Samsung blocking Vlingo-powered ‘S-Voice’ feature for non-Galaxy S III users

Shortly after the new Siri-like voice assistant feature of Samsung’s new Galaxy S III, known as “S-Voice,” made its way to other Android devices via an available APK, reports claimed Samsung began to block non-S III users from accessing the service. XDA Developer community members confirmed (via TNW) that Vlingo, the company behind the voice recognition technology used in S-Voice, is now blocking users from trying to access its servers with devices other than the S III.

In December of last year, Nuance, the company currently powering speech in Apple’s Siri app on the iPhone 4S, acquired Vlingo. Samsung previously collaborated with Vlingo for the Voice Commander feature for the Galaxy S II. We expect Nuance has improved Vlingo since the acquisition, while Apple’s relationship with Nuance is not stopping Samsung from using the Vlingo technology. In an interview in October, Norman Winarsky, co-founder of Siri, told us Vlingo was originally used in Siri when it first developed, but noted it is rather easy for apps like Siri to implement new speech recognition technology if it comes along.

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StatCounter: Chrome now the world’s most popular browser, beating out Internet Explorer

Google Chrome is considered by many to be the essential tool driving their daily work. All of us at 9to5 swear by it and that seems to be the status quo among most of our readers. Despite its popularity, Chrome has always been overshadowed by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which comes pre-installed on all Windows computers shipped. However, times are changing. According to StatCounter, Chrome passed Internet Explorer during the week of May 14 to May 20 to become the most popular browser in the world. It looks like the Chrome team will be celebrating today.

The Verge pointed out that Internet Explorer still has a commanding lead in the United States, with a 37 percent to 26 percent lead. So where is all the growth coming from? Other regions like South America, India, and Europe are starting to rank up even more Chrome downloads, where as countries like China, Japan, and South Korea are still being lead by Internet Explorer. Read more

Eric Schmidt in Boston University commencement speech: no electronics for one hour a day

Google chairperson Eric Schmidt was invited to give a commencement speech at Boston University’s graduation earlier today, along with being awarded an honorary degree. As one of the leading men who helped shape the modern Web, Schmidt gave some meaningful advice to those who graduated. Most importantly, he told graduates to turn their electronics off at least one-hour a day, noted the school’s newspaper BU Today.

He urged them to “turn that thing off” at least one hour a day, to have “real” conversations with friends and family, to experience the world around them through their senses and not just a screen. “Life,” he said, “is not lived in the glow of a monitor.

Those are definitely powerful words coming from a man whose company founded Gmail, Google Search, and more. Secondly, Schmidt talked about the Internet and technology being useful tools that can solve many of the world’s problems. He even joked that those in the audience should use Google’s tools.

“People bemoan this generation that is growing up living life in front of screens, always connected to something or someone,” Schmidt said. “These people are wrong. They’re absolutely wrong. The fact that we’re all connected now is a blessing, not a curse, and we can solve many, many problems in the world as a result.”

But Schmidt reminded the graduates that technology can only take them so far. “It’s a tool,” he said. “You are the ones who will harness that power. And that requires innovation and entrepreneurship.” He encouraged graduates to shake up the status quo and not to be afraid to launch small businesses. “And, of course, I would recommend that you use all the products that Google has to offer to set it up,” he joked.

We are hoping the video for the speech is released soon. You can read more about Schmidt’s talk over at BU Today. >>

HTC says ‘some products’ pass US Customs review after patent spat with Apple

Last week, The Verge reported that Apple got U.S. Customs to delay the import of the HTC One X and Evo 4G LTE into the country due to patent issues. Customs started holding back the handsets headed for AT&T and Sprint while the agency investigated outstanding patent issues currently raised with Apple. During December of last year, the International Trade Commission ruled in favor of Apple and ordered a ban on a number of HTC products. The import ban went in place on April 19, 2012, which was supposed to give HTC time to fix the issues. However, once the launch of the One X and Evo 4G LTE hit the U.S., Customs still needed to take a look at the products, even though HTC said the new products did not break any patents.

Today, Taiwanese-based publication Tapei Times reported that HTC told the Taiwanese Stock Exchange yesterday that the handsets passed Customs review and are now heading into the market. HTC’s statement is extremely vague: “Some of our products have passed the review and have been delivered to our telecoms operators’ clients in the US.” There is no word on which products are now being let in; however, we reached out to HTC for a comment and are hoping to hear back soon.

I do not think it would be too far-fetched to think this is something Apple wanted—especially because the HTC One X at AT&T and Evo 4G LTE at Sprint are two hot devices that could cut into iPhone sales. HTC shareholders certainly were not too thrilled, because the company’s shares went down 4.6-percent last Wednesday.

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Google agrees to keep Android open source for at least five years

China approved Google’s acquisition of Motorola today, which is expected to close within a week, but according to reports from Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and the Associated Press (via The Verge), Google agreed to keep Android free and open sourced for the next five years as part of the deal. Currently, Google allows anyone to download Android’s source code, and then folks can do just about anything they want with it. With today’s acquisition approval from China, this plan does not look to be changing any time soon.

While it may seem odd for the Chinese government to ask for such a promise, it most likely wanted to make sure Google does not give Motorola special treatment over other OEMs.

If there was ever a sense of worry, it is time to feel at ease.


