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2
Jan

U.S. Music Fans Continue Shift to Streaming Services as Apple Readies Beats Revamp


Paid music downloads, which have dominated the digital music market for years thanks in large part to Apple’s iTunes Store, showed accelerating weakness in the United States last year as music streaming services like Spotify and a resurgence of vinyl record sales exploded in popularity.

According to Nielsen SoundScan (via The Wall Street Journal), streaming music grew a remarkable 54 percent in 2014, moving from 106 billion songs in 2013 to 164 billion in 2014. That growth contrasts with traditional song downloads that dropped off significantly from 2013. Paid downloads for full music albums declined 9 percent in 2014, with individual song downloads seeing an even larger 12 percent drop-off. Overall, according to SoundScan, Americans bought 257 million albums in 2014, 106.5 million of which were downloaded digitally.

Screenshot (56)
Amid the digital shift from individual downloads to streaming, an older technology also saw a resurgence in 2014 with vinyl record sales at their highest levels since SoundScan began tracking music sales in 1991. Nielsen’s tracking shows 9.2 million vinyl records sold, representing a 52 percent overall increase in sales from 2013.

With lackluster overall digital music downloads mirroring a similar drop in iTunes Store sales, Apple has been looking at ways to improve its positioning in the music market. Apple’s initial effort with iTunes Radio to offer a Pandora-like experience that also seeks to drive iTunes Store purchases has had a less-than-stellar reception with availability in only the United States and Australia. That weak entry likely spurred Apple to pursue last year’s acquisition of Beats Music for a full-fledged subscription streaming service.

Recent reports have indicated that Apple will be pursuing a major revamp of Beats early this year that may see prominent integration of the paid streaming service into iOS and iTunes, perhaps including a rebranding under the iTunes name.



2
Jan

Which OEM flagship devices you are most looking forward to in 2015?


crystal ball 2015

It’s the dawn of a new year, but already we are hearing gossip of the next HTC One, the Samsung Galaxy S6, the LG G Flex 2 and countless other devices. With that in mind, for this week’s Friday Debate we want to talk about which OEM flagship devices you are most looking forward to (whether immediate upcomers like GS6 or far-off devices like Note 5), and what you hope to see that manufacturer do differently with their next-gen flagships.

Aside from the devices you are most looking forward to seeing, feel free to weigh in on what you think all Android manufacturers as a whole need to focus on in 2015 (battery life, new designs, etc).

As is our recent custom, we start out the Friday Debate by hearing from our community, followed by members of Team AA and finally we’ll give our readers the opportunity to voice their opinion in the comments section. This week’s topic brought on quite a few responses, though this week we’ve chosen to showcase just one: our community’s Jayfeather.

Jayfeather

Xiaomi Mi 5! It looks like it is going to have killer specs and an awesome display with a decent price tag. There are more and more rumors of the upcoming Xiaomi Mi 5, which is set to be released this month, possibly at CES in a few days.

Xiaomi has always been a pretty good company, and their phones never cease to amaze me, especially for the price. For example, the Xiaomi Mi 3 on Oppo Mart costs 269 dollars, and has a Snapdragon 800 and 2 GB of RAM packed into a 5 inch 1080P screen. It is a Nexus 5 challenger that undercuts the price. The Mi 4 is the same way, although it features pretty much the same specs as the Mi 3, but costs about 400 dollars. I am hoping that the Mi 5 will be in this price range, maybe a little more, as it seems to be a whole lot more of a phone.

The rumors are showing that the Mi 5 will have a Snapdragon 810, 3 GB of RAM, and a 1440P screen! I am not usually that excited about many phones anymore. I have a Nexus 5, and it has about all the speed I will ever need. New phones from Samsung, LG, and HTC just don’t really excite me. Samsung is the same thing over and over with spec bumps every year. I love HTC but they have been screwing up with their camera and bezels, and LG is good, but it is just not that exciting. Every company has good phones, but no new phone really makes me go wow.

A phone can have the best specs and features, and have a high price tag, and that’s like, go figure, right? You pay more, get more. However, Xiaomi’s trend is offering inexpensive phones with excellent hardware. Plus Xiaomi phones tend to have decent development with a lot of ROMs. It just really excites me, and I am really pulling for Xiaomi, because their devices seem to be excellent in every way. My dad is looking for a new phone, he as an AT&T S4, and it sucks. I messed up some things on it. We bought it used, and it has a bunch of problems with the screen, in that it won’t register touch and it has air bubbles under the screen, which is just infuriating. He wants a Note 4, but I do not think it is wise to drop 750-850 on a new Samsung when the Xiaomi Mi 5 is just around the corner, and it may be cheaper and better.

After that, I would like to see the HTC One M9. I have always loved HTC. I have an HTC Sensation that still runs like a beast on Lollipop. HTC phones have excellent build quality, and I am sure the M9 won’t disappoint. If it has an improved camera, it would easily be one of the best phones in the world. So Xiaomi Mi 5 is my top pick, and next is the HTC One M9.

