Wednesday, February 29, 2012

VIDDY, Linkin Park team on latest Production Pack for the social music app

Linkin Park, which in 2003 MTV2 named the sixth greatest band of the music video era and the third best of the new millennium behind Oasis and Coldplay has joined the VIDDY generation. The alternative rock group became the latest to team social mobile video app VIDDY with a new Linkin Park Production Pack.

The Grammy Award-winning band joins the likes of Snoop Dogg, Incubus, T-Pain, The Muppets (yes, The Muppets) and Mindless Behavior with a Viddy Production Pack that allows fans to create their own 15-second music videos using innovative special effects and five new Linkin Park soundtracks, produced by the band exclusively for VIDDY.

Remember, the VIDDY app is free in the App Store, but these production packs are in-app purchases, made directly through the VIDDY app itself.

As noted, there are five Linkin Park Production Packs, each retailing for $0.99. Or, you can buy all five as a bundle for $1.99. As a special promotion, Linkin Park is giving away one production pack for free.

Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park said, "We're always looking for innovative ways to connect with our fans and Viddy provides a new and exciting creative outlet."

In addition, Linkin Park and VIDDY are offering the group's fans the chance to win an autographed guitar. Users must create their own Linkin Park band member impersonation and then upload to VIDDY for submission (you can view a fan-created Linkin Park band impersonation sample HERE).

The group itself will choose the winning submission and will announce the contest winner on Facebook on March 22. You can view contest details HERE.

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VIDDY co-founder, Brett O’Brien, "From Incubus, to Snoop Dogg and T-Pain and now Linkin Park, Viddy has seen an amazing adoption by some of the world's top artists! Linkin Park, one of the world’s most popular bands brings an element to Viddy that very few mobile app communities have. I can't wait to see who wins the autographed guitar!”

VIDDY is consistently ranked as one of the Top 25 Free apps available for download in the iTunes App Store, and in the Top 5 in the photo/video category. It did have a narrow escape recently, though. It was temporarily booted from the App Store due to racy material being uploaded by some users.



Apple joins rare company, as company's valuation now above $500B

Apple closed at $542.44, up $7.03‎ on Wednesday, putting the value of the company above $500 billion, at $505.75 billion. Apple is currently the world's most valuable company by market capitalization.

Although Apple isn't the first company to surpass $500 billion in market cap, it's currently $90 billion ahead of the No. 2 company in value, Exxon Mobil. Five other companies have eclipsed $500 billion in value.

For one, that current second highest valued company, Exxon Mobil, which is now currently worth $411 billion, was worth just over $500 billion for two short periods at the end of 2007.

Apple's arch-rival Microsoft was worth slightly more than $500 billion briefly at the end of 1999, and again in early 2000. In fact, for one brief day the company even surpassed $600 billion in value. However, Microsoft is now worth barely more than half Apple's value, at $267 billion.

Microsoft and Apple's other arch-rival Google together aren't as valuable as Apple. Google is currently valued at $201.01 billion.

Others who breached the $500 billion barrier include Cisco Systems, Intel, and General Electric, which also peaked just above $500 billion in early 2000, during the dotcom heydey.

Cisco and Intel are now slightly more than $100 billion each, and GE is worth $200 billion.

Apple has scheduled a media event for March 7, where it is believed the company will unveil the latest version of its tablet, the iPad 3. While that, its current products, and its dominance in music are helping its stock continue to rise, there is another reason: the company is currently sitting on a pile of $97.6 billion in cash.



Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day for 02/29/2012: Shopper's Paradise HD

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Shopper's Paradise HD.

Shopper's Paradise HD is priced at $2.99 in the Android Market, and is normally priced at $2.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted before, there are sometimes differences in pricing between the two marketplaces.




Shopper's Paradise HD is described as follows:
Tycoon 101

Become a retail tycoon and outsmart your competition before the last customer leaves town. In Shopper's Paradise HD, it's up to you to build a retail empire that will rule the business world.

Empire Builder

Build or buy stores, movie theaters, hotels, and warehouses. Hire and manage employees, and get the best locations. Keep tabs on specific employees such as cashiers, clerks, and managers. Schedule sales to get more customers in the doors. Watch your town grow as you grow a variety of businesses.

Homeland Security

Make sure you don't suffer from "inventory shrinkage" from thieves. Hire police officers to keep your complex safe. Maintain your properties and catch shoplifters that cut into your profits.

