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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Google Santa Tracker is back with an educational twist

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Google and Santa have a lot in common. They know when you are sleeping/awake. They also give you cool stuff but also freak you out a little bit sometimes.

Well, Google also keeps tabs on Santa and for the umpteenth consecutive year Google is following Santa on his round the world trip from the North Pole on Christmas.  This year’s tracker has some fun games to play every day but this year you might actually learn a thing or 2:

This year, you’ll find an edu touch — new geography games let you explore local holiday traditions, while a new coding project teaches basic JavaScript as you help Santa and the reindeer navigate the map. Learn how to say “Santa” in different languages, and connect with nonprofits around the world.

Of course, fan favorites are making a return this year — you can send a call from Santa to your friends and family, display Santa’s journey on the TV screen with Chromecast, and play gumdrop and reindeer racing games. You’ll be able to play each game on desktop, mobile web, or on the Santa Tracker Android app.

Jump on board with the Android app, Chrome extension or website or follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter in the countdown #tracksanta.

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Google gives employees choice of free Nexus 5 or 7 as holiday gift

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Much like it has in recent years by offering employees their choice from a selection of devices as a Christmas/holiday gift, we’ve learned from several sources that this year Google will continue the tradition. Rather than the choice of Chromebook, a Motorola phone or the Nexus 7 tablet like it offered last year, this year the company will offer an option between the Nexus 5 and new Nexus 7.

Backing up our info is the screenshot below showing a family member of a Google employee mentioning the gift: Read more

What Android smartphone, tablet, Chromebook goodness did you grab over this holiday sales weekend?

Santa Carrying Shopping Bags

Oh the weather outside is…not yet frightful but the deals have already started and the holiday season is moving into full swing. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday now behind us, it begs the question what goodies you purchased over this holiday weekend? Did you grab a new tablet, smartphone, Chromebook, HTC One, LG G2, Galaxy S 4 or something else entirely?

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NORAD-less Google will still track Santa this Christmas

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NORAD, the self-touted official Santa Tracker, went with Bing Maps instead of Google Earth this holiday season, but Google isn’t getting left in the dust, as the folks in Mountain View launched its own count down to Christmas Eve with Google Santa Tracker.

According to the official Google blog, a team of dedicated Google Maps engineers developed an algorithm to track Santa’s annual trip around the world this Christmas:

On his sleigh, arguably the fastest airborne vehicle in the world, Santa whips from city to city delivering presents to millions of homes. You’ll be able to follow him on Google Maps and Google Earth, and get his stats starting at 2:00 a.m. PST Christmas Eve at google.com/santatracker.

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Google exec blames Nexus 4 shipping delays on ‘scarce and erratic’ supply from LG

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Google United Kingdom and Ireland Managing Director Dan Cobley wrote on his Google+ page this weekend (via AndroidCentral) to explain the situation with the LG Nexus 4’s long shipping delays many customers have experienced since launch day. According to the exec, supplies from manufacturer LG have been “scarce and erratic,” which has caused shipping times of up to eight weeks in some cases. The Nexus 4 has certainly been a popular device, and one could wonder how it would affect Google’s holiday sales if the company could get it out by the holidays for the majority of customers.

The exec also said that customers who were notified with a “3-5 day” shipping estimate initially should expect their handset soon, as those orders are now in the fulfillment process. The shipping charge will be waved and an email notification will be sent to customers this week with tracking information. Additionally, customers who received pre-Christmas shipping times should see their handset delivered by then, but unavailability still lingers for most customers.

Saturday’s comments are certainly welcomed from the top and give us the first real insight on what is causing delays—other than the company is working to catch up with the high demand. You can find the exec’s full comments below:

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32GB Nexus 7 listed on Staples Advantage for $250

We have heard a ton of rumors regarding a 32GB version of the Nexus 7. Earlier reports pointed to an Oct. 24 launch, and we even saw a 32GB unit allegedly ship to a customer in Japan. Today, the 32GB variant has once again appeared online—this time on the Staples Advantage website for business customers. AndroidPolice linked us to the listing that currently has the 32GB Nexus 7 listed for $250. It also has an availability date of Oct. 18, although, that could likely be just a placeholder at this point. The pricing is slightly less than the current 16GB model that Google is selling, indicating the 32GB model might replace the 16 entirely—including taking over its pricing.

Google counts only the devices it can count

In a clearing up the “confusion” around Andy Rubin’s recent numbers releases (here and here), the Verge spoke to a Google source on what constitutes an “Android device activation.”

We’ve now gotten some additional clarification from trusted sources on what Google considers an “Android device” for the purposes of counting activations (which would presumably apply to every activation count Google has released in the past). It’s actually really simple: you need to activate Google services on the device. In all likelihood, Google’s counter actually jumps the moment you sign into your Google account on the phone or tablet, whether that be the first time you turn it on or when you’re prompted after jumping into something like Gmail or the Android Market. And as Rubin says on Google+, it only happens once per physical device.

It turns out that Google is only counting activations it activates (I know!). It is not counting devices that use Android code, because it does not have control over -or no way of- counting like the Kindle Fire or Barnes and Noble Nook (I know!).

Perhaps Amazon, who is very transparent with its Kindle numbers, could help Google out there.

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Let your videos snow: Google adds snowflake button to YouTube

We told you yesterday about a Google search easter egg for the Christmas, and today we discovered another fun way Google has decided to celebrate the holidays. When visiting YouTube, there is currently a snowflake icon next to the resizing and resolution options on the video player. Click it and your video will snow! Your mouse will even interact with the snowflakes as they fall. It will also snow in the YouTube search results when searching for “let it snow”.

In case you missed the other ways Google is celebrating, try typing “Christmas,” “Hanukkah,” or “let it snow” into Google search. You can even call Santa in Gmail. Yesterday the Android team released this Christmas-themed Ice Cream Sandwich advertisement to wish the Android community Happy Holidays.

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