Google rolled out quite a few updates to its core apps yesterday, one of which positively affected Jelly Bean users running Google Now. The predictive and, in many ways, magical feature has been improved with location- and time-based reminders, public transit information and information about upcoming books, albums, television shows and video games.
Search was a big part of Google’s keynote address yesterday, and along with improvements to the Knowledge Graph on both mobile and the web, information is now much easier to obtain, and it’s displayed more navigably. Having the ability to speak or type reminders into the phone is a fantastic step in making Google Now a productivity tool that you interact with, not just one that talks at you based on previously-searched material.
The public transit information should be available in most major Canadian cities today, and will be rolling out to others in the coming weeks.
Download Google Search for Android.
Rogers has quietly restructured their monthly rate plans again. Similar to the recent changes they implemented in Quebec, below are the price changes, mostly decreasing, and also giving customers some additional gigs of data. Apparently these rates are a promo until June 30th for new customers or existing customers making changes to their plan.
This week has certainly been busy. If you’re interested in consuming your lunch time break with some YouTube, perhaps avoid cats and Psy videos and relive the glory of either the BlackBerry Live or Google I/O keynote sessions. BlackBerry’s is just shy of 1:30 minutes, while Google’s marathon lasted about 4 hours. Overall, great new mobile features and products from both organizations.
This is turn of events, but also expected.
In a press release today TELUS announced that they’ve entered into an agreement to acquire Mobilicity for $380 million. Of course, the deal is pending the “required approvals” from authorities (Competition Bureau, Industry Canada, and Mobilicity’s debtholders). “The purchase price received would be applied to repay all of the outstanding first and second lien debt of Mobilicity, with the remainder being used to repay certain outstanding unsecured debt securities issued by Mobilicity.”
Nokia Music has actually been live in Canada for about a week now, ever since the entry-level Lumia 520 launched (available on Rogers, TELUS and Koodo for about $150 outright). This free music streaming service (carrier data charges applies) is available to all Lumia device owners and gives them the ability to access over 18 million songs without the need to sign up or subscribe, or receive a plethora of ads while you listen (online and offline). The service allows users to generate their own playlists, or listen to playlists that others have created, and is based on categories such as favorite music and artists.
If you want a bit more, Nokia Music+ will cost you an $3.99/month, but gives you unlimited songs skips on playlists, access to music from the web and uses high-quality audio on WiFi.
Download Nokia Music here from the Windows Phone Store
According to the latest report from research firm IDC, it’s Google’s Android OS that’s dominating the smartphone OS market. Their “Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker” shows that Android accounts for a stunning 75% of all smartphone shipments in Q1 2013, representing 162.1 units shipped. IDC notes that Samsung has a “commanding 41.1% market share” of all Android smartphone shipments. Apple’s iOS followed with 17.3%, or 37.4 iPhones shipped. This combined for Google and Apple to reap 92.3% of all smartphone shipments during Q1 2013.
The battle for third place – which BlackBerry and Microsoft have both desired to claim – was captured by Windows Phone with 7 million smartphones shipments, representing 3.2% market share. The OS slightly nudged out BlackBerry (both older versions of BlackBerry OS and the new BlackBerry 10) as their shipments in Q1 reached 6.3 million devices, or 2.9% market share.
Kevin Restivo, analyst at IDC, said “Windows Phone claiming the third spot is a first and helps validate the direction taken by Microsoft and key partner Nokia. Given the relatively low volume generated, the Windows Phone camp will need to show further gains to solidify its status as an alterative to Android or iOS.”
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is a big hit, but not big on internal storage. The 16GB flagship Android only offers users about 9GB of actual available space. This became a heated discussion after it was highlighted on the BBC TV show Watchdog in the UK. Samsung initially stated some of the storage was consumed by the “high resolution display and more powerful features” and if users wanted more they should use a microSD card.
“As one of the most advanced smartphones on the market, the Samsung Galaxy S4 uses part of its internal memory to bring our customers its innovative and unique features. We appreciate this issue being raised and we will improve our communications. Also, we are reviewing the possibility to secure more memory space through further software optimisation. Samsung is committed to listening to our customers and responding to their needs as part of our innovation process.”
There’s no word of when the “further software optimisation” will arrive, or specifically how they’ll “secure more memory space.” Google and Samsung will be releasing a Galaxy S4 with stock Android Jelly Bean in the US on June 26th, but not in Canada.
On stage during the Google I/O kickoff keynote address, Hugo Barra, VP of Android Engineering, deflected our expectant stares. “This is not a device giveaway,” he stated, before launching into a product announcement that few were expecting.
A Samsung Galaxy S4 running stock Android 4.2.2, SIM- and bootloader-unlocked, with pentaband 3G and dual-LTE support was probably unthinkable a few days ago. One of the most “bloated” devices by definition — the carrier-sold S4 has just over half of its 16GB storage available out of the box — Samsung’s acquiescence in building a pseudo-Nexus device was probably done as a favour to Google.
While it will be sold exclusively on Google Play starting June 26th for a tidy $649 sum, the emergence of an unofficial Nexus built around the same hardware as the world’s most popular Android phone bodes well for the future of stock Android as a product. Because it will only appeal to a small number of users — those who are willing to eat a price tag double that of the still-excellent Nexus 4 and need it to be running stock Android — this is likely not going to set the market on its head. But for those few who really want a Nexus-like device on the latest and greatest hardware, this is for you.
Continuing along the theme of cross-device synchronization, Google Play Books for Android, iOS and the web have been updated to allow for syncing between devices an d the web, with the added distinction of letting users upload EPUBs manually from the Google Play web portal.
Both iOS and Android have received some nominal aesthetic revisions, too, with the Android app getting a left-side sliding bar and a Recent Books screen that adopts Google Now’s Cards design.
To upload books manually to Google Play Books, you’ll have to hit up the web interface. The service only supports DRM-free EPUB files, which should account for many popular eBook services. You can also use the desktop app Calibre to turn any incompatible file into a compatible EPUB.
This was one of the most requested Play Books features, mainly because the app was among the most feature-filled and smooth eBook readers on Android. Allowing users to bring in their own eBooks is a huge step towards competing with Apple’s iBooks across both platforms, since once the book is added via the web, users don’t have to manually add it through iTunes.
Via: Android Police
SwiftKey for Android is one of our favourite third-party keyboard replacements, and its natural language technology has been licensed by Samsung for use in its newest smartphones. Today, the company is coming out with version 4.1, a bug fix release with a few relevant additions. For starters, SwiftKey 4.1, there are three new themes – Regal (purple), Pitch (black, good for AMOLED screens) and Dusk (dark blue) — for those who are tired of the status quo. Of the three, Pitch is the nicest, but I’m not partial to too much colour on my keyboard.
Most of the other changes are bug fixes — improvements to the punctuation slider; better functionality in Opera browser — but SwiftKey promises more big features, too.
The app is also on sale for $1.99 for a limited time, so if you haven’t convinced every Android owner you know to pick it up, now is your chance.
Download SwiftKey for Android.
Via: SwiftKey Blog