Month: June 2014

LG’s G Watch headed to Verizon too

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LG’s G Watch
CNET

Verizon Wireless and AT&T will both end up selling LG’s newly announced G Watch.

Unveiled last week, the $229 G Watch is already available for preorder in the Google Play Store with an estimated shipping date of July 3. But mobile carriers also are showing interest in the new smartwatch.

AT&T already lists a “Coming Soon” page for the G. A new tip from known and generally reliable leaker @evleaks announced that Verizon is also hopping aboard, per this tweet on Sunday: “LG G Watch coming to both Verizon and AT&T in the US.”

A Verizon spokesman confirmed the news, telling CNET that the “LG G Watch is coming soon to Verizon Wireless.”

Why would the carriers offer the G Watch when Google already sells it directly? Such a move could be part of an effort to bundle the watch with a smartphone as Samsung has done with its Galaxy smartphones and Gear smartwatches.

At this point, smartwatches are paired with mobile phones to alert users of incoming calls, emails, and messages. Selling the two types of devices together can make sense both for the carrier and the consumer.

The G Watch is outfitted with Android Wear, Google’s customized OS for wearable devices, and is compatible with handsets running Android 4.3 or higher. On the spec side, the G watch comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and a 400mAh battery that reportedly lasts around 36 hours on a single charge. Bluetooth 4.0, a built-in compass, an accelerometer, and a gyrometer round out the package.

(Via Android Headlines)

Asus’s Android Wear will reportedly arrive later but cheaper than its rivals’

Asus has ostensibly been on board with Android Wear from the beginning, but the company has yet to reveal its plans.

That won’t stop the rumor mill, though, and the latest report says that Asus will launch an Android Wear smartwatch in September.

That’s somewhat later than competition like LG, Samsung and Motorola debuted their Android Wear watches, but Asus might make up for its tardiness with a lower price point, according to TechCrunch.’

This Asus smartwatch will reportedly launch in the fall with an AMOLED display and a price tag between $99 (about £60, AU$105) and $149 (about £90, AU$160).

Solutions

The site based its report off information from “a source familiar with the company’s plans,” so don’t take it as gospel.

The smartwatch market is fragmented and the devices released so far have been inconsistent, and Android Wear is Google’s way of fixing that – while securing itself a big chunk of the cake by ensuring that Android is essential to the platform.

At Google IO this week several of Google’s partners came out of the woodwork to show off their offerings, including Samsung with its Gear Live, Motorola with its Moto 360, and LG with its G Watch.

That trio of strong options may leave companies like Asus and HTC, which was also said to be onboard when Android Wear was announced, eating dust. What can they do to catch up? Right now it sounds like we’ll find out in the fall.

New 16GB iPod touch model with iSight camera lands for a new low price

Apple has dropped the iPod touch to its lowest price ever and thrown in a rear-facing iSight camera for good measure.

The new 16GB model with a five-megapixel camera made a quiet debut on the Apple Store on Thursday for the new low price of £159 or $199 in the United States. That’s £40 and $30 off respectively.

The four-inch device replaces the non-camera iPod touch 16GB model. It keeps the Retina Display, is available in six colours (black, silver, pink, yellow, blue and red) and comes with a wrist strap.

The new iPod also packs the FaceTime HD camera, an Apple A5 processor. It ships with iOS 7 and a set of the Apple EarPod headphones.

Breathe new life

Meanwhile Apple has also significantly reduced the cost of the higher storage models in the range, which are all available in the US and the UK from today (the UK page isn’t yet showing the 16GB update).

The 32GB model is now £199/$249, down from £249/$299. The 64GB iPod touch is £249/$299 reduced from £329/$399.

The price cuts come as sales of iPod models continue to fall year on year. The company sold just 2.7 million iPods in the last quarter, down from 5.6 million from the same period in 2013.

Perhaps these considerable price cuts and added value for the 16GB model will breathe new life into the gadget that changed music forever.

How to install Amazon Appstore on your Android device

For a limited time, Amazon is giving away 31 Android apps that have a combined value of over $100. And that’s on top of the company’s daily freebie app.

This being Amazon, though, you no doubt need an Amazon product — Kindle Fire tablet, Fire Phone, etc. — to take advantage of these offers, right?

Wrong! Android apps are Android apps, and you can access the Amazon Appstore via pretty much any Android-powered device. It just requires a little tweaking. Here’s how (on a device running Android 4.4 — the process is virtually identical in earlier versions):

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 1: On your phone or tablet, tap Settings > Security. Scroll down to “Unknown sources” and tap the check box to enable this feature. (The “unknown source” in this case is the Amazon Appstore.)

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 2: Fire up your mobile browser and head to www.amazon.com/getappstore. Tap the button labeled Download the Amazon Appstore. This will download (but not install) an APK file.

