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Google has introduced some new changes to its Play Magazine app, which now has been bumped up to version 2.0. The change comes on the back of a similar effort towards Google Play Music and its Play Store, both of which received their respective updates recently. As part of the enhancements brought about at the Play Magazine, the app now sports a cleaner and organized look and the interface looks brighter. A new slide out bar has been introduced to switch views from Read Now, Library, and Shopping mode. Purple has emerged as the theme color for the Play Magazine, though it still lacks features such as bookmarking, copy and paste, or highlighting.
As per news coming from Taiwan, trial production of the 5th gen iPad is set to kick off soon with volume production expected to begin in July. Initial plans call for the shipment to stabilize at around 2-3 million by September.
As for the iPad 5′s specifications, Digitimes has some interesting bits to share. For instance, the site is claiming the new iPad will come with the same display resolution of 2048 x 1536, though the differences lie elsewhere. This being that the glass substrate to be used in iPad 5 will be thinner by 0.2mm from the 0.25mm thickness as is seen in the iPad 4. The touch panel to be used in the iPad 5 will be based on GF2 tech, which employs 1 layer of glass and two layers of ITO film, whereas the same in case of iPad 4 was based on G/G bonding technique.
The sources further claim iPad 5 will be using “one LED light bar for backlighting” whereas the iPad 4 used two LED light bars. The report also confirms what has always been rumored, that the next gen iPad will be lighter and sporting thinner bezels.
The two South Korean companies, LG Display and Samsung Display, alongside Sharp are among those believed to have been contracted to supply the iPad 5 display.
The 2013 edition of the Google I/O event was without any fancy hardware launches, something that many analysts had predicted. There wasn’t even a new Android update announced, which analysts were definitely expecting. Many are now suggesting that Google I/O might just have returned to the way it used to be, with the focus back on developers instead of the products or the consumer oriented approach it had developed in the last few years.
However, that does not mean it has been all about boring lectures or discussions that exclude the consumers. Rather, Google did have some nice features to announce, some that are sure to have industry wide ramifications. Mentioned below are some cool features that the Google I/O 2013 has yielded.
Google Play Music All Access: It’s the answer to the likes of Spotify, Rdio, or even the upcoming Apple’s iRadio. It combines your personal music tracks to the millions present in Google Play Music so you can have what is best described in the words of Chris Yegra “radio without rules.” The system is also programmed to find stuff that you might like based on your listening preferences. Users will also have the option to create personalized radio stations based on songs or artists they like, or just through a specific genre. The song list can be pulled up with a single tap, and if All Access’ recommendations are not to your liking, you can remove them from the list with a single swipe of your finger. The service is priced quite conveniently at $9.99 per month, after month long free trial period. Or for those who just can’t wait to hop on to the All Access bandwagon, Google will reward them with a subscription fee of $7.99 per month before June 30. In the end, Google’s ability to strike a deal with the big time music labels before Apple is quite impressive.
Maps: This is another area where Google has put in a lot of effort. This has led to the map being more informative and detailed than ever before. When you search for a place, Google not only pulls up the map, but also provides you with useful recommendations for the area. A pop-up also provides you with a 360 degree view of the place you have searched. Videos can be accessed right from the map, which is now transformed into an interface. Also, the maps are now more personalized so that users will be able to highlight areas or create landmarks as per user’s choice. And once you have clicked on a suggestion or landmark, a new map pops up to show related attractions as well. The map’s navigation features have been enhanced, as it now provides not only driving directions to a place you have selected, but also walking and biking directions, including public transit. Users are also warned of traffic jams and will be provided with alternate routes to avoid them.
Google Now: This has been a cool addition to the Jelly Bean package and now it has become even smarter thanks to the Knowledge Graph based search that has been fine-tuned even further. As such, the Google virtual assistant will be able to answer not only questions you have directly asked, but will also anticipate details that you may want to know about. This was demoed at the conference by asking Google Now the population of India. In such a scenario, Google Now will not only answer the query but will also furnish details of how the population compares with other related countries and so on. The virtual assistant will also accept voice commands for tasks like setting reminders and so on.