What Team AA has to say

Now that you’ve had a look at what community member Jayfeather had to say, it’s time for Team AA to weigh in:

Joe Hindy

The OEM I’m most looking forward to in 2015 is HTC. Their CEO has been fanning the flames saying that they’re going to have an exciting year and their products have been on an upward trajectory for the last 2 years with the One M7 and One M8 along with their midrange Desire series. The thing with HTC is that while their devices are top notch, they’ve been missing that thing that sets them apart from the rest. Samsung and Sony had waterproofing, the Note 4 and Nexus 6 had ridiculous size and powerful specs. The One M8’s solid offerings were consistently overshadowed by the competition. I’m hoping in 2015, they fix that problem.

I know the big conversation about flagships is that a lot of people think they should be cheaper. While I would certainly love a cheaper high-end smartphone, I don’t believe that everyone’s end game should be to make the cheapest smartphone that they can. In my humble opinion, I think OEMs should approach the outcry like laptop manufacturers do. Have the “Alienware” for expensive that has all the best specs and cutting edge tech, the “HP/Toshiba/etc” midrange for those who want most of the features but not all the best, and the “Chromebook” smartphone that does what you need it to do, is super cheap, but doesn’t feature the cutting edge stuff. Pretty much every OEM is going to release at least 3-5 smartphones this next year. Why not target all three demographics at once?

As a whole, OEMs have been focusing a lot more on expediting updates and larger batteries. We saw a lot of phones coming out with over 3000mAh batteries which allowed them to live much longer than is generally expected. I would love to see that trend continue and improve. Maybe they’ll find a way to squeeze a 4000mAh battery into a 5-inch phone. That’d be wonderful, eh?

There are two things I think Android manufacturers should focus on in 2015. The first is design. Pretty much everything is the same old thing inside of a new coat of paint. The Xperia Z series all look like the same phone with minor alterations. The same with the Samsung Galaxy series. HTC is falling into that habit as well with the One. LG did something really interesting with the back-side volume rocker. I’d love to see more bold designs like that to differentiate from the past.

The other thing I think Android manufacturers need to do is leverage the Google Play Store more. HTC has done this a little bit by releasing a few of their apps to the Play Store for everyone (not just HTC owners) and other OEMs have released their apps there for easier updating. Nokia may be the winners in this area with HERE Maps and the Z Launcher which are both intensely popular and well regarded. However, the looming threat of China invading the Europe and the West is a very real one, especially if they continue to produce cheap smartphones with decent specs. The main difference is the Play Store. The app stores on Chinese smartphones are amateur in comparison to the mammoth gold mine of games, apps, security, and customization sources that is the Google Play Store and it would be wise of Android manufacturers to start pointing that out now. It is a valuable asset and feature that pretty much all manufacturers ignore or downplay and when the Chinese start releasing $200 flagships, the fact that their app stores only have a few hundred thousand apps is going to be a lot more important.

It’s going to be an exciting year in hardware because last year was such a disappointment in terms of sales. Jobs were lost, new hires were made, Companies now realize that they need to shake things up a bit to get money in their pockets. The winners will be us, the consumers.

Eric McBride

2015 might be one of the most exciting years when it comes to smartphones, especially as Chinese companies and other OEMs that were “quieter” during the Samsung/Apple reign seem to be getting a better hold on things. That being said, there are a couple of devices that I am very much looking forward to seeing in 2015.

First up is Samsung. I have learned in life that sometimes being backed into a corner can be one of the best things to happen, as it FORCES you to do something to change the situation. Samsung is now in a position that they haven’t been in for years, as the Galaxy S6 and Note 5 MUST work, and work WELL. No ifs ands or buts about it. If these 2 devices don’t have some massive sales (Note 5 I think will, but I have my doubts about the S6 for some reason), the trouble that Samsung is currently in will look miniscule compared to the problems they will have next year and in 2016. It’s now or never for Sammy, and I can’t wait to see what they bring to the table.

HTC would have to be my second choice, simply because they seem to be hyping things so much lately. The thing with HTC is that they have always brought good devices to the table, despite the fact that they have had lackluster performance over the past years. As Joe pointed out, the M7 and M8 were and still are amazing devices, and with Samsung on the rocks, this could be their real chance to restablish themselves as a real force to be reckoned with.

LG is my next pick, simply because I like the consistency and style of devices they have put out lately. For some reason, I have a feeling that LG might shock us with something amazing, huge, and curved. I’m honestly rooting for them, as they have really climbed from the ashes to become relevant again.

When it comes to tech to focus on, better software optimization and battery life (one could literally be the solution for the other) are what I’m after. 2015 shouldn’t just be the year of specs, as phones with “mid range” hardware and amazing performance have emerged and proved that 17 14ghz processors aren’t needed to make Android fly. Sure I want new processors and 3 to 4gb of RAM in flagships, but I would love to see more focus on getting more power out of existing hardware vs always having to up the speed for everything. Efficiency ftw!