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 3: Once the download is complete, swipe down from the top of the screen to open your notifications view, then tap the Amazon Appstore entry to start the installation. Agree to the conditions by tapping Next or Install (whichever appears).

And that’s it! Now just run the app and browse the Appstore, same as you would Google Play.

Speaking of which, if you want to learn more about this, check out “How to install apps outside of Google Play.”

CE Week 2014: First look: Withings Activité

Everyone knows that the wearable scene is heating up. FitBit, Jawbone, Nike and Samsung will all tell you as much. But they’ve yet to hit mass market like, say, smartphones have. I like to think that, frankly, their appearance is largely to blame.

The functionality and use cases are there, but the majority of smartbands and smartwatches simply look nerdy. That’s where the Withings Activité comes in. The company that brought you the first-ever Wi-Fi scale recently unveiled its next stab at the wearables scene.

This is a Bluetooth Low Energy-powered, analog watch with two hand dials, one for the obvious and the other to track your percentage across certain predefined activity goals. Those are set up through Withings’s recently-updated HealthMate app for iOS. (No Android support for Activité just yet.)

Those goals include activities (or lack thereof) like steps, swimming distance, sleep and more. And the Activité knows when you’re sleep or active through a series of sensors, automatically tracking the correct behavior.

Withings ActiviteThe wrist straps come in either brown or black leather

But wait, there’s more

The watch even packs a vibrating alarm function, and is water resistant as deep as 50 meters, or 164 feet. And this is all powered – the sapphire glass touchscreen included – by a standard watch battery with one year of lasting power, Withings claims.

Activité product manager Marie Loubiere promises that this one-year figure is with the Activité remaining in constant communication with your iPhone. (Of course, that doesn’t account for your iPhone’s battery life.)

Form over function, but in a good way?

The one aspect of the Activité that has sent folks reeling is the price: $390 (about £229, AU$413) when the watch lands this fall globally. When you consider products like recently announced Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch offer far more functionality for way less, the Activité may be a hard sell.

That said, Withings believes that wearables don’t necessarily need to do everything in replace of your smartphone. Loubiere showed off the device to me at the device’s launch event in New York and on the CE Week 2014 show floor, though I wasn’t allowed to touch.

“That isn’t our brand values. We’re not Google,” Loubiere frankly stated. “We’re not interested in creating a product that updates you with constant notifications. We just want to make something that helps you be well.”

Withings ActiviteLooks like any other watch, no?

Considering Withings’s history, the position makes sense. But it checks out from an even broader perspective. When or if I personally ever buy into wearables, I’m not so sure I want it to provide much of the same function that exists in a product I already own.

But that doesn’t really explain the price, does it? It’s clear that much of the cost here has been front loaded into the watch’s appearance. A swiss made stainless steel frame and watch face, leather straps crafted by one of France’s leading historic tanneries, and one of the most expensive types of glass are all present.

Most of that is to better ensure that the product is attractive to people, that it’s seen first as a quality watch first and a piece of wearable tech second. After some brief time with the Activité, it’s clear that Withings has already achieved that.

Is the inarguably pricey Activité going to be what it takes to throw wearables into the mainstream? Withings is certainly on the right track as far as form is concerned, but not necessarily at that price. Stay tuned for our full review later this year.

How to set up an Android Wear watch

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Jason Cipriani/CNET

When you receive your Android Wear watch, you’re bound to be eager to get it up and running as fast as possible. So for now, while you wait for the shipment notification, familiarize yourself with the setup process.

In all honesty, the setup process is very simple. You’ll need to download the official Android Wear app and any updates available in the Play Store.

An update to Google Play Services is required before your device will be able to talk to your watch, but that should automatically download in the background without you doing anything. Both the Android Wear app and the Play Services update will be made available before the full launch on July 7.

After installing the Android Wear app, you’ll be prompted to turn on your watch and pair it with your device. The Gear Live has a power button on the side, making it easy to power up. The G Watch, however, lacks a physical button of any sort, so you’ll need to connect it to the charger to turn it on.

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Some screens from the Android Wear setup process
Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Your watch will display a unique device number, which you’ll need to select on your Android smartphone or tablet as the watch you’d like to connect to. Finally, after pairing, you’ll be asked to grant Android Wear permission to access your device notifications.

Once notification access is granted, you’re all set up. Any notifications your phone receives will also be displayed on your watch, along with any timely Google Now cards and activity progress.

There’s plenty more to learn about Android Wear, and we’ll be doing our best to make sure you have a solid understanding before your watch arrives. Keep checking back for more Android Wear coverage. In the meantime, here’s how to check if your Android device can work with Android Wear.

UPDATED: Google IO 2014: top 5 moments

Update: Google IO 2014 is over and done with, but we’ve laid out the highlights to the two-hour Android conference.

