Tech News

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Update - 281



Posted: 23 Mar 2012 10:48 AM PDT
Making the rounds as of late is news that Google’s Gmail app for Android has developed some sort of nasty bug. Personally I’ve had zero issues but we are hearing about flickering problems, freezing, and even becoming completely unresponsive. If you are experiencing any of the mentioned issues don’t worry, Google is said to be working on a fix or have already put one in place to ease your pain.


According to LifeHacker the issue is pretty widespread although here in the office we have no such complaints. Many users aren’t able to get their emails and the app is hanging on the load screen. Most likely if this issue hasn’t been resolved Google’s working on or tweaking some backend things and everything should be resolved shortly.
Google has acknowledged the bug and are working on a fix according to a few comments in the Google groups blog, but with things running smoothly on our end it must not be too widespread. If you are one of the few experiencing issues don’t worry because things should be back on track in no time. For now users can sign in with the stock Email app in Android to get their emails should Gmail start acting up, it just doesn’t offer the same feature set.
Let us know if you are experiencing problems, and if or when your Gmail goes back to normal.

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 10:23 AM PDT
Yesterday Samsung announced the upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich for the Galaxy Note was going to be a little. Along with the announcement was information about a new “Premium Suite” of apps specifically for the note and its impressive S-Pen stylus. We now have a video from Samsung showing us all what we can expect when the update arrives.


In the video spotted on Samsung’s YouTube channel we get a preview of multiple awesome new S-Pen applications, and how Android 4.0 ICS will look on the Note. Android 4.0 builds have leaked in the past so it isn’t anything extremely new but the S-Pen suite of apps sure are. The digital postcard and My Story apps look quite impressive and we can’t wait to try them out.


The Galaxy Note was already one of our favorite devices — especially if you can get over the sheer size of the device. Adding in even more awesome applications to compliment one of its better features in the stylus is a good move. While some still don’t see its usefulness for those that use it daily, this will be an awesome update. Once the 4.0 ICS update starts rolling out we’ll be sure to check out the new features and let you know what we think.
Here’s to hoping the update comes sometime soon and doesn’t suffer any further delays or issues. The Note is shaping up to be a pretty great device.

Device Specifications and Information
Device Info
    Device Name : GALAXY Note LTE
    Manufactuer : Samsung
    Carrier : AT&T
    Announced Date : January 09, 2012
    Release Date : February 19, 2012
    Also Known As :
Display
  • Screen Size : 5.3 Inch
  • Resolution : 1280x800
  • Screen Type : Super AMOLED
Dimension & Weight
  • Height : 5.78 Inch
  • Width : 3.27 Inch
  • Depth : 0.38 Inch
  • Weight : 183 Grams
Battery & Power
    Battery Type:
  • Lithium Ion
  • Battery Capacity : 2500 mAh
  • Talk Time : NA
  • Stand By Time : 250 hours
Software
    Android OS:
  • 2.3.x
    Audio Playback:
  • AAC
  • AAC+
  • AMR
  • MID
  • MP3
  • WAV
  • WMA
    Video Playback:
  • h.263
  • h.264 / AVC
  • MPEG-4 (MP4)
    Messaging:
  • SMS
  • MMS
Hardware
    CPU : MSM8660
    CPU Clock Speed : 1500 Mhz
    Core : 2
    Ram : 1024 MB
    Internal Storage : 16 GB
    Front Facing Camera :
    Camera Resolution : 8 MP
    External Storage:
  • MicroSD
  • MicroSDHC
    Camera Features:
  • Auto focus
  • Flash
  • 1080p Video Recording
    Sensors:
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light
  • Proximity
    QWERTY :
Cellular Network
    Network Technology:
  • GSM
    GSM Band:
  • 850
  • 900
  • 1800
  • 1900
Device Connectivity
    Wi-Fi:
  • 802.11b
  • 802.11g
  • 802.11n
    Bluetooth:
  • Bluetooth 3.0
    Location Features:
  • Compass
  • GPS
  • Cellular location
  • Wi-Fi location
    FM Radio :
    NFC :