China approves Google’s acquisition of Motorola, should finalize within the week

The Wall Street Journal just reported that China antitrust regulators finally cleared Google’s acquisition of Motorola after the Mountain View-based Google shocked the world by announcing the $12.5 billion deal last August. Antitrust regulators in both Europe and the United States approved the deal in February, but China was the last piece needed to complete the puzzle.

Furthermore, today’s report said the deal should complete within the week. Motorola, along with HTC and Samsung, is one of the most popular Android OEMs, and it definitely holds a huge patent portfolio. Google’s acquisition is mostly around gaining Motorola’s 17,000 patents, because the company said it will operate Motorola as a separate entity, rather than showing it favoritism over other manufacturers. We will let you know when the deal is finalized.

Motorola announces Q2 ICS updates for Droid Razr, Razr Maxx

Motorola just tweaked its Android Software Upgrade timetable for Ice Cream Sandwich updates, and it looks like both the United States-based Droid Razr and Razr Maxx are getting Android 4.0 in the second quarter.

The Xoom 3G model is also eyeing an ICS rollout in the same quarter, while the 8.2-inch and 10.1-inch XyboardDroid Bionic, and the Droid 4 are upgrading to the latest and current Android OS in Q3 2012. These devices were once listed under “Evaluation & Planning” when Motorola last altered the timetable in February.

It is worth noting the rollout dates could change once Google’s buyout of Motorola completes. Check out the manufacturer’s Motorola Android Software Upgrade News website for a full chart of slated ICS promotions.

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Google Wallet arrives on Virgin Mobile Optimus Elite with $25 freebie to start

Virgin Mobile, a wholly-own subsidiary of Sprint, announced this morning that it would begin rolling out Google Wallet on its Android phones beginning with the recently announced LG Optimus Elite.

The Elite is a small iPhone-ish sized Android device running Android 2.3. It hit Virgin last week and follows the Optimus V and Slider as popular low-cost Android devices on Virgin Mobile.

Google Wallet has had a rough time with United States carriers. Verizon, with the Galaxy Nexus, blocked it late last year, and AT&T and T-Mobile both have refused to subsidize the Galaxy Nexus GSM version that is available off-plan for $399 through Google’s new Play Store. All three carriers are members of the rival ISIS mobile payments platform, and it is obvious that there is some anti-competitive pressure.

Virgin parent Sprint is a Google Wallet Partner, so it would make sense to see Wallet passed to more Virgin phones and perhaps even Sprint’s other pre-paid subsidiary, Boost Mobile.

The press release follows:

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Samsung Galaxy S3 hits Amazon for $799 and up, ships June 1

Samsung’s Galaxy S3 made its way to Amazon today with a number of listings for the device at $799 and others at $829 after being unveiled earlier this month. The device was slated for an international rollout towards the end of May, and the listings on Amazon are set to ship June 1. However, at least one seller noted an expected arrival date of “on/after 4th June 2012″.

The Galaxy S3 packs a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display, 8-megapixel camera (1.9MP front camera), and quad-core 1.4Ghz processor. Following the launch, we got some early benchmarks of Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy device—as well as a few hands-on impressions from around the Web.

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Google patent details Project Glass(es) gestures controlled with rings and tattoos

At this point, at the very least, we already know that Google’s augmented reality glasses are capable of snapping a photo. However, we do not have much of an idea of how the UI might work other than what is in the initial concept video. Our sources previously indicated that Google was using a “head tilting-to scroll and click” for navigation of the user interface. Today, we get a look out how the company is experimenting with alternative methods of input for the glasses from a patent recently granted by the United States Patent & Trademark Office and detailed by PatentBolt.

According to the report, the highlight of the patent is how Google’s glasses could work with hand gestures. The patent described various hand-wearable markers, such as a ring, invisible tattoo, or a woman’s fingernail, which could be detected by the glasses’ IR camera, to “track position and motion of the hand-wearable item within a FOV of the HMD.” In other words, the wearable marker, in whatever form factor, would allow the glasses to pick up hand gestures. The report also noted multiple markers could be used to perform complex gestures involving several fingers or both hands:
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Google launches Google+ integrated ‘Schemer’ app for iPhone

Google launched its Schemer social networking mobile app today as a free iPhone app in the App Store. It originally launched as an invite-only service in December, and then it released on Google Play in April. The service is a social network “all about the schemes” that allows you to post your plans for future activities, meet with friends, and get activities, or “schemes” recommended to you.

The app is completely separate from Google+, but it does utilize your Google+ account to “show you what people in your circles are scheming about.” There is always a possibility we will see more integration between the two services, or Schemer becoming a feature of Google+ after the service picks up steam.

You can download the free Schemer iPhone app from the App Store now.

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Gmail adds Google+ Circles features, contact info in search

Google just announced a small, but welcomed, update to Gmail. Among the new features is the ability to quickly access contact information and Google+ circles from within your inbox.

When searching for an email address in Gmail, in addition to person’s profile image and past conversations, you will now see the person’s contact details like email, phone number, and quick links to start voice and video chats. Google noted the contact data would automatically stay updated for users who have a Google+ profile.

Google has integrated with Gmail through a number of ways in recent months, but today’s update brings further integration with the ability to use Circles in search and filters by typing circle:[circle name] or has:circle. The update also adds profile photos of people in any selected circle in the upper right of the page. The new features will roll out to all Gmail users today.

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