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Microsoft will launch a fitness band, and the Android app is already available

By Matthew Benson

microsoft life band

Wearable tech. Depending on whom you talk to, it’s either the biggest joke ever, or an invaluable life asset. Differing opinions aside, one thing is crystal clear: it’s here to stay, and with Apple now in the game, it’s about to explode. While some companies have released no less than six devices in the past year, others such as Microsoft have stayed away, but that’s about to change.

The Microsoft Band has been prematurely outed by none other than the big MS itself, along with application information that indicates it will be compatible with Android/Google Play. The device was spotted thanks to a syncing client that was published in the Mac Store, as well as an Android app, now available in the Play Store. The apps don’t give away many details, but it seems the Microsoft Band (Lumia Band?) will have all the conventional functionality of fitness trackers, including step tracking, calorie counter and more. Given that Microsoft already published the accompanying apps, the official announcement of the device could be iminent.

microsoft band android app (1)
microsoft band android app (2)
microsoft band android app (3)
microsoft band android app (4)

What remains to be seen is how useful/original/relevant this device will be considering its about to enter an increasingly crowded market.

Perhaps the better takeaway message here lies in the story itself: multi-platform support. In addition to Android and (obviously) Windows, the Band will be compatible with Apple’s iOS. This is a dramatic step forward from the more narrow-sighted Gear wearables, where Samsung has deliberately locked them all to only run on Samsung devices, and only recent devices at that. Given that mainstream consumers have yet to buy into the whole fitness and fashion tech push, Microsoft seems to be taking the correct step in appealing to as large an audience as possible. The real question is when others will begin to do so as well, especially with some facing dire situations.

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Source:: android authority

    

Material Design update hits Google Drive, Docs, Slides and Sheets

By Jonathan Feist

Material Design apps

Google opened up sales to the brand new Nexus 6 today, it ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop, which is the first version of Android that is imbued with Material Design. No better time to push out Material Design to a handful of Google apps, this time out we look at Drive, Docs, Slides and Sheets.

The updated versions of your trio of office suite apps – Docs, Slides and Sheets – in conjunction with your Google cloud storage solution, Google Drive, will start rolling out right away and may take a few days to get to everyone.

One of the biggest changes you’ll notice, across all the properties, is the addition of an “Incoming” link in the left hand menu. This section holds all of the goodies that others have shared with you through Google’s services. Not unlike the Incoming section you would find in Google Drive on the web.

Material Design for Google Drive Docs Sheets Slides

The Material Design improvements are about as good as you’d expect to see for non-Lollipop creations. The hamburger menu gets a little overhaul and there are a few nifty new animations to enjoy, including a new refresh animation.

In terms of functionality, I am very excited to see some old school keyboard shortcuts updating in the mix. Ctrl+C should work much better now when attached to a Bluetooth keyboard. A new “Make a copy” button under “Share & export” again duplicates features found in Drive/Docs on the web.

Last, Google Sheets is receiving a tiny addition that will make some of us very happy, you can now select a range of cells, by tapping and dragging, while editing a formula.

For a fresh install of Google’s apps, head on over to the Play Store – again, that was Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides getting the Material Design touches today. For those of us with the apps already installed, look out for the updates coming soon.

Are you liking all of these Material Design app updates slowly trickling through, or would you rather just wait for Android 5.0 Lollipop to get them all at once?

…read more

Source:: android authority

    

Huawei angers customers with no Kitkat update for Ascend Mate 2

By Matthew Benson

Huawei Ascend Mate 2 II aa 8

If there is one thing that irks tech enthusiasts, it’s waiting for their device to receive the latest OS version. If there is one thing that riles them up, it’s OEM or carriers announcing said devices won’t receive an update. And if there is one thing that drives people crazy, it’s when companies announce their relatively new phones won’t get updated, and don’t even provide an explanation. Huawei had better be prepared for a world of hate in the coming days and weeks as the USA branch has just announced its Ascend Mate 2 will not be getting KitKat. No reason was given unfortunately, though the company promises that customers can “expect superior hardware with the latest software going forward.” A quick glance at the comments below the revelation offer a variable firestorm of hostility with users openly proclaiming they are through with the company to some threatening to alter their YouTube reviews to reflect the current situation.