Posted: 23 Mar 2012 10:04 AM PDT
Hardly a week goes by without the tech world spotting a humorous fake piece of electronic detritus coming out of China’s seedier factories, and these days it’s usually running Android. (Hooray for open source!) But at least one Chinese retailer has decided to go all out and copy Android for their entire storefront. It’s not necessarily ”fake” in the sense that the branding is misappropriated; anyone selling Android hardware can make use of Google’s Android logos and typefaces. But simply naming your store “Android”, as the shop in Zhuhai, Guangdong province has done, is a no-no.

Inside the “Celebrities Smartphone Experience Store” you can of course buy Android phones and accessories. But there’s a nasty surprise for anyone expecting a little slice of green-tinted heaven: half the store is dedicated to iPhones, accessories and other Apple products, That’s not exactly surprising – small stores like this all over the world cram a relatively wide selection of mobile detritus on every open space – but the targeted branding seems a little strange if they’re going to let just anybody in.

The tiny store reminds us of “Androidland“, Australian carrier Telus’ heavily branded mini-store in their premiere Melbourne retail location. But not much. Aside from the exterior and some admittedly nice lighting on the inside, it could be any one of a hundred thousand independent phone resellers across the globe. The shop has dozen, perhaps hundreds of Android phones on display, some of which are inside the Apple case next to grey-market iPhones. In at lest some display of possibly accidental brand loyalty, HTC gets a case all to itself.
[via The Register]

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 08:35 AM PDT
The Optimus LTE is LG’s flagship phone, at least until the Optimus 4X HD arrives. That being the case, it’s strange that it’s only available in four countries: LG’s home turf South Korea, neighbor Japan, plus Canada and the United States (as the Nitro HD and Spectrum on AT&T and Verizon, respectively). GSM Dome got their hands on a familiar looking model, the Optimus LTE P936, that appears to be identical to the international version except for branding. The new model is obviously headed somewhere, though there’s no indication of where that might be.

The specifications of the P936 seem to match its less mysterious counterparts: 4.5-inch 720p IPS screen, 1.5Ghz dual-core processor, 8 megapixel camera, et cetera. Other details like storage space aren’t mentioned, but are probably the same as the Optimus LTE models we’ve already seen at 4GB plus whatever you want to add with MicroSD. The Quadrant benchmarks are right in line with our own tests on the Nitro HD and Spectrum, so presumably it’s running with the same 1GB of memory and LG’s modified version of Gingerbread.
There’s no branding on the phone, so it’s unlikely that it’s headed for an American or Canadian carrier. That leaves the few markets outside of the US, South Korea and Japan to feature LTE wireless. There’s always the unlocked option and a few regional networks in Europe have added the capability, but my money’s on Australia, where both Telstra and Optus are both well on their way to populating their most crucial markets with LTE. There’s no official confirmation from LG on the Optimus LTE variant, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 07:44 AM PDT
Google is watching you. So is everyone else, of course, and it’s not like Google is trying to hide the fact – their controversial new privacy policy was plastered over every single web service for the better part of a month. But the USPTO has just granted them a patent on a piece of technology that actually listens to you – and I don’t mean in the helpful Voice Actions sort of way. United States Patent 8,138,930 lays the groundwork for a system that actually listens for keywords in phone conversations and stores the triggers in a database, to serve contextual advertisements later.