Shopper's Paradise HD features a variety of maps such as Easyville, Pharmacity, and Snake Road, among other scenic locales. Play at three different levels of difficulty. Can you build that Shopper's Paradise that every retail maven dreams about?
Shopper's Paradise HD has a rating of 4.7 stars in the Android Market and a rating of 4.0 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

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Shopper's Paradise HD 4.7 rating in the Android Market is based on 143 ratings, while the Amazon Appstore rating is based on 45. Based on that, we'd split the difference and say this is at least definitely in the 4-range.

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Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to developers.

Amazon.com opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.



Chrome now easily opens email links in Gmail thank to some HTML5 'magic'

We can sigh with relief and say "finally." Google has made changes using HTML5 and Chrome users will, assuming they accept the prompt seen above, be able to open email links in Gmail directly.

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Prior to this, if you hit such a link you would have been redirected to your default email program in Windows. For many, though, Gmail IS their default email "program," just through a browser. Now, if you accept the prompt above, it will open to Gmail.

Some news sites had already conceded the need for this, with a separate "share in Gmail" link on their pages.

Interestingly enough, Firefox already had such a procedure built into the browser, and you can do the same in IE, but only through the use of the Google Toolbar.

Google says you'll get the above prompt the next time you visit Gmail in Chrome, but we had to logout before we saw the prompt. It's not unusual for a logout / login to be necessary to see changes in Gmail; we've seen that scenario before.

Note: the changes also mean you can set web calendar links to open in Chrome, too. You'll see a separate prompt for that.



Twitter's 'Larry' (the Bird): logo not nameless after all

Twitter's bird logo is ubiquitous (as is its Fail Whale) but did you know that the bird has a name? Indeed, his name is Larry.

A Tweet by Ryan Sarver, a Twitter employee who works on the company's platform and API services, confirmed the fact. The revelation, for Sarver at least, came during a presentation by Doug Bowman (Twitter's creative director) during which Bowman discussed "the evolution of the Larry the Bird logo" on Monday.

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Although in comments in the Tweet Sarver said that not many know that the Twitter bird was named Larry, the info is not new. It may have been outed even before, but we know that it was at least confirmed when Twitter asked users to try and draw Larry better than "The Today Show's" Ann Curry.

It should be obvious that the name Larry probably comes from the ex-Celtics basketball star Larry Bird, and you'd be right. Peter Stringer, the Boston Celtic's director of interactive media Tweeted the question to Twitter co-founder Biz Stone about it in Aug. 2011, and the reply that came back was:

"yes it [Larry] is!"



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The best time to trade in your iPad 2? Probably about two weeks ago

As Apple's iPad 3 announcement event nears, now confirmed for March 7, folks will start warming up to the idea of trading up by selling their iPad 2 on eBay or some other venue. When, however, is the right time to sell, or is it already too late?

NextWorth, one of a number of sites that allow you to easily trade-in and sell your electronics, has put together a chart showing how the average eBay selling price for the original iPad 1 declined as the iPad 2 launch neared.

You can see that in the two to three weeks prior to the iPad 2 launch event (the announcement, not even the actual retail launch date), iPad prices declined steeply. Since the iPad 3 launch event has been announced for March 7, that period has already passed and prices should already fallen precipitously.

In addition, NextWorth notes that wi-fi only iPad values hold up somewhat better than 3G-enabled iPads. The company believes the reason for that is that since there is no data plan to be paid for, consumers are willing to pay more for the tablet itself.

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NextWorth said that this is the same basic trend the site has seen with iPhone launches. The prior model declines some 20 to 25 percent during the immediate launch period, then levels out post-availability of the new model.

Notably, NextWorth locks in values for 21 days, so if a consumer gets a quote today, that value will hold true, as long as the device is dropped off at UPS by the 21st day (and NextWorth provides a free shipping label, to boot).

The time to trade-in, therefore, is now, the site says. NextWorth says it has seen an 814 percent increase in iPad 2s being sold by their owners "from January to February already."



Proview alleges Apple subterfuge in iPad trademark case

If you want to know how anyone could sell the trademark "iPad" to Apple considering for a mere $55,000, given that the company had the iPhone, iPod, and iPod touch and had been rumored to be planning a tablet, the answer is that Apple was --- allegedly --- good at hiding its role in the negotiations.

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That's the information coming out of a press release from Proview, the company claiming to still control the iPad trademark in China. Not only is the firm involved in legal battles with Apple in Asia, it recently filed suit against Apple in the U.S., as well, charging that Apple acted "with oppression, fraud and/or malice" in its negotiations.

