Phone Scoop

printed October 25, 2014
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Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.

by:  Google


Twitter to Acquire Twitpic, Keep Photos Alive for Now

Today, 3:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitpic today announced that Twitter has agreed to take over the Twitpic domain and photo archive. Had Twitter not scooped up Twitpic's assets, the photo-sharing tool would have shut down entirely. Moving forward, Twitpic users will be able to sign into their accounts online to retrieve their photos, delete them, or delete their account, but not to post new photos. The service will remain up and running in a read-only mode. Accordingly, Twitpic has removed its Android and iOS apps from the Google Play and iTunes app stores. "Twitter shares our goal of protecting our users and this data. Also, since Twitpic's user base consists of Twitter users, it makes sense to keep this data with Twitter," said Twitpic's Noah Everett in a blog post. The company made the decision to shut down after Twitter demanded Twitpic abandon its trademarked application or risk losing access to Twitter's API. Twitpic launched in 2008 and was one of the first tools for sharing photos within Twitter.


LG Shows Off Its First Mobile Processor, Dubbed 'Nuclun'

Yesterday, 6:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the Nuclun, its first application processor for smartphones and tablets. The Nuclun is an eight-core chip with two banks of four cores each. It uses ARM's big.LITTLE configuration with four 1.5GHz Cortex A15s for heavy lifting and four 1.2GHz Cortex A7s for power sipping. The Nuclun supports LTE Cat. 6, which boasts theoretical download speeds of up to 225Mbps. In order to properly showcase the Nuclun's capabilities, LG also revealed the G3 Screen, the first smartphone to rely on the Nuclun as its engine. The G3 Screen borrows its design language from the G3, but increases the size of the screen to 5.9 inches while downgrading the resolution to 1080p HD. The G3 Screen has 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and supports microSD cards. The main camera captures 13.1 megapixels and includes optical image stabilization, while the user-facing camera captures 2.1 megapixels. The GS3 Screen has a 3,000mAh battery and runs Android 4.4 KitKat. LG didn't say when or where the G3 Screen will be sold.


Android Wear Update Makes Devices More Independent

Thursday, 11:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today pushed out an update to its Android Wear platform that adds two key features and grants wearables even more independence. First, Android Wear devices will now be able to track location via GPS without requiring a nearby smartphone. This means people will be able to leave their phone at home when they go for a jog or walk. Further, the update adds the ability to play local music files stored on the wearable itself. This means Android Wear device owners can put music on their watch, listen to it via Bluetooth headphones, and leave their phone at home. Google noted that tens of thousands of Android apps have been updated with Wear compatibility. Last, Google said the Sony Smart Watch 3 is now available for preorder through Verizon Wireless for $250. It will reach the Play Store in the weeks to come.


Twitter Touts Digits for Mobile App Login

Thursday, 7:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter recently unveiled Digits, a new way for smartphone users to log in to mobile apps. Rather than use an email address and password or social networking credentials to create app logins, Digits allows people to use their phone number. After entering their number, users will receive an SMS code and can use that to create an account and log in to the app for the first time. After that, they won't need to log in again. Digits is not associated with Twitter's main product, but it is part of the new Fabric SDK Twitter is releasing to mobile developers. Twitter believes Digits is a more user-friendly way for smartphone users to sign into apps. Digits is available on the web, as well as for Android and iOS devices.


Yahoo Brings Travel Alerts to Android and iOS Mail App

Wednesday, 2:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today rolled out an update to its email application for both Android and iOS devices that adds support for travel and event notifications. According to Yahoo, the Today section of the email app will now show flight status and directions to the airport, as well as local points-of-interest recommendations once you've reached your destination. The Mail app is also able to skim details from Ticketmaster or EventBrite emails, and will provide event details, such as start time, and directions to the venue. The new Mail app for Android and iOS is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


Microsoft Opens the Garage Door, Releases Android Apps

Wednesday, 8:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today revealed Garage, a collective of Microsoft employees that is encouraged to tinker with apps and services for a wide range of platforms and products. Microsoft describes the Garage as "a community of interns, employees, and teams from everywhere in the company who come together to turn our wild ideas into real projects." Along with its public unveiling, Microsoft announced several Android apps created within the Garage that are available from the Play Store today. For example, Torque is an app for Android Wear that lets owners of such devices twist their arm to launch Bing (not Google) Voice Search. Another, Next Lock Screen, lets Android device owners see their missed calls, messages, and calendar appointments without unlocking their device. The apps are free to download starting today. Microsoft indicated more apps and products may emerge from the Garage, not just for Android, but for iOS, Windows Phone, and Windows, too.


