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Élyse Betters

April 8, 2013

I’ve been really excited to get my hands on the HTC One.

The world is chock-full of low-end — and high-end —  Android phones that are plastic and hard to distinguish from one another. So, as an iPhone user primarily, I liked the One’s obvious iPhone 5-like accents—which is seemingly A-O.K. by Apple, at least as evidenced by the global settlement and 10-year licensing deal reached with HTC last year—and entirely aluminum construction.

HTC’s flagship phone in 2012, the One X, earned critical acclaim from reviewers across the blogosphere, but the Samsung Galaxy S III and iPhone 4S overshadowed its launch. Now, one year later, HTC is up to bat again with the HTC One, but this time around, it faces nearly the same challenges in the Galaxy S 4 and iPhone 5.

Check out the full review below to see how the HTC One measures up.

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April 5, 2013

Google’s Nathan Johns posted a picture of an all-pink Tesla Model S yesterday complete with the official bat signal on its hood, bat wings as a spoiler, and Chrome’s logo embedded in the middle of its alloys.

This candy-coated Tesla apparently belongs to Google cofounder Sergey Brin. According to Search Engine Round Table, Brin’s beloved and spirited Googlers played an elaborate April Fool’s Day prank last Monday and transformed his zero-emissions car into a cute flashy Batmobile.

Brin—seen driving his Tesla around LinkedIn’s headquarters in the image above (via Brian Li)—is sometimes called “Batman” around Google because of his Batcave-like Google X repository.

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Everyone can use an Echo Dot: Just $50!

April 4, 2013

Facebook CEO Zuckerberg on Google relationship: ‘Few bridges, but we are aligned with their open philosophy’

Facebook introduced the HTC First with Home for Android today, and now CEO Mark Zuckerberg is doing the press rounds and discussing everything from “Facebook phone,” building for Android, Google’s reaction to Home, and even why iOS was left in the dark.

During the unveiling event, Zuckerberg described building Home for Android as “smooth,” because the platform is open and does not require any Google intervention, where as Home for iOS would require a direct partnership with Apple.

In a wide-ranging interview at Wired.com this afternoon, Zuckerberg gave a more detailed explanation on why Facebook launched Home for Android phones instead of iOS, as well as why the company ditched the idea of building a phone directly:

Why not just build a phone? I’ve always been very clear that I don’t think that’s the right strategy. We’re a community of a billion-plus people, and the best-selling phones—apart from the iPhone—can sell 10, 20 million. If we did build a phone, we’d only reach 1 or 2 percent of our users. That doesn’t do anything awesome for us. We wanted to turn as many phones as possible into “Facebook phones.” That’s what Facebook Home is.

It’s only available on Android phones. Isn’t it ironic that your mobile strategy is now tied to Google’s operating system? “We have a pretty good partnership with Apple, but they want to own the whole experience themselves. There aren’t a lot of bridges between us and Google, but we are aligned with their open philosophy.”

So do you think in, say, two years you will have this on the iPhone? “That’s above my pay grade to be able to answer that.”

That’s a pretty high pay grade. “Look, I would love for that answer to be yes. Facebook is in a very different place than Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, and Microsoft. We are trying to build a community. We have a billion folks using our services now, and we want to get to 3 or 5 billion one day. We’re going to do that by building the best experience across all devices. Android is growing quickly, and we’re excited that the platform is open and that it allows us to build these great experiences. I think that this is really good for Google too. Something like this could encourage a lot of people to get Android phones, because I think people really care about Facebook. In a lot of ways, this is one of the best Facebook experiences that you can get. Of course, a lot of people also love iPhones—I love mine, and I would like to be able to deliver Facebook Home there as well.”

Zuckerberg also talked with Fortune.com today about Google’s reaction to Home and what it’s like working with Apple:

On what Google will think of Facebook’s use of the open Android platform: “I’m not sure how they’re going to react.”

On working with Apple: “They really control the operating system… Android is different because it’s a much more open platform.”

On Google vs. Apple in mobile: “I think that Google has this opportunity in the next year or two to start doing the things that are way better than what can be done on iPhone through the openness of their platform. We’d love to offer this on iPhone and we just can’t today. And we will work with Apple to do the best experience that we can within what they want, but I think that a lot of people who really like Facebook–and just judging from the numbers, people are spending a fifth of their time in phones on Facebook, that’s a lot of people. This could really tip things in that direction. We’ll have to see how it plays out.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is live on stage in Menlo Park, Calif., and he just unveiled his company’s new home on Android: called “Home”.

Facebook clarified that it’s not building a phone directly, nor is it building an operating system, instead the company unveiled “Home”. Home is for Android devices, and it is literally the home screen and “soul of your phone,” as Zuckerberg explained. Home is also “family of apps.”

