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Android 4.4.3 imminent release hinted by Google Edu Device Setup app

Posted by wicked April - 21 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

We’ve already heard word of an Android 4.4.3 update already in the works, but now we’re seeing hints that the release might be coming soon. An app maintained by Google under its Education endeavor was just updated to add, among other things, support for Android 4.4.3.

The app itself, called the Google Edu Device Setup, won’t probably be of much interest to most end users, unless they’re part of the Google’s Education program. It is practically a tool for Google Education administrators to setup and manage tablets that were bought from the program, allowing them to simply copy approved configurations to devices instead of manually tweaking each one. The new update opens up the app to even non-Nexus tablets and, as mentioned, adds support for Android 4.4.3.

Up to now, the exact details of this upcoming Android version are still shrouded in mystery and, therefore, rumors and leaks. The most that we can say about it is that, given the version number, it will most likely be an incremental upgrade and we should not expect groundbreaking changes. Then again, Google has been known to break a few conventions when it comes to version numbers and releases, so we’re still expecting the unexpected.

Though this app does confirm the existence of Android 4.4.3, it doesn’t really give us a more solid date of when it will arrive. Given that Google I/O will soon be upon us, it is probably reasonable to expect that it will roll out around that time to take advantage of the hype around the event.

Google Play Store cuts down prices in early Mother’s Day promo

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

google-mothers-day-promo-banner

In a bid to make Mother’s Day more special — or at least to give you more gift choices for your mother — Google has launched its Mother’s Day promo early on the Google Play Store.

From today until May 5, you can get your mom a year’s subscription for her favorite magazine for only US$5.00. You might also want to throw in a copy of her favorite book — for half the original price.

The promo also includes discounts for other digital content that both mothers and their kids will enjoy.

google-mothers-day-promo-contents

If you’re planning to surprise your mother with these great deals, you will have to find a way to download these books or magazines under her account. The Google Play Store doesn’t have an option yet to purchase books, magazine, or apps as gifts.

You can, however, buy Google Play Store gift cards that your mom can use to purchase her favorite books or subscribe to her favorite magazine.

If your mom doesn’t own an Android tablet, maybe you can buy her one as gift for Mother’s Day. Then, create a Google account for her and preinstall those books or magazines that she will like. Teaching your mother how to use the tablet can also be an occasion for the two of you to be close to each other this Mother’s Day.








Google patents a way to flag pirated Play Store apps

Posted by wicked April - 5 - 2014 - Saturday Comments Off

play store aa

App piracy and app cloning is a real problem on Android. Searching for just about any popular app in the Play Store reveals dozens of apps that are clearly designed to confuse users into downloading them, even if they have nothing to do with the real thing.

Google has explicit policies against misleading or trademark-infringing apps, but with over a million apps in the Store and no human review process for each upload, shady apps constantly sneak in. The company currently relies on user feedback for flagging bad apps, but a newly granted patent gives us hope that a better solution could be coming in the future.

The patent, first filed in July 2013 and awarded last week, describes an algorithm that compares the assets of a submitted app (code, images, audio, data files) with those of “authorized” apps that were uploaded by established developers. For instance, a legitimate app that was modified to include malware would fail this test. The same would happen with apps that are simply re-named clones of other apps submitted as original work.

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It’s not clear whether this algorithm will be able to identify loose similitudes between apps or will just flag assets that are obviously copied. The patent mentions a way to identify open source code, so apps based on it would pass the test. Also worth noting is that filing for a patent is no guarantee that the invention will ever make it into a real product.

It’s likely that the filtering system will be a part of the suite of tests that Google runs on new apps. For instance, Google currently checks for malware and for illicit mentions of other applications in the description, and probably runs other undisclosed tests as well.


    







My Play activity – see your Play Store ratings and +1′s on the web

Posted by wicked April - 2 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

My Play Activity Web

Google has added in a new menu item to the Google Play Store web interface called My Play activity, which allows users to see all of their app reviews and +1s in a single location. Essentially offering the same as the recent activity feature that was added to the Android Play Store app a few months back.

Taking My Play activity for what it is now, it is great to have a curated list of our Android content rating activity, but that is all it is. There is no direct functionality to perform any action other than view the list and click through to the individual apps or media. With all of the social aspects and Google+ tie-ins available throughout the remainder of the Play Store, we wonder if My Play activity is destined to serve a greater social purpose – if nothing else, it might be nice to share and view others’ activity pages, like can be done on the mobile app.