Photo Tools in Google+: Google has introduced some cool photo editing tools to its two year old social networking platform Google+ in a bid to rake up some excitement around it. Among the features introduced is Highlight, which can identify if the pictures are hazy or overexposed, identify landmarks, or even find faces sporting a smile. The Auto Enhance feature eliminates noise from low light images while also softening wrinkles. Auto Awesome is another cool feature that can identify a photo scene and provide corrections accordingly. In short, it is designed to automatically make a photo awesome.
Lastly, while Google was expected to launch a slew of hardware, which includes next gen versions of Nexus 7, Nexus 4, or even a new Chromebook, the lone hardware announcement during the conference was the Samsung Galaxy S4 running the stock Android version. The S4 will reach markets towards end June, but is priced a hefty $650.
Microsoft is all set to officially launch the next iteration of Windows, version 8.1, in October. Towards this, volume production of notebook devices based on Windows Blue is set to kick off in September. However, it remains to be seen is whether a new version of Windows will be enough to spur demand in the notebook segment that is finding increasing competition from tablet devices. The fact that Microsoft isn’t extending any incentive to the notebook manufacturers, such as reduced licensing fees, isn’t helping things either. As of now, Microsoft is offering licensing subsidies for devices with a display size smaller than 11.6 inches.
Meanwhile, in another related development, Microsoft is all set to enter the budget tablet segment with a new Surface RT variant that will have a display of 8 inches and is set for a June launch. The tablet is likely to sport a price tag of around $249 – $299 and is being put together by Pegatron Technology. The 8 inch touch panels are being sourced from Samsung and will be built around a Tegra chip. A bigger 10.x inch Surface RT is also in the pipeline, which will be launched during Q3 this year. However, analysts are skeptical about the success of the smaller Surface RT device, considering the less than enthusiastic response the bigger cousin managed to evoke. Further, competition is set to become even more fierce in the smaller tablet segment with Apple and Google set to launch follow up devices to their successful devices, the iPad Mini and Nexus 7. Samsung also has a few offerings lined up in the budget tablet segment, as well. Microsoft is expecting sales of the two Surface RT variants to reach a million units a month.
There is no word though what the successor to the Surface Pro will be like. Microsoft’s tablet sales in the first quarter of 2013 have stood at 900,000 units, with Surface Pro being the majority contributor to that figure.
The 2013 edition of the Google I/O Conference may not have been about fancy hardware launches or even a new iteration of Android (both of which were hotly anticipated), but that does not mean there weren’t any important or interesting announcements made. There is the very interesting new feature that Google launched aimed primarily at the educational sector. Google Play for Education marks an entirely new addition to the Google Play Store and comprises of apps aimed at making learning a fun filled experience for the kids.
Not surprisingly, the Google Play for Education section also integrates Google+ groups, and the inherent benefit is that a teacher can push a single app to all their students to form a particular group in a single push. As long as the teachers create the groups and direct the apps, Google will have the app delivered to all the devices in that group.
Google stated that the apps that have been included are those that have been recommended by teachers, which adds a lot of pedigree to the Play for Education section. It also allows the apps to be purchased via the school’s (or even a school system’s) billing account rather than via a single person’s credit card. That does make a lot of sense, considering any apps purchased will be paid for by the school authorities rather than having to use an individual’s credit card and reimbursing them later, thus saving a lot of hassle.
Lastly, Google also has stated the new Education segment won’t just be limited to apps, but will also comprise of books and videos as well. All of which will be organized by genre and the intended age group. Overall, it’s a nice move that will help students and teachers make the best of digital tools in furthering the cause of education.
If you have been longing for a way to chat with your peers that are hooked on to their Android or iOS devices using the Blackberry Messenger, here comes your moment under the summer sun. The company, during the Blackberry Live 2013, made the announcement, though it will depend on Apple and Google approving such a move.
“For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service. BBM has always been one of the most engaging services for BlackBerry customers, enabling them to easily connect while maintaining a valued level of personal privacy. We’re excited to offer iOS and Android users the possibility to join the BBM community,” revealed Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President, Software Product Management and Ecosystem, at BlackBerry.