Proview's press release, issued on Monday, outlined how it was outmaneuvered (suckered?) by Apple:
  • Apple used a British company, Farncombe International and its Managing Director, Graham Robinson as intermediaries.
  • Apple created a special purpose company named IP Application Development Limited ("IPAD Ltd.") to create the illusion that IP Application Development Limited needed the trademark.
  • Graham Robinson went so far as to adopt an alias, Jonathan Hargreaves, which he used when negotiating with Proview.
  • When asked why IPAD Ltd. wanted the IPAD trademark, Robinson / Hargreaves replied that it was because IPAD "is an abbreviation for the company name IP Application Development Limited."
  • When asked for more details about IPAD Ltd.'s business, Robinson / Hargreaves replied by stating that "I'm sure you can understand that we are not ready to publicize what the company's business is, since we have not yet made any public announcements. As I said in my last message, I can assure you that the company will not compete with Proview."
Some of this is old information, some of it new. It's interesting that although Proview's Chinese legal battles say that the agreement never existed, for various reasons, this U.S. lawsuit wants courts to nullify said non-existent agreement.

To be clear, though, that Chinese battle is just that: over the ownership of the trademark in China. This U.S. lawsuit could invalidate Apple's claim of ownership through a number of other countries. As Proview said in its press release:

"The legal questions and remedies in the China and U.S. lawsuits are separate and distinct and have no bearing on one another."



Apple confirms March 7 iPad 3 launch event; invite teases 'retina display'

Apple has confirmed a media event for March 7th, as the Cupertino, Calif. based company sent out media invitations on Tuesday. The event had already been rumored for March 7, with the expectation being that Apple would send out invitations today or tomorrow, as Apple usually sends them about one week in advance.

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The event will take place at 10:00 a.m. PST on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. All of that was expected.

Many other things are expected for the iPad 3, which was teased in the invite as Apple said "We have something you really have to see. And touch."

That teaser seems to point to the much anticipated iPad 3 "retina display," expected to be double the resolution of the iPad 2 (in both directions) or 2,048 x 1,536. Other changes from the iPad 2 to the iPad 3 include:
  • dual-core A5X or quad-core A6 processor (of late, this has been leaning toward the A5X --- an enhanced A5 processor)
  • Slightly (1mm) thicker
  • LTE-capable
  • 8MP rear-facing camera
  • HD Facetime camera
  • Better battery life
  • Nearly identical form factor to the iPad 2
  • Possibly $70 - $80 more expensive per price tier
  • iPad 2 to continue to be sold at a lower price with lower storage
Some have taken the image on the invite to mean Apple will be dropping the Home button, something that was rumored last year.  As the, we believe this isn't going to happen, as the Home button makes it easy for a newbie to pick up the device and find their way around.

The truth will be revealed on March 7.



Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 02/28/2012: My First Tangrams

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is My First Tangrams .

My First Tangrams is priced at $1.99 in the Android Market, and is normally priced at $1.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted before, there are sometimes differences in pricing between the two marketplaces.




My First Tangrams is described as follows:
Smart Fun

My First Tangrams includes 36 Tangram-style puzzles that have been simplified for young children. Featuring vibrant colors, smooth animations, and a clean interface, this app helps kids recognize shapes and objects while improving spatial skills and having fun.

Bells and Whistles

Puzzles appear on a wooden backdrop, with the puzzle outlines on the left and colorful puzzle pieces randomly arranged on the right. The pieces are already properly oriented, so rotation is not required. Simply touch a puzzle piece and drag it to the appropriate space. If correctly placed, you'll be rewarded with the sound of a bell.

Puzzle-Solving Star

My First Tangrams features kid-friendly objects including a boat, a fish, a house, a flower, and much more. You'll also enjoy relaxing background music while you play. Best of all, you'll feel like a puzzle-solving star when you hear the applause after successfully completing each puzzle. Have fun learning shapes and solving puzzles with My First Tangrams.
My First Tangrams has a rating of 4.2 stars in the Android Market and a rating of 3.2 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

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There's a big difference between the two stores, but My First Tangrams's 4.2 rating in the Android Market comes with only 8 ratings at the time of this writing. The Amazon Appstore has 48 ratings at the time of this writing. There's also a free version (Lite) in the Android Market with a 4.4 star rating with, again, 8 ratings.

Quite a few complain that this is yet another children's game in the Amazon Appstore, arguing that Amazon.com needs to change the FAOTD for TAOTD (Toddler App of the Day).

Others note that these aren't really Tangrams (2). By simplifying the game, the developer has changed the game so much that it isn't really a Tangrams app.

There is a very highly rated free app in the Android Market called simply Tangram. Done by the well known Magna Mobile, it has nearly 9,300 ratings and a 4.5 star rating overall.

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Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to developers.

Amazon.com opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.



