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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Update - 177

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 12:18 PM PST
Samsung has been getting creative lately. As if devices with flexible displays weren’t innovating enough for 2012, Sammy has just filed for another cool new patent. The concept revolves around “smart device skins,” a technology that will extend your display to the bezel, sides and back of the device.
Virtually converting devices into displays, this technology could bring a whole new definition to customization and screen real estate. It would break multiple limitations that we currently experience. For example, one would be able to change the design of the device at will. It would also be possible to extend images to a larger size, taking advantage of all available space.

The good news is that this will not only be implemented to Samsung’s future line-up. According to the patent filing, the manufacturer also plans to sell this technology as an accessory. The product is described as a “film layer” that one can install in the device, leaving holes for important hardware (display, cameras, etc.). Much like a regular smartphone case.
This film layer will somehow be connected to the main display. We are not sure how that works exactly, but it raises one concern – battery life. This issue has been haunting Android users since the operating system’s release (not to mention other platforms). And while we do not yet know how power efficient this technology will be, it is something to keep in mind.
Regardless of how exciting the concept sounds, it may come with some downsides. We will simply have to wait until more details are released. That is, if this project ever sees the light of day; we have seen many patent filings never been carried out. Is this something you guys would even want if it did came out? Would you enjoy extending your display to the whole device?
Here is a concept video of something similar Nokia has been considering. It is taken a step further, though. Nokia displays a much more integrated extended display. Check it out and hit the comments section to share your opinions.

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 09:00 AM PST
Sprint users are about to have a new entry in the low-end Android market. The nation’s number 3 carrier has officially announced the ZTE Fury, a 3.5″ Android 2.3 Gingerbread handset that launch this coming Sunday for $19.99 after a $50 mail-in-rebate.
The ZTE Fury features:

  • 3.5″ display
  • 1 GHz Snapdragon MSM8655 processor
  • 5 megapixel camera with LED flash
  • 3G Hotspot capable
  • Sprint ID
While not the high-end Galaxy Nexus that should be launching as early as next month, the ZTE Fury brings another affordable handset to Sprint’s network for those who don’t need a blazing-fast device. That said, it’s difficult for me to imagine someone picking up the ZTE Fury for $20 when Amazon is offering the likes of the Nexus S 4G and EVO Design 4G for a penny, and the powerful Galaxy S II for $49.99.
Still, if the ZTE Fury manages to tickle your fancy in some way, you’ll be happy to know that you can pick one up at your local Sprint store this Sunday, for $19.99 after $50 mail in rebate. Anyone out there heading to Sprint this weekend?

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 08:59 AM PST
Welcome to regular buyer’s guide column where we break down each carrier to let you know about current promotions and pick the best devices. Each week we will rotate between the big four US carriers, so that each buyer’s guide gets refreshed every month. Read on for Verizon’s best devices and deals.

Current Promotions and News

Double Data: This month Verizon keeps their Double Data promotion that gives users double the data allowance for the same price. With the special promotion, subscribers will get 4 gigabytes for $30, 10 gigabytes for $50 and 20 gigabytes for $80. Double Data also applies to mobile hotspot plans where subscribers can now get 6 gigabytes for $50 and 12 gigabytes for $70 a month. We don’t know how long this promotion will last, so take advantage of it while you still can.
12 Day Droid Sale: For the next couple weeks, Verizon if offering a 12 Day Sale that has several Droid phones on sale at only $9.99 for new activations. Sale devices include the Droid Charge, Droid X2, Droid Incredible 2, and Droid 3.
St. Patricks Day Sale: From now until March 17th, Verizon has the HTC Rhyme on sale as part of a special St. Patricks Day Sale. The device is FREE for new activations. HTC already said the Rhyme would be upgrade to Android 4.0, so this is a nice little phone for free.
Expanded 4G LTE coverage: This month Verizon announced expanded 4G LTE coverage in New Hampshire, MassachusettsConnecticut, and Mississippi. Verizon also said that 4G LTE is coming soon to Naples, Florida.
Ice Cream Sandwich updates: This month Verizon announced 14 devices that were scheduled to receive Android 4.0. No exact dates were given, but it’s nice to know these devices will be upgraded.
Even more deals: If you are not quite ready to buy yet, make sure you follow @VZWDeals for the latest Verizon offers.