Congress Warns FBI to Leave Peoples' Cell Phones Alone

Wednesday, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Members of Congress have responded to comments made by FBI Director James Comey regarding security measurers Apple and Google have added to their respective mobile operating systems. Both iOS 8 and Android 5.0 use encryption by default to protect user data from spying. The FBI doesn't like this. Comey last week asked Congress to pass legislation that would force smartphone makers to provide a back door into smartphones for law enforcement purposes. Congress has spoken up. "I think the public would not support it, certainly industry would not support it, civil liberties groups would not support it," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren in a statement provided to The Hill. "I think [Comey is] a sincere guy, but there's just no way this is going to happen." Senator Ron Wyden offered similar thoughts. "I'd be surprised if more than a handful of members would support the idea of backdooring Americans' personal property." Representative Darrell Issa added, "To FBI Director Comey and the [administration] on criticisms of legitimate businesses using encryption: you reap what you sow." Congress believes the American public is inherently distrustful of law enforcement's data collection techniques after the revelations made by Edward Snowden. FBI Director Comey wants Congress to update 1994 legislation called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which required phone companies to make it easy for law enforcement to tap calls. The Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, however, that CALEA already protects encryption measures put into place by companies. The law states companies "shall not be responsible for decrypting, or ensuring the government's ability to decrypt, any communication encrypted by a subscriber or customer." The Hill suggests the FBI isn't going to simply drop the matter and will continue its push for broader access to smartphones.


Google Updates Play Music with Songza Features

Tuesday, 11:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today pushed out an update to its Play Music service that adds new, curated play lists. The refreshed service gains its tools from Songza, which Google purchased over the summer. Play Music now offers a playlist- and song-recommendation engine that uses variables such as the time of day and location to cultivate selections. Google says users of the app will be prompted to play music for a time of day, mood, or activity. Each station has been created by real people to make sure they truly match the mood or activity at hand. Users can download stations for offline playback, see upcoming song selections, and add, remove, or reorder tracks on a whim. Google also updated its Listen Now web site to make it easier to discover and listen to new music. Last, Google Play Music now wears the Material Design look that Google is putting on most of its apps. The new Google Play Music app is available to Android and iOS devices, as well as on the web.


Nokia HERE Maps Expands to More Android Handsets

Tuesday, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today announced its HERE Maps app is now available to a wider range of smartphones. The company offered HERE Maps only to Samsung handsets earlier this month. Now, most devices running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and up with 1GB of RAM can install and use HERE Maps. The app, which is being offered as a beta, cannot be found in the Google Play Store. Instead, anyone interested in using HERE Maps on their Android handset will need to download the app directly from Nokia's web site and sideload it onto their device. HERE Maps offers a number of compelling features. For example. HERE Maps allows users to download entire countries or regions, which makes the maps available even when the device is offline. Downloaded maps perform faster when panning and zooming since new segments don't need to be loaded from an internet connection. HERE Maps for Android devices include free, voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. Users can plan routes via car, public transport, or foot. Live traffic updates and real-time transit schedules require a data connection. Nokia says maps are available for about 200 countries with turn-by-turn directions available in about 100. Transit maps are available in 750 metro areas across 40 different countries, with more being added all the time.


