Of all top Android manufacturers, HTC and Motorola seem to be among the least likely players to release timely Android upgrades. Prior to the One and Moto X neither of the two has actually been quick to announce immediate roll-outs nor reassuring plans to do so for the foreseeable future. Yet here we are today with both HTC and Motorola doing just that. Interesting how their strategies have changed.
HTC's US arm has announced that the North American models of the HTC One will receive the Android 4.4 KitKat upgrade by the end of January 2014. This estimate also includes the Verizon version, which has yet to even get Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. HTC, however, says that this situation will not affect its plans.
Google is renowned for its lack of Windows Phone 8 support. The search giant currently has a single app in Store -- which, surprisingly, just received a nice update, its first big one since March 2012 -- with no plans on the horizon to bring popular apps like Drive, Gmail, Google+, Maps or YouTube to the tiled smartphone operating system.
Being a user myself, I can see why some folks would give up on waiting for the real deal and start to embrace a third-party app or switch to a rival service instead. Fortunately, developers have released competent clients for Google services, like MetroMail that provides a solid Gmail experience in the absence of an official Windows Phone 8 app.
Android's success, in the smartphone and tablet markets, makes the operating system's users a popular target for malware writers. Some of the concerns which researchers and security firms frequently expose translate into real threats, while others will likely never see the light of day as they're squashed in their infancy.
Luckily, Google is taking a proactive stance to improving Android's security as the search giant has expanded the patch reward program that was introduced in early October, to also include its Android Open Source Project.
After launching Android 4.4 KitKat alongside the Nexus 5, Google released the latest version of the mobile OS for the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. The roll-out of the OTA upgrade kicked off on November 13 and the factory images arrived a couple of days later. Since I have already explained how to use the OTA files to get KitKat up and running, in this article I will show you how to do the same by leveraging the factory images.
Aside from allowing users to install Android 4.4, the KitKat factory images also come in handy for those who wish to upgrade, return their Nexus device to stock before selling it, and install various bits (the radios, the bootloader, etc.) to use with custom Android distributions. As you can tell, the factory images have a broader scope and, therefore, I will also cover the other most important ways you can benefit.
Nexus users love to fiddle with their smartphones and tablets by tearing off the stock software and experimenting with custom Android distributions, kernels, recoveries and whatever else is different from what is offered out-of-the-box. More often than not this all works fine, but it is not uncommon for something to break beyond easy repair. And, that is when Nexus modders turn to Google's factory images for help to return their devices to stock software.
After kicking off the roll-out of the KitKat upgrade, Google released the Android 4.4 factory images for the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7. The Nexus 5 received this treatment right after launch while the Nexus 10 is still waiting for the search giant's stamp of approval.
Canadian maker BlackBerry is expanding the reach of its BBM service through the latest update for the iOS app, that now includes support for non-cellular Apple-branded devices. As a result, Wi-Fi iPad and iPod users can also communicate with their BBM-using friends, as the app no longer limits access only to iPhones and 3G/4G iPads.
BlackBerry has yet to bestow non-cellular Android devices with the same ability, as BBM is still listed as being incompatible with tablets like the Wi-Fi 2013 Google Nexus 7 even in the latest version of the app that arrived yesterday. Now let's take a look at what (else) the Android and iOS updates for BBM add.
As expected, Google has started to roll out Android 4.4 KitKat to its Nexus tablet lineup. At the moment, the software upgrade is only heading to the Wi-Fi versions of the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10, but is slated to reach the cellular models of the smaller tablet too in the upcoming period, as well as the Nexus 4.
The upgrade may be rolling out to compatible tablets as we speak but it will take some time to reach all Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 devices. Luckily, you do not have to wait for the notification to install Android 4.4, as you can get KitKat up and running right now without losing any of your apps and settings or resorting to the modding trickery of loading a custom ROM.
Finnish maker Nokia has released Nokia Refocus, a new app for its flagship Lumia Windows Phone 8 smartphones with PureView cameras that allows users to choose new focus points after snapping pictures. The feature is similar to what Lytro cameras deliver, but adapted to work on smartphone hardware.
The philosophy behind Nokia Refocus is to give users the ability to "capture first and then focus and re-focus later to produce interactive photos", says the Finnish maker. The app is designed specifically for "scenes with a great contrast in the depth of field, like macro shots".
