Google is providing free Wi-Fi in Uber vehicles this summer in Philadelphia

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Uber, the app-based car service that Google recently sunk $250M into via its Google Ventures investment arm, today announced that its cars in Philadelphia this summer will have free WiFi courtesy of Google. Google also made an announcement on its own blog noting that the initiative is sponsored by Google Apps for Businesses, the online suite of productivity tools that Google hopes users in the back of the new WiFi-equipped Uber vehicles will take advantage of.  Read more

Samsung, Nest, ARM and others say Smart homes need more than WiFi and Bluetooth, propose Thread IP6 mesh network

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Wifi and Bluetooth may work fine for today’s limited number of smart home devices, but neither is ideal for future homes in which every switch, socket and lightbulb may be a connected device – that’s the claim of a consortium of companies that includes Samsung, Nest and ARM.

GigaOM reports that the companies have jointly created a new radio system which they believe is more suited to smart home networks than existing systems.

Dubbed Thread, it is a low-power, mesh network protocol that also supports IPv6. The standard is built on the existing radio hardware used by ZigBee devices (802.15.4), which means that a company could update their ZigBee devices to support Thread with software if they chose …

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Quick Control Panel gives you iOS Control Center functionality on Android

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Android is all about options, and that means the freedom to completely rip off an iOS feature (albeit an iOS feature that was inspired by various other sources, including Android itself). Quick Control Panel presents your most-used apps, along with toggles for data, WiFi, Bluetooth, Speaker, and Orientation Lock. You can adjust the brightness of your device’s screen, and the volume of both calls and media. It even displays your music when playing, allowing you to skip or pause. Read more

New Nexus 7 now available in Canada through Google Play

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Google announced today that its recently launched Nexus 7 is now available to purchase in Canada through Google Play. The availability comes as the device launches in Staples, Best Buy, Future Shop and other retailers today in both the US and Canada, while the device has already been available to customers in the US through Google Play.

The refreshed Nexus 7 is available for $229 for the 16GB WiFi model and $269 for the 32GB model with both models listed as shipping in 1-2 business days. An LTE version of the new Nexus 7 is expected in the weeks to come but Google hasn’t provided an official launch date.

Google also started selling a new Nexus 7 sleeve on the Google Play today for $29.99 in both the US and Canada.

Google gives AT&T the boot, will supply 7000 US Starbucks locations with WiFi starting next month

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After a brief announcement back in June that it had partnered with Starbucks to offer free, unlimited music through its new Google Play All Access streaming service, Google today announced that it will soon be supplying WiFi to all Starbucks locations in the US. That also includes its new gigabit Google Fiber internet service where available:

When your local Starbucks WiFi network goes Google, you’ll be able to surf the web at speeds up to 10x faster than before. If you’re in a Google Fiber city, we’re hoping to get you a connection that’s up to 100x faster.

Up until now, AT&T provided free Wifi access to Starbucks customers in the US (and T-Mobile before that), but it appears that will no longer be the case following the roll out of Google’s networks in the coming weeks.

Google plans to start rolling out its new Starbucks networks next month and hopes to have all 7,000 US locations up and running on its networks within 18 months. Google noted, “You’ll know your new network is ready to go when you can log in to the “Google Starbucks” SSID.” Read more

Samsung officially announces the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 3, rolling out globally starting next month

Samsung has finally made things official for the Galaxy Tab 3 today, announcing in a press release on its website that the 7-inch tablet will become available globally starting next month. Samsung didn’t confirm pricing on the new tab, but did reveal specs including a 1.2GHz dual for process, 7 inch WSVGA (1024 x 600, 169 PPI) TFT display, 1GB of RAM, and 8 and 16GB variants expandable to 64GB via microSD.

The new Galaxy Tab 3 will be running Android 4.1 out of the box, but Samsung will only be shipping the Wi-Fi version of the device when it begins selling next month.

Other specs include a 4,000 mAh Li-ion battery, 3-megapixel main camera, 1.3 -megapixel front facing cam, A-GPS + GLONASS, WiFi Direct, and Bluetooth 3.0. Rather underwhelming specs, so we assume pricing will be on the low end of things when Samsung finally decides to fill us in.