The Huawei Ascend Made 2 was released this past July and features a $299 price tag with decent specs, including a 6.1 inch 720p display, 13 megapixel camera, Snapdragon 400, and 2GB of RAM. Given that KitKat it supposed to run on even the most low end devices, it’s rather astounding Huawei can make this decision, all the more so when considering the phone isn’t even 6 months old yet. While it is safe to say that the more hardcore Android user will take to rooting their phone (if they haven’t done so already) and installing Cyanogenmod or Paranoia, the mainstream customer-arguably the target market considering the price and spec point-will simply be left out to pasture by a company claiming it wants to appeal to Americans and expand its market share.

Huawei owners, please feel free to vent your frustrations in the comments below.

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Source:: android authority

    

Samsung continues to lose market share at a rapid rate; Q3 net profit down nearly 50%

By Matthew Benson

iphone 6 plus vs samsung galaxy note 3 quick look aa (16 of 20)

It seems that Samsung’s monumental success may be over; at least if things continue as they are. The company reported its Q3 2014 earnings and things are not looking particularly good. Net profit fell 48.8% from this time last year, at 4.22 billion won (roughly $4 billion). Likewise, operating profit dropped 60% to $4.06 trillion won from Q3 2013. While these numbers would be astronomic for any normal company, the dramatic rise of aggressive rivals from China, including Xiaomi and Oppo, has had a major effect on the chaebol’s bottom line. In fact, it seems as if Samsung is the only company actually doing progressively worse over time as primary domestic rival LG just reported its best smartphone quarter ever, no doubt thanks in large part to the widely well received LG G3.

In theory, it’s quite easy to understand the driving force behind Samsung’s slipping sales. It’s always difficult to be #1, and like any leader, power and performance eventually wanes over time. Appreciate that – just a few years ago – the Android line-up consisted of a host of rudimentary phones with unimpressive specs and displays, and the Galaxy S and S2, with their ravishing AMOLED panels won over consumers and quickly catapulted Samsung and the Galaxy brand to the forefront of what was considered ‘hot’. Fast forward to the cusp of 2015 and we have QHD panels from unlikely players, devices with top notch processors from smaller rivals, and superior design and style from devices still on the market. In short: Samsung’s products simply don’t have the appeal they once had, especially not at the seemingly exorbitant price ranges they once easily commanded.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport Review Burgundy-13

Equally problematic is the sheer range of products released this year. Considering tablets alone, over 20 different models were launched in no less than 4 different product lines: the Tab Pro series, Tab 4 series, Tab S series, and now the Tab Active. There are multiple size configurations, multiple storage configurations, and even multiple data connectivity configurations. And let’s not forget the Korean exclusive Galaxy W which is a tablet in everything but name. Then consider the menagerie of phones, and the half-dozen smartwatches released in the past year. To say this is a diverse product line-up is an understatement; there are just too many products for consumers to choose from, and until very recently all were made entirely of plastic.

Before hitting the panic button, it’s important to realize Q3 covered the period of July-September, and thus sales for the Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy Note 4 would not have a large impact given their mid-late September release dates. It’s highly possible Note 4 sales will provide a major boost in profit, but given the sheer number of phablets currently in the market today, including the upcoming Nexus 6 and Galaxy Mega 2, it’s difficult to be certain.

samsung gear vr aa 6

One thing is clear though: Samsung needs to make some major changes in the next year. Devices like the Galaxy Note Edge provide for some new form and functionality aspects, but other devices like the Galaxy A5 seem to have little going for them save for a metal encasing. The real question lies in store for 2015: where can things go now that screen resolution and processing speeds have reached a saturation point? Will next year finally see the release of a folding device the likes of which was suggested during Samsug’s CES 2013 YOUM video presentation? Perhaps for investors and fans alike, it had better. On the other hand, it is important to realize and recognize the breadth of leadership Samsung possesses as a leader in numerous fields, namely display technology and memory. It’s likely that as the industry becomes increasingly commodified that Samsung will continue to derive more of its profit from simple component sales and manufacturing. While far less exciting than having a market dominant position, Samsung clearly has solid fundamentals and will be clearly working harder than ever to rectify this as soon as possible.