Gary Sims

I’ll start by saying what I am not looking forward to from the major OEMs in 2015, another round of Samsung Galaxy S and Samsung Galaxy Note devices. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Note 4 is a fantastic device, but its physical size is just too large for me, plus it costs way too much for my pocket. And I guess the S5 is also a good phone as well, but really it is just another iteration of the devices that came before it. Which is why I am not waiting with bated breath for another iteration.

I think we will find that 2015 will be the year of the Chinese OEM. OnePlus made a big splash onto the scene this year and although there has been teething problems I think 2015 can only be better. A friend came around over the holidays with his OnePlus One and the phone looked great. I asked him about the various problems that have been reported, and he said he had experienced none of them. So I am looking forward to the OnePlus Two.

I am also looking forward to see what Xiaomi and Meizu can do in 2015. I also think that Huawei could surprise us with more interesting devices from its Honor brand. Plus, I am interested to see what ZTE can do. All of these companies need to heavily push online sales distribution channels and cut out the carriers. Let carriers provide the cellular services but they shouldn’t be dictating which phones we use and how much they cost. That would be like the construction companies that build our highways also selling the cars. There is no freedom, no choice in that.

Besides the Chinese OEMs, I really want to see more from HTC. I think it has produced some solid devices over the last twelve to eighteen months and I think it has more potential. I also think it is really the best company to disrupt the status-quo. If HTC got into online selling and bypassed the carriers, I think it could regain its former glory, why let OnePlus do it when the HTC brand is already so well known and the phones so well respected?

Last but not least, I am looking forward to LG’s offerings for 2015. I think the G series has been brilliant and whenever I go past the window of a phone shop, the LGs always look good compared to their neighbors.

The key factors for 2015 aren’t higher resolution displays or crazily high megapixel counts, it will be price and distribution channels. And any OEM that doesn’t see that will see a loss of market share.

Jonathan Feist

It’s that time of year again, Christmas phone-giving is over, and now we save up our pennies to see what the next round of flagship phones will look like.

It is hard not to be excited for each and every new marquee device coming out of most Android handset manufacturers. With the next round of flagships likely to announce in just a few short weeks at WMC 2015, I expect lots of 64-bit technology, large(r) screen devices and bigger batteries.

Thing is, as excited as I am to see what Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC and more bring to the table, as far as most people’s wallets go, these devices do not matter.

Like most others, above all else this year, I really want to see a significant price drop on the average flagship phone. Because I do not imagine that will happen, that phones like the Galaxy S6, HTC One (M9), LG G4 or the Sony Xperia Z4 will not come in at Moto X pricing, or lower, I think I’ll turn my attention elsewhere.

Let me start with OnePlus. Yes, I know what you may be thinking, don’t do it – no support, screen issues, the whole invite thing is a joke. Thing is, round 1 is over, OnePlus got its butt kicked a little bit (or did they?) learning the hard way how to build a phone and deliver it to the masses. I want to believe that they’ve learned enough to step things up, to become a ‘real’ manufacturer.

Maybe I am wrong to put my expectations in the ‘flagship killer,’ but if they can bring another high-end device to market for less than $400, and sell it without all the hoopla, I’d be interested.

HTC is another player I will keep my eyes on. Maybe not for their flagship offerings, but I will say that I am growing somewhat fond of the Desire line of mid-range devices. Bang for the buck, they’ve got some hits on their hands. Keep the 13MP and larger cameras coming, and I’ll keep an eye on what you are selling.

What I really, really want to see in 2015, a new Nexus device. Let me call it Nexus 5.5. I want a 5.5-inch AMOLED phone, I want a Snapdragon 810 SoC (or better 64-bit chipset), 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage with microSD slot, front facing speakers, a battery large enough to provide up to 8 hours screen-on time, a camera in the 13-16MP range with OIS and optical zoom and no non-sense real world usability. Am I asking for too much?

Like Joe said, I am glad for the progress most manufacturers are making in terms of the hardware, there are pros and cons no matter what decision you make, but in the end, much was learned in 2014 and there is a healthy amount of competition in the market – we will all be winners because of it. 2015 is going to be a good year.

Luka Mlinar

I’m gonna have to go with the Xiaomi Mi5. At the moment they are my last big hope for a true flagship phone with the next generation Snapdragon 800 series chip that doesn’t cross the 5″ border into phablet territory. One can always justify adding an extra 0.2″ but personally I consider my 5 inch phone large enough as is. Screen size aside, my love for the up and coming Chinese OEMs has grown almost as fast as they have. While top global OEMs are fighting over adding that one feature that will set them apart over the rest, Xiaomi, OnePlus and Meizu are trying to reach the same heights wile keeping cost at almost half that of the competition. I find that extremely exciting.