Anonymous, Wikileaks partner to release eye-opening Stratfor emails

In December, hacker group Anonymous broke into think tank Stratfor's systems at least twice, making off with thousands of credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information, along with Stratfor's confidential client list. Anonymous also made off with a huge cache of emails which whistleblower site Wikileaks began releasing on Sunday night.

It's an unprecedented partnership between the vigilante hacker group, which is often viewed as being on the wrong side of the law, and Wikileaks, which has been under fire since releasing information related to the Afghan War as well as U.S. State department diplomatic cables.

Wikileaks called the cache of data the "Global Intelligence Files," based on Stratfor calling itself a "global intelligence" company. More than five million emails from between July 2004 and late December 2011 will be published.

Among the examples of Stratfor's less-than-pristine email records were the following:

For Dow Chemical, Stratfor monitored and analyzed the online activities of activists seeking redress for the 1984 Bhopal disaster, including the political imposter group the "Yes Men".

Stratfor CEO George Friedman and then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz discussed an idea back in 2009 to "utilize the intelligence" Stratfor obtained from its network to create a "captive strategic investment fund."

Ironically, Stratfor even tried to get in on the "gravy train" fear generated after Wikileaks' disclosures, with an email saying:

"[Is it] possible for us to get some of that 'leak-focused' gravy train ? This is an obvious fear sale, so that's a good thing. ...... Could we develop some ideas and procedures on the idea of 'leak-focused' network security that focuses on preventing one's own employees from leaking sensitive information... [?]."

Stratfor had been aware that the e-mails would likely be published by Anonymous in one form or another. Anonymous leaked some of the emails itself in January. However, also that month, Friedman blustered, saying "Obviously, we were not happy to see our emails taken. God knows what a hundred employees writing endless emails might say that is embarrassing, stupid or subject to misinterpretation. [...] As they search our emails for signs of a vast conspiracy, they will be disappointed." That said, the company's CEO George Friedman resigned shortly after the emails went public. He sent the following message to all clients and subscribers of Stratfor. “In the light of the recent events, especially the release of our company emails by WikiLeaks, I have decided that stepping down is in the best interest of Stratfor and its customer base." Andy Bichlbaum, a member of The Yes Men, said the following: "What is significant is the picture it helps to paint of the way corporations operate. They operate with complete disregard for rule of law and human decency." Update: It was later reported that Friedman did not, in fact, resign.


MWC 2012: Android activating 850,000 devices daily, with over 300M activated overall

Google's Android chief, Andy Rubin, is at Mobile World Congress, and he Tweeted some interesting Android activation stats (though he is wont to do this even without MWC). Android is now activating 850,000 devices daily, which is a large leap from just December, when Android was seeing700,000 devices activated daily.

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Overall, Google said, there have been over 300 million Android devices activated overall.

In addition, Google said that the Android Market has tripled in size since the 2011 MWC, with 450,000 apps now in the Market, as opposed to 150K last year at this time.

In a sense, it's sort of a recovery for Google, as Apple had a huge fiscal Q1 2012, calendar year Q4 2011, with company's revenue at a record $46.33 billion, up 73 percent year-over-year. Apple also posted a record profit, of $13.06 billion (or $13.87 per share), up 118 percent over fiscal Q1 2011.

Much of that surge was based on the iPhone 4S, but Android appears to be fighting back, with new devices such as the Droid RAZR MAXX, Droid 4, Galaxy Note and Galaxy Nexus among new handsets leading the way.



Details of the Samsung Galaxy S III leak at MWC

Although Samsung hasn't even officially moved aside the curtain and publicly shown off the Galaxy S III (and they said they were NOT going to do so at Mobile World Congress (MWC), happening this week), details about the next generation Samsung superphone are emerging, and they are very impressive. It's no wonder that Samsung has become a viable Apple competitor in the smartphone world, globally.

The full specs of the Samsung Galaxy S III haven't leaked, but enough of them have leaked to make this device a rival for anything Apple is likely to ship with the iPhone 5 ... hardware-wise, at least. The Galaxy S III leaked specs, thus-far, are:
  • 1.5GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos processor
  • 4.8-inch “full HD” 1080p resolution with 16:9 aspect ratio display
  • A 2-megapixel front-facing camera and an 8-megapixel rear camera
  • Ceramic case
  • 4G LTE
  • Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Samsung disappointed many when they publicly stated the GS3 introduction event was being pushed out and would not occur at MWC, but it's hard to stop the Internet leak machine.

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Earlier rumors indicated that the GS3 would have 2GB of RAM and ship in May.

Rumors are that Apple will try to pull the iPhone 5 back into a summer ship schedule, and will ship it in June, so a May release would be a good --- if not necessary --- way to get attention onto the GS3 prior to the iPhone 5 launch.