AT&T to Sell Samsung Galaxy Mega 2 on Oct. 24

Oct 20, 2014, 9:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced the pending launch of the Galaxy Mega 2, a new version of Samsung's low-cost phablet. The Mega 2 features a 6-inch HD screen with a reduced bezel to help keep the footprint as small as possible. The phone adopts the design language of Samsung's Note series, to a certain degree, as well as the Note's split-screen multitasking, but the Mega 2 doesn't include a stylus. The phone has an 8-megapixel main camera with flash, a user-facing camera, Samsung's Private Mode, and Samsung's battery management software. The device has a quad-core processor and a 2,880mAh battery. The Mega 2 runs Android with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. The Galaxy Mega 2 costs $475 at full retail, or can be purchased for $19.80 per month with AT&T Next 18, $23.75 per month with Next 12, or $150 with a new two-year contract. AT&T is still offering a $100 bill credit when customers activate a new or existing line with its AT&T Next plans. The device reaches stores October 24.


BlackBerry Adds a Little SnapChat to BBM

Oct 17, 2014, 3:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today announced several forthcoming features for BBM that take a page from ephemeral messaging app SnapChat. The first new feature is called Time Messages. With Timed Messages, users can select how long a message is visible to the recipient (between 1 second and 15 seconds). The message can also be set to disappear once the recipient takes their finger off the message. According to BlackBerry, it can't prevent screenshots of Timed Messages, but it will alert the sender if one was taken before the message expires. The second feature is called Message Retraction and it allows BBM users to delete messages they've sent from the phones of others. According to BlackBerry, this feature works with text messages only and not those that include pictures. Further, only messages in one-on-one chats can be retracted. Messages cannot be retracted from Group conversations, nor can messages be retracted if they've been forwarded to other phones. According to BlackBerry, these features are being tested in a limited BBM beta for Android and BlackBerry. Timer and Retract will be available in the 2.5 release of BBM for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry 10 in the near future.


Google Publishes Android 5.0 Preview, Updates SDK

Oct 17, 2014, 11:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made available several significant tools for developers ahead of the general release of Android 5.0 Lollipop. First, Google released updated developer images for the Nexus 5, Nexus 7 (2013), ADT-1, and the Android emulator. Developers can install these near-final builds of Android 5.0 on their hardware and use them for testing purposes. Google also updated the software developers kit for Android 5.0. The Android 5.0 SDK includes improved tools that allow app writers to develop against the latest Android platform using API level 21. It also lets developers take advantage of the updated support library to implement Material Design on smartphones and tablets, as well as the leanback user interface for Android TV apps. The preview images and SDK can be downloaded through Google's Android developer portal.


Kyocera Torque XT Now On Sale at Sprint Stores

Oct 17, 2014, 9:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 17, 2014, 3:51 PM

Sprint and Kyocera today announced the Torque XT, a minor update to the original Torque. The two updates include compatibility with Sprint's Direct Connect walkie-talkie service, and the improvement on onboard storage to 20GB. Otherwise, all the features are the same as the original Torque. The XT has a mil-spec rating of 810G for protection against shock, temperature extremes, solar radiation, and vibration. It has an IP rating of 67, which means it can sit in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes, as well as spend the day in the sand on the beach. The device includes standard Kyocera features, such as the Sonic Smart Receiver for phone calls, and MaxiMZR and Eco Mode for managing battery life. The Torque XT has a 4-inch WVGA screen, 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM, 5-megapixel main camera, and a 1.3-megapixel user-facing camera. The phone includes WiFi, GPS, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.0, and runs on Sprint's LTE network. The device is based on Android 4.4.2 KitKat and includes an array of business-friendly features, such as support for VPNs, mobile device management suites, and Exchange ActiveSync. The Kyocera Torque XT is available today via most Sprint sales channels. Sprint is asking for $0 down followed by 24 payments of $15 with Sprint Easy Pay.


