Jun 29, 2011

Andy Rubin: over 500,000 Android activations a day, and growing

Andy Rubin
You may have noticed that Steve Jobs isn't nitpicking anymore over how Google measures the number of Android activations. It probably has something to do with the fact that, no matter how you slice it, at this point Android's growth is outpacing that of the iOS. In fact, according to Andy Rubin, 500,000 new Android devices are activated every day, and that number is continuing to grow. Heck, as of December that number was only 300,000 -- that's a 60-percent increase in just over seven months. At this rate there will be more Android phones than people in just a few short years. There might not be enough food and potable water to sustain the Earth's ever growing population, but at least everyone will be able to tweet about it.

Jun 25, 2011

Reanimating the body, with the power of thought

PHILADELPHIA — In the future, man and machine will become one. Powering it all? The brain.
Speaking at the TEDxPhilly conference in Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, biomedical engineer Iyad Obeid said researchers are already hard at work attempting to harness the power of the brain to control mechanical devices such as computers or robotic prostheses.
And despite what you’ve seen in the movies, machines won’t replace brains. Instead, they’ll complement them, because the two function in completely different ways.
“We’re learning how to tap into the processing that the brain has — what it can do,” Obeid said. “By learning its language, we can harness that to make a lot of our day-to-day problems a lot easier.”
The director of Temple University’s Neural Instrumentation Laboratory, Obeid took the crowd step-by-step through the process of understanding and translating the brain to craft a brain-machine interface to allow it to communicate with a man-made electronic machine.

Hit read more for details.

Aerogels: ‘Frozen smoke’ can soak up oil

From capturing comet dust to sucking up oil, aerogels sure come in handy. Nicknamed “frozen smoke”, these silica-based substances are among the least dense materials on the planet.
NASA originally developed aerogels for work in space, but companies are finding plenty of uses for them here on Earth.
Their low thermal conductivity makes them superb insulators (SeeSuper-insulating aerogels promise to make homes more energy-efficient). But it’s their extreme absorbency that might come to the rescue in an oil spill.
Out of efforts to create a superior kitty litter, an aerogel sponge that Aeroclay, Inc. hopes to commercialize could help clean up our big black messes. Comprised of polymers and clay, this aerogel is 96 percent air. Hit read more for the full article.

Japanese researchers create palladium-like alloy using nanotechnology, 'present-day alchemy'

As you're no doubt aware, some of the precious metals used in consumer electronics -- like palladium -- can be both pricey and hard to come by, which has prompted some to harvest the materials from old electronics and reuse them, while others have been busily working on more readily available alternatives. Among that latter group are a team of researchers from Japan's Kyoto University, who have just announced that they've managed to create a palladium-like alloy using what's being described as "present-day alchemy." More specifically, they used nanotechnology to combine (and "nebulise") rhodium and silver, which don't ordinarily mix, into the new composite, which they say could eventually replace the real thing in a whole range of electronics and other products. Unfortunately, it's not clear when that might happen, but the researchers aren't just stopping at palladium -- they're apparently already looking at using a similar process to create other alloys.

Motorola intros dueling portrait QWERTY Android options for Sprint: XPRT and Titanium

It took 'em long enough, but it seems as if The Now Network has managed to snap up Motorola's Droid Pro... just seven months after Verizon Wireless did so. For whatever reason, Sprint's dubbing its version the XPRT, with the same 3.1-inch HVGA touchpanel, full QWERTY keyboard, 1GHz CPU and Android 2.2 loaded. It'll go for $129.99 on a two-year contract starting June 5th, but giving that the Pro hit the bargain bin long ago, we're having a hard time believing anyone will pony up for Sprint's iteration. Moving right along, the Titanium gets off on the wrong foot by shipping with Android 2.1, and while it's hailed as the first iDEN device to combine Nextel Direct Connect and Eclair, the G'zOne Commando has somehow managed to show its brawn while stepping up to v2.2. For those interested nonetheless, there's a 3.1-inch touchscreen and a chassis that's built to MIL-SPEC 810G for dust, shock, vibration, low pressure, solar radiation, high temperature and low temperature. She's unpriced for the moment, but the full release can be found just after the break.

