Posts tagged Android
This digital assistant app, popular in Spain, is rolling out in the U.S. today. The march toward a better, voice-controlled future continues, even with Siri, Google Voice Search and newer digital assistants, such as Donna, already on the scene. The latest entrant is Sherpa, a natural languageAndroid app that’s a top app in Spain and Latin America and today is rolling out in the U.S. — first for Android, eventually for iOS.
Like Siri, Sherpa attempts to help organize your life and preform task when you ask the app questions or give it commands. It’s the brainchild of Xabier Uribe-Etxebarria, who’s based in Bilbao, Spain, and has been working on natural language and semantic technology for more than a decade. ”My vision was to build interface to our digital life,” Uribe-Etxebarria told me. “For everything to be done through Sherpa. We haven’t done that yet. But compared with other, we’re way better. We’re beyond Siri.”
That will be up to users to decide. Sherpa, which also has offices in Redwood City, Calif., has partnered with a number of companies and draws on a number of sources, such as PayPal, Themoviedb.org,Lastminute.com, Wikipedia and LinkedIn. The idea is to limit the dependency on search engines so Sherpa can deliver up specific answers instead of a list of links.
Sherpa works in both English and Spanish, and the technology learns over time, says Uribe-Etxebarria, so it should get better at interpreting what you’re asking for. It does some nifty things. You can ask it to show your mentions on Twitter, and it does. You can post directly to Facebook by talking. You can tell it to pay someone $10 through PayPal and complete the transaction. You can ask to hear a Rihanna song, and Sherpa begins to stream the music via a partnership with a European company that has the rights to 4 million tracks.
Google’s mobile OS scooped up more half of U.S. smartphone sales from mid-November through mid-February, says research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Android has grabbed the lead over iOS in the battle for U.S. smartphone buyers, according to a report out yesterday from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. From mid-November through mid-February, Android increased its share of U.S. smartphone sales to 51.2 percent, up from 45 percent during the same three-month period in 2012. Over the same time, Apple’s iOS dropped to second place as its share of U.S. sales fell to 43.5 percent from 47 percent.
Much of the surge in Android can be attributed to Apple arch-rival Samsung. Prices drops on Samsung phones in the last half of 2012 prompted many smartphone and feature phone users to upgrade to a Samsung device, Kantar said. Overall, many people who opted for a Samsung phone last year gravitated toward one of the company’s flagship devices. Among those who purchased a Samsung phone in the last year, 52 percent chose a Galaxy S3, 21 percent a Galaxy S2, and 5 percent a Galaxy Note 2. Samsung buyers cited the cost of the phone and the carrier brand as key drivers for their purchase.
“Of those who changed their phone over the last year to a Samsung smartphone, 19 percent had previously owned a Samsung feature phone, 15 percent owned an HTC smartphone, 14 percent owned an LG featurephone, 10 percent owned a Samsung smartphone, and 9 percent owned a BlackBerry,” Kantar analyst Mary-Ann Parlato said in a statement. “It’s apparent that Samsung is successful at capturing users from across the competitor set and not just gaining from their own loyalists, (albeit loyalty towards Samsung has also grown).”
What of the rest of the smartphone world? Microsoft’s Windows Phone saw an increase in sales share, jumping to 4.1 percent from 2.7 percent a year earlier. Beyond Android, Windows Phone was the only platform to see its share of sales increase, according to the report. BlackBerry continued to see its sales fall, accounting for 0.7 percent of sales — down from 3.6 percent in 2012. Nokia’s Symbian was stuck in last place among the top five, ekeing out just 0.1 percent of U.S. sales from its 0.5 percent a year earlier. Kantar derived its data from more than 240,000 interviews of mobile phone users. The report focused on actual sales rather than market share.
With Google Reader on its way out, many users will be in need of a replacement for their RSS subscriptions. Here’s a roundup of what we think are the best alternatives available. Hear that? That’s the sound of millions of news junkies on the Web scrambling to find an alternative to Google Reader. As you may have heard, Google Reader will soon be no more. The search giant has announced that it will shutter its much-maligned — though still widely used — RSS reader, which will, no doubt, leave many users in a tizzy, searching for other ways to subscribe to their favorite RSS feeds. Sure, Google Reader may not have been the most beautifully designed product to come out of Mountain View, Calif., but it sure was convenient. And now that it’s going away, it’s evident just how valuable it has been.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of what we think are the best replacements for the soon-to-be-late Google Reader. Plugged-in types won’t want to miss a beat once Google Reader sees its sunset, so getting familiar with these alternatives now could be key. Ideally, an RSS reader should be available on both mobile devices and desktop computers, so we tried our best to focus on this type of service. That said, we also thought it important to mention a couple of services (at the bottom) that are only available on Android and iOS, simply because we know that they’re viable alternatives, and more people than ever are reading on mobile devices these days anyway. Finally, when you’re ready to make the jump, be sure to check out the Data Liberation Front’s primer on exporting your Reader data using Google Takeout.
