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inbox

Already having Gmail under their belts didn’t stop Google from continuing to rethink email. Apparently it was years in the making, but only now is Inbox a reality (promising to give you focus on the things that really matter).

In a blog post announcing Inbox, Google employee Sundar Pichai described the service:

“With this evolution comes new challenges: we get more email now than ever, important information is buried inside messages, and our most important tasks can slip through the cracks—especially when we’re working on our phones. For many of us, dealing with email has become a daily chore that distracts from what we really need to do—rather than helping us get those things done.

If this all sounds familiar, then Inbox is for you. Or more accurately, Inbox works for you.”

Key features of Inbox allow you to better organize your email categories using bundles (grouping together things like bank statements or utility bills), highlight key information from important messages (with examples like flight itineraries or event information), and reminders (letting you focus on your priorities so that you don’t need to keep track of tasks and appointments, complete with a Snooze feature). Also included with Inbox are what Google calls Assists, described as little bits of information that make your life easier. As an example: if you make a restaurant reservation, Inbox will add a map to your confirmation email.

Inbox is currently in a beta phase, with used only gaining access via invitation; there is no word on when it will see open release.

Those of you who love Gmail just the way it is may need to be a little concerned: Google has a history of abandoning projects in lieu of new ideas (speaking as somebody who still feels the sting of Google Reader having been discontinued)… and it is easy to see that they have several services starting to overlap (Google Now has a lot of similar personal assistant functionality).

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photomath

Several years (decades) ago, when I was in high school, I remember teachers rather snidely telling us that we needed to learn all of these things because “it isn’t like we will be walking around with whole computers in our pockets.” The sassy teenager in me desperately wants to go back in time to wave her smartphone in their faces right about now. That same teenaged girl would have loved PhotoMath, an app that lets you use your smartphone’s camera to scan images of math problems from your textbooks.

Sure it lacks some of the old-school charm that those brick-sized Texas Instruments calculators had (I’m hoping at least a few of you can picture what I mean without having to use Google), but with the press of a button you can bridge the gap between hovering the viewfinder over your math homework and seeing the correct answer on the screen.

Math and science teachers are going to have very mixed feelings about this app. Usually their first retort is to point out that the answer is meaningless without showing the steps required to get you there –but PhotoMath shows you those too. That makes it a pretty fantastic cheating tool, but also a pretty remarkable teaching and learning one as well.

Initial reviews of PhotoMath are a little mixed, stating the app easily handles simple equations but can struggle with those that are more complex (though I’m certain this will improve with time).

Unfortunately for those using Android devices, PhotoMath is only available for iOS and Windows Phone right now –but a compatible version has been promised to us in early 2015.

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2012 Consumer Electronics Show Showcases Latest Technology Innovations

It seems like the mobile device market is moving faster than ever, a point proven by yet another launch even this fall –this time it is BlackBerry with a round of enterprise branded announcements. CEO John Chen will join a few of his top executives in San Fransisco on November 13, intending to debut a selection of hardware and software. Given the theme, we may be lucky enough to see the release of their much-anticipated BlackBerry Enterprise Server 12 (that includes the company’s updated mobile device management solution).

It wasn’t that long ago that we last saw BlackBerry up on stage, with their Passport launch event happening this past September. That event brought consumers the Passport, which may be an unusual looking smartphone, but initial responses have been positive. To appease BlackBerry loyalists who may be less interested in something that looks so different, the Classic was also shown off (but not released) earlier this year, offering users the QWERTY keyboard they love combined with the touchscreen they need in this modern day… so maybe it’s time for a true launch now.

Last, but not least, BlackBerry users should expect to see the release of OS 10.3.1. This is especially good news for existing OS 10 devices that haven’t yet received the 10.3 update as they can dive right in with 10.3.1.

Keeping up this momentum may be the way BlackBerry stays afloat and corrects their course in this mobile marketplace. For those of us who really enjoy a Canadian technology success story, let’s hope it isn’t too late.

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fatprincesss

In a sea of mobile games with the now traditional match-3 styling (think Bejeweled), Sony has released its Fat Princess: Piece of Cake game. By matching gems (showing either cake or images corresponding to the four character classes: sporting warrior swords, ranger muskets, worker bombs, and priest healer) you can work to defeat the invading army using the attacks they bring about.

It’s the kind of game that could be addictive, but it’s not quite there yet. While many games feature a brief tutorial-mode when you first begin, I found that the intro to this game is so slow it’s almost painful; you have to complete quite a number of levels before the handy hints and descriptions stop interrupting your flow. If they could speed up the pace, it would be a lot of fun to play.

