Free apps for your Android phones and tablets
You've no doubt seen some of our picks for discounted iOS apps, and our "beyond-the-last-minute" Gift Guide, but we've been poking around the Android side of things as well. The biggest deal going for Android users is a special offer from Amazon's app store currently has $220 worth of normally for-pay apps available for free. Read on to discover just a sampling of what Santa-zon has in store for you.
Claims not yet verified by authorities, LG; Reddit user offers photo evidence
A Reddit user's younger sister had her LG G3 battery explode as it sat charging on her bed, according to photos and a report from Reddit Android group contributor "s-blade." The heat from the explosion appears to have been so intense that it caused the phone to melt through the mattress, only lightly scorching the sheets as it sank into the bed. The report mentions that the battery and charger involved were original equipment, and not cheap knock-offs or counterfeit low-cost replacements that have a track record of serious problems.
Google pushes the boundaries of smartphone size with Nexus 6
The Google Nexus 6 is the latest Android flagship smartphone from Google and, like each one before it, it is designed to showcase the latest developments on its Android platform. Indisputably and unapologetically a "phablet," the device centers on a gargantuan 5.96-inch QHD AMOLED display, and comes pre-installed with Android 5.0 "Lollipop." It truly challenges the boundaries of what users are prepared to carry around with them as an everyday all-purpose device. That, of course, makes it a very interesting proposition.
Leaked screenshot suggests LG G2 to gain Android Lollipop soon
The Android Lollipop upgrade may reach the LG G2, if a leaked screenshot is to be believed. According to TuttoAndroid, the screenshot is said to show the G2 as running Android 5.0.1, with part of the screenshot showing a new, flatter user interface in line with Material Design principles. No date for the update has been provided -- but if the image is genuine, it could start reaching phones as early as January next year.
Platforms include iOS, Apple TV, Android, Windows
DirecTV has announced a partnership with Fox Networks, giving subscribers to the satellite-based TV service access to all the content in the Fox Now, FXNow, and Nat Geo TV apps on multiple platforms. This includes iOS, Apple TV, Android, and Windows devices. In effect, the change means that the apps have simply added DirecTV as a service authentication option, joining other TV providers such as cable operators.
Judge concerned about 'speculative nature of the damages'
US District Judge Beth L. Freeman ruled on Thursday that she requires the plaintiffs, Gary Feitelson and Daniel McKee, in a lawsuit against Google to submit more details. The two consumers allege that Android-based smartphone prices are being negatively impacted because manufacturers must agree to pre-load apps like the Google search app by default, instead of making deals with, for instance, Bing. The judge has said she would most likely dismiss the lawsuit as it stands, but is giving the plaintiffs a chance to revise it with additional evidence.
Version 5.1 expected to be available by February, sources say
The latest version of Android, 5.0 Lollipop, has been experiencing a bit of a rocky road since its release, with version 5.0.1 already having been pushed out to address some of the issues. Rumors are surfacing that Lollipop 5.1 will be released in early 2015 -- however, some users may not be able to update until July, if ever.
Instagram adds five new filter options, filter management
Instagram has updated its famous photo filters, for the first time in two years. The Slumber, Crema, Ludwig, Aden, and Perpetua effects have been added to both the Android and iOS versions of the app, each shifting and softening the photograph's colors in varying ways. The app has also updated how the various effects are displayed, providing a blurred preview of filters, while a "Manage" button will allow users to hide the rarely-used filters from view.
Baidu agrees to use Here maps for location services outside of China
Here, Nokia's mapping service, is going to provide content for the Android and iOS Baidu Maps app, as well as desktop maps. The agreement will allow Baidu to offer its Chinese travelers access to maps for areas outside of China for the first time, with Taiwan set to be the first country covered and others set to follow. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
LTE-equipped Nexus 9 priced $120 more than Wi-Fi equivalent
A variant of the Google Nexus 9 tablet with cellular connectivity is now on sale in the United States, two months after it was first unveiled. The Nexus 9 LTE, being sold first through T-Mobile before other carriers and Google Play, is identical to the already-available 32GB Wi-Fi model, but includes the requisite cellular radios to connect to T-Mobile's network.
