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Belkin WeMo app update adds more scheduling options and long press gesture support

Posted by wicked April - 18 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Consumer electronics and accessory maker Belkin has just announced the upcoming availability of an update to its WeMo mobile app. This update brings in some new ways to control company’s Internet-connected WeMo Light Switch, like simulated occupancy, sunrise/sunset offsets, and long press gestures for IFTTT integration.

Belkin unveiled the WeMo Light Switch early 2013 as its entry into the growing home automation market. While the features of the switch itself and its mobile app are quite basic, integration with the IFTTT (“If-This-Then-That”) automation service pretty much makes up for that and more. This update for the WeMo app puts more functionality under owners’ fingertips without having to purchase a new light switch.

Stimulated occupancy or away mode is a setting that turns lights on and off at random intervals, making it appear as if someone is at home when actually there is none. This technique is usually employed as a security method and deterrent for theft. Users will soon also be able to set intervals when the switch will turn lights on or off before the actual sunset or sunrise time for their location. This is useful for cases when things get darker or brighter well before the sun rises or sets. And finally, IFTTT users will have a new input condition available to them. A long press of more than 2 seconds on the switch itself, not on the smartphone app, can be used as a trigger for any IFTTT action. Current IFTTT recipes that take advantage of that feature include sending an e-mail or message when the light switch is long pressed, ringing the paired smartphone in case it was misplaced, or simply toggling another WeMo connected device.

The Belkin WeMo update isn’t out yet but will soon be available on both Google Play Store and Apple’s app store. The Belkin WeMo Light Switch itself is still available for purchase, priced at $49.99, but the app can be downloaded for free.

Download: WeMo on Google Play Store
SOURCE: Belkin

AVG Vault keeps files on your device secret and safe

Posted by wicked April - 17 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

AVG has just announced the latest member of its family of security software and services. With AVG Vault, users can entrust their private files, personal information, photos, and more to a doubly-encrypted storage that can also be securely synced to other devices through the cloud.

As the number of mobile users grow, the amount of personal information stored in these devices, and by extension on the Internet, also grow exponentially. So too the temptation for less conscientious individuals to try to gain access to other people’s sensitive data. Most users, however, are not that vigilant or are put off by complex steps in order to secure their information. AVG Vault tries to address all those concerns by providing users a single storage location for things they want to keep private but, at the same time, offers the convenience of backing them up via popular online storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive.

The key to AVG Vault’s offering is a double layer of security. The first comes via the AES-256 Advanced Encryption Standard, the same encryption standard used by banks and the US government. The second is AVG’s own MyAccount service. The encryption makes use of a custom 4-6 digit PIN that users set up to secure and access their files. This pin isn’t stored anywhere, making it harder to hack but also harder to retrieve, even by AVG itself, in case the user forgot what it is. The types of data that can be stored inside the Vault range from user-supplied information like credit card numbers, login credentials, and notes to more standard types of files like photos and documents. The AVG Vault app itself offers several security features, like an Idle Time Lock that automatically locks the app after a period of inactivity, and an Attempted Access Notification that will take a photo using the front-facing camera and secretly send it to an e-mail address in case the wrong password was entered three times in a row.

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One final feature that AVG Vault offers is syncing through the cloud, which some might think defeats the purpose of security and privacy. The difference, however, is that the files stored by AVG Vault in Dropbox or Google Drive are also encrypted, making it impossible to access them outside of the Vault app. This gives users the ability to backup those private files and, in the case of loss, restore them on a new device, without having to worry too much about the security of the cloud service itself.

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AVG Vault is available for free on Google Play Store. An AVG MyAccount is required in order to use the service, and of course, separate accounts for Dropbox and Google are needed to use the cloud syncing feature.

Download: AVG Vault on Google Play Store
SOURCE: AVG

Fleksy 2.1 expands international coverage with new layouts and languages

Posted by wicked April - 17 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Fleksy, which calls itself the “Happy Typing” keyboard, is spreading its wings in this latest update for the flexible, and forgiving, Android alternative keyboard. Starting with this release, Fleksy will be supporting 6 more languages, including Swedish and Czech, and adding keyboard layouts such as QWERTZ and Dvorak.

Fleksy made a name for itself among the myriad keyboard apps available on Android by offering a set of rather peculiar features you’d be hard pressed to find on other popular keyboards. While it did not sport swipe-based typing popularized by Swype, and now included in Google Keyboard, it did boast of more lenient learning algorithms that made more room for errors and imprecise tapping. Perhaps its most curious feature is the invisibility option which, may sound like a gimmick, it is a feature that made it a perfect fit for miniscule devices like, for example, the Samsung Galaxy Gear. It even has badges for typing achievements just like in some games.