My Play Activity Android

This feature may inadvertently serve a greater purpose to the ratings system in the Play Store than intended. Looking through your entire list of apps that you’ve rated or +1′d, many of us are likely to discover reviews and +1s for apps that we no longer use or have a different opinion of today. Taking the next step to update your review would result in an overall more accurate and relevant ratings system in the Play Store.

We’ve heard that the feature is still rolling out to users, if you do not yet have the “My Play activity” link in your left menu, following this link should get you going.

So, how about it, how many apps have you reviewed that you no longer use? Do you think Google will bring further Google+ social activity to this feature?


    







Google Play Developer Program Policies get updated, user experience and security take focus

Posted by wicked March - 29 - 2014 - Saturday Comments Off

Google-Play-store-shipping-options

Google is pushing out an update to the Play Developer Program Policies in an effort to protect users and help shape the user experience. The update contains some new policies and some updated wording that addresses annoying trends we have seen in apps and helps maintain a positive, and family friendly, experience for users of the Play Store. Here are the main changes, via the folks at Android Police.

Updating the Sexually Explicit Materials section, “apps that contain or promote pornography are prohibited; this includes sexually explicit or erotic content, icons, titles or descriptions.” The real change here is the addition of “erotic content,” which may not result in any changes to currently available apps, but it certainly gives Google a little more wiggle room to take down apps with ‘sexy girl wallpapers’ and the like.

In the Dangerous Products section, Google has added that linking to viruses, worms etc is now against the rules. Previously, developers were simply not allowed to transmit viruses etc. This certainly feels like a simple clarification of the policy, but interesting enough, it relates to the Android 4.1 and under webview bug that allows apps to link to viruses, learn about that here.

The System Interference section is also a small, but important change. “Apps and their ads must not modify or add browser settings or bookmarks, add homescreen shortcuts, or icons on the user’s device as a service to third parties or for advertising purposes.” Disallowing the modification of browser settings and bookmarks will help prevent users from experiencing the same sort of issues that have been common on PC browsers for years. This section goes on to explain that users must be able to easily identify and revert back any changes to the system that an app makes, and app un-installation should also revert the changes.

An entirely new section called App Promotion has been added. This section pertains to external advertising, as much as anything. Developers are not allowed to use deceptive ads on websites or other unsavoury methods of advertising, or attempt to force install their app through the store. Let’s look at the full section:

Apps published on Google Play may not directly or indirectly engage in or benefit from the following behavior:

  • Promotion via deceptive ads on websites, apps or other properties, including simulated system, service, or app notifications or alerts.
  • Promotion or install tactics which cause redirection to Google Play or the download of the app without informed user action.
  • Unsolicited promotion via SMS services.

It is your responsibility to ensure that no ad network or affiliate uses such methods to direct users to pages that make your app available for download.

Google is taking further steps to help users understand in-app payments with the Paid and Free Apps section. “If your product description on Google Play refers to in-app features to which a specific or additional charge applies, your description must clearly notify users that payment is required to access those features.” It used to be a common courtesy for developers to explain to users what features are free, and what ‘premium’ features are unlocked by an in-app upgrade – a full description is now mandatory. Of course, this covers all in-app payments, such as in-game upgrades, not just premium feature packages.

Last, but not least on our list, the Ads Context section is appended with, “It must be clear to the user which app each ad is associated with or implemented in.” This is added to the statement that ads may not simulate or impersonate the user interface, in an effort to further protect the user from malicious advertising.

All in all, these updates should serve the users well. Feel free to check out the full Google Play Developer Program Policies for more information. The changes go into effect for a developer’s next app update, or within 15 days of the notification email that was sent out yesterday, whichever happens first.

Do you think these changes are enough to protect users from malicious apps in the Play Store? Developers, do these new policies negatively affect you?


    







Philips outs first UHD TV powered by Android

Posted by wicked March - 28 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Our home entertainment systems and mobile devices are all converging in more ways than one. While gadgets like the Google Chromecast aim to bring the mobile platform to TVs via an addon, Philips is taking Android and putting it right in the very heart of its 8000 series of smart TVs.