FBI Wants Congress to Force Phone Makers to Add Back Door

Oct 17, 2014, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FBI Director James Comey has again voiced his displeasure with the new encryption tools added to Android 5.0 Lollipop and iOS 8. Both Google and Apple added the default encryption to their mobile operating systems in order to protect user data. Comey says this is an impediment to law enforcement, making it more difficult -- if not impossible -- to intercept real-time communication, such as phone calls and text messages. Comey said more and more criminals are turning to technology to hide or enable their unlawful activities. He beseeched Congress to create legislation that will require tech companies to provide back-door access to encrypted communications between suspected criminals. The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees. "Any effort by the FBI to weaken encryption leaves our highly personal information and our business information vulnerable to hacking by foreign governments and criminals," said ACLU director Laura Murphy. Congress has not responded publicly to Comey's comments.


Twitter Integrates SoundCloud for In-App Audio

Oct 16, 2014, 4:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today announced a new feature that will allow users of its Android and iOS apps to listen to music/sound clips directly from their timeline. According to Twitter, the new Twitter Audio Card can be docked and allow users to listen to the songs or clips even as they continue to browse through their timeline. SoundCloud is the first third-party company to add support for the Audio Card, but Twitter said it expects to add more services over time. Twitter hopes more parters, artists, and creators will adopt the feature for sharing purposes. The feature is free to use within the Android and iOS versions of Twitter. Twitter didn't say if or when the feature might reach other platforms, such as Windows Phone.


Sony Says Entire Z Series to Earn Android 5.0 Lollipop

Oct 16, 2014, 12:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today committed to updating a wide range of its smartphones and tablets to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Some of the handsets slated for Android 5.0 include the Xperia Z, ZL, Z1, Z1S, Z1 Ultra, Z1 Compact, Z2, Z3, Z3v, and Z3 Compact. Sony says its Google Play Edition devices will receive Lollipop first, followed by the Z3 and Z2 series devices in early 2015.


Google, Motorola Commit to Android Lollipop Upgrades

Oct 15, 2014, 11:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 15, 2014, 11:29 AM

Google today said Android 5.0 Lollipop, which will ship on the Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Nexus Player, will be made available to the Nexus 5, 7, 10, and Google Play edition devices in the coming weeks. Motorola also said it will update many of its devices to Android 5.0 Lollipop, including the Moto X (1st Gen and 2nd Gen), Moto G, Moto E, as well as the Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx, and Droid Mini. Timing on the updates is not available.


Google Shows Off Nexus 6 Smartphone, Nexus 9 Tablet

Oct 15, 2014, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 15, 2014, 11:28 AM

Google today announced Android 5.0 Lollipop and with it the first few devices to run the new operating system, the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9. The Nexus 6 is a large-screened smartphone made by Motorola. It has an aluminum frame and a 6-inch quad HD display with a 13-megapixel main camera. The camera includes optical image stabilization and HDR+ for improved low-light shots. The device has stereo-speakers with high-fidelity sound and comes with a turbo charger for fast charging. Google claims the device can get up to six hours of battery time after plugging it in for just 15 minutes. The Nexus 6 will be available for pre-order in late October and in stores in November. Google will sell an unlocked version through the Play Store, and the Nexus 6 will also be sold by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. The device costs $649 at full retail, which is $200 more than the Nexus 5. The Nexus 9 tablet is made by HTC and features an 8.9-inch 2048 x 1536 screen with a brushed aluminum design. It is run by a dual-core Tegra K1 64-bit processor with each core clocked at 2.3GHz. Other features include an 8.0-/1.6-megapixel camera configuration; BoomSound speakers; dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and LTE; and a 6,700mAh battery. The Nexus 9 will be available for pre-order on October 17 and in stores starting November 3. The Wi-Fi model starts at $399.