However, Fleksy is still a regular keyboard that needs to also support no-nonsense features as well, and in that aspect it does not disappoint. This latest update takes that serious character even further by expanding its support for more languages and keyboard layouts. In this update, Swedish, Danish, Malay, Hungarian, Czech, and Slovak have been added, but they’re still in Beta status so things might not exactly be perfect. As for keyboard layouts, QWERTZ, Colemak, and geek favorite Dvorak join the ranks of QWERTY, QZERTY, and AZERTY, giving users more choices depending on their locale or preferences.

The update also adds a whooping 200 and more Emojis as well as shortcuts to those game-like Badges. What hasn’t changed, however, is the fact that the free version of Flesky still lasts only 30 days. Those who wish to continue using this predictive keyboard must be prepared to part with $3.99 for the unlocked version.

Download: Fleksy (Free, Paid) on Google Play Store
SOURCE: Fleksy

Google Camera app arrives in the Play Store

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

Google has released another app in the Play Store this morning. This latest is Google Camera, which is available for devices running Android 4.4 Kit Kat. The setup appears identical to what you would find on a Nexus or Google Play edition device and brings features to include Photo Spheres.

For those unfamiliar, Photo Sphere images were first introduced back with Jelly Bean. Perhaps more important though — this means more users have the ability to capture those “immersive” 360 degree views. Basically, these are sort of a step above a regular panorama image. Google even has a nice community built up around Photo Sphere images.

Moving on, other highlights of the Google Camera app include Panorama and Lens Blur. The latter allows the user to create SLR-like images with shallow depth of field. Remaining highlights include the large capture button and 100 percent viewfinder which simply means you’ll get the maximum resolution from the sensor (without any dropped pixels).

As we’ve seen with other Google apps in the past — this opens the possibility for frequent updates. For now though, you can grab the app using this Google Play Store link.

HoverChat brings Chatheads multi-tasking to SMS

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

For some mobile phone users, SMS is more of a transient activity that might be an annoying interruption at times. HoverChat tries to keep that annoyance to a minimum by keeping most of the messaging app’s interface out of the way and using floating heads instead.

Facebook‘s Chatheads inspired a new way of dealing with mostly temporary content like notifications and messages that has been used and abused by many apps and even whole custom ROMs. The idea has merit, definitely, as long as it is done tastefully and in good measure. HoverChat attempts to do just that by taking the Chatheads metaphor, limiting it to, at least for now, SMS and MMS, and throwing in some features that could help you keep sane, and even adding a small dash of encryption to the mix.

Perhaps the greatest benefit that HoverChat offers is the configurability of its “popup heads” feature. If you do not care for that at all, you can simply disable it and the app behaves like any other messaging app, albeit sporting a different and, as we shall see, very customizable appearance. But of course, HoverChat is really about those heads. The app does let you individually toggle the feature for each and every contact so that you get to choose which heads you would like to show up and which ones remain confined inside the app. Like Facebook’s implementation, the popup heads appear when a new message arrives, with the contact’s photo inside a floating circle, also configurable, and the message in a popup. Again, HoverChat puts its own spin on the idea and also includes an option to render that message popup translucent, allowing you to see the message and still see anything beneath it.

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HoverChat offers users a lot of bells and whistles when it comes to customization right out of the box. For one, you’re not really limited to using a round head like Facebook does. You can choose from hearts, stars, flowers, bubbles, squares and even some animated heads from the store. Different color themes are also available for the choosing. HoverChat even lets you pick up a font style to match. Not all of these come for free, however, and some of them do cost a dollar. The $3.99 premium version, however, supposedly covers all of those in-app purchases, though the app’s description doesn’t really mention it.

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HoverChat has one final feature that gives justice to its former name of Ninja SMS. It has what it calls an Anti-NSA mode that lets users encrypt their messages. However, Ninja mode only works among ninjas, meaning that the option, buried beneath the per-contact popup settings, is only available when communicating between other HoverChat users as well, which might negate the purpose of the feature.

Download: HoverChat (Free, Paid) on Google Play Store

BBC iPlayer now sports video downloads on most Android devices

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

BBC has just shared some good news to users of its BBC iPlayer app on Android. Those with devices running Android 4.0 or higher can now have access to video downloads, though the success or quality of that experience is not exactly guaranteed to be smooth.

