Hate unlocking your Android smartphone so much that even Face Unlock or Skip feels like too much of a hassle? Motorola just came to your rescue. The company has partnered with VivaLnk to launch the previously teased Digital Tattoo, an NFC-based skin tag that unlocks your phone (currently limited to the Moto X) with a quick tap. The tattoo can stay on your body for up to five days, and it should survive abuses like showers and sweat-laden runs. It's a clever approach that might be appealing if you're fed up with PIN codes and patterns, although the back-of-a-napkin math suggests that you're paying a lot just to save a couple of seconds when checking your email. VivaLnk is asking $10 for packs of 10 tattoos, or enough to last 50 days -- you'll have to spend $80 to get through a whole year. It could be useful for those busy days when you're constantly waking up your handset, but you might be better off rolling that money into a Moto 360 or your next big phone upgrade.
Source: Official Motorola Blog
Apple had a very strong second quarter. iPhone sales were up significantly over Q2 2013 and the company pocketed $700 million more in profit than it did during the same period last year, even though iPad sales slipped slightly. The company's third quarter results, released today, reflect a similar trend. At $37.4 billion, revenue is up $2.3 billion over the same period last year, thanks in no small part to boosted sales in Asia. iPhone and Mac adoption remains strong, with 13- and 18-percent increases over the same period in 2013, respectively, but iPad and iPod sales both slipped, registering 9-percent and 36-percent respective drops. Apple sold 35 million iPhones during Q3 of this year, compared to 31 million in 2013, while iPad sales dropped to 13.3 million, from 14.6 million last year.
Roaming charges aren't something you should be worrying about on holiday, as most major UK carriers are well aware. Vodafone will let you use your usual call, text and data allowances abroad for as little as £2, while Three lets you do the same for absolutely nothing. After falling behind the curve somewhat, O2's now updated its Travel tariff to make roaming more attractive, leaving EE as the only network still following the old-school megabytes-for-money package model. For £1.99 per day, pay-monthly O2 customers can take advantage of unlimited data roaming across Europe, as well as favourable call and text rates. Pay-as-you-go customers can also purchase the travel bundle, but will only get 50MB of data each day. While it is truly unlimited for contract holders, O2's fair use policy means that after 100MB (or half that amount of streaming video/audio), your connection speeds will be throttled. Still, that's more than enough for checking email, using maps and posting the odd self-congratulatory Instagram snap.
Tried Apple's Passbook and Google's Wallet and not feeling satisfied? Perhaps Amazon's flavor of mobile payment app will strike your fancy. It's also named Wallet, and it arrived in beta form on the Google Play store recently. Like Apple and Google's versions, Amazon Wallet collects your gift cards, loyalty programs, and membership cards in one place -- on your phone -- and pushes them to the cloud. Should you switch from, say, Apple's iPhone to Amazon's Fire phone, all that information would move over with you, tied to your Amazon account.
There's soon going to be a glut of custom keyboards for iOS 8, many of which will have word suggestions in multiple languages. However, they might not be as well-versed as KeyPoint Technologies' upcoming Adaptxt for iOS. Besides supporting over 100 languages, the keyboard touts 30 dictionaries targeted at specific industries; it shouldn't be flummoxed when you're chatting with your accountant or lawyer. It will also be aware of both your location and the apps you're running, so word predictions should change when you go on vacation or check out a favorite social network. KeyPoint is only taking sign-ups for a beta test at this stage -- not surprising, since iOS 8 isn't out yet -- but it's already promising that Adaptxt will be free on iPads and iPhones alike.
In January 2013, NVIDIA unveiled its first end-to-end consumer product: NVIDIA Shield. In our review, I wrote, "NVIDIA Shield is a truly strange device" One year later, that statement stands -- only now it applies to NVIDIA's second consumer product as well: the Shield tablet. Okay, okay, Shield Tablet isn't quite as bizarre as the original Shield, but it's a close second.
Shield Tablet dumps the original Shield's 5-inch screen in favor of a bigger 8-inch, 1080p display, swaps the original Tegra 4 in favor of K1 and drops the controller bit entirely. Should you wish to pair a controller with Shield Tablet -- and NVIDIA thinks you should -- the company's making one (it's even got WiFi Direct for lower latency than Bluetooth), but it's totally optional and doesn't come packed in with the tablet. So, what is this thing? Who is it for? And is it any good? Let's find out.%Gallery-slideshow208966%
The OnePlus One's a handsome little devil as is, but there's always room to accessorize. Though you're probably still waiting on the actual handset to turn up, OnePlus has announced the phone's first "SwapStyle" cover will arrive at the end of August, and it's made from bamboo (the material's all the rage, you know). The standard white and black polycarbonate shells that come with different variants of the phone will also be available online soon for $29, €25 or around £20, while the flashier bamboo version will retail for $49, €39 or £32. Other SwapStyle covers should cost about the same, though we could be persuaded to pay a little more for the one that makes double-denim acceptable again. We wouldn't say a bamboo phone cover needs its own two-minute promo video, but who are we to kill OnePlus' buzz?
