Friday, May 13, 2016

Thinking Out Loud: Why Can’t Google OnHub Become Google’s Amazon Echo or “Chirp”

There has been a lot of talk recently about Google making an Amazon Echo-like device that may or may not be shown off at Google I/O. But what if the devices already exist and can be purchased today? Confused? I’m talking about Google OnHub routers, of course, devices that have been shrouded in mystery since launching within the past year. It seems that a software update is all that would be needed for these devices to instantly become the Amazon Echo competitor the media can’t stop talking about. Let me explain. 

As a recap, Google released two devices recently under a new OnHub brand. We still don’t really know what OnHub is other than a line of products that Google is calling a “better, faster router,” for the time being. Of course, the devices have branding on them that reads “built for Google On,” because they are likely supposed to be a part of a bigger “Google On” ecosystem than just routers that hasn’t arrived yet.

These first two OnHub products are indeed WiFi routers, though, but they have the potential to be so much more, which Google keeps admitting to but won’t quite deliver on. In fact, the listings for each product (one made by ASUS and another by TP-LINK) say that they “keep getting better,” because they include “next-generation technologies, and, over time, will support a growing number of smart devices.” Except, we’re almost a year into this OnHub thing and there aren’t any other smart devices that play with them. Well, I wouldn’t be shocked if Nest’s products can, Google just isn’t telling us that they do.

These are routers with dual-core processors that are Weave (Google’s IoT communications layer), 802.15.4, and Bluetooth Smart ready. They have speakers, quite large ones actually. They also have ambient lights, proximity sensors, and designs that are just begging you to put them in the open, on a shelf, so that you not only improve wireless performance, but they look pretty in the process (like an Amazon Echo). The only thing I’m not sure about is whether or not they have microphones, since iFixit didn’t note one in their teardown of the TP-LINK router and neither specs list for the OnHub devices call for one.

google onhub-2

But you are seeing the vision here, right? Google already has two devices that are setup to be an Amazon Echo. They have all of the technologies inside them for Google’s future smart home products (and current Nest products) to talk to one another, speakers for talking back to you, and pretty designs so that you’ll leave them in the open. We’re just waiting for Google to turn all of that fun on and make it a reality.

With talk of Google potentially showing off a project under codename “Chirp” at Google I/O next week, but no product supposed to be there with it, you have to wonder if that can be taken as a play on words. Because if “Chirp,” which is thought to be the smarts (or the Alexa) to Google’s home hub, all it needs is to be loaded on OnHub hardware.

Thinking Out Loud: Why Can’t Google OnHub Become Google’s Amazon Echo or “Chirp” is a post from: Droid Life

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The Droid Life Show: Episode 109 – Google I/O Incoming

On today’s episode of the Droid Life Show, we’ll dive into the latest in Android, which means taking a look at the new Moto leaks from earlier in the week. Motorola and Lenovo may be struggling to stay in our good graces at the moment, but their new products could be something special. After that we’ll run through most recent Google I/O rumors, since that event kicks off next week and also chat about the new Instagram, Google’s Gboard iOS app, and more!

Join us at 1:00PM Pacific (4:00PM Eastern) for the fun.

If you miss us live, feel free to subscribe to us by following one of the links below. We have a video embed as well and will be chatting it up over at the YouTube page for the show. You can find it here.  

Subscribe | Google PlayiTunes | Stitcher | Show Page

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Sprint Offering 12 Months of Amazon Prime for Better Choice XXL Customers

For potential Sprint customers who purchase a Better Choice XXL plan, which is 40GB to share across multiple lines, Sprint is tossing in 12 months of Amazon Prime ($99 value). This promotion is available to new customers, as well as customers who upgrade to the Better Choice XXL plan.

Monthly, this plan costs $100/month. As displayed in Sprint’s graphic below, that price is in addition to $20 per device for line access on non-discounted handsets, or $10 per device for line access from tablets/MBB (mobile broadband) devices. 

The Better Choice XXL plan also comes with no worries of overages. Any line that goes over its allotted amount will be kicked down to 2G speeds, although, the amount of data in technically unlimited. If that does not suit your streaming needs, which it probably won’t, Sprint offers an auto data buy-up option, charging customers $15 per GB of high-speed data.

Anyway, if you do decide to grab this Amazon Prime membership through Sprint, here’s how it works. Customers can sign up for Better Choice XXL via phone, web, or in-store, then following activation, you will receive a text with an activation link. Once your Prime membership activation is complete, you can begin to enjoy the benefits.

If going this route does not interest you, instead, Sprint can charge you $10.99 monthly for Amazon Prime as a plan add-on.


Via: Sprint

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Original DROID Turbo Gets an Update That Isn’t Marshmallow

Verizon’s original DROID Turbo is receiving an update today that includes the “latest” Android security patches and call performance improvements. It is not an update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, in case you were wondering. 

I mention that because this phone is supposedly still getting the update to Android M, at least, that’s what Motorola’s support page for it says. Well, they aren’t 100% behind it with an accompanying note about it being upgraded “pending partner support.” In other words, if Verizon doesn’t want to help, they aren’t about to care either. That may sound exceptionally harsh and critical, but the Turbo not getting Marshmallow ever wouldn’t shock anyone who owns a DROID MAXX, Ultra, or Mini.

We’ll let you know if anything changes. For now, grab that new update and at least secure yourselves.

Via:  Verizon

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Samsung Charm Counts Your Steps and Notifies of Incoming Calls, Messages

Launched in select markets and maybe soon in the US, the Samsung Charm is a simplistic tracker and smartphone notification extension. Instead of looking like a obnoxious piece of tech, the Charm is designed to look like a piece of jewelry, coming in either Gold, Black, or Rose Quartz. 