With expansion into newer markets, will they adjust their OS to a more vanilla like look? How long can they keep their price down or were the first few models sold cheaply just to create a costumer base an put their foot in the door? These are just some of the question I have and I’m hopefully that 2015 will bring a lot of answers.

As far as what I think OEMs should focus on? Well, we got the internal components where we want them; 8 core 64 bit processors with 3GB of RAM and so on. For 2015 i would like manufacturers to make the exterior of their devices look and feel as good as their internal components are. To take a risk and go beyond the designs of the past. To follow in the footsteps of Google’s MD and reinvent what we thought we knew about design.

Robert Triggs

As a big fan of LG’s last two flagships, I’m really keen to see what can be squeezed into the LG G4. I’d like to see LG keep on the same track, slightly undercutting the big flagship names in terms of price and ignoring the gimmicks, while offering more reliable build quality and superior camera and display features than the low-cost Chinese brands.

Like Joe said, I’m looking for even more diversity this year. I want Samsung’s Galaxy S6 to really justify its ultra-high price tag this time, but with useful features and better software rather than gimmicks. I’m equally stoked to see what Xiaomi can do with its low-cost Mi5 and what Huawei, Lenovo and Meizu will bring to the table this year. That said, I’d hate to the majority of manufacturers race to the lowest price, the Android market will be better off if OEMs can find a market segment to appeal to.

Some OEMs will no doubt try to fractionally improve upon the 5-inch 1080p, 8MP, Snapdragon reference designs that clogged up the end of 2014, but that’s been perfected. I want to see someone try out a slim-bezel 4.2 incher, pack a stellar 20MP camera into a mid-range phone, or try some weirder designs that push functionality further than the G3, Note Edge or Oppo N3. I’m looking at you Project Ara.

Matthew Benson

The device I am most looking forward to for this year is the LG G Flex 2. As mentioned a few weeks back, my device of 2014 was the original, and it is thus with great anticipation that I await the technological advancements that LG will inevitably bring to the table. Hopefully it will have a full 1080p display, and retain the same curved angle as the original (as opposed to the Galaxy Round). Also LG had mentioned it could have bent the original in an even more pronounced fashion than it did, thus it would be interesting to have something even more rounded, or perhaps something that could actually be bent. The idea of a semi-“rubber” chassis would be quite an interesting idea. The phone would literally be able to flex, but still be hard enough to retain a certain shape.

Personally I have been partial to LG devices in recent years. While the OEM provides as much “bloat” as Samsung, LG has far more to offer with the insane level of customization options. The ability to manually select the on-screen navigation buttons (including their order) as well as change every single icon’s picture is something that Samsung could stand to include. Likewise, LG devices seem to have excellent battery life, especially the original G Flex.

Beyond that, I am actually looking forward to a “flagship” Samsung Gear device. The Gear S is actually quite nice for what it is, but the thing looks like a cheap toy when push comes to shove. The LG G Watch R has a much more professional and “traditional” look to it, and it would be fantastic if Samsung could offer something similar. Some weeks ago I wrote a post about a rumored “ring display” watch Samsung had patented: that would be a step in the right direction.

Likewise, I am also very interested to see what flagship tablet Samsung can release this year, especially if it will have another SAMOLED screen. The best possible offering would inevitably be the Galaxy Note 10.1 2015 Edition, or perhaps a successor to the Galaxy Note 8.0. Last years Galaxy Tab S duo were nice of course, but the lack of additional functionality that the Note series offers was a bit of a downer.

The one feature that really needs to be implemented this year is quick charging. Simply put, I’m disgusted with the excruciating amount of time required to charge any kind of tablet device. The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 in particular took an insane wait, and even the Nexus 9 is exceedingly excessive. It’s high time that more thought be put into this component because when you’re dealing with batteries that keep getting bigger and bigger, there is just no excuse why you need to wait 4-6 hours (or more) to top them off.

Now it’s your turn

You’ve heard from Jayfeather and Team AA, now it’s your turn. What OEM handsets are you most looking forward to? What other kind of Android-related devices are you hoping to see this year? Tell us what you think in the comments!

*Note poll was originally featured in a post from yesterday, but is applicable here as well*

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2
Jan

Dealing with cellphone carriers is confusing on purpose


Confusion jolamble

Several days ago, the New York Times ran an interesting piece that pointed out just how confusing wireless plans are presented to consumers. As the story pointed out, even executives at several wireless phone companies are admitting that such confusion exists due to a “a Tower of Babel of competing plans, with highly specific requirements and offerings and even, in many cases, unique language buried in the fine print.”

But at what point will people realize that such plans are intentionally as confusing as possible? AT&T’s new chief executive has since admitted to “propagating some confusion in the marketplace” while T-Mobile’s chief marketing officer admitted to being part of an “industry where the carriers have sown a massive amount of confusion.”