LG Optimus 2X scoops up Guinness World Record for being first dual-core smartphone

LG's Optimus 2X just scooped up official recognition from the Guinness World Records crew for being the very first dual-core smartphone, which sounds like a good thing, but really it kind of isn't. In its rabid pursuit of the "First!" badge, LG neglected to polish up the 2X's software, leaving a lot of early users feeling high, dry, and in need of a good custom ROM. On the other hand, that very same phone's US variant, the T-Mobile G2x that came a couple of months later, arrived with a nice and shiny stock Android build that really showed off the underlying hardware's true capabilities. So yeah, kudos onanother Record, LG, but next time let's have less haste and more awesome, mmkay?

IDC: smartphone market grows 80 percent year-on-year

Smartphones are getting kind of popular nowadays, in case you hadn't noticed. The latest figures from IDC show a 79.7 percent expansion of the global smartphone market between this time last year and today, which has resulted in 99.6 million such devices being shipped in Q1 of 2011. That growth has mostly been driven by Samsung, which has more than quadrupled its output to 10.8 million shipments in the quarter, and HTC, whose growth has been almost as impressive. The other big gainer is Apple, with 10 million more iPhones shipped, but the truth is that all the top five vendors are showing double-digit growth. In spite of Nokia losing a big chunk of market share and RIM being demoted from second to third in the ranking, both of those old guard manufacturers improved on their quarterly totals. IDC puts this strength in demand down to the relatively unsaturated smartphone marketplace, and believes there's "ample room for several suppliers to comfortably co-exist," before ominously adding, "at least for the short term." And after the short term, our break-dancing robot overlords take over.

CyanogenMod 7 tops 200,000 downloads, celebrations erupt as development goes forward

Congratulations to the fine developers of CyanogenMod, whose latest aftermarket Android OS, CyanogenMod 7, has surpassed 200,000 downloads -- a huge milestone for this homebrew community. Now supported on 26 devices, the hallmark of this custom ROM comes from its flexible user interface, greater customization options, bonus features and worthwhile performance improvements. While the project gained early notoriety from its dispute with Google, it's become an increasingly popular solution for those wanting to command their phone (or tablet) as they see fit. The latest revision, 7.0.3, includes numerous fixes and refinements since its 7.0 release, so there's never been a better time to check it out -- in fact, we're pretty sure the group would love to bring you aboard. Well done everyone, and keep up the good work.

Japanese researchers develop 'swimming' endoscope

Sure, pills that survey the wild and nauseating gastric landscape have been done before -- but how about one that can "swim" to input from a doctor-controlled joystick? A team of Japanese researchers have successfully achieved just that, with a newer, smaller, creepier version of a device they call "Mermaid." Ariel jokes aside, the tadpole-shaped accessory has successfully self-propelled itself around different parts of its host's digestive tract, all while dutifully phoning home with what we presume are pictures only a licensed physician could stomach. Whether or not the entire shindig was in high definition wasn't specified, but let's pretend your brain didn't just wonder precisely that.

Jun 21, 2011

Nokia's chief envisions a dual-SIM future in India and China, remains uncommonly silent about Europe

When speaking at Nokia's Annual General Meeting, CEO Stephen Elop identified the company's burning desire to strengthen its dual-SIM portfolio, citing the feature's strategic importance in India and China. During the speech, he announced Espoo's first dual-SIM phone (likely the C2-06) will ship by the end of June, while failing to mention its true "first" offerings, the C1-00 and C2-00, were released in 2010. For travelers who must contend with network fragmentation, dual-SIM functionality allows users to easily switch among carriers while moving about. The feature is also getting noticed in Europe, too -- though it's unclear whether you'll begin seeing Windows Phone pursuing double lives. Should Elop decide two SIMs have a future in Nokia's smartphones, we're pretty sure he'll be able to twist Ballmer's arm.

Nokia Looses Number 1 Smartphone Spot In W. Europe

Back at the beginning of last year Nokia held 40.6% of the Western European smartphone market. A year later that has tumbled to 19.6%. Apple, by comparison holds a 20.8% share in the same region. Interestingly enough though Apple also saw their market share decline from last year where it stood at 24.6%, but the decline wasn't as marked as that of Nokia.
It's not just Apple Nokia needs to worry about though. RIM is sitting on 16.5% at the moment, not all that far behind Nokia, but crucially RIM has seen their share drop from 19.6% last year. HTC, on the other hand, have seen their market share climb from 7.8% last year to 16.5% this year and as a consequence are now in a position to challenge Nokia's reduced market share (as well as RIM it has to be said).
Of course all of this comes before Nokia has released its first Windows Phone smartphone. How well such a device(s) will be received will be key to reversing these sort of declines for Nokia.

