Google officially unveils Android 4.4 KitKat, available on Nexus 4, 7, 10, Galaxy S4 & HTC One GPE in coming weeks

Update: Google has released a full list of what’s new in Android 4.4 KitKat. We’re digging in and we’ll bring you more details as we discover them.

Alongside the official release of its new flagship Nexus 5 on Google Play today, Google is also of course officially taking the wraps of 4.4 KitKat, the latest version of Android that will ship on the new Nexus 5. When will you be able to get your hands on the new OS? Google said KitKat 4.4 updates will arrive for the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and the Galaxy S4 and HTC One Google Play Editions in the coming weeks.

Google confirmed that the update will not be coming to the Galaxy Nexus. Since it’s two years old, it now “falls outside of the 18-month update window when Google and others traditionally update devices.”

In the YouTub playlist above, Google walks through some of the new features of KitKat for developers and also highlights a number of user-facing features such as a new “immersive mode” that allows users to automatically hide onscreen controls for a truly full-screen experience. In a blog post, Google took sometime to explain the performance improvements it’s made in KitKat, noting that Android can now “run comfortably on the 512MB of RAM devices”: Read more

Google releases Nexus 5 on Google Play for $349/$399, ships in 1-2 days

As expected, the rumors indicated Google would be making a silent Nexus 5 announcement today and now the device is officially available on Google Play in the US. Lining up with previous rumors, the device will sell for $349 for the 16GB model and $399 for a 32GB model. Google is currently quoting an estimated shipping time of 1-2 business days.

Google says the Nexus 5 will officially go up for sale unlocked and without a contract in the following countries starting today through Google Play: U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and Korea. It also notes that the Sprint, T-Mobile, Amazon, Best Buy and RadioShack will get carry the device soon alongside retailers in India.

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Official specs for the device right from Google Play: 4.95″ 1920×1080 display (445 ppi), Full HD IPS and Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3, a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 800 processor, an 8MP rear facing camera, and a 1.3MP front facing camera. There’s also a 2,300 mAH battery, Adreno 330, 450MHz GPU, and Wireless Charging.

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Samsung beats out iPad in J.D. Power U.S. tablet customer satisfaction study (Update: Or not …)

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Update: JD Power’s math seems a little off, when you delve into the scores … 

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Samsung got 18 stars, Apple 18, with Samsung only ahead on price, yet took the overall lead.

J.D. Power has released its 2013 U.S. Tablet Satisfaction Study–Volume 2 today with Samsung edging out Apple’s iPad for the top spot. Apple has in the past ranked number one in the company’s customer stratification surveys for tablets, but this time Samsung has jumped up from number 3 in April to take the first position from the iPad.

Samsung ranks highest with a score of 835 and is the only manufacturer to improve across all five factors since the previous reporting period in April 2013. Samsung showed particularly strong improvement in the cost factor (25-point increase). Apple ranks second scoring 833 and performs particularly well in performance and ease of operation.

While Samsung only slightly beat out Apple with 835 points vs 833 points on a 1000 point scale, the outcome is quite notable for Samsung who in April ranked even lower than Amazon. The study measures customer satisfaction based on five metrics for 3,375 tablet owners: performance (26%); ease of operation (22%); styling and design (19%); features (17%); and cost (16%). Read more

Pandora now comes to Chromecast, and likely to the best speakers in your house

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Most folks connect the best speakers in their house up to the TV.  If you are like most folks and a Pandora listener/Chromecast user, some good news today: Pandora is now available on the $35 Chromecast. You can now stream your music from your Android smartphone or tablet directly to your TV and theoretically to those awesome speakers attached.

The Pandora App for Android was also updated with an improved Tablet interface today.

Google apparently isn’t stressed about Pandora taking away from its $8/month All-access Play service which gives users more control over what they listen to. Recent Chromecast converts include Hulu.
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Smartphones Sony’s saviour as cameras, TVs, gaming and movies all lose money

Photo: digitaltrends.com

Photo: digitaltrends.com

Strong smartphone sales were about the only good news for Sony investors in today’s earnings release, mobile sales in the last quarter up 39.3 percent year-on-year, led by its flagship Xperia Z.

Cameras, TVs, gaming and movie divisions all lost money, leading the company to slash its annual profit forecast by 40 percent to $300M …  Read more

Regulatory filing suggests Samsung S4 Active Mini on the way

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The images are rather blurry and lacking in detail, but a regulatory filing spotted by Chinese site Tenaa of a handset described by Samsung as the GT-I8580 looks rather like a smaller version of the S4 Active, reports Engadget.

Visually, it looks like the chunky Galaxy S4 Active, what with its return to physical buttons and a fairly robust (and cheaper looking) case. Aside from that there’s little to go on, although that model number has previously been associated with a benchmarked phone featuring a 4.65-inch display with a low-end 480 x 800 resolution …  Read more

Android 4.4 KitKat leaked document indicates boosts for low-end hardware, wearables

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Amir Efrati reports that Google has been working to make Android 4.4, codenamed KitKat, work on as many devices as possible, according to a leaked internal document. Those devices would include low-end smartphones with limited RAM, wearable devices such as smartwatches, smart TVs, and anything else that needs to run an operating system.