Google Names Android 5.0 Lollipop

Oct 15, 2014, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 15, 2014, 11:04 AM

Google today said the next version of Android, which it has so far referred to only as Release L, will be called Android 5.0 Lollipop. Google previewed Lollipop earlier this year and has offered it in beta form to developers for several months. It includes a refreshed look and feel that Google calls Material Design. Google has been slowly updating the core Android apps with Material Design over the last few weeks. In Lollipop, Google has re-envisioned the lock screen to incorporate more of the notifications, as well as the ability to automatically unlock the device when a trusted wearable is nearby. Lollipop will also offer a new keyboard design. Moving forward, Lollipop will rely on the ART runtime engine instead of Dalvik, which has served for several years. Google says ART offers a two-times improvement in app performance across the platform. ART is also more memory efficient, and is optimized 64-bit processing. The platform includes the Android Extension Pack to improve graphics performance. Google took time to improve the platform's efficiency, too. Project Volta, for example, took aim at helping OEMs and developers improve battery life by more optimizing their apps. Further, Lollipop adds its own Battery Saver tool to help extend the life of a battery when it reaches critical levels. Lollipop builds in more malware protection and ways for Android users to secure their device and make sure apps are scanned for safety. For example, Google is adding a kill switch to Lollipop, which allows device owners to remotely disable their handset if it is lost or stolen. Android 5.0 Lollipop will be available on the Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet when they debut later this year.


Asus PadFone X Mini Arrives on GoPhone with Intel Inside

Oct 15, 2014, 6:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced the pending availability of the Asus PadFone X Mini -- a smaller version of Asus' smartphone-and-tablet combo device. The PadFone X Mini features a 4.5-inch smartphone that transforms into a 7-inch tablet with a dock. It is notable as being one of the first smartphones to be sold in the U.S. with an Intel processor. It features a dual-core 1.6GHz Atom Z2560 with 1GB of RAM and built-in LTE 4G. Other features of the PadFone X Mini include a 5-megapixel main camera and 1-megapixel user-facing camera; Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and GPS; a removable 2,060mAh battery in the smartphone and a non-removable 2,200mAh battery in the tablet; and a stereo headphone jack and support for microSD cards up to 64GB. It runs Android 4.4 KitKat with Asus' ZenUI. The PadFone X Mini will be sold by AT&T's GoPhone prepaid brand beginning later this month. The device costs $200, with plans starting as low as $40 per month. GoPhone doesn't require contracts. AT&T has sold the larger PadFone X since earlier this year.


MetroPCS Selling Alcatel OneTouch Fierce 2

Oct 15, 2014, 6:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS has added the Alcatel OneTouch Fierce 2 to its roster of Android smartphones. The device, which is already being sold by Metro parent T-Mobile, costs $50 after a $100 discount. MetroPCS doesn't require contracts.


Skype Debuts Qik Video Messaging App

Oct 14, 2014, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 14, 2014, 8:42 AM

Skype today announced a new video messaging app called Qik. The service, explains Skype, is to give smartphone users a fun way to interact with others and maintain conversations that have more personality than standard text messages or video calls. Qik users can record and send up to 42 seconds of video to recipients who can then respond with video messages of their own. Skype says videos remain live for just two weeks, and can be erased by the creator at any time. Qik also lets users prerecord five-second Qik Fliks, which Qik describes as canned video responses to use when there's no time to record a new video. Qik used to exist as a stand-alone messaging service, but was purchased by Skype in 2011 and later shuttered entirely. Skype Qik is available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. The app is free to download from each platform's respective app store.


Xiaomi Hires Another Google Exec to Run India Business

Oct 13, 2014, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi, the Chinese handset maker, recently announced it has hired Jai Mani to lead its product team in India. Mani worked on Google+ and other products within Google. Last year, Xiaomi coaxed Hugo Barra, part of the Android team, to leave Google. Barra, who said he and Mani worked together closely at Google, played a role in bringing Mani to Xiaomi. "You can think of it as the beginning of our R&D center development in India," said Barra to the Wall Street Journal. "The first person we hired is someone who's going to be the glue between our users in India, product feedback that we receive, and the engineering team we have in Beijing as well as the engineering team that we are going to be building fairly soon in India." Mani will be based in Bangalore. Xiaomi has already made significant progress against larger competitors such as Samsung in its home market of China, and has set its eyes on India as a place to grow further.


Google Play App Updated with Material Design

Oct 10, 2014, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has begun delivering a redesigned version of the Play Store application to Android devices. The biggest change in the app is the design itself. The Play Store has adopted Android L's material design, which includes flatter icons, new animations, and altered use of shadows. Google has been updating Android apps with material design over the last few weeks ahead of Android L's release. Android L is expected to arrive later this month.