Appstore Trademark Row: Sony Ericsson, Nokia and HTC Join Microsoft

Apple has registered the terms 'Appstore' and 'App Store' as trademarks, including in the EU. We've already seen that Microsoft are none too happy about Apple trademarking such important terms and now Sony Ericsson, HTC and Nokia have joined in too. The companies, along with Microsoft, have each filed separate requests with the EU to challenge Apple's trademark.

Essentially those challenging the trademark say that the terms are generic and should be allowed to be used by anyone. Of course Apple, for their part, are not in agreement with that. No doubt any of these companies filing challenges would have taken the stance Apple have if they had been first to register the terms, but there we have it. Yet another legal dispute to watch play out ...

Google announces new ways to discover apps on Android Market, more tools for developers

Android Market may have a lot going for it, but most would surely agree that it could use some improvement when it comes to discovering apps that you aren't specifically looking for. Thankfully, it seems Google has indeed been aware of those concerns, and it's now announced five new features that should go so some way towards improving things. Those include some newly revamped top app charts that promise to be "fresher" and country specific, a brand new Editors' Choice section that highlights apps chosen by Google, a new Top Developers feature that places a special icon next to the name of developers that make the grade (currently more than 150), improved related apps on individual app pages and, last but not least, a new trending apps section that shows the apps growing fastest in terms of daily installs. What's more, while all of those features are currently exclusive to the web-based version, Google says they're also "coming soon" to the Android Market on both phones and tablets.

In other Android Market news, Google has also announced that it will be adding support for larger apps -- up to 4GB -- in June, and it will be giving developers the ability to exclude specific devices to avoid compatibility problems, or make multiple versions of an app available under a single Market listing, complete with aggregated ratings and stats. All that, plus personalized recommendations based on your apps (details on it are still a bit light), and paid app support for an additional 99 countries (coming within the next week or so).

Adobe CreatePDF for Android does exactly what its name implies

Google's mobile OS is growing and maturing into a business-savvy adult before our very eyes. With the release of Adobe's CreatePDF in the Android Market, we're delighted to finally see a PDF-creation app on the mobile front. Not only does it let you build a PDF from the ground up, it can convert most popular filetypes -- Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OpenOffice, Photoshop, RTF, and Illustrator, just to name a few -- into PDF format. You can import any of these kinds of docs from your phone to app via the built-in file manager, or transfer an email attachment to it using Android's share function. Available for a one-time payment of $9.99, CreatePDF won't be for the light-walleted or the casual app enthusiast; don't be put off by the price, though, because the online version charges that much per month to do the exact same tasks on your computer. Anyone rocking Eclair or better can partake of the PDF love, so head to the source link to get straight to installing.

ITC judge rules against Apple in patent infringement case, Kodak smiles

The International Trade Commission has weighed in on one half of the ongoing Apple-Kodak legal saga, ruling in favor of the team from Rochester. In a decision handed down yesterday, ITC Judge Robert Rogers determined that Apple's allegations of patent infringement are unfounded, adding that one of the company's patents is invalid. At issue are two digital camera technologies owned by Apple. One allows a camera to process multiple photos at the same time, while the other enables users to simultaneously adjust an image's balance, color and resolution. Apple claimed that Kodak illegally used these mechanisms in its Z-series, M-series, C-series, and Slice cameras, in addition to some video cameras. Judge Rogers clearly disagreed, though he won't be able to publicly explain his reasoning until both sides have had enough time to review confidential documents. Rogers' decision will also be subject to review by the full ITC, which is expected to issue a yea or nay on September 19th. A Kodak spokesman said the company is understandably "pleased" by the decision, but it won't have much time to rest on its laurels. On May 23rd, the ITC will announce a decision in a patent lawsuit that Kodak filed against both Apple and RIM, way back in January 2010. Stay tuned.