Monday, February 27, 2012

AT&T investigating 'charging' app developers for apps' data use

Consumers are being encouraged to use more bandwidth by apps such as YouTube and Netflix that want to serve us up content, but ISPs whether mobile or fixed line want us to use less bandwidth. Something has to give, and AT&T reportedly has an idea that would place the onus for paying for bandwidth not on the consumer, where it currently lays, but on the app maker.

John Donovan, the executive responsible for AT&T's network and technology, explained the idea:

"A feature that we're hoping to have out sometime next year is the equivalent of 800 numbers that would say, if you take this app, this app will come without any network usage."

Donovan made the statement at Mobile World Congress, which began on Monday in Barcelona, Spain.

Basically, what Donovan is saying is that users of those apps wouldn't see any of the data used by an app applied to their data limit. For example, a user in AT&T's 3GB tier could use 5GB of data via some video streaming app, but not see an overage fee, as none of that 5GB would apply to their data plan.

It could be seen as "subsidizing" the app's data use, as opposed to subsidizing a cell phone, which is a frequently used scenario for carriers.

It's unclear, though if tech companies would be willing to pay wireless carriers for data use.

The proposal would also appear to violate the spirit of net neutrality, as it gives the advantage to app developers willing to pay for bandwidth.

Still, it would prove to be a solution to the content vs. bandwidth battle. It just wouldn't be as satisfying as network upgrades that would allow a return to unlimited, unthrottled bandwidth for all.



Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 02/27/2012: Whiteboard Pro

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Whiteboard Pro.

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Whiteboard Pro is priced at $1.23 in the Android Market, and is normally priced at $0.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted before, there are sometimes differences in pricing between the two marketplaces.







Whiteboard Pro is described as follows:
Jot down ideas, sketch plans, or just doodle with Whiteboard Pro, an Android app that offers a simple way to let your creativity roam. Draw shapes and erase them, just like on a real whiteboard. Choose from a variety of easy ways to fine-tune your drawings, and share your creations with your friends.

The Board That's Never Boring

Whiteboard Pro is all about simplicity. The toolbar interface is a snap to use, and it makes creating a drawing quick and intuitive. Whether you want to express your inner creative self or just play a quick game of tic-tac-toe, you'll find it easy to get started.

Don't be fooled by the app's ease of use, however; there are still plenty of opportunities to customize your work. Choose from four instant shapes (line, rectangle, circle, and freehand), four colors (black, red, blue, and green), and three line widths. It's easy to set these features and create one-of-a-kind images with very little legwork.

As you draw, use the pan and zoom features to add details. Saving, opening, and deleting files is a breeze, and the "infinite undo" feature means you can modify your work at any step along the way.

When you've completed your masterpiece, you can share it via e-mail, picture message, Bluetooth, Evernote, Catch, and more. You can also export any drawing to PNG, JPG, or SVG formats.
Whiteboard Pro has a rating of 3.0 stars in the Android Market and a rating of 4.2 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

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There's a big difference between the two stores, but Whiteboard Pro's 3.0 rating in the Android Market comes with only 4 ratings at the time of this writing. The Amazon Appstore has 74 ratings at the time of this writing. There's also a free version (Lite) in the Android Market with a 3.9 star rating.

We'll go with the high-3s / low-4s as representative of the true rating for this app. If you need something like this, take a chance on it.

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Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to developers.

Amazon.com opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.



LG negotiating to become a 'Nexus' manufacturer

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LG is reportedly in talks with Google. The company wants into the list of companies that have partnered with the Android maker to produce a Nexus device, the first handset be loaded with one of the upcoming next iterations of Google's mobile OS.

Ramchan Woo, head of LG's smartphone division, told said, "We're heavily in discussions. We're working on it."

It's unclear which version of Android that LG is vying for. The next already "scheduled" version, loosely scheduled, is Jelly Bean or Android 5.0, which is expected to ship late this year. Jelly Bean have the ability to be loaded on tablets alongside Windows 8.

Becoming partners with Apple on a Nexus device is a great opportunity for an OEM. It gives them access to the new OS before anyone else. Those devices are also uncluttered by skins such as TouchWiz and Sense, meaning they are easier to upgrade to later versions.

The latest of these have been HTC (Nexus One --- Android 2.1), Samsung (Nexus S --- Android 2.3, Galaxy Nexus --- Android 4.0) and Motorola (Xoom --- Android 3.0).

In 2011, discussing the Motorola Mobility acquisition and how Google will ensure "fairness," Android chief Andy Rubin said that once an OEM is selected for the next Nexus device, teams --- including from the OEM --- get together and work in the same building for nine to twelve months until the project is complete and shipped.