There’s no two ways about it: that’s creepy. Although technically no better or worse than using your search history as a template for targeted advertising, the idea of Google literally listening to phone or VOIP conversations is downright unsettling, even if it is just through a computer proxy. The patent covers “environmental conditions” detected by any of a smartphone’s sensors, including location, temperature, humidity, or physical movement. Just as an example, an engineer could write a set of parameters looking for the keywords “football game” in conjunction with rapid shifts in a person’s speed and direction to target people playing a game of pick-up, then serve an ad for Jamba Juice when they search for a drink.
Other sections of the patent point towards contextual advertising beyond a mobile device, including nearby ad vectors. In the football game example above, a digital billboard might be alerted to particular users and begin flashing a Jamba Juice ad with directions, not waiting for the user to activate his or her phone. While some of the more passive methods of tracking in the patent are much less disturbing than the voice keywords, it’s all a considerable step above what Google’s already doing with search and email.
Google’s been under some pretty intense privacy scrutiny in the last year or two, and it’s at a head at the moment. To be blunt, they’d be hard pressed to implement a system like the one described in the patent in the current climate. The documentation goes back to 2005, so someone’s been working on it for quite a while, but there’s no evidence that a voice or sensor tracking system is going in to effect any time soon.
[via SlashGear]

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 07:03 AM PDT
Attention, jaded modern gamers: put down your Soul Calibur 5 and Tekken Whatever discs. Put away Virtua Fighter and Dead or Alive (shame on you, there could be kids watching). If you want some bona-fide classic fighter action, a legend has just dropped onto the Google Play Store to satisfy your need for over-the-top martial arts craziness. The King of Fighters, the original entrant in Neo-Geo’s storied franchise spanning nearly twenty years, is now available on the Google Play Store. It comes via the G-Gee platform, which previously published the equally classic brawler Double Dragon.

If you’ve never heard of The King of Fighters, you’re not alone – in the western hemisphere the primary rival to Street Fighter was always Mortal Kombat. But in Japan (where 2D fighters flow like milk and honey) SNK’s rival was always trading spaces among fans and critics for the top spot. The franchise has spawned dozens of sequels over the years, but the version on the Google Play Store is a port of the original that appeared in arcades in 1994. For more than a decade, SNK released yearly updates to the game Madden-style, tweaking gameplay and characters into a finely tuned and balanced game engine.
Of course, the frantic action of a 2D fighter doesn’t really lend itself well to a touchscreen. So owners of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play will be glad to know that the game supports the phone’s slide-out keypad natively. Other early reviews in the Google Play Store are positive, with the exception of Galaxy Nexus owners – looks like the game might have some issues with Ice Cream Sandwich. You can download it now for a paltry $4.99, though you might want to save a couple of bucks for bandaging your blistered thumbs. Oh, and sorry, fighter fans: there’s no word on when Capcom will get around to releasing Street Fighter in the States.
[via Ubergizmo]

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 06:27 AM PDT
We’ve been hearing about the LG Lucid (AKA the LG Cayman) on and off for the last few weeks, most notably that it’s due in Verizon stored next Thursday, March 29th. The leaked specifications for the phone were tentative and somewhat incomplete, but Droid-Life managed a peek at some internal documentation that seems to confirm most of the important stuff. The package shows a phone on the upper end of the mid-range, or at least Verizon’s equivalent, which is about $150-200 for LTE devices. Sadly, there’s still no official price for the upcoming phone.

The Lucid runs on a respectable 1.2Ghz dual-core processor of unspecified origin, 8GB of internal storage, and Android 2.3 – no doubt with a promise to upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich some time in the future. (Hey LG Spectrum owners: how’s that coming along?) the 4-inch 800×480 screen is a bit smaller than average these days, but should make for a more pocketable device. The “NOVA” display touted in a previous leak seems to be fancy marketing speak for an IPS-LCD, not that we’re complaining – LG’s screens have some of the best color accuracy out there, even if they’re not quite as bright as AMOLED. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass.
There’s a surprisingly large 1700mAh battery crammed in there, the better to make use of the Lucid’s 4G LTE connection between charges. That makes the phone bulge to a slightly chunky 11.4 millimeters, but its footprint is still relatively small for a phone with a 4-inch screen. One thing notably missing from the list is a MicroSD card slot, something that I’d consider absolutely essential on a device with just 8GB of storage. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there (insert standard “fat lady sings” warning here) but it doesn’t fill me with confidence, either. Unless Verizon has switched up its release schedule, expect the Lucid to get an official unveiling next week.

