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Posts tagged ‘Android’

19
Apr
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Beats Music update lets you subscribe from inside the iOS app


Beats Music on Android, Windows Phone and iPhone

Odds are that you weren’t riveted by Beats Music when it first arrived, but the streaming service has just delivered a pair of big updates that may give you a good excuse to tune in. For the iOS app, the biggest improvement is visible when you’re signing up — you can now subscribe from within the software rather than heading to the web. The move makes it that much easier to keep the music flowing after your trial is over, and may just help Beats grow its fledgling customer base.

Not that Beats is neglecting its Android app by any means; you get a “brand spanking new widget” for your home screen if you’re running Google’s mobile platform. Both the Android and iOS releases also share some common improvements, including the ability to find Facebook friends who use Beats, better social network linking and thousands of new tracks in the Sentence playlist generator. There’s no guarantee that either refresh will have you rethinking that Rdio or Spotify subscription, but it’s hard to knock upgrades that make it easy to start listening.

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Via: Recode, Droid-Life

Source: App Store, Google Play

18
Apr
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Samsung to start charging about the price of a gallon for “Milk”


Milk Music Premium

Were you one of the many enjoying your free “Milk”? Well, Milk Music is having a price increase for a new premium service.

Samsung will still be providing its free basic service, but will be including ads. Currently the service is ad-free as part of a special introductory offer. The premium service will cost you $3.99 for ad-free music after the introductory offer ends.

Milk Music is a streaming radio service powered by Slacker and offered to select Galaxy models. The current device list incldues: Galaxy Note II, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S III, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5.

Unfortunately Samsung has not given many details about what the premium service will include, only that it will be ad-free and have “some exclusive features” for a price of $3.99 a month. What are those features? I guess we will have to wait to find out.

Samsung has not publicized a date for the new service to be available. Meanwhile if you own one of the the noted lucky Galaxy devices, you can download the app at the Google Play Store or with Samsung Apps.

Source: Samsung Tomorrow

The post Samsung to start charging about the price of a gallon for “Milk” appeared first on AndroidGuys.

18
Apr
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Sony Xperia Z2 review: a big, powerful slab of a phone


Sony Xperia Z2

It’s been nearly three years since I reviewed the Xperia Neo, manufactured by what was then Sony Ericsson. The Neo represented just the second generation of Xperia phones running on Android, from a period when Sony was finding its feet in the world of mobile and still chucking out plenty of duds (I’m looking at you, Tablet P). Fast-forward to today and things have changed dramatically under Kaz Hirai‘s stewardship. I’ll tell you this right now: The Z2 is an easy phone to recommend, at least for those living in countries where it’ll definitely be available (a list that includes the UK and Canada, but not yet the US). The only real caveat is the handset’s huge, monolithic construction (a far cry from puny, 126-gram Neo). As you’ll see, if you can get past its size, the Z2 addresses some of the most serious gripes we had with its predecessors, the Xperia Z and Z1, particularly with respect to its LCD display. In fact, in some respects, it’s far ahead of any other Android phone currently on the market.

Let’s deal with the size thing right away. It’s not merely a question of weight, because the Z2 is only 18 grams heavier than the Galaxy S5, which is about as light as phones in this category come nowadays. Sony has actually done an excellent job of keeping the Z2′s weight down: Somehow, magically, it’s a few grams lighter than the Z1, yet it packs a larger display and a waterproof/dustproof casing, with tough, heavy flaps around the slots and micro-USB port.

No, the problem here is with the weight distribution. The Z2 feels wider and taller than it needs to be, and its center of gravity just doesn’t feel very… centered. By contrast, the similarly heavy HTC One (M8) feels like its density is gathered around the spine of the device, so that it rests solidly in the hand. None of these handsets are especially conducive to one-handed use, but the Xperia Z2 is the worst of the bunch in this respect; I dropped it four times in the space of a week, which is a record even for me, and I found it unwieldy for reading in bed, too.