Smart TVs that run Android aren’t actually that new, but Philips is advertising the 8800 series, particularly the 8809, to be the first one with an Ultra HD display. That’s a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels, all crammed in a large 55-inch. Those who might not want something that much can also opt for the 8109 and 8209, both of which come with only a 1920×1080 resolution, in choices of 48 or 55 inches. You also get Philips’ Ambilight technology, which projects colors behind and around the TV to match the display, the mood, or even your room.

Aside from the display, the highlight of these TV sets is, of course, Android. With access to the entire gamut of apps and services from Google Play, as well as Google Chrome browser, users will not run out of things to do or play. The quad-core CPU on the 8109 and 8209 and the hexa-core processor on the 8809 ensure a smooth gaming experience. Add to that Philips’ own Smart TV ecosystem and you’ve got the makings of the ultimate entertainment appliance. But by themselve, the 8809 and its smaller siblings are Smart TVs in their own right, offering features such as gesture control, voice recognition, remote control via smartphones or tablets, screen mirroring, recording, and even dual channel display.

Philips has not yet revealed exact launch dates and pricing details for these TV sets powered by Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The manufacturer will be initially targeting European and Russian markets by the second quarter of 2014. US availability has not yet been announced.

SOURCE: TP Vision
VIA: Engadget

HTC BlinkFeed and Service Pack appear on Google Play Store

Posted by wicked March - 25 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

Just when we were feeling a bit sorry for HTC after leaks have almost taken away all possible surprises for its upcoming smartphone, the company itself “leaks” out on its own. Now available on Google Play Store are two crucial pieces of HTC’s software ecosystem, the BlinkFeed launcher and a rather mysterious Service Pack.

Granted, the apps aren’t really available for any other smartphone, not even the old HTC One. This could mean that the apps are only compatible for the New HTC One. Regardless of their compatibility, their sudden appearance does somewhat build up the tension around HTC’s scheduled event on this Tuesday.

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The apps themselves don’t really reveal anything new that we haven’t already been aware of, thanks to the numerous leaks and tips leading up to this moment. The Service Pack screenshots do betray the presence of on-screen navigation keyboards that have been believed to be one of the important changes in the All New HTC One. They’re existence as separate apps on Google Play Store does imply that HTC will be providing updates via Google’s app ecosystem rather than the previous practice of baking them into firmware updates, which, more often than not, costs more time and effort to release.

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We’re just hours away from the anticipated event and the pieces are all in place. The mobile world will be watching with eager or critical eyes on the smartphone that could make or break HTC’s spot in the industry, especially in the US.

VIA: Android Police

Android Weekly: Android Wear, Oppo Find 7, new Google Now commands and more

Posted by wicked March - 24 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

This week in your world of Android: Google launched Android Wear, Moto and LG teased their new smartwatches, the Chromecast and Nexus arrived to more countries along with Play Movies and Music, Oppo introduced the amazing Find 7, KitKat finally hit Sony’s flagships, the Galaxy S5 went up for preorder, and some cool new features were added to Google Now.

These are the essential stories, the summary of an entire week in just a few words. It’s Android Weekly.

World, meet Android Wear

Introducing Android Wear Developer Preview - YouTube 09 001265

Google surprised just about everyone when it announced Android Wear this week. This new version of Android is designed specifically for wearable devices, with an initial focus on smartwatches. Using a Google Now-like interface and voice commands, Android Wear is a hugely promising development.


Moto 360 and G Watch

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Google will work with Android OEMs and watchmakers to launch Android Wear devices, and two of them have already been announced. The LG G Watch and the Moto 360 will be released later this year, bringing the power of Wear into sleek, attractive designs. The Moto 360 in particular, with its round dial, is looking hot!


Chromecast and Nexus continue expansion

chromecast angle aa

Google’s affordable devices are wonderful, but just a few countries can get them directly from the Play Store. That’s slowly changing, as Google opened up its hardware store to more countries, and extended the availability of the popular Chromecast HDMI dongle to 11 new markets.


Play Movies and Music in a lot more countries

google play movies

Google also opened up its music and movies shop to dozens of new countries, letting more people get affordable, legal media right from their mobile devices.


The amazing Oppo Find 7

Find 7 2014 Hands on AA-1180660

Darcy and Josh travelled to Beijing this week for the Oppo Find 7 and boy was it worth it. The Find 7, with its Quad HD display, powerful camera, and fast charging battery, is one of the hottest devices of the year so far.


