Virgin Optimus V No contract phone hits $65 at Best Buy, unlimited data plans start at $35/month

From 9to5Toys.com:

Best Buy today has the lowest price we’ve seen on the Virgin LG Optimus V since Black Friday$65 with free shipping.  That’s half price for this pre-paid Android 2.2 device.

I am a big fan of this phone because of the low, no contract pricing starting at $35/month for unlimited text/data and the relatively untouched Android 2.2 experience.  There are Android 2.3 ROMs floating around for the somewhat adventurous, though frankly Virgin should get their act together and update this phone themselves.  Even with 2.2, you get voice actions, a very capable GPS and free unlimited 3G tethering if you know what you are doing.

This is also one of the smallest Android devices you can find with a 3.2-inch 320×480 screen and nice physical buttons.
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Samsung Galaxy Player 5 review: the first real Android iPod touch

The Samsung Galaxy 5 player is probably exactly what you think it is: a big-ass Galaxy S phone without the “phone part”.  That is, it doesn’t have a 3G radio for voice and data, instead relying on Wifi to connect to the Internet.  If you are like me, however, you spend 90+ percent of your day around Wifi and during that 90% of the time, it is as good as any 3G or 4G mobile device – the reviewers agree.

As you’d expect, the screen is huge, especially compared to typical phones.  I have a white one and it looks like a comically large white iPhone 3G from afar.  The screen also has the standard Samsung 480×800 pixel count, though with the larger screen the fonts aren’t as crisp as a 4-incher.  Having gotten my hands on the Samsung Galaxy Note and Galaxy Nexus, I can tell you that this screen isn’t even close to as crisp.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful, especially for playing Netflix or Youtube content.

This is generally the first Android device that goes up against Apple’s iPod Touch franchise and I believe it does have some compelling differentiators, besides the much larger, but not “Retina crisp” display.  I’ll break these down below:

  1. The 3MP backside Camera is actually good for taking pictures. If you’ve tried to take a picture with the iPod Touch’s backside camera, you know it is barely passable.  Samsung’s on the other hand takes decent pictures – think iPhone 3GS-type quality.  It also has a Flash for those times you are in the dark and want to cast a flashlight type shadow on your subject.
  2. Removable Storage: The Galaxy Player has a Micro SD card slot that instantly bumps your Player capacity up to 40GB with $40 worth of card. With an iPod, that costs $100.  It’s also nice for quickly moving storage around.
  3. Sound: The Galaxy Player stereo speakers blows away the iPod touch mono.  To make matters better/worse, Samsung includes a very nice pair of in-ear headphones with the Player, while Apple’s White earbuds are…what they are.
  4. FM Radio: The Galaxy Player has an FM Radio which is nice when you run out of Wifi.  FM Radio is also helpful if there is an emergency but it only annoyingly works with headphones in.
  5. GPS: If you are navigating off of a 3G hotspot or some cached maps, you’ll get a way better location than with just Wifi triangulation.
  6. Google Voice plus Skype (or other VoIP app) turns this into a great phone.  Samsung left the mic and sfrom speaker in the right spots so it makes a fantastic, if not a little large, phone.
  7. Price. Street Price of $199 and $239 for the 4 inch screen and 5 inch screen Player varieties respectively compare well to Apple’s iPods.  When considering bumping up to larger capacities is just a MicroSD card away, it is that much more compelling an offer. Read more

Coby Electronics announces five Android tablets running Ice Cream Sandwich, landing early 2012

Coby Electronics, the maker of cheap Android tablets and other electronics, has announced five new Android tablets that will run the new Ice Cream Sandwich. The tablet will come in five different screen variants: 7-inch MID7042 (4:3 aspect ratio), 8-inch MID8042 (4:3 aspect ratio), 9-inch MID9042 (4:3 aspect ratio), 9.7-inch MID9742 (4:3 aspect ratio), and a 10-inch MID1042 (4:3 aspect ratio). The tablets will be landing in the first quarter of 2012, after seeing a debut — presumably with a ton of other Android tablets — at CES 2012.

All five variants will pack a 1 GHz RM Cortex A8 processor and multi-touch capacitive touch screen underneath.Other specs include 1GB of RAM, expandable memory up 32 GB, Wi-Fi, and 1080P HD playback.  There’s no word on if this device will actually have the Android Market pre-loaded or what the actual price will be. We’ve posted the full press release after the break. (via AndroidCentral)

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HP open sourcing webOS, planning new tablets for 2013

As you can see from the internal email sent to HP employees by CEO Meg Whitman below (via TechCrunch), webOS is officially alive and well and on its way to open source land. Last we heard HP was soon going to come to a solid decision on the fate of webOS and rumors started flying about  the company even being open to Android. However, today’s confirmation from Whitman most likely means the company hopes webOS will be picked up by vendors looking for an alternative to Google’s OS. There’s no mention of new hardware in the letter, but The Verge sat down with Whitman and board member Marc Andreessen who say there will indeed be new HP webOS tablets by 2013:

Will HP be creating any new webOS hardware?