iOS | Android | Web
One of Feedly’s most popular features is that it can sync with Google Reader. But since that feature will soon be useless, we need to focus on the rest of what the app brings to the table. Fortunately, Feedly brings a lot. When you first launch Feedly, it offers up a menu of featured sites from all around the Web. These sites cover categories from Design to Android to Apple to Business. You can go through and subscribe to any of these featured sites individually, or you can even subscribe to entire categories of sites with a single click. And of course, you can always search for specific URLs, site names, or topics from within Feedly and subscribe that way, just as you would with Google Reader.
More than just an RSS reader, though, Feedly comes with a built-in “Save for Later” feature and a History function, so you can go back and see what you recently read. It even lets you share items via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Overall, Feedly is one of the best RSS readers out there. It performs well and looks slick on both iOS and Android. And for desktops, it is available via Firefox or Chrome browser plug-ins.
iOS | Android | Web
Taptu gives you a visual interface for browsing news feeds, a lot like Pulse (see below), and also lets you add your personal Twitter and Facebook feeds for easy access. But the DJ aspect of the app is that you can customize your feeds exactly the way you want them. The app comes with several premade Taptu-curated news categories, but it’s just as easy to strike out on your own with the feeds you already love. Build a stream from scratch using the Add Streams button, where you’ll find tons of feeds from popular publications. You also can search by category, or simply perform a search to gather all the feeds that relate to a specific keyword. In our experience, Taptu was a little laggy when scrolling through stories from within the app, but you have the option to switch to a Web version of a story that is much smoother. At any rate, Taptu is great for finding and tuning your feeds and makes for a great way to tailor your news to your specs.
iOS | Android | Web
Pulse News gives you all the news from your favorite feeds with an intuitive interface for touch screens. News sites are laid out vertically so you can swipe up and down to the latest news from all sites quickly, or you can swipe horizontally to read more stories from the same site. If you want to switch categories, you can touch the menu button and choose from a list or you can use a search field to find sites by keyword. The app comes preloaded with several popular Web sites you can add to your Pulse home screen.
The layout of this app is especially intuitive, making it easy for people unfamiliar with newsreaders to get started quickly. Your Pulse home screen is completely customizable, so you can reorder your feed list to show your most-read sites first. You can also add Facebook to your feed if you want to see the latest stories from your friends. If you want a slick and elegant way to quickly read news stories from all your favorite Web sites, Pulse takes only a little bit of setup to have the latest headlines laid out for you when you launch.
iOS | Android
Flipboard is already an immensely popular newsreader and social-network hub, but it has no desktop or browser-based component. Still, if you have an iOS or Android device, Flipboard is an excellent option because you can organize the info you want to look at and then flip through it like a magazine. All you need to do is create an account with Flipboard, then sign in to your Facebook, Google+, and Twitter accounts to be fully socially connected.
Once you’re all signed in, Flipboard presents you with an intuitive layout of your social networks and some default news categories to browse. Touching a panel lets you browse through any of the default categories; touching and holding a panel lets you delete it and replace it with whatever RSS feed you might want. You can customize your Flipboard by browsing through several categories like News, Technology, Business, and Entertainment, then adding popular sites to your Flipboard like BBC News, the Guardian, The Economist, and Salon. Flipboard’s strength is in its magazine-like layout, but there’s an enormous amount of content to choose from, making it possible to customize it with exactly the types of stories you want.
Google Currents (free)
iOS | Android
Never heard of this one? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Google Currents was officially unveiled in December 2011 on both Android and iOS, and was framed as a sort of hybrid magazine viewer and RSS reader in one. Relatively few people jumped on its bandwagon then, and still today it has yet to gain widespread traction on either mobile platform. Regardless of its usage statistics, though, Google Currents is still useful, especially now that Google Reader will be going away.
