Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Verizon’s Galaxy S5 is Getting Marshmallow Today

Late Friday afternoon, Verizon updated its Galaxy S5 software support page with today’s date, a sign that an update would be arriving. We figured it might be a major update to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, since the T-Mobile variant had recently received a similar honor, but because they left out details on the page, we weren’t sure and held back on sharing the news. Then, this morning, they included update details, confirming our suspicions – this is Marshmallow. 

According to Verizon, Galaxy S5 owners will see software version VRU2DPD1 and Android version MMB29M (Android 6.0.1). The update, with the jump to Marshmallow, includes Google Now on Tap, Doze, better application permission controls, WiFi Calling, a newish TouchWiz skins with new icons, and Ultra High Quality Audio.

To see all of the new details, hit up that source link below.

To grab the updated, head into Settings>About phone>Software updates>Check for new updates.

Via:  Verizon

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OnePlus Will Let You Review the OnePlus 3 Early

To kick off the week with a Monday announcement, a Monday that just so happened to be a pretty major holiday here in the US and is not exactly a great day to announce anything that might be headed this way, OnePlus unveiled a program for the upcoming OnePlus 3 that could land you one ahead of time, for review. The program is called “The Lab,” and it works as a “peer review” program that involves 30 of OnePlus’ biggest fans reviewing the OnePlus 3 to deliver a “comprehensive community review.” 

How do you get signed up? Well, you get to apply, not just sign-up. OnePlus wants anyone who is a fan of OnePlus to apply and sell themselves on why they would be the perfect candidate for early review. You have 500 words to do so, but if you have reviewed other products in the past, linking to those reviews could and probably will be beneficial.

OnePlus says they are doing this because the community built OnePlus and they want to give back and blah blah. It’s the same story all small companies pitch to their biggest fans, which is fine. I’m just not sure I fully understand the point of a “comprehensive community review” from the biggest OnePlus fans, a group that isn’t exactly going to go into a review unbiased and open to criticizing the product in front of them from the company they already love. But hey, marketing!

As of right now, over 8,500 people are on the list and OnePlus plans to choose 30.

If you are interested in pitching your services to OnePlus for a chance to review the OnePlus 3 early, head over to The Lab here.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Google: Current Smartphones Unlikely to be Supported by Daydream VR Platform

Google’s overseer of Virtual Reality, Clay Bavor, states that folks looking to get into Daydream, the Android VR platform, should hold off on upgrading their smartphone for a couple of months. For anyone who wanted to upgrade within the next few weeks, if VR is an important purchasing factor, you may want to take Bavor’s advice. According to Bavor, it is “unlikely” that many current devices, or any at all, will be “Daydream-ready” out of the box when the platform is made available to consumers later this year. 

Stated by Bavor, “I can tell you that there will most likely not be any retroactively Daydream-ready phones.” Apparently, Google’s standards for internal components to support Daydream are so high, many of the current devices on the market, such as the Galaxy S7 and HTC 10, may not make the cut. Bavor continued with, “We want to hold a very high quality bar, and for that to happen all of the components need to be just right. So, to VR fans, I would say, hold off for a few months to get your next phone… and get a Daydream-ready phone.”

Google has yet to publicly announce what exactly separates a “Daydream-ready” smartphone from an already available high-end smartphone, but the company did list a few general bullet points for what is inside a would-be Daydream device. Phones will need low-persistence displays, a high performance SoC (system on a chip), as well as a myriad of low latency and high quality sensors. Also note that a phone must be running Android N to enable the VR Mode that is required for Daydream to work properly. Even with this information available, we still don’t know the exact requirements or if any current flagship device carries them. While most current high-end devices would meet the SoC and display needs, it’s likely that the built-in sensors are not quite up to the standards Google is requiring. Right now, specifically for developers, Google lists only the Nexus 6P as a supported device for Daydream development, but Bavor did not state whether or not it would be supported once Daydream is officially available.

Alongside the announcement of Daydream, Google listed a few partners who would have Daydream-ready smartphones later in the year, including ZTE (the company announced its first Daydream-ready phone this week), Samsung, LG, HTC, and more. If getting into virtual reality is something you have been contemplating, and don’t want to wait for a Daydream-ready smartphone, you can purchase a Galaxy S7 and Gear VR headset.

Let’s see hands for who all is fine waiting until Google’s partners release their Daydream-ready phones. Anyone?

Via: Road to VR

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Droid Life Q&A Sessions: Volume 40 Answers

We have gone over all of your submissions for Volume 40 of the Droid Life Q&A Sessions, and we now have answers for you. We received quite a few questions this week, ranging in topics from what we saw at Google I/O, to what’s the best way to get started in the connected home game. We also covered whether we feel it would be right for Google to take a more “controlled” approach toward Android updates.

Take a look at our answers below, then let us know if you agree in the comments. If you don’t, we will be more than happy to argue with you. Bring it on. 

Reminder: K is Kellen and T is Tim.

Do you think, at this point, Google taking more complete control of Android like Apple has with iOS, would be a good thing?

K:  Not really, no. That kind of eliminates the point of Android, which is somewhat of a blank canvas for all to enjoy and do as they please with (to an extent). I wish there were ways for them to get updates out faster to everyone, but Android, as of today, isn’t exactly built that way, though Google has made it better in many ways by putting an emphasis on the power of Google Play Services. I hate to say it, but if you want that experience, buy a Nexus phone. They are very good phones, affordable, and will make you happy.