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Source:: android authority

    

Google making it easy for 3rd party apps to integrate ‘Ok Google’ search

By Andrew Grush

okgoog

It’s been over two years now since Google Now was first introduced with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and in that time we’ve seen it and the entire Google voice search experience improve dramatically. But what about extending voice search and the “Ok, Google” command into the realm of third party apps? Today Google announced on its developer’s blog that it is making it easy for developers to add “Ok, Google” support to their apps.

As Google says in its blog post, that means users will soon be able to bring up the “Ok, Google” Command and say things like “Ok Google, search for hotels in Maui on TripAdvisor” or “Ok Google, search pizza on Eat24”. The only catch is that your favorite app developers first need to insert a few lines of code into their apps to make the magic happen.

When Google says a few lines of code, they mean it. Reportedly all developers need to do is add the following code to their AndroidManifest.xml:

We can certainly see how this could make searching for things a heck of a lot easier, provided enough app makers embrace it. Considering how easy Google is making things, I don’t know why they wouldn’t.

As for what devices will support this functionality? All a user will need is an Android device with Jelly Bean or higher and with Google app v3.5 or higher. Google also mentions end users will be able to enable “Ok, Google” hot-word detection “from any screen, which offers them the fastest route between their search command and your app!”

What do you think of this upcoming 3rd party “Ok, Google” feature, potentially useful? Do you think many app developers will make use of it?

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Source:: android authority

    

What does Apple Pay mean for Android?

By Simon Hill

google wallet

You could be forgiven for rolling your eyes when Apple revealed that it was all set to transform the world of mobile payments with incredible, groundbreaking innovations like NFC (near field communication) and a dedicated chip (or Secure Element) to store your details safely.

The idea of tapping your smartphone at a terminal to pay for something is not new. Google Wallet was released in the U.S. back in 2011 and it featured NFC and the Secure Element. A number of potential competitors have popped up since then including PayPal, Square, and Softcard.

Despite the availability of mobile payment systems the adoption by consumers has been slow. Apple may be behind the curve, but it’s not messing about. Apple Pay comes with a wide range of banks and businesses as partners, and since it uses industry standards there’s no reason that any of these new terminals won’t work with all the existing payment solutions on Android.

Why haven’t mobile payments taken off?

I was writing about the potential of NFC almost exactly two years ago. Mobile payments are just the highest profile use case for the technology, but the sticking points I identified back then haven’t changed.

  1. There’s a lot of competition in this space.
  2. There’s a chicken and egg situation with retailers in that they don’t want to spend on terminals until there’s a big enough user base, but the user base can’t grow without more places accepting mobile payments.

There’s a good reason that companies won’t work together and establish a single payment option and it’s nicely summed up by this prediction from Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner: “We expect global mobile transaction volume and value to average 35 percent annual growth between 2012 and 2017, and we are forecasting a market worth $721 billion with more than 450 million users by 2017.”

Whoever handles those payments can scrape off some kind of small percentage transaction fee, and that’s going to amount to a lot of money. So we end up with MasterCard’s PayPass, the Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Softcard (you can probably guess why they changed the name from Isis Wallet), and more. That’s just the NFC payment line-up; there are also alternatives like PayPal trying to stake a claim in this market.

