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Nova Launcher adapts Lollipop design in latest update

Posted by wicked October - 23 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Even before the official announcement of Android Lollipop (actually, even before we knew it was a lollipop), we expected to see most of the apps adapt its Material Design and several other features before its official launch in the next few weeks. One such app that has done this is Nova Launcher in its latest update. Some loyal users consider this the best launcher app yet, and they will be happy to know that the update brings with it several Lollipop-esque features they can already enjoy.

The developer was able to adapt some of the expected features from Lollipop like the circle folder animation, scroll indicators, and even the icon theme applied to the calculator, clock, contacts, downloads, email, dialer, settings and SMS. While it may not be exactly the same as the Lollipop, this is still a preview of what your smartphone will look like once the new Android update has rolled out. Kevin Barry from TeslaCoil, the developer of the app, says that he is also working on getting a Lollipop app drawer animation, but it will be part of the next phase.

What he was able to do though is to adapt all these features even to devices that are running Android 4.0, instead of the usual 4.3 and above that most apps who adapted the Material Design have been able to do. This is good news to those device owners who don’t want to let go of their legacy devices yet, but would like them to have a new look similar to Lollipop.

If you don’t have Nova Launcher yet on your smartphone, you can download it for free from the Google Play Store. So until Lollipop is officially rolled out, you can enjoy these icons and animations first from this app.

SOURCE: +Kevin Barry

Microsoft opens up the Garage, employees working to improve on Android apps

Posted by wicked October - 23 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Microsoft has opened up the Garage. Nope, the software giant isn’t showing off a collection of luxury cars and bikes. A new community of developers, musicians, hackers, artists, investors, and artists was started by Microsoft with the aim of coming together to share ideas and build new projects. The goal of the Microsoft Garage is to turn ideas into real endeavors while outsiders are given access so they can comment and give feedbacks and suggestions.

The Garage project is an effort by Microsoft to show people outside what the Redmond employees are doing during their break time. Honestly, I don’t think the hours these employees would be spending on the Garage are their free time but that’s what Microsoft wants us to believe. (Seriously, why would they sacrifice their free hours for more work? Anyway…)

With the Microsoft Garage, employees can work on other projects exactly not for their own company. They can work on other Windows stuff or iOS and Android-related projects. They can do anything as long as the project would benefit Microsoft. This is a great initiative because employees are being encouraged to think, be imaginative, and do more cross-platform apps.

It’s also a new direction for the company. Opening up the Garage for employees to work on iOS or Android apps is a brave thing to do for Microsoft. Jeff Ramos, Microsoft Garage’s manager, said, “It does represent a new direction for the company,” admits Jeff Ramos. We’re evolving our culture, wanting to get better with experimentation.”

Experiment. That’s what Microsoft wants its employees to do. Explore. Tinker. Invent. Who knows what the developers can do outside the Microsoft Windows or Windows Phone platforms. The only problem I see is that these employees might see the light and think that Android or iOS is better than their own. I hope not.

So far, these Microsoft Garage geeks have developed three great apps for Android: Torque, Journeys & Notes, and the Next Lock Screen.

The Torque app allows the user to simply do some gestures to ask Android Wear a question. No need to say “OK Google” just lift your arm or twist your wrist to command your Android Wear-powered smartwatch. Right now, it works best on LG and Samsung smartwatches. The app is currently having problems with Moto 360 but Microsoft is already working on a fix. (Download Torque HERE)

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Microsoft also made some innovations to the Android lock screen by introducing the Next Lock Screen. This app allows a quick launch and access to information an Android user needs. It’s a time saver lock screen that displays email, calendars, text messages, and missed calls at a single glance. When a call comes in, no need to unlock the phone because a single tap on the screen will do. Next Lock Screen shows your often-used apps for easier access. (Download Next Lock Screen HERE)

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From the Garage, Microsoft also managed to release the Journeys & Notes app. It’s a social app that lets the user to take down notes, check-in trips, connect with people traveling the same path. You can leave notes share travel tips for them. (Download Journeys & Notes HERE)

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The idea to improve on Android apps is great. It’s very generous of Microsoft, actually. But I have a few questions: Don’t these Microsoft developers have things to do? Why don’t they just work harder to make Windows Phone better? There are more things to work on within Microsoft and Windows. Forget about Android or iOS for now. Focus, Microsoft. Focus.