T:  Google having “more control” wouldn’t exactly solve any issues we face. To start, Google makes the new Android code available to OEMs, OEMs then bake on their software tweaks, then submit to carriers for certifications and approval. Once all that is done, it rolls out to users. The process is ridiculously dumb, but that’s the world we live in — Overly regulated and overly time consuming. Google taking a more hands-on approach does not stop the carriers from managing what exactly is running on their network. I’m in the same boat as many others, and if you want Google to be in control of updates, you have no choice than to buy a Nexus smartphone.

Google logo Pixel

Can any new messaging app get a foothold in 2016 when there are so many popular apps already?

K:  Going to be tough to topple WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Google’s Allo will be a fun alternative, but is being fun and having built-in Google access enough to convince everyone you know to switch? Tough to say. I don’t really see that happening.

T:  I’m leaning towards No. Google had an opportunity to steal a bit of marketshare with Hangouts, but instead of baking other Google features into Hangouts to make it more of a robust platform, it has decided to manage multiple messaging apps that pretty much all do the same thing. There’s Allo, Duo, Hangouts, the stock Messaging app for Android, and Google Voice. Why couldn’t you just put all of those features into one app, Google? Was it really that much work? At this point, it’s too late for Google to fix that problem, and for any other company looking to get into the messaging game, good luck.

What is Motorola/Lenovo going to have to offer in order to turn this sinking ship around?

K:  They better knock it out of the park with this modular concept, offer the phone at a ridiculously competitive price, and…ahh hell, they are probably screwed. I’m actually quite excited to see what they do and am warming up to the look of the new Moto Z phone, but they seem like a mess at the moment. Poor Moto.

T:  Do average consumers even know that Motorola was bought by Lenovo? Probably not, and in the long term, that’s likely a plus for Lenovo. The Motorola name still carries weight in the US among consumers, so whatever Moto and Lenovo do offer this year, they better hope it’s awesome. It can be modular and inexpensive, that’s a good start, but as long as Moto stays true to what they have begun to represent here in the US, I think they could remain in good shape. As for  the “sinking ship” aspect, look at HTC. That company is still around, so that’s a good sign for Lenovo. You just have to keep fighting in this sector, regardless of whether you are raking in the cash or not. Sometimes it pays off to maintain the course.

moto z droid edition

Do you think Project Ara would be a hit among average consumers?

K:  Not really, no. Google can’t even sell its own Nexus phones that well, so I can’t imagine they’ll figure it out with Ara, a weird concept phone that normal consumers probably won’t understand or won’t want to try to understand. It’s a cool idea, but Google seems to have already pissed off the biggest Ara supporters with their I/O unveiling of the phone, which is a skeleton with built-in display, CPU, GPU, RAM, and battery. So much for absolute modular-ness.

T:  God no. As Kellen mentioned, Google isn’t selling millions upon millions of Nexus phones, so it seems unlikely that a product such as Ara could become heavily mainstream. Mind you, speaking relatively, mainstream smartphone usage is not all that old. Maybe in 10 years, modular will be the hot thing, but right now, many companies are focused on extensions of the smartphone (VR, wearables), so it could be that Ara is the first broad step in a big picture game plan for Google. I’m probably safe to assume that most people have never heard of Project Ara, and to make a populace informed of a new product is not cheap. Google better start getting that advertising money lined up if that’s their plan.

Having a stay at home and sitting all day profession, what is your daily routine of exercise and healthy eating so that you stay fit and not become overweight?

K:  I operate under the “I run to drink” routine, which means, I enjoy beer far too often, so I try and workout 4-5 days a week to maintain a somewhat healthy lifestyle. That typically means tons of running, because running burns tons of calories and gets me out of my cave. I also mix in massive amounts of water, fresh fruits, and avoid snacks.

T:  I have been blessed with a body that does not maintain body fat. I eat whatever, whenever I want and never gain weight. It’s a gift and I am very thankful for it. Although, my girlfriend hates me for it. Because of this, I don’t necessarily work out. On my typical day, I walk my two dogs an average of one and a half hour throughout a day, so that’s probably my workout right there. Other than that, I pig out and play Call of Duty.

project ara 2016

What do you guys think is the appropriate age for a child to have their first phone?

K:  As someone with a 2.5 year old, this is a subject I have thought about. My gut tells me that once he’s in school full-time, I’ll want him to have something, even if it’s just a cheap flip phone with phone numbers in it to call me, my wife, grandparents, whatever. But that may be in a couple of years, which seems way too early. Honestly, I don’t know. Once I get my son a phone, I’ll let you know how old he is heh.

T:  For me, a smartphone won’t be an aspect of my child’s life until they are 16-18 years of age. It’ll depend on how cool they are. However, once they begin school full-time and can be trusted with responsibilities, they will have some sort of communication device in case of emergencies.

If one is thinking of getting into the connected home game, what would be the top two (2) to four (4) products you would recommend to start off with?

K:  Nest Thermostat, WiFi cameras (probably Nest Cams because they work nicely with Nest), and some smart light bulbs. With those, you are getting convenience, a bit of security, and the feeling of some automation or control, which to me, is what the smart home experience is all about.

T:  Gotta go thermostat! Get yourself a Nest or EcoBee, then I’d probably invest in awesome LED lighting. I have always wanted smart bulbs, but my God, they are expensive. Of course, in a few months, you also need to get Google Home. Bring it on, Google.

Do you really think Project Soli will ever launch in mainstream devices?

K:  I hope so! The Soli watch was one of the coolest things we saw at Google I/O, but not just because of a demo, because Google actually showed it in a living product. I find technologies like that fascinating, though I don’t know how realistic it is in that form.

T:  Not with that attitude, it won’t. From what I saw during Google I/O, it’s happening. Insert GIF here. Technology like that can really change the way we interact with smart devices, and to me, it’s worth waiting for. Fingers crossed it is sooner, rather than later.