Similar to Flipboard, Google Currents employs a magazine-style interface with large images and paginated posts. It may not be most intuitive app in the world, but it looks sleek and works well. It lets you subscribe to and download app-optimized editions of publications like Forbes and CNET, and you can subscribe to any RSS-enabled sites you like, just like with Google Reader. There’s even a Breaking News feature that instantly pulls up the latest news stories within a given category. While Google Currents may not be the biggest name on our list (even though it is, in fact, made by Google), there’s no doubt that this app has potential. And with its sibling Google Reader soon biting the dust, it may even be poised for a huge upswing in popularity.
The news agency rebuts a New York Times report, saying Samsung’s smartphone will include “more simplified” uses of eye-tracking tech, like pausing videos when a user’s eyes move away from the screen. If you’ve been eager to get a glimpse of eye scrolling in the Galaxy S4, Bloomberg has a reality check for you. The New York Times, citing sources, earlier this month said the latest version of Samsung’s flagship smartphone would include technology to monitor users’ eyes and translate that motion into action: “For example, when users read articles and their eyes reach the bottom of the page, the software will automatically scroll down to reveal the next paragraphs of text.” However, Bloomberg today said that some of its sources familiar with the device disputed that claim, saying eye scrolling won’t show up in the Galaxy S4.
They did say it may appear in future versions of the phone and added that the Galaxy S4 will have “more simplified” uses of eye-tracking technology, like the ability to pause videos when the user’s eyes move away from the screen. Whatever Samsung ultimately unveils is sure to have quirky capabilities, whether that includes eye scrolling or not. The company has made a big push to show users what they can do with Samsung devices, but the products tend to include many features people don’t know about. Among the rumors swirling around the Galaxy S4 is that it may come with an eight-core Exynos processor, a separate eight-core graphics processing unit, a 4.99-inch Super Amoled display, 2GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capability, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and the latest version of Android, known as 4.2.2 Jelly Bean.
The iPhone and the iPad have grown more popular with the enterprise crowd at the expense of Android devices, according to an Egnyte report. The iPhone and iPad continue to outshine Android devices among businesses both large and small, says a report from cloud storage company Egnyte. Among the 100,000 Egnyte customers tracked for the new report, iOS has carved out an increasingly higher share while Android’s slice has dipped of late. Egnyte sells online storage, file sharing, and other cloud-based services to businesses of all sizes. As such, the company is able to determine which mobile operating systems its customers use to access its services, which it did so for this latest report.
As described by TechCrunch, early data from Egnyte for the first quarter of 2013 showed a48 percent share for the iPhone, 30 percent for the iPad, and 22 percent for Android (both phones and tablets). Though preliminary, those figures show a gain for Apple and a decline for Android from last year. In 2012, Egnyte’s data revealed a 42 percent share for the iPhone, 27 percent for the iPad, and 30 percent for Android phones and tablets. Other mobile operating systems combined eked out just 1 percent.
And for the second half of 2011, the data uncovered a 28 percent share for the iPhone, 40 percent for the iPad, 30 percent for Android, and 2 percent for other mobile platforms. Over time, the iPhone is the clear winner in the bunch, jumping in usage from a little more than a quarter of all Egnyte customers tracked to almost half. At the same time, the iPad saw its usage drop, while Android remained steady until just this year.
Engyte’s data doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. The report doesn’t specifically refer to BlackBerry devices, which typically have been popular among enterprise users. Rather, the data focuses more on the battle between iOS and Android. ”Apple seems to have at least temporarily won the hearts and minds of business users with its products accounting for about 70 percent of our traffic,” Egnyte told TechCrunch.
Proxy browsing uses Google’s servers to squeeze Web pages then shoot them to Chrome faster using SPDY networking technology. Also in Chrome 26 for Android: password sync and early WebRTC support. Taking a page from Opera and Amazon playbooks, then writing on it some more, Google is using its own servers to speed up page loading on its mobile version of Chrome. The feature, called proxy browsing, is enabled in the Chrome 26 beta for Android, though it must be manually activated through the chrome://flags interface by selecting “Enable Data Compression Proxy.” With proxy browsing, a server with a fast Internet connection and more processing horsepower than a mobile device loads the Web page on behalf of that mobile device.
The chief advantage of the approach is that the page can be shrunk down, something Google does with its PageSpeed software. Google compresses images into its WebP format, scales down images that will only be seen on a smaller screen, and compresses text. In principle this is similar to what Opera does with its mobile browsers, in particular with the new Off-road Mode in the overhauled Opera for Android. Chrome for Android requires Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, or Android 4.1 and 4.2, aka Jelly Bean. The initial releases of the Chrome for Android moved slowly, but now Google has put the browser on the same frequent-release cycle as Chrome for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. That lets it bring new features to the browser sooner — and Chrome 26 also is getting password sync and early WebRTC support.
