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12
Feb

Google waves goodbye to Picasa to focus on Google Photos


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Photo-sharing service Picasa will soon cease to exist, after a statement from Google explained that it’ll be retired to allow Google Photos to grow further.

The move, announced today, means that folk with existing Picasa Web Albums will be able to access their snaps through Google Photos. All the pictures and videos from the old Picasa account will be carried over, and the changes take effect on the 1st May.

Picasa’s makers note that for those not willing to switch over to Google Photos, they’ll be creating ‘a new place to access Picasa Web Albums’.

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Speaking via a Google Picasa Blog post, Anil Sabharwal, Head of Google Photos, said:

“After much thought and consideration, we’ve decided to retire Picasa over the coming months in order to focus entirely on a single photo service in Google Photos.”

“We believe we can create a much better experience by focusing on one service that provides more functionality and works across mobile and desktop, rather than divide our efforts across two different products.”

As for Picasa’s desktop application, that’s being shown the door too. From March 15th, the software will no longer be officially supported.

Sabharwal signs off by apologizing for the inconvenience to regular Picasa users, keen to assure account owners that the transition to Google Photos will treat them to a ‘new and smarter product’.

Farewell, Picasa.

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12
Feb

Visa’s Square disclosure raises questions


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The disclosure of Visa’s share in mobile payment startup Square sent the startup’s stock price climbing. But the disclosure raises questions about Visa’s plans for Square.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, which founded and runs Square, announced that Visa purchased a stake in Square in 2011. But the size of the purchase was not revealed at the time. In a regulatory filing earlier this week, Visa revealed it owns about 4.19 million of Square’s Class B shares, which don’t trade publicly. However, Visa has the option to convert Class B shares into about 3.52 million Class A shares, which would give it a 9.99 percent stake in Square’s publicly-traded shares.

Visa’s stake, however, only represents about 1 percent of Square’s share base. Visa also recently launched Visa Developer, which is software that helps merchants accept Visa payments more easily.

The revelation of the size of Visa’s stake in Square is a curious one, as Visa hasn’t historically acquired such companies. But stock analysts called the revelation a vote of confidence in Square’s business model.

Source: Wall Street Journal
Via: Engadget

 

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12
Feb

Alcatel OneTouch Ride-Fi hotspot available through Sprint


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The Ride-Fi portable LTE hotspot can now be picked up via the Sprint website, with the gadget serving as a top travel companion for those longer journeys.

The 4G LTE hotspot works via a connection to a DC power connector and from there users can expect support for up to eight wireless devices simultaneously.

Those interested in grabbing the Ride-Fi portable LTE hotspot can pick up the stick for 24 monthly installments of $7, taking the total spend to $168.

Sprint’s gadget supports tech devices of all shapes and sizes and means passengers can kick back, relax and browse the web, check email, watch videos and more.

Ride-Fi also arrives with built-in Wi-Fi and network signal strength indicators, meaning it’s easy to tell when the LTE accessory is running at full speed. When it comes to charging, plugging in a USB 2.0 cable will juice it up.

We’d say the key feature here setting apart the Ride-Fi portable LTE hotspot from other similar products is DC power support.

The fact that you can simply slot the gadget into a cigarette charger and go from there is a god-send for folk that don’t like carrying around cables all the time.

If you’re looking to stay connected in the car, the Alcatel OneTouch Ride-Fi hotspot is worth considering.

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12
Feb

Apple’s new 4-inch iPhone and iPad Air 3 are rumored to arrive on March 18th


The Apple rumor mill has been in full swing over the last month or so, with as-yet-unconfirmed March 15th event that’s said to introduce a new 4-inch iPhone and the iPad Air 3. Those rumors are getting a little more concrete today, as 9to5Mac’s Marc Gurman is saying that both of those products will go on sale on March 18th — the Friday after the rumored event. Gurman’s been posting reports about this event and what we might see for weeks now, and this just appears to be further evidence that the company’s March plans are solidified. Of course, nothing’s official yet, but Gurman’s track record suggests these will be the big product introductions Apple has on tap.

