Marques Brownlee picks his smartphones of the year (and we agree…mostly)

One of my favorite Youtubers (along with Dom and Detroit Borg), @MKBHD did his year end Smartphone of the year roundup and can say I agree with almost every choice he made here. Almost.

Some small gripes however: He didn’t ding Samsung enough for its overlay in the ‘Big Phone’ category (IMO), I might have given LG more props for their camera and One Plus One shouldn’t have beat the Moto G 2014 as best budget. You can get 2 Moto Gs for the price of a One Plus – if you can even find one! That’s not to say the OnePlus isn’t a great budget phone and running Cyanogen mod almost makes it more of a game changer than the Sharp Aquos Crystal.

One other thing: I’m OK with the HTC One M8 as phone of the year as long as it is the GPE. Otherwise Moto X gets the nod

Like I said, I’m almost completely in agreement!

Spoilers below:

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Deal alert: Amazon Gold Box is Moto G 2014 5-inch w/ Lollipop upgrade for $150 unlocked

From 9to5Toys.com:

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 3.04.29 AM

Amazon’s Gold Box Deal of the Day is the Moto G 2014 edition 5-inch 720P smartphone for $149.99 shipped. That’s $30 off on this phone that receives quick Android updates to Lollipop and beyond and is unlocked for use on T-Mobile or AT&T in US or available for international shipping.  It is available in Black or White and available with US or Global GSM variants.  Other features

  • 5″ 720p HD display
  • Front-ported stereo speakers
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.2GHz quad-core CPU
  • Android 4.4, KitKat with guaranteed upgrade
  • All-day 2,070 mAh battery, Corning Gorilla Glass 3, water-resistant splash guard
  • US Compatibility: All GSM Networks including AT&T and (2G) T-Mobile
  • Optimized to work with 3G (UMTS/HSPA+) networks when roaming outside the US
  • Box contents: Motorola Moto G (2nd generation), wall charger, quick guides

This phone gets incredible reviews (4.6/5 stars) from over 500 Amazon reviewers. With your savings, you can get a Plantronics Bluetooth headset for $25 (50% off) shipped and/or nice cases which start at $2.

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Google removes several piracy-based apps from the Play Store

the-pirate-bay

TorrentFreak is reporting that Google has removed several Pirate Bay apps from the Play Store today after strong pressure from copyright holders. Google sent an email to a handful of developers, informing them that their apps were being removed from the Play Store. The email explains why the apps were removed, citing violation of the intellectual property portion of the Google Play Store Content Policy.

“REASON FOR REMOVAL: Violation of the intellectual property and impersonation or deceptive behavior provisions of the Content Policy. Please refer to the IP infringement and impersonation policy help article for more information.”

The apps removed include The Pirate Bay Proxy, The Pirate Bay Premium, The Pirate Bay Mirror, and PirateApp…

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Google reveals plans for kid-friendly versions of Chrome, YouTube, Search, and more

google

Earlier this year, a report emerged claiming that Google was hard at work making its services more appropriate and accessible for children. The report noted that the company wanted to overhaul its online products to allow children to legally use them. USA Today has now published a new report, confirming the rumors earlier this year regarding specific services catered to young kids. Google VP of Engineering Pavni Diwanji told the news outlet that Google is currently working on versions of its most popular products, such as Search and YouTube, for kids aged 12 and under.

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UK corporate tax crackdown potentially impacts Google, Apple, Amazon & others

The roof terrace of Google's London HQ

The roof terrace of Google’s London HQ

New corporate tax measures aimed at preventing multinational companies making profits in the UK and then shifting them overseas where they incur lower taxes could potentially impact a number of tech companies, including Google, Apple and Amazon.