SOURCE: Microsoft

Barnes & Noble and Samsung release new Nook tablet

Posted by wicked October - 23 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

If you like co-branded tablets and ebook reading gadgets, then you have another great news from Samsung and Barnes & Noble. Just a few months after they released the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 4 Nook, they’re now selling a bigger version of it: the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 10.1. But along with it, they also announced that the new tablet comes with a new Nook software and that this will also be pushed on the 7-inch gadgets as well.

The 10-inch Nook tablet has the same specs as the new Galaxy Tab 4 line that has been released by Samsung in the last few months. It has a 10.1-inch 1280×800 display and runs on a 1.2GHz quad-core processor. The tablet has a 1.5 GB RAM and an internal memory of 16GB, but you can expand it up to 64GB through a microSD slot. The main camera has a 3 megapixel resolution while the front-facing one has just 1.3 megapixels. You wouldn’t really use a 10-inch tablet as a camera anyways (we hope not) so those low specs are understandable.

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In terms of the software, the new updated Nook software will sport a better UI and claims to give the users a better book shopping experience. The navigation has also been improved, as it will make it easier for you to jump from one content to another, as well as through the library and the e-book you’re currently reading. It also now supports both portrait and landscape orientation, as any ebook reader (and tablet) should definitely do. The new software comes built-in with the Nook tablet, while the older 7-inch ones will receive it as a firmware update by November.

The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 10.1 is already on sale through both online and the brick and mortar shops of Barnes & Noble. You can get it at an “introductory price” of $299.99, although there’s no indication yet up to when this special offer will last and what will be the regular price of the Nook tablet.

VIA: SlashGear

Inbox by Gmail gives you another way to look at email

Posted by wicked October - 23 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

There are some that would have us believe that email is passé and is due an overhaul, if not a replacement, and perhaps to some extent they might be right. But for those who live in their virtual inboxes, that isn’t even an option, Luckily for them, Google, whose business happens to be beholden to email, is a staunch ally. It has come up with a new app simply called Inbox that turns the age old email into something more dynamic, more personal, and even more productive.

There are four crucial features of Inbox, the first two of which might be familiar to the more dedicated users of Gmail. Bundles builds up on the labels and categories that Gmail already has implemented. In a nutshell, it automatically groups emails into sorting bins so that you don’t get immediately overloaded by your massive Inbox list. A few pre-made bundles are available from the get go, but you are completely free to create your own and to move emails in and out of bundles. To help you even better weed out the important emails, Inbox offers Highlights, which puts the most important or urgent emails front and center. Inbox even offers additional information scoured from the web that are related to that critical email, like flight and delivery schedules.

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Some people have turned their inboxes into something more than just for emails, lumping even todo items and reminders in there as well. While some productivity gurus might frown on that practice, Inbox tries to accommodate everyone’s workflows. If you want to add such items in your inbox, there’s a dedicated action for that as well. To go with that feature, Inbox allows you to snooze your emails, and todos, temporarily banishing them from your inbox until an appropriate time, a popular feature based on feedback from apps like Boomerang or Mailbox from Dropbox. Somewhat related to this, you can pin emails and todos in your Inbox so that they remain visible even after you’ve cleared your Inbox, akin to archiving mail in Gmail.

Inbox doesn’t supplant Gmail and in fact works only with Gmail accounts, hopefully something that Google will eventually open up to others. It is currently invite only though Google hasn’t given a clue when it will be available to the public. Inbox by Gmail doesn’t exactly revolutionize email as we know it, which is probably just fine for many email users. It does, however, give a new way to get those emails under control and keep them from running, and ruining, our lives.

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SOURCE: Google

Sim City ventures into city building with Build It app

Posted by wicked October - 22 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Who among us have never enjoyed a SIMs game (and maybe you still are addicted to it!) or an entertaining-at-the-start-but-might-get-repetitive-eventually city building game? A new game from EA combines the best of both worlds as they soft launch SIM City Build It, which is what its name says it is. You get to build a whole city from the ground up, but without the complication of having your (sometimes annoying) sims around and you do it from the convenience of your mobile device.

It looks like it and it feels like it, but it is definitely not a straight-up mobile version of the sim city game. At least, not yet. It is simply a city building game where you get to place roads, buildings, water works, the whole urban planning shebang, but without any simulation or drama from characters. You play it just like you would any other city building game on Android, but with the visual style of the most recent Sim City PC game, complete with a full out 360 degree 3D view of the city, which you can zoom in and out of (and even spin!)