9to5Google posted the first look at “Home” yesterday, but Facebook just gave a quick run down as to what the interface can really do.  For instance: Cover feed, a window that replaces the lock screen and home screen, allows users to navigate by flipping through, double tapping, etc.

Users can double-tap to “Like” a post and comment right from the home screen, and they can tap their own face and swipe to get to apps. Users can also swipe up to see their favorite apps in the launcher. There’s even a screen containing all apps, so they can drag their favorite apps to the launcher. Meanwhile, notifications come from people and not apps. Each notification has a person’s face, and users can collect all notifications in a stack and either swipe or save them.

Facebook also announced a new messaging service called “Chat heads” that works with both Facebook messages and SMS. A chat head appears with in the upper right, where users can tap on them, move them, or stack them. Tapping will bring up messages.

Facebook will launch Home via Google Play on April 12, with download availability coming for tablets in a few months. Facebook will maintain Home “just like the regular Facebook app,” and it promises to issue updates at least once a month with new features.

Only a few devices are ready for launch, including: the HTC One X, One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, and eventually the HTC One and the Galaxy S4. There’s even a “Facebook Home Program” for phone manufacturers, and HTC, AT&T, Samsung, Sony, etc., have all signed up.

Zuckerberg just handed the stage over to HTC executives to unveil the first device that will officially run the platform— the HTC First. More details on Home are in the press release and videos below.

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Arthur Frommer announced yesterday that he reacquired the rights to his travel brand from Google with plans to continue publishing Frommer’s guidebooks.

Google acquired Frommer’s last summer from the Wiley publishing company, but Skift.com reported recently that the Internet Giant intended to “cease production” of Frommer’s books.

Frommer, 83, originally sold his travel line to Simon & Schuster in 1977. Despite nearly 40 years of separation, Frommer told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he bought his brand back from Google.

“It’s a very happy time for me,” said Frommer. “We will be publishing the Frommer travel guides in ebook and print formats and will also be operating the travel site Frommers.com.”

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will take the stage in Menlo Park, Calif., this morning to show off his company’s “new home on Android,” and you can watch a live stream of the event in the widget above.

The video should auto-play around 10 a.m. PST.

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April 3, 2013

mozilla_samsung

Mozilla and Samsung announced a partnership today to build a next-generation web browser engine for Android and ARM devices called “Servo”.

Google executives allegedly worried earlier this year over Samsung possibly using its dominance in the handset space to renegotiate revenue cuts from mobile ads and search, but now it seems Google should really have fretted over Samsung joining forces with the competition to create a new Android web browser engine.

Mozilla explained in a blog post what the new engine will do:

Servo is an attempt to rebuild the Web browser from the ground up on modern hardware, rethinking old assumptions along the way. This means addressing the causes of security vulnerabilities while designing a platform that can fully utilize the performance of tomorrow’s massively parallel hardware to enable new and richer experiences on the Web.

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 12.35.19 PMAs mentioned by The Verge, Servo will rival WebKit, Google’s browser engine, rather than Google’s Chrome browser.

Servo is built with Mozilla’s Rust programming language, and Mozilla said Samsung has already “contributed an ARM backend to Rust and the build infrastructure necessary to cross-compile to Android.”

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Google refreshed Google Places for Business last night with a new look and feel.

The streamlined interface now makes it easier for businesses to update their information, and a helpful widget will even outline what they should do to fully complete profiles.

Profile edits will also now appear across all of Google’s products, like Google Maps, within 48 hours, but the improved integration doesn’t stop there. The official Google and Your Business blog has the story:

Through this upgraded interface, you will be able to access your local Google+ page to take advantage of social features like sharing photos, videos, or posts. For businesses who also use AdWords Express and Google Offers, managing your ads and promotions is easier than ever. You can check results and make edits directly from your upgraded Places for Business dashboard.

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Google+ now supports full-size photo uploads from desktop

Google+ now allows users to upload and share full-size photos from their desktops.

Google+ introduced full-size backups for Android photos in December 2012, and now it has expanded support for that functionality. Google’s Jon Emerson has the story:

To enable full-size desktop uploads, just visit your settings at www.google.com/settings/plus, and check “Upload my photos at full size.” Afterwards, any files larger than 2048px will count towards your Google storage (up to 5GB free). Photo storage at 2048px or smaller remains free and unlimited.

Emerson clarified that the update doesn’t allow users to replace previously uploaded images with a new full-size version. But, hey, now they can update their profile photo, create a new album to share, or back up pictures with better-detailed images up to 2048 pixels large.

April 2, 2013

Verizon and AT&T rumored to consider acquiring Vodafone assets, valuing the entity at quarter trilllion dollars

AT&T and Verizon could soon jointly bid to acquire Vodafone.