To see all of the past Q&A Sessions, look here.

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Samsung Made a 5.5-Inch 4K Display “For VR”

Rumors of the next Galaxy Note (6 or 7?) have long-mentioned the possibility of Samsung upping the resolution of the display featured inside. We have heard talk of 4K, which makes a lot of sense because it seems to be the next step up from QHD, but also because the company is heavily invested in VR, where higher resolution displays are needed to improve the experience.

This week, at Display Week, Samsung showed off a “high resolution for VR” display that weighs in a 5.5-inches and with a resolution of 3840×216 (4K or UHD). It’s currently only a prototype, but one has to consider the idea of it being featured in the next Galaxy Note. Then again, that would mean a shrinkage in screen real estate from recent Note offerings. 

According to UploadVR, the UHD display “for VR” had a density of 806ppi, a 44.7% increase from 2k displays, and was “pretty gorgeous, bright with excellent contrast and color.”

Here is a look at it.


VR aficionados, re you ready for a 4K Samsung phone?

Via:  UploadVR | The Verge

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Report: Samsung Pay Will Soon Move Into Online Payments too, on Both Android and iOS

To help boost the amount of users making purchases through Samsung Pay, Samsung is reportedly working on an extension to the existing Samsung Pay platform that will be available to both Android and iOS devices, as well as online for desktop users. According to industry insiders, this Samsung Pay extension could launch as early as June.

To recap Samsung Pay as a whole, it is a bit different from what is offered by Google (Android Pay) and Apple (Apple Pay). As of right now, only select Galaxy device owners can use Samsung Pay in stores, and it is also limited to whichever banks support it. The list of supported banks is growing, but there are still plenty that do not. If you do have a supported bank and smartphone, users can upload banking and credit card info into Samsung Pay, then pay for goods at almost any retailer in the US, as long as there is a MS-powered credit card terminal. Samsung Pay does not entirely run off of NFC (Android Pay and Apple Pay do), so it allows users to benefit from the service in more places.

More importantly, both Apple Pay and Android Pay heavily support online payments through 3rd-party applications. This is the area where Samsung is playing catch up and this reported extension is Samsung’s investment into that online payments realm.

Think of this possible extension as a counter to PayPal online. When checking out inside of an online store, or even through a mobile app, many retailers grant the option to use PayPal for hassle-free payments. Your banking and credit card info is already stored on PayPal, which makes the payment experience much quicker. This same experience is what Samsung is reportedly going for. By offering Samsung Pay more broadly online, as well as to virtually all Android users and iPhone owners, the company can grow the amount of users exponentially.

Details regarding partners and concrete launch timeframe are unknown, but it seems that Samsung wants to launch as quickly as possible. Of course, nothing has been made official by the company yet.

If you are a current Samsung Pay user, could you see yourself using Samsung Pay for more online desktop purchases?

Via: ET News

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The Smartphone Industry Needs to Take New Chances, Like Motorola and LG are Doing With Modules

With Motorola on the verge of announcing its newest phone fit with modular capabilities and LG having just come off a an opening month or two where it introduced its take on a modular phone, I think it’s clear that smartphone makers have realized that in order to survive going forward, they need to do something new. It’s time to innovate again. It’s time to take chances, offer more value in new ways, make phones more than just phones, and move beyond the simple, slab smartphone that just gets the basics right. The smartphone world needs something new, something fresh. The last thing it needs are a bunch of devices that the average consumer can’t tell apart but seem to fit a tech media narrative of what they view as success or good.

Many of your favorite smartphone makers, outside of Samsung, are struggling and have been for years. Since the early gold rush to Android supremacy four and five years ago, the industry has matured, maybe even plateaued, and made it extremely difficult for anyone to succeed. Companies like Samsung and Apple are still doing quite well as they established dominance long ago and haven’t given it up, partially because they have massive marketing budgets, but also because they keep making great products that mean something to owners of them. For companies like Motorola and LG, they can’t compete with that reputation or marketing budget by just doing the same old thing. And that right there is why I’m glad that they are both taking chances by going this modular route.

Think about this for a second. In the past three years, Motorola has made phones that we gave what amounts to as a “phone of the year” award twice, plus included them in the top 3 phones of the year in another. You know why we did that? Because Motorola was making phones that were simple, took it all back to the basics, and just did almost everything right. And how did that work out for Motorola? Well, they sold enough phones to miss out on every single smartphone marketshare chart, were sold off by Google for failing, and are now a part of Lenovo, who has already admitted that they aren’t meeting expectations. In other words, that approach was a colossal failure. Should they really just keep on doing the same old thing?

htc 10 review

Look at HTC this year. The HTC 10 is a phone that I think most would agree is a really good phone. HTC fixed problems from the past, by using a better camera, lengthening battery life, building beauty into hardware, and taking their Android skin down to the studs to leave a cleaner approach. But does anyone think that the HTC 10 is going to save HTC or bring them “back” as so many in the media have proclaimed? God no. They are a VR company now that makes phones on the side. They don’t hold press events for their phones anymore, they fill every private event they can with Vive demos and not phones, and are in the middle of the slowest product category exit I’ve ever seen (Yes, I’m talking about phones.).

But are modular phones the answer? Do any of us really care about adding on JBL speakers and high-end camera attachments to expand the capabilities of a phone? I don’t know that yet because no one has done it in a way to convince me that I do. At least someone is trying to convince me, though. At least someone is trying to show me that there might be something more to a phone than just the simple things. Because as we have all witnessed in recent years, those things aren’t getting it done for all but two companies. I don’t know about you guys, but I’d like to have choice in the future and for other companies to succeed and for someone to push Samsung and Apple into being better.

