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Best Buy offering the Chromecast for $30, throwing in $20 of Google Play credit

By Jimmy Westenberg

chromecast angle aa

Google’s Chromecast is already insanely cheap, being sold for around $35 most places. Best Buy currently has a sale going on that reduces the price and throws in some extra goodies. You can grab a Chromecast through BestBuy.com for only $30 ($5 off), and it comes with $20 of Google Play Store credit. Once you purchase your Chromecast, you’ll receive a unique code via email that will allow you to redeem your $20 through Google Play. Most Chromecast users spend money through Google Play anyway, so if you think about it, you’re getting a Chromecast for only $10. If you’d like to take advantage of this deal, head here and place your order before January 31st.

Every once in awhile, Google gives out promotions and offers through the Chromecast website. Right now, you can get two months of free Hulu Plus along with 90 days of free Google Play Music All Access. They’ll even throw in a free copy of X-Men to sweeten the deal. Suffice it to say, if you’ve been waiting to pick up a Chromecast, now is probably the right time to do so. Once you have your Chromecast, head to this website to claim your free Hulu Plus and Google Play Music promotions!

…read more

Source:: android authority

    

New MDK for Project Ara released ahead of second developer conference

By Jimmy Westenberg

Project Ara crop

Google has just released the second version of their Module Developers Kit (MDK .2) for Project Ara, which expands on how developers should go about creating new modules. We weren’t planning to see anything regarding the new MDK from Google until their next developer conference, which will be held on January 14th in Mountain View, California. Google will definitely expand on the MDK during the conference, but for now, we get a sneak peek at what’s to come in a few days.

One addition to the Project Ara undertaking is a new contactless connection system between the modules and exoskeleton that save space, reduce overall cost and will increase the overall durability of the device. What’s more, the team also introduced a new software protocol called Greybus which will better handle the communication between modules and the exoskeleton. In a future update, Ara owners will be able to manage the functions of the modules using a dedicated Ara Manager app on their devices. The app will also give users more advanced module details, and will allow users to swap the modules whenever they’d like.

We’re also getting a bigger overview on the Ara Module Marketplace, the online shop where Ara users will go to buy new modules directly from developers. Like we’ve reported in the past, the Ara Module Marketplace will be controlled by Google when it comes to payment processing. Google will also ensure all modules are safe to use for the public.

We’ll be sure to update you if we hear any new information before the conference on the 14th.

…read more

Source:: android authority

    

Google app code reveals possible future features

By Dima Aryeh

Google is a fantastic app due to the included Google Now functionality, a feature many people have become reliant on. It offers information when you need it often without you having to even ask. And with every update, the app gets better. However, Google engineers usually hide indications of future features in the code, and Android Police has ripped apart the APK to find any traces of them.

The first feature is already live, and it aims to keep you in your current app when using voice commands. Instead of taking you to Google Now when you say “OK Google,” it will pop up an overlay. Very useful! Other tidbits found in the code including more than one reference to power toggles, some code for the addition of social network posting (finally!), some code for notifications to be read through a headset, and more.

While there’s nothing too exciting found in the code of Google Search, the social network posting would be a very welcome addition. Hopefully we’ll see these changes fully implemented soon, as what was found was just tidbits of code, nothing finished. If you want more detail, hit the source link!

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Source:: androidandme

    

Google Translate to get live voice translation

By Dima Aryeh

Google Translate is a pretty fantastic service, translating better than other services and offering features like translating text in photos (on Android anyway). But with voice translation, it usually takes a while for you to finish speaking and for the app to translate it. Microsoft recently added live voice translation to text in Skype, and it looks like Google may do the same for its translation service.

According to a report by the New York Times, Google will be adding the live translation feature to its service sometime in the future. Though there are few details on what languages will be supported and how well it’ll work, Google’s expertise with languages and its acquisition of Quest Visual (creators of Word Lens) make it seem very promising.

Live translations are very useful for travel and ask people questions without having to wait, and Skype’s implementation in a voice calling app is pretty amazing. Hopefully Google nails implementation of its live translation. Translating grammar from one language to another is hard enough, but doing it live? We’ll see how Google handles it.

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Source:: androidandme

    

Making sense of the latest Android security updates scare

By Gary Sims

Personal Data Privacy and Security Act

TheHackerNews

Some of the world’s biggest publications including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes are running a story about how Google is no longer fixing security bugs in older versions of Android. The prize for the most sensationalist headline probably goes to Forbes for “Google Under Fire For Quietly Killing Critical Android Security Updates For Nearly One Billion.”