Best Android Phone: Galaxy Nexus

Galaxy Nexus
For the second month in a row, Samsung retains the top pick. Verizon’s Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the best Android phone on any carrier and that’s why I picked one up on launch day. I’ve been extremely satisfied with my purchase and so have many others.
Verizon normally sells the phone for $299 with 2-year agreement, but Amazon has it on sale at $99 for new customers, and $259 for upgrades.
The main selling point of this phone is Android 4.0 and the promise of speedy software updates from Google. Their Nexus line of phones are always the first devices to receive the latest version of Android, which has many benefits. For example, Google just rolled out their Chrome Beta browser that is only available on Android 4.0.
Even though this is my favorite phone, there are still some weak areas that we should point out incluidng camera quality, battery life, and the external speaker. I’m quite happy with the 5 megapixel camera, but I have noticed it is not quite as good as some other Android phones, like the 8 megapixel shooter on the Galaxy S II. For the battery life, I would suggest picking up the official 2100 mAh  extended battery. Verizon had it on sale for $25, so shop around and see what offers are available. Leaked details also show that Google will improve the sound volume in their Android 4.0.4 update.
Check out Anthony’s full review of the Galaxy Nexus for more details.
Runner up: It’s worth nothing that the Droid RAZR MAXX is also an awesome device, but it still runs Android 2.3.x at this time. We reviewed the original RAZR last year and found it to be a quality purchase, and Motorola has improved upon that with the new model that has a 3300 mAh battery with all day battery life.
Comparison of top Verizon phones: To see a complete comparison of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Motorola RAZR MAXX, HTC Rezound, and LG Spectrum head over to

Best Android Phone with Keyboard: Droid 4

Droid 4
Once again, this was a pretty easy choice. Many Verizon customers consider the original Droid one of their all time favorite devices, and Motorola has continued to innovate with each new model. Our very own Sean Riley will be posting his full review of the device soon, but we are confident enough in the Droid series to go ahead and recommend this device now.
The Droid 4 just launched today on Verizon, where it is being sold in stores for $199 with 2-year agreement. Like always, Amazon has it priced cheaper at $49 for new customers ($50 cheaper than last month), and $199 for upgrades.
The most notable features of the Droid 4 include support for Verizon’s 4G LTE network, LED edge-lit 5-row QWERTY keyboard, 4 inch qHD display protected with Gorilla Glass, and Motorola’s new Smart Actions app.
Verizon is shipping the Droid 4 with Android 2.3.5, but Motorola already announced that the Droid Bionic, RAZR, and Xyboard would be receiving Android 4.0. We expect the same treatment for the Droid 4. Motorola just delivered on their promise to upgrade the Xoom tablet to Android 4.0, and if their merger with Google goes through we should see improved software updates.
About the only negative thing we can say about the Droid 4 is its locked bootloader, something that is comment with Motorola phones. If you want a fully unlocked phone, then go with the Galaxy Nexus.

Best Android Tablet: Droid Xyboard

Droid Xyboard 8.2
Because of the current data plans, I’m not a huge fan of carrier branded Android tablets. However, if you need an Android tablet with 4G LTE connectivity, then the Droid Xyboard should be your pick.
Verizon currently offers five different Xyboard models with different sizes and storage options to fit multiple budgets. The 8.2 inch Xyboard is selling at $429 for the 16 GB model and $529 for the 32 GB model. The 10.1 inch Xyboard is priced at $529 for 16 GB, $629 for 32 GB, and $729 for 64 GB. All prices are with a 2-year contract and require a data plan.
As you can see these tablets are some of the most expensive around, but they are the best tablets on the largest and fastest 4G LTE network.
If you would rather purchase a WiFi-only tablet and tether it to you phone, then I’d suggest the Asus Transformer Prime 32 GB model (available at $499 from multiple retailers).

Best Android Phone on a Budget: Incredible 2

Droid Incredible 2
Now that online stores offer high-end devices for $99 with new 2-year agreement, it is becoming harder and harder to suggest a budget phone. The lower priced devices generally don’t receive major software updates to newer versions of Android and are outdated as soon as you buy them.
However, if I’m forced to pick a budget phone on Verizon then I’ll go with the HTC Droid Incredible 2. As mentioned above, Verizon has it on sale for only $9.99, but Amazon has it on sale for $0.01.
Highlights of the Droid Incredible 2 include 4-inch WVGA display, 1 GHz Snapdragon S2 processor, 8 MP rear camera, 1.3 MP front camera, 16 GB internal storage, and support for Verizon’s 3G network.
HTC recently announced that they were updating the Incredible S to Android 4.0, which happens to be the international version of the Droid Incredible 2. There is no guarantee that Verizon will also upgrade their model, but it’s a good sign that it could be possible.