The thing with modules is that they have the potential to add value on top of your initial purchase. Obviously, we need companies to use those brilliant minds of theirs to come up with those ideas, but if they can, this is an area that could, in theory, succeed. Even something as simple as slapping on a battery module to the back of my phone to top it off mid-day and relieve myself of a charger is innovation. Maybe I want a kickstand on my phone right now, with bigger speakers as I watch a movie, but don’t want that added bulk in an hour. Maybe, I want to take better-than-smartphone pictures and will deal with the bulk of a camera add-on for an hour during a photo shoot before tucking it back in a back pocket. Maybe, just maybe, I want a secondary display to constantly show me information in a way that won’t drain battery or change the appearance of my phone to match an outfit today or check my blood-sugar levels. Phone expansion makes a lot of sense if it’s done right, if it adds that value, and if there is an ecosystem in place to foster continued innovation.

moto z motomods modules

With LG and the G5, they tried to go modular and probably failed. They failed, though, because their take on a modular phone doesn’t exactly work the way it needs to because they insisted on keeping that silly removable battery. You can’t ask someone to turn their phone off every time they want to adjust it – we don’t like inconveniences. They also failed because they failed to create a module line-up worth considering. If there is a takeway from the G5, it’s that we can only hope LG is learning and will get it all right with the G6, next year.

Can Motorola do it right today? All signs so far point to Motorola at least getting it closer-to-right with the upcoming Moto Z. None of the details are official, but Moto and Lenovo appear to have adopted modules that slap or “snap” across the entire backside of the phone, connect via pins, and could potentially be swapped on or off with ease. They also reportedly have created a decent-sized ecosystem of modules that will be ready for launch, unlike LG.

But again, that’s all not really the point. The point here is that for everyone involved (both companies and consumers), the chances being taken by Motorola and LG today could pay off in the long run. They could mean better, more advanced phones whose capabilities can expand and create more value for you and I, which could turn into more sales and success for them. Besides just doing the basics well, which almost every phone already does well today, we could get more.

Think about 2012 and the original Galaxy Note for a second. Remember how many in the media thought it would be a failure because it was too big with its 5.3-inch display (!), that it was awkward to make calls on, yet also couldn’t replace a tablet? As it turns out, Samsung has sold millions upon millions of the Note franchise, which will soon hit its 6th model, and ushered in an era of bigger phones that we haven’t moved away from. You could argue that Samsung’s Galaxy S line is their bread and butter, but by taking a chance on the Note line, Samsung changed the game.

That’s why I’m glad to see Motorola and LG take chances on modular phones. We don’t know if they’ll be successful with these first versions or if modules will be a thing in five years, but if they don’t try, where does that leave us? We could be stuck with what we have now, with a bunch of really good phones from manufacturers who are struggling to survive and can’t stand out, even by doing the basics right. Or, we could get the next Galaxy Note.

The Smartphone Industry Needs to Take New Chances, Like Motorola and LG are Doing With Modules is a post from: Droid Life

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DEAL: Buy HTC 10, Receive Free RE Camera During Memorial Day Weekend

A Memorial Day weekend sale from HTC can net you a free RE Camera with the purchase of a HTC 10. Currently, the HTC 10 is available via HTC’s website for a whopping $699, but with that purchase, you get a free RE Camera, which has a current sale price of $80. Regularly, the RE Camera is priced at $199. Do note that this deal is not limited to which HTC 10 you buy, whether it is the Unlocked, T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint model. 

As previously mentioned, the RE Camera is on sale, usually $200, for just $80. If you want to skip the HTC 10 completely and get the RE, now would be a good time. If you happen to need a few accessories for your existing HTC products, the company is also offering 40% off select accessories, such as the Active Earphones, Type-C charging cables, Universal Car Kit, and much more.

Follow the link below to skim over what HTC is offering this weekend only.

HTC Link

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Here is the Batman Galaxy S7 Edge, and OMG It’s Hot

The Batman themed Galaxy S7 Edge that Samsung teased earlier in the day is now official and fully unveiled. As we mentioned earlier, the partnership is based on the game Injustice: Gods Among Us, but from this “unboxing” video, it’s clear that Samsung and DC spared no expense.

In the clip, we get to see a Bat symbol emblazoned box with both Galaxy S7 Edge and “Injustice” branding. Inside, Samsung is showing off a gold plated Bat symbol accessory that matches the branding on the back of the gold and black phone, specially themed Gear VR unit, and matching case. There are headphones in there as well, though they aren’t shown outside of their box. 

As predicted, parts of the UI have been themed to play into the collaboration, including skinned icons, lock screen, always-on display, and dialer. TouchWiz has themes these days, so it’s more than likely just a special edition Batman theme.

Yeah, it’s hot and we need one now.

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#TBT: Motorola Shadow, the Fake Phone of Everyone’s Dreams

I was recently diving through many older Droid Life posts — like, 2009 and 2010 posts — and came across a device that everyone seemed very hyped about. At the time, the OG DROID was still a very popular device among Android owners, but many of them were getting ready to find a worthy successor to their new-found Android love. The Motorola Shadow, as it was known among the blogs, seemed to be the phone many of us wanted.

The Shadow featured the same full QWERTY slide-out keyboard we had learned to love on the original DROID, and the design of it oozed high-tech and modern. As it turned out, the Shadow, or at least what we thought was the Shadow, was pretty much nothing; merely a design render that got passed around time and time again. The Shadow name lived on, though, morphing into DROID Xtreme, and then finalized as DROID X. The DROID X launched on Verizon back in July of 2010 and was quite popular with Android users.

I recall specifically looking at the below render years ago, thinking to myself, “That’s gonna be my next phone.”