So let’s get into the confusion that always adds to the carriers financial pockets.

Upgrading

When Verizon and AT&T first introduced their new upgrade programs (in response to T-Mobile), they made sure to make it as difficult as possible to understand for the average consumer. Why? Because customers weren’t saving whatsoever with the upgrade plans. In fact, customers were paying twice for the same phone.

For years, carriers have admitted openly to jacking up the cost of service to counter handset subsidies. Yet, when the new upgrade plans were introduced which eliminated the subsides, the price of service didn’t drop at all. In fact, it took some national attention over several months for the carriers to make changes to the upgrade programs so that they weren’t a complete and utter “rip-off” (as Lifehacker flatly stated).

CarrierUpgradePrices 9to5mac

Or as the New York Times explained:

One wireless phone plan allows customers to upgrade to a new phone in less than two years. Another allows a pool of data to be shared across multiple devices. Yet another offers unlimited data, but only at slower Internet speeds. All these perks are there for the taking, yet the average wireless phone bill continues with its monthly sting. Confused yet?

Unlimited Data

When T-Mobile went around the country with their “unlimited data” plans, they really meant that customers could use their service up to a select amount of GB’s. If customers went over a capped amount, they wouldn’t be charged overages but were throttled to speeds of 64 kbps or 128 kbps for the remainder of their billing cycle. T-Mobile was even nice enough to exempt speed-tests from their usage caps so throttled users wouldn’t be able to tell if they were being throttled. How nice.

When Sprint was advertising to all the benefits of their “Truly Unlimited Data” plans that allowed customers to “avoid the data dilemma”, they really meant that customers could only use 5GB on their phones/tablets without paying ridiculous overages.

SprintDataCapsUnlimitedAd

When Tracfone Wireless advertised that their MVNOs Straight Talk and Net10 plans included “unlimited data”, they really meant that customers had unlimited data up to 2.5GB and then dial-up speeds for the rest of the month. Of course, you could purchase more data per month for an additional fee.

A TracFone spokeswoman said in a statement that Straight Talk’s 30-day $45 “unlimited” plans and $60 “unlimited international long” plans include 2.5 GB of high-speed data. – FierceWireless

When AT&T advertised their “unlimited data” plans to iPhone users for several years, AT&T really meant that they could only use 2GB, or maybe 3GB, or top 5% of data in your area….or something.

Service Contracts

When FreedomPop was advertising their “free wireless service“, they really meant that customers had to pay a multiple number of fees for such things as receiving usage alerts, rolling over bytes to other months and other charges for simply using the service (such as the $0.99 “Active Status fee” which has since been removed by FreedomPop).

AT&T must have forgot to tell wireless customers that they were raising the “Activation Fee” for those on two-year contracts. Rather than being forced to pay just $4 for the arbitrary and unnecessary fee, customers are now paying around $40 for it. It is what I call a BIC “Because I Can” fee.

VerizonBelowTheLineFee DroidLife

Speaking of AT&T, let’s not forget about the addition of another BIC fee. Last year, AT&T announced that wireless users would need to pay a $0.61 “Mobility Administrative Fee”. Although AT&T claimed it was to help “defray certain expenses,” it was clearly AT&T looking to add yet another below-the-line fee that allows companies like AT&T to jack up the cost of service without raising advertised rates.

When T-Mobile advertised to consumers in Washington that they could have a “no-contract” plan for an iPhone 5 with an upfront cost of $99, Washington State’s Attorney General slammed T-Mobile for false advertising since customers still were forced to sign an agreement stating that they would pay off the total owed. T-Mobile eventually changed their advertising language and acknowledged that they were “misrepresenting that customers can obtain wireless service and telephone equipment without restrictions.”

Technology Terms

As I have written about a number of times, wireless carriers seem to enjoy advertising technology that they don’t actually offer. Apparently the carriers believe that by stating that you offer something a number of times, then you magically do offer that technology. If that doesn’t work, the carriers push the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to dumb down the definition of the technology so that everyone can suddenly offer it.

For years, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint have spent many millions in advertising of their 4G networks that didn’t even speeds anywhere near 4G speeds. T-Mobile claimed that their 3G HSPA+ service was the “largest 4G network” while Sprint and AT&T pretended that their Mobile WiMax and HSPA+ networks (from several years ago) were also “4G.”

During 2011, Rogers Communications in Canada publicly admitted that their LTE network was not going to be nationally available for some time. That didn’t stop Rogers from promoting their new “4G” network that was simply their current HSPA+ network. When asked as to why they were suddenly introducing their HSPA+ network as 4G, Rogers tried to blame competitors for “confusion” as to what “4G” entailed. So to avoid confusing consumers, Rogers joined other wireless carriers in calling everything and anything “4G”.

In both 2011 and 2013, Representative Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, introduced the Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act which would have required carriers to disclose a list of details about the network, including minimum data speeds, network reliability and coverage, and specifically what technology was being used to provide “4G” service. Both times, the industry managed to kill the bill through intensive lobbying.