The Google IO conference has On/Off in its name, but it was “on” when the Android-maker dissed Apple at the same time it revealed an updated version of its mobile operating system.

Yes, this year’s convention was more subdued. There were no Google Glass skydiving stunts and some products like the Moto 360 watch are still veiled in darkness.

That won’t matter to Android’s core audience. While some companies struggle to expand into new product categories, Google is moving watches, televisions, gaming set-top boxes and even cars.

1. Android L is the word

Android L is the newest version of Google’s iOS 8 rival and while it come with the flavorless L name, it’ll nonetheless be eaten up by the Android community.

This version features performance and design optimizations of its billion-strong mobile operating system.

First up, notifications are being incorporated into the lockscreen. No more having to unlock, swipe down and read. It’s all just right there.

Android notificationsAndroid finally gets a better notification system

That same phone and tablet lockscreen will automatically unlock whenever you’re near it while wearing a Bluetooth-connected device. If it can’t detect you anymore, the screen will auto-lock as a safety precaution.

Beyond the lockscreen, Android L will look better than previous update with Google’s Material Design. It “pops” with a UI that’s consistent between Android, Chrome OS and Android Wear.

2. Android Wear is where it’s at

Google’s smartwatch platform made its on-stage debut at Google IO with the company calling it a “new phase in miniaturization of technology.”

The LG Watch and newly announced Samsung Gear Live are now available to order in the US. Those lucky enough to be at Google IO will receive either watch and, eventually, the Moto 360.

For everyone else, the Moto 360 release date is stalled with a vague summer launch and still unspecified price. The Google Glass-fileld audience didn’t much care for this.

Samsung Gear Live smartwatchWe haven’t seen this before! Samsung adds a third Android Wear entry

Only now is it possible to make a powerful computer comfortable on the body all day long, according to Google. It’ll make your in-real-life conversations more comfortable too.

That’s because Android users typically check their phone 125 times a day, according to Google.

Instead of getting out that increasingly large phablet like the Galaxy Note 3, an Android Wear smartwatch on the wrist will quickly show you relevant information at a glance.

Android Wear supports both circular and square-shaped displays and follow Google’s design trend of appearing as a stream of cards. Swiping and pressing and holding changes cards and options.

Apps for reminders, navigation via Google Maps mobile were demoed and a full Android Wear SDK is available to developers. Consumers should start seeing watch apps as soon as the watches launch.

3. Android Auto is revved up

Even though driving and fumbling with a smartphone is unsafe and in many cases illegal, people still do it. That’s why Google is introducing a rival to Apple’s CarPlay.

Android Auto casts Google’s smartphone experience to your car’s screen and supports steering wheel buttons, console dials and touchscreen. All of the apps are still running on the phone.

Android AutoTaking on Apple CarPlay

That means the experience gets better when updating the Android-native apps or whenever you get a new phone. You won’t have to upgrade to a new car to enhance the experience.

It also means that Google Maps can finally be in your in-car infotainment systems. Everyone’s favorite navigation platform is joined by familiar Google’s contacts, messages, reminders and music services.

How it stacks up to Apple CarPlay remains to be seen, but we want to take it for a test drive.

4. Android TV is back on the dial

We already knew Google intended to rebranded its Google TV platform to Android TV, but today was the first time we saw it demoed on stage with new features.

Android TVGoogle TV rebanded Android TV

The smoother scrolling experience of the user interface is coupled with new voice search capabilities. It goes beyond searching for movie titles and TV shows like the Amazon Fire TV.

Google voice searching for actresses brings up bios to help you answer that “What else do I know her from” question. The same thing happen when asking for “Oscar nominated movies” from a specific year – you’ll realize you don’t agree with any of the Academy Award voters.

Android TV is also getting native game support, though you should expect tablet calibur games at first on the line of NBA Game.

The new TV platform is coming this fall and has television manufacturers including Sony, Sharp and Philips are already on board.

5. Chromecast mirroring finally matches AirPlay

Chromecast wasn’t left out in the wake of Android TV’s Google IO debut. The inexpensive app-streaming dongle is officially getting Chromecast mirroring of Android devices.

This matches the current Chrome browser mirroring as well as the iOS Apple TV mirroring option that’s long been available.

Chromecast mirroring at Google IO 2014Chromecast mirroring finally comes to the cheap streaming dongle

To prove that anything on your smartphone or tablet can be put up on the big screen, Chromecast was used to mirror the Android camera app, something that typically you wouldn’t want to mirror.

What was missing?

Google IO didn’t have very many surprise announcements. That means we were, of course, overreaching when it came to some of our hopeful predictions.

Clearly, Google wasn’t ready to unveil its army of robots led by Android creator Andy Rubin and the newly acquired Boston Dynamics.