Posted: 22 Mar 2012 05:58 PM PDT
For all Google Music’s charms and its drawbacks, there’s still places where it could improve. According to Google Operating System, it soon will: Google Play Music is set to get a Labs function, just like a handful of other Google services like Gmail and the Android browser. You can see a placeholder section for the Labs experimental features right now, though at the moment it’s empty. The folks at Google Operating System dug around the HTML and CSS code for this and other pages and got a pretty good idea of what’s in store.

First of all, it looks like the desktop Music Manager upload tool will soon be augmented with a browser-based counterpart. That should make it a lot easier to upload just an album or two when you want to add some quick music for streaming. Some of the code indicates that you’ll also be able to specify album artwork with the uploads. Another section labelled “History” should be a list of the song’s you’ve player (natch) similar to the ones found on desktop music players. Some integrated statistics should give feedback on how often you play individual songs and artists.
If and when these features make it to Google Music it’ll go a long way towards making it a more legitimate competitor to discrete jukebox managers. Of course, Google rolls out Labs updates without any particular schedule or consistency, so there’s no knowing how long it’ll take before the Labs page is updated. There’s no indication that the Google Music app will be getting a Labs function, but a few of the features spotted should integrate with the mobile version.

Posted: 22 Mar 2012 05:06 PM PDT
The HTC Vivid has Ice Cream Sandwich! Ten other phones and tablets are getting it too! It’s like software updates are eggs and AT&T’s the Easter bunny! The latest bit of news is that the LG Thrill is getting an update – too bad it’s just Gingerbread. Yes, the forlorn high-end phone has been running Froyo officially all this time, and now (a mere 15 months after Gingerbread became available and almost a year to the day after the phone was announced) it’s finally getting an update to Android 2.3. Thrill owners, try to contain your joy – this has got to be like being the one kid who found his egg rotten.

AT&T’s Thrill 4G is a rebranded version of the Optimus 3D, a respectable phone even by today’s standards. A 1Ghz dual-core processor and 512MB of RAM should make Gingerbread fly, even with LG’s custom skin running on top. The phone is one of just a handful of models that can display lenticular glasses-free 3D on its 4.3-inch, 800×480 LCD screen. 8GB of storage space is alright, but AT&T also stocked it with an 8GB MicroSD card, the better to take photos with its stereoscopic 5MP cameras.
To install the update you’ll need LG’s PC Suite installed on your computer – unfortunately AT&T isn’t sending the update out over the air at this time. You can find the driver and software at LG’s support site. And before anyone asks, no, I wouldn’t hold out for an Ice Cream Sandwich update, ever – LG’s track record thus far has not inspired confidence in that regard.
[via Gotta Be Mobile]

Posted: 22 Mar 2012 04:32 PM PDT
Panasonic’s most exciting mobile product in years is the ELUGA (and its big brother the ELUGA Power) spotted at Mobile World Congress, by the sheer novelty that it’ll actually be available outside of Panasonic’s home country of Japan. It’ll stop off there first, though: NTT DoCoMo has announced that it’ll make the phone available on March 29th as the NEXT series P-04D. (See, it’s not just US carriers that give phones new names for no reason.) After that, it’ll head for Europe in April, where the ELUGA Power is already stocked for pre-order. If you’re a European who’s miffed at the prospect of getting the phone later, take comfort in the fact that your phone won’t be colored purple like NTT DoCoMo’s.