Google has reportedly been working with developers of smartphones at the lower end of the hardware spectrum to ensure that KitKat uses its resources wisely, essentially allowing it to run on a variety of phones that may not have been able to run Jelly Bean. If Google can overcome limited hardware to put KitKat—and future versions of Android—on every new device that ships and many that are already available, the company finally stands a chance of defeating the fragmented experience that has long plagued users and software developers alike.

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Growth of Android tablet sales in Q3 cut Apple’s market share to less than 30%

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In IDC’s report released today covering worldwide tablet market for the third quarter, the research firm notes that the market as a whole continues to grow thanks to strong growth from Android tablets. Apple shipments remained steady during the quarter compared to last year at 14 million units in Q3, but its share of the market drops from 40.2% last year to just 29.6% this year as Samsung, Asus, Lenovo, and Acer all post significant growth for the quarter compared to the same quarter last year.

Samsung is up from 12.4% last year to 20.4% of the tablet market in Q3 2013 (a 123% increase), while Asus is up 53.9% to 3.5 million units, Lenovo sold 2.3m (up 420.7%), and Acer 1.2M (up 346.3%):

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NSA allegedly tapped itself into Google servers, collecting millions of user records

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According to the Washington Post, the NSA has “infiltrated” the servers belonging to both Google and Yahoo and is collecting records of user-data:

According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records — ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, to content such as text, audio and video.

Earlier this year, claims emerged that said the NSA has been working lawfully via a “PRISM” program to legally intercept data from the servers of technology companies. This new information, however, seems to indicate that the NSA is obtaining the information via its own means.

In order for the data centers to operate effectively, they synchronize high volumes of information about account holders. Yahoo’s internal network, for example, sometimes transmits entire e-mail archives — years of messages and attachments — from one data center to another.

Tapping the Google and Yahoo clouds allows the NSA to intercept communications in real time and to take “a retrospective look at target activity,” according to one internal NSA document.

In order to obtain free access to data center traffic, the NSA had to circumvent gold standard security measures. Google “goes to great lengths to protect the data and intellectual property in these centers,” according to one of the company’s blog posts, with tightly audited access controls, heat sensitive cameras, round-the-clock guards and biometric verification of identities.

Google and Yahoo have both responded to today’s claims with surprise, noting that it does not hand data to the NSA.

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Ashton Kutcher takes product engineering job at Lenovo, announces new Android Yoga tablets w/ 18hr battery

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Actor Ashton Kutcher has joined Lenovo as a product engineer. Kutcher’s experience in engineering includes… basically nothing, although he did play Steve Jobs in the 2013 biopic Jobs, so that has to count for something, right? Right?

Kutcher’s first job at Lenovo will be using his celebrity status to market the company’s new Android-powered “Yoga” tablet—an obvious first step for any aspiring product engineer (or, you know, celebrity endorser). The tablet, which Kutcher presumably had some “engineering” input on, is a flat aluminum enclosure with a rounded base that houses the power button. The Yoga is an attempt at an original body design, and it certainly wins points in that category as long as you only compare it to other tablets. When compared to other electronics, however, the originality quickly fades. The thing basically looks like an upside-down Apple Wireless Keyboard.

The rounded base acts as a built-in stand of sorts and provides 3 viewing modes and the tablets feature Quad Core processors, 16 or 32GB of built-in storage, front-facing speakers, 5MP rear cameras, microSD slot, and 1280 x 800 displays. Lenovo will sell 8 and 10-inch models in WiFi and 3G variants of the Yoga for $249 and $299 starting Oct. 30 with the 8-inch model coming exclusively to Best Buy stores.

Clearly Kutcher’s time as Steve Jobs informed his sense of product design and influenced the hard work he did “engineering” the Yoga.  We look forward to seeing what other innovative and original ideas Kutcher “engineers” during his time at Lenovo.

Legality of driving with Google Glass questioned as Californian woman ticketed

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The legality of driving while wearing Google Glass appears set to face its first test after Glass Explorer Cecilia Abade was ticketed by a California cop.

 A cop just stopped me and gave me a ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving!

The exact line says: Driving with Monitor visible to Driver (Google Glass). Is #GoogleGlass  illgal while driving or is this cop wrong???

Any legal advice is appreciated!! This happened in California. Do you know any other #GlassExplorers that got a similar ticket anywhere in the US?  Read more

Google shows off second gen Google Glass w/ mono earbud coming later this year

After announcing yesterday that Google Glass hardware would be revised later this year and offered to current Glass Explorers interested in swapping to a newer unit, Google today gives us a look at the second generation Glass in the images above posted to Google+.

On top of introducing a new mono earbud instead of only the bone-vibrating speaker included in the first generation Glass, Google said the hardware revision will also make Glass compatible with new lines of sunglasses and prescription frames and Explorers will have their choice of colors when they swap sometime later this year.

Google hinted it will begin the first steps of the exchange program in November and will give users 60 days to make the swap. Explorers are still the only ones that can get their hands on the $1500 Google Glass, but Google recently started letting users invite up to three friends to join the program and will now ship Glass to those that join.

Those who purchased Glass before October 28, 2013 will be eligible for the upgrade. Google didn’t mention if there would be any fee associated with swapping to a newer unit, but it will notify those eligible automatically next month.  Read more