Samsung is slowly moving away from its oft-maligned, all-plastic smartphone designs of the past, in an attempt to convince consumers that it too can make premium-looking and feeling devices. The first smartphone to reveal what the future holds was Galaxy Alpha, announced just a few months ago. Then Galaxy Note 4 came along, stepping things up even further in the high-end segment.
And now we see how Samsung's vision will impact its less expensive Galaxy devices, as the company just took the wraps off Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A3 today, two mid-range to low-end smartphones featuring "refined full metal unibody designs" that happen to be very, very thin (for whatever reason): 6.7 and 6.9 mm, respectively.
Way back in January, Google announced plans to sell Motorola to Lenovo for $2.91 billion. Today that deal has completed. The acquisition sees control of Moto X, Moto G, Moto E and the DROID product ranges moving out of Google's hands as Motorola operates as a wholly-owned subsidiary under Lenovo. Google's CEO is happy with the outcome: "Motorola is in great hands with Lenovo, a company that's all-in on making great devices".
Lenovo takes a total of 3,500 employees under its wing, and becomes the third largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. Practically speaking, at least in the immediate future, little should change. Motorola will remain headquartered in Chicago, and Rick Osterloh will stay on as COO.
If you are a fan of Android, there is something you may live and breathe for -- Nexus. True, fans may choose other devices for various reasons, but Nexus devices are the best way to get timely updates and a pure Android experience. As many of us have learned the hard way, non-Nexus devices may get stranded without updates and get left behind. Regardless of who is to blame, whether it is the manufacturers or the carriers, it can be an unpleasant experience to say the least.
The Nexus 6 is the newest Google handset, this time built by Motorola. Pre-ordering went live today, but something rather tragic happened -- it sold out. Yes, in merely a minute or so, the world raced to pre-order the smartphone and it is now out of stock from the Google Play Store. If you did not get to order one, you have my sympathies; it understandably sucks. However, all is not lost, you can still score one on launch day.
The other day my colleague Brian Fagioli posted a story about Cortana advancements for the Windows Phone crowd. It got me thinking because he stated that "quite frankly, Google Now is so good at learning about you, that at first, it can seem a bit creepy". He isn't far off the mark, as it is creepy, but it works. And it works to an almost scarily good degree, when it comes to figuring its user out. TV? Travel? Packages ordered? It will have you covered. But is all of this a good or bad thing?
The answer will depend on the person, as I know the privacy advocates will chime in and disagree with my assessment. Am I worried about this invasion to my personal life? The answer is a resounding NO. Google Now alerts me to all sorts of events, some are just useful, some are things I'd likely have forgot without the help of the search giant.
As if giving Office 365 subscribers unlimited OneDrive storage was not enough, Microsoft today has some more news relating to its office suite. Previously only available as previews, a batch of new Office 365 APIs open up new opportunities for developers to tap into Office with their own apps. With APIs available for mail, files, calendar and contacts, there's lots of potential for the future.
One of the first big names to take advantages of the new APIs is IFTTT, the online automation service. The new APIs mean that it is possible for IFTTT to react to things that happen in Office applications -- so it is possible to set up an alert when an email matching certain criteria arrives. There are also updates to the Android and iOS SDKs for developers to work with.
OnePlus One has attracted lots of attention from the media and consumers without even being generally available, as virtually every other flagship smartphone is today. Many have chosen to play by the company's rules, asking and waiting for the invites which give them the option to purchase the device. It's a pretty unusual way of selling and buying smartphones, but it seems to have only boosted One's appeal.
If you have not yet had the chance to buy One, you should know that today OnePlus is making it generally available to pre-order, as it temporarily drops its invite-only system to get One in the hands of more consumers.
The mobile device market is extremely diverse judging by the number of companies which sell smartphones and tablets today. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of vendors worldwide. On the other hand, when it comes to mobile processors, there are only a handful of companies which make them. Of those, even fewer are also handset vendors and even fewer still are well known by the average consumers: Apple and Samsung.
It is tough to make a splash in the mobile processor market, as top players such as Qualcomm and Apple are so far ahead in the game that it is very difficult for a new player to catch up and compete on equal footing with the leaders. LG, however, is not afraid to give it a try, as it just unveiled its first in-house mobile processor. And the South Korean maker is not wasting any time as it has already put it to use in its new G3 Screen phablet.
There are now a lot of smartwatches to choose from, and many of them need to be tethered to a phone to function properly. Google today rolls out an update to Android Wear that adds support for watches with a GPS sensor, meaning that it will be possible to leave your phone at home when you go for a run.