What’s Coming Next

Only leaked images of the Incredible 4G.
Not many leaks have appeared for Verizon phones launching in the next 1-2 months. The only thing on our radar is the HTC Droid Incredible 4G (aka  HTC Fireball), which is likely to be a high-end device with 4G LTE. We don’t know much about the specs, but it is expected to launch around April 26th.
Mobile World Congress took place last month and we saw plenty of new phones, but nothing announced for Verizon. HTC said their One X is coming to a record number of carriers, and we suspect it will eventually land on Verizon. This will be the dual-core Snapdragon S4 version that has integrated LTE.
We also saw the LG Lucid leak out, but this just looks like a refresh of the LG Spectrum. It still features the older Snapdragon S3 processor and we see nothing else about the device to make it stand out from the crowd.
The next big event when we might see new devices is CTIA Wireless, which takes place on May 8-10 in New Orleans. We expect Verizon to announce new devices at this show.
Finally, everyone is still waiting on the official announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S III. Verizon never carried the official version of the Galaxy S II, but they did have the Galaxy Nexus it its place. Hopefully Verizon can deliver a pure version of the Galaxy S III, and not some nerfed up Droid variant.


We have long wanted to maintain buyer’s guides for every carrier, but it’s just something we have failed to produce. As one of the most influential sources of Android information on the web, we realize that our opinions are valuable and the average consumer just wants to know what phone they should buy without having to do all the research.
Our hardcore audience lives and breaths Android, so most of them already know what device they want to buy next. However, I realize that for most of the public, reading our blog is like trying to read Swahili  or some other foreign language. The purpose of these guides is to try and help the average consumer.
We would love to hear your feedback on what other sections or information should be added to the next revision. Our lead developer Clark has some amazing site features that are coming down the pipe, and we are committed to this community. I ask for your help by sharing this guide with your friends on Verizon and leaving suggestions in the comments below.

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 07:54 AM PST
Are anti-virus apps necessary for Android users? Hiroshi Lockheimer, VP of Android Engineering, recently said, “I don’t think so. That’s obviously an individual choice, but I haven’t felt the need for it. Let’s put it this way, I don’t run those apps.”

How does your malware protection app rank?
Security institute AV-Test sees it differently. They claim that Google’s Bouncer technology only checks apps for malware during the time of publication in Android Market, so apps that download their malicious code after installation can’t easily be detected.
AV-Test recently inspected 41 different malware detection apps for Android to see how they performed. They found that seven apps produced average family detection results above 90%. These apps include Avast, Dr. Web, F-Secure, Ikarus, Kaspersky, Lookout, and Zoner. AV-Test says, “Using these products you don't have to worry about your malware protection.”
They go on to note that even if a product scores poorly in malware detection it may have other convenient features, such as remote lock and wipe, backup and phone locating, that make it useful for your purposes.
But that begs the question. Why would you want a security app with poor malware detection, when there are several good ones to choose from.
Some security apps were not too happy with the results. AV-Test updated their report to note that MyMobileSecurity, NQ Mobile, Total Defense all said the testing methods were considered imprecise or flawed. All those apps were listed in the bottom half of the report, so it’s easy to see why they might have a problem with the results.
When it comes to my mobile security app of choice, I trust Lookout. I never run anti-virus software on my PC, but I choose to use it on my phone for the piece of mind and phone location feature. It doesn’t affect my battery life or performance, so I always have it installed on all of my devices. I also appreciate the Lookout Blog that seeks to inform its users rather than play on their fears.
Let us know what you think of AV-Test’s report. Does it have any influence over what security app you might use?

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 07:22 AM PST
Welcome back to our weekly Top 10 Android App Updates column, where we take a look at the most upgraded apps for the week. I've found that one of the best ways to discover useful apps is to look at what people are actually updating, and not focus on which apps have the most installs.
To find the most updated apps, I turn to AppAware. It’s a great tool that shows me which apps have active support from their developers and sometimes reminds me of an old app that I might have removed long ago. Make sure to install it so your activity can help determine our weekly top 10 list.
The following is a Top 10 list of apps which were updated in the last seven days and received the most updates during that time period on AppAware. Based on previous feedback, I am filtering out apps that have over 10 million installs since most are well known. I hope you enjoy this weekly feature and discover some apps that you might find useful.