Another part of Google’s proxy browsing approach emulates how Amazon does it with its Silk browser: using Google’s own SPDY technology. SPDY, a variation of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that Web browsers and Web servers use to communicate, can streamline communications by compressing some text and by letting multiple data transfers share the same data connection to the server. SPDY also encrypts data for a bit more privacy — though that’s offset in a way by the fact that using the proxy browsing makes Google a browsing middleman.
The proxy browsing only works with unencrypted Web pages sent with ordinary HTTP. For secure pages sent with HTTPS, Chrome for Android sets up direct connections to the Web server as usual. People who’ve activated the feature can check how well it works by going to the chrome://net-internals page then tapping on “Bandwidth.” For details on the technology, check Google’s white paper on its data-compression technology. Also new in the Chrome 26 beta is early support for WebRTC, a real-time communications technology that enables browser-based audio and video chat. It, too, is hidden behind a flag that requires people to enable it manually.
“This is an early release — many things will not work well or at all,” cautioned WebRTC team member Punyabrata Ray in a mailing list announcement. The proxy browsing feature are enabled through the chome://flags interface on Google for Android. Microsoft prefers an alternative approach for real-time communications that it calls CU-RTC Web, but Mozilla and Google have ironed out earlier interoperability problems and are pushing WebRTC aggressively. Also in Chrome 26 for Android is password sync – once other devices are upgraded to Chrome 26. (The stable version of Chrome right now is version 25.) Password sync builds on earlier Chrome for Android abilities to synchronize open tabs, bookmarks, and browsing history.
Images obtained by blog site Sammobile provide a look at purported settings for Smart Scroll and Smart Pause features. Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S4 will offer a Smart Scroll feature, at least according to a series of screenshots leaked by blog site Sammobile. Images posted on the site show a settings screen for Smart Scroll, a feature that allows users to scroll through the screen and perform certain tasks merely by moving their eyes up and down. Citing information from a person who has used the yet-to-be-announced phone, the New York Times reported on Monday that Smart Scroll would be built into the S4. The feature would monitor the movement of users’ eyes and move the screen accordingly.
As one example, “when users read articles and their eyes reach the bottom of the page, the software will automatically scroll down to reveal the next paragraphs of text.” As seen in the screenshots leaked by Sammobile, users can adjust the speed and acceleration of the scrolling based on how their eyes and head move up and down. They can also select which applications can tap into Smart Scroll. Another feature called Smart Pause can pause a video when people look away from the screen. In a later update to its story, Sammobile revealed that the images it posted were actually taken from Android 4.2.1 firmware for the Galaxy S3. But the site’s inside source told it that the S4 will include the same features seen in the screenshots. We’ll know for sure if the screenshots are legit on March 14. That’s when Samsung is expected to unveil the Galaxy S4 at a launch event in New York City.
The software maker has convinced another device maker using Android as an embedded OS to pay it patent royalties. Microsoft has signed patent-protection deals with a number of PC and tablet makers in the past couple of years. Now it’s also forging similar deals with more companies embedding the Android operating system inside consumer devices. Yesterday, Microsoft announced that it has signed a patent-licensing agreement with Nikon. The agreement “provides broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for certain Nikon cameras running the Android platform,” according to Microsoft’s press release.
Microsoft and Nikon have agreed not to disclose specifics, but Microsoft is acknowledging that it will receive undisclosed royalties from Nikon as part of the deal. Like Microsoft’s other Android, Linux and Chrome OS patent deals, exactly which Microsoft-patented technologies the vendors are licensing is unknown. At least some, if not all, of Nikon’s Coolpix cameras are using Android inside.
This isn’t the first embedded vendor with which Microsoft has signed an Android patent deal. In December 2012, Microsoft announcedan Android patent deal with Hoeft & Wessel, a German manufacturer of devices and terminals for the public transportation, logistics and retail industries that use Android as their embedded operating system. It also signed a patent-licensing agreement with TomTom, a GPS maker, as part of a patent-infringement settlement. Previously, Microsoft signed patent-licensing deals with a number of key OEMs and ODMs (original design manufacturers) using Linux, Android and Chrome OS, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Buffalo, Compal, General Dynamics, HTC, LG Electronics, Pegatron, Samsung, and Velocity Micro, among others.