The 4-inch iPhone is supposedly dubbed the iPhone 5se (special edition) and will combine the hardware guts of the iPhone 6 (including Apple Pay) with a modified body that is still more reminiscent of the iPhone 5s than the iPhone 6 and 6s. As for the iPad Air 3, it’ll keep the 9.7-inch screen the line is known for but may borrow some tricks from the iPad Pro, including its speaker arrangement and Apple Pencil support.

It sounds like these products will launch without the typical pre-order period that Apple typically offers, which is a little bit unusual for the company. But these products will certainly launch with less hype and fanfare than the flagship iPhones typically do, so perhaps the company doesn’t expect sales to be so overwhelming as to warrant a preorder period. Regardless of those plans, mid-March is coming up fast — Apple should be sending out invites for this event very soon if it’s going to happen.

Source: 9to5Mac

12
Feb

YouTube acquires BandPage to help drive Red subscriptions


YouTube announced on Friday that it is acquiring BandPage, a platform that acts as a homepage of sorts for musicians. BandPage originally designed landing tabs on Facebook for musicians but lost most of its traffic after the social site redesigned its timelines in 2012. It’s since become an independent platform that bands use to showcase themselves as well as sell concert tickets and merchandise. It’s free to use though the company does take a 15 percent cut of all transactions.

YouTube is likely acquiring the smaller company as a means of attracting both bands and new viewers to its newly-launched Red subscription service. Bands would get a larger stage to showcase their talents, thereby increasing their ticket and merchandise sales; Red subscribers will get access to more bands and YouTube gets more people to pay $10 a month for the ad-free subscription as well as potentially early or exclusive access to content. It’s a win-win-win.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: BandPage

12
Feb

Study links North Korea to Sony hack and malware campaign


Cyber-security firms Kaspersky and Alienvault Labs announced at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit that they had uncovered new evidence linking the massive Sony Pictures hack of 2014 with an ongoing malware attack directed at South Korea. The security firms believe that the same group has perpetrated both attacks and, though they did not specify where the attacks were coming from, their evidence does point to the group most likely operating out of North Korea.

Kaspersky and Alienvault collected nearly 500 malware samples over the course of a year that they believed to be related and after analyzing them discovered a number of striking similarities. Beyond sharing common user agent lists and attack structures, the two campaigns used the same password for their respective “dropper” programs and the chances of that happening coincidentally are miniscule. What’s more, programs for both attacks were written in the Korean Hangul alphabet. There’s no word on what, if any, recourse either Sony or the South Koreans have at this point.

Via: Verge

Source: Wired

12
Feb

MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Tech Travel Vest From AyeGear


For this week’s giveaway, we’ve teamed up with AyeGear to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a V26 Travel Vest, which is a tech vest that’s able to hold an iPhone, an iPad, a Retina MacBook, and a huge number of accessories in its dedicated pockets.

There are 26 total pockets in the Travel Vest, with seven on the outside and 19 on the inside. The two largest inner pockets can hold dual iPads or an iPad and a 12-inch MacBook, and there are also two smartphone pockets with transparent touch pockets for housing an iPhone. With the transparent fabric, the touchscreen of the iPhone is usable while it’s tucked away and earbuds can be routed through the top of the vest for listening to music.

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Internal wire management keeps cords from getting tangled, and there are pockets that will hold a range of accessories like credit cards, cash, glasses, a passport, a camera, a water bottle, and more. The vest itself is waterproof, breathable, and windproof, so it can be used in all weather conditions.

According to AyeGear, the Travel Vest is ideal for outdoor activities like walking, hiking, and backpacking, but it’s also useful for airline travel or professions where multiple accessories and devices need to be on hand at all time, such as photography.

The AyeGear V26 Travel Vest can be purchased from the AyeGear website for GBP99.99​​ or $145, but one MacRumors reader can win one through our giveaway. To enter to win, use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winner and send the prizes.

You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page. Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years of age or older are eligible to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveawayhttps://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.jsThe contest will run from today (February 12) at 12:15 p.m. Pacific Time through 12:15 p.m. Pacific Time on February 19. The winner will be chosen randomly on February 19 and will be contacted by email. The winner has 48 hours to respond a before a new winner is chosen.