Did you feel the same way about the Motorola Shadow as I did?


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Want to See the Inside of Samsung’s Gear 360?


Now, if Samsung would just put the damn thing up for sale in the US, all would be good, because yes, I want one. I don’t know why, but I do.

Via:  Samsung

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DEAL: Save $5 on Chromecast and Chromecast Audio

Google’s dongle line-up is currently on sale with a $5 discount at retailers like Best Buy and through the Google Store. The dongles I’m talking about are the Chromecast and Chromecast Audio of course, two products from Google that turn TVs and speakers into Cast-ready devices for modern day stream-a-thons. With a $5 discount, you are looking at spending just $30 for each.

Not sure what a Chromecast does? Please leave now. I’m kidding! 

A Chromecast is a device that plugs into your TV, allowing you to stream content from your phone or a computer to that TV. You can toss up some YouTube clips, movies from a variety of services, music from just as many more, and even play games through them with friends. It’s one of the best pieces of technology that Google has released in recent years, especially at the price. The Chromecast Audio is similar, only its an audio-only product.

The deal ends on May 29.

Links:  Best Buy | Google Store

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Google’s Use of Oracle’s Java APIs in Android Qualify as “Fair Use,” Says Jury

A jury returned a favorable verdict for Google today in their trial with Oracle over use of Java API’s in Android. The jury, after three days of deliberation, says that Google’s re-implementation of 37 Java APIs is protected by “fair use.”

I’m no copyright specialist, but this is  good news for both Google and developers. Not only does this save Google from what could have been a multi-billion dollar settlement, it alleviates some worries of developers who use public and open APIs for their own software. 

There will be an appeal from Oracle, I would imagine, so this thing probably isn’t over. Think about that – six years later, along with a 2-week trial, and this could still continue on. Woof.

In hilariously satisfying yet related news, Florian Mueller, a supposed patent and copyright guru who takes wads of cash from anyone willing to hear his expertise on why Google, Android, and all involving parties are evil in an attempt to bend the narrative, is throwing an absolute fit at the moment. Actually, the guy has been crying over this battle on his FOSS Patents blog for weeks, almost as if Oracle was paying him to do so. Oh wait. Do you, Florian, do you.

Via:  Arstechnica | Techcrunch

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Skype 7.0 Available for Android, Redesigned UI on Tablets and Better Multitasking

Skype 7.0 is rolling out to Android users via Google Play with a ton of changes for users of the service. First thing you should notice immediately is a redesigned UI for Android tablets, bringing more of the Material Design hotness that Skype unveiled last year on smartphones. This new UI includes a floating action button (FAB), featuring quick access to new video calls, messages, and contacts. 

In addition to the design changes, Skype touts an enhanced universal search feature, making it easier and quicker to find contacts, chats, groups, and Skype bots right from the main screen of the app. Multitasking is also getting an upgrade on Skype, with the new design allowing for a multi-pane view when in landscape. To enter this, simply flip your device to landscape and you will see different sections of the Skype app neatly organized.

On top of the new look and features, Skype also declares that call quality is only getting better with the latest update, saying specifically that, “Downloading the latest version means you’ll also benefit from the latest call quality and performance improvements.”

Go grab that update.

Play Link

Via: Skype

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Verizon HTC 10 Getting Update Tomorrow With Camera Improvements

Own an HTC 10 from Verizon? Cool! You get an update tomorrow! And you get an update tomorrow! And you too, get an update tomorrow!

According to HTC’s Mo Versi, they “have the approval for the MR update that includes camera improvements and additional fixes.” That means they somehow already worked through Verizon’s 8-month (that might be an exaggeration) update testing approval process and are now ready to give you the goods. The goods being a better HTC 10 camera experience. 

For what it’s worth, Verizon concurs – you should expect an update tomorrow. This page will be live at some point with additional details.

Verizon HTC 10 Getting Update Tomorrow With Camera Improvements is a post from: Droid Life

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ZTE Announces the Flagship-Level, Affordable Axon 7, One of the First Daydream VR Phones

ZTE took the wraps off its new flagship phone this morning, the Axon 7. The phone, like most ZTE phones, is being positioned as an unlocked phone with high-end specs and an affordable price. Unfortunately, ZTE isn’t ready to share specifics on the price, but they are revealing the specs, which are very much so in the incredibly high-end category. 

The ZTE Axon 7 features a 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 20MP f/1.8 rear camera with optical image stabilization (OIS), 8MP f/2.2 front camera, 3250mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0, USB Type-C port, dual speaker setup with a dual Hi-Fi chipset (Dolby Atmos surround sound), and fingerprint reader. As for storage and RAM, ZTE is releasing two models, one with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, along with another that has 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. Each model also has a microSD slot.

See what I mean? That’s about as high-end as it gets.

zte axon 7 zte axon 7 zte axon 7

Now, about that price. All ZTE will say is that there is “value” here and that the price will be lower than other flagship smartphones of today. That should mean a sub $500 price, but are you willing to get into a ZTE phone over something like the Nexus 6P to save $50 or so? I’ll let you decide on that.

As for availability, the Axon 7 hits China today and will then make its way to other markets, including the US, in the coming weeks. Once it arrives here, you will be able to buy it from zteusa.com, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo, eBay, and Newegg. The Axon 7 will be available in either gold or silver.