News of Microsoft’s latest Android patent deal came the same day that Microsoft and Oracle met with lawmakers in Washington to defend software patents. The pair are proposing thatlosers in software patent suits pay the winners’ legal costs as a way to try to discourage dubious patent suits. Microsoft also is promising the company will publish on the Web as of April 1 information that enables anyone to determine which patents Microsoft owns. This story originally appeared at ZDNet under the headline “Nikon signs patent deal with Microsoft for Android-based cameras.”
Take that, Apple. HTC believes it has one-upped its competition — including the marquee iPhone 5 – with its latest flagship smartphone. The HTC One features an all-aluminum construction that the company believes will set the phone apart at retail stores. ”This takes premium to the next level,” Scott Croyle, HTC’s design guru, said in an interview. “It feels more premium than anything I’ve felt out in the market.”
Croyle talked about the importance of making a good first impression with consumers, something that has become critical with HTC’s competitors all stepping up their game in regards to the quality of their phones. While HTC can’t outspend Apple and Samsung Electronics on the marketing front, the company can at least try to compete on the store shelves. Royle wasn’t shy about comparing the One’s “solid” feel to the competition, although he didn’t mention names.
His focus on the all-metal attributes is a direct shot at the iPhone 5, which similarly uses aluminum but has a top and bottom row on the back that’s constructed of glass, enabling the antenna inside to broadcast and receive signals. The HTC One, however, worked around that by building the antenna into the metal back of the phone, allowing for a more seamless looking device.
Technology companies love their buzzwords, and HTC has one for that process: zero-gap construction. ”You take the parts and join them together so you get that perfect fit and finish we’ve always promised,” Croyle said. He also referenced the cheaper plastic feel of other smartphones, likely a reference to Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy S3. While the phone has been a blockbuster hit and is universally well regarded, some have complained about its flimsy feel. HTC has long used metal in its phones, dating back to the Legend, which made its first appearance almost exactly three years ago. While the Legend was constructed out of a unibody aluminum case, the back of the bottom “chin” was plastic to enable the antennas to work.
The HTC One takes the love of aluminum even further. Croyle said it takes roughly 200 minutes to cut and process the front and rear parts of each phone. ”There are multiple panels, but they feel like one part,” he said. While the back of the phone is part of the antenna, Croyle doesn’t foresee any reception issues like the iPhone 4, which used the metal frame around the phone as its antenna, causing some signal issues when held the wrong way. Croyle promised there wouldn’t be an “antennagate” with the One.
The design team sat down a year ago and talked extensively with the engineering team to figure out a concept that would work. After the engineering team brought up the idea of using the back itself as part of the antenna, the teams got to work on several concept models of what would eventually become the One. Croyle touted the One as a big engineering breakthrough.
Croyle hopes the higher quality parts will get people to take another look at HTC, something consumers haven’t done much of in 2012. Despite getting positive reviews for its own One X flagship phone last year, the company failed to sell enough to reverse the slowdown in revenue and profits. Still, Croyle believes people will welcome the unique design. ”The smartphone industry has kind of plateaued in regards to experience,” he said. “Now was the time to look at people and how they use their phones, and focus on where we can provide innovation.”
The Android smartphone, which LG Electronics will show off next week at Mobile World Congress, has a big screen and a 1.7GHz quad-core chip. After some earlier teasing, LG Electronics fully detailed its Optimus G Pro Android phone today, a high-end model with 5.5-inch screen, LTE networking, and a quad-core 1.7GHz processor. LG often sells its phones first in its home market of South Korea, and it looks like that’s the plan for the Optimus G Pro, too.
But it’ll arrive in other areas, too, including North America and Japan in the second quarter of 2013, LG said in an announcement a week ahead of the Mobile World Congress show. That’s where the South Korean company will show off the phone andannounced three lower-end L-series Android phones, the Optimus L7 II, L5 II, and L3 II. The Optimus G Pro is a large-screen model that Android smartphone makers such as HTC and Samsung have embraced in an effort to differentiate products from the smaller iPhone. The Optimus Pro G has a 5.5-inch, 1920×1080-pixel AMOLED screen with a linear resolution of 400 pixels per inch. Combined with its relatively large 3,140mAh battery, that means people can watch Full HD video “for hours on end,” LG said.
The processor is the quad-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, and the phone comes with 2GB of RAM. The phone itself measure 150.2×76.1×9.4mm The camera has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera with an LED flash and a 2.1MP front-facing camera. A feature called VR Panorama will construct 360-degree panoramas out of an array of horizontal and vertical views around the person holding the phone. Both of the phones’ cameras can be used in a dual-recording mode that “allows users to capture video with both the front and rear cameras simultaneously for a unique picture-in-picture experience,” LG said.