The answer to that is yes but what I can’t tell you is whether that will be in 2012 or not. But we will use webOS in new hardware, but it’s just going to take us a little longer to reorganize the team in a quite different direction than we’ve been taking it in the past.

Are we talking printers? Or tablets and phones?

In the near term what I would imagine – and this could change, in full disclosure – is I would think tablets, I do not believe we will be in the smartphone business again.

Here’s Whitman’s full letter to HP Employees:

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Google search gets enhanced movie and theater results on Android and iPhone

Google is rolling out a nice new movie related feature to search on Android and iPhone. Now, when searching for “movies”, the first result will be a swipeable row of movie posters with descriptions, ratings, and the closest theatres and showtimes for the selected film. Tapping the title of any given movie will provide you with details on the cast and a full summary. Some movie posters will also have a play button letting you watch the film’s trailer, and selecting one of the showtimes will link you to where you can purchase tickets. This is obviously Google’s way of making it easier to find what’s playing at your local theatre when on the go.

You can also type “theaters” or the name of a specific movie theatre or movie for more refined results. Try it now by visiting Google.com on your iPhone or Android device.
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‘Alfred’ local recommendations app gets redesigned for Android launch

Not to be confused with the Mac OS application launcher utility of the same name, Alfred is a new local recommendations Android app from startup Clever Sense. Previously only available to iPhone users, the app was able to grab 20,000 users in two weeks during a trial run in July and has been praised for its personalized, context-aware suggestions generated by their proprietary “Serendipity Engine”. Not only is the app available in the Android Market right now, but it’s also been given a complete redesign and new features specific to Android users.

The goal of personal assistant apps of any kind is to learn what the user wants, and Alfred is no different. That’s why it starts with a quiz to better train the recommendation engine. Recommendations for restaurants, nightlife, and other local events are automatically aggregated based on your personal preferences, and maps with directions, ratings, and sharing features are built-in.

The company’s CEO, Babak Pahlavan, explained to Appolicious how the Serendipity Engine works:
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DigiTimes: Barnes & Noble to ship one million Nook Tablets

When Barnes & Noble unveiled the new Android-powered Nook Tablet, it was clear it would be a Kindle Fire competitor and not necessarily compete in the broader tablet market. Well we already learned earlier this month that Amazon is set to ship around four million units by the end of 2011, but despite that the Nook Tablet is also posting strong numbers with DigiTimes reporting the company has shipped a million units since launch.

Barnes & Noble should have so far taken delivery of one million units of Nook Tablet PCs from OEM production partners… The market had originally expected Barnes & Noble to pull in orders for 800,000 Nook Tablet PCs before year-end 2011, indicated the sources, adding that the increased orders from Barnes & Noble has strengthened Inventec’s position in the OEM tablet PC segment.

At the beginning of December, research firm IHS iSuppli expected Amazon to take estimated 13.8 perfect share of the global tablet market. At that time, the report had Barnes & Noble at 4.7 percent of the market in comparison to Amazon’s 13.8%. These numbers were of course before we learned the Kindle Fire’s initial shipment numbers today. DigiTimes contributes the increased shipments due to strong sales of the Kindle Fire during the Thanksgiving shopping holiday and in anticipation of the upcoming Christmas holidays. Barnes & Noble could potentially begin to close the gap depending on how it performs against the Kindle Fire in the coming weeks.
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Samsung prepping 11.6-inch ICS tablet with 2560×1600 res display for February

Right after rumors of Apple’s next-gen iPad landing in February with a Retina display, a report from BGR claims Samsung might beat them to it with their own 11.6-inch tablet. A “trusted source” tells them the yet to be unveiled device will have a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and a 16:10 aspect ratio. It will also apparently run Ice Cream Sandwich and pack in a 2GHz dual-core Exynos 5250 processor. This tablet will more than likely be aimed at the same market as a next-gen iPad, much like Samsung’s current Galaxy Tab family competes with iPad 2. The report also notes the 11.6-inch device will be almost the same size as the 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab thanks to a thinner bezel. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.
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Google Currents for Android hands-on

Google just launched Currents for Android (and iOS) and being an official launch partner, we thought it’d be best to bring you a first look at the app. As you can see in the video and gallery after the break, the app reminds us a lot of Flipboard for iOS. The app allows you to read stories from top publications pre-selected by Google and allows you to import news from your Google Reader feed with a clean feel. Of course being Google, you can also +1 posts, which shares them with your Google+ friends. Check out the video walkthrough after the break:
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