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Android users in China (now numbering in the ten of millions) will be happy to know that many of them will have access to Google’s app store (hopefully, at least). Though a specific launch date has yet to be discussed, Google is working with a legal team to get plans together (many of the core Google Play services, like Gmail and Maps, are currently being blocked in China).

Earlier this week, Google also announced that policies were changing for Chinese app developers –allowing them to make money from their paid apps being downloaded from 130 countries worldwide (China isn’t included in that list yet, but would be with a local-to-them app store).

Not everybody will be thrilled to hear this news, with several alternative Chinese platforms already in place to distribute Android apps; Google stands to make a lot of money (in their stead) considering the potential revenue stream from so many new users… but it will not be without considerable investments. Beyond legal considerations, Google has no infrastructure in China (think servers and bandwidth to begin) –all of which will be subject to the seemingly arbitrary Chinese regulations.

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gc

Advertising sucks in general, but we recognize it as a necessary evil in a lot of situations –not the least of which being a means to raise the funds required to keep the Internet going (or at least the content contained ‘within it’). Now, what if you could visit your favourite sites, and instead of seeing an advertisement block on the screen and being encouraged to click on it… you could just donate a little money to the site and not go through that dance? Google is betting you might just take them up on that offer, creating a new service that does that exact thing: Google Contributor.

Contributor is being labeled as ‘alternative monetization’, allowing us to designate a monthly fee we are willing to sacrifice in the name of Internet content with the promise of not having to see Google ads (though you will still see a pixelated box in the space where the ad would have been displayed).

Contributor is currently in beta, with participants getting involved by invitation only. During this phase, there are 10 publishing partners (like Mashable, Imgur, and WikiHow) with an opt-in dollar amount of $1, $2, or $3.

I’m not sure I see Contributor as a viable alternative to advertising… at least not in it’s current form. I would wager that most seasoned web surfers are already quite familiar with tuning out advertisements. Now, if I could see an ad-free version of the site (where the entire screen real estate was given to the content I’m actually interested in seeing), I’d be much more likely to toss in a few dollars.

Categories : Android News
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google-play-brand-final

While it may seem that the news is primarily for developers, Google’s announcement that Google Play services is receiving a series of updates is good news for everybody –more features and more functionality all around!

The Google Maps API now includes a toolbar that provides users with turn-by-turn directions quickly to a selected marker. With the updates, Google Maps will offer a ‘lite mode’ that makes it easier to show locations in a list mode when it makes better sense (think of it like a thumbnail).

Google Drive will support public and application private custom file properties, allowing for developers to deliver quick searches and create apps that can save data that will persist. In addition, developers will have more granular control over when files are uploaded (like when a device is next plugged in or connected to Wi-Fi) –plus giving the ability to cancel an in-progress upload.

Google Wallet is reading to allow for “Donate with Google” buttons in addition to the existing “Purchase with Google” option.

For those of you using Google Fit, developers will now be able to create more effective apps that can add activity segments supporting pauses and multiple-activity workouts.

Apparently this list of updates will be realized gradually over the next few days, so we don’t have long to wait for all of these good things!

Categories : Android News
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googlemessengerfull-630x370

Google has had a very busy day, among which was the release of their new Messenger communications app. Built to basically send and receive both SMS and MMS messages, Messenger also lets you participate in group chats and send audio messages.

In addition to the basic functionality, Messenger boasts a feature list that includes: faster sharing (taking and sending pictures, videos, and audio from directly within the app), easy search through contacts and conversation threads, purposeful and intuitive design, the ability to block SMS senders, emoji support, coloured text threads, and message archiving.

All things considered, it’s the same kinds of functionality that Apple has had with iMessage and Blackberry with BBM for quite some time, but it was a requisite ‘catch-up’ app that Google needed to add to their arsenal. That said, Google Hangouts has much of this same SMS functionality already –but perhaps they are concerned some users may be wary of using something integrated into social media when that isn’t the way it works on other platforms.

Want to see how Google imagines messaging? Download Messenger for your Android devices.