LG is a smaller player among OEMs, but this would reinforce its standing among Android OEMs. By ensuring that Motorola isn't given Jelly Bean, it would also affirm Google's claim of no special treatment for the company it is in the final stages of acquiring.



FBI has difficulty locating, recovering disabled GPS trackers after SCOTUS ruling

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that warrantless GPS tracking is unconstitutional, the FBI is taking action --- by disabling thousands of thus illegally-used GPS tracking devices that were in use.

In the ruling, in U.S. v. Jones, the Supreme Court determined that using a device to track a car owner without a search warrant violated the law. A District of Columbia drug dealer, Antoine Jones was the subject of 28 day of warrantless GPS surveillance, and the Supreme Court chose to take up the case after numerous conflicting federal and appeals court decisions, including one from August of 2010 which upheld warrantless GPS tracking, in which dissenting judge Alex Kozinski said that "1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it's here at last."


On Friday, FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann, speaking at a University of San Francisco conference called "Big Brother in the 21st Century," said that the Supreme Court ruling caused the FBI to disable about 3,000 GPS devices.

As the devices were often stuck beneath vehicles in order to track the movements of their owners, the FBI had some difficulty recovering the disabled devices, as they could no longer find their locations. Weissman said that, ironically, in some cases, the FBI was forced to obtain court orders in order to turn the devices on briefly, so that authorities could find and recover them.

Although all nine justices agreed that the GPS tracking was unconstitutional, there was some nuance to the decision. Five justices said physically attaching a GPS device to the underside of a car amounted to trespassing and was a search requiring a warrant. Meanwhile, four justices said the prolonged length of time in the Jones case amounted to a search requiring a warrant, but did not affirm whether or not GPS monitoring for shorter periods would require a warrant.



Adobe's Photoshop Touch to hit the iPad 2 on Monday, same $9.99 price as Android

Adobe's Photoshop Touch, which hit Android tablets back in November is about to hit iOS. Briefly leaked to the Australian and New Zealand App Store on Saturday, it was pulled, but you'll be able to find it among the Adobe apps on Monday, for $9.99, just as on Android.

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The app will be available only for use on iPad 2s, not iPads. Just as with Android, it will be tablet-optimized. The Android version of the app lists the following features:
  • Use Photoshop features designed for the tablet such as layers, selection tools, adjustments, and filters to create mind-blowing images.
  • Use your tablet camera to fill an area on a layer with the exclusive camera fill feature.
  • Select part of an image to extract by scribbling with the Scribble Selection tool. With Refine Edge, use your fingertip to capture even hard-to-select image elements, like hair, with ease.
  • Search and acquire images with the integrated Google Image Search.
  • Share images on Facebook and view comments right within the app.
  • Browse an inspirational gallery for the styles and results you'd like to achieve. Then follow step-by-step tutorials to easily learn techniques the pros use for great-looking results.
  • Sync projects with Adobe Creative Cloud* and open layered files from Adobe Photoshop Touch in Photoshop.
  • Image resolution: 1600 x 1600 pixels
The app currently has a 4.2 star rating in the Android Market, with 287 ratings.

Reviews of the Android version were pretty positive, particularly when the price is taken into account. We'd expect at least the same from the iPad 2 version, as well.

A few tidbits from Steve Troughton-Smith, who took apart the iPad 2 app: it's an AIR app, which he believes is why it's an iPad 2-only app, there is no integration between Photoshop Touch for iPad 2 and Photoshop on the desktop, and despite expectations of the app based on pricing, it does far more than the original desktop version of Photoshop.

You can watch a short overview of Photoshop Touch, below.





Sunday, February 26, 2012

Too good for its own good? Siri rival about to get App Store boot

The App Store's T&C's have always made it clear that Apple doesn't like imitation, as section 8.3 says “Apps which appear confusingly similar to an existing Apple product or advertising theme will be rejected." The app Evi (iTunes link) is about to learn that lesson.

Evi, also available for Android (Free), isn't a 100 percent Siri clone, as it can't integrate with the calendar and perform tasks like that, but it can answer questions ... a lot of them ... and that's part of the Siri advertising campaign.

In fact, Evi had a database of more than one billion facts available at the time of launch, according to developer True Knowledge at the time of its release. Too much competition for Siri? True Knowledge CEO William Tunstall-Pedoe says that Evi's about to get the App Store ban.