XDA-Developers – Version 1.5.2

What’s new in this release:
  1. Improved notifications
  2. Ability to Thank someone
  3. Image uploads
  4. Bug fixes
  5. Fixes FC bug in dark theme
If you have ever hacked or rooted your phone, chances are you have visited the xda-developers forums. This app is a mobile version of the site that allows you to browse the forums, read, post, send private messages and more. I’m not really a fan of reading through 100-page threads, so I don’t visit the site like I used to.

Box – Version varies with device

What’s new in this release:
  1. Bug fixes!
  2. View and add comments to files
  3. Invite folder collaborators
  4. Improved uploading experience, including the ability to batch upload multiple files from an SD card
  5. Updated UI including use of the standard Action Bar
  6. Now localized in German, Spanish, French and Italian
  7. App2SD!
  8. Contacts Permission: We only use this permission to quickly retrieve email addresses when you want to invite collaborators, and do NOT store any contact information on Box’s servers.
Box is another cloud storage app that lets users view and share files from anywhere. They currently have a promotion that lets you receive a receive a free 50GB account upgrade, so now is the time to check it out. The latest update includes an enhanced UI and improved uploading.

Go Locker – Version 1.12

What’s new in this release:
  1. (New) Support gesture password
  2. (Improved) Update some languages like: Dutch, Turkish, Bulgarian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese
  3. (Improved) Input vibrate switch of PIN password
  4. (Improved) The screen will unlock after input the correct PIN, without click 'OK'
  5. (Fix) The problem of virtual keyboard will show in lock screen
  6. (Fix) Bug of Notification
  7. (Fix) Some FC bugs
Many people are familiar with Go Launcher EX, but not as many users have tried their other apps. Go Locker allows you to replace the default lockscreen of your Android device. The Go team just released a locker theme template, so devs can now design their own custom lockscreens more easily.

Camera Zoom FX – Version 3.5.0

What’s new in this release:
  1. create favorite FX!
  2. custom signature for sharing
  3. added French, Hungarian translations, improved Russian
  4. bug fixes
Camera ZOOM FX is one of the more full featured alternative camera apps for Android. It features multiple shooting modes, full editing studio, and over 90 free addons. The app is currently on sale for only $0.49, so now is a good chance to buy it if you have wanted to check it out.

Wattpad – Version 2.6.1

What’s new in this release:
  1. Fix saving last reading position
  2. Day/night reading mode
  3. Screen brightness controls
  4. Improve swiping controls
  5. Fix language setting stickiness
Wattpad is a site I had never heard of until today, but they claim to be the world's largest community of readers and writers. Their social eReading app connects readers and writers across all genres, lets them vote for the best stories, share their comments with other readers, or leave a suggestion for their favorite author.

Soundhound Infinity – Version varies with device

What’s new in this release:
  1. Performance boost and bug fixes
  2. Music search improvements on some devices
  3. New Permission: CHANGE YOUR AUDIO SETTINGS - Used to ensure optimal audio recording settings
Soundhound Infinity is the paid version of the popular music ID app. They claim to be the world’s fastest music recognition service and the world’s only viable singing and humming recognition. This paid version is currently on sale for $0.49 and offers additional features like home screen widgets, geo-tagging, and the removal of ads.

Wetter – Version 1.3.3

What’s new in this release:
  1. Fixed text shadow on low dpi devices
  2. Fixed movable to SD-card
  3. Adjusted background colors to improve text contrast
  4. Weather conditions translated to English
  5. Fixed bugs that could crash the app under certain circumstances is a popular weather service in Germany, but their app supports forecasts for any location. Most of the additional features like reports, radar, and videos are limited to European countries, so you might want to avoid this is you live in the US.

Go Keyboard – Version 1.3.1

What’s new in this release:
  1. (Added) Commonly used symbols for English keyboard
  2. (Optimized) The loading method of scanning aplications in GO Market
  3. (Optimized) A detailed picture browsing for full screen in GO Market
  4. (Optimized) The left symbols column for T9 keyboard will turn back after inputting
  5. (Fix) The collapse error when update initiatives
  6. (Fix) Download error of Emoji and handwriting plugin
Another release from the Go team, Go Keyboard is one of the most full featured keyboard replacement apps for Android. It supports a ton of languages, has endless themes, and includes a custom layout optimized for tablets. The app is free, so it’s worth a shot if you are unhappy with your current keyboard.