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12
Feb

Google My Maps gets long-awaited makeover


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Google My Maps promised to be the ultimate solution for planning hikes, mapping out daily walks or commutes, and sharing personalized road trips with friends. The app lets you place markers, add commentary, and create layers for a very creative and individual experience.

And all this would have been great, except Google basically abandoned the app. My Maps hasn’t seen an update since the bygone days of 2014, an incredible amount of time in the app world. Some even thought My Maps would quietly slip away into the sweet oblivion of discontinuation, but it seems Google isn’t quite done with their personalized map companion just yet. This week they rolled out the first update in nearly two years, and it’s a doozy.


best GPS app and navigation app options for AndroidSee also: 13 best GPS app and navigation app options for Android88

My Maps has been overhauled completely from the ground up. Changes span the UI, which had started to feel dated, and vastly improved performance. Google has added a welcome guide that introduces new users to all of My Maps capabilities, and you can now view photos and videos added on the web. Getting directions to saved points is now a snap, and Street View imagery has been expanded to many more locations. The update is now live in the Play Store, so if you want to give it a spin, just click the button below to get your download started.

What do you think of the resurrection of Google My Maps? Was this an app you ever used? Will you be considering giving it a shot now that it’s clearly not on Google’s chopping block? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Get it in the Play Store

best valentine's day appsNext: 10 best Valentine’s Day apps for Android!7

12
Feb

Unboxing… the Nextbit Robin


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While many crowd-funded projects fail to hit the mainstream, some do, occasionally, prove to be solid projects worth backing. Kickstarter has previously been the birthplace of the Pebble Time range of smartwatches, the 3Doodler 3D printing pen and, last year, the Nextbit Robin.

A problem facing many smartphone users is the lack of microSD expansion on the current range of flagships, and the Nextbit Robin aims to use cloud-storage in a unique way to solve this problem. Coupled with a unique boxy design that’s unique in an otherwise homogenous industry and a unique approach to stock Android, the Nextbit Robin is definitely worth the $1.3million the company raised on Kickstarter.

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Both, me and Josh, have been looking forward to this smartphone, and ahead of our full review, we thought we’d treat you to a very brief look at the smartphone, coupled with our first impressions on the hardware. We won’t be touching on the performance or software yet – that’ll be in our full review, which will be out next week – but rather, whether it still has the magic that initially appealed. Let’s unbox… the Nextbit Robin.

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In the box:

  • Nextbit Robin
  • USB Type-C cable (charger sold separately)
  • SIM pin
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The Robin is certainly not at traditional smartphone and the experience begins with the box, which is as understated as the smartphone itself. Nextbit has sent out the Robin to reviewers in a special box so you won’t see the retail packaging here, but head over to our interview with Nextbit at CES and you’ll be able to see it in all its glory there. The special box we’ve been sent is fantastic but sadly, the cases and lovely little sheep won’t be included in the retail box.

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The Robin is available in two colours – the uber-chic Mint colour seen here, and a midnight blue variant for the more conservative – and if you ordered from Kickstarter, you’ll also have the choice of an Electric Blue version. My favourite option is the Electric Blue model, while Josh prefers the midnight blue, but we both agree that the Robin design is unlike any other.

One of the leadership team at Nextbit is former HTC design chief Scott Croyle, who previously designed some of the most striking smartphones on the market, and the Robin is no different. The distinctive boxy design is complemented by equally-unique circular design elements – like the front-facing speakers which are symmetrically placed – and a flat back and sides means the Robin is comfortable to grip in the hand.

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The circular elements continue to the left of the phone, where you’ll find the volume buttons and onto the back, with the camera and flash. One of the only square elements on the devices is the recessed power button on the right, and while it does take getting used to, you’ll find it comfortable to use quickly enough.

To the bottom and you’ll find the USB Type-C port which, like certain past HTC devices, is offset to one side of the phone. Some of you may be surprised the Robin doesn’t come with an actual wall-charger (which is available to buy separately), but the USB Type B to Type C cable included in the box certainly performs well enough with the chargers we’ve tested so far.