MeeGo 1.2 Developer Edition released for Nokia N900, wants to go where you go

Feeling a bit wily with your aging N900? If so, today at the MeeGo conference in San Francisco, MeeGo 1.2 Developer Edition was released just for you (and the attendees, of course). Although it's not a daily driver, intended more as a developmental snapshot, you stand to have a lot of fun by tinkering with thisopen source OS. If you're a programmer with some spare time, the news is even better: the group is currently focusing on improving the voice dialer, SMS, camera and WiFi experience. Unlike the general release of MeeGo 1.2, the Developer Edition is designed specifically for the N900. So, if you're suitably equipped and reasonably interested, grab that Nokia, push Android aside, and check the source for everything you'll need.

New CyanogenMod lets you rule Android app permissions with an iron fist

We've recently seen Google crack down on rogue apps and patch some server-side security issues, but let's not forget Android does have a small measure of built-in security: app permissions. But as with those pesky EULAs, many users tend to breeze through the permissions screen. And Android forces even the most attentive readers to accept or deny all permissions requested by an app. But the newest nightly builds of the CyanogenMod custom ROM include a clever patch allowing users to grant and revoke permissions individually -- something like the TISSA security manager we're still awaiting. Obviously playing God with permissions can crash your applications: with great power comes great responsibility. But we figure if you're running aftermarket firmware on a rooted phone, you're comfortable experimenting. See how it works in the video after the break, then hit the source link to download.

Ovi Store follows the pack with integrated app updates, charms us with refined algorithms

Sure, the Ovi Store may be getting a name change, but this week Symbian^3 users will get an upgrade to the familiar storefront complete with application updates and more relevant suggestions. After signing in, the client queries Nokia's servers and then notifies users of relevant new versions with a green flag inside the account button. It's certainly not revolutionary, but it's nice to get a feature that's otherwise taken for granted. Additionally, the S^3 crowd will be treated to Top Free and Best Sellers lists that are specific to their device and locale. For example, if E72 owners are especially fond of reeling in Fishing: Off the Hook, these downloads won't affect the results for N8 handsets. The same logic is applied to application suggestions, where Ovi Store provides recommendations based on the habits of similarly situated users. In other words, it looks like we'll soon learn who loves Angry Birds most of all. Any takers?

Galaxy S II KE7 update brings better battery life, fixes "pink spot" camera bug

Samsung Galaxy S II KE7 update
Galaxy S II owners, now is the time to load up Kies or to start impatiently tapping "system updates" -- Samsung is rolling out a new firmware for its flagship handsets dubbed KE7. Not everyone is seeing it yet but, according to users, you can expect better battery life, more accurate GPS readings, improved performance, a few upgraded apps, and a fix for the "pink spot" bug in the camera app. We appreciate Samsung making sure everything is just right and pushing a second update before bringing the Galaxy S II to America, but we think it's ready now -- hurry, before we change our minds about owning something called the Attain, Function, or Within.

Jun 20, 2011

Getaround car sharing service goes live, rent out your ride with an iPhone app and car kit

We expressed our excitement when we first heard about Getaround, the personal car rental service that enables users to rent out their autos by the hour or day, and at TechCrunch Disrupt the service has officially gone live for drivers outside the Bay Area. The company also announced an accompanying car kit that allows potential renters to unlock their temporary ride using just an iPhone app, at which point they can access a physical key inside. The company says it functions just like any other keyless entry device, and can be set up in as little as five minutes. Worrisome owners should also know that when you offer up your ride you get full insurance coverage from the Getaround folks, so all liabilities are transferred to the individual behind the wheel. Renters get rated by car owners so there's definitely an incentive to keep things neat and tidy, though we'd totally get downrated for neglecting to return the seat to its original position. Be sure to check out the demo video at the via link, you'll wish you thought of this yourself.

Smartphones, not DVRs, are the biggest threat to TV adverts

TV viewers are a famously fickle bunch, which tends to drive TV advertisers crazy. The prevalent theory remains that skipping past ads using a pesky DVR is the biggest enemy of marketers, but new research has once again contradicted that received wisdom. The IPG Media Lab in Los Angeles pulled together a representative group of 48 TV and online video viewers and asked them to sit through some programming while equipped with the usual "devices or distractions" that accompany their viewing habits. Central to the study was the measurement of time each person spent facing the screen and how engaged they were with the content. The first thing noted was that 94 percent of TV viewers and 73 percent of online video consumers used some other form of media to augment their visual entertainment. Smartphones were the most common, with 60 percent of test subjects resorting to their handset while gawking at the TV. That's resulted in a mediocre 52 percent attention level during actual programs and 37 percent during ads. In other words, two thirds of the time, commercials are being ignored and smartphones are helping people with that heinous behavior. Ironically, fast-forwarding adverts using a DVR garnered attention levels that were 12 percent higher, mostly because people were trying to make sure they didn't skip too far ahead. Damn, why does reality have to be all complex and stuff?