The GPS update is making its way to the LG G Watch, the Samsung Gear Live, and the Moto 360 over the coming days. It coincides with pre-orders opening for Sony's SmartWatch 3, the first Android Wear device to include a GPS sensor. The smartwatch is available on Verizon right now (yours for $249.99) for shipping on 30 October, and will be making its way to Google Play very soon.
Amazon recently released a new line of Kindle products, featuring two new tablets and readers respectively. With the release came an update to the retailer's version of Android, known as Fire OS. It's a highly customized take on Google's mobile platform -- almost unrecognizable, in fact.
Now Amazon is rolling out an update to it, bringing the system to version 4.1.1. The update doesn't seem to have hit the 2013 models yet, but those with the latest tablet should be seeing it now, or at least very soon.
Microsoft app launches are usually predictable. Most are offerings which aim to get us hooked on the software giant's most-prominent products, like Office, OneDrive, Outlook.com and Xbox. But, every once in a while, Microsoft does something out of the ordinary, like it wants to tell the world that, much like startups, it too is capable of intriguing and exciting things.
After launching a lovely keyboard for Android Wear, Microsoft just released a whole bunch of apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone, made by an in-house team of "hackers, makers, artists, tinkerers, musicians, inventors" called Microsoft Garage. The most interesting offerings are Torque, which my colleague Brian Fagioli just covered, and two lockscreen apps, for Android and Windows Phone.
With Android 5.0 Lollipop yet to be released, some manufacturers have already revealed their upgrade plans for the latest version of the mobile operating system, effectively setting a high bar for the rest of the pack. You can thank HTC, Motorola and Sony for doing so last week. In fact, HTC and Motorola consistently rank among the first in this regard, and when it comes to rolling out those software updates to their customers' devices as well.
Not to be outdone by its far-distant competition, top maker Samsung wants us to know that it too has some upgrade plans for Android 5.0 Lollipop. But, instead of actually showing them, it has posted a rather lame teaser on Twitter, regarding Galaxy Note 4. Pundits have fallen for it, writing that the much-awaited software update is fast-approaching. Really?
Google has long been unhappy with traditional passwords. And rightly so, they are a headache. If they are easy to remember, they can become easy to guess. There are problems with reuse, attackers are getting them through compromised third party applications, and there are more problems than I care to list. It is hard enough to follow good practice as an informed and security conscious individual -- imagine the struggle for the "non-techy".
Google has long been looking into proximity based credentials as alternatives, and placing them in objects like rings. Last Google I/O, the company released an upcoming feature in Chrome OS that uses your authorized, unlocked phone to unlock your computer simply by having them near to each other (unlocking your phone indicates you are near your computer).
Firebase, a company helping developers to produce apps and services that store and sync data in realtime, is the latest Google acquisition. With a user base of 110,000 developers three-year-old Firebase announced that it is joining Google and plans to continue the work it already does, but pointing out it will be possible to "do much more, much faster" with Google's resources and backing.
With Firebase's focus on the cloud and mobile, it is little surprise that Google's own announcement about the acquisition came on the Google Cloud Platform Blog. The two companies appear to be a good match, with Firebase's aim to "continue to be platform agnostic and provide clients for iOS, Android, the web, and more" being very much in keeping with Google's own ethos.
HERE's upcoming availability for Samsung Galaxy smartphones was announced in late-August, and, at first, it appeared to be an exclusive launch. But, shortly after, Nokia's arm revealed that the app would actually be made available for every compatible Android smartphone "later this year".
HERE launched in beta for Samsung Galaxy smartphones only two weeks ago. For a first public release, the amount of features available is rather impressive, even for someone like me who is used to the fully-featured HERE suite on Windows Phone. And, now, everyone with an Android smartphone running any of the three Jelly Bean iterations or newer can also test what HERE has to offer (as long as the device has 1 GB of RAM or more), as the app's availability is extending beyond Galaxy smartphones.
With Android 5.0 Lollipop, Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 on the horizon, as well as some great Android devices already on the market, some of you may be thinking about ditching iOS for Android. It is unquestionably a big decision, so you may want to ensure that the switch from an iPhone or iPad will be as painless as possible.
To help with the switch, Google has prepared a nifty guide that explains how you can migrate your data from iOS to Android, tackling key areas such as multimedia content, contacts, email, messaging and, of course, apps. You may recall that Apple posted a similar guide last month, detailing to would-be customers the steps they need to take to move from Android handsets to iPhones. Google now looks to simply be returning the favor.