The other issue with the Z2′s design is its blockiness. Visually, I find this attractive — it’s part of Sony’s metal-and-glass design statement, which is further aided by the thinness (just 8.2mm, or one-third of an inch). In daily use, however, the absence of curvature and shaved-off corners can be annoying — even for someone who’s used to carrying something enormous like the Galaxy Note 3. Check out the video above and you’ll see a shot of our own Jamie Rigg putting the phone into his pocket. The ridges of all four corners of the phone are actually visible through the denim of his jeans. (Seriously, watch the video. I had to go through the awkwardness of filming a colleague’s crotch just to make it for you.)

Having said this, it’s worth remembering just how much technology is packed into the Z2: a 5.2-inch display, a big camera module, the extra ruggedness I’ve already mentioned, a microSD slot, a widely compatible LTE modem and all the other gubbins listed in the table below.

Sony Xperia Z2
Dimensions 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2mm
Weight 163g
Screen size 5.2 inches
Screen resolution 1,920 x 1,080
Screen type Triluminos LCD with 16.7 million colors
Battery 3,200mAh Li-ion (non-removable)
Ruggedness IP55 and IP58 waterproof and dustproof
Internal storage 16GB (12GB free)
External storage MicroSDXC
Rear camera 20.7MP (1/2.3-inch sensor, f/2.0 lens with 27mm equiv. focal length)
Front-facing cam 2MP stills, 1080p video
Video capture 1080p, 4K
NFC Yes
Radios

HSPA+ (850/900/1700/1900/2100); GSM GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 20)

Bluetooth v4.0, aptX, A2DP
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (MSM8974AB)
CPU 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400
GPU Adreno 330
RAM 3GB
Entertainment MHL, USB OTG, WiFi Direct, DLNA, Miracast, FM radio
WiFi Dual-band, 802.11a/ac/b/g/n
Wireless Charging No
Operating system Android 4.4.2 (Sony-specific UI)

Something not mentioned in the table: The Z2 apparently has active noise-canceling, to reduce background hubbub when you’re talking to someone through a headset. This only works with specific Sony headsets, and our review sample didn’t come with one, so I didn’t test the feature. Nevertheless, you may see some retailers bundling a pair of compatible earphones (the MDR-NC31EM). And they’re worth a look, too, if only because they’re worth £30 ($50) as a standalone purchase.

More usefully, Sony has also made room for stereo speakers. These are still a bit tinny compared to HTC’s BoomSound, but they’re infinitely better than the single speaker on the Z1. The old model’s speaker was easily blocked by the palm of your hand when the device was held in landscape mode, but now, the speakers are forward-facing and very hard to block — a big tick for Sony.

Display

If any of the above paragraphs left you glum, it’s OK — things mostly get more positive from here on out, and this section is perhaps the most glowing of the lot. The dodgy display that prevented me from wholeheartedly recommending the Z1 has been replaced by something infinitely better: an entirely new, enlarged 1080p panel that has much better brightness, contrast and viewing angles. The difference is obvious and totally welcome, but as a result the Z2′s “Triluminos” display is also a bit less Sony-ish.

This is a manufacturer that has historically trodden its own path with respect to displays, to the point where Sony TVs and, to some extent, Sony phones, have forsaken deep black levels and vivid colors preferred by the likes of Samsung in favor of more detail and more natural color reproduction. With the Z2, however, it looks like Sony has seen a commercial need to deliver something more akin to its rivals and more familiar to potential buyers. I know a couple of people (just one, actually) who really liked the Z1′s display and who might be annoyed by this change of heart, but to my eyes it’s all good. We’re now looking at a display that is at least on a par with other top-end LCD panels.

A couple of notes about setting up the display: Colors tend to be a bit warm, but you can adjust white balance and add a touch of blue in the settings — a tweak that I tried and then decided to keep. I also permanently disabled Sony’s “X-Reality for mobile” engine, because this post-processing effect has gone too far: It makes things look unnaturally saturated, and it also makes 1080p movies look pixelated due to over-zealous edge sharpening.

