Monthly Archives: October 2013
Google has officially unveiled the latest version of Android 4.4 called KitKat. The latest version features a plethora of new features and improvements over the previous version. All Android versions after 4.0 update have mostly been about under the hood improvements, and Android KitKat follows the tradition. Most of the improvements in this version are about improved memory management, security enhancements and optimizations in battery life.
Apart from that, KitKat also sports a new phone app, and integration between SMS and Hangouts apps. KitKat's all new immersive mode takes the center stage in this update. It allows any app to run in a full screen mode, so that users only see what the want to see. The full screen mode will completely hide the system bar even when the user is interacting with the app. Users can bring it back by the slide gesture on the top or bottom edges of the screen.
Another remarkable achievement is that KitKat will be able to run even on older devices which are low on RAM. In fact, KitKat will be able to run smoothly on even 512 MB of RAM, so phones that couldn't run JellyBean will be able to run the latest version of Android.
Although Google has released the latest version, it will take a while before major OEMs start releasing update for their respective devices. As always, the first devices to receive the update will be Google's own Nexus devices and Play edition devices. These devices should receive the update within the next few weeks.
When Google Hangouts was released earlier this year, it had received widely varying users reviews. While it was praised for its simplicity and design, its lack of features was vehemently criticized by bloggers and users alike. Google has been fixing all relevant issues over time, such as the ability to see who's online and who's not, but the biggest update yet to Hangouts has finally arrived.
The most important feature to be added in the updated version is the support for SMS. Till now, Hangouts had not received wide acceptance majorly because of the lack of this feature. Users already had this feature in apps like Whatsapp, which is widely popular, but Google's entry might be enough to turn the tables. It is being said that starting in Android 4.4, users will be able to replace the default SMS application with Hangouts and get all their text messages routed directly to the app.
Another nifty feature coming to Hangouts is GIF sharing. Users will be able to create and share GIF images from right inside the app. Users will also be able to share their location through the app, using Google Maps by one touch only.
Google has also improved video calling by adding auto enhance feature to the app. The app will now automatically adjust brightness and contrast according to the ambient light, resulting in a much better video calling experience. All video calls will now start in HD by default.
The app update has already started rolling out, and users will be able to download it in the next couple of days.
Samsung's latest new reveal has generated quite an amount of buzz in the gadget world with its unique curved screen. Aptly named, the Samsung Galaxy Round might not be available outside Samsung's homeground South Korea right now, but tech enthusiasts all over the world have been taking keen interest in the device. Some are saying that the curved screen adds no real value to the functionality of the phone, but is a mere gimmick.
DisplayMate has recently released its analysis of the curved screen and has decided that it indeed is a very useful tweak. The 5.7 inch display on the Galaxy Round is infact quite good at avoiding reflections and reducing glossiness. Even though the curvature is pretty small, the effects are hard to ignore.
Users of the Galaxy Round feel an enhanced sense of screen privacy, thanks to the curved display which makes it harder for other people to read what's on the screen. The curved surface also works well to reduce reflections by reflecting the ambient light away from the eyes of the viewer. This also greatly reduces the interference of light reflections making the screen much easier to read and reduces eye strain.
Since Samsung has used a flexible plastic substrate to manufacture Galaxy Round's display, which enabled it to get rid of the glossy glass coating found on such displays. This has significantly reduced glossiness, making the display clear and crisp and quite striking visually.
LG has announced its own curved screen smartphone: LG G Flex, which is the direct competitor to Samsung's Galaxy Round. Whether these new era displays will be lapped up by consumers or not remains to be seen.
Google's highly anticipated gadget Goole Glass has seen a recent surge in production, ahead of its consumer launch in 2014. According to a report by the Financial Times, Google Glass has received a "substantial boost" in marketing which will enable Google to release the product smoothly in the next couple of months. Consumers however will not be able to get their hands on the product till next year.
Google might also be planning to send out more devices under its Explorer program. People who already own Glass will be able to send out invites to their friends enabling them to purchase the device. Google might be planning to diversify its Explorer program to get the device thoroughly test before it decides to make a mainstream launch.
The Financial Times report was confirmed by Google with the announcement that the Explorer program is indeed being expanded. Every Glass owner will be able to invite 3 more people to join the program, who will then be able to purchase the device. The asking price of Google Glass is still a whopping $1500 and is unlikely to change anytime soon.
Google has also announced that it has made hardware changes to Glass' design, which will enable it to support various lens shades and prescription frames. People who have the old version of the device have been given an opportunity to swap their device for the new one, which also includes earbuds. Explorer can also take advantage of this opportunity to get a different colored Glass.
Further details about this scheme will be released by Google in the coming days.
HTC One max is the latest phablet to be released by the Taiwanese company and it directly goes up against the Samsung Galaxy Note III and Sony Xperia Z Ultra. However, one thing unique about the HTC One Max is the back mounted fingerprint scanner, making it one of the very few phones that have it.
The design of the HTC One max is similar to One mini, just bigger. The 5.9 inch screen is encased in plastic. The back cover is removable to insert micro SIM or a micro SD card, but the battery cannot be removed. The 3300 mAh battery is built into the phone and cannot be replaced by the user.
HTC's implementation of the fingerprint scanner is not too great. The scanner has been installed on the back of the phone, right below the camera lens, which makes it hard to use. One good feature is that 3 different fingerprints can be enrolled and can be used to open 3 pre selected apps.
The device has a spectacular 5.9 inch 1080 display with excellent color reproduction and viewing angles. The camera on the back is HTC's 4 megapixel Ultrapixel camera same as found on HTC One, except for the fact that Optical Image Stabilization is missing from One max. The lack of OIS considerably reduced the image quality of HTC One max.