His complaints about the ban may sound like sour grapes, but there's a measure of truth to them. He said,

"I don't think it takes too much of a leap of the imagination to realise that 'confusingly similar' is code for 'competitive with' – and that all the user and press reviews along the lines of 'now you don't need to buy a 4S – you can download Evi', 'better than Siri' etc. have resulted in a change of heart from Apple about allowing its users to get the app."

AppleHour.com
Such a ban would cut off updates for the over 200,000 users who have already purchased Evi from the App Store. The only recourse for them would be if Evi was moved to the Cydia store for jailbroken devices, and that wouldn't help those that are unjailbroken.

Evi would still be available in the Android Market, where its rating isn't good: 3.0 out of 5. Quite of a few of those ratings might rise if Evi integrated with Android, though, something it could probably do if the company wanted to.

Evi is still available in the App Store, but the question is, for how long?

Update: New reports indicate that although Apple has flagged the app, Apple is working with True Knowledge to smooth out the issues, rather than simply banning it from the App Store.



Huawei intros three smartphones, MediaPad at 2012 MWC


It's Mobile World Congress so what would you expect? That's right, a lot of mobile announcements, even from manufacturers you may not be all that familiar with. Huawei, the multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services giant, announced a number of devices on Sunday, just ahead of MWC, which officially begins Monday.

Cue the Ascend D quad, a 4.5-inch 720p Android phone that the company bills as the "world's fastest quad-core smartphone," sporting the Huawei's own K3V2 CPU (also introduced) clocked at 1.2 or 1.5GHz.

The 8.9mm thick device will run Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), come with 8GB of internal storage and 1GB of RAM, along with an 8 megapixel rear camera, Dolby 5.1 surround sound, LTE support and an 1,800mAh battery that, using proprietary energy management software, Huawei claims will last for up to two days (key on the "up to").

Along for the ride are the Ascend D quad XL, which is basically the same device with a larger 2,500mAh battery (slightly thicker at 10.9mm), and the Ascend D1, which swaps out the quad-core processor for a 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU using a 1670mAh battery.

The Ascend D quad and quad XL will be available in North and South America, China, Australia, EMEA, and APAC in Q2 2012. The Ascend D1 will be available in the above markets starting in April 2012.

In addition, Huawei introduced a tablet, the MediaPad 10 FHD which comes with has a 1920 x 1200 10.1-inch display, an 8-megapixel camera, and Huawei's quad-core K3 in a package just 8.8mm thick. The Android 4.0 device is so early that the model on display on Sunday was hand-made for the event, but despite that the tablet's due to be available in Q2. It's unclear where it will initially go on sale.



HTC unveils the HTC One X quad-core smartphone, rumored since November

Here comes the quad-core device we were expecting from HTC. HTC on Sunday confirmed the existence of a 4.7-inch, quad-core superphone, dubbed the One X, powered by a Tegra 3 quad-core processor.

In fact, the HTC One X has many of the specs that were rumored in our report back in Nov. 2011. We thought it would have a 1.5GHz Tegra 3 CPU (check), a 1280 x 720 Super LCD 4.7-inch display (check), 32GB of internal storage (check), 1GB of RAM (check), support for 21Mbps HSDPA networks, and while we thought it would sport a f/2.2 lens it will come with an f/2.0 lens.

It will ship with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) out of the box, NFC, Beats Audio, and instead of offering a microSD card slot for expansion, HTC and Dropbox are offering users 25GB of online storage, similar to what Microsoft does on Windows Phone.

In addition, despite the fact that Google said "real" buttons were a thing of the past, the HTC One X will sport three touch-sensitive buttons below the display, for back, Home, and recent apps.

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U.S. users will be happy to know that the device will be LTE-capable when it hits American shores. U.S. users will be UNhappy to know that since the Tegra 3 is not compatible with LTE, the device, which will be on AT&T's network, will only have a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor.

Typical of these announcements, there's no pricing or availability info yet, but HTC has said it expects to make the One X available to its first regions within the next 60 days.



Samsung unveils Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1), refreshed Galaxy Beam projector phone

There have been concerns that with the Google / Motorola deal coming to a close, some Android OEMs will bolt, but it doesn't seem like Samsung is one of those. Just about two weeks after announcing the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0), the Korean giant has announced the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) and the Samsung Galaxy Beam, which will be an update to the original combo smartphone / projector device launched in 2010.

For the Galaxy Beam, there will be many improvements on the original device. It will sport Gingerbread (Android 2.3), a 1GHz dual-core CPU, 8GB of internal storage (the original had 16GB), 768MB of RAM (the original had only 384MB of RAM), and just like the original an integrated projector capable of a brightness level of 15 lumens. There's no word on exact release date or pricing.

Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) joins the earlier (7.0) version, adding its 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 LCD screen to the earlier's more modest 7-inch 1280 x 600 screen. The device will carry a 1GHz dual core processor and Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) and wills port a 1GHz dual-core processor.

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It will be 9.7mm thick, carry 1GB of RAM , and come in both 3G (HSPA+) + wi-fi and wi-fi only versions. Both versions will have a 3-megapixel rear camera and a VGA front-facing camera, as well as Bluetooth 3.0, GPS. The 3G version ONLY will carry a proximity sensor.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) will come with either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. Samsung says it will launch in the U.K. sometime next month alongside the 7-inch version. There is no exact launch date or pricing yet.



Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 02/26,2012: Radiant HD

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Radiant HD.

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Radiant HD is priced at $1.99 in the Android Market, and is normally priced at $1.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted before, there are sometimes differences in pricing between the two marketplaces.













Radiant HD is described as follows:
You are First Space Sergeant Max Blaster, fighter pilot and archenemy of evil space creeps everywhere. Sharp-witted with even sharper reflexes, it's up to you to dodge asteroid fields and decimate aliens attacking from the top of the screen. Blast forward and take a stand against the odious Supercreep and his synchronized hordes to stop them from destroying all humans in this challenging, colorful space shooter.

Blending the Classic and Contemporary

Radiant HD gives you arcade shoot 'em up goodness the way you like it, blending retro tropes like limited movement (right and left only) with modern takes on the genre such as upgradeable weapons and on-screen power-ups.

Battle on one of three difficulty settings through a three-part story with over 100 levels. Collect power-ups, upgrade an impressive arsenal, and dodge your foes to stay alive. Destroy over 10 huge bosses like the Planet Cruncher, the Hunters, and the Supervisor. The challenges may be steep, but the power at your disposal is staggering.

Big Guns for a Big Threat

Blasting asteroids, groups of baddies, and larger enemies can reveal credits in 25, 50, and 100 increments. Collect these and every few stages you'll get a chance to spend them on upgrades to your guns. Each weapon can go up to level 10, and the rate of fire and number of rounds fired with each shot will improve as you buy upgrades. Invest wisely in each of these interchangeable extensions like you would in a role-playing game to smooth out your weaknesses and prepare for any challenge that may come your way. They include:
  • Vulcan Cannon, a traditional blaster that fires rapidly but is fairly weak
  • Bio Blaster, a small, slow shot that deals enormous damage upon impact
  • Plasma Gun, a well-rounded weapon with moderate speed and firepower
  • Disruptor Laser, a powerful but slow laser that carves through hordes of enemies
  • Seeking Missiles, homing rockets that steer toward the nearest creep
  • Smart Gun, small, rapid shots that fire straight then curve toward the nearest enemy
Grab Passing Power-Ups
Radiant HD doesn't just ask you to dodge rocks and return enemy fire; it rewards you for your destruction and smooth moves with helpful power-ups. Like collecting credits, other power-ups may appear when you destroy your enemies. Unlike credits, though, these goodies will sate your need for instant gratification. They include:
  • Energy Shield, a guard that covers the front of your ship and absorbs painful projectiles
  • Megablast, a screen-clearing blast that wipes out all visible enemies
  • Time Freeze, a convenient time stopper that lets you gun down your foes while they sit helpless
  • Various gun power-ups, an instant increase to the level of the weapon indicated on the power-up icon
Connect to Facebook and Share High Scores

Defeating your enemies in quick succession increases your score multiplier and lets you rack up huge high scores. Sign in via Facebook so you can challenge your friends and compare scores without ever leaving the game.

Invite your friends by posting a link to your Facebook wall. View a list of your Facebook friends who play Radiant HD. Compare your high scores with those of friends on your leaderboard. You can even share your in-game achievements on your wall.

Compatibility
This HD version of Radiant is optimized for tablets and high-end handsets (Galaxy Tab, Galaxy S, DROID, Desire, Incredible, myTouch 4G, G2, EVO, Nexus One, Nexus S, etc.). Try the non-HD version if you have a lower-spec device.
Radiant HD has a rating of 4.6 stars in the Android Market and a rating of 3.3 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

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There's a big difference between the two stores, but Radiant HD's 4.6 rating in the Android Market comes with 1,261 ratings at the time of this writing. The Amazon Appstore has only 72 ratings at the time of this writing.

We'll go with the mid-4s as representative of the true rating for this app. Notably, this is the HD version for higher-end devices with higher resolution screens, but although the developer points to the non-HD version for lower resolution devices, it doesn't appear to be in the Amazon Appstore. It is in the Android Market, for the same price.

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Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to developers.

Amazon.com opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.