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There’s no doubt that the Robin’s hardware lives up to its early promise and both, Josh and I, are certainly impressed with the design of the smartphone, but what about the rest? Is the camera on par with other handsets? How does the 2680mAh battery hold up and is the cloud-first approach the future of mobile devices.

We can’t spoil the fun and tell you that yet, so stay tuned for our review next week and be sure to check out our unboxing gallery below. Have you ordered the Nextbit Robin and if so, what feature are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to let us know if there’s anything you want to see in the review.

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12
Feb

7 features I want to see in Samsung’s Galaxy S7


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I’ve been a pretty big Samsung guy for a while now. First I had the Galaxy S III which I absolutely loved. To me that was the first phone that really took it to Apple’s iPhone. I then handed that phone to my dad when I fell in love with the gorgeous big screened Galaxy Note 3. The Galaxy S5, despite underwhelming critical reviews, had me intrigued with its addition of waterproofing. I did not buy one for myself, but I did end up purchasing one as a birthday present for my girlfriend at the time. Now I carry around a Galaxy Note 4 as my daily driver.

I’ve had the Galaxy Note 4 since this past July. My Galaxy Note 3 took an unfortunate spill into my kitchen sink, and I was left using an ancient HTC EVO 4G. I wasn’t sure which direction to go with for my new phone, but I absolutely loved the productivity-driven Galaxy Note series, and I knew the Galaxy Note 5 was right around the corner. I explored the recent Galaxy S6 to see how the upcoming Galaxy Note 5 would be, and many of the directions Samsung decided to go with scared me away. I just loved Samsung staples like a removable battery and microSD card slot too much to give it up. So I finally decided to compromise and stick with the Note series by purchasing last year’s model for cheap.

Samsung definitely upset me and a lot of longtime Samsung device owners with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 5. There is no question that the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 5 are Samsung’s most beautiful phones to date, but I just wish they were able to design a beautiful product while giving us the features we have come to expect. So in anticipation of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge being revealed February 21 at MWC 2016, here are seven features I would like to see in Samsung’s next flagship!

A bigger, removable battery

To put it bluntly, the battery of the Galaxy S6 is a joke. Samsung decided to not only to make the battery non-removable, but the battery size was downright puny. The battery clocks in at a measly 2550mAh with the Galaxy S6 Edge variant while sporting a slightly larger 2600mAh battery. This battery was, for most people, just not large enough to power the beautiful new Quad HD (2560×1440) display and stronger internals to provide an entire day of usage. Samsung claimed that the inclusion of fast charging and wireless charging made up for this, but when you are on the go, charging is just not an option for many. To me, nothing really compares to a large swappable battery like the one I have inside my Galaxy Note 4.

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Thankfully it looks like at least part of this wish may come true. Our own Peter Holden reported this month that the Galaxy S7 will come with a 3000mAh unit, with the Galaxy S7 Edge hosting a massive 3600mAh one. This would be a pretty awesome upgrade over last year’s phones. Now let’s hope Samsung surprises us all and makes the battery removable like the LG G5 is rumored to have.

Storage expansion via microSD card slot

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I’ve had the same microSD card since my days with the HTC Evo 4G. My 32GB microSD card holds a lot of my music library and pretty much every picture I have taken since being a sophomore in high school. This little thing is just too valuable for me to give up. I know there are countless cloud services to hold my music and pictures — I do have my music on Google Play music and my photos backed up to Google Photos — but when you are running low on data or in an area with spotty service having a hard copy of your info on your microSD card is a savior.

Another huge plus to being able to use a microSD card is how cheap they are. Right now on Amazon you can get a 32GB microSD card for $13. A 32GB upgrade when purchasing a phone is usually much more than that. Just as an example the price of the 64GB Nexus 6P is a whole $50 more than the 32GB model, triple the cost of purchasing an SD card.

I know inclusion of this feature has been on a downward trend, but come on Samsung! Make us all happy and let us expand the storage.