You will need to supply your city with basic necessities like water, electricity, etc, because you still need to keep your residents happy (even though you don’t see much of them here). You also need to solve other city planning problems like traffic congestion, fires, pollution, etc. Basically, as the “mayor” of the city (and the sole player of the game), the buck stops with you. But you do get to interact with “friends” and other cities and you can trade your resources with them.

The good news? Sim City Build It is free to download from the Google Play Store. The “meh” news”? There are in-app purchases so you need to be careful if you’re concerned with your credit card health. The bad news? This game is still in soft launch and is only available in Canada.

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First phone app for hearing impaired to come to Android soon

Posted by wicked October - 22 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

According to statistics, there are over 70 million people in the world who are suffering from profound to severe hearing loss. And obviously, they would find it extremely difficult or impossible to use mobile phones to make and take calls. But a new technology might just make it possible and its creators are raising funds to build make it a reality. It’s called RogerVoice and it’s an app that will make your calls for you and then translate in real time and give you a text transcript of what your caller is saying.

Using the VoIP platform and integrating it with automatic speech recognition (ASR), the call will not pass through any third-party who will do the transcription for you. It’s a program built from the ground up and is considered the first of its kind. Hearing impaired people will now be able to use their mobile phones to communicate with loved ones or in work-related situations. And everything remains private since there is no human go-between listening in to the call; everything is automated and there is no waiting time as well. It should work on any mobile device (just Android for now) and also supports multiple languages including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Greek and Japanese among others.

It not only benefits the hearing impaired community but even regular hearing people will also be able to use the app. It will of course help you communicate with your friends or colleagues that are hard of hearing. But it can also serve as an instant transcribe of your call, especially if it’s for business purposes. You can also easily store and archive these communications and it has an easy search function for reference. If it works properly, this will truly be a great step towards technology benefiting those who have disabilities.

They have already met their target of $20,000 to be able to start the development, but they’re still looking to raise more to reach their other milestones, like developing an iOS version and also text-to-speech features. If you believe in this project, you can visit their Kickstarter page to invest in RogerVoice.

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SOURCE: Kickstarter

Galaxy Note 4 teardown shows Sony IMX240 camera inside

Posted by wicked October - 22 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

The Galaxy Note 4 might be Samsung‘s latest high-end contender but, for the first time after a long while, the OEM isn’t bragging about its own camera technology inside. Instead, a recent teardown revealed that Samsung’s best is borrowing components from its competitor, sporting a 16 megapixel camera sensor made by Sony, specifically the Sony IMX240.

Of course, this isn’t exactly scandalous, as OEMs are known to use components made by others, even by industry rivals, to make their own. This is just how the business goes. That Samsung would be using Sony’s imaging technology isn’t exactly new either. Or at least we’ve heard it before. Way back last year, there was already a rumor that the Galaxy S5 would use Sony’s camera inside. The flagship, however came instead with Samsung’s own technology, which is what makes this revelation somewhat interesting.

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Even before the Galaxy S5 went out, Samsung was already singing the praises of its ISOCELL imaging technology. It claims to be able to reduce bleeding and improve light absorption by creating walls between cell, isolating them from one another, hence the name. The Galaxy S5 debuted with a 16 megapixel sensor with this technology and with the Galaxy Note 4 also packing a 16 megapixel sensor, it was merely presumed that they are similar. For whatever reason, however, it seems that Samsung has ditched that and gone with the Sony IMX240 instead. Whether that points to a change in beliefs about its ISOCELL technology is something we’ll have observe in the future. For now, however, Samsung is curiously silent on that front.

That said, this tidbit doesn’t really speak much about the Galaxy Note 4′s camera capabilities, aside from the fact that it has larger than usual 1/2.6-inch sensor. Its photography prowess still has to be properly tested and documented, perhaps by something like DxOMark, who crowned the iPhone 6 as the king of the smarpthone camera hill shortly after it awarded the title to Sony’s Xperia Z3. And we are definitely still waiting for iFixit to give the Galaxy Note 4 a proper teardown treatment.