Works with iOS, Android, Windows Phone: crash reporting, analytics, beta distribution to be unified
Microsoft has announced through a blog post that it has acquired HockeyApp, a mobile analytics and app-distribution service similar to Apple's Testflight. Originally launched as a web-only service in 2011 that allowed iOS, OS X, and Android developers to collect crash reports and manage beta distribution, the app now offers such services for Android, iOS and Windows Phone developers, and will continue to operate as Microsoft works on integrating HockeyApp into the Applications Insights service in Visual Studio Online.
App replaced by 'Amazon Shopping' app with no links to app store
As a result of a revised developer's agreement, Google has made the original Amazon Android app undiscoverable in Google Play. Amazon has replaced the removed app with a new "Amazon Shopping" app, which notably removes access to the retailer's app store through a Google Play-sanctioned app, leaving users forced to "sideload" a separate app from another source in order to facilitate downloads and purchases from Amazon's app store.
Ultrasonic pulses used to connect guest smartphone with Chromecast
The Google Chromecast is finally allowing guests to cast content without joining the same Wi-Fi network, courtesy of a new update. Originally teased during Google IO in June, the new Guest Mode can be enabled on a Chromecast individually, with the Chromecast and the guest smartphone or tablet also attempting to open communications without requiring any user configuration.
Developers for low-tech virtual reality device gains more support from Google
Google's low-tech virtual reality efforts have received a boost, with updates for users, developers, and those creating their own version of the Google Cardboard kit. Alongside a new Cardboard app making it easier to find and view VR experiences, Google Play now includes a collection page showing a number of made-for-Cardboard apps, including a performance by Paul McCartney and scenes from The Hobbit.
Nokia plans launch of Here maps on iOS in early 2015
Nokia's Here maps for Android is no longer just for Samsung smartphones and tablets, with Nokia making it available to other Android devices on Google Play, without the need to side load the app. At the same time as the Android expansion, the company has revealed its upcoming Here release for iOS will be slightly later than initially believed, with a version for Apple devices set to arrive in early 2015.
Developers gain new API to help create faces for Android Wear devices
The latest update to Android Wear is adding more user-personalizable options to the smartwatch software, among other improvements. Dozens of watch faces for Android Wear wearables are being made available to download, with a new Watch Face API also being introduced to make it easier for developers to create new faces.
'The iPad has been the gold standard in tablets since it was unveiled'
A top Android fan site, Android Police, has published its annual gift guide, with staff members recommending (and sometimes dissing) various top-flight models of Android phones and phablets. For straight-up tablets, however, the site picked the iPad Air 2 as its top pick over the expected Nexus 9 or Nvidia's Shield tablet. The surprise choice, said Senior Editor David Ruddock, was because "the Air 2 is reliable, predictable, and very fast," adding that the iPad "has been the gold standard in tablets since it was unveiled."
Swipe your way through even the longest texts without lifting a finger
Most people have gotten used to texting and typing on their iPads and iPhones, and chances are, they're good at it. However, it's undeniable that the standard thumb-texting can be pretty slow. On top of that, texting tends to grow tiresome in this manner as the conversation becomes more involved. Of course a user can always revert to hunt-and-peck typing with an index finger, but that leads to slower typing or reliance on predictive text, which can produce unintentionally-hilarious mis-types. Swype by Nuance has come up with a clever solution to help us text and type faster and longer, with less fatigue.
Future update to Google Translate will use live camera feed
A future update to Google Translate will apparently include technology acquired from the company's purchase of Quest Visual, the developer of the Word Lens translation app. The Translate app will soon include a "Live Translation" mode, which will automatically change the text displayed from a live camera feed from one language to another.
Netflix tests original show marketing with reminder Twitter messages
Netflix is testing a new way to remind subscribers to watch their original shows. A custom card for upcoming show Marco Polo is being used on Twitter to promote the show, complete with a "Tweet Me a Reminder" button. According to The Next Web, the @MarcoPoloMP Twitter account will be sending a message to anyone who opts in to the service at 12:01AM Pacific Time on December 12th, with participants also receiving a custom video message from the cast.