As an added bonus for those with a Sony Playstation 3: reach level 15 with your princess and you will get a code that gives you access to download Fat Princess for your console at no additional cost (as long as you also have vaid Facebook and Sony Entertainment Network accounts).

Fat Princess: Piece of Cake is free to download from the Good e-Reader App Store, but there are a number of in-app purchases like power-ups and character upgrades that will help you rescue the princess a little faster.

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big_hero

Only true fans of Marvel comic books will be familiar with Big Hero 6, at least until Disney releases their upcoming animated film based on the series next month. Based in imaginary city of San Fransokyo, Big Hero 6 is based on a team of crime-fighters led by Hiro Hamada and Baymax (his robot). Ahead of the movie, Disney Interactive has built a Big Hero 6-themed mobile game that will be available for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone on November 3.

When you hear that the game allows players to collect hundreds of bots and evolve them into higher forms, it’s possible you won’t need to hear more before you move to the edge of your seat. Using a match 3 style, players will do battle with their enemies by matching colored blocks together. It may sound exceedingly simple, but Disney Interactive producer Scott Humphries promises that the game will involve “strategy and depth,” making it complex (and probably addictive). Plus, it stars robots.

If you want a sneak peek into the game, as well as the Big Hero 6 franchise, check out the game-play video from TouchGameplay below.

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ipad-air-2-

Unlike the intensely flawed process for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus a few weeks back, Apple is successfully offering pre-orders for their recently announced iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 tablets. Of course, calling it a pre-order is a bit misleading when customers can expect their tablets to ship within 2-4 days, arriving as early as October 23.

Pricing for the new iPads really hasn’t changed from previous versions, with a starting cost of $499 for the 16GB Air 2 and $399 for the 16GB Mini 3 models. If you want a little more storage, 64GB and 128GB models are also available in both sizes –all of which appear to still be available with a quick shipping time (and for once, colour doesn’t seem to play a part in how quickly you get your new device: with the silver, gold, and space grey all ready to go).

First impressions of the new iPads were pretty underwhelming, but it will be interesting to see if this changes at all once they are actually in our hot little hands. If nothing else, having Touch ID would be really nice –it’s amazing how that feature makes you wonder how you ever lived without it once you’ve given it a try.

It is pretty clear that Apple wanted these tablets out the door as soon as they were able, and while it seems they have done a good job… it may not be sitting as well with the hoards of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus customers who are still waiting for their smartphones to arrive after pre-ordering the devices over a month ago.

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applepayinapps

It doesn’t matter how successful the launch of Apple Pay is, consumers and retailers are going to need some time to see how it works before they fully trust and then adopt the service. It is with this in mind that Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue made the statement that he expects the largest portion of Apple Pay transactions will be generated by in-app purchases.

This seems less like clairvoyance though, when you consider that the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 can only offer Apple Pay for in-app purchases –likely due to the lack of a near-field communication (NFC) antenna… meaning there are lots of iOS devices out there that don’t have any other options. Add to this the fact that most brand-loyal iOS users are already used to paying for in-app purchases on their device without pulling out their wallets, and it seems like a logical way for people to dip their toes in the Apple Pay waters.

Initial experiences will mean a great deal when Apple Pay launches today along side iOS 8.1, as they will go a long way toward making consumers either comfortable or nervous. Many credit and debit cards from major payment networks include American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are lined up to participate in the service. In addition, several banks have partnered with Apple including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Capital One.

Are you excited to try Apple Pay?

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Multi-user-lollipop

Android has let us create multiple user accounts for a while now, as long as you were doing so on a tablet; it wasn’t until Lollipop that we could do this on a smartphone.

As you decide how best to take advantage of this new feature, keep in mind that the first user you create will be branded as the device’s owner and enjoy all of the administrator-type privileges that go along with that role. Each user can install their own apps and personalize the account, but there are a few important things to keep in mind: uninstalling an app for one account will affect everybody (who has the app installed), decisions configuring permissions and access for apps will affect everybody on the device, and the device owner can remove entire accounts (and all associated data) at any time.

Your initial reaction might be that it seems less likely more than one person would share a smartphone, but I would suggest that there are two main reasons to utilize multiple user accounts: creating a work versus home profile to segregate apps and data required for each, or to keep everything on your device safe from your toddler’s amazingly capable hands when you let them play during your next waiting room stint (especially when you learn that the device owner gets to decide whether secondary accounts can make or receive calls, or send and receive text messages).