Categories : Android News
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comscore

According to the latest comScore metrics, Android is in the lead as the dominant smartphone platform in the mobile marketplace. With 52.1% of the market share, Android is a fair step ahead of Apple who is lagging behind at 41.7% (third place went to Microsoft at a pitiful 3.6%, with fourth landing in BlackBerry’s lap at 2.3%).

Android didn’t lead every statistic, however… with Apple leading the pack as the top smartphone manufacturer (based on 174 million people with U.S.-owned devices), securing 41.7% of that market share as well. By comparison, Samsung is next in line with only 29.0% –leaving LG to secure third place with 6.9%.

While it may seem a little difficult to understand how Android can lead in the platform category while lagging in the hardware division –it’s due to the range of OEM manufacturers. Samsung may be making the most sales, but others like LG, Motorola, and HTC are also delivering a large number of units that contribute to the overall total number of smartphones.

The comScore report also identified the most downloaded smartphone apps (for U.S. smartphone mobile media users, aged 18+ on both iOS and Android platforms): placing Facebook on top, followed by YouTube in a distant second place.

Boasting themselves as a leading Internet technology company, comScore “measures what people do as they navigate the digital world – and turns that information into insights and actions for our clients to maximize the value of their digital investments.”

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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).

Categories : Android News
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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.

Categories : Android News
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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.

Categories : Android News
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googleExpress

Usually when Google takes aim, the target is Apple –this time, Amazon is more clearly locked in their sights. Google’s Brian Elliott, Head of Partnerships at Google Shopping, announced this week that they would be rebranding their services as Google Express and expanding to three new cities: Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C (not to mention the fact that they added 16 new participating merchants to their roster with familiar names like: Barnes & Noble, PetSmart, Vitamin Shoppe and Sports Authority).

Much like Amazon Prime’s Same Day delivery service, Google Express intends to bridge the gap between shopping at your favourite local stores and the convenience of being able to do that online. To this end, I’m certain it isn’t a coincidence that Google has undercut Amazon’s $99 annual membership fee by charging $95 for their equivalent (after three free months during which you can give it a try). You can of course pay by the order as well, but it adds up quickly with a $5-$8 surcharge applied to each.

So what privileges does this membership provide? It’s all about same-day delivery… at least as long as you are one of the lucky 7-million people who happen to live in the right city and want products from the right stores. Truth is that things are rather limited right now, but it’s a good start.

Analysts are busy trying to figure how less retail foot traffic affects businesses, with many suggesting that it won’t eliminate the need for employees, but rather change the type of work that needs doing (picking and packing orders instead of dealing directly with customers).

For those of us already delighted by online shopping, Google (and others) embracing rapid shipping practices demonstrates positive forward momentum. It also means that one day, sooner than later, I may not have to leave the house to brave huge retail outlets (and their parking lots) for boring things like toilet paper and laundry soap.

Categories : Android News
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Google-Play-Store

Despite the fact that all reports indicate Android dominates the smartphone market, being able to brag having an over 80% share, app revenue continues to lag behind Apple (by a shocking average of almost $4 million dollars per day). Understandably, Google would like to do something about that imbalance –especially with such a firm position as Android’s biggest cheerleader.

You’ve likely heard that there are statistics for anything, and generally they don’t mean much. In this case, the details aren’t known but would tell us a lot. Are there fewer paid apps in the Google Play Store as compared to the Apple App Store? Does the average price differ between the two stores? These and more questions abound.

One option Google is courting appears to be the idea of offering a trial version of paid apps and games. This would allow users to take things for a test drive before taking the plunge (even if it is just $0.99). My immediate question is how this might work. Most reporting on this news are suggesting Google would offer a smaller, specific portion of the app or game –making it a smaller download than the full version, and offering demo-like functionality.

This would be a mistake.

I don’t want to deal with or download an app twice. Even though the idea of a quick download and peek sounds romantic, it also seems like a lot of hassle –especially for something that may cost a dollar. Generally speaking, most apps aren’t that large anyway. Plus, a subset of the full functionality may not actually give an accurate forecast of what it would be like to use.

