Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 28, 2014 - 08:18 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, Android
NVIDIA has upgraded their SHIELD Tablet software to version 2.1. This release increments Android Lollipop to 5.0.1, updates a bit of bundled software, improves localization support, and adds OpenGL 4.5. The updated landed on December 23rd, alongside their Grid Tuesday release.
The new graphics API is interesting, but its usefulness is a bit questionable. Google does not really support OpenGL on the platform, although they do not prevent companies (like NVIDIA) from providing their own SDKs. This could be a bit increase in performance for apps that are optimized for the SHIELD Tablet and possibly the Nexus 9, especially since its main features increase performance and security. On the other hand, this should increase the potential for NVIDIA's first-party releases and ports.
If you have the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, then this is might be week-old news. If not, the update was released on December 23rd.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 15, 2014 - 03:31 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, Portal, nvidia, half-life 2: episode one, half-life 2, google play, google, Android
Back in November, we published news about the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet update to Android 5.0. A part of the update was the “Green Box” promotion, which gives Half-Life 2, Portal, and Half-Life 2: Episode One free with the purchase of a 32GB LTE SHIELD Tablet. Today, Half-Life 2: Episode One launches on Google Play store for $7.99 USD (or free with the Green Box). Unlike Half-Life 2 and Portal, which runs on the original NVIDIA SHIELD, Episode One requires an NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet. It also requires a controller.
Like the previous release of Half-Life 2 and Portal, this is a complete port to the ARM architecture of NVIDIA Tegra K1. The game will run natively on the device, without being streamed from a host PC. For a little perspective, the Tegra K1 has a little more compute performance than a GeForce 9600 GT – a popular mid-range GPU that launched two years after Episode One.
Half-Life 2: Episode One launched today for $7.99 USD (or free with “The Green Box” bundle).
Subject: Mobile | October 30, 2014 - 11:40 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: motorola, Lenovo, finance, Android
Lenovo officially acquired Motorola Mobility from Google in a deal worth $2.91 billion (both cash and stock) today. Following the acquisition, Motorola will exist as a wholly owned subsidiary of Lenovo. Motorola will retain its headquarters in Chicago's Merchandise Mart along with satellite offices (including Silicon Valley) and approximately 3,500 employees. Note that Google will retain the majority of Motorola's patent portfolio along with the Advanced Technology and Projects research division.
Lenovo now owns the Motorola brand as well as the Moto and DROID trademarks. Lenovo expects to sell 100 million smartphones within the first year following the acquisition. These smartphones will allegedly continue to feature a stock Android experience with a focus of quick OS updates. Specifically, this Motorola blog post states:
"We will continue to focus on pure Android and fast upgrades, and remain committed to developing technology to solve real consumer problems. And we will continue to develop mobile devices that bring people unprecedented choice, value and quality." -
Lenovo has indicated that it plans to aggressively pursue selling Motorola devices in China, emerging markets, and even stateside. That last bit is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the buyout. Lenovo has been producing smartphones for a couple of years now, and while the mobile devices have held promise, they have yet to be made available in the US market. Now that Lenovo owns Motorola, the company has the branding power, experience, and carrier relationships to bring their devices stateside in a big way.
Google was not necessarily bad for Motorola but the potential conflicts of interest with other Android phone manufactures, I think, resulted in Google being much more reserved with Motorola when it came to producing new Android hardware. Now that Lenovo holds the future of Motorola, I think the company will be free to compete with new hardware running any manner of OS but especially Android. I'm interested to see where Motorola will go from here and the kinds of devices we'll see from the now Lenovo-owned company.
Subject: Mobile | October 15, 2014 - 12:39 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: snapdragon 805, qualcomm, nexus 6, motorola, lollipop, android l, Android
The Android mobile market just got shifted again after three key announcements from Google today to refresh the Nexus family of products that have served as the flagships for Android devices for several years.
First up is the Nexus 6, a phone or phablet depending on your vocabulary preferences, a device with a 5.96-in screen with a resolution of 2560x1440 and a pixel density of 493 ppi. Built by Motorola and sharing a lot of physical design with the recently released Moto X update, the phone is sleek and attractive and will ship in both black and white color schemes.
Other specifications include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core processors running at up to 2.7 GHz and an Adreno 420 graphics core. Capacities of both 32GB and 64GB will be available.
The Nexus 6 and its 6-in screen makes it larger than the Galaxy Note 4, larger than the iPhone 6 Plus and basically anything else considered a "phone" on the market today. The resolution of the phone is also much higher than the iPhone 6 Plus (only 1920x1080) and this should give Google's flagship a big advantage in clarity and media consumption - as long as the new Android Lollipop lives up to its claims.
Camera features are updated as well to include an f2.0 lens with optical image stabilization and a 13MP resolution. Fast charging is becoming particularly important in modern phones and Google claims the Nexus 6 will be able to get 6 hours of use from only 15 minutes of charging and more than 24 hours use from a full charge. We'll see how that pans out of course.