A headline about critical security updates that aren’t going to be available for nearly one billion devices is enough to worry even the most non-technical of people. With publications like the WSJ and Forbes pushing out this story, I think we can officially call this a “scare.”

It all started with a post by Tod Beardsley on the Metasploit blog. Metasploit is a tool that security experts use to test different computers and devices to see if they are susceptible to security vulnerabilities. The Metasploit tool has a large following in the security world and it garners a huge amount of respect. Tod Beardsley himself is a respected engineer with years of experience working in the security industry. He has often been a speaker at security conferences and is a member of the IEEE.

The whole business of distributing patches downstream is a whole other problem that needs to be addressed.

Tod wrote a blog post about how Google is no longer accepting security related patches for the WebView component of Android prior to Android 4.4. The WebView component is a core part of Android. It allows any app to create a mini web browser within the app itself. This can be useful for displaying simple static HTML, like help or instructions, or it can be used to build an entire app using HTML5 and Javascript. If any of these apps actually connect to the web to download content or to visit a site then the potential exists for a hacker to trick a user into opening a web site that exploits bugs in the WebView. Once exploited the hackers can take control of the device and install malicious software.

For example, if you use a RSS reader that relies on using WebView as a way to read the full story from an item listed in an RSS feed, then it would be possible for an attacker to get a story published that takes users to a malicious site. The mini web browser in the RSS reader could then be exploited, if it is vulnerable.

Beardsley does some maths and demonstrates that some 930 million Android devices are no longer receiving any security patches from Google. Everything that Beardsley has written is factually correct and the threat is real. “Without openly warning any of the 939 million affected, Google has decided to stop pushing out security updates for the WebView tool within Android to those on Android 4.3 or below,” wrote Thomas Fox-Brewster for Forbes.

January distribution numbers

But the situation isn’t as black and white as Beardsley and Fox-Brewster are suggesting. Ask yourself this question, when was the last time that Samsung, or HTC, or LG posted an update for devices running Android 4.1, 4.2 or 4.3? Obvioulsy, I am unable to keep track of every update pushed out by every company in the world, so I am sure there will be some exceptions to this, but the answer is – rarely.

Even if Google does continue support, would the devices even get it?

So even if Google fixed the source code in Android 4.3, the chances of it arriving on a actual handset are quite small. One of the first comments on Beardsley’s post was by dr.dinosaur who wrote, “Even if Google does continue support, would the devices even get it? As you mentioned, getting updates on these old devices is not an easy process as it has to get approved by the manufacturer, approved by the carrier, pushed to the device itself, and downloaded and installed by the user.”

Tod acknowledges this with a follow-up reply, “The whole business of distributing patches downstream is a whole other problem that needs to be addressed. That said, if the handset manufacturers or the carriers weren’t picking up Google-sourced patches before, I somehow doubt they’ll be faster to pick up patches from Some Guy On The Internet…”

What is really broken with Android is not if and when Google supplies patches for Android, but the ‘whole business of distributing patches downstream.’

And his point is valid in that OEMs are unlikely to pick-up security fixes to AOSP that have been published by random people on the Internet. But he also points out that the handset manufacturers weren’t picking up Google-sourced patches anyway. What is really broken with Android is not if and when Google supplies patches for Android, but the “whole business of distributing patches downstream.”

android system update

Google has done a lot to address this problem over recent years. Firstly it started de-coupling various components and services from the main Android build and offering them as updates via the Play Store. For Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google has also unbundle the WebView component and is offering that as an automatic update from the Play Store. That should stop the current situation with Android 4.3 occurring in the future.

If you are using Android 4.x then you should consider installing a browser like Chrome or Firefox to do you main mobile browser

Second, Google has various programs like the Nexus range and Android One, which allow people to buy handsets which get updates directly from Google. The result is that the downstream update model is slowly changing. It isn’t perfect by a long way, and while the OEMs and carriers remain slow in updating devices then the potential for this kind of problem still exists.

It is also worth mentioning that alternative firmwares, like Cyanogenmod, probably pick up the fixes from Google quicker than the OEMs. So technically anyone running CyanogenMod 10.x will no longer get any security updates unless a non-Google engineer patches the the AOSP or Cyanogenmod code for …read more

Source:: android authority

    

Falcon Pro 3 comes to the Play Store with a Material Design refresh

By Jimmy Westenberg

Falcon Pro 3

Thanks to Twitter’s frustrating API limits, many third party Twitter app developers have been forced to remove their apps from the Play Store. In the past, one of the most popular third party apps, Falcon Pro, reached its token limit pretty early on which forced the developer to find a token limit workaround that unfortunately didn’t resolve many issues. Developer Joaquim Verges has revamped his app with a Material Design refresh and released it to the Play Store as a version 1.0 release. There are some pretty handy features in this application, so let’s take a closer look at what’s being offered.