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android-oem-rank-640x577

According to the latest statistics released by Chitika, the LG user base has exhibited the greatest usage share growth as compared to any of the competing Android brands since June 2014. With a 1.7 percentage point gain and representing over 10% of the total North American smartphone and tablet Web traffic, LG should be counted as a significant player in the mobile market.

Samsung can rest easy for now, sitting comfortably at the top of the heap with 57.4% of the current Android market share –but it would be wise to keep at least one eye on their competition given their less substantial 1% gain since June 2014 (despite the release of an entirely updated line of mobile hardware during this period). Amazon is sitting precariously in the third spot (with a meagre .5% lead on Motorola), likely due in large part to their Fire tablets as opposed to their unremarkable smartphone sales.

Google was down this quarter, falling to just 3.6% –but these numbers should look a little better shortly with the release of the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 devices.

Chitika’s report also indicated that smartphones continue to dominate the mobile Web traffic, with very little growth in this area being observed in the Android tablet space. Some speculation suggests that this is due to Apple’s dominance in the tablet arena, but it may also be due in part to the next-generation phablet type smartphones prompting users to invest in large-screen, smartphones instead of a tablet.

Founded in 2003, Chitika is an online ad network that boasts the delivery of “over four billion strategically targeted ads each month to a network of over 300,000+ sites.” Together with high profile advertising partners like Yahoo!, Chitika has developed proprietary optimization technology that promises to display the right ad, at the right time.

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apple-sim

After the anti-climactic Apple event yesterday, the tech community at large took a nap –which is why news seemed to slip between the cracks telling us Apple has built a SIM card that allows users to move between AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile (plus EE in the UK) without having to swap it out.

Using the new Apple SIM card, you can switch between carriers in the Settings for your iPad Air 2 by simply selecting a new one from the list, and voila!

While it may not seem like a big deal to swap out a SIM card, it does involve a little hassle (getting them in and out of an iPad or iPhone involves a tool, unlike the spring loaded insert and eject usually seen with SD cards). They generally come at a cost as well, so you end up shelling out a little money with each carrier you use. With that said, the people who are excited by this news are those who tend toward short-term data plans –which typically points to travelers.

It doesn’t appear like you can purchase this new Apple SIM card separately right now, but it is standard issue on their new cell-enabled iPad Air 2 tablets… but many of us have our fingers crossed that this will be an option very soon!

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ipadAir

It was a lot of ‘yeah, yeah, we were expecting that’ at the Apple Event today… leaving many of us to wonder why they didn’t just do a soft launch. Brand-loyal Apple fans will be glad to see that the iPad Air 2 is a little thinner (at 6.1mm) and finally features the fingerprint ID sensor that has been present in the last 2 iterations of the iPhone.

Other updates for the iPad Air include a faster processor, more advanced wireless connectivity, better camera (with a new 8 megapixel sensor that captures images in 3264-by-2448 native resolution and continues to take 1080p HD video), and an anti-reflective coating for the screen (which they claim makes it 56 per cent less reflective). If this addition works as well as it appears, this might strike a fairly mighty blow against popular eReaders whose main benefit has included being able to be used in direct sunlight.

If it seems like I have forgotten about the iPad Mini 3, I wasn’t the first –Apple really had very little to say about their smaller-format tablet, other than to tell us that it also has the fingerprint ID sensor.

Proof positive that the upgrades for iPads being mainly cosmetic is reflected by the addition of a gold colour option (mirroring the iPhone choices) and brighter Smart Cases to match. While both certainly add curb appeal, it won’t go unnoticed that these were some of the biggest announcements today.

For those looking to grab an iPad Air 2, be prepared to hand over $499 USD for the 16GB Wi-Fi model (with a jump to $599 USD for 64GB, and $699 USD for 128GB). For those looking to add Cellular capabilities, the prices start at $629 USD for the 16GB model.

If your sights are set more on the iPad Mini 3, the price tag is a little more affordable at $399 USD for 16GB of storage (moving to $499 for 64GB, and $599 for 128GB). Cellular capability is available for this device as well, with an entry level cost of $529 USD for the 16GB tablet.

All in all, Apple’s news today was underwhelming. It might be true that the iPads didn’t need much in the way of updates, and I am delighted that every Apple smartphone and tablet now features the incredibly handy fingerprint sensor, but it all seems a little out of the ordinary. It might strike some as a little bit of a ‘conspiracy theory’, but if I were a betting woman I’d say that Apple just wanted to make sure they had some stage time and a few news cycles to (try and) keep their mobile devices front and centre following Google’s Nexus announcements earlier this week.

