecision about its target demographic. Trying to please all tastes has resulted in a predictably charmless and soulless product.

The Gear’s camera and phone calls are both surprising and delightful, but they’re unfortunately isolated highlights. When all is said and done, I expect the Galaxy Gear will be looked back upon as a rough first draft that helped the Korean chaebol steer a better course en route to the goal of producing a real smartwatch. As it stands today, though — unintuitive, oversized, overpriced, and in constant need of a Galaxy guardian — the Galaxy Gear might have been better off staying on the drawing board …  Read more

Google rolling out Google Play NFC vending machines in Japan (Gallery)

Engadget got its hands on shots from the unveiling of new Google Play vending machines being rolled out in Japan today. The machines will sell Google Play content starting with a mix of 18 different free and paid games, and users will complete their purchase using any Android device running 4.0 and up with NFC. Engadget walked us through the process:

You rest the phone on the tray below the screen, and NFC pairing takes care of the rest. We put the machine to the test with our LG G2 on hand, and had no troubles choosing and downloading a free game through the machine. There’s a slick unified animation from the giant touchscreen (which looks almost identical to drinks machines elsewhere in the country) to your Android phone of choice when the download kicks in. Also, for trying out another Google app, you’ll get a ‘present’ which ‘drops’ down from the screen and into the vending tray once your download is complete.

The three Google Play machines will officially open to the public tomorrow at Parco department store in Shibuya.  Read more

AT&T announces Oct. 4 release for Galaxy Note 3 & Galaxy Gear

AT&T and other carriers have already started accepting preorders for Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear companion smartwatch, but today AT&T announced official release dates for the two products.

Both devices will become available online and in stores on October 4th for the same prices AT&T previously announced for preorders. That’s $299 on contract for the Note 3 (or $35 per month on AT&T Next), and $299 for the Galaxy Gear. Preorders from AT&T’s site are currently listed as shipping on October 1st.

Other carriers, including T-Mobile and Sprint, will also begin selling the Note 3 and Galaxy Gear beginning early next month.  Read more

Samsung: We’ve been making gold phones longer than Apple has been making phones

With Apple’s new gold iPhone 5s getting the most attention of any of the new colorful iPhones it released earlier this month, Samsung wants you to know that it isn’t copying Apple with its new gold Galaxy S4.

In a blog post on its official Samsung Tomorrow blog titled, “Golden History of Samsung Phones,” the company makes a point of noting that it announced the Gold Galaxy S4 on August 27th and launched it in stores on September 8– over a week before Apple’s gold iPhone 5s launch. It also showed off some gold phones it’s made dating back to 2004.

Some were unreleased like special edition phones for the Olympics and one for Ocean’s 13, and Samsung notes that “this is definitely not a complete list of gold-colored products made by Samsung.” Read more

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 – 2014 Edition arriving at U.S. retailers on October 10 for $549

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Samsung today announced U.S. availability for the new Galaxy Note 10.1 – 2014 Edition that it first unveiled earlier this month at IFA. Preorders for the device will kick off tomorrow at midnight ET, and become available through the company’s major retail partners on October 10.

Samsung will be selling the new Note 10.1 in Jet Black and Classic White for a retail price of $549.99 (16GB) and $599.99 (32GB). Preorders will be available through select retailers, and the following stores will have stock of the device on October 10: Best Buy, Best Buy Mobile specialty stores, BestBuy.com, Amazon, PC Richard & Son, Fry’s, Tiger Direct, Walmart, Samsung.com.

As a reminder, the new Galaxy Note 10.1 features a Exynos® 5420 quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM, and a 2,560 x 1,600 pixel WQXGA display with over 4 million pixels, and that new leather-like textured backside like the new Galaxy Note III. You’ll also get those new S Pen features that we first saw on the Galaxy Note III, $600 worth of free bundled content, and other goodies. Head below for Samsung’s full press release.  Read more

Nexus 5 to “match or beat” iPhone 5s graphics performance – preliminary benchmarks

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The Nexus 5 appears set to match or beat the iPhone 5s in graphics performance, according to benchmark data posted on the the GFXBench website, achieving 23.1 frames per second in a key test.

The GFXBench T-Rex tests are one of the most demanding tests of the graphics performance of a phone, and provide a particularly good guide to how well a handset is likely to fare when paying graphics-intensive games. The just-released iPhone currently tops the T-Rex scores, but one of the four tests appears to show that the Adreno 330 expected to be used in the Nexus 5 will at least equal that performance …  Read more

Samsung Galaxy NX Review: The first professional-level Android powered camera

As a blogger, taking great, print-quality photos when covering events or doing reviews is a necessity. So carrying around a big DSLR or comparable digital camera system has become a necessary evil. I say evil because the camera world and I just don’t understand each other. The camera market has become stale and full of devices that cater to professional photographers, while seemingly ignoring the incredible innovations that have happened with mobile devices in recent years. Just because pro photogs want their tried and trusted physical controls and pricey glass, doesn’t mean there isn’t room for beautiful touch screens with easy to use UIs, WiFi, LTE connectivity, USB charging, and everything we love about the app and developer ecosystem that we get with Android.