Google says that the Nexus 6 will ship in November with a pre-order in "late October". Expect an unlocked version on Google's Play Store while you can find on-contract versions at ALL US carriers including AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and even Verizon. On a side note, this marks the first time Verizon will carry a Nexus-branded phone since the Galaxy Nexus in December of 2011.
Be prepared to pay full price for this phone though. Google lists pricing for the 32GB model at $649 and for the 64GB model at $699.
|Screen||5.96" 1440x2560 display (493 ppi) 16:9 aspect ratio|
|Size||82.98mm x 159.26mm x 10.06mm|
|Weight||6.49 ounces (184 grams)|
|Camera||Rear Camera: 13MP, Dual LED ring flash Front Camera: 2MP @ 1.4 um pixel|
|Audio||Stereo front facing speakers; 3.5mm headphone jack with 4 button headset compatibility|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 805 - Quad Core 2.7 GHz|
|Wireless|| Broadcom 802.11ac 2x2 (MIMO)
|Network (+ Mobile Sku)||Americas SKU: GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz CDMA: Band Class: 0/1/10 WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/8 LTE: Bands: 2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/25/26/29/41 CA DL: Bands: B2-B13, B2-B17, B2-29, B4-B5, B4-B13, B4-B17, B4-B29 Rest of World SKU: GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz CDMA: not supported WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/9/19 LTE: Bands: 1/3/5/7/8/9/19/20/28/41 CA DL: B3-B5, B3-B8|
|Power**|| 3220 mAh Talk time: up to 24 hours Standby time up to 300 hours Internet use time up to 8.5 hrs Wi-Fi, 7 hrs LTE Wireless charging built-in
Turbo charger gives up to 6 hours of power in 1 minutes
|Sensors||Accelerometer, Gyro, Magnetometer, Prox, Ambient Light Sensor, Haptics, Hall effect, Barometer|
|Ports & Connectors||Micro USB Single nano SIM Power and Volume key on Right Hand Side of the device 3.5mm audio jack|
|OS||Android 5.0 Lollipop|
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 9, 2014 - 05:02 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: yoga tablet 2, yoga tablet, Windows 8.1, Lenovo, atom, Android
Back in January, Ryan got his hands on Lenovo's 8-inch and 10-inch Yoga tablets. The tablets ran Android OS, had good battery life, and featured a unique design that included a tube and kickstand. Despite less-than-stellar performance, Ryan came away with positive impressions thanks to the comfortable form factor and long battery life.
That was almost a year ago. Today, Lenovo unveiled updated Yoga tablets that address the pitfalls of the previous models while keeping the unique ergonomic form factor. The Yoga Tablet 2, like its predecessor, comes in 8-inch and 10-inch models and will run Android or Windows 8.1 operating systems, depending on the specific SKU. The Yoga Tablet 2 features upgrades to full resolution displays, Intel Atom Z3745 processors (the previous models used a quad core MediaTek Cortex-A7), and an improved 180-degree hinge. The Android versions come in silver while the Windows 8.1 tablets are ebony black. The table below lists the dimensions and weight of the various models.
|8" Android||10" Android||8" Windows||10" Windows|
|Weight||0.92 pounds||1.36 pounds||0.94 pounds||1.39 pounds|
The Yoga Tablet 2 systems have the same general design as the previous models including one tubular side that holds a large battery, front facing stereo speakers, a power button, and an audio jack. One difference is in the kickstand, which can now be rotated 180-degrees and has a cutout that allows it to be hung on a wall or the back of an airplane seat (for example). Further, the Yoga Tablet 2 (8" and 10" alike) features an 8-inch or 10-inch display with a resolution of 1920x1200, a 1.6MP webcam, and a 8MP rear camera with auto focus and an improved BSI 2 (backside illumination) sensor.
Internal specifications are a huge improvement over the previous models including an Intel Atom Z3745 SoC (quad core clocked at 1.86 GHz with 2MB cache), 2GB LP-DDR3L memory, and internal flash storage. The Android models come with 16GB of internal storage while the Windows versions come with 32GB internal storage. In both cases, uses can use a micro SD card up to 64GB to expand upon the internal storage. Other features include dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, optional 4G (not available in the US), and a battery life of up to 18 hours.
The Android-powered version ships with Android 4.4 KitKat while the Windows version ships with Microsoft Windows 8.1 and one year of Office 365. The Windows version is able to take advantage of Intel Burst technology to allow monitoring of usage and overclocking to improve time to idle and reduced processing time at full load to improve battery life and balance performance.
The 10-inch Windows version comes bundled with a Bluetooth Accutype keyboard cover that can also be purchased separately for the 10-inch Android tablet.
Lenovo looks to have a winner on its hands with its updated Yoga Tablet 2 tablets, and I'm interested to see reviewers put them through their paces. On the Android side, the 8-inch Yoga Tablet 2 has a MSRP of $249 and the 10-inch model has a MSRP of $299. The Windows model starts at $299 for the 8-inch model and $399 for the 10-inch model with bundled keyboard. According to Lenovo these are the launch prices and rebates may be available in the future.
Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2014 - 02:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: chrome os, chrome, google, Android
Last week, we reported on Google's App Runtime for Chrome (ARC) beta release. Its goal is to bring apps from the Google Play Store to ChromeOS through an Android stack built atop Native Client. They are sandboxed, but still hardware-dependent for performance. Since then, vladikoff on GitHub has published ARChon, a project which brings that initiative to desktop OSes.
Image Credit: ARChon Project
To use Archon, you will need to use an x86-64 version of Chrome 37 (or later) on Windows, Mac, or Linux. This project is not limited to the handful of ARC-compatible apps that Google officially supports. The Android apps need to be converted into Chrome extensions using a tool, also available, called chromeos-apk. In fact, the example app is an open source version of the game, 2048, rather than just the four launch apps from Google.
Whether Google intends to offer this, officially, with their Chrome browser is the most interesting part for me. I would prefer that everything just works everywhere but, failing that, having a supported Android platform on the desktop without dual-booting or otherwise displacing the host itself could be interesting. And yes, Bluestacks exists, but it has not been something that I would recommend, at least in my experience of it.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 06:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows, mobile, microsoft, keyboard, ios, Android
Let me share a story. There was a time, around the first Surface launch, that I worked in an electronics retail store (and the several years prior -- but I digress). At around that time, Microsoft was airing ads with people dancing around, clicking keyboards to the Surface tablet with its magnetic click or snap. One day, a customer came in looking for the keyboard from the TV spots for their iPad. I thought about it for a few seconds and realized how terrible Microsoft's branding actually was.
Without already knowing the existence of their Windows 8 and RT tablets, which the ads were supposed to convey, it really did look like an accessory for an iPad.
Doing Microsoft's job for them, I explained the Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets along with its keyboard-cover accessories. Eventually, I told them that it was a Microsoft product for their own tablet brand and would not see an iPad release. The company felt threatened by these mobile, touch devices and was directly competing with them.
So Microsoft is announcing a keyboard for Windows, Android, and iOS. Sure, it is very different from the Type and Touch Covers; for instance, it does not attach to these devices magnetically. Microsoft has also been known to develop hardware, software, and services for competing platforms. While it is not unsurprising that Microsoft keyboards would work on competing devices, it does feel weird for their keyboard to have features that are specialized for these competing platforms.
There are three things interesting about this keyboard: it has a built-in stand, it has special keys for Android and iOS that are not present in Windows, and it has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 6 months. The peripheral pairs wirelessly with all of these devices through Bluetooth.
The Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is coming soon for $79.95 (MSRP).
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 17, 2014 - 05:03 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: google, Android, android one
In much the same way as FirefoxOS is targeting foreign markets with low-cost phones, with the Intex Cloud Fx as the extreme example, Google is pushing for the overseas markets with Android One. Based on Android 4.4 and updated as new versions launch, for up to two years at least, the devices will not be old and outdated.
In terms of hardware, the platform is said to feature front and rear cameras, a quad-core processor, a microSD card slot, and dual SIM slots. Google has several partners involved with the initiative: Acer, Airtel, Alcatel, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Karbonn, LAVA, Lenovo, MediaTek, Cromax, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Spice, and Xolo. Besides a baseline standard, and a bit of marketing, there does not seem to be much to the platform itself.
Of course, delivering a quality standard, at an affordable price, to places which normally cannot obtain smartphones at all is noteworthy.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 05:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android
To some extent...
This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.
From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?
Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.
Subject: Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 01:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: tablet, reference design program, Intel, idf 2014, idf, google, aosp, Android
During today's keynote of the Intel Developer Forum, Google and Intel jointly announced a new program aimed to ease the burden of Android deployment and speed up the operating system update adoption rates that have often plagued the ecosystem.
In today's Android market, whether we are talking about x86 or ARM-based SoC designs, the process to release a point update to the operating system is quite complicated. ODMs have to build unique operating system images for each build and each individual SKU has to pass Google Media Services (GMS). This can be cumbersome and time consuming, slowing down or preventing operating system updates from ever making it to the consumer.
With the Intel Reference Design Program, the company will provide it's partners with a single binary that allows them to choose from a pre-qualified set of components or a complete bill of materials specification. Obviously this BOM will include Intel x86 processors like Bay Trail but it should help speed up the development time of new hardware platforms. Even better, OEMs and ODMs won't have to worry about dealing with the process of passing GMS certification leaving the hardware vendor to simply release the hardware to the market.
But, an even bigger step forward, is Intel's commitment on the software side. Everyone knows how fragmented the Android OS market with just 20% of the hardware on the Play Store running Android KitKat. For devices built on the Reference Design Program, Intel is going to guarantee software updates within 2 weeks of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) updates. And, that update support will be given for two years after the release of the launch of the device.
This combination of hardware and software support from Intel to its hardware ODMs should help ignite some innovation and sales in the x86 Android market. There aren't any partners to announce support for this Reference Design Program but hopefully we'll hear about some before the end of IDF. It will be very interesting to see what ARM (and its partners) respond with. There are plenty of roadblocks holding back the quick uptake of x86 Android tablets but those companies would be blind to ignore the weight that Intel can shift when the want to.