Which carriers will it work on? Out of the box, it will for sure work on T-Mobile and AT&T, because of its GSM connectivity. However, ZTE says that it has the ability to work on both Sprint and Verizon. At this time, they aren’t guaranteeing that the phone will receive certification for use on those networks, only that it might “possibly” happen later in the year.

zte axon 7 zte axon 7 zte axon 7

Along side the announcement of the Axon 7, ZTE announced that they created a VR headset to pair with it, since this phone is one of the first Google Daydream-ready devices. After looking at those specs and seeing that the Axon 7 sports a QHD AMOLED display, it makes sense that it would be ready for Google’s new VR platform.

zte axon 7 vr

It’s certainly a pretty phone with great specs and tons of potential. But again, can ZTE get your cash over someone like Google or HTC or even Samsung for that matter?

ZTE Announces the Flagship-Level, Affordable Axon 7, One of the First Daydream VR Phones is a post from: Droid Life

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Samsung Working on Dedicated Controller for Gear VR

The one thing that the Gear VR experience is currently missing is, surprisingly, not content. There is actually plenty of that. In reality, Gear VR needs a controller, one that allows users to better interact with aforementioned Samsung and 3rd-party developer content. Right now, a user must fiddle with the touchpad on the side of the Gear VR headset, and in a few apps and games, that is simply not an intuitive experience. One of the reasons we enjoy playing with HTC Vive are the controllers, which makes playing games much more enjoyable, instead of twisting our heads about and pressing on the side of our headset.

According to leaked renders, Samsung is finally at work on a dedicated controller device for the Gear VR. As shown in the images, the controller will feature an analog joystick, action buttons (X,A,B,Y), three-lined menu button in the direct center, as well as two top-facing left and right bumper (trigger) controls. Additionally, the last render also details that the controller is attachable to the headset when not in use. 

Now, a controller is certainly a good start, but in my opinion, a wand is much more suitable for many VR experiences. With a wand you could point and click on items when in your virtual world, instead of a controller which is merely an uninspired replica of the console gaming experience. Vive has wands. Wii has a wand. For VR, a wand makes sense. Yes, a gaming controller certainly has its own place in VR, but a wand should come first. Call it Gear Wand – that’s badass.

Samsung has yet to confirm it is building a controller (or wand) for Gear VR.

Do you own a Gear VR? You tell me, would you want a gaming controller or wand?


Via: SamMobile | Samsung Mania

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Galaxy S7 Edge “Batman” Isn’t the Phone We Deserve, But It’s the Phone We Need

Samsung is teaming up with DC Comics and appears to be creating an Injustice: Gods Among Us smartphone. Details are scarce, but maybe part of a bigger series, the device being teased on Twitter is a Batman-themed Galaxy S7 Edge. Oh my gawd. 

Much like we saw last year with the release of a limited Iron Man-themed Galaxy S6 Edge, our belief is that this Batman phone will be pretty much your standard Galaxy S7 Edge, but entirely blacked out. We may even see a few special themes for TouchWiz, all Batman-esque, complete with custom icons and wallpapers.

At this time, release and availability is unknown, but I would suspect the device will be very limited in quantity. If you want one, keep your eyes peeled to Samsung’s Twitter and DL.

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Lenovo Admits That It’s Acquisition of Motorola is Not Meeting Expectations

On the phone side of things, Lenovo is struggling at the moment, if you didn’t know. Once a top three smartphone maker, the company is slipping as its acquisition of Motorola, which they thought would propel them towards Samsung and Apple, not away, is not paying off. In fact, during their Q4 earnings release this morning, Lenovo was quite frank in admitting that the acquisition is not meeting expectations. 

For the quarter, Lenovo shipped around 10.9 million phones globally, 5 million of which came from the Motorola side of the company. To put some context around those numbers, know that for the quarter, in China (the home country of Lenovo), smartphone shipments declined 85%. Yikes! They also said that “product transition” in North America was “not successful.”

According to Lenovo, they have “learned a great deal” since they completed their acquisition of Motorola and are looking to apply those learnings as quickly as possible. For one, they now have two co-presidents, with one focusing on China and the other on the rest of the world. While the US doesn’t have its own specific leader, Lenovo is going to focus on getting its US “business back on track,” likely with the upcoming Moto Z.

If you ask anyone around these parts, I don’t know that any of us are shocked to learn that Lenovo and Motorola together are struggling. The Moto X Pure Edition, while a fine phone, hasn’t seen much support in recent months and other than being discounted every few weeks, doesn’t even seem like a phone Motorola cares to talk much about. Couple that with the disaster of a customer service department and you don’t exactly have the most winning formula for retaining customers to drive sales. They also have a DROID line, but it’s also been well documented how unimportant it feels to both Motorola and Verizon. Oh, and Rick Osterloh, the man in charge of Motorola for the past few years, took off for Google to lead a new hardware team.

It’s hard to see much of a light at the end of this tunnel for Moto and Lenovo. Maybe a modular phone will be the ticket?

Via:  Lenovo

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OnePlus 3 Pictured During Trip Through Equipment Certification

As we keep stating, there is no doubt we are close to an official unveiling of the OnePlus 3 from OnePlus, and the latest happenings only strengthen that assumption. It appears that the OnePlus 3 has gone through TENAA equipment certification overseas, which many companies must go through to ensure their products are okayed to launch to the masses. 

During its pit stop, TENAA confirmed that the device will feature a 5.5″ FHD AMOLED display, 4GB of RAM, 3,000mAh battery, Android 6.0.1, as well as GSM, CDMA 2000, and LTE radios. Dimensions of 152.6 × 74.6 × 7.3mm were also confirmed.

Most importantly, TENAA provided high-quality photos of the device, as shown below. As I joked previously, the OnePlus 3 looks like the love child of a HTC One device and an iPhone, thanks to the plastic bands and centered camera on back, with the metallic-ringed fingerprint reader on front. Don’t get me wrong, this device looks pretty solid and we look forward to its launch.