Last September, BBC launched support for downloading TV programs via its Android app on a select number of devices, 11 in total, including both models of the Nexus 7 tablets, the HTC One (M7), Samsung Galaxy S II, SIII, and S 4, among others. BBC has been growing that roster though rather slowly, supposedly due to stringent testing of the myriad of hardware and software combinations possible. Now, they are somewhat throwing caution to the wind in order to bring the feature to majority of their users and simply making the feature available with barely little testing.

The good news is that now, anyone with a more recent Android version, which BBC claims to comprise around 96 percent of the app’s users, will now be able to enjoy video downloads on their devices. The bad news is that BBC is practically offloading QA testing to its users. As such, BBC isn’t giving any guarantees that video downloading will be a painless experience outside those it had previously officially supported. With more than 5,000 possible combinations of phones, tablets, and Android version, it would just be statistically impossible for them to guarantee each one.

That said, BBC isn’t exactly abandoning its users to frolic or flail, whichever the case may be. They do have a mechanism available that will disable video downloads for specific Android device models and versions that are reported to be critically misbehaving. However, for some such devices that are only slightly having problems, BBC will just list them but not disable video downloads for them wholesale. It believes that any download is better than no downloads at all, and some users might even agree.

SOURCE: BBC

Flashlight app spyware maker only gets a slap on the wrist

Posted by wicked April - 15 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

Perhaps the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took the phrase “crime doesn’t pay” a bit too literally. The government agency has reported reaching a settlement with one-man company GoldenShores Technology regarding its spying Flashlight Android app and imposed a punishment that practically only constitutes a reprimand and some guidelines to follow.

Last December, we reported on a seemingly innocuous Android utility named Brightest Flashlight that, as the name implies, turns your device’s LED flash into a torch. Unbeknown to tens of millions of downloaders, the app also collected personal data to be sold to the highest bidder. And, of course, it does so without notifying the user before hand, hiding behind unnecessary Android app permissions that most users simply breeze through.

It was actually thanks to the FTC’s openness that the public even got whiff of this app. Unfortunately, it’s that same openness that is revealing how the FTC might not be giving the situation its best, or strictest, attention. The FTC is ordering GoldenShores to delete all data it has collected within 10 days of the order taking effect. However, the order doesn’t really prevent the company from collecting such data in the future as long as it clearly informs users that the app will do so, the extent of data collection, and the recipients of such data. Furthermore, GoldenShores is required to keep records for the FTC to inspect and also inform the agency of any new business ventures in the next 10 years.

But perhaps most noticeable part of the settlement is what isn’t present: any form of fine or financial recompense. The FTC’s reasoning is that the app was offered for free and, therefore, didn’t warrant any monetary damages. However, it seems to have ignored the possibility that GoldenShores might have already profited from selling the data it has gathered, which definitely calls for some fines. While we definitely appreciate the FTC being quite open to the public about such cases, this practical slap on the wrist might just prove to miscreants that the commission’s bark is worse than its bite.

SOURCE: FTC
VIA: GigaOM

Motorola Migrate update improves pairing, fixes issues

Posted by wicked April - 14 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

If you bought the Moto X or one of Motorola‘s other recent handsets, Motorola Migrate likely served as a mixed blessing: while easy to use, it suffers from various bugs that could cause a random loss of connection or trouble pairing. Today the company pushed out an update for the app addressing the problems.

Motorola Migrate is a handy way to transfer the data from one’s previous handset to their new Motorola device, including things like text messages and contacts. The app is available from the Google Play Store, and once downloaded it works with wifi.

The old handset is used to scan a QR code generated by the app on the new handset, which then allows the two handsets to connect with each other. Those who have cameras with fixed focus could run into issues with this, having trouble scanning the code.

The update brings support for QR pairing with a smartphone that has a fixed-focus camera. Beyond this, a number of unspecified bugs that could cause trouble with transferring data between handsets have also been addressed, potentially eliminating any “connection lost” or similar errors.

SOURCE: Google+

This means war! Age of Empires goes mobile

Posted by Tom April - 14 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

If you’ve always felt like your pocket’s missing an empire, rejoice in the fact that Microsoft has just announced Age of Empires is coming to mobile devices. Available on iOS, Android and Windows, Age of Empires: World Domination will be out in the summer.

A teaser trailer shows glimpses of frantic battles that mimic the tried and tested desktop classic, and feaure a cast of favourites such as King Arthur, Cnut the Great, Joan of Arc and Attila the Hun.

