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Friday, January 13, 2017

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Andy Rubin working on an AI-focused, modular smartphone

Posted: 13 Jan 2017 01:09 PM PST

Andy Rubin, who helped propel Android to the behemoth it is, has been hard at work on a new smartphone, which could see the light of day this year.

Bloomberg reports that Rubin, along with a team of around 40 from companies like Google and Apple, are part of a company called "Essential" and they have a new, high-end smartphone on the way. Citing unnamed sources, the report states the upcoming handset will feature a display bigger than 5.5 inches, but that its footprint will be smaller than similarly-sized handsets (like the iPhone 7 Plus) because the new device will feature a "lack of bezels."

The new device may also feature a pressure-sensitive screen, also like the iPhone 7 Plus. It will be housed in an industrial design with metal edges and the back of the handset will be made of ceramic, similar to Xiaomi's Mi Mix. Essential will be positioning the high-end smartphone in the same price category as Apple's and Google's flagships, which means it will likely be priced around $649.

Unfortunately, it's not known whether or not this new handset will be based off Android.

Nothing is finalized just yet, but the report also sheds light on a proprietary magnetic connector that will charge the upcoming handset and also expand the device's functionality. Rubin is working on one accessory is reported to be a 360-degree spherical camera.

The other major focus will be artificial intelligence, with this smartphone being the centerpiece to a variety of different consumer products being planned for launch later this year by Essential. What exactly that entails remains to be seen, however.

Finally, Rubin apparently spoke with a variety of different wireless carriers at CES earlier this month, with Sprint specifically name dropped. However, nothing is official just yet.

AI is a huge movement in the technology industry, so it's not surprising to hear that Rubin is diving in with a new smartphone and a suite of new consumer products to work with it. However, a modular smartphone is a far more risky endeavor, with other companies trying to make it work but nothing really catching on just yet.

What do you think of this rumor?

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Sprint offering $200 to switch carriers and sign up for an unlimited plan

Posted: 13 Jan 2017 12:09 PM PST

Wireless carriers want to convince folks that their network is the best out there. Plans and features are one way to do that, but sometimes you need a special offer to get them to walk through your doors.

Sprint is offering up another switcher deal for a limited time. It begins today, January 13, and offers $200 for each customer that switches from another carrier, signs up for a Best Buy One unlimited plan or Unlimited Freedom plan, and trades in their existing device to pick up a new one from Sprint. Each person that switches will get that $200 on a prepaid Visa card.

The offer extends to existing subscribers as well. Sprint notes that anyone who has an existing plan can get the $200 Visa prepaid card if switch a line from another carrier and add it to their account. Sprint will give a $100 prepaid card if you simply add a line to an account.

You'll need to go into a Sprint retail store to start the process off and trade in your old device. Once that's done, you'll have 30 days from activating your new line to follow the instructions on Sprint's switcher page. Your prepaid card will arrive within four to six weeks.

Do you plan on switching to Sprint?

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Top 10 Android app updates this week: Sworkit, Google Maps

Posted: 13 Jan 2017 11:04 AM PST

Welcome back to our weekly Top 10 Android App Updates column, where we take a look at the most frequently upgraded apps for the week. We've found that one of the best ways to discover useful apps is to find the ones that are actually being updated by the developers rather than selecting the apps with the most installs. As in the past, we're going to filter out minor updates for the super-popular apps that have over 10 million installs, but we'll make exceptions for apps that have had significant updates. We hope you enjoy this weekly feature and that you discover some apps that end up being useful.

 Synology DS File - Version 4.10.0

DS File

What's new in this version:

  • Supports backing up photos and videos automatically from your mobile device to the Synology NAS
  • Supports passcode lock and fingerprint lock to protect user privacy
  • Supports sharing files on the Synology NAS to other mobile applications
  • Supports renaming and overwriting uploaded files that have same names as existing files on the Synology NAS
  • Fixed an issue where file operations might fail after DS file had its background data cleared and was relaunched


Flickr – Version 4.1.0


What's new in this version:

  • Stability and performance enhancements.
  • Follow your groups straight from your feed with new groups cards.
  • Create an account with any email, no Yahoo email address required.
  • Lots of other bits and bobs to smooth over the user experience.


MyFitnessPal - Version 6.7.5


What's new in this version:

  • Notification Inbox: Catch up on all your notifications in one simple place including updates about new friend requests, messages, features, and more!
  • Meal Photos: Add photos to your custom meals to create a visual record of what you've eaten and find inspiration for your next meal.


Chrooma Keyboard - Version 4.0.0

Chrooma Keyboard

What's new in this version:

  • Neural Prediction
  • GIFs Send/Search
  • Smart Clipboard
  • More Button view (fast image share, quick settings)
  • Neural Action Row
  • Emoji Suggestions


DS photo - Version 3.11.1

DS photo

What's new in this version:

  • DS photo is now available on Android TVs, allowing you to enjoy photos and videos on the large screen of selected smart TV models or with a smart set-top box.


DS note – Version 1.8.0

DS note

What's new in this version:

  • Supports moving DS note to an attached SD card
  • Supports fingerprint lock to protect user privacy
  • Allows non-owner users to add notes in shared notebooks
  • Fixed an issue where selecting or processing multiple to-do tasks at one time might cause app crash
  • Fixed an issue where long pressing on note text in the view mode might cause app crash


Sworkit – Version 7.2.0


What's new in this version:

  • Introducing: Workout Plans!
    - Simply select your goal, "Leaner", "Fitter" or "Stronger"
    - Select your current fitness level
    - Think no more.. Just follow along with workouts designed specifically to help you to reach your goals.
    - Each plan takes you through 3 workouts per week, for 6 weeks
    - You control the workout days to fit your schedule


Adobe Capture CC - Version 2.4.0

Adobe Capture CC

What's new in this version:

  • TABLET SUPPORT – You can now use Capture CC on your tablet.
  • OTHER FIXES AND IMPROVEMENTS – This version includes bug fixes and performance improvements.