The ELUGA isn’t just a pretty face – its waterproof, dustproof body can be completely submerged for a short time without taking any damage. The 4.3-inch OLED screen uses a qHD resolution  to display Gingerbread, with a 1Ghz dual-core TI OMAP processor running underneath it. Panasonic promises an upgrade to Android 4.0 eventually. The phone is an undeniable beauty, with a curved minimalist design and a 7.8mm profile. Shutterbugs will be happy to note that it takes 8 megapixel stills and 1080p video.
There’s no mention of the ELUGA or ELUGA Power making it to North America, and for the time being that’s likely to stay true. Panasonic has zero presence in the American smartphone market, which thanks to Apple’s home turf, is even more hotly contested than Europe. While it’s possible that a carrier will be impressed and pick up the hardware for a local release (T-Mobile would be the most likely candidate) it might still be a year or two before Panasonic focuses its efforts here.
[via SlashGear]

Posted: 22 Mar 2012 03:34 PM PDT
If you’re an AT&T customer jealous of your HTC Vivid-packing friends with their fancy-pants Ice Cream Sandwich update, take heart: you might not have to wait too long before you get your own. The carrier confirmed a total of ten new devices for an Ice Cream Sandwich update, though it didn’t say when beyond “the coming months”. Most are high-end smartphones from major brandsm but there’s at least a couple of surprises waiting in the wings. AT&T notes that the Vivid’s update is the first to be issued by a wireless carrier, which is technically true if you only count the United States.

Without further ado: Samsung’s Galaxy S II, Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Galaxy Note, Captivate Glide and the Galaxy Tab 8.9 will all receive Ice Cream Sandwich updates. The Motorola ATRIX 2 gets an obvious update, but surprisingly, so does the original ATRIX. Pantech gets both its Burst smartphone and the new Element tablet updated, and LG rounds out the pack with the Nitro. AT&T didn’t say that these were the only devices getting updated, but taking a look at their current Android stable, it’s entirely possible.
Aside from the HTC Vivid itself, only the Samsung Galaxy S II has an Ice Cream Sandwich update available from the manufacturer, and that’s for the more standardized international version. LG, Motorola and Pantech have been pretty quiet about their plans (Samsung has previously indicated that the Note, Skyrocket and Galaxy Tab 8.9 would be updated eventually). Given that the HTC Vivid’s international counterparts were updated to Android 4.0 just last week, we can hope that this means AT&T is actively trying to speed up the normally glacial update process.
[via TechCrunch]

Posted: 22 Mar 2012 02:32 PM PDT
If you’re like most heavy Google Voice users, you keep your GV voicemail and standard carrier voicemail separate. This is great for managing different numbers, but it’s a bit of a pain to wrangle all on the same phone. Android and Google Voice get a little closer today, as GV’s voicemail service is available from the native Android phone/dialer app. The update treats voicemails like calls, so you’ll see them in the same place that you usually see Google Voice incoming and outgoing calls in the dialer. Download the updated Google Voice app to apply the changes.

Unfortunately, this feature is limited to Android 4.0 at the moment. Google may back-port the voicemail integration into an earlier version, but that seems unlikely – if I had to guess, I’d say that this is something Google’s been planning for a while and had to code for specifically in Ice Cream Sandwich. On top of that, early reports indicate that phones without a mostly stock Android system can’t use the feature; skins like Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense UI usually completely replace the dialer and contact system. HTC Vivid users with their brand new Android 4.0 update are reporting that the feature doesn’t work for them. Another new feature that’s exclusive to ICS (but probably works for all Android 4.0 builds) is access to Google Voice folders from the app itself.
The addition is a handy one for the admittedly small intersection of Google Voice users and stock Ice Cream Sandwich (or a suitably close ROM) users. While this isn’t the VOIP addition to Google Voice that many have been hoping for, it’s one more way that your Google Voice number and identity can easily move between Android devices. There’s just no way to match this kind of integration on another platform – something that Google’s surely proud of.

Posted: 22 Mar 2012 12:34 PM PDT
The popular Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is on sale over at Best Buy today, but that isn’t the only thing special about this deal. Not only do you get an awesome Android 3.2 Honeycomb tablet, surely to be updated to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich soon, but they are tossing in the $79 dollar Samsung keyboard dock absolutely free.


