Google expanded its chat / video conferencing offerings in a big way with its new Google+ Hangouts platform, and it looks like its intent on making it even more all-purpose in the future. Responding to a question on her Google+ page, the company's community manager for Hangouts and Chat, Dori Storbeck, confirmed that SMS integration is "coming soon," noting that it's been one of the most requested features. Storbeck further added that future versions of Hangouts will also support outgoing calls and other Google Voice features, but specifics remain light beyond that for the time being.
Source: Dori Storbeck (Google+)
Google has just made shopping on your Android phone much easier. The folks in Mountain View have outed a new Checkout button that enables one-click purchases. Instead of having to shuffle through the gamut of steps to pick up that next birthday gift, you'll only need to tap once, then confirm the payment info via Google Wallet and shipping details in order to complete a shopping session on your mobile device. Of course, this will also allow users to avoid the headache of having to input payment info in each site they want to make a purchase from.
07/05/2013 - Windows Phone 8's YouTube app goes from glorified bookmark to full application in latest update
The Windows Phone 8 YouTube app has been woefully underutilized, acting more or less as a bookmark stand-in and redirecting users to the web. No more, as the app's getting a major update today that makes it act more like a standard WP8 app -- you can pin various components right into your Live Tile set and play videos (as music) in the background, even when your phone's locked. Standards like social sharing and search are also in there, and a "new and innovative playlist design" rounds out the refresh. Perhaps the Microsoft / Google relationship is mending? We can't be sure, but this is certainly one step in the right direction. We've dropped the full list of new features beyond the break, and you can grab the app update for yourself right here.
Getting the Nexus 4 into customers' hands aside, the Google-LG team-up was a huge boost to the Korean manufacturer's smartphone fortunes. According to the Korea Times, LG's now looking to repeat the magic and is already working with Google on a Nexus sequel. Presumably another phone beyond that Optimus G sequel we've been promised, there's no word yet on whether we'll see any new Google-branded hardware at this year's I/O event. LG is also apparently looking for more cooperation with Google on TVs and other future hardware -- Glass was apparently mentioned in passing.
Via: Android Beat
Source: Korea Times
The trickle of Google Glass details (they're shipping, the API is available and an Android companion app is live) has suddenly turned into a flood tonight, as 9to5Google points out a support page listing the device's technical specs. While we knew some bits about its capabilities (some of which were explained in a patent application), the official list reveals its display will be equivalent to a 25-inch HD screen viewed from eight feet away, while it's camera does 5MP stills and 720p video. It packs 16GB of storage onboard, 12GB of which are available to the wearer. Audio is transferred via a bone conduction transducer, while it's wireless capabilities include Bluetooth and WiFi 802.11 b/g. There's a micro-USB charger included with it and the battery is expected to last a "full day of typical use" although video and Google Hangouts will drain it more quickly. Also published is an FAQ for things like "Is it ok to go scuba diving with Glass?" (A: No, jackhammering is also probably out, while laws concerning mobile devices and driving may rule out use behind the wheel as well), covering things any Explorers should know before their headset arrives.
Patent filings, we don't take so seriously. One of Japan's richest men, with the potential to call on an army of lawyers to defend what he claims is his invention, we probably ought to. Masayoshi Son, the billionaire (and philanthropic) CEO of SoftBank, has given a two-hour speech to his shareholders about his technological predictions for the next 30 years, and about halfway through he describes a familiar idea: augmented reality glasses that can understand what a person is saying and provide subtitles as a visual overlay. At one point, he specifically mentions protecting the concept:
"By the way, we've already taken out a patent on this -- translation glasses with captions." (1:22:49 in the video at the source link.)
We think we may have found the patent application in question, submitted in 2010 by SoftBank Mobile Corp. It does show a translation function similar -- but not totally identical -- to what's been shown off in a recent Project Glass promo video, in which a guy translated his own words using Google's specs. In any case, the whole patent system is so esoteric that it's impossible to predict what ideas will clash and what won't, but it's worth bearing in mind how Masayoshi Son first became rich: he sold a translation device patent to Sharp for $1 million. What are the odds on that?