Samsung is the only company that gets it: It’s the first to integrate what is essentially a full Android smartphone on the back of a full fledged, professional mirrorless camera system. It’s the big brother, high-end version of the Galaxy Camera (review) point and shoot it introduced last year.  It’s an intriguing concept and certainly where I hoped camera manufacturers would look to when attempting to take their professional product lines out of the stone age, so I’ve been more than excited to have the opportunity to put the device to the test over the last few weeks.

DESIGN/ SPECS: Read more

Amazon to launch revamped, higher-resolution Kindle Fire ‘HDX’ as soon as tomorrow [Now launched]

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Update: Now launched – full press release below

Amazon plans to debut all-new versions of the Kindle Fire as soon as tomorrow, according to sources familiar with the products. The new Kindles are said to be redesigned both externally and internally with faster processors [Quad-core Snapdragon 800], improved graphics performance, and higher-resolution displays [323ppi for 7", 339ppi for 8.9"]. To represent the upgrade over the older Kindle Fire, Amazon will reportedly slap an “X” at the end of “HD,” making the name Kindle Fire HDX. Also reportedly in the mix are new cases that are akin to the Smart Covers that Apple sells for the iPad…

Read more

iMessage makes the jump to Android in the form of a shady unofficial app (update: removed)

Update: The app has been removed from the Google Play Store.

Earlier this month, iMessage Chat for Android appeared on the Google Play store. The app is by no means an official Apple-created iMessage solution for Android, but the creation of a third-party developer named Daniel Zweigart. Surprisingly, according to a few users who have tried the app, it actually works. You can send messages from your Android device to your iPhone or iPad, and vice versa.

However, it’s quite possible that the Apple IDs and passwords being entered into the app are being collected by the developer for nefarious purposes.

If you’re really curious about how the app works, software developer Adam Bell has discovered that it connects to Apple’s iMessage server posing as a Mac mini. Cydia creator Jay Freeman (aka saurik) has also noted on Google+ that the app forwards all communication from Apple to a server running in China. That means every message you send or receive using this app is being processed—and possibly stored—on a server run by the creator.

However, Steven Troughton-Smith also points out that the app has the ability to download and install software in the background, meaning it is capable of putting malware on your phone without your knowledge. Given this information, we highly advise staying away from the app.

Should you decide to try downloading the app from the Google Play store, we recommend only testing it with a throwaway Apple ID that has none of your payment or personal information attached. We really can’t stress that point enough.

T-Mobile rolling out update to Moto X that dramatically improves camera performance

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When the Moto X finally made its way into the hands of consumers, many people were disappointed by the quality of photos taken with the device’s shooter. Specification-wise, the lens was no slouch, so many people were optimistic that the company would improve the sensor with a software update. Today, T-Mobile has begun rolling out an update to its Moto X variant that, according to AnandTech, greatly improves the quality of images.

  • Camera – Improved Photo Quality: Improved capture of natural light (auto-white balance) and color accuracy for more precise exposure in outdoor and backlit scenes
  • Camera – Improved Focus: Faster touch to focus time and reduced unnecessary refocusing in low light conditions and scenes with continuous motion
  • Camera – Faster Switching: Shortened the time it takes to switch between rear and front-facing cameras, as well as transition between the viewfinder and the Gallery app

AnandTech notes that the update dramatically improves the quality of images taken both indoors and outdoors with the Moto X. The update changes the tuning of the camera and improves exposure in  outdoor and backlit scenes, improves the color accuracy, and reduces the noise in low light images.

In addition to the camera improvements, the update also adds several other enhancements to the T-Mobile Moto X and fixes a handful of bugs. Read of the rest of the change log below:  Read more

Android Device Manager quietly adds ability to remotely lock devices, override previous password settings

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Google has just added an incredibly useful feature to its Android Device Manager service. As first noted by Android Police, you can now remotely lock your Android device with a specific password or passcode, should you misplace it or have it stolen.

Most notably, you can override any other pattern or pin set on the device. The Device Manager will simply ask to you to choose a new password when submitting the lock request, and when you find the device, you simply enter in that passcode to regain access. If the device is in Airplane mode, the service will automatically perform the lock request as soon as it’s reconnected to the internet.

With Google, Apple, and others under strong pressure from the government to improve device security, this feature is incredibly useful. Apple recently launched a new Activation Lock feature that requires an Apple ID and password to reactivate a device after it’s reset via Find My iPhone.

To try this functionality out for yourself, head to the Android Device Manager site and select the lock icon and be sure the service is already enabled on your device, as well.  Read more

HTC One dev edition to receive Android 4.3 update this week, Canada models by month’s end

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After making the decision to halt the Android 4.2 rollout to One variants, HTC America president Jason Mackenzie has just announced on Twitter that the company plans to update the One developer edition to Android 4.3 this week. The update will include the latest version of Sense, as well. Mackenzie also notes that One owners in Canada should expect the update by the end of the month.

There’s no word on when the carrier models here in the United States will get the Android 4.3 update. Once HTC finalizes the build for each model, it must send it to every carrier for final improvements and tweaks, and as we all know, carriers certainly don’t expedite the update process at all.

If you own an HTC One developer edition or Canadian variant, be sure to keep an eye out for the update and let us know when you receive it.  Read more