Vodafone is second only to China Mobile for the world’s largest mobile telecommunications companies due to 439 million subscribers and high revenues in December 2011.

CNET reported the deal would value Vodafone at $245 billion, if signed. For reference purposes: Verizon’s market cap is now at $142.09 billion, and AT&T sits at 205.88 billion.

The deal would also allow Verizon to acquire Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in U.S. operations. AT&T would then acquire the remaining business outside of the U.S.

The Financial Times, which cited “usually reliable people,” noted both U.S. carriers feel comfortable sharing the risk associated with such a huge deal and further believe it will pass any regulatory obstacles.

Twilio, a voice and messaging API solution, announced a partnership with Google’s Cloud Platform today.

Twilio is the first of its kind to integrate with Google App Engine and give developers voice and messaging services for their apps with just a few lines of code, and its APIs are priced on a pay-per-use scale, as first noted by TechCrunch. Voice services like making calls, for instance, start at 2 cents per minute, and the ability to receive calls costs just $1 per phone number and 1 cent per minute.

“We’re very excited to partner with Google to be the first voice and messaging platform integrated with Google Cloud Platform,” explained Twilio on its blog, while also listing step-by-step instructions on how to register with Google App Engine, build a messaging app, etc.

Twilio’s SDK notably includes one-to-one voice and messaging, SIP support, in-app conference calling, group texting, two-factor authentication, phone numbers, and mobile app distribution. Hipmunk, for instance, uses Twilio’s distribution feature to supply users with a text message and link to download its app.

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April 1, 2013

While Google has played several light-hearted April Fool’s jokes today, Microsoft’s search engine Bing took things to the next level by pretending to be Google.

To see the somewhat harsh joke, go to Bing’s website and then search for “Google.” A Google-like search page will appear with the header “Bing.” The fake search page features floating squares that criticize Google, but it most notably changed Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button to “I’m Feeling Confused” with link to a blog post that fully explains the joke. 

Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 1.07.52 PM

According to Bing.com’s blog:

So today we’re running a special test, where if you visit bing.com and enter a certain telltale query, you’ll get something a little more bland. We decided to go back to basics, to the dawn of the Internet, to reimagine Bing with more of a 1997, dial-up sensibility in mind. We may see some uptick in our numbers based on this test, but the main goal here is just to learn more about how our world would look if we hadn’t evolved.

So, Microsoft has basically slammed Google’s look and deemed it dated. Yeah. Way to keep things light, Redmond. Don’t worry, though: Google has lashed back.

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March 28, 2013

Google’s latest camera patent features GPS tech that auto-adjusts settings to weather

Patents don’t always become reality, but they—such as Google’s latest camera settings patent— are certainly an interesting look into the possible future.

As reported by Engadget, a new Google patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office describes a method of using GPS technology to auto-adjust a camera’s settings. The GPS would gather data for local climate and tune the camera’s white balance and saturation, for instance, to match the weather.

For those interested, the patent’s legalese abstract follows:

Disclosed herein is a method for capturing an image using an image capture device equipped with a processor. The method includes receiving an electromagnetic signal transmitted from a remote station, determining a location of the image capture device based on the received electromagnetic signal, establishing communication over a network between the image capture device and a remote server, transmitting a request to the remote server for weather information pertaining to the determined location; receiving the weather information, determining an ambient lighting value based on the weather information, capturing an image using the image capture device, and processing the captured image using the determined ambient lighting value.

Photographers can fine-tune their own settings now, obviously, but Google’s patent is an interesting spin on GPS and camera settings. Marrying the two functions together would certainly create new, appealing technology for snapping beautiful images in rain or shine and on the fly.

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 11.03.46 AM

Google began sending invitations on Tuesday to the 8,000 winners of its #ifihadglass contest but admitted roughly a day later that it would revoke invites for applicants who didn’t follow the rules.

The Internet became abuzz yesterday with criticism over who did or didn’t win a pair of space-age spectacles, and Google eventually also realized it messed up when doling out the invites.

In a Google+ post yesterday, Project Glass announced, “It’s become clear that a few applications that don’t comply with our terms have slipped through the cracks, and we’re going to have to disqualify applications like these.”

To become one of the winners in the Glass Explorer program, individuals —absolutely no businesses, etc.— could apply by posting what they would do if they had Glass. The posts had to start with the #IfIHadGlass hashtag on Google+ or Twitter and could not exceed 50 words.

A long list of other requirements also warned applicants to comply in order to win. Google demanded entries, for instance, could not feature language considered “derogatory, offensive, threatening, defamatory, disparaging, libelous or contain any content that is inappropriate, indecent, sexual, profane, indecent, tortuous, slanderous, discriminatory in any way.”

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Google just launched a new experiment called Google Shopping Express, a local, same-day delivery service, to a small number of people in the Bay Area.