KitKat lands on Xperia

sony xperia z1s review aa-13

Several high-end Xperia devices received an update to Android 4.4 KitKat this week, bringing them up to date with the new Sony Xperia Z2.


Keep calm and prepare your credit card

samsung galaxy s5 2

The hot new Galaxy S5 is coming April 11, but you can now preorder it from a bunch of retailers and carriers from around the world. Going for the same price as its predecessors, the S5 is coming in four snazzy colors. Decisions, decisions…


Voice commands got smarter

okay google now voice commands

Google added new voice commands to Google Now/Search, for the first time allowing users to interact with the phone using their voice. You can now open the camera by saying “take a picture” or start Play Music by saying “play some music”. It doesn’t seem much for now, but these actions are opening the way for more powerful commands coming in the future.


What was the biggest Android news this week? Tell us in the comments.


    







Google Play Store sports 18 new categories for games

Posted by wicked March - 18 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

Google has just pushed out a silent update to Google Play Store both the Android app and the browser interface that brings a slightly new organization to games available in the store. These 18 new categories will hopefully make discovering new kinds of games a tad easier than before.

There is no disputing that Android has a lot of games available, ranging from ports from PC or console games, to movie tie-ins, to truly original ones, to knockoffs. Wading through those hundreds of games in search for interesting titles, however, is no walk in the park. Well and good if you know the exact title, developer, or description. But trying to look for games of particular genres using just the search feature can be a bit of a hassle.

Fortunately, Google has now updated its old game subcategories in line with new features introduced in the Google Play Game services update. Previously, there were only 8 very broad subcategories, including some things that probably shouldn’t be there, like Live Wallpaper and Widgets. Google has now expanded the list to 18, which are really all game related. This list includes Action, Adventure, Arcade, Music, Role Playing, Simulation, Strategy, Puzzle, Educational, Card, Casino, Casual, Board, Family, Trivia, Word, Racing, and Sports.

Google has made these changes available in time for the Game Developers Conference 2014 happening this week. Though the new list probably won’t be bringing in a flood of new Android gamers, it should at least make the whole gaming experience less tedious for current users and more welcoming to new ones.

SOURCE: Google (1), (2)

Google Play Store update rolling out, in-app purchases take center stage

Posted by wicked March - 14 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Google Play Store in app purchases iap

It has been a few months since the last Google Play Store app update – you might recall the update from last December that brought us social activity sharing.

This time around the updates to the Google Play Store app include some design tweaks, text changes and, we’re sure, some bug fixes. More importantly, they have added in-app purchases to the app permissions list and provided some fine-tuned options for those that password protect their purchases.

In the visual tweaks department, we see Settings and Help moved to the hamburger / slide-out menu on the left.

play store update blur

A piece of confusing text has been updated; no longer will you see “Auto-add widgets,” instead you will see “Add icon to Home screen” – which is more accurate and understandable.

play store update (4)

Google+ +1 counts will now be fully displayed, as an example, “12K people +1′d this” turns into “12152 people +1′d this.” And multiple account users will see a little clean up in the left nav menu, no longer hiding the actual nav buttons while choosing accounts.

play store update (3)

A relatively unknown feature is reportedly being removed, batch removal of previously installed apps (that are not installed on the device). Navigate to the All section of My Apps and long press on an uninstalled app, you can now multi-select any uninstalled app. The current multi-select action is to batch delete the apps from history, new functionality will be to batch install the apps. This will be absolutely priceless for setting up new devices and fresh installs.

Google Play Store update (1)

An important update to the in-app purchases (IAP) policy is included here. Previously, if a user has selected the password protection of payments, there was a 30 minute window after each purchase in which further purchases could process without authentication. This is now changed, offering the choice of continuing with the 30 minute window or locking down all purchases. This could be a response to the recent lawsuit filed by a mother whose son raked in IAP costs in Android games.

play store update (2)

In-app purchases are now listed in the app permissions list, complimenting the “Offers In-app Purchases” indicator below the Install button in the web Play Store.

Last, but not least, users can now manually check for updates to the Google Play Store. Something we wish we had right now. Simply click the build number in Settings to manually check for a Play Store app update.

The update has begun rolling out last night and should hit your device any time now.