Google updated its Google Maps app for Android including support for its newly launched Android Wear operating system for wearable devices, Android Police reports. That means developers and members of the press who got either the LG G Watch or the Samsung Gear Live at I/O 2014 will now be able to use Google’s popular navigation application on their new smartwatches.
Google Maps for Android is ready for Android Wear]
Friday, June 27, 2014
Thursday, June 26, 2014
How many times have you checked your phone today? If Google's data is correct, your answer is somewhere between zero and 125. This proclivity to check our phone is the foundation upon which Android Wear, the company's wearables platform, is built. Wear isn't about replacing your smartphone though; it's about extending Android beyond your pocket and into the world around you. Yesterday's I/O keynote revealed a lot about Google's vision for the future -- and Wear is the thread that could tie it all together.
On stage, Director of Engineering for Android, David Singleton, explained that everything in Android L is contextually aware, and has voice recognition enabled. Wear isn't a separate entity; it's an extension of Android L. An interface that bridges your experience of the world to the phone in your pocket (and vice versa). No more unlocking your phone and digging for restaurant recommendations. Wear knows your location and preferences; it's already giving you step-by-step directions to a ramen joint around the corner. Or so the theory goes.
Wear isn't a separate entity; it's an extension of Android L.
Singleton's demonstration of how Wear dances with, rather than marches beside, your phone was to order a pizza through his watch in under 20 seconds. A party trick to please the mostly developer audience, sure, but that demo showed Wear's potential in a way that people understand: a useful interaction that solves a (hunger) problem. That's something you can easily do from your phone, of course; the smartwatch skeptics are going to be harder to impress.
Singleton's second onstage demo showed Wear working with a tablet, displaying a recipe from Allthecooks. The tablet is the main screen in this scenario, but Wear is listening; it's a servant to more than one device. The tablet feeds Wear each stage of a recipe one by one. Swipe for the next instruction on the watch, and this is reflected back on the tablet. The same is true for all interactions on all apps across all your Android L devices. No more dismissing notifications twice. This same symbiosis will be present across Android, Wear and Chrome OS -- Google's making the most determined push for unity yet, and Wear is a big part of it.
Great, we can order pizza and make recipes a little less likely to fail. But Google has a much broader ecosystem now. Android will be in cars, TVs and your home. It knows what you like to eat, where you go on weekends and how badly you suck at Tappy Chicken. All of this information is united by your phone, and (the idea being) effortlessly enhanced by Wear. The feel-good promo videos might ham it up a little, but Google Now's cards are getting smarter, and could find a natural home on your wrist. Having a wearable that controls (and is controlled by) all the technology in your life is, perhaps, the only logical case for a smartwatch -- and that's what Google is going for.
Google wants Wear to be the key that unlocks the Android experiences around you right now.
Earlier on in the I/O keynote, Director of Engineering at Google, Dave Burke, showed off a new feature within Android L -- trusted environments. If you have a "Bluetooth watch" (this was before Wear was discussed), your phone knows you're near, and removes the need for a password to access it. This might work for all Bluetooth devices, but it's further evidence of the neat shape Google has cut out for Wear in Android's future. Google wants Wear to be the key that unlocks the Android experiences around you right now.
If you're thinking Wear is just a fancy example of the internet of things, that's because it is. This isn't even the first wrist-worn gadget to be used for controlling other smart devices. Jawbone and SmartThings may spring to mind. The difference here is potential scale. Having a fitness tracker feed into your home automation is great. A platform that can set your thermostat, get driving directions (or score a lift), tell you about your surroundings and quickly reply to a friend's message is better.
Your phone is still the brain, the identifier, the hardware that knows you. Wear listens, interfaces, serves. Much like Android itself, or Google Now, Wear is a platform, that if grown with care and attention, could usher in the era of the smart-world. A world where technology is used to lower, not create barriers between discovery and social interaction. That's the marketing dream at least, and surely one we're all invested in. On a more practical level, if Google is working on a unified ecosystem (as it appears to be), it's about time for something like Android Wear.
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Sunday, June 22, 2014
Rumors and hype for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 have just started picking up, with a fairly large leak from earlier today moving things along. Now, we’re seeing not one, not two, but 22 different codenames for many variations of the allegedly-upcoming Note 4. This tells us more about availability and hardware as well, so let’s get right to it.
There are three main codename bases from what we can tell — SM-N910, and SM-N915. Those two names have already crossed our desks multiple times, so everything checks out. A bunch of different Samsung naming conventions are applied to these bases, with either a letter or a combination of a letter and a number added to each one to signify regional availability.
Without diving too deep into the details, let’s first iron out storage. Both 16 and 32-gigabyte models are expected to be available, with the US thankfully only seeing the latter on the major national carriers.
In terms of who will get it, customers of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon in the United States will likely be able to get their hands on the 32GB model. The model numbers for these, respectively, are SM-N910A, SM-N910P, SM-N910T, and SM-910V. There’s a ton of global availability info as well, which we won’t dive into as far, but DoCoMo, KDI, and a Chinese version of the phone pop out at us when viewing the graphic below.
The Android launcher scene might be getting a little out of control -- even Nokia (whose X phones are now under Microsoft's wing) is getting into the game. The Finnish firm has just released Z Launcher, a home screen replacement that gets you to frequently-used apps, contacts and sites as quickly as possible. The software learns your habits and surfaces the content you're most likely to use based on where you are, what you're doing and the time of day. It might put your calendar app at the top when you're in the middle of the workday, or highlight Instagram when you're out on the town. You also don't have to dive into the app tray if you're looking for something specific; you can draw an item's first letter to bring up a narrow set of results.
Z Launcher's interface may be simple, but getting a copy may prove tricky. It's currently available only to a limited number of users in a rough alpha release. And while the alpha should run on many Android phones, Nokia has only tested on the Nexus 5 and recent Galaxy S models -- don't be surprised if other devices throw a fit. We've also noticed that the launcher download process is hit-or-miss, so you may have to be patient. Still, this is your big chance at seeing how Nokia designs an interface for other companies' handsets
Nokia reborn: Nokia’s new Android launcher is wonderfully simple and shockingly innovative
By Zach Epstein on Jun 19, 2014 at 11:00 AM
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It seems positively bizarre to type, especially since I have been covering the company for nearly a decade now, but Nokia is no longer a cell phone maker. Once the largest phone vendor on the planet by a staggering margin, Nokia sold its devices and services business to Microsoft and will now wear a number of new hats as it looks toward the future. One of those hats, as it turns out, is that of an Android developer — and the company’s first big software announcement is a shockingly impressive one.
Nokia on Thursday took the wraps off of Z Launcher, a truly novel home screen replacement for Android phones.Android launchers often get lost in trying to differentiate. They also sometimes attempt [From Nokia Z Launcher: Nokia Android launcher available for download | BGR]
Wednesday, June 11, 2014