The official Google Commerce blog has the story:

As a tester, you will be able to shop online, in a single place, from retailers such as Target, Walgreens, Staples, American Eagle and Toys“R”Us/Babies“R”Us — along with locally distinct shops such as San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee, and the Bay Area’s Palo Alto Toy & Sport and Raley’s Nob Hill Foods, and get your items delivered that same day. So hopefully, no more trips across town for simple errands.

As previously reported, and according to Google’s announcing blog post, Tom Fallows leads Google Shopping Express as its Product Management Director.

Those who live in the San Francisco Bay Area that would like to test the new experiment can sign up online today. Google also said it is still working on a long-term pricing plan, but early testers get “six months of free, unlimited same-day delivery.”

“The pilot will expand as we work out the kinks, so please stay tuned,” Google added.

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March 27, 2013

Google Play Movies & TV app updates with ‘info cards’ that serve up relevant facts

Google updated the Google Play Movies & TV for Android app today with info cards that serve up relevant facts and, well, information on actors, films, music, and more.

So, while watching on a tablet, U.S. users can now pause a movie and, for instance, tap on an actor to retrieve an info card. Oh, and according to TechCrunch, Google’s info cards will only appear for about 192 movies and work on tablets running Android 4.0, but Google hopes to eventually bulk its offering and roll out the feature “on a wider scale.”

Check it out:

The app also allows users to search their libraries and the Play Store for movies and TV shows, receive notifications for new episodes after purchasing a season, and select the “refresh” option in the overflow menu to check for library updates.

Android’s Hugo Barra launches Nexus 4 in Brazil

Vice President of Android Product Management Hugo Barra announced via Twitter on Wednesday that the Nexus 4 is now available nationwide in Brazil with Jelly Bean, Photosphere, and Google Now.

Gizmodo Brazil reported earlier this morning that the Nexus 4 would unveil in the country March 27. The website had received an invitation for an official announcement, but Globo.com followed up with a report this afternoon that claimed Google indeed launched the device—the first line of Nexus to arrive in the country— for $ 1,700.

“Brazil has come to occupy the fourth position worldwide in sales of Android in December 2012,” said Barra at the press event, according to Globo.com. “Nexus is the best we’ve ever created and one of the fastest smartphones on the market.”

The report specified that LG makes the unit ​​in Brazil, and it will land online and in physical stores at Fast Shop in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Ponto Frio unlocked. The smartphone will “initially” not be available through contract carriers.

Google Maps updated on Wednesday with live information for public transit systems in New York City, Salt Lake City, and Washington D.C.

The Google Lat Long blog announced the news, detailing how seven New York City MTA subway lines and Salt Lake City UTA buses and trains will now boast live departure times. The Metrorail in Washington, D.C. is also offering real-time service alerts for unplanned delays, scheduled track work, etc., via Metro’s Control Center on Google Maps.

“With these updates – part of the millions of live transit schedule updates we process every day – you get instant access to the latest information right on Google Maps, making trip planning a cinch,” Google Maps explained in its blog post.

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March 26, 2013

In conjunction with 4G LTE news, T-Mobile revealed on Tuesday that it would make many 4G LTE-capable devices available with its pricing models.

A few of the notable Android devices launching on T-Mobile’s latest 4G LTE deployment include the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, and Samsung Galaxy Note II.

T-Mobile said the HTC One is its first 4G LTE smartphone to feature HTC Sense, and it will launch later this spring “in all T-Mobile channels.” The Galaxy S 4 will apparently launch May 1, according to T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere at a press event in New York City. That’s the most specific news we’ve heard.

T-Mobile notably dropped its traditional two-year contract model today, so customers will now have to shell out $99.99 for a device and then pay the rest via $20 monthly installments added to their bill over the following two years. Once the phone is fully paid off, the bill’s total will reduce by $20 a month. Each of T-Mobile’s 4G LTE devices will use the same $99.99 upfront/$20 a month model.

T-Mobile will offer the BlackBerry Z10 and the iPhone for $99, as well. There is no mention of Windows devices.

Get more information about plan pricing in the press release below.

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T-Mobile launches 4G LTE in seven cities, including Las Vegas, Phoenix, and more areas

T-Mobile is on stage in New York City and just announced it would launch 4G LTE in seven cities.

The cities include Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose, Calif., and Washington, D.C, and the carrier further promised its 4G LTE network would reach 200 million customers by the end of 2013.

T-Mobile said its latest 4G LTE deployment will “compliment its existing nationwide 4G HSPA+ network,” while its 4G LTE devices will “automatically and seamlessly transition to T-Mobile’s nationwide 4G where LTE has not yet launched.”

Get more 4G LTE details in the press release below, or visit 9to5Mac for more information on the carrier’s new pricing plans with no-annual contracts.

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