Software

When you first boot up the phone, you’ll be confronted by Sony’s typical array of media and social feed widgets, which I reckon many users will remove as they begin to personalize the device. By the time you’re done tailoring (perhaps by switching out the stock keyboard for something better, and losing the swirly PlayStation-style animated wallpaper), Sony’s skin and various additions shouldn’t get in your way.

Nevertheless, the manufacturer does leave some residue on your Android experience, and it has to be said that this lingering aesthetic feels dated. Whereas HTC and even Samsung have recently tarted up their skins, and Apple has made the stark shift to iOS 7, Sony’s icons, fonts and layouts feel like they’re stuck in 2012.

Accessing settings is also a bit old-fashioned: You have to open the notifications pulldown, select “quick settings” and then make do with basic toggles, which means most settings (like brightness or selecting a WiFi network) then take a couple more taps before you actually make the desired change. Stock Android, HTC Sense and TouchWiz all handle these mundane things with fewer presses.

One bit of software that’s unnecessarily obnoxious is called “What’s New,” which promotes recent (and mostly paid-for) content from Sony’s music, video and gaming empire. It might be of occasional interest in its app form, but it’s an unnecessary widget and — more seriously — it’s an encumbrance to those who make regular use of Google Now. Instead of just swiping up from the onscreen home button to get into Google’s special card-based interface, which was all that was required on the Z1, you now have to sweep up and to the right, so as to avoid accidentally launching “What’s New” instead.

Having said all this, if you’re a Sony fan, it could be nice to have Sony’s ecosystem readily at hand on the Z2. This is especially true if you already have a Music Unlimited or Video Unlimited subscription, or if you want to play a few Android games using your PS3 controller, or quickly mirror your phone on your Sony smart TV using NFC. The PlayStation Mobile store, however, is still lackluster and short on compelling games.

Camera

Still photography

The Xperia Z2′s 20-megapixel camera is carried over from the Z1, and that’s a good thing. You can check out our Z1 review for an in-depth look at picture quality, including comparisons to the current king of mobile imaging, the Lumia 1020. Suffice to say, this is still the closest you can get to the image quality of a traditional point-and-shoot on a standard-shaped Android phone (i.e., not a Galaxy “Zoom” phone). That means you’ll be able to capture decent snaps even if you decide to leave the house without a dedicated camera.

The Z2′s meaty images don’t result solely from the high resolution, but also from the size of the sensor: at 1/2.3 inches, the chip can suck in significantly more light than any of its Android rivals. Coupled with large JPEG sizes of up to 9MB (albeit, unfortunately, with no RAW option), this yields photographs with less noise and less of the flat “digital” feel that you’d normally expect from a phone camera.

With this sort of optical strength, the camera app almost doesn’t need its plethora of effects and gimmicks, but it supplies them anyway. This extends to the now-obligatory “background defocus” effect, which is a hollow imitation of what the HTC One M8 can do with its depth sensor.

On the whole, I wish Sony had concentrated more on making its camera app more flexible and more suitable to manual photography, the way Nokia has done in recent years. There’s no easy way to control ISO or shutter speed in order to get creative using the stock app; the only quick adjustments that can be made are white balance and exposure compensation. It could have also helped us out with better post-production tools, as the one supplied is extremely basic. As things stand, we’ll just have to go elsewhere for our photography tools.

Video recording

To some extent, Sony’s unnecessary gimmicks also stretch to video recording, since we now have a 4K recording option that only a few people with 4K displays might be able to appreciate. (If you’re reading this on a 4K display, make sure you choose the full-res setting on the YouTube video above and, unlike the rest of us, you’ll be able to see what these clips really look like).

The good news with 4K is that Sony hasn’t crushed the frame rate as much as I feared, so the footage isn’t ruined by compression artifacts. The camera stores about 450MB of data for each minute of 3,840 x 2,160 footage, which equates to 7.5 MB/s — that’s nearly four times higher than the data rate of video recording on the Z1, befitting the quadrupling of the resolution. This is a roundabout way of saying that 4K clips from the Z2 should at least look similar to the 1080p clips we’re already used to, with the bonus of higher resolution if and when it’s needed.