Cramming

As this site has reported on a number of occasions, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint have all been involved with cramming tactics for years now and have reaped the benefits of such tactics to the tune of millions of dollars per year. Cramming refers to wireless carriers who would sign up consumers to a $10 a month service that sent text messages containing a variety of news/tips/horoscopes. The carriers would then try to confuse the charges on a customer’s bill, ignore requests to be removed and dodge any attempts to be contacted.

AT&TBillingFTCFCCIssuesCramming FTC.gov

Over the last year, the FCC has surprisingly been active in stopping this practice through a variety of fines.

Conclusion

Wireless carriers make it difficult for a reason: Money.



2
Jan

Mad scientist sends a bunch of HTC One M8s to the stratosphere


If you’ve never seen YouTube user Colin Furze in action, you’re frankly missing out. From DIY Wolverine claws to walking on the ceiling, this guy makes everything you wish you could. His most recent video is one of his best, as he sends multiple HTC One M8 handsets into the stratosphere using balloons.

How does he do this, you ask? He packs 2-4 M8s into a styrofoam box, then attaches a few phones to mounts for filming purposes. He then ties everything to a high-altitude balloon, and they’re off. Not only does he send the devices into space, once the box reaches 20,000 feet, they set off a bunch of fireworks to make it even more insane. The devices keep rising all the way up to 106,500 feet, making it the first cell phone recording of that altitude. The coolest part? All of the devices survived the sub-zero temperatures they went through in space.

HTC has been working on many different projects in their Creatography initiative lately, and you can find out more of what the company is doing by visiting their website. But honestly, none of the other videos are quite as awesome as this one.



2
Jan

Bingo Bash App Review


Screenshot_2015-01-02-10-04-57~2

Bingo Bash is one of those games that sneaks up on you and causes you to be addicted without realizing it. Did you think playing Bingo would be something that would keep you hooked? No, but for some reason this game makes you want to keep playing.

Gameplay

Bingo Bash has a mixture of playing Bingo and mini games in one package. You use “balls” to buy Bingo cards to enter a room of your choice (you unlock more rooms as you gain more experience). If you run out of balls to use for Bingo, than you can play a mini game, which help give you more chips to use for power ups in Bingo.

Each room has a different feel, and even different options while playing. For example, the Bingo Royale room shows all the numbers that have been called, whereas other rooms do not. Other than that, most of the other stuff in the game is for hype to get you to play more.

Graphics

The graphic was one aspect of the game that was inconsistent. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but transitions were terrible, and everything except the actual Bingo moved slow and stuttered. I have a first gen Moto X, so arguably not the best phone in terms of processing, but it’s no slouch either. Yet, whenever I opened the game, I would turn down the volume, and that would cause the game to force stop.

Conclusion

Overall, while the app becomes addicting after paying, the slow graphics and processing make it a but frustrating to use at times. Still, if you’re looking to sate that gambling thirst (without spending real money) than Bingo Bash is a feature filled game that can keep you busy.


The post Bingo Bash App Review appeared first on AndroidGuys.

2
Jan

Samsung now rolling out Android 5.0 update for Galaxy S5 in Russia and Malaysia


galaxy-s5-samsung-sign

If you own a Galaxy S5 and live in either Russia or Malaysia, you may want to listen up, as Samsung has just started pushing out the much-anticipated Android 5.0 Lollipop update to all unlocked variants of the handset located in these regions.

All the changes you’d expect to find in Lollipop have been bundled into this upgrade, including support for multiple accounts, improved notifications, a smoother multitasking experience and the recently-announced Material Design guidelines.

The full changelog can be seen below:

Material Design: You will quickly notice a whole new colorful look and feel to your device – from fluid animations to new application and system themes, colors and widgets.

Notifications UI & Priorities: In order to alert you to the most timely and relevant information, the format and behavior of notifications have evolved:

  • notifications will appear on the lock screen and are intelligently ranked by type and who sent them.
  • you double-tap to open one, swipe left or right to clear one, or clear all notifications from the bottom of the list.
  • you can set the priority and privacy of notifications for each application.
  • very high priority notifications will pop up briefly over other applications so that you can take action.
  • when you dismiss a notification on one device it will be dismissed on your other Android devices, if they are connected to the Internet.
  • you can further tailor how notifications behave with the new Downtime and Ambient Display settings (see below).

New Interruptions & Downtime Settings: You can tailor how interruptions behave, choosing to allow all, none, or only priority interruptions.  You can personalize what counts as a priority interruption (reminders, events, calls, messages) and even tailor them to be from only contacts you specify.  The Downtime setting will allow only priority interruptions during the times and days that you specify.  e.g. allow only priority interruptions on the weekend.