Android Wear search app spreads to mobile phones, adds more answer options
The Microsoft equivalent of Google Voice Search is now available on Android. Initially released from Microsoft Garage for Android Wear devices, Torque is a search app which provides card-style answers to questions in a similar manner to Google's own voice-controlled product, though instead of being triggered by a voice prompt, it starts up by shaking the phone.
Microsoft brings Cortana to France, Germany, Italy, Spain
Microsoft is bringing the Cortana virtual assistant to more countries in Europe. An update as part of the Windows Phone Developer Preview Program rolling out today will grant access to Cortana in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain. Released as an alpha version, Microsoft warns many of the advanced features will not be available, such as flight tracking and some reference data, but the team is working to add localized content for each language, along with a slightly tailored personality.
Incoming Inbox app updates detailed during Reddit AMA
Google is planning to introduce support for Google Apps within Inbox, the team behind the mobile app has revealed. As part of a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread, the team revealed a number of features which will be coming to the app at some point in the future, though it was not revealed when exactly users will be able to benefit from the new functions.
Update to Android Lollipop may fix lock screen bug
An update for Android Lollipop is believed to be on the way, after a new factory image for Nexus devices was released for download. Version 5.01 of the mobile operating system has been pushed to AOSP along with factory images for the Wi-Fi Nexus 9, Nexus 10, and 2013 Nexus 7, a step usually followed by an over-the-air update for other devices.
Targeted emails outpace Google ads or search for merchant results
A new study that monitored US holiday shopping from mobile devices between Thanksgiving through to Cyber Monday showed results exactly in line with similar surveys from last summer, noting that Apple iOS devices accounted for about 78 percent of orders, with Android accounting for only 21.6 percent of online sales from mobile devices. Analytics firm Custora noted the consistency between holiday and non-holiday buying patterns, with iOS and Android showing the same respective percentages last summer as well.
Yahoo switch not mandatory
Mozilla has released Firefox 34, the latest version of its multi-platform web browser. As promised last month, the update makes Yahoo the default search engine. People upgrading from a previous version, however, are only being prompted to switch engines in a pop-up message; clicking "Later" leaves Google search in place.
Android tablet deals from zero dollars
With all the great deals out there on Android tablets today, it gets a little bit tricky trying to figure out what exactly the best prices are. While most of these tablets are even remotely in the league of top-quality tabs like the iPad or the Nexus 7, we have put together a list of some of the best Black Friday Android tablet deals we could find. At TigerDirect.com right now, get the Proscan seven-inch Android tablet with McAfee 2015 multi-access for only $70. That's already $80 off the list price of $150. A $70 mail-in-rebate offer on this bundle drops the final cost down to zero dollars. However, McAfee activation is required to claim this rebate.
LG G3 rollout of Android Lollipop commences in South Korea
LG has continued its roll out the Android 5.0 update for the G3 smartphone, albeit just in South Korea. Following an initial rollout in Poland, the Lollipop firmware update in the company's home country is a good sign for the update's overall progress, though BGR notes that there has yet to be any confirmation of any other international updates, nor what other devices will be upgraded to Lollipop in the near future.
New dashboard lists last time devices accessed Google account
Google is helping owners of devices running its operating systems to secure their accounts and their units, with a new dashboard. A Devices and Activity dashboard has been introduced to show what devices have accessed the Google account recently, while a new security wizard for Google for Work accounts will guide enterprise users on how to secure their accounts properly.
If you're looking to relive the 80s arcade culture, give this a try
Vintage gamers and arcade cabinet enthusiasts are likely to remember Arkanoid, which was a riff on a game called Breakout. The aim of the game was to clear a board of all of its bricks by using a paddle to bounce a small ball against them. At first, the game primarily showed up on arcade cabinets. The various remakes have shown up for just about every platform since. One such game is Acky's Breakout Reloaded by Isotope 244.