You can only write up rumored specs and leaked photos so much before things begin to dull, so unless OnePlus decides to finally announce this device, we will probably cool it on posting OnePlus 3 news. Just announce it already, OP!

Share your final pre-launch thoughts on the OnePlus 3 below.

OnePlus 3 1OnePlus 3 3

OnePlus 3 1OnePlus 3 2


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Here are Some Moto Z Modules, Plus a Fresh Moto Z DROID Edition Look

In just under two weeks, Lenovo is going to unveil the next Moto phone, a phone we are fully expecting to be called the Moto Z at this point. Previous reports have suggested that it will attempt the modular thing with back plates, called MotoMods, that may be much more user-friendly and flexible in terms of potential than what LG tried with the G5. We may also see that same Moto Z phone as a DROID Edition, though there is no certainty that it will show up an Lenovo Tech World on June 9.

This morning (well, last night to be exact), we are getting a fresh look at the Moto Z in DROID Edition form, along with a first look at three of the MotoMod modules. 

In the image above, we can see “DROID” branding on the camera housing, which is really the only differentiator from this phone and the standard Moto Z. Well, there is always a chance that the DROID Edition will get exclusive colorways (like these heavily gold plated models), but the shape and size, along with the rear pin placements for MotoMod connecting appear to be identical.

A previous report suggested that Lenovo would simplify their line this year, by just branding the flagship Moto Z as a DROID Edition, instead of pushing out the Moto Z and then creating an all new phone (like previous DROID Turbo devices) to be sold at Verizon under the DROID name. This is yet more evidence of that happening.

But what about those MotoMod modules. Well, here are three of them.


moto z motomods modules

From what I can tell, we have (front-right) a camera module with a massive lens, shutter button and control, and flash. In the middle, that looks to me like a thicker battery pack module with kickstand. In the far back, it’s really tough to tell, but that could just be a slimmer battery pack, though there does seem to be some extra fun baked in there. Is that a button? What is that line down the middle for? (Any thoughts?)

In case you were wondering, yes these apply right onto the back of the phone. The idea here is that the ultra thin body of the Moto Z can be expanded upon by slapping or snapping these modules across the entire back. A current or magnet of some sort will hold these MotoMod modules in place through the sets of pins seen on the back. This could make for quickly swappable modules and might actually be a great implementation.

And I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but damn, this phone is growing on me.

Via:  @evleaks [2]

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Google’s Snapseed Receives Update, Brings Horizontal Flip and Last Edit Features

An update for Snapseed, Google’s photo-editing application, is bringing two new features for those who are still using the app. The two features are Apple Last Edits and Horizontal Flip. Both are pretty self explanatory, but just in case, let’s go over what they do. 

Apply Last Edits allows users to apply the same edits to a newly uploaded photo that was used last on a previously saved photo. For example, if I apply a bit of HDR to a photo, then save it, that same exact edit can be done to the next photo I upload, without me having to fiddle with the HDR dial.

As for Horizontal Flip, this feature allows the user to horizontally mirror a photo. This can be used for your fudged up mirror selfies or for whichever other use you may have for flipping a photo.

A detailed changelog is listed below, as well as a link to Google Play to download the update.

What’s New

  • Apply Last Edits from the Main Screen. Use this feature to apply the same edits on a new photo that have been applied to the last saved photo. This feature only applies adjustments that have no local dependencies (i.e. no crop, transform or brush filters)
  • Horizontal flip in Straighten (y axis). Use this feature to horizontally mirror a photo, for example to fix front camera selfies which did not get mirrored correctly by the camera app.

Play Link

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OnePlus Drops Pricing for OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X by $50

Dropping a few phones in price to likely make way for incoming OnePlus 3 inventory, OnePlus has the OnePlus X, OnePlus 2, and if you can find it, the OnePlus One on sale via its online store.

Once priced at $349, the OnePlus 2 is now marked at $299. The OnePlus X, launched at $249, is priced now at $199. I’m assuming you see a trend, as every phone currently available on the OnePlus website has been lowered by $50. 

For those here who may have purchased a OnePlus device within the past 14 days, you can contact OP support and request a refund of the price difference. Good Guy OnePlus.

Now, when is that OnePlus 3 coming?

OnePlus Links: OnePlus X | OnePlus 2 | OnePlus One (Out of Stock)

Via: OnePlus

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Never Alone for Android TV on Sale for $5, Down From $15

One of my all-time favorite games for the NVIDIA SHIELD, called Never Alone, is currently on sale through Google Play for only $5. Regularly priced at $14.99, Never Alone is the story of a young Iñupiaq (Alaskan natives) girl and her Arctic fox friend attempting to stop a blizzard from destroying their village.

The game itself is a puzzle platformer, forcing you to complete mildly difficult puzzles to advances chapters in the story. Throughout the game, as you complete tasks, you unlock additional stories based on Alaskan indigenous folklore. It adds a very authentic and visually appealing aspect to the gameplay. 

During your adventure to find a source of the massive blizzard, you are your fox will come across locals, vicious polar bear predators, as well as spirits that will help guide you on the journey. There are a few sad parts to the story, but slight spoiler alert, there is a happy ending.

If you have the required hardware (NVIDIA SHIELD, SHIELD Tablet), the game is definitely worth the $5. Do make sure you have a gaming controller, too. It is also being reported that a touchscreen version of Never Alone is set to come to Android soon.

Play Link ($4.99)

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Report: Google Created a Android Update Ranking System by Manufacturer, Might Publish It

According to a report out of Bloomberg, Google has created a ranking system for Android device manufacturers based on how quickly they are not only updating their phones to the latest versions of Android, but applying the most recent security patches as well. Google has apparently considered publishing their findings, which of course, would be bad for manufacturers, almost all of which are terrible at updating phones in a timely manner. 