Unfortunately, my sample footage was let down by the Z2′s microphone, which couldn’t really handle a windy day by the river, as well as by its lack of optical image stabilization (there’s only digital stabilization on offer here) and the fact that it’s almost impossible to keep your left index finger away from the lens. If you intend to use the Z2 for serious videography, consider investing in a decent mount, along with Sony’s new stereo microphone accessory, the STM10 (£30/$50).

Battery life and performance

Sony Xperia Z2 Xperia Z1 HTC One (M8)
Quadrant 2.0 19,100 22,145 25,548
Vellamo 2.0 1,597 2,891 1,804
AnTuTu 3.2 32,574 29,377 30,100
SunSpider 1.0 (Chrome browser) 935 762 772
GFX Bench T-Rex Offscreen (fps) 27.2 23 28.2
GFX Bench Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 11.8 N/A 11.1
CF-Bench 36,699 31,702 38,526

Minion Rush median frame rate*

31 31 28
Minion Rush battery drain (% per hour)* 22 24 22
Battery rundown test 13.5 12.5 11.5
*Measured using GameBench Beta.

Our usual battery of benchmarks largely confirmed my expectations: The Z2 benefits hugely from its upgraded processor, the Snapdragon 801. There are a couple of freak numbers in the table — especially the poor Quadrant and SunSpider scores. However, a number of the other disparities between the Z2 and the HTC One M8 could potentially be explained by the fact that the M8 has been programmed to run benchmarks in a so-called High Performance Mode — so it could simply be that Sony doesn’t mess with clock speeds to the extent that its rival does. On the whole, the performance scores are strong, with gaming benchmarks being broadly on par with the M8.

Moreover, due to the inclusion of a larger 3,200mAh battery, the stamina has increased greatly and is now probably the best of the recent batch of flagships. I say “probably” because these things depend largely on how often it’s under load and how much use you make of the various battery-saving features. From our experience with the Z2, it has great longevity when it’s mostly in standby, but it gets hot and can occasionally be inefficient when asked to handle more taxing activities. This led to a couple of instances where the battery depleted faster than I expected, but on the whole, I never had less than a third of the battery left by late evening. Our standard looped video corroborates (and perhaps slightly exaggerates) this advantage: The phone lasted a full 13 hours and 30 minutes — three and half hours longer than the Galaxy S5.

LTE and HSPA+ performance was solid, with connection strength and data speeds being consistent with other phones we’ve tested on O2′s network in London. The phone didn’t drop its data connection even when, during a couple of instances, the reception indicator showed zero bars. With a couple of bars of signal strength, I got up and down speeds of around 7 Mbps, which is what I expected. Call quality and reliability held no nasty surprises either. I tried calls with and without background-noise suppression and “speaker voice enhancement,” and neither I nor the other party noticed much difference, but in all cases, the audio quality was good.

Wrap-up

I’ve had a bit of a roller coaster ride with the Xperia Z2, but I can at least summarize it all with one last trough, and one crest.

The downer is that, personally, I wouldn’t buy this phone. If I wanted the Z2′s camera, coupled with its high-quality display and fast processor, I’d wait to buy it in a smaller version of the handset — which hasn’t been confirmed yet, but must surely be on the horizon given the level of interest in the Z1 Compact. If I wanted a phablet, I’d get a Galaxy Note 3 or hold out for a Note 4. And if I wanted a big, premium non-phablet, I’d probably go for the HTC One M8 — it has a more enticing, more comfortable design, along with a nicer UI and better stock apps (especially in the camera department).

More objectively, though, I can see what Sony was trying to create with the Z2, and it has arguably succeeded in the areas that matter most. There’ll be people out there who appreciate its gorgeous display, solid battery life and granite-like charm, and these attributes are inextricably linked to the phone’s size. If you think that might be you, go ahead. This is a safe purchase, the best Sony phone that has ever been, and definitely among the top three Android phones currently on the market.

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18
Apr
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Google could be working on an even cheaper Nexus


nexus5_leak_back

If the Nexus 5 wasn’t budget enough already. a new report has surfaced that suggests Google has partnered with MediaTek for a very low-priced Nexus smartphone.