Testing on Nexus 6 shows dramatic decrease in NAND read and write performance
While initial reviews of the anticipated Google Nexus 6 device were decent, a few reviewers pointed out some confusing performance metrics. Initial examiners of the device are reporting that implementation of Android 5.0 Lollipop's Full Disk Encryption (FDE) cuts NAND random read speeds dramatically, from over 16.6MB/s with encryption off, to 6.18MB/s with the feature active.
Agreement reached November 12, set to end year-long legal battle by end of 2014
Google's legal battle with the Rockstar Consortium over claims that the search company infringes upon seven patents with the Android operating system appears to be coming to an end. According to a filing submitted to the US District Court of the Eastern District of Texas on November 17, both parties have agreed to settle their dispute.
Match-3 game with RPG elements makes for enjoyable casual game
It's not unusual for games to try and break out of being confined to a single category. More and more, we find games that try very hard to incorporate the best of two or more types of games. We tend to see this in Real Time Strategy games (RTSs) a lot, as they combine rogue-like or RPG elements. But there are other games that are making headway in the cross-genre arena. Gunspell, by Ino-Сo Plus, touts itself as a cross-genre title, combining elements of both RPGs and puzzles.
Trusted Places automatically unlocks smartphone at specific locations
Android devices running the latest version of the operating system will be able to unlock automatically in specific locations, via a security option slowly rolling out on Google Play Services. Available on hardware running Android Lollipop, the Trusted Places feature will keep a smartphone or tablet unlocked while within a predefined geographic area.
End-to-end encryption added in Android messaging app, adds TextSecure support
Those that love privacy, but have security concerns about using a messaging platform to stay in contact with friends and family, have a new app to look forward to. It was unveiled today that the most recent build of WhatsApp for Android features end-to-end encryption for messages, enabled by default (similar to what Apple's iMessage and FaceTime have offered for years). With the addition of the strong encryption, WhatsApp is now suspected to be the largest messaging service in circulation with end-to-end encryption active.
Android-based Nokia N1 tablet has 7.9-inch display, Z Launcher
Nokia's first hardware release since its break-up with Microsoft is an Android tablet, though rather than producing the device itself, Nokia is applying its branding and design skills with a third-party manufacturer. The N1 possesses a 7.9-inch 4:3 aspect ratio IPS display with a high 2048x1536 resolution, protected by Gorilla Glass 3 and using the same fully-laminated zero air-gap process as its smartphones, packed into a 6.9mm-thick aluminum unibody casing highly reminiscent of the iPad mini.
Allows simple user-to-user transactions
Payment service Square has partnered with Snapchat on a new feature in the latter's mobile apps for iOS and Android, called Snapcash. Users can quickly transfer money between each other by joining a chat, typing in the amount preceded by a dollar sign -- for instance "$3.50" -- and then hitting a green button. Prior to this, a person must register a debit card, the data for which is stored on Square servers.
Combination of Samsung Knox and BES12 said to provide end-to-end security
BlackBerry is working with Samsung to make its Android devices more secure for corporate users, the manufacturer has revealed. The partnership, which will be offered to enterprise customers from early next year, will see Samsung's Knox working in tandem with Blackberry Enterprise Service 12 (BES12), in order to provide a "tightly integrated, end-to-end secure solution" for communications.
Android Lollipop update dated for Nvidia Shield Tablet among other updates
Nvidia is finally going to offer its Grid cloud-based gaming service to customers later this month. Nvidia Grid will allow gamers to stream a selection of PC games from its servers over the Internet, similar to PlayStation Now and OnLive, though the GPU producer will only allow owners of the Shield Tablet access initially, before a wider launch of the service to other devices.
Google makes data-erasing full restore images available for download
Google is now offering a number of methods by which users of four selected Nexus devices can upgrade to Android 5.0 "Lollipop." The primary method, an "Over The Air (OTA) update" is rolling out in phases to users of Google's mobile devices now, and is expected to be available to all owners of the four devices in the next month. Additionally, the company has posted full-restore factory images to its website, should a user want to completely erase a device, and start from scratch (otherwise known as a "clean install").