Is there a way it could work? With Google offering refunds when you dislike an app (if you decide quickly), I’m not sure it’s really necessary to offer a trial, but there may be marketing appeal for saying it’s available. I suppose I could be persuaded to support an expiry function, forcing you to either make the purchase or delete the app after a specific period of time… but only if it’s virtually effortless to do so.

None of this addresses the fact that Apple is already making far more money in their App Store than Google without offering this feature. Perhaps Google should consider other ways of monetizing apps that more closely mimic the competition they are trying to dominate.

Categories : Android News
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reddit-ama-android

As you search Google for news stories, you may be seeing some unexpected results. According to the search engine giant, non-traditional news sources like Reddit, blogs, and social media should be considered relevant.

This is a topic that could be debated time and again: on one hand, anybody can have a blog… but many of the prolific writers online are well-reputed and have contributed to many of the more traditional news outlets. Some people are going to argue that the inclusion of these new sources will dilute search results such that higher profile sources fall below the fold, but others will delight in knowing there are other points of view to read other than what the likes of CNN is able to choose and then shove in our faces.

Sure it means you have to be a little cautious about who you cite and what information you believe, but we shouldn’t be trusting any sources blindly. At a time when universities need to remind students that community-contributed content collections like Wikipedia are not considered authorities you can attribute, this lesson is already being taught.

“We are always working to give our users the best possible answer to their question. That might come in the form of a video, a press release, a blog, a photo, a social media post or a news article,” noted a Google Spokesperson during a discussion with Search Engine Land.

Do you think including these anecdotal news sources is wise? Does a broader definition of news make Google more or less valuable as a search engine?

Categories : Android News
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googleNewsandWeather

I don’t know if you have noticed this, but no two weather apps on your smartphone will ever agree. In fact, even this morning there is a several degree discrepancy between the temperature broadcast by The Weather Network app that runs natively on my iPhone and the old de facto standard from iOS 7 – Yahoo Weather. To this end, you may wish to employ yet another weather app: Google News & Weather.

It is difficult to decide whether to be excited by this app release, with so many other options already available for news and weather reporting. Even though the app comes equipped with coverage from over 65,000 publications, it isn’t full featured enough to truly deliver mass quantities of news –but with that said, if you are a fan of hitting http://news.google.com on a regular basis to see the most recent (and therefore probably most prominent and important) headlines, it may be just what the doctor ordered.

Just like on their website, news can be tailored to your country of choice and tuned to particular categories (with choices like “Hollywood”, “NASA”, or “Fashion”). On the landing page inside the app, a brief summary is displayed for each story with full articles and additional details available with a single on-screen tap.

Whether this is a must-have app or not, it is nice to see Google giving iOS users the option to use the same software available on Android; it certainly isn’t a courtesy that is often returned by Apple.

If you’d like to take advantage of Google News & Weather on your iOS device, download it for free now from the Apple App Store. I can’t promise it is any more accurate than the zillions of other weather apps already available, but it should be of a certain quality given that it comes to us from Google.

Categories : Android News
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emailBills

It is either the best feature Google Now offers, or the scariest. Apparently, Google can scan your email account looking for bills –so when you tap the microphone in the app and ask “Show me my bills” or “Which of my bills are due this week”, a detailed list of what is owed and a summary of past bills will be presented. This is one more extension of the growing Google Now personal assistant technology, aimed at providing important information to users before they even know to ask for it.

“When you can’t remember whether you’ve paid your bills — or you simply can’t remember how much money you need to pay — you can now just ask Google,” says the company. Of course, if you also forget to ask the question to begin with…

Scanning your email for content cues isn’t a new thing for Google, their search app has already been on the lookout for details regarding flight information and hotel reservations. Those concerned about privacy and security are likely to be a little outraged (or at least a tad nervous and concerned). Even though Google Now does require that you grant permission for email review initially, who knows what will be cataloged going forward.

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