MasterCard definitely wins the fingers-in-pies prize because it supports its own solution, PayPass, but it’s also onboard with Softcard, Google Wallet, and Apple Pay. Since there are established industry standards now for the tap and go technology, we should see more cross-over like this.

Apple Pay is also going to help deal with the second point as well, by encouraging all those retail partners announced at the reveal to install the necessary technology in their stores.

How is Apple Pay different?

There’s one pretty important difference with Apple Pay that makes it more appealing and convenient as a solution. The Touch ID allows you to skip the PIN entry requirement and just rest your finger on the Home button. It’s really slick and quick, and it’s relatively secure.

iphone 6 plus aa (12 of 15)

Consider the improved transaction experience in-store at a terminal where you no longer have to enter a PIN, and at home shopping online where you don’t have to worry about passwords or card details.

I realize that Samsung introduced this with the Galaxy S5 where you can scan your fingerprint for PayPal payments, but Verizon blocked it and the functionality doesn’t extend to things like Google Wallet for NFC payments. It also just isn’t as slick as Touch ID, which doesn’t require a swipe motion. Samsung has made improvements with the Note 4, but it needs to do more to tie mobile payments to the finger scanner and match Apple’s offering.

The power of marketing

How many of you actually use Google Wallet? Are you aware of all the places that accept it? The truth is that Google didn’t throw a lot of weight behind it. It’s also only available in the U.S. in the mobile payment app form. The lack of a wider roll out more than three years after release says a lot.

A new technology like this, that requires consumer trust, needs to be marketed heavily. You have to reassure people that their details are safe, that the system works, and that it will offer a real advantage. None of the OEMs really got behind it either.

It’s easier for Apple to promote something like this; it doesn’t even need to set aside a much bigger marketing budget because it has big name partners onboard with a vested interest in advertising Apple Pay support. It also has one product line and it can include Apple Pay as another feature on the list for all of its ads, and it generates a huge amount of news coverage whenever it does something new. Mobile payments are old news, but look at the new wave of interest in the press because Apple has made a move.

Apple Pay will also only be available in the U.S. to begin with, but I bet Apple is quick to roll it out internationally where it can steal a march on Google.

A real wallet replacement?

There are still issues with mobile payments and the idea that your smartphone can really replace your wallet simply won’t fly with a lot of people. What happens when the battery dies? Support is far from universal. The advantage over plastic is arguably limited.

But as more and more places begin to support mobile payments as an option, you can be sure that adoption will grow. It looks like Google has squandered its early lead in the mobile payment space, but the fact that Apple would never allow something like Apple Pay to work cross-platform, ensures that Google and others can take advantage of the renewed interest it generates.

What do you think? Do you use NFC for mobile payments? Would you like to? What’s good and bad about the experience? What would tempt you to jump onboard? Hit the comments and tell us.

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Source:: android authority

    

The Wolf Among Us finally makes its way to the Play Store

By Jimmy Westenberg

The Wolf Among Us

If you’re a fan of point-and-click thriller games, listen up. After being an exclusive to the Amazon Appstore for four months, The Wolf Among Us has finally made its way to the Google Play Store.

The game comes to us from Telltale Games, the creators of The Walking Dead. You play as Bigby Wolf, the sheriff in a town full of murderous fairytale characters, looking to tear themselves apart. Navigate through conversations, fight enemies, and take the story wherever you’d like. This game allows you to make decisions that have their own consequences, which keeps your mind focused on each and every outcome. We’re warning you, though: this game is pretty graphic. The violence and swearing almost never stops throughout the entire game, so be sure to keep this one away from younger kids. With that being said, this is one of the most beautiful looking games we’ve seen in awhile. The graphics are spot-on, and make the incredibly long cut scenes worth watching.

You can download episode 1 on Google Play, with the option to purchase episodes 2-5 in the app once you come to them. Individually, each additional episode costs $4.99, or you can download them all at once for $14.99. It seems a little pricey at first, but once you see how much you get out of one chapter, you may change your mind.