Nokia HERE Maps Now Available to Samsung Galaxy Phones

Oct 9, 2014, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia recently announced that its HERE Maps product is now available to Samsung's Galaxy smartphones. HERE Maps allows users to download entire countries or regions, which makes the maps available even when the device is offline. Downloaded maps perform faster when panning and zooming since new segments don't need to be loaded from an internet connection. HERE Maps for Galaxy devices include free, voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. Users can plan routes via car, public transport, or foot. Live traffic updates and real-time transit schedules require a data connection. Nokia says maps are available for about 200 countries with turn-by-turn directions available in about 100. Transit maps are available in 750 metro areas across 40 different countries, with more being added all the time. HERE Maps can be found in the Samsung Galaxy Apps Store directly on handsets and is being offered first in beta form. It requires 1GB of RAM and Android 4.1 and up.


HTC RE is an Action Cam for Everyone

Oct 8, 2014, 3:36 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 8, 2014, 3:45 PM

HTC today announce the RE Camera, a small standalone camera device that connects to any Android or iOS device. Roughly the size and shape of an inhaler, the waterproof body sports an ultra-simple interface with a capture button you press to snap a still, and hold down to record video. It turns on automatically when you touch the body. The 16-megapixel Sony Exmor sensor is paired with an ultra-wide 146-degree lens that captures practically everything in front of it. It also records 1080p HD video, optionally in slow motion via a small second button. It charges via micro-USB and supports USB mass storage for easy file transfer. It also has a microSD slot and comes with an 8 GB memory card. It mounts to any standard camera tripod. It pairs with the smartphone app via Wi-Fi Direct. The app can browse and/or download photos and videos. It's also used to configure various settings, can be used as a remote live viewfinder, and controls a highly configurable time-lapse mode. It also includes one-touch correction for the "fisheye effect" from the wide-angle lens. Available accessories include a bike mount, lanyard, and deep underwater case. A future update will enable live broadcasting via YouTube. Available colors include white, teal, navy, and coral. It will go on sale at Best Buy by the end of October for $199.

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HTC Relaunches Zoe as Social Network

Oct 8, 2014, 3:25 PM   by Rich Brome

HTC today announced that its new Zoe app and service has exited beta and is being launched as a revamped, cross-platform social network. The new Zoe app will be available for both Android and iOS, and combines the Zoe Highlight Video functionality with a social network much like Instagram or Vine. It also lets users remix and add to friends' content. In beta, the app required at least 8 media items (photo or video) in order to make a 30-second auto-edited video clip. The new version 1.0 can make videos as short as seven seconds using as few media as you like, even just one photo. (It still supports using up to 16 media, and outputting videos up to 30 seconds.) It also includes a revamped tool to find Facebook friends who are using Zoe, and can post Zoes to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Like Instagram, Vine, and Twitter, it lets you follow friends and be followed, and the app centers on a scrolling feed of content posted by people you follow. The app automatically mixes content into a creative video montage, with various options to customize music and timing. It's available for Android 4.3 and higher starting today, and iOS 7 and higher starting later this fall.

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Microsoft Debuts Xim, a Cross-Platform Photo-Sharing App

Oct 8, 2014, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced Xim, an app and service that allows people to share photos with select groups of people. Xim was created by Microsoft Research's FUSE labs and is compatible with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Users can select up to 50 photos to share and create a Xim. Users can pluck photos from their camera roll, Facebook, Instagram, Google Drive, or OneDrive. The Xim can then be viewed by whoever the user invites, including those who don't have the app (viewed via the browser). The app includes a group chat feature that allows everyone invited to a Xim to chat with each other. Xims are impermanent, sort of like Snapchat, and expire after a short period of time. The Xim app should be available in the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, and Windows Phone Store today.