Would news of an upcoming Google Play Store redesign completely blindside you? Of course not, but it's great to see it come to fruition sooner rather than later. The oft-whispered 4.0 update has now been officially acknowledged by Google and is ready for digital distribution starting today. What exactly is fresh and exciting about the new look? According to a blog post written by Play group product manager Michael Siliski, it focuses on bigger images, grouping together similarly themed content and offering new recommendations as you move down the page. Checkout has also been simplified just a tad. The update will be available for any phone or tablet running Android 2.2 or better, and it will begin rolling out today worldwide -- with such a hefty drain on Google's servers, however, the company warns that it may be a few weeks before it arrives on your particular device.
Source: Android Blog
Are you a bit rusty on your trivia? Now you can brush up on your movie knowledge more easily before you make a fool out of yourself at parties, thanks to new info cards that are now being integrated into Google Play Movies. When you pause the cinematic masterpiece you're currently watching, you'll notice some Google Now-like cards pop up on the side of the screen that are filled with information about the actors, actresses, the movie itself or even the soundtrack. To access these fancy chunks of cognitive enhancement, you'll need to live in the US, use a tablet running Android 4.0 or higher and be updated to the most recent version of the Google Play Movies & TV app. Since Google is just rolling the feature out, the cards may not be available for all of your favorite titles at first; fortunately, the company's adding them to more movies every day, so hopefully you won't need to wait too long. As for other countries and devices, Google's working on expanding its reach sometime soon.
Source: Official Android blog
Now that connected watches have officially become the 'it' gadget to innovate (see: Pebble, I'm Watch and Apple), Sony can't just sit back and let its SmartWatch quietly finds its footing. Which is why the company's beefing up the user experience and issuing an app update that bolsters the Android timepiece's functionality while also giving it several new, pretty faces. Currently live on Google Play for all users to download, the software update adds notification previews for emails, texts and social media alerts, six watch face options ranging from retro to contemporary styles, a more accurate battery gauge and streamlined search. There's now also nearly 200 compatible apps users can choose from to extend the SmartWatch's functionality. You can go ahead and grab the update now from Play or sit back and wait for it to hit your wrist.
14/03/2013 - YouTube Capture iOS app updated with iPad / iPad mini support for all your tablet filming needs
Okay, maybe the YouTube Capture iOS app update with iPad and iPad mini support won't support all your tablet filming needs, but it does aim to fix your ability to instantly capture and upload video to YouTube. And hey, let's be honest, that video of your cat playing with the soda box really should be on YouTube.
Facial recognition? Pah. Dahling, the only way to find someone in a crowd is to pick out what they're wearing. InSight is an app being developed for Google Glass by Duke University that helps you identify your chums, even when they've got their back to you, by channeling its inner Joan Rivers. All your pals have to do is submit some self-portraits to the app, which then creates a spatiogram -- identifying the colors, textures and patterns with which they've adorned themselves. That data is then pushed to Google Glass, hopefully allowing you to avoid the usual "I'm by the store, no, the other store" routine. Then again, maybe your friends will find you first -- after all, you're the one with a computer strapped to your head.
Via: New Scientist
Source: Duke University (PDF)
05/03/2013 - Google Maps for iOS gets 1.1 update, adds searchable Google contacts, suggested search categories
The very, very popular Google Maps application on iOS today received its first update, edging the version number from 1.0 to 1.1. In 1.1, users can search saved addresses of contacts from within the app, as well as browse by a variety of categories -- food, coffee, drinks, gas, post offices, hotels, grocery stores, pharmacies, movie theaters, malls, hospitals, atms, and attractions are all choosable (though we'd suggest maybe just calling 911 over searching for nearby hospitals in an emergency situation). The app is also headed (in English) to a smattering of new locales today: Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain).
Android users living in Taiwan have something to celebrate: paid apps have returned to the Google Play store. The ability to purchase apps from the Taiwanese Play store was suspended over a year and a half ago when Google entered a legal battle with the local government. The issue? Taiwan's consumer protection laws demanded paid apps include a seven day trial period, but the Google Play refund period lasts only 15 minutes. Mountain View pulled paid apps from the region while it filed appeals and lawsuits with the local government, which eventually won it the right to handle returns and trials as it saw fit. Taiwanese users can now view Google Play's Top Paid apps page and actually purchases a few, too. Worth 20 months of waiting? We think so.