The first big enhancement you’ll notice with Falcon Pro 3 is the addition of Material Design. Navigating around the app is fluid, fast and offers some really nice animations. All of your notifications are tucked away on the left side of the screen in a slide-out menu that combines all of your account inboxes into one. You can even clear notifications to de-clutter your activity. The app features column-based navigation that allows you to add or remove as many different columns as you’d like. The developer even added a refresh time algorithm to only pull mentions and favorites based on your activity. So, if you’re constantly tweeting, the app will refresh more often than if you rarely use it. Just like most other Twitter apps out there, Falcon Pro 3 also features position holding on each column along with an unread indicator.

While all of these features are nice, this is still a version 1.0 release, so there are a few major features missing from this app so far. There are no settings menus, widgets or DM columns to be found throughout the app, but the developer is working hard to add all of these features in the next update. Even though it’s missing quite a few important properties, performance is pretty great so far. If you just use Twitter to tweet (and not navigate around too much), you’ll have no problem using this app with ease.

To bypass all of the tokens being used up, the developer has come up with a pricing scheme to keep the app in the Play Store as long as possible. Falcon Pro 3 is available in the Play Store for free, though functionality is very limited if you don’t want to pay. Adding one account will cost you $3.99, and each additional account runs $1.99 extra. After being burned by Twitter’s API limits in the past, this is a seemingly good way to keep the token usage down.

It may not seem like it now, but Falcon Pro 3 will likely be one of the best Twitter apps available in the coming weeks. It’s available now, so head to the Play Store link below to try it out!

…read more

Source:: android authority

    

LG G Flex 2 priced at €599.99 on Amazon.de

By Rob Triggs

lg g flex first look aa (20 of 49)

The LG G Flex 2 was recently unveiled at CES 2015 and comes packing plenty of cutting edge hardware, including LG’s latest flexible display and Qualcomm’s new high-end processor. According to a listing on Amazon.de, the LG G Flex 2 will retail for around €599.99 off-contract. This will probably work out to around $600 in the US, give or take, based on the usual price differences.

This puts the G Flex 2 just on the cheaper side of your typical flagship smartphone and certainly isn’t an unreasonable price for a handset featuring a 5.5-inch 1080p flexible display, 13MP OIS+ camera, Snapdragon 810 processor, and a self-healing cover. However, what isn’t clear is whether this is the 2GB RAM/16GB storage or 3GB RAM/32GB storage variety of the handset, although the price probably suggests the former. Unfortunately, there’s no mention of a release date either, although pre-orders are available now via the link.

If you would like a closer look at what the G Flex 2 has to offer for €599.99, check out our coverage of the launch announcement and our time spent going hands-on with the handset at CES.

What do you think about the price tag?

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Source:: android authority

    

Android devices will be used this year to modernize future census counts

By William Neilson Jr

CensusWebSite

The United States Census Bureau is planning for the 2020 census by testing a number of digital tools that would allow for the next census to be done almost fully digitally.

One idea is to start sending census forms on the Internet rather than through mail. Another idea is to start giving smartphones or tablets to census takers so that their counts can be automatically uploaded into the system when the form is filled out.

For those that don’t know, the census is taken once every decade to help determine how to draw congressional maps and to help determine how much government spending on infrastructure and services is needed in select areas.

Considering the biggest expense during the last census involved paying people to move the information from the signed form into the census system, these moves to digital devices would save taxpayers billions of dollars.

“In 2020, we hope to use technology to reduce the overall cost of the census by potentially as much as $5 billion in taxpayer money compared with conducting it on paper (as in all past censuses).” – Census Director John Thompson

Therefore, the government is implementing two trials in Savannah, Georgia and Maricopa County, Arizona. In each city, census workers this year will ask people to respond on the Internet rather than filing out a piece of mail. If anyone doesn’t answer, the census workers will go to that residence and input answers directly into their smartphones.

This is not the first time that census workers have used digital devices for their work. A small number of census workers used iPhones to collect information in follow-up visits during the 2010 census. This time, census workers will use Android phones.