EMV tech becoming standard in US by end of 2015
Retail payment service Square has opened up preorders for a new version of the Square Reader, designed to scan chip-based credit and debit cards. It supports older stripe-based cards as well, and the company is promising end-to-end encryption, as well as active tamper detection. It's compatible with iOS and Android, requiring only the appropriate apps and an account with Square for paying service fees.
Samsung Professional Audio required for Android version of iRig
IK Multimedia has made a version of its iOS-based iRig HD for Android Devices, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 being the first compatible device. The iRig HD-A digital guitar interface is also accompanied by an Android version of the AmpliTube app, the guitar processing app, which will also only work with Samsung mobile devices.
Primecast app allowed Chromecast streaming of Amazon Instant Video
An Android app which allowed users to watch Amazon Instant Video content on the Google Chromecast has been removed from sale just 36 hours after launch. The Primecast app, an unofficial app sold for $2.99 via Google Play, was pulled after the app's ability to stream video was blocked, effectively making the app useless to its users.
LG bringing Android Lollipop to G3 smartphone in Poland this week
LG is claiming it will be the first major manufacturer to roll out Android Lollipop to its flagship device. The company is aiming to ship the Android 5.0 upgrade for the LG G3 in Poland this week, with "other key markets" to follow in the "near future." A rollout schedule for other LG smartphones and tablets will be announced by the device producer at a later date.
LG G Watch R available to purchase on Google Play for $299
LG's G Watch R is now available to purchase from Google Play, just as the smartwatch is about to appear in stores in the United States. The Android Wear smartwatch, complete with a 1.3-inch round P-OLED display and a heart rate monitor, finally joins the original G Watch on the Google online store, though it is priced at a rather expensive $299.
Maps gets 'material design' look in iOS, Android
Google has announced a collection of important app updates. The Google Maps apps for iOS and Android are both making the switch to "material design," the new aesthetic behind Android Lollipop. The scheme is more bright and colorful, and uses elements like animations and drop shadows to reinforce the connection between interface components. Google has also integrated OpenTable reservations for US restaurants, and pickup times and prices for Uber cars. In the latter case, users must also have their platform's Uber app installed.
Shield Tablet getting Android 5.0 by end of November, free Ubisoft game for GPU buyers
While Nvidia teased that the Shield Tablet would be getting the Android 5.0 Lollipop upgrade on Twitter last month, the company failed to say when. Thanks to a new video teasing Lollipop on the tablet, owners can now expect to see the new mobile operating system (OS) on the device by the end of November. Nvidia also announced today that it's launching a new game promotion for GPU buyers called "Pick Your Path."
Updates arriving in 'the coming weeks'
Microsoft has announced a partnership with Dropbox that will bring the latter's cloud service into Office apps for iOS and Android. Integration is promised with updates in "the coming weeks" that will let people browse, edit, and share Dropbox files from within Office apps. Inside of Dropbox's proprietary app, people browsing Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files will see an option to edit them in the appropriate software.
HTC Desire Eye exclusive to AT&T, discount available for RE camera
The HTC Desire Eye will be exclusive to AT&T in the United States, the carrier has revealed. The smartphone, complete with a front-facing 13-megapixel camera with dual LED flash, will go on sale from November 7th priced at $549.99 off-contract, $149.99 with a two-year contract, $22.92 per month under AT&T Next 18, or $27.50 per month on AT&T Next 12. Customers buying the Desire EYE on-contract will also be able to acquire the RE camera at a discount, saving $50 off the $199 sticker price.
Will cover 150 hotels by end of 2015
Following a pilot program earlier this year, the Starwood hotel chain has officially inaugurated its SPG Keyless initiative. At supporting hotels, guests will be able to use an iPhone or an Android phone to both check in and unlock doors via Bluetooth. The system will become available at 10 Aloft, Element, and W hotels on Wednesday, and gradually expand to 150 hotel brands by the end of next year.