Head to Google Play to pick up The Wolf Among Us! Have you played it yet? What do you think about it so far?

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Source:: android authority

    

Email addresses stolen from new mobile payment system, CurrentC

By Jimmy Westenberg

currentc

CurrentC, the new mobile payment system set to take on Apple Pay and Google Wallet, have already ran into a bit of controversy it seems. Early testers of the app were recently sent an email explaining that their email addresses may have been stolen.

Backed by the Merchants Consumer Exchange (or MCX), CurrentC is a brand new mobile payment system created to rival the most popular payment networks. It’s funded by Walmart, Best Buy, the Gap, and more, and aims to bypass extra credit card fees, while connecting straight to your bank account. It has recently been promoted as a more secure form of mobile payment, though this latest ‘hack’ on their serves casts a little bit of doubt on that idea.

Early adopters of CurrentC received an email yesterday, which yielded some unsettling news. The email reads:

Thank you for your interest in CurrentC. You are receiving this message because you are either a participant in our pilot program or requested information about CurrentC. Within the last 36 hours, we learned that unauthorized third parties obtained the e-mail addresses of some of you. Based on investigations conducted by MCX security personnel, only these e-mail addresses were involved and no other information.”

The email explains that CurrentC would never ask users any extremely personal information, like bank account passwords, social security numbers, or any other financial information. If users are to receive messages asking about any of this information, know that it did not come from the CurrentC team. A PR rep from the company goes on to say,

…Many of these email addresses are dummy accounts used for testing purposes only. The CurrentC app itself was not affected. We have notified our merchant partners about this incident and directly communicated with each of the individuals whose email addresses were involved. We take the security of our users’ information extremely seriously. MCX is continuing to investigate this situation and will provide updates as necessary.

The only information that the hackers have are email addresses. While this isn’t a positive situation in the slightest, at least more sensitive information was kept out of the hackers’ hands.

We’re sure we’ll hear more from CurrentC in a statement sometime very soon. But isn’t it a little ironic that, in the midst of creating a “more secure form of mobile payment”, a scandal like this happens? What’s to come of CurrentC is unknown, but they may take awhile to bounce back and win back the trust of its early adopters.

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Source:: android authority

    

Material Design updates rolling out for Google Wallet and Play Games

By Andrew Grush

walletmd

Update Wednesday is often a feast-or-famine kind of experience, but today we feast! Not only did Play Movies & TV get an update that introduces interesting new info cards and a Material Design makeover, it seems that Google Wallet and Google Play Games are all following suit with their own MD updates.

Google Play Games doesn’t seem to offer any other changes outside of the new MD makeover, which brings all the colors and icon design changes you’d expect from Google’s new design language. Google Wallet, on the other hand, does bring some minor changes including the ability to set up recurring bank transfers to your account and new low balance alerts. Neither of these updates are exactly massive, but it’s no surprise to see Google pushing its new design language to as many apps as possible with the impending arrival of Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Googleplaygames

In typical fashion, you can expect the updates to roll out over the next few days and it could be as long as a week before they reach everyone. Thankfully you can skip the waiting game by downloading the APKs for manual installation:

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Source:: android authority

    

Google voice search with third-party apps is about to get really cool

By Dustin Earley

Google has announced today a new addition to Google voice search on Android that will make speaking to all the apps on your smartphone a lot easier.

By implementing a small bit of code (really small, actually) into their apps, developers can allow users to call up searches through their apps right from any Google hot-word enabled screen. For example, from the home screen of your device, you can say, “OK Google, search pizza on Eat24,” or “OK Google, search for hotels in Maui on TripAdvisor.”

Any developer can enable Google voice search to interact with their app, and anyone with an English locale device running Jelly Bean and above with the Google app v3.5 or greater can use it. Pretty awesome, right? It’s a small change that could end up making a huge difference in how you use your device. What apps would you like to see implement voice search from anywhere? Let us know in the comments.

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Source:: androidandme