When paired with the S-Health application via Bluetooth, the Charm will track a user’s daily activity, such as steps, distance covered, and calories burned. Even when not synced with a device, the Charm’s built-in memory will store that information for later syncing. Featuring a LED, the Charm can notify the wearer of incoming calls, messages, or any app that you allow to push notifications to the wearable via the Charm by Samsung application. Notifications are also available for charging, connectivity status, and battery level.

According to Samsung, the Charm features a “17mAh” lithium-ion battery, which is supposed to last 14 days on a single charge. 17mAh could be a slight typo, but that’s the information Samsung made available. Listed on Samsung’s French consumer site, the device is priced at about $45 (US), which is a solid deal.

Again, the Charm is not yet available for the US, but Samsung states it is working to bring it to more regions soon.


Via: Samsung

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DEAL: Nest Thermostat (3rd Gen) is $199 Today at eBay ($50 Off)

The newest version of the Nest Thermostat (that would be the 3rd gen model) has dropped to just $199.99 today at eBay in a daily deal, a $50 discount. Not only is that a hell of a deal on a smart home product that I personally cannot live without, but it’s worth noting that Nest products are almost never discounted. To see the newest Nest at $50 off is worth running to.

As a recap, the Nest Thermostat wants to automate your home and its temperature. It can be controlled via app, but it also learns your patterns and activities to know when to adjust for the perfect cooling or heating. It works with IFTTT, Amazon Echo, and only gets smarter and more useful by the week. Nest even tries to save you money each month on your power bill, though I can’t say that over the years I have noticed a major impact. I’ll let others who own one weigh in on that front.

Again, $50 is a discount we rarely see, so if a smart home thermostat is something you have been considering, now is the time to jump on it.

eBay Link

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Mortal Kombat X Updated for First Anniversary, Brings New Characters and Blood Ruby Currency

Mortal Kombat X is celebrating its first anniversary on mobile, bringing new features and characters to those who still play the title. For Android and iOS, the update offers an “expanded roster,” which includes Kold War Scorpion, Kobu Jutsu Tanya, Bone Shaper Shinnok, and more. In addition, the game now offers a Blood Ruby currency in Faction Wars, which are rewarded for Leaderboard placement and for completing Battle Rating Milestones.

To really kick off the one year anniversary, the game is gifting a support card to all players, the Fujin’s Blessing card. I can’t tell you what it does, but it’s probably pretty sweet. The card can be used while attempting to complete brand new Character Challenges that have been included in the update.

Check out the one year anniversary trailer, then grab the update by following the Google Play link below.

Play Link

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Dark Sky Weather App Arrives on Android With a Subscription Model That Few are Happy About

Dark Sky launched on Android this week to the delight of weather obsessed former iOS users who made their way to the intelligent side of mobile. While the app isn’t exactly a beacon of Material Design newness, it’s very much like its Apple-originated counterpart and should be familiar to fans. With that said, the pricing model isn’t like it is on iOS and is rubbing Android users the wrong way. 

The weather app, like the popular iOS version, includes down-to-the-minute “hyperlocal” rain forecasts, the advanced notifications, and “accurate” 24-hour and 7-day forecasts. It has the beautiful maps too. It’s very much built to be like the iOS version, only now for Android too, which the team behind it says has always been the number one request. Oh, there are widgets as well, because this is Android, dammit, and we love widgets.

So what’s up with the pricing that is irritating our Android brethren? On iOS, you can buy Dark Sky with a one-time payment of $3.99. That payment gets you full access to the app, with those timely notifications and the other benefits that make Dark Sky such a good app. On Android, Dark Sky has decided to conduct an “experiment.” Mmmm, experiments almost always mean something you won’t like, right?

The experiment is to offer a free version of Dark Sky that acts like a standard weather app you could download in 100 different places from 100 different developers. To unlock the good features (like the notifications, alerts, minute-by-minute forecasts, and widgets), you’ll need to pay a yearly $2.99 subscription. See the problem here for Android users?

According to the early reviews of Dark Sky, people aren’t exactly happy about having to keep paying $2.99 per year for access to the same app and services that iOS users get to pay a one-time $3.99 fee for. Seriously, go take a look at the reviews. As of right now, 1-star reviews are dominating the listing and almost all reference the pricing model or “experiment.”

dark sky android reviews

Of course, I have some thoughts on this idea. In Dark Sky’s blog post to announce the arrival on Android, they make mention of finally being able to create an Android app because they grew their resources to the point where they can do it “right” and also continue to support it going forward. In other words, this is probably a small outfit who doesn’t have a couple of hundred million in the bank and 100 employees to make their weather app always awesome. In order to survive and continue to support both iOS and Android, and add new features, getting paid going forward on a continual basis is probably crucial.

Now, I know that people hate this idea of having to continually pay for something when we have all been trained to pay for apps once, own them for life, and expect forever and ever support and new features. Honestly, that may not be fair or sustainable to a lot of developers. You may recall Action Launcher creator Chris Lacy charging everyone again for Action Launcher 3 and people freaking out a bit. He stood by his decision because like many of you, the dude needs to feed his family and providing a lifetime worth of updates and new features on an app that isn’t producing new money is probably not a reality.

Does it suck that the Android app is different from the iOS version in terms of how you pay for it? Yeah, I get that. But maybe we all need to think about how our favorite apps can continue to receive support and the idea that a one-off payment isn’t going to cut in any longer. I don’t know the company structure or size of Dark Sky, so this isn’t me sticking up for their “experiment,” this is just a conversation over all paid apps that we probably need to start talking about.

And now my morning chat with myself is over, feel free to check out Dark Sky.

Play Link

Via:  Forecast.io
Cheers Chuck!

Dark Sky Weather App Arrives on Android With a Subscription Model That Few are Happy About is a post from: Droid Life

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