Also oddly absent was Google Glass. The company dove into wearables, but its face-worn gadget didn’t get much of the spotlight outside of crowd pans of people wearing Google Glass.

Google GlassSo much Google Glass, yet none on stage

Many of the surprises actually came in pre-Google IO announcements. Google Glass was upgraded to 2GB of RAM, double the memory specs from before. Nest also bought Dropcam last week, so we didn’t see much of the smart home here today.

That being said, Google did unveil a new Android Wear smartwatch, the Samsung Gear Live. It and the LG G Watch will be available today. The Moto 360, as expected, is coming out at a later date.

New tablets, meanwhile, may come next month. That’s what happened last year when the Nexus 7 and Chromecast launched one month after Google IO 2013.

It was a more developer-focused Google IO, but the conference did successfully show how the company is trying to tie all of its endeavours together, ending a bit of its much-hated fragmentation.

How to get Android L’s performance boost right now

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James Martin/CNET

Google on Wednesday announced an update to the Android operating system at its I/O developer conference in San Francisco. The latest version, code-named Android L, includes a revamped notification system, an updated user interface, smarter unlock features, and a new battery-saving mode. The update, which will officially arrive on devices later this year, also promises to double app performance thanks to the new ART runtime. However, many people aren’t aware you don’t need Android L to enable ART on your device.

Google introduced ART in 2013 with the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4 KitKat, which means your device must be running KitKat for this process. Even so, however, not all Android 4.4 devices support ART at this time. I can confirm that this method works for the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5, Moto X, Moto G, the Nexus 5, and 2013 Nexus 7. Some other phones, such as the Korean model of the LG G2, also have the ability to enable ART.

Head over to the settings menu, select About Phone, and click on build number seven times. This will enable your device’s Developer options, which will give you access to more advanced settings.

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Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

From the settings menu, select Developer options, scroll down to Select runtime, and choose ART. After rebooting, your device will begin to optimize your apps for the new runtime. This should take a few minutes, but when complete you will notice a considerable performance boost on most devices.

I should warn you, though, that some (and I mean very few) apps may be incompatible with the ART runtime. If one of the apps you use is unable to open or you are having trouble receiving a software update, simply switch back to Dalvik mode using the same process.

Last updated Thursday, June 26, at 1:00 p.m. PT: Information regarding ART runtime support and additional device details have been added.

Google IO: Samsung Gear Live price puts it below the Gear 2

Samsung, never one to have only one version of a product, is out with pricing details for its latest smartwatch.

The Samsung Gear Live, revealed today during Google IO, will cost $199 (about £117, AU$211). Pre-orders get off the ground today via Google Play, and it will start shipping July 8.

The Gear Live is joining the still fledgling Android Wear world alongside the LG G Watch and Moto 360. The G Watch price was revealed as $229 (about £134, AU$243) following Google’s opening IO keynote.

It also, of course, joins the relatively large of Samsung’s wearable family, which includes the $299 (£250, AU$370) Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear Fit and original Galaxy Gear. Like its brethren, the Gear Live includes several fitness tracking features as well as a heart rate monitor. It’s sleeker than some of Samsung’s earlier wearable, too. Add its style with a decent price, and the Gear Live may have some kick to it.

Brighten up your nest with BrightNest for Android

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BrightNest is now available for Android.
Screenshots by Rick Broida/CNET

Home ownership can feel like a full-time job, what with all the cleaning, maintenance, and other stuff. And I’m not exactly Heloise when it comes to getting stains out of carpets or mixing my own furniture polish.

BrightNest is a free app that helps you manage all aspects of your home: cleaning, repairing, maintaining, and even decorating. It debuted last year for iOS, but has finally arrived for Android.

Once you create an account (necessary because the app syncs with its Web counterpart), the app will quiz you about various aspects of your abode: what mechanicals you have installed (furnace, water heater, and so on), whether you have kids or pets, and what tip categories you’d most like to see.

From there you’ll get a customized batch of suggestions related to your home. These might include anything from “Save Money by Using Less Detergent” to “Pest Control: Ants.” Each how-to tells you how much time is involved and provides a difficulty rating of 1-3. You can mark any one as a favorite for easier reference later on, and add it to your schedule for future “honey-do” days.

I especially like BrightNest’s scheduling tool, which can remind you when it’s time to change the furnace filters, get the A/C tuned up, blow out the sprinkler system, and similar tasks. Far too often I’ve forgotten stuff like this, and often my wallet ends up taking a hit as a result.

BrightNest was acquired by Angie’s List last year, but the app remains blissfully free of any advertising, either for the service itself or third-party companies.

During my brief dalliance with Android earlier this year, BrightNest was among the iOS apps I missed most. It’s great to see it for Android, as it’s chock-full of useful tools for homeowners. Definitely a must-have app.