Dubbed “the Google tax,” the British government announced a new 25% tax on profits generated in the UK and then “artificially shifted” overseas, reports the BBC …  Read more

DeepMind’s Demis Hassabis is setting up an ethics board inside Google to consider dangers of AI

The MIT Technology Review does a profile on DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis who sold his company to Google for $600+M earlier this year. The guy is clearly a genius and has degrees in both neuroscience and computer science and typical Google acquihire. But what caught my attention after looking at what DeepMind does and what Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking worry about:

Hassabis’s reluctance to talk about applications might be coyness, or it could be that his researchers are still in the early stages of understanding how to advance the company’s AI software. One strong indicator that Hassabis believes progress toward a powerful new form of AI will be swift is that he is setting up an ethics board inside Google to consider the possible downsides of advanced artificial intelligence. “It’s something that we or other people at Google need to be cognizant of. We’re still playing Atari games currently,” he says, laughing. “But we are on the first rungs of the ladder.”

That all these smart people are afraid of what AI can do to humanity is chilling. It is slightly reassuring that Google is thinking seriously about the implications.

A video of Hassabis explaining his work follows: Read more

Google donates $1M to fund free Wi-Fi hotspot rentals at New York public libraries

Sprint-wifi-hotspot-ny-library

New York is expanding its free Wi-Fi program through public libraries with the help of a $1 million donation from Google, The Wall Street Journal reports. The donation will fund around 10,000 portable Sprint Wi-Fi hotspots (pictured above) that New Yorkers will be able to checkout at branches of the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Library: Read more

European Court of Justice publishes ‘Right to be forgotten’ guidelines – and they are vague

right-to-be-forgotten

More than six months after handing down its controversial ‘right to be forgotten‘ ruling, in which individuals in Europe have the right to have ‘inaccurate, outdated or irrelevant’ links deleted from search engine results, the European Court of Justice has finally published guidelines on how the ruling should be applied.

While the guidelines acknowledge the need to balance the rights of the individual against the public interest, the specifics are best described as vague …  Read more

New model of Google Glass coming in 2015, Intel chip promising increased battery-life

glass

The WSJ reports that Google will be launching a new model of Glass next year, with a new low-energy Intel chip designed to increase battery-life. The processor in the current model model is a Texas Instruments one, the headset battery lasting around one day of typical use.

Intel currently makes its own wearable device, the fashion-oriented MICA bracelet aimed at women, its low-energy chip offering a claimed two days of battery-life …
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European Parliament approves proposal to break up Google – but it doesn’t mean much

google-europe

A European Parliament motion calling for the breakup of Google, separating out the search business from the company’s other activities, has been overwhelmingly approved, reports the WSJ.

In a vote in Strasbourg, 384 legislators voted in favor of the controversial initiative, with 174 against and 56 abstentions […]

“Clear adoption by the EP of Digital Single Market motion, including unbundling for search engine if needed,” tweeted Ramon Tremosa I Balcells, a lawmaker from Spain who backed the proposal.

The vote comes just a day after a separate European call for the controversial ‘right to be forgotten‘ ruling to be extended to google.com as well as the European versions of its sites …  Read more

Top 10 kids’ toys of 2014 per Google Search rankings

Google is giving Ol’ St. Nicholas a run for his money this holiday season because it ALSO knows what people want for the holidays. Rather than getting mail in the North Pole however, Google gets its data via its popular search engine. In data from its Trends platform, it has determined the top trending toys, devices and apparel searches on Google Shopping. An overview from the Commerce blog:

  • Game consoles and tablets continue to be the top gifts trending on Google Shopping, but wearable technology such as the “fitbit” is also on the rise this month.
  • Certain retro toys are making a comeback this season. Thanks to the new movie “Ouija,” searches for “Ouija boards” are up 300% since October. And queries for “Barbie Dream House” and “My Little Pony” are up as well compared to last month. 6
  • Cold-weather staples, such as “Hunter boots” and “Canada Goose jackets,” are among the most popular apparel searches, up 46% and 140%, respectively, since October. But “jogger pants” are the newcomer gift this season, up 39% from October. 7

But the most important data they pulled, especially if you are a clueless father like myself, is the top 10 Kids’ gifts list. Without further ado, in order:

Top-10-Christmas-presents-20141. American Girl

2. My Little Pony

3. Paw Patrol

4. Lego Friends

5. Ouija Board

6. Peppa Pig

7. Shopkins

8. Nerf Guns

9. Barbie Dream House

10. Zoomer Dino

Any of this hitting home? Read more