Source: Engadget Chinese
Google's experiment with gaming once more, this time through its mobile phone-based Chrome browser, today introducing "Super Sync Sports" via its web-based client. The cheeky sports game asks that you input a code to the mobile version of Chrome that enables touch control for the game on your desktop, essentially converting your mobile phone into a (reasonably awkward) game controller. We gave it a shot with the running game on an iPhone 5 and sadly placed second, but that was most from fear of destroying our phone. Perhaps you'll fare better -- take a chance right here. And hey, it's free, so no harm in trying. There's also a charming video after the break, should you not be in a game-friendly environment.
On Friday, a report surfaced on 9to5Google that Google was making serious plans to open permanent retail locations, and it's been followed up today by the Wall Street Journal indicating the same thing. Both cite unnamed sources, who claim that the company wants to provide space for customers to try out its Nexus devices, software like the Chrome browser and unnamed upcoming products. The rumors differ slightly on potential timeframe, with the initial one suggesting we could see shops open by the holidays this year, while the WSJ indicates a wider timeframe with the possibility that stores may not launch this year at all. Google's already opened a few pop-up shop temporary locations at airports and in other stores, like the one pictured above in the UK.
As Google moves further into hardware the potential of Apple-style branded physical stores grows, whether just to sell the phones and tablets we've seen so far or alongside more secretive projects like that rumored "X Phone." Also, once moonshot attempts like Project Glass and self-driving cars hit, having trained retail staff for hands-on demos may be just what the doctor ordered for skeptics. There's no word on where these stores may appear of course, but if you spot any darkened storefronts in your local mall please drop a line in our tips inbox, along with its distance from the nearest Sbarros -- we hear Googlers loves Sbarros.
17/02/2013 - Nexus 4 Wireless Charger hands-on
Palm's Touchstone dock immediately came to mind when we first saw LG's Nexus 4 Wireless Charger last fall (now available for $60 in the Play Store). Both devices are circular, with a micro-USB port in back and a slanted front surface on which to rest the phone. That's where the similarities end -- while the Touchstone is cylindrical and uses a proprietary wireless charging system, the Nexus 4 Wireless Charger is larger, spherical and Qi-compatible. Another major difference is that Palm's dock uses magnets to line up and secure the handset, and LG's accessory relies solely on the friction between a rubber ring and the glass back of Google's flagship phone. Design-wise the Nexus 4 Wireless Charger looks similar to a smaller Nexus Q cut in half, down to the matching recessed square connector cutout.
Gallery: Nexus 4 Wireless Charger hands-on
In the box you'll find a 5V 1.8A AC adapter (vs. 1.2A for the one supplied with the Nexus 4) along with a micro-USB cable (longer than the one provided with the handset). The manual warns to "use only the power adapter and micro-USB cable that come with your Nexus 4 Wireless Charger", but we didn't have any trouble with other USB power sources beyond longer charging times. We tested the dock with the Nexus 4, Droid DNA, Lumia 920 and Lumia 822 (with the optional Wireless Charging Cover) -- basically, LG's accessory provides the same experience as Nokia's Wireless Charging Plate ($50), which is also Qi-compatible. The $10 difference buys you a matching design and a spare USB power adapter and micro-USB cable (Nokia's plate comes with a proprietary AC adapter). It takes about 4 hours to fully charge Google's flagship phone using wireless power -- check out the gallery above for some action shots.
Some say that it's "better late than never," and, as of right now, this may very well be a good thing for Virgin Mobile UK users looking to snag one of those chart-topping Nexus 4s. A mere few months after the LG-made handset was first announced, Virgin Mobile is set to join other carriers across the pond in offering Google's sleek flagship. What's more, the Nexus 4 can be had at no cost upfront, so long as interested UKers choose from one of Virgin Mobile's qualified 24-month tariffs. Meanwhile, those of us in the States without a Nexus 4 will have to keep on waiting, as Google Play (and T-Mobile) still appear to be having trouble keeping up with demand.
Source: Virgin Mobile
14/01/2013 - Samsung Galaxy S Range Sells Over 100 Million Copies
06/01/2013 - Google 'currently working' on Google Maps redirect fix on Windows Phone, explains former stance
As recently as yesterday, Google was explaining its auto-redirect of Google Maps on Windows Phone devices to Google.com as a question of incompatibility rather than one of choice. "The mobile web version of Google Maps is optimized for WebKit browsers such as Chrome and Safari. However, since Internet Explorer is not a WebKit browser, Windows Phone devices are not able to access Google Maps for the mobile web," Google told us yesterday. Case closed, right? Apparently not.