The game has an official site, which offers pre-registration.

The first Age of Empires game was released in 1997 and has spawned numerous sequels and spin-offs.

Will it successfully make the leap to mobile or is it best left on the desktop? Let us know on the MP4Nation forum.

Via engadget

The Android Community Team: mixed opinions on utility apps

Posted by wicked April - 12 - 2014 - Saturday Comments Off

For this latest ‘Android Community Team’ post we are talking about apps that help you manage your device. This can include everything from tools that help you track battery life or manage your storage space. There are also the tools for remote tracking. But putting the examples aside for a moment; as you are about to see — we actually have a pretty mixed opinion on using these tools. One of us avoids them, one of us regularly uses them, and one of us is sort of in the middle and may be headed to using them on a regular basic.

Nate Swanner

So, here’s the thing: I don’t use “file explorers”, and I don’t use SD cards. I don’t necessarily understand the use for them in 2014, to be honest. We’re in an environment where many OEMs leave SD card slots off their device, instead opting for cloud storage — which they do include. I like cloud storage because it syncs across devices and I can access it anywhere, any time. I find keeping files stored locally to be fussy, and it doesn’t work for me in my multiple device world.

For cloud storage, I use Drive almost exclusively. It’s simple for uploads, easy to use, secure, and I can use it across platforms. All I need is a connection to the web, and I can access my files any time. I’ve never found myself needing a file when I didn’t have a connection, and I’m not suspicious of Drive’s security.

Sharing is also incredibly simple, and I’ve never gone wanting with Google’s cloud storage. My pics automatically upload to Google, too, so I’m never going to lament not having a file. I get why people use these types of apps, but it’s a workaround I don’t need or want.

Juan Carlos Torres

I have something to confess. I am not as concerned with CPU, RAM, or battery usage as your regular Android power user. However, I am a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to disk space usage. Even when there’s a microSD card present, there will always be occasions when you need to make room for more. For this, I always install two tools in any Android device I get my hands on.

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Disk Usage scans your storage, either internal or external SD card, and visually shows you the amount of space they occupy. It doesn’t show it in some fancy pie chart or bar but instead uses horizontally stacked boxes that go deeper into folders as it flows to the right. One advantage of this convention is that you have everything presented to you at a glance, letting you use pinch to zoom to focus in on more specific folders. It even lets you search for files or, if needed, delete them directly from the app itself.

For more fine-grained file management, I turn to ES File Explorer. It is definitely not the prettiest app out there, but I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of beauty in exchange for features. It goes beyond showing you your local files and data. It can let users display and manage files stored remotely, via SSH, FTP, LAN, or even the cloud, with support for services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and more, as if they were simply local files and folders as well. It even has tools, some of which require other ES apps, that help you manage not just files but your system as well. The App Manager’s backup feature is something more enterprising users might be interested in checking

Robert Nelson

So far we’ve seen two different opinions on device management tools. Nate doesn’t see any need, and JC has a few favorites that see regular use. Me on the other hand, while I pay attention to certain apps for the purpose of being an Android blogger, I tend to avoid using them myself.

In all honestly, I am actually pretty terrible when it comes to device management. I run apps and notifications the way I want, and let battery life suffer. I stream all my media (music and video), which means the only items I have stored on my device are the images I take and the actual apps.

Similar to the battery life, I tend to avoid looking at free vs. used storage and just use my phone the way I want. Sort of an ignorance is bliss situation. Of course, as I recently learned — you can sometimes be surprised. I recently switched from using Slacker Radio to Google Play Music All Access and found storage to be an issue.

This is a time when tools came in handy. It seems a setting in Play Music caused me to quickly fill a bunch of storage space. As it turns out, the app had the “Cache during playback” option checked. This ‘temporarily’ stores music while streaming. And well, an 8 hour listening session added an extra 0.99GB of storage on my device.

Maybe not the biggest number, but as it turns out — even a guy that that relies solely on the cloud can fill a device. That 0.99GB combined with roughly 2.5GB of cache and a 16GB (with much less usable) Moto X can actually be filled up. That all having been said, I’ll admit to not yet having settled on a set of tools, however this does have me reconsidering my decision to live in ignorance.

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On another front, there is one tool I feel is a must have — something that can track my device. As someone that is all in with Google and Android, I naturally went to the Android Device Manager setup. And as I ranted about back in early March, it is a setup I try to make sure all my friends and family are using.

We’ve mentioned how we do things — now you can fire away in the comments and let us know how you do things.