One max contains the same processor as One, that is, 1.7 GHz quad core Snapdragon 600, and beacuse of which it lags behind its Sony and Samsung counterparts, both of which have a much faster processor.
Propellerhead's Figure is a 69p iOS app released last year. Figure is powered by Reason instruments, and while the normal price of the app is 99 cents, it is available free on the app store this week.
Figure has three instruments: drums, bass synth and lead synth. The synths are powered by Thor's Polyphonic Synthesizer and the drums are powered by Reason's Kong drum designer. The instruments can be played by either tapping or scrolling across the performance box. The drums have 4 such boxes, for snare, kick, perc and hats. Synth is played through a single large box, and the scales and and range to pre selected and adjusted. There's a lot of customizations and adjustments that can be made to produce exactly the rhythm you want.
Figure is quite well designed and has a very intuitive user interface. One of the very few drawbacks is that loops cannot be exported or saved. So, if you wish to get your work out from the app, the only way is through the headphone jack.
The app store description reads:
• Make songs with Drums, Bass and Lead Synth
• Play by sliding your finger across the play pad
• Always stay in key and on the beat
• No previous playing skills required
• Tweak and twist your track on the fly
• Sounding amazing has never been this easy
• The sound of Reason on your phone!
Apple is offering the app free of cost under its App of the Week category, so download it now.
The hugely popular video sharing app Vine has just been updated bringing a couple of new features. The Twitter owned service added the ability to edit videos and save multiple drafts to its Android and iOS app. Calles Sessions and Time Travel, these new features will let the users to save multiple drafts and go back and edit their videos before they share them.
The Time Travel feature adds much need flexibility to the Vine creation process. Earlier users had to record the video in one go and had no option to go back and edit it after it had been recorded. With Time Travel, the app gives you the ability to go back and edit or replace any shot within a video at any point of time. Users can also reorganize the shots in a post. Time Travel can be accessed by tapping the green bar when video is being recorded, or by tapping the edit button when a post is being previewed.
Another new feature is the sessions feature, which lets users to save and work on multiple drafts of posts. According to Vine's official blog post: "Save any post and come back to it later –– work on up to ten posts at once. Simply tap the new icon in the bottom right corner of your camera to save a new session or open an existing one."
Vine is competing with Instagram, which also has added support for videos some time back.
If rumors are to be believed Samsung might be working on its very own version of Google Glass, which is hardly a surprise because there's virtually no product category Samsung's isn't working on. Samsung also released the first proper smartwatch a couple of weeks ago thereby trying its luck in the wearable gadget market.
A patent has recently been uncovered by The Wall Street Journal which suggests that Samsung is developing a Glass like product which can be worn like spects. The product will most probably be called Gear Glass, as suggested by the blogged Eldar Murtazin. The patent has strengthened the belief that Samsung's version of Google Glass exists and the wearable gadget market is about to heat up pretty soon.
The patent image shows that the Glasses have a camera on the front of the frame and buttons on the side. There is also a pair of headphones built into the side of the product, which will enable the users to listen to music or receive calls on the go. There's also a wire visible the image, leading to speculation that the glasses are not wireless, although the product is still in development and is far from being a finished product.
It can be expected that just like the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, Samsung's glasses will work in conjunction with a Samsung smartphone, but there's no way to know for sure right now. It is being expected that Samsung might unveil these glasses in April -May of next year.
The Galaxy S4 spinoff, name Galaxy S4 mini, is finally coming to US next month. The announcement has come direcly from Samsung, although there have been plenty of leaks and rumors to suggest the impending US launch. After the handset was launched in Canada a couple of weeks ago, pictures of Galaxy S4 mini were leaked by evleaks. The leaked photos showed three different colored variants of the device: Black Mist and White Frost for Sprint and a bright pink for AT&T. Galaxy S4 mini will be coming on major US carriers such as Sprint, AT&T and U.S Cellular and is most likely to be launched sometime in November.
Although the Galaxy S4 mini carries Samsung's flagship phone's name, its specs are a couple of notches lower. It has a 4.3 inch qHD display compared to S4's 5 inch Super AMOLED screen, and a 1.7 GHz dual core processor compared to S4's Octa core Exynos SoC. S4 mini will have 1.5 GB RAM and 16 GB of storage space, which can be expanded via micro SD cards. The device will be equipped with a 8 MP rear camera and a HD front facing camera. Additionally, the smartphone will come with NFC and infrared support and will be powered by a 1900 mAh battery.
Clearly the S4 mini is a mid range smartphone and Samsung has tried to pack all the goodness from Galaxy S4 into a smaller package. The device will be definitely cheaper, though the exact price is unknown at this time.
As predicted, Apple took design cues from the iPad mini, and overhauled the design of the iPad making it thinner and lighter. The new 5th generation iPad has been named iPad Air by Apple, and is a bit smaller in size, although the screen size has remained the same. Apple has shaved off a few inches by reducing the bezels on either side of the screen.
Compared to the previous generation iPad, which weighed 1.4 pounds, the iPad Air weighs only 1 pound. The Apple A7 chip will run the iPad Air making it a lot faster than before. Just like the iPhone 5S, the new iPad will run on 64 bit architecture. Apple has managed to make all these improvements while keeping the 10 hour battery life intact. iPad Air will replace the 4th gen iPad in the product line, and the iPad 2 will continue to sell as before.
The iPad mini also received a major internal overhaul, apart from the Retina Display. The previous iPad mini had A5 chip, but the new version of the device will have A7 chip and the same 64 bit architecture as the iPad Air and iPhone 5S. Both the iPad mini and the iPad Air will come with faster WiFi, thanks to MIMO technology. Disappointingly though, Apple has not made any improvements in the rear view camera of the iPads.
Apple will continue selling the previous generation iPad mini at a reduced cost of $299, whereas the new iPad mini will cost $399.