Verizon's money machine continues to plow on, but much of its wireless growth this quarter came from tablets, not smartphones -- a trend that started last quarter. Big Red added some 1.4 million net retail connections, of which a whopping 1.15 million used LTE-equipped tablets. Many of those may have come via its new More Everything plan, which only adds $10 to an existing contract for a tablet, compared to $40 for another smartphone. Though all those devices technically count as new connections, Verizon only added 304,000 net phone customers, compared to
940,000 472,000 this time a year ago. Despite that smartphone connection dip, however, Verizon still saw 7.5 percent more wireless revenue ($21.5 billion) and a similar bump in operating profits.
Having sold 26.11 million phones in the first half of this year, the beast from the East that is Xiaomi is back again with a new flagship Android phone: the Mi 4. For the first time ever, the company is adding a touch of metal -- SAE 304 stainless steel, to be exact -- to the phone's frame, which is sandwiched between a flat 5-inch 1080p screen and a swappable, slightly curved plastic back cover. The internal specs are as you'd expect: 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 SoC, 3GB of RAM, 16GB/64GB of internal storage, 13MP f/1.8 main camera, 8MP selfie camera, LTE radio (at last), 802.11ac WiFi plus a 3,080mAh battery. As a bonus, you also get an infrared transmitter to play with the TV (which Xiaomi also sells). As usual, the Mi 4 will be very affordable: Just CN¥1,999 or about $320 for the 16GB version, and CN¥2,499 or about $400 for the 64GB version (both off-contract, of course). %Gallery-slideshow208941%
If you regularly catch up on eSports or "let's play" sessions while on the move, today's your lucky day. Twitch has revamped its Android app with a fresh interface that lets you get to the biggest game streams as quickly as possible, with impossible-to-miss links to the hottest titles. It's also much better suited to tablets, and you can now check out both user profiles and offline channels; that's handy if you missed a big event or want to follow someone with similar tastes. It's much easier to sift through search results, too. The remake isn't well-timed -- it's arriving right as Valve's The International tournament is winding to a close -- but it's still a big deal if you like to spectate games as often as you play them.
Looks like Amazon plans to take advantage of the Fire phone's head-tracking tech at every turn, so it put its Game Studio to work developing two new titles especially for the device. The first one called Saber's Edge is a strategic pirate puzzle game, while the other, called To-Fu Fury, is a puzzle platformer (think 'Splosion Man) that stars a tofu martial artist. They sound like funny, typical mobile games, other than the fact that they support the Fire phone's "Dynamic Perspective" feature that tracks the movements of a user's head. Sadly, you can't exactly control the games by moving your noggin (that might sound silly, but at least that'll make the games truly unique), but you can peek around the corners to see hidden obstacles or bonuses. Of course, you can always just tilt the phone if you don't want to look silly in public. If you don't mind the games' limited support for the feature, you can grab em for $1.99 each -- but only if you're also getting the Fire Phone, which starts shipping this week.
Source: Amazon Games
Want to know why traditionally PC-centric companies like Microsoft are pouring so much energy into their mobile efforts? Look no further than China, which now says that more of its residents are getting online with phones and tablets than PCs. Of the 632 million internet users recorded this June, 83 percent (527 million) were using mobile devices at least some of the time; meanwhile, 81 percent (512 million) hopped on using computers. Internet adoption was almost exclusively driven by ultra-portable gadgets, in fact. While overall internet use grew about 2.3 percent in the space of half a year, the number of mobile surfers jumped by 5.4 percent. The growth pattern suggests that many first-timers don't have a PC at all -- whatever's in their pockets may be the only way they connect to the digital world.
Dying to know what the top ten best shows from the 1990s are, but just don't have time to click through that Facebook link? That's okay -- the social network's app is about to get a new feature: Save. Think of it like Pocket, but just for Facebook. Links, movies, places, music and more can now be added to a "saved" list by tapping on the item's options drop-down, enabling them to be viewed later through the app's "more" tab. Saved items (like an interesting restaurant) can be re-shared to your friends, and if you forget to check your saved items for too long, Facebook will remind you. The update is rolling out to iOS, Android and web users over the next few days. A simple, but welcome change. Skip on past the break to see the new feature in action.