Google Maps - Version 9.43.2


What's new in this version:

  • Learn what businesses are considered "best-of" by trusted publishers (like "The Best French Bakeries in NYC" by Serious Eats)
  • Book and complete an Uber ride entirely within Google Maps
  • Add a home screen shortcut to Your contributions to contribute with one tap


PayPal – Version 6.8.1


What's new in this version:

  • PayPal Cash is now available at 7-Eleven®! Use it to add cash to your PayPal balance at stores across the US. Go to your balance and tap Add Money to get started.


Android Match

ZTE will launch an Android Wear watch with LTE this year

Posted: 13 Jan 2017 11:04 AM PST

Up to this point, ZTE is one of the few companies that has yet to launch a smartwatch, but apparently that will change at some point this year.

In a new report from CNET, ZTE USA CEO Lixin Cheng has confirmed that his company will launch an Android Wear smartwatch before the end of 2017. Cheng also said that the device will have LTE on board and that it will work without being paired with a smartphone.

While Cheng was quiet on other important details, he did add that at least one wireless carrier in the United States has already agreed to launch the wearable when it arrives.

As for why ZTE has avoided launching a smartwatch up until this year, he said that there were a variety of factors that went into that decision, including battery life. But apparently the company has worked them out, because at some point this year we'll see a ZTE-branded Android Wear smartwatch on the market.

Android Match

App.net is shutting down on March 14, source code will be put on GitHub

Posted: 13 Jan 2017 11:02 AM PST

App.net caused quite a splash when it launched in 2012, with its ad-free, subscription-genereated revenue model causing waves in the industry, at a time when many were worried about Twitter's increasing relience on advertising to make money. However, the founders announced today that the service will be shutting down on 14 March, with user signups suspended immediately.

The idea behind App.net was have users and developers pay to use the service, instead of adverts, meaning the service was completely ad-free.

Read More

App.net is shutting down on March 14, source code will be put on GitHub was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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The Guardian alleges that WhatsApp has a "backdoor" that could be used to spy on users

Posted: 13 Jan 2017 10:17 AM PST

In what I am sure was on purpose due to it being Friday the 13th, some mild form of privacy panic has hit the world due to The Guardian's article this morning about a critical backdoor in WhatsApp. It postulates that, due to how encryption keys are handled when a device goes offline and messages are not sent (for whatever reason), WhatsApp or its parent company Facebook can intercept user communications.

Read More

The Guardian alleges that WhatsApp has a "backdoor" that could be used to spy on users was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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[Because that doesn't sound ridiculous] HTC has an app to update the firmware of its USB-C to 3.5mm adapter

Posted: 13 Jan 2017 07:32 AM PST

What was wrong with 3.5mm audio jacks? They have been standard for many years, they worked reliably, and you could find tons of headphones that supported them. But no, companies have to sometimes invent reasons to change things around and here we are with the 3.5mm jack mysteriously disappearing from modern smartphones to be replaced by USB-C digital audio. Yes, I know that size constraints matter, but so far, the released phones with no jack don't make a good case for that argument and don't provide any new hardware that uses the additional empty space favorably.

Read More

[Because that doesn't sound ridiculous] HTC has an app to update the firmware of its USB-C to 3.5mm adapter was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Match

Popular board-turned-PC game Mysterium is out on Android

Posted: 13 Jan 2017 04:07 AM PST

Board games are great fun: I especially like Pandemic and Ticket to Ride. Some are so good they get turned into PC games. Mysterium is one such example, and after proving popular on Steam, it's garnered an Android release as well.

Mysterium is set in the 1920s - prime detective era, think Agatha Christie - and is a little bit like Cluedo (Mrs White, in the ballroom, with the candlestick). A ghost guides a group of psychics to uncover a murder using only visual clues, leading them to the murderer, the weapon, and location.

Read More

Popular board-turned-PC game Mysterium is out on Android was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Match

Snapchat 10 beta redesigns the interface with more accessible search and less focus on Discover

Posted: 13 Jan 2017 04:07 AM PST

Snapchat is readying an update for its Android and iOS versions that brings a new interface with plenty of usability improvements and a few added features. The update is now rolling out to beta testers on Android so you can give it a go before it goes live for everyone — and thus feel cooler than the cool kids, I guess. Just don't use the word "thus" when you tell them that.

The new interface is more colorful with a blue title bar for chats and a purple one for stories.

Read More

Snapchat 10 beta redesigns the interface with more accessible search and less focus on Discover was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Match

HTC cutting down on new smartphones in 2017

Posted: 12 Jan 2017 06:09 PM PST

Today, HTC announced its new flagship, the U Ultra, along with its more modest brother, the U Play. The move came as a surprise, as many expected HTC to hold off on a new flagship until closer to mid-year. But according to Engadget, which spoke with HTC's Chialin Chang, the company is scaling down on its smartphone releases in 2017. This year, HTC will only introduce six or seven new smartphones.

In 2016, HTC released nearly twice that number of smartphones. By cutting back, the company is focusing on the features that its smartphones will offer. This is evident with the new U smartphones, which have been crafted with close detail and showcase HTC's new Sense Companion. Sense Companion is a virtual assistant that uses machine learning to cater the phone's offerings to the user, such as suggesting that the user wear a coat before leaving for work.

It may yet be that HTC will release one more flagship this year, as well as a couple of mid-range devices, to cater to the market that it still holds some share of. We'll have to wait and see what the year holds, but we could see some of HTC's best smartphones in 2017.

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