The service will only be limited to chatting in the initial stages, but will grow to include other aspects as well. These include BBM Voice, BBM Video, and also BBM Channels during the later stages. The latter is a new addition which is described in the company press release as a “social engagement platform within BBM that will allow customers to connect with the businesses, brands, celebrities and groups they are passionate about.”
The service will continue to be free, and the other usual goodies associated with BBM chats will also be present. These include the trusted Delivered and Read statuses, depicted as D and R, which has come to be trusted by users as a surefire means of knowing when their messages have been delivered and read.
So it’s now up to Google and Apple, and once approved, the BBM chat app will be available at both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store as a free download.
The battery life of a tablet is one of the biggest factors you have to consider when selecting a tablet device and the best in the business is good for no more than half a day of run time. Tablets can be a great companion just about anywhere, but not for camping holidays where you are away from charging facilities for days. It’s here that the Earl fits in. The creation of a Seattle based company Squigle, the Earl’s claim to fame is its around 20 hours of battery time. What’s even better is that the tablet also includes a solar panel that can charge the device in 5 hours.
While fascinating, there is no new breakthrough technology in use here to produce the best battery backup times. The Earl’s secret of the 20+ hours of battery times is its 6 inch front-lit E Ink display sourced from LG. Another cool aspect of the tablet is its IR touch array that allows for the tablet to be operated even with gloves on. Also, the tablet is unlike any other on the market, what with its 0.6 inch thick covering that is water and mud resistant. The tablet lacks an integrated camera, though.
The Earl boasts of the usual connectivity options of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC. The tablet will also tune in to AM and FM radio once completed. Also, to live up to its claims of being a true “backcountry survival tablet,” Earl will also come pre-loaded with a 100,000 topographic maps of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The tablet runs a customized version of Android 4.1 operating system.
However, these features are still in the developmental stages and the Earl’s makers are looking for a $250k funding to ensure the tablet enters the production line and debuts in the market, where it’s expected to be priced $249. If it indeed comes together, you will have the goodness of both an e-reader and a tablet without having to recharge so frequently.
Some inquisitive sleuthing by the folks at Android Police with the Google Glass app ‘MyGlass’ codes has come up with unexpected results. The information included codes that pertain to real-time and turn-based multiplayer games. This was the biggest indication of something like Apple’s Games Center coming from Google, and is confirmed just days ahead of the Google I/O conference.
All of it points out to a new addition to the Google Play Store dubbed “Play Games.” All of the finer details are missing at this point, though from what we do know now, the prospect of being able to save game progress in the cloud does seem awesome. Then, of course, there will be active syncing across all devices, which will ensure you will be able to catch up with the game regardless of the device. Other cool aspects of the game include matchmaking, achievements and goals, player invites, leaderboards, and scoreboards for tracking progress, as well as many other features.
Google’s plans seem pretty exciting, and many believe Play Games could be better than the iOS Games Center, which in itself is quite comprehensive. Expect the full details from the Google I/O conference, which kicks off this Wednesday.
Remember Notion Ink and its ubiquitous Adam tablet device? The Indian startup had built excellent pre-release hype, though it wasn’t long before the buzz fizzled out. What followed next was a hibernation period that was quite long for tech standards. However, the lull is now broken with the Adam II making it to big scene.
Notion Ink chose the National Technology Awards event held in India to launch the Adam II. Fortunately, the company has provided clear insight for the tablet, including its price, though the only missing piece is its availability details both within and outside the country.
As for the specs, the Adam II will be seen sporting a 1.5 Ghz Dual Core ARM Cortex chip and 1 GB RAM. NI didn’t mention how much internal memory the tablet will have, though the company pamphlet does mention of a microSD card slot with a max capability of 32 GB. The tablet will be powered by a 6000 mAh battery, and Notion Ink claims that’s enough to deliver ten hours of “nonstop entertainment.” The tablet also includes a 2 megapixel HD camera along the front and the rear, which means the company might have given up on the unique swivel camera design seen on the first gen Adam. Upfront, it’s a 10.1 inch display lit up by 1280 x 800 pixels. The tablet runs Android 4.2.2.