Recent Apps (Multi-tasking): The redesigned Overview space (formerly called Recents) will include both applications and separate activities within those applications.  For instance, each open tab in Chrome will also appear here along with recent applications; both your Gmail Inbox and a draft email message will appear as separate cards.  This provides a consistent way to switch amongst tasks.

Ambient Display: While your phone’s display is off, Ambient Display can show notifications without turning on the full display. This will be triggered when a notification arrives. You will see notifications similar to that shown on the lock screen.  You can turn this feature on in the Display menu in Settings, and note that it will increase the power consumption of your device.

Motorola Assist and Downtime: Motorola Assist integrates the new Downtime settings to control when you don’t want to be disturbed.  Motorola Assist also now uses the new Interruptions settings so that you can customize exceptions, such as letting only people on your starred contacts list get through.

Flashlight: Lollipop includes a new flashlight option as part of Quick settings (swipe down with two fingers from the status bar to see it).

Share your Device: You can now set up multiple user accounts on your phone.  Guest mode is enabled by default.  You can give calling and text privileges to other users of your device, or restrict them as you like in the Users menu under Settings. Note that the personalized Motorola experiences (Motorola Assist, Motorola Connect)  are for the owner account only. The Motorola Camera, Motorola Gallery, and Motorola FM Radio applications support multiple user accounts.

Pin a view/app: Screen pinning allows you to keep a specific app or screen in view. For example, you can ‘pin’ a game and your child will not be able to navigate anywhere else on your phone.

Battery: The Battery settings panel now shows an estimated projection for how much time you have left while discharging or charging.  You can also enable a new battery saver mode that will save power by reducing performance and most background data operations to extend your battery life.

Smarter Internet Connections: With Android Lollipop, your phone will not connect to a Wi-Fi access point unless there is a verified Internet connection. This feature improves hand-offs between Wi-Fi and cellular connections, helping to maintain your video chat or voice-over-IP (VoIP) call as you switch.

Performance: Your phone now uses the new Android Runtime to help optimize application performance.  After upgrading to Lollipop, your applications will undergo a one-time optimization process.  Note that the optimization for ART requires more space.

Smart Lock (Trusted Devices): Android Lollipop adds native support for allowing trusted devices to keep your phone unlocked (such as your Moto 360, a Bluetooth car kit or headset, etc.).  Smart Lock replaces the prior trusted device capability in your Motorola phone.  Note that you will need to add your trusted devices back after the transition to Lollipop in the Security settings menu under Smart Lock.

Security: Encryption can now use a stronger 256-bit key to help protect your data.  Note that the stronger key willonly be used after you perform a factory reset on Android Lollipop.  Otherwise encryption will continue to use 128-bit key.  You can turn on encryption in the Security settings menu.

As is customary with all manufacturer updates, the upgrade is being distributed in stages, but if you don’t feel like waiting for a notification to hit your handset confirming that it’s ready for your device, you can search for the update manually.

Come comment on this article: Samsung now rolling out Android 5.0 update for Galaxy S5 in Russia and Malaysia

2
Jan

Strings is a messaging service that lets you delete those drunk texts


It’s still early enough in January that if you promise not to drunkenly text pictures of your behind to your friends, it still counts as a New Year’s Resolution. Still, in an age where everyone’s off-hand conversations can be made public in a flash, it’d be nice to regain some control of where our words are shared. That’s where Strings comes in, since the iOS app is a rival to Snapchat and WhatsApp that clearly hopes to foster a consent culture around mobile messaging.

With Strings, users can converse with pictures, videos and text, but if people want to save any of those locally, they have to ask you for your permission. Even better is that a user can edit data on other people’s devices, so if you carelessly send the wrong picture or use the wrong word, you can delete it whenever you need to. It’s free to download, and the app even mirrors Snapchat’s solution to the dreaded screenshot problem. If the recipient takes a screenshot, not only will you be informed, but they’ll be given a warning too, which is something, at least.

Filed under: Cellphones, Internet, Software

Comments

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Strings (App Store)

2
Jan

Hyundai will show off its upcoming Android Wear app at CES 2015


If you own an Android Wear smartwatch, you might be able to start your car remotely sometime in 2015. Hyundai has just revealed it will show off an upcoming Android Wear app that will offer that kind of feature, among others, as part of its CES 2015 product lineup.

2
Jan

Alcatel Onetouch announces a smartwatch and Pixi 3 series phones ahead of CES


CES 2015 doesn’t officially begin until January 6th, but that never stops companies from announcing their new products a bit early. Alcatel Onetouch is one of the first manufacturers to make an early announcement, and it’s quite a big one. The company has just announced a new affordable smartwatch, as well as the Pixi 3 line of smartphones. They plan to show these devices off in full at CES 2015 in the coming days.