Withstand the occasional dip into water

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Being someone who has directly experienced the dread of dropping their phone into water, this is a must have for me. I loved waterproofing; it was a major reason that I purchased the phone for my girlfriend. It’s just appalling to me that Samsung would remove it from its phones. The Galaxy S5 had a removable battery and it was waterproof. The Galaxy S6, meanwhile, doesn’t have a way to access the inside or even a microSD card slot for water to get into, and Samsung couldn’t make it waterproof? In my eyes that’s ridiculous, and I really hope the company decides to go back to the ways of the Galaxy S5 here.

Less Bloatware

I don’t know about you, but I despise the pre-installed apps that every manufacturer insists on cramming into our devices. I am even unlike most people in that I don’t really mind the goofy features Samsung has been putting into its phones since the Galaxy S III. Most people never end up using things like direct call or air view, but I sort of like having the option to interact with my device differently. Being as liberal as I am here with Samsung adding in flashy features, I just absolutely cannot stand non-removable apps.

Last year when I read that Samsung and Microsoft decided to partner and include apps as bloatware on the Galaxy S6 I almost threw my phone at the wall…. Okay, maybe I wasn’t that angry. When will manufacturers learn that consumers hate this. I understand I can disable this junk, but still I paid good money for my phone I want to do with it as I please. Why the heck is Evernote a pre-installed app on my Galaxy Note 4? If I wanted Evernote. I would have went to the Play Store and downloaded Evernote myself.

Ugh, I digress, but please stop with the bundled apps. Please.

Give a better edge to the Edge

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The Galaxy S6 Edge is an absolutely beautiful device. That curved glass is a marvel of modern mobile device design, but I really wish it just had more functionality.  I know that the edge does serve a functionality purpose, and if recent reports are any indication, the Galaxy S7 Edge will have greater functionality, but I really want to see Samsung open it up and try to court developers.

To me, the iPhone’s 3D Touch (which actually isn’t that hard to copy) seemed like nothing more than a gimmick. Now I feel that I was proven wrong all because developers were able to make it a useful feature. As soon as the feature was out, massive apps like Instagram were adding 3D Touch features. When developers jump on board, it can make a gimmicky feature into something people cannot live without. I’m not saying the edge is a gimmick, I think it is absolutely awesome, I would just love to see Samsung court developers and make the edge of the device something more than just a fashion statement.

Better Speakers

There is always going to be a limit to how good phone speakers can be. No phone speakers are going to ever compare to the quality of good headphones or a quality speaker system, but still I wish more manufacturers would go the way of HTC and its fabulous Boomsound.

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I cannot take a shower in the morning without some music playing, and in my tired state I constantly forget to bring my Jambox into the bathroom. This means I have to rely on the single back-facing speaker of my Galaxy Note 4. While this gets the job done, it certainly is not great. I would love to see Samsung make a design change with the S6 and give us two front-facing speakers. At the absolute least can we maybe get two bottom facing speakers, one on the left one on the right?

If you love music and want to get the absolute best sound, you are going to need more than just your phones speakers, but when we are spending hundred of dollars on these devices there is no excuse for less than quality speakers.

Better RAM Management

One of the best parts of Android devices is the multitasking experience. This is one area that, in my eyes, Android clearly clobbers iOS. The multitasking is so great, but Samsung has gotten a reputation for a bad multitasking experience. The reason for this? Its aggressive RAM management. Within seconds of switching from one app to another on the Galaxy S6, the phone will close out your prior app. This then forces you to have to wait for the past app to reload when you want to go back. These phones have 3GB of RAM, so they shouldn’t have to close out apps within seconds of switching.

There is plenty of speculation as to why this is. A common theory is that, despite vast improvements over the years, TouchWiz still isn’t appropriately optimized. This lack of optimization forces Samsung to include aggressive RAM management so that its phones run smooth and snappy. Whatever the reason may be for this Samsung needs to fix it with the upcoming Galaxy S7. Multitasking is a huge plus on Android phones, and no company’s flagship should be less than stellar in this department.

Closing

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So there we have it. These are the features I want to see in Samsung’s upcoming flagship when it gets revealed in less than ten days. Was there anything I left out? Are some of these things just not necessary to you guys? Jump down into the comments below with your opinions.

Come comment on this article: 7 features I want to see in Samsung’s Galaxy S7

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