However, if you thought that’s all the new Adam II has to offer, there is a nice little surprise in the form of a secondary display along the spine. The monochrome display is designed to provide the user with all Android notifications and will save the user from firing up the entire device each time there is a notification available. A sim card slot, a micro USB port, and a HDMI port pretty much round off the spec sheet for the newest Adam. Also, the Adam II marks a changed strategy for Notion Ink, which is aiming the tablet for the mass budget segment, priced as it is at a quite decent ₹ 12,000.
Tablet shipment figures for the first quarter of 2013 are already here and they present an interesting scenario. For instance, according to a Digitimes report, tablet shipment reached 31.93 million for the first three months of this year, which represents a decline of 26.1 percent on quarter but increased by 66.1 percent on year. However, IDC is reporting an even more optimistic shipment figure of 49.2 million for the quarter.
However, both Digitimes and IDC seem to be unanimous regarding the iPad, reporting shipments of 19.5 million of the Apple tablet during the period. However, while the iPad continues to be at the top of the heap, the trend seems to be on the slide. Apple still has 39.6 percent of the tablet market to itself, though it used to be 43.6 and 58.2 in the last two preceding quarters. Analysts claim it’s quite normal, as Apple generally records a weaker first quarter after strong sales during the holiday season. Apple has recorded a year over year growth of a healthy 65 percent.
Samsung and Asus make up the second and third slot with sales of 8.8 and 2.7 million respectively. The individual figures might not be too inspiring, but both companies have reported 288.7 and 267.6 percent increases in sales respectively compared to the same period a year ago. Microsoft, according to IDC, managed to make it among the top five tablet makers with shipment of 900,000 of its Surface devices.
However, there are some contradictions that come to the fore that pertain to the operating system that dominates the tablet segments. While Digitimes is claiming the Apple iOS accounts for a dominating 61 percent of the total tablets shipped in Q1, IDC is pegging the figure at lower than 40 percent for iOS, with the Google Android making up 56.5 percent of all the tablets shipped. According to Digitimes, Android and Windows make up 31 and 8 percent of the total tablet shipment.
Another interesting finding of the Digitimes research is that the smaller tablets measuring 7 inches or so that are in greater demand, accounting for 56 percent of the tablets shipped in Q1. Tablets measuring 9 and 10 inches make up 22 and 20 percent of the shipments.
Barnes & Noble has some suggestions if you have been wondering what would make the best Mother’s Day gift this year. The company has reduced prices for its lead offerings, the Nook HD and Nook HD+ devices, so that kids can pamper their mothers without breaking the bank. The 7 inch Nook HD can be purchased for $149 and $179 for the 8 GB and 16 GB versions respectively. This marks a reduction of $50 for both the versions. Similarly, the bigger 9 inch Nook HD+ is now up for grabs at a more affordable $179 and $209 for the 16 GB and 32 GB respectively. The discount there is even steeper at $90. The price revision comes within just a week of both the tablets being made accessible to the Google Play Store, which means there is a vast source of online digital content that the tablets can access. Both the Nook tablets are reading oriented and lack front and rear cameras. However, the lower cost should make up for those, more so since there are now more than 700,000 apps to tap into along with millions of songs, reading material such as ebooks and digital magazines, and video to keep engaged. The deal lasts for only a week and will be effective for purchases made through the B&N online stores as well as retailers like Best Buy and Target.
The Apple App Store is about to reach an important milestone: the 50 billionth app download. To celebrate the landmark, Apple has announced a $10,000 worth of gift cards to whomever downloads the 50 billionth app. The download figure now stands at 49.2 billion and counting, which means there are about 800 million downloads to go before the benchmark is reached. The last time Apple has doled out such a prize money was when the 25 billion apps download figure was reached. The amount offered then was also $10,000, which went to Chunli Fu from China. Interestingly, that happened in just last March, which means the next 25 billion apps are being downloaded in just over a year’s time. The next 800 million downloads could take place in another 15-20 days. Apple has also stated those who download the next 50 apps will be rewarded with a gift card worth $500.
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