Is anybody else frustrated that the entry level iPad storage remains at 16GB, with a 32GB model distinctly and noticeably absent?

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nexus6

It is with great enthusiasm that Google released their next generation Nexus 6 smartphone yesterday. Being labelled the next in a line of phablets, the Nexus 6 is a very large mobile device that straddles the line between smartphone and tablets. Packed with features, the Nexus 6 promises to stand up proudly against the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus.

Design and Display

It can’t be said that the Nexus 6 is a light smartphone, and coming in at 6.49 ounces (184g) is will feel quite substantial. By comparison, the Galaxy Note 4 is 6.21 ounce (176g) and the iPhone 6 Plus is the lightest at 6.07 ounces (172g). It is also the largest of the three phablets, with a full 6-inch display with a 1440×2560 pixel resolution and 493 ppi density. Also a very attractive feature is that the Nexus 6 is splash resistant (without needing to wrap it in a case) –other Samsung products can boast that, the Galaxy Note 4 isn’t so lucky.

Camera

The camera in the Nexus 6 is competitive with a dual LED flash, but only measures 13 megapixels (where the Galaxy Note 4 has 16, and iPhone 6 Plus lags quite a distance behind at 8).

Operating System

Running the latest Android Lollipop, Google maintains their top spot as the manufacturer with the truest Android smartphone.

Hardware

Powered by a quad core, 2700 MHz, Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, the Nexus 6 should still be comparable the 8-core, 1900 MHz ARM processor found in the Galaxy Note 4 –though on paper Apple’s processor seems quite a bit behind both devices by only being dual core and 1400MHz. With that said, many of the performance tests being run are placing Apple’s smartphone performing ahead of Samsung’s, so these specifications on their own don’t carry much real-world weight or meaning. The Nexus 6 comes with 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage, but unlike the Galaxy Note 4, cannot be expanded with additional storage (using microSD, microSDHC, or microSDXC).

Battery

Google claims that the Nexus 6 will deliver 24 hours of talk time. They also say you can expect 13.8 days of stand-by time. In other news, pigs can apparently fly. I’ll believe that these batteries perform this well when I experience it for myself, but I do trust that it’s better than most of us are used to… especially if you turn off the Ambient Display.

Unlike any of the competition, the Nexus 6 does lead the pack in the power arena by offering built-in wireless charging… and using Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0, a quick 15 minutes of charging should get you about 6 more hours of use.

Connectivity

You should have no complaints in this arena, with the Nexus 6 offering GSM at 850/900/1800/1900MHz, CDMA band classes 0/1/10, WCDMA bands 1/2/4/5/8, and LTE bands 2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/25/26/29/41.

Aside from cellular options, Google equipped the Nexus 6 with 802.11ac Wi-Fi using a 2×2 MIMO antenna, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, and NFC.

Before you salivate yourself into needing a fresh shirt, brace yourself for the $649 USD price-tag found on the unlocked model. Not surprisingly, many Android purists are already expressing their outrage at the cost –especially when previous Nexus smartphones only rid our wallets of $349 USD. While this increase is difficult to accept, it’s necessary if Google is going to produce the kind of hardware that will have the chops to compete with the quality options being released by the competition. Of course, the Nexus 6 looks to be worth every penny… but it means that carriers with contract-signing incentives will play a much more significant role in the success of this device (like they already do for the high-end hardware coming from Samsung and Apple).

Pre-order for the Nexus 6 will begin in late October, with full retail availability beginning in November.

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amazon_uk

In case you needed additional evidence to suggest that the traditional retail format is evolving, Amazon UK has added same-day deliveries. Working with newspaper distributor Connect Group, Amazon UK’s new service (labelled ‘Pass My Parcel’) promises to deliver packages to local shops and high street stores throughout Britain within 12 hours.

Some restrictions apply of course: if your order is made by 7:45PM, it will leave your designated pick-up point by 6:30AM the following day. If you place your order before the 11:45AM cut-off point, your items will be ready a few hours later, by 4:00PM. So far there are about 500 pick-up points that you can take advantage of, but Amazon intends to increase this number over the next year.

If you happen to be an Amazon Prime subscriber, this speedy delivery option will come to you free of charge until the end of the year; others can take advantage of Pass My Parcel for €4.99 per shipment.

This news comes just a few days after Amazon announced that they plan to hire over 1,000 additional, permanent staff members for their already over-extended UK distribution centres. It is the company’s expectation that every one of the 6,000 people employed by their UK warehouses will be required to meet the growing demand for goods purchased online.

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