The Pixi 3 line is a set of affordable smartphones that come in 4-inch, 4.5-inch and 5-inch sizes, which are all 4G LTE compatible. There’s also a 3G-capable 3.5-inch model that will likely cost much less than the others. The best part about these devices is that they’re OS-agnostic, meaning there are three different operating systems to choose from: Android, Windows or Firefox OS. One thing to remember about these devices: Alcatel’s Pixi line has been around for a few years now, and they shouldn’t be confused with the Alcatel Onetouch/Palm rumors that have surfaced lately. Unfortunately, we shouldn’t get our hopes up to see Palm coming back anytime before CES.

Alcatel-OneTouch-Watch-Header-big-2

Alcatel Onetouch has also announced their new affordable smartwatch. Named the Watch, it connects to Android devices to monitor daily activity, control music, receive notifications and more. The Watch has a circular display and small bezels, and unlike the Moto 360, it doesn’t appear to have a break in the display at the bottom for any type of sensors. Alcatel Onetouch says the Watch aims to be an small, affordable smartwatch that will be sold for a fraction of the price of its competitors. There is no mention of the OS running on the Watch, so we’ll have to wait until the company shows it off at CES.

The company will have both of these devices to show off at CES in the coming days. If the price is right for both of these devices, would you buy into the Pixi 3 line or the Watch?

Show Press Release
With a series of announcements at the International CES, ALCATEL ONETOUCH, one of the world’s largest smartphone brands, makes good on its commitment to offer the latest technological innovations to all.

The brand’s new PIXI smartphones make mobile Internet available to everyone, while offering another innovative feature of OS-agnostic. It is available with Firefox, Windows or Android, providing the flexibility to all consumers. What’s more? The smartly priced WATCH creates a newly attainable smartwatch category.

4G LTE at an affordable price

First among ALCATEL ONETOUCH’s announcements at CES, the smartphone brand is launching its affordable PIXI 3 series, ranging from a pocket-friendly 3.5-inch display to a larger 5-inch display. Offering both 3G and 4G LTE connectivity for the PIXI 3 (4″), (4.5″) and (5″) and 3G for the PIXI 3 (3.5″), the PIXI 3 series further features easy customization and the most popular applications pre-loaded.

OS-agnostic – Firefox, Windows or Android

Besides being the first among the PIXIs to offer 4G, the PIXI 3 series is also first to be compatible with three major operating systems: Firefox, Windows and Android.

“Our users do not want complicated systems — they want something familiar from their work environment in the office, but also on a smartphone,” said ALCATEL ONETOUCH Chief Marketing Officer Dan Dery.

Cross-device integration, from smartphones through to PCs. PIXI 3 series offers consumers simplicity of use and the reassurance of having the same system at home, at the office and on the go. With its OS-agnostic PIXI 3 series, ALCATEL ONETOUCH presents operating-system choices to its customers.  This continues the efforts begun last year, when the brand teamed with Mozilla to launch the Firefox OS on its FIRE series of smartphones.

A Smartwatch at a Smart Price

It looks like a watch and feels like a watch but it’s much smarter than that. ALCATEL ONETOUCH introduces the WATCH series, a smartwatch that puts a premium on elegant design at a very accessible price. In launching the WATCH, ALCATEL ONETOUCH creates a new market segment: the affordable smartwatch.

Offering the WATCH at a fraction of the cost of competitors, the smartphone brand has implemented its compact design expertise to offer a series of fine finishing that meet the demands of everyone looking for the same look and feel as a traditional watch.

While offering choices and styles, the WATCH is also packed with sensors and apps that allow users to monitor daily activity, and connects to Android smartphones to control music, take photos, receive notifications and more.

A Blast of Color: ALCATEL ONETOUCH’s Interactive Booth

Visitors to ALCATEL ONETOUCH’s CES booth will not only be able to test the brand’s products but also really get in the game with activities such as the Interactive Color Run. Color Run is a five-kilometer race during which runners are doused with color at every kilometer. In this virtual version, a video wall will display landscape at a scrolling speed that matches the runner’s speed. To win points, players will be able to throw colored sand at the images of other people as they run. Four different smartwatch functions will also display onscreen.

Stop by our booth #9829 at the International CES.



2
Jan

Panorama Speaker: Clear and portable Bluetooth audio for under $25


redesign_PanoramaSpeaker_MF1_1214

Whether you’re the type to catch up on your latest podcasts or are itching to hear the new Kanye West and Paul McCartney track, having portable audio at your fingertips is a great addition to any household. I, for one, know that without my Bluetooth speaker unit, dish-washing would be an unbearable chore. While the price-point for these little boomboxes can drift into the high hundreds, TOCCS has delivered a worthy competitor for under $25.

The Panorama Bluetooth Speaker boasts crystal-clear signal for your music and phone-calls. The rechargeable battery is good for 6 hours of playback and the unit features a 30ft wireless range. Of course, Bluetooth means that just about any device will be compatible. AndroidGuys readers can get this speaker, regularly priced at $109, for just $24.99. Enjoy the sweet sound of saving money!

See more at deals.androidguys.com

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