It's an exciting time to be an Arsenal fan, now that Alexis Sanchez has been bought with cash from new sponsors Puma and Huawei. The latter firm also wants you to show your support for all things Arséne by buying its latest handset, the Ascend P7. Unlike the vanilla edition, which we reviewed last week, the Arsenal Smartphone comes with the club crest on the back and a club-centric version of the company's Android skin. Appearances aside, the only other change is that the free BBC news and sport apps will come pre-loaded alongside FIFA 14 and Yakatak Soccer. There's no word on how much the device will cost, but we'd imagine a little higher than the £315 you'd pay for the original -- after all, that extra cash is going to ensure Sanchez stays happy.
Source: Arsenal Smartphone
If you thought Gionee's Elife S5.5 was ridiculously thin, you'd better hold on to your hat. China has certified an upcoming Android handset from the company, codenamed the GN9005, that reportedly measures 5mm (0.2in) thick; that's half a centimeter less than the wafer-like Elife S5.5, and possibly the thinnest smartphone to date. You will be giving up some bells and whistles in the name of a super-slim profile, mind you. This device will have a strictly middling 4.8-inch 720p AMOLED screen, a slow quad-core 1.2GHz processor and a modest 2,050mAh battery. The 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 8-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front shooter won't impress, either. Still, Gionee will get to claim some serious bragging rights -- at least, so long as it's not upstaged between now and the GN9005's launch.
Source: TENAA (translated)
For all its beauty, Android's openness is the reason why manufacturers and carriers are able to make their own tweaks to the OS. Some companies go as far as completely forking the platform, and we know how terrible that can be -- though there are exceptions like Amazon's Fire ecosystem, which offers a solid experience overall. Thankfully, manufacturers are beginning to realize it's much better to deliver Android as Google intended, or at least as close to it as possible (e.g. HTC's Sense 6). Chinese outfit ZTE will join this movement very soon, announcing that the Google Now launcher will be set as the default home screen on its future smartphones, starting with the launch of the Blade Vec 4G next week. Naturally, doing so means giving buyers a cleaner look right out of the box; plus, it puts all of the search giant's services front and center, including the Play store and, of course, Google Now. Most importantly, it's definitely going to make Google happy.
Starbucks' mobile apps could soon let you buy much more than your next grande latte. The coffee shop's digital lead, Adam Brotman, tells Recode that the coffee shop giant is talking to companies about using its app for payments and loyalty programs in other stores. He's not naming any would-be allies, but the strategy would turn a fairly ordinary restaurant app into more of a universal digital wallet that just happens to focus on drinks. And even if that doesn't pan out, Starbucks is still committed to expanding the role of its software -- it's determined to offer coffee pre-orders across the US, regardless how long it takes to make the feature work.
The strained relationship between Google and Samsung over Android customization has been apparent for a while, and it now looks like this discontent has spread to the wearable world. The Information claims that Google CEO Larry Page confronted Samsung last week over its decision to invest more in its Gear 2 and Gear Fit smartwatches than the Android Wear-packing Gear Live. While the details of Page's discussions aren't available, it's clear that Google wants its biggest hardware partner to devote more attention to its Android-based platform. Reportedly, Google had even wanted Samsung to avoid dipping into wrist-worn technology until Android Wear was ready. As we know now, the Korean company didn't exactly honor that request -- instead, it released the Galaxy Gear (initially using a heavily customized Android) and quickly threw most of its energy into peripherals running Tizen and other platforms.
Source: The Information
Deep-pocketed power users may buy new smartphones once a year or even every few months to take advantage of improved displays, better cameras and faster processors, but the majority of owners are more likely to tire of their device's appearance long before its outdated specs. A few manufacturers have taken a new approach when designing their handsets, opting to include not only replaceable batteries, but also swappable backs, that let you change the look of your phone for only a few bucks. Samsung's Galaxy S5 and LG's G3 are two recent flagships that you can change up after purchase, but there are a few other options to consider, too. If you're feeling extra ambitious, you could even replace the backplate on, say, an iPhone 5s, but such an undertaking requires precise work, pricier parts and a voided warranty. Click through for our customizable picks that keep things simple (and cheap).%Gallery-slideshow208587%
Amazon's video service is well-rounded, with both video-on-demand selection and Prime all you can eat viewing, but there's one big hole -- Android. Even though Amazon has apps for its Android-based Kindle family of devices (along with iOS, game consoles, Roku and other TV boxes), the rest of the Android family tree is left out of the party. That could change soon however, as PC Advisor reports Amazon UK Marketing & Merchandising Director said that an app for the platform is "imminent." The news came at the firm's Christmas show (yes, in July, just go with it), however it's unclear if it will apply to both phones and tablets. He also indicated that work on 4K content is progressing, confirming what we'd heard at CES, but there's no word on when the high-res video will hit Amazon's service. Despite repeated attempts to contact Amazon PR in the US and UK we have not received a response concerning the report, but if an app arrives soon it would help make Amazon a much better competitor against the likes of Netflix and Hulu.
Source: PC Advisor