The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 features an impressive 1280 x 800 resolution IPS display, dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and comes with front and rear facing cameras. Powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 processor you’ll be speeding through THD games and enjoying HD video. The free keyboard dock has quick shortcuts for apps, games, browser and more and is a great addition to your tablet — especially for free.

The tablet currently runs on Android 3.2 Honeycomb but just a few weeks ago Samsung confirmed that the 8.9 tablet would be seeing Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich “soon” along with the other tablets and the Galaxy Note. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 WiFi model usually runs $399 but can be yours for only $349 from Best Buy along with the free keyboard dock and even free shipping. This deal appears to be online only but I’d run down to my nearest Best Buy and give it a try too.
Best Buy link

Device Specifications and Information
Device Info
    Device Name : GALAXY Tab 8.9
    Manufactuer : Samsung
    Carrier : NA
    Announced Date : March 22, 2011
    Release Date : October 02, 2011
    Also Known As :
Display
  • Screen Size : 8.9 Inch
  • Resolution : 1280x800
  • Screen Type : TFT
Dimension & Weight
  • Height : 9.09 Inch
  • Width : 6.21 Inch
  • Depth : 0.34 Inch
  • Weight : 470 Grams
Battery & Power
    Battery Type:
  • Lithium Polymer
  • Battery Capacity : 6100 mAh
  • Talk Time : NA
  • Stand By Time : NA
Software
    Android OS:
  • 3.0.x
    Audio Playback:
  • AAC
  • AAC+
  • AMR
  • MID
  • MP3
  • WAV
  • WMA
    Video Playback:
  • h.263
  • h.264 / AVC
  • MPEG-4 (MP4)
    Messaging:
  • SMS
  • MMS
Hardware
    CPU : T250S
    CPU Clock Speed : 1000 Mhz
    Core : 2
    Ram : 1024 MB
    Internal Storage : 65.536 GB
    Front Facing Camera :
    Camera Resolution : 3 MP
    Camera Features:
  • Auto focus
  • Flash
  • 720p Video Recording
    Sensors:
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light
    QWERTY :
Cellular Network
    Network Technology:
  • GSM
    GSM Band:
  • 850
  • 900
  • 1800
  • 1900
Device Connectivity
    Wi-Fi:
  • 802.11b
  • 802.11g
  • 802.11n
    Bluetooth:
  • Bluetooth 3.0
    FM Radio :
    NFC :

[via Dealzon]

Posted: 22 Mar 2012 11:42 AM PDT
What’s more fun than modding an Android smartphone? Well, lots of things, but one of them is modding a competing smartphone to run Android. There are many who admire Nokia’s beautiful hardware and industrial design, but lament its home-grown software (or the Windows Phone 7 platform they’re now stuck with). A group of like-minded modders at the NITDroid forums dedicated to bringing Android to Nokia hardware have shown off their latest and certainly greatest project: fully functional Android 4.0 on the MeeGo-powered Nokia N9.

This is no small job, either. All the essential functions of the phone are working, including calls, texts, data, WiFi, Bluetooth, et cetera. Sound and video are working fine, though YouTube playback seems a little choppy. The only real features that seem to be missing are the camera (wasn’t mentioned in the forum post) and automatic rotation (though the accelerometer is working, so that could be just a matter of time). The ROM is in its first Alpha release, so expect a lot of the bugs to be ironed out eventually.


The best part is that this ROM can be installed with a custom boot partition, preserving the original MeeGo OS in a fashion similar to the Android ports on the HP TouchPad. There’s even a work-around method that allows users to mount MeeGo’s My Documents folder as Android’s virtual SD card, giving some rudimentary cross-platform file access. This isn’t quite the same as getting Android on Nokia hardware like many of use were hoping for last year, but it’s about as close as we’re likely to come.
[via SlashGear]

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