Yes, you've read that correctly. Microsoft's Surface RT tablet will be available at US retailer Best Buy under the magical $200 mark. The $199.99 price tag will be attached next to the Windows RT slate between November 28 and November 30, just in time for Black Friday.
The model that the US retailer will offer during that period is the 32 GB Surface RT without the bundled keyboard. Normally, the tablet would cost $349.99 at Best Buy, which makes the $150 discount look rather impressive.
After a long wait Vine is now available on Windows Phone 8, officially bringing its popular six-second videos outside of Android and iOS. The app arrives in Store with a respectable feature set, including free and unlimited clip uploads and social network integration with Facebook and Twitter.
Vine takes advantage of built-in Windows Phone features, such as live tiles and camera lenses, as the app allows users to pin the Vine camera and their favorite accounts and channels on the homescreen and trigger the Vine recording mode from the built-in camera app (or third-party camera apps that support lenses, like Nokia Camera).
Windows Phone may be the fastest growing major smartphone platform, but its market share still has a long way to go in order to become an imminent threat to Apple's iPhones, let alone Android smartphones. The latest IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker report shows, once again, Microsoft's tiled mobile OS in the same distant third place, far behind its more popular rivals, despite the impressive 156 percent year-over-year growth in shipments from Q3 2013.
"Android and Windows Phone continued to make significant strides in the third quarter. Despite their differences in market share, they both have one important factor behind their success: price", says IDC research manager Ramon Llamas. "Both platforms have a selection of devices available at prices low enough to be affordable to the mass market, and it is the mass market that is driving the entire market forward". That difference in market share that Llamas mentions is a whopping 77.4 percentage points, between Android's 81 percent and Windows Phone's mere 3.6 percent; put differently, Android shipments (211.6 million units) were 22.27 times higher than those of Windows Phones (at 9.5 million units).
The need for more secure communication services has certainly spiked in the wake of the NSA spying revelations, with providers placing a higher emphasis on keeping their users' personal and work information safe from unwanted access. After all, those users expect (and demand) them to do so. As a result, it is not out of the ordinary to see the word "secure" being used as one of the many buzzwords that describe such services nowadays. The question is whether the presentation matches the behind-the-scenes reality.
Among the slew of services that promise secure communications is Perzo, which launched as a beta in late-August 2013. Perzo was founded by David Gurle, who is best known for his former roles as head of the Windows Messenger development and general manager and vice president of Skype for Business in the early 2000s. The service piqued my attention, and I chatted with the man to find out what sort of features and security options Perzo can bring to the table as a newcomer in the "secure communications application" market.
Starting today, the new iPad Mini with Retina display is available to order from Apple's online store. The tablet was unveiled, alongside the bigger iPad Air (that launched November 1) and other products bearing the fruit logo, three weeks ago during a special Apple event.
Folks looking to purchase one today and get it as soon as possible should take into account the customary initial lead times. Apple lists the 16 GB and 32 GB Wi-Fi iPad Mini with Retina display as ready to ship in one to three business days (lower than its estimates for the new iPad Air -- five to seven business days). The 64 GB and 128 GB Wi-Fi as well as all cellular models are slated to ship in five to ten business days. This applies to both the Space Gray and Silver trims.
One of the largest usability gaps in Windows Phone 8 stems from the lack of a quick and easy way to toggle system settings, similar to what Android's quick settings or iOS's Control Center offer. The feature allows users to turn Wi-Fi, mobile data, GPS and others on and off in as little steps as possible, without having to navigate through the Settings menu every single time to alter their state.
Luckily there are apps in Windows Phone's Store that fill this void, with System Tiles being one of the most appealing and customizable offerings available today. The app is easy to use and quite powerful, allowing folks to create intuitive live tiles that can gather a significant number of shortcuts to apps and settings, all in one place.
Microsoft shows no signs of slowing down. After unveiling a major update to Office Web Apps, today the software giant releases the stable version of Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7. The latest iteration of the popular browser debuted alongside Windows 8.1 in mid-October and like its predecessor it forgoes supporting older versions of the operating system.
And because Windows 8.1 is being offered as a free upgrade to Windows 8 users, and Microsoft expects everyone to take this step, Internet Explorer 11 is not officially available for the latter OS either. It is a Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 affair only, which speaks volumes of Microsoft's ongoing efforts to drastically reduce Windows XP's market share and push the two Internet Explorer 11-supported operating systems to the forefront.