As for those waiting out for a WiFi + 3G variant, the company currently plans on beginning sales of that model in June with rollouts happening gradually and availability varying by market.

Roku unveils cable-free Streaming Stick as set-top box, smart TV replacement

Set-top box maker Roku -one of Google TV and Apple TV’s biggest competitors- unveiled a new iteration of its award-winning Smart TV solution today. However, this time, they shrunk it down to the size of a USB stick that allows you to plug it right into your TVs MHL-enabled HDMI port. The device, called the Roku Streaming Stick, packs in built-in Wi-Fi, a processor, and memory, and includes all of the features currently available in their current set-top box.

According to Roku’s press release, the new cable-free, smaller form factor is ideal for delivering smart TV capabilities to consumers who typically do not replace their TVs often. That model differs from both Apple and Google, especially with Apple expected to launch an HDTV and Google pushing the GoogleTV platform built-in to TVs from vendors like Sony:

Today’s Smart TVs become outdated in just a couple of years because as software evolves the hardware needs to be upgraded to keep pace. While short hardware product cycles are expected with mobile devices such as smart phones, consumers generally keep their TVs for six to eight years. By moving the streaming platform to a stick that’s easily replaceable, consumers no longer have to worry about their large-screen Smart TV becoming obsolete before its time.

Official pricing has not been announced, but CEO Anthony Wood told All Things D the device would be available in the second half of 2012 for between $50 and $100. Roku also plans to have TV vendors bundle the Roku Streaming Stick with new TVs.
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Skype expands video calling to 17 additional Android phones

A little over a month ago, Skype brought video calling via wireless or 3G cellular networks to its mobile client on select Android phones. Today, the company announced on its blog Skype 2.1, a new version of the Android client that enables video calling on seventeen additional Android phones: The Acer A5, HTC Desire (2.2), HTC Desire HD, HTC Evo 3D, HTC Evo 4G, HTC Flyer, HTC Incredible S, HTC Sensation, HTC Thunderbolt – Verizon (2.2) (US only), LG Revolution – Verizon (2.2) (US only), Samsung Droid Charge – Verizon (2.2) (US only), Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Sony Ericsson Xperia mini pro, Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY, Sony Ericsson Xperia ray. You can download the Skype 2.1 for Android app from Android Market or by visiting skype.com/m on your phone. If you cannot see the “enable video calling” option in Skype settings, it means your Android phone is not supported.

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Skype updates Android app with video calls over WiFi and 3G

As Apple fans have been anxiously awaiting the native Skype app for iPad for days, the company has updated its Android app with one-to-one video calls over both wireless and cellular networks. According to a post over at the Skype blog, the Skype for Android 2.0 app sports a complete redesign of the user interface:

There’s a new main menu on the Skype app for Android where you can navigate easily through your contacts, access your Skype profile to change personal details, use the dial pad to make calls, see the balance of your Skype Credit and, of course, make video calls. A new mood message box at the top of the Skype app menu makes it easier than ever to share how you are feeling, what you’ve seen or what you’re up to.

You will need a supported Android Gingerbread device with a forward-facing camera, which at the time of this writing included the HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo, Sony Ericsson Xperia pro and Google Nexus S (more handsets coming soon, Skype says). To download the updated Skype app, simply visit skype.com/m from your Android device or grab it from Android Market.

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Leaked email reveals Google's reliance on Android handsets for WiFi location data

Google may have blocked Android handset maker Motorola from using WiFi hotspot location data from Skyhook Wireless because it wanted to build a quality database of crowd-sourced location data, just as Apple’s been doing since iOS 4 was released, reveals an internal email correspondence leaked to The San Jose Mercury News. The email message reveals that Google CEO Larry Page asked for a clarification from Android chief Andy Rubin over the news that Motorola was planning on tapping Skyhook data to help their phones quickly determine geographical location. Steve Lee, Google’s location product manager, responded:

I cannot stress enough how important Google’s wifi location database is to our Android and mobile product strategy. We absolutely do care about this (decision by Motorola) because we need WiFi data collection in order to maintain and improve our WiFi location service.

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