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.

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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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