As The Next Web reports, Google's changing its tune today, and is working on a redirect as we speak. "We periodically test Google Maps compatibility with mobile browsers to make sure we deliver the best experience for those users," the statement reads. "In our last test, IE mobile still did not offer a good maps experience with no ability to pan or zoom and perform basic map functionality. As a result, we chose to continue to redirect IE mobile users to Google.com where they could at least make local searches. The Firefox mobile browser did offer a somewhat better user experience and that's why there is no redirect for those users," it continues. The kicker? "Recent improvements to IE mobile and Google Maps now deliver a better experience and we are currently working to remove the redirect. We will continue to test Google Maps compatibility with other mobile browsers to ensure the best possible experience for users." So! It looks like Windows Phone users employing Internet Explorer for Google Maps will soon be back in business. As of right now, we're still seeing the redirect in place, but feel free to let us know if you're already seeing the fix enabled!
Source: The Next Web
If owning one of the first Intel-based phones just isn't unique enough, there's now a rarer color option. The Motorola RAZR i is coming to the UK in a seasonally appropriate white, starting with local reseller Phones4U on December 22nd. The look will be familiar to some of those who've bought a Droid RAZR M on the other side of the Atlantic, but it may be easy to forgive any not-quite-complete color exclusivity through the contract price: Phones4U is giving the white RAZR i away for free to those who sign up for a contract worth at least £20.50 ($33) per month. While other stores might not carry the Atom-powered RAZR until after the holidays, Brits scrambling to find a last-minute tech gift might just have been given a reprieve.
18/12/2012 - Google Music gains scan and match feature in the US
It wasn't very long ago that Google Music landed in Europe -- to the delight of local music lovers, we're sure. On its trip across the pond, the service gained a unique new feature called scan and match, wherein Google scans your local music library and makes the songs it matches instantly available in the cloud -- no upload required. Until now the feature, which is similar to iTunes Match, was only available in Europe, but it's coming to the US starting today. From now on, any US Google Play users who upload their music collection will benefit from this new feature. Over time, the company will also upgrade users with existing cloud libraries. It's a free service and it's automatic -- you're unlikely to notice that it's even happening. The upside is that entire collections will be uploaded faster. We're not aware of any downsides yet -- matched songs will be available for streaming at 320Kbps like regular Google Play purchases, while re-downloaded music will be available at or close to the bitrate of the original file.
Source: Google Play (Google+)
11/12/2012 - Google CEO Larry Page talks Apple, Android monetization and an eventual Motorola Nexus device
It's been a little while since we last heard from Larry Page, talking up Google Plus's adoption rate over the summer and, most recently, supposedly chatting with Tim Cook about the patent war that looms over both companies. Now he's letting his voice be heard again, sitting down with Miguel Helft from Fortune about a variety of topics, including the company's recent dealings with Cupertino. He call's Apple's "island-like approach" to its platform "somewhat a shame for users." He continues:
What I was trying to say was I think it would be nice if everybody would get along better and the users didn't suffer as a result of other people's activities. I try to model that. We try pretty hard to make our products be available as widely as we can. That's our philosophy. I think sometimes we're allowed to do that. Sometimes we're not.
Availability and sharing, he says, is key to the success of Android, and Google Plus is a big part of that. "We had 18 different ways of sharing stuff before we did Plus. Now we have one way that works well, and we're improving." And when will they make some actual revenue from Android? " I think we're in the early stages of monetization. The fact that a phone has a location is really helpful for monetization."
Finally, on the question of why Google hasn't launched a Nexus device from Motorola yet, Page says quite simply "we haven't owned the company long enough." While he stops well short of pledging such a device is coming, he does say that Google is continuing to develop "amazing innovative devices" with multiple partners, and that the company will do everything it can to keep those partners, both old and new, happy.
06/12/2012 - YouTube brings its guide feature to all devices, provides easier access to subscribed content
The folks working at YouTube are quite the busy little bees, updating apps, adding content and refreshing the site's look. Today, the site's rolling out its guide feature through YouTube.com and every YouTube app there is. The video site first introduced the guide last year on its web portal, allowing folks an easy way to keep track of new videos on their subscribed channels. Now, Android, iPhone, PS3, Google TV and other YouTube apps are getting the feature, plus the website's getting a fresh new look as well. You can get a better look at the new page layout after the break, and there's more info about the changes at the source below.
Source: The Official YouTube Blog