During the 2010 census, those who shared a home returned a census form just 74 percent of the time. That is about the same amount as the census from 2000 and 1990. This in the face of the crazy 2010 census conspiracy theories. Apparently, some felt that there was a link between the census and Japanese internment camps, some felt that taking the census meant your property would be taken away, some felt that the census was a secret way to “help United Nations personnel round people up after Obama lets foreign troops control the country.”

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Source:: android authority

    

CyanogenMod now officially supports Android One

By Sean Riley

When Google calls their shot on taking aim at “the next billion users” with Android One, it stands to reason that everyone is going to want a piece of that billion, and CyanogenMod is no exception.

There has actually been a CyanogenMod build available for Android One for some time now, but it was unofficial and lacked both dual SIM and cellular support, so it wasn’t exactly something you were going to put on your daily driver. This first official build is CM 11, which is KitKat-based, but an update to the Lollipop based CM 12 is in the works already.

All three of the current Android One devices are supported by the same build thanks to their nearly-identical hardware. And speaking of the hardware, the CM team pointed out that this is the first time they have officially supported a device using a Mediatek chipset.

While most of us are forever trying to get the most advanced hardware out there, it is nice to see Cyanogen offering support for some of the lowest-end Android hardware on the market.

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Source:: androidandme

    

Hands-on with BLU’s latest smartphones

By Jimmy Westenberg

BLU Life One

CES 2015 is finally over, and we saw tons of new products being announced throughout the week. BLU Products, the low-cost smartphone manufacturer, had a slew of newly-announced devices at the trade show and we went hands-on with all of them.

Each one of these 4G-capable devices will be available sometime in January (with the Life One & Life One XL available in March) and will be sold for under $300 off-contract. Note that each one of these devices are running Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box, but BLU assures us they’re all get the Lollipop update within the coming months. Without any further ado, let’s take a look!

BLU Life One (2nd Generation) & Life One XL

Aside from the size, the Life One (2nd Gen.) and Life One XL are very similar in terms of specifications. The devices bring 5-inch and 5.5-inch 720p displays, respectively. They’re both running on a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410 processor with 1GB of RAM, and also come with only 8GB of on-board storage. To soften the blow, each device has a slot for microSD expansion up to 64GB. The devices also have 13MP rear-facing cameras, 5MP front-facing cameras, and are both available in Sandstone Gray, Ceramic White, Blue and Gold. The Life One (2nd Gen.) has a 2420mAh battery, while the Life One XL comes with a 2820mAh battery.

These devices will go on sale at the end of March on Amazon in dual-SIM unlocked variants for $179.00 and $199.00, respectively.

BLU Vivo Air

Next up is the Vivo Air, the thinnest out of the bunch. Coming in at only 5.1mm and weighing sub 100g, this is one of the thinnest and lightest handsets available on the market. The chassis is made of metal and glass, giving it a really premium feel in-hand. It has a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED 720p screen, 1.7GHz Octa-core Mediatek 6592 processor, 8MP rear cam, 5MP front cam, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a 2100mAh battery.

The device will be available on January 13th in White/Gold or Black/Gun Metal variants, and will cost $199.00.

BLU Studio Energy

Out of BLU’s newest smartphones, the Studio Energy is one you should consider if you’re constantly running out of battery on your mobile device. It is a bit thicker than others, and that’s because it totes a 5000mAh battery. BLU is quoting that this device can last up to four days on a single charge. Whether or not the phone can last that long, we’d expect it to last at least two days or so. The Studio Energy also has a 5-inch 720p screen, a 8MP rear-facing shooter, 2MP front-facing shooter, 8GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot with expansion up to 64GB, and is powered by a 1.3GHz Mediatek 6582 processor on this device. This Mediatek chip is known for its battery saving properties which will help the device last even longer.

The Studio Energy handset will be available on January 13th on Amazon in Ceramic White, Sandstone Gray, Blue and Gold, and will cost only $179.00.

BLU Studio 6.0 LTE

The Studio 6.0 LTE is the biggest device out of the bunch, coming in with a 6-inch 1080p display. So far, the display has offered up great viewing angles and very vibrant colors. It has a 1.6GHz Snapdragon 400 processor with 2GB of RAM, 3200mAh battery, 13MP rear-facing camera, 5MP front-facing camera, 16GB of internal storage with microSD expansion up to 64GB. The Studio 6.0 LTE is available now in Black or White from Amazon for $275.

Are you interested in any of these new devices? Let us know if you’re planning on picking one up!

…read more

Source:: android authority