Verizon to Sell HTC Desire 612 Beginning Oct. 9

Oct 7, 2014, 12:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced the pending availability of the HTC Desire 612. The 612 is sold as the 610 by other carriers. The 612 is an affordable Android phone with a 4.7-inch display, 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 1.3-megapixel front camera, 4G LTE, and a memory card slot. It sports a clean design inspired by the HTC One, but in high-quality plastic. Like the One, it features BoomSound dual front speakers and Zoe video functions. Verizon is offering the phone for free with a new two-year contract and for low monthly fees via Verizon Edge. The company also noted that customers who upgrade their line to a More Everything Plan will receive an extra 1GB of data per month for 24 months.


ZTE X Max to Arrive in Cricket Stores Oct. 10

Oct 7, 2014, 9:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today announced the ZTE X Max, the second big-screened phone to join the prepaid carrier's ranks. The X Max features a 6-inch 720p HD screen and 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor. The main camera rates 8 megapixels with an LED flash and HD video capture, and the user-facing camera rates 1 megapixel. The X Max includes 8GB of internal storage and supports memory cards up to 32GB. It runs Android 4.4. KitKat. The phone comes with the Peel Smart Remote app, which allows owners to discover TV content directly on their handset. The ZTE X Max goes on sale online and in stores October 10 and will cost $200. For a limited time, Cricket is offering a $100 bill credit to customers who switch from MetroPCS or T-Mobile.


LG Tribute Lands on Virgin Mobile

Oct 6, 2014, 9:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 6, 2014, 9:56 AM

Virgin Mobile USA recently made the LG Tribute available on its web site. The Tribute is a low-cost Android smartphone that features a 4.5-inch screen, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 5-megapixel camera, LTE and LG's Knock Code. The device runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Virgin is selling the Tribute for $80 without a contract. The device is also being sold at Best Buy, RadioShack, and from Amazon.com, QVC.com, HSN.com.


Microsoft Sues Samsung Over Unpaid Interest

Oct 4, 2014, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has filed a suit against Samsung seeking to collect $6.9 million in interest. According to Microsoft, Samsung delayed payment of $1 billion in smartphone patent royalties owed Microsoft. When it did finally pay, the company omitted the accrued interest. Samsung believes Microsoft violated a 2011 patent-licensing agreement the two companies struck when Microsoft agreed to purchase Nokia's handset business in 2013. Microsoft's new legal filing asks a judge declare it didn't violate the 2011 agreement and demands Samsung pay the interest on the late patent royalties. Most makers of Android smartphones pay Microsoft patent fees due to several Microsoft technologies contained in Android devices. Motorola is the only company not paying patent fees to Microsoft, and the two companies are still embroiled in legal proceedings.


Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Edge are MirrorLink Compatible

Oct 3, 2014, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung and the Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge are both MirrorLink compatible. MirrorLink is a connectivity tool for pairing smartphones and cars. It works across smartphone platforms and car manufacturers, and is the only vendor-neutral standard available. With MirrorLink aboard, the Note 4 and Note Edge will be able to connect to select in-car infotainment systems, allowing drivers to more safely access their phone's content when behind the wheel. Apple and Google have both announced their own connectivity solutions for cars, which are part of iOS 8 and Android Release L, respectively.


Google Refreshes Play Newsstand with Material Design

Oct 2, 2014, 9:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released a new version of Google Play Newsstand, its magazine and news reading app, for Android devices. Google fine-tuned the experience so magazine articles are easier to read within Newsstand. Google says users will now see a list of articles with big images from each magazine that can be toggled through and read. Further, Play Newsstand has been refreshed with Google's Material Design. That means it has bigger images, more contextual headers, and smoother transitions. Google says it is easy to swipe left and right to change topics, or up and down to dive deeper into individual topics. Last, the Explore section gains more topic cards so users can discover content that interests them. Google Play Newsstand is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google has updated a handful of its applications ahead of Android L's general release, which is expected to arrive in the next few weeks.