With Nokia lining up their budget Android handsets aimed at developing markets, it’s expected that the MediaTek processor will power the Nexus device that could sell for only $100 in order to further spread the Nexus brand.

Whilst details are scarce at the moment, it certainly makes sense for Google to offer a budget Nexus device running pure Android to not only advertise Nexus, but also promote Android as Google intended.

SOURCE: mtksj

The post Google could be working on an even cheaper Nexus appeared first on AndroidGuys.

18
Apr
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Don’t wait for SportsCenter, SlingPlayer update brings the highlights in real-time


Slingbox has pushed out a handful of updates for SlingPlayer on iOS and Android, adding new features on both platforms. On the Android side, Slingbox joined forces with sporting-app Thuuz. Now if you have to skip watching the Giants game for work, SlingPlayer will let you know Tim Lincecum is using his secret mustache powers to pitch a no-hitter . If you can sneak away from your meeting for a “bathroom break,” a link within the app will instantly tune you into the hair-raising action. The sports app won’t be integrated into the iPhone version of SlingPlayer until this summer, but iOS users can still download it on its own to try out now.

While iOS users will have to wait until football season for Thuuz, they did get a little something new this week.Up until now, if you wanted to sling some Scandal to your Apple TV via Airplay you’d have to sacrifice your phone for the duration of the marathon. If you tried to back out of the app to respond to your bosses emails (he’s probably wondering why you’re watching Scandal instead of working) your video would stop playing. The update allows you to put the app in the background, so you can start streaming and then go back to your game of Angry Birds (you’ll beat those piggies eventually, we promise). Keeping with the exclusive theme, right now the feature is iPhone only. However, the plan is to bring the fun to the iPad this summer — just in time to use your tablet as a second screen during premiere season.

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Via: Slingbox

Source: Google Play, iTunes

17
Apr
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Chupacabra update makes the OUYA game console a better media center


Go ahead and dust off your OUYAs, friends — it’s updatin’ time. The little Android game console that could wasn’t exactly the runaway hit its creators were hoping for, but some fresh features found in the new Chupacabra update help this thing stand a bit taller. As far as the team is concerned, the biggest draw is the addition of AC3, DTS and AAS audio passthrough support for the exceedingly popular XBMC media center app. The OUYA itself doesn’t have the proper licenses to play certain bits of audio (say, a movie’s surround sound audio track), but now it can pass them over to a user’s home theater receiver that does have the licenses. In short, those of you using your tiny Android consoles as media centers can finally play some of the trickier videos in your collection.

Also tucked away in the update: a cleaner view at game information, a download manager and the ability to set certain games as favorites for easy access. Alas, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows here — OUYA said it would remove its free-to-try requirement, and that change has finally taken hold. Granted, the move basically neuters one of the most gamer-friendly parts about owning an OUYA (who doesn’t love free game demos?), but we suppose the company’s gotta do what it has to in order to keep those game developers happy.

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Source: Ouya

17
Apr
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Install the Nokia X camera on your Android 4.1+ device


Nokia-XL-Dual-SIM

Whilst the Nokia X wasn’t exactly the flagship high-end spec’d out Android device we were hoping for from Nokia, the camera that is bundled with the device has some pretty nice settings, and we all know Nokia can make a pretty good camera (app).

If Google’s own camera app doesn’t quite do it for you, then the guys over at XDA Developers have managed to port the Nokia X camera software to pretty much any Android device running version 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or better.

These settings that the Nokia X camera app features include: ISO sensitivity control, the ability to display a live intensity histogram, configurable noise detection, redeye reduction, anti-banding, and more.

What’s more is you don’t even need ROOT access. Think this is something you fancy trying out? Download the file from here and install it on your Android device. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

The post Install the Nokia X camera on your Android 4.1+ device appeared first on AndroidGuys.