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VIA: phoneArena

Epic Dragons turns the table, makes players defend dragons

Posted by wicked October - 22 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Crescent Moon Games, who has given Android titles such as Ravensword Shadowlands and Aralon Sword and Shadow, are back with another game called Epic Dragons. Mighty and epic as that may sound, this game is anything but. The dragons are not ferocious beasts but cute cel-shaded ones. And the gameplay isn’t entirely epic but a tower defense with a slight twist. In this game, you get to be the one that plans out how these dragons will defend themselves against pitiful humans that want to hunt them down.

We’ve seen this reversal of roles before, particularly in the last installation of the popular Anomaly series, Anomaly Defenders, except Epic Dragons takes out the gore and brings in the cuteness. Well, depending on your definition of cute. Does a Chinese stone dragon qualify? As the unnamed master of dragons, you get to choose out of 9 dragons with 6 abilities to decimate the human invaders. The game plays out over 60 levels spanning 3 worlds, but don’t let those numbers deceive you, because Epic Dragons expands to something so much more with a feature that could potentially put it on top of other tower defense games.

Crescent Moon Games ingeniously ships a World Creator with the game itself, allowing players to create their own twisted levels to not only challenge themselves but also to challenge their friends. They can put up those maps online for other players to also enjoy or hate. The higher ratings your maps get, the more in-game rewards you reap, which you can, of course, trade in for in-game goods. This is not only good for replayability, it is also great for saving real-world money.

With those features, it’s almost a surprise, but a welcome one nonetheless, that Epic Dragons is free to play from Google Play Store. Of course, it has in-app purchases, ranging form $0.99 to $29.99, but you may not need that given the barter system mentioned before. With cel-shaded graphics that aren’t bad, Epic Dragons looks like a promising game that will appeal not only to players but also to creators. Now to wait and see if it will be able to deliver.

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Download: Epic Dragons on Google Play Store

Pixel People lets you build a community in Utopia

Posted by wicked October - 22 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Ah Utopia. We would like to live in such a society, but some say it is impossible to ever achieve something like it. But a new Android game will allow you to build a society in it, albeit only digitally and pixel-wise. The city building game is called Pixel People and if you liked Tiny Tower and all its iterations, then you’ll enjoy this game which lets you simply build a community in a place called, you guessed it, Utopia. Oh, and you need to be okay with the idea of cloning.

Yes, we do mean cloning, since you need to splice together the genes of different kinds of pixel people in order to create your own ideal, thriving society. You will be able to create as many as 280 different kinds of people to populate your Utopia and more than 100 buildings of different businesses and industries to help your city earn money. And of course, pixel people are just like any other people in that they “fall in love” and this will benefit you as you earn bonuses for every 11 “love hearts” that you are able to collect.

To be able to sustain your city, you need money of course (the virtual kind). Just like in Tiny Tower, you earn money by placing residents in buildings that you build. You can even build a “Google Tech Park” that is exclusive for Android mayors. Just like with any society, Utopia has its “secrets” and its up to you to unlock these and get surprised. Oh, and yes, there are also animals hidden around the city for you to discover (but not to clone unfortunately).

Pixel People is free to download from the Google Play Store. However, there are in-app purchases within the game for as high as $24.99, so be careful if you have a “I need to buy this item to get ahead of this game” problem.

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Samsung Galaxy S5 Plus now available in the Netherlands

Posted by wicked October - 22 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

No loud announcement this time, Samsung released the Galaxy S5 Plus in Netherlands. This year’s flagship Android phone is now available in the country complete with a 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 805 processor. This isn’t the first time Samsung is rolling out the S5 Plus as it was also launched in Singapore but under a different name: Galaxy S5 4G+.

The only difference between the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S5 Plus is the processor used. The S5 Plus version also has the same 5.1-inch Super-AMOLED display, 16MP ISO-CELL rear camera, 2GB RAM, microSD card slot, 1080p resolution, and a 2800mAh removable battery. The Android phone also boasts of an IP67 rating so it’s one tough device. The Snapdragon 805 chip allows the Galaxy S5 Plus to support up to 300Mbps LTE speed. Other specs include the following: 3G, 4G/LTE, NFC, DLNA support, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, and of course, a heart sensor.

As with the regular Galaxy S5, the S5 Plus will be offered in Blue, Silver, Black, and White. No information on pricing yet.

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Note that Samsung also released a similar Galaxy S5 LTE-A in South Korea with the same Snapdragon 805 processor and most of the specs except this one has 3GB RAM instead of 2GB.

VIA: Android Beat