AT&T Bringing Affordable Alcatel OneTouch C1 to GoPhone

Oct 2, 2014, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service today added the Alcatel OneTouch C1 to its roster of inexpensive smartphones. The C1 is an entry-level device with a 3.5-inch HVGA screen, 2-megapixel camera, dual-core 1.0GHz processor with 512MB of RAM, and 1,400mAh battery. It includes 4GB of internal storage and supports microSD cards up to 32GB. The C1 runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The Alcatel OneTouch C1 costs $60 and will be available at select national retailers beginning this month.


Consumer Cellular Adds Huawei Mate 2 and Vision 2

Oct 1, 2014, 12:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumer Cellular today announced the immediate availability of the Huawei Ascend Mate 2 and Vision 2. The Mate 2 has been available to U.S. consumers unlocked directly from Huawei for several months. It features a 6.1-inch 720p HD screen. The Vision 2 (pictured), however, is a new handset. The Vision 2 features a 4-inch WVGA display and dual-core 1.2GHz processor. It has a 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, 4GB of internal storage, and memory card support up to 32GB. The Vision 2 is compatible with HSPA cellular networks and includes Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi radios. The device features Consumer Cellular's Easy Mode, which the company believes is ideal for first-time smartphone buyers. It runs Android 4.3. The Vision 2 costs $100. The Ascend Mate 2 costs either $250 at full retail, or $100 followed by six payments of $25. Last, starting today, customers will now have either 30 days, 300 minutes, 300 texts, or 300 MB of data to use, whichever comes first.


FreedomPop Trots Out $89 Liberty Tablet

Oct 1, 2014, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today announced a new direction for the company, as it plans to sell more low-cost hardware using its own brand. The first device to bear the FreedomPop name is the Liberty, a tablet that has a 6.7-inch screen with 1024 x 600 resolution. The Liberty includes a dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex A9 processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. The main camera captures 4-megapixel images and the selfie camera captures VGA images. The Liberty supports memory cards and includes a 2,400mAh battery. FreedomPop is marketing the Liberty as a phablet, but it is limited to Wi-Fi and does not include cellular capabilities. Liberty owners will receive 200 voice minutes and 500 messages for free; both services will require an active Wi-Fi network to function. (Some of FreedomPop's devices include cellular capabilities and roam onto Sprint's network.) Liberty said a larger, 10-inch tablet with LTE, called the Frenzy, will arrive next month. Further, a FreedomPop-branded, LTE-equipped Android smartphone will show up at some point down the road. The FreedomPop Liberty costs $89 and ships today. Last, FreedomPop said it plans to offer the Samsung Galaxy Note II and Note 3 in the days ahead for low prices.


LG Debuts the F60, A Budget LTE Smartphone

Oct 1, 2014, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 1, 2014, 7:56 AM

LG today announced the F60, what it calls an affordable handset with LTE 4G on board. The F60 features a 4.5-inch WVGA display and 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM and either 4 or 8GB of internal storage. The device has a 5-megapixel main camera with Gesture Shot and Touch & Shot, and a 1.3-megapixel selfie camera with a user-facing light for improved selfies. The device includes Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and GPS, and relies on a 2,100mAh for power. The F60 features a number of LG's signature capabilities, such as Knock Code. The F60 runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and will go on sale in the weeks ahead. U.S carriers have not announced support for the phone yet, but LG said it will be sold in the Americas.


Hands-On: Alcatel OneTouch Pop Mega and Pop Star

Sep 29, 2014, 7:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel revealed two new Android smartphones headed to Tracfone later this year, the Pop Mega and the Pop Star. Here are a few thoughts on these low-cost cell phones.

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OneDrive for Android Gains New Photo Viewer

Sep 29, 2014, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new version of OneDrive for Android smartphones and tablets. The updated cloud storage app includes what Microsoft calls the All Photos View, which makes it easier to browse and see photos across OneDrive. OneDrive also adds new business tools, including a search function and a file viewer to find documents that colleagues have shared with the user. The updated app for Android devices is free to download from the Google Play Store. Microsoft recently doubled the amount of free storage from 15GB to 30GB - as long as users choose to automatically upload photos from their phone to OneDrive.


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