17
Apr
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Looking for the longest lasting battery experience for your smartphone? Here’s the top devices


battery_low_wallpaper_hd_by_neutondesigns-d4tb8kb

A smartphone that doesn’t last a day in the 21st century isn’t a smartphone worth having, and with devices now including more and more processor intensive features, the battle of functionality versus battery life is hotter than ever.

A great device can be let down entirely by the length of time it lasts between charges and it is important to know that you won’t be left without your device on a long day at the office or travelling.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the devices which have been proven to have the longest battery life between charges to enable you to make the best decision when choosing your next device. The devices are ranked according to the battery capacity they have, and ultimately the bigger battery capacity the longer it’ll hold a charge, together with user rating against how they performed when it comes to the claimed capacity.

There’s no denying that judging by the above graph that Android trumps both iOS and Windows Phone when it comes to both battery capacity in the devices and user rating for getting the expected life between charges.

Do you find yourself turning off GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, and even dimming the screen to where it’s almost unreadable at the end of the day to conserve that last few percent of your battery? Let us know in the comments below which device you decided to get and if it lives up to the battery expectation .

The post Looking for the longest lasting battery experience for your smartphone? Here’s the top devices appeared first on AndroidGuys.

17
Apr
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Why I buy refurbished tech and you should too


refurbished pic

Hi, I’m Tarus, and I’m a “tech-aholic”.

I love mobile tech — phones, tablets, wearables. if it has to do with mobile, I’m all over it. The newest flagship phones are starting to be released, and I’m wide-eyed yet again, hoping to get my hands on the latest and greatest.

With new devices being released all the time, it can be exhausting and extremely expensive to keep up. We are getting to that time of year when it seems like there are new devices being released weekly and we just saw the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5 launch to great fanfare that are expensive on-contract , but off-contract, the prices are through the roof.

This leads me to the question I’ve been pondering: Why is there such a stigma around buying refurbished hardware? I frequent several forums and deal sites and when there is a post about a sale on a refurbished phone or tablet, there is usually a massive number of people making negative comments about the item. I read things like, “I thought this was a good deal until I saw that it was a refurb.” Comments like this really grind my gears.

I think that some people have had bad experiences with refurbished products and it left a sour taste in their mouth. They spew their negativity all over the Internet, and pretty soon, every refurbished product sale has a gang of angry villagers with torches and pitchforks in hand just waiting to vilify the perfectly acceptable products available for purchase.

When I’m in the market for my next Android device, I will check for refurbished deals first. I’ll scour deal sites like Slickdeals and Woot. I’ll look at AmazonWalmartCowboom, and Newegg.  Plus, I‘ll even take advantage of Ebay, utilizing reputable sellers to purchase refurbished products.

Personally, I’ve had a really good experience with buying refurbished products, and when purchasing items I need. There are a few reasons why I chose a refurb first, such as:

  • Items can usually be had for a fraction of the cost compared to buying brand new.
  • Items usually look brand new with little to no signs of use.
  • Most refurbished items are store demos, returns, overstocks, or cancelled orders.
  • The manufacturer warranty still applies in most cases.
  • You can purchase an extended warranty for piece of mind if you’d like.
  • Returns are offered on most items.

Now, I am not saying that your experience will be perfect, as I’ve even purchased a smashed, refurbished TV from a certain big box retailer, which I was able to return. Nevertheless, you should highly consider buying refurbished devices if you’re looking to save money and get a deal. Please don’t worry about what others say on the Internet because for every negative commenter, there are a hundred others smiling, kicking back and enjoying their “refurbs”.

The post Why I buy refurbished tech and you should too appeared first on AndroidGuys.

16
Apr
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Chrome Remote Desktop for Android browses a PC or Mac from your phone


While we’d seen rumblings that it was in beta testing, Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android made its official debut today. This means that those who fancy Mountain View’s mobile OS can take a gander at files that reside on a Windows or Mac machine that’s safely docked in the office. The Remote Desktop app has been available on the desktop for quite some time, and now the same access is available through Chrome on Android smartphones and tablets. For those who prefer Apple’s devices, an iOS version of the software should be on the way soon.

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Source: Google Chrome Blog, Google Play

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