The report dives into slow updates and how some manufacturers have attempted to improve their timeliness, but carrier involvement has often delayed important updates for months. Some carriers have softened timelines a bit over security patches since big scares, like Stagefright. However, the larger, feature-packed updates are still taking longer than we all want them to. None of this is news to us, as we continually complain about how much of a disgrace most Android phone manufacturers are in the update department. Sure, some have improved in recent years, but we see them all come and go as the shining update stars from time to time and hesitate to crown anyone as even “good.”

But we really just care about whether or not Google will post this ranking system, right? Think about how amazing it would be for consumers to be able to point to Google’s list and then at the manufacturer of their phone (and the carrier) to say, “You know what, you are terrible at updating, so I’m not buying another phone from you until you get better.” That’s power I think we all deserve to have.

Google could place a chart or list for this right on their Android distribution page and update it monthly. They already show updated numbers at the beginning of each month for each Android version’s percentage of the pie, so they may as well include the phone manufacturers whose phones are contributing (or not contributing) to each slice.

Quick, someone fire off a change.org petition to force Google into publishing their findings. (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

In all seriousness, this is something that Google really should do. While it might be a bit of PR disaster for a number of companies on day 1, it should only lead to improvements from everyone in pushing out updates, assuming they care about their public perception and consumers coming back for more. I can’t think of a better way to start turning this all around.

Via:  Bloomberg

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Report: Next Galaxy Note May be the Note 7, Not Note 6

In the whacky world of smartphone marketing, it may seem odd to have two lineups of devices not on the same number-naming structure. At Samsung, we have the Galaxy S line, as well as the Galaxy Note line, but these lineups are not on the same number, and apparently, that’s a problem. This issue, if it even is an issue, originates from Samsung releasing the first Galaxy Note device one year later (October, 2011) than the first Galaxy S (June, 2010). Because of this time difference, it has caused the two lineups to be out of sync in the numbering structure.

Today, the latest Galaxy S on the market is the Galaxy S7, and the latest Galaxy Note is the Galaxy Note 5. Note that the next Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Note 6, is likely only a few months away from launch. Well, according to the latest overseas report that cites industry insiders, Samsung may skip the “Galaxy Note 6” name completely, and instead, will release the Galaxy Note 7 to go right alongside the popular Galaxy S7. 

Stated in the report, Samsung wants to eliminate any inconsistency it currently has with the numbering structure, so jumping ahead to the Galaxy Note 7 seems to solve that issue entirely for them. However, to my recollection, skipping a number in a series of smartphones has not been done before, by any company, so we won’t know the possible affects it has on the unbeknownst populace. Will average consumers even notice that “6” has been skipped, or will there only be a few angry bloggers?

According a reported high-ranking representative of the telecommunications industry,”When Galaxy Note 6 has its model number lower than Galaxy S7, which is the newest model, is released, it can give out a feeling that it is an outdated phone. It is known that Samsung Electronics has made the numbers same to unify a premium image.”

That is certainly an argument Samsung can make, but if you ask me, the fact that the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S line are not the same is fine by me. The company continues to sell millions of phones, so I don’t get the sense they have been losing business because of numbering. This is the first report we have seen that describes a potential name change, and as we get a bit closer to an unveiling, we will certainly keep you posted.

I guess this answers the “Why was 6 afraid of 7?” question pretty well.

Via: ET News

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Samsung Intros Galaxy Tab Iris for India, Features Actual Iris Scanner

Minority Report, eat your heart out. This morning, Samsung introduced the Galaxy Tab Iris for Government and Enterprise use in India. While the thought of a new Galaxy Tab is not enough to get me out of bed in the morning, this tablet features a fully-working iris scanner on its backside, providing yet another layer of data protection for users of the device.

As detailed by Samsung, the idea of including an iris scanner is not exactly for personal usage, but to help India’s population as a whole. Written in the company’s press release, the inclusion of this technology, “will help India spread its Digital India vision of providing technology so that every citizen of the country can have access to financial inclusion benefits.”  With this forward step, the iris scanning technology will support, “government benefit programs,” and, “enable banks and financial institutions to streamline the process of an individual’s authentication, regardless of language and literacy barriers.”

On top of the tablet hardware itself, Samsung is also releasing an SDK for application developers to build financial inclusion, payments and authentication solutions. As you can see, Samsung’s hope is to offer a better digital experience to the people of India, where language and literacy issues are more common.

In early April, a report surfaced that the Galaxy Note 6 may also feature this iris scanning technology, but our hope is that the camera/sensors for the tech is on the frontside, not backside.

The tablet is launching in India with a price of about $200 USD.

Via: Samsung

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TripAdvisor Gains Google Play Music Integration to Play Trip-Related Tunes

TripAdvisor and Google announced a new partnership today that puts Google Play Music inside of the popular trip planning and booking service to help you get in the mood for your upcoming vacations. Through a new update to TripAdvisor, you’ll be able to stream locally-curated or tailored playlists from places all over the world. That’s a fancy way of saying that as you plan your trip to Italy, you’ll hear music you might find while in a cafe, sipping espresso. Or maybe you’ll just oonce-oonce it out for a bit once you step foot in Germany. 

Within the TripAdvisor app, users will see a Google Play Music icon within select destination pages that take them into the curated playlists. To get a feel for the integration, take a look at the image above.

If you aren’t a Google Play Music subscriber, Google and TripAdvisor are handing out a 2-month free trial of the service to help promote this new partnership.

Here are some examples of the playlists you’ll see:

Play Link

Via: Android Blog

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