Fing – Version 1.28

What’s new in this release:
  1. Improvements and fixes
  2. New icons
Fing describes itself as the ultimate toolkit for network management. Features include network discovery, service scan, ping, traceroute, DNS lookup and many more. The latest update includes a refreshed look with new icons.

ScoreMobile – Version

What’s new in this release:
  1. We are working hard with Google to resolve push alerts issues that are affecting some users*
  2. Fixed missing menu button issue that was affecting some Android 4.0 devices (e.g. Galaxy Nexus)
  3. Fixed Widget Force Close issues that were affecting some users
  4. Minor bug fixes and enhancements
I’ve tried all the sports apps, including this one, and I always end up returning to ESPN’s mobile site. ScoreMobile looks to be well liked among its users with an average review score of 4.4. They recently added in-depth UFC coverage featuring interactive live blogs, so maybe I’ll try it out again. ScoreMobile also supports live event push alert notifications, so you can keep up the latest scores of your favorite teams.

Honorable mentions

Did you see any Android apps that received notable updates in the last week? Share your suggestions in the comments below and we will add them to our honorable mentions list.
  • Glancee: Updated to version 2.0, which inroduces Radar and Diary and an easier interface. Radar shows you who’s near you now, sorted by distance. Diary shows you who was near you before, sorted by time.
  • AppBrain: Updated to version 8.0 with misc. improvements and a fix for ICS devices.

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 06:32 AM PST
Folks in France will soon get a taste of Intel’s Medfield, Intel’s mobile chipset which could be about as powerful as Tegra 3 in many areas. The Santa Clara smartphone is heading to Orange later this spring, and thanks to German-based Caschys Blog, we now have some new benchmarks for the Medfield device. Caschy ran the Rightware and Vellamo browser benchmarks on the Santa Clara.
On the Rightware benchmark, the Santa Clara came in at 89,180, below the 98,272 score in the Galaxy Nexus, but slightly above the iPhone 4S’a 87,810.
When it came to the more well-known Qualcomm Vellamo benchmark, the Intel Medfield based Santa Clara phone truly shined. The Santa Clara scored much higher than the Galaxy Nexus, finishing slightly below the current industry-leading ASUS Transformer Prime. This is despite Medfield being a 1.6 GHz single core x86-based chipset.
This is not the first time we’ve seen Medfield being compared to the Tegra 3 chipset. Earlier this year, Medfield was clocked slightly higher than Tegra 3 in the CaffeineMark benchmarking tool, a single-threaded tool that doesn’t take advantage of the Tegra 3′s other cores. Today’s benchmark makes a bit more sense, as we’d expect the quad-core Tegra 3 to outperform the single-core Medfield, however slightly the difference may be.
While we always recommend you take benchmarks with a grain of salt, as they only tend to predict real world performance, today’s benchmarks give us good reason to get excited about what Medfield will bring to the Android table. We can’t wait to get our hands on a U.S. bound Medfield device, which could be coming as early as the next few months.
Who else is excited for Medfield? Would you consider a Medfield device over the likes of Tegra 3 and Samsung’s upcoming Exynos quad-core chips?

Posted: 09 Mar 2012 06:19 AM PST
Last week we posted that Google had selected ASUS to help build a low-cost Android tablet, and now Digitimes is reporting a similar story. According to their industry sources, Google and ASUS will release a 7-inch co-branded tablet as early as May with a price of $199-249.
Digitimes does not mention any other specs, but our sources previously told us the device would feature a 7-inch 1280×800 resolution display, quad-core Tegra 3 processor, and ship with a stock version of Android 4.x.
Sources say that Google was seeking a Taiwan-based partner to produce the device and approached Acer and HTC before deciding on ASUS. Acer “did not have in-house R&D capability” and HTC was “unwilling to develop a low-price model to impair its brand image”.
Earlier rumors suggested this device might not launch until June, so it’s interesting to see that the timeline might have been moved up. Google is normally known for delaying their flagship Android products, so this would be a first if they shipped one early.
If May is the target launch date, we could see Google and ASUS reveal this tablet at the CTIA Wireless convention in New Orleans on May 8-10.
Even though Digitimes says the price could be between $199-249, we strongly believe it will debut at $199 as this device will be marketed as a Kindle Fire killer.
We also thought that this device might be branded Google Play, but it turned out that was the name for Google’s new online content stores. I’ll go out on a limb and predict it might now be called Nexus Play.
Our audience was quite excited with the original rumor report with one reader proclaiming, “I will push small children over to get to it.” If all the details turn out to be true, Google and ASUS could have an instant winner on their hands.

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