Nokia lowers devices and services outlook for Q2, increasingly confident about first Windows Phone in Q4

You know what happens when you tell the world that you're abandoning Symbian for Windows Phone? Right, Symbian sales dry up. No matter how many times you boast about plans to sell an additional 150 million new Symbian devices, and no matter how long you commit to supporting Symbian devices, the OS is essentially dead to developers and consumers alike. So, we're not surprised to hear that Nokia just lowered its devices and services outlook for Q2 of 2011. The updated guidance calls for devices and services net sales to be substantially below the EUR 6.1 billion to EUR 6.6 billion expected in Q2 due to lower than expected average selling prices on lower volumes. It also sees margins drifting below the expected range of 6 percent to 9 percent due to lower than expected net sales -- Nokia expects its non-IFRS operating margin to be "around breakeven." As as result, Nokia is also pulling back its annual targets for 2011 and will provide further updates as its situation becomes more clear.

On the positive side, Nokia does say that it has "increased confidence" that it will ship its first Windows Phone product in Q4 2011. Let's hope so.

T-Mobile announces June availability for Samsung Exhibit 4G and Gravity Smart

We've heard rumblings that Samsung's Exhibit 4G would be making its way to T-Mob on June 8, but now the carrier has confirmed that the Gingerbread smartphone will be available sometime in June. The Exhibit will join Samsung's Gravity Smart, both featuring grounded sub-$100 price tags (after $50 rebate) when they hit stores. T-Mob is displaying the Exhibit with violet and black finishes, and says you'll see "theoretical" peak download speeds of 21Mbps on the HSPA + handset. As for the Smart, the carrier's first Android-powered Gravity smartphone will launch with 2.2 Froyo, and includes a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, so you'll be sending Group Texts to 50 of your closest friends with four rows of hardware keys. Both phones include 3 megapixel rear-facing cameras with flashes, while the Exhibit adds a front-facing cam as well, so that myTouch 4G girl may be hawking a new smartphone on your TV later this month.

RiTdisplay begins producing inexpensive a-Si AMOLED displays for smartphone makers

Sure, you'd expect to find an amorphous silicon backplane behind your LCD, but RiTdisplay has now begun producing a-Si AMOLEDdisplays that, according to the company, are a world's first. Developed in conjunction with Ignis Innovation, the 3.5-inch panel was first unveiled at last month's SID Display Week, where it beamed images in 320 x 480 resolution. RiT says its a-Si-based AMOLED screens are relatively inexpensive to produce, potentially posing an alternative to its LTPS-backplaned brethren. The company has already begun manufacturing the displays for undisclosed smartphone makers, though there's no word yet on when we can expect to see them pop up in commercial devices. But if the technology proves to be as cost-effective as RiT claims, it could go a long way toward patching up that AMOLED shortage -- as long as you're not too picky about resolution. 

Samsung Smart View shrinks Smart TV down for your Galaxy S II

Samsung Smart View
We're not sure how many of you happen to own both a Galaxy S II and a Samsung Smart TV but, if you do, you'll probably want to download Smart View from the Android market. Like now -- don't worry, we'll wait. This handy app lets you stream content from your set to your smartphone over WiFi, and can even be used as a controller for games from the Samsung app store. Unfortunately, you're limited to either mirroring the content shown on the TV or watching an optional second stream from a Sammy-branded Blu-ray player but, hey, at least you won't have to miss a single second of Game of Thrones just because that box of Cheez-Its keeps whispering your name. Like any good TV-connected app, Smart View can also act as a remote with a program guide and the ability to change channels, and even more functionality is promised for the future. Eventually, it will make its way to Galaxy Player, Galaxy S, and Galaxy Tab owners

ComScore: Android grows larger than ever among US subscribers, Apple belittles RIM

The latest ComScore results from the last quarter are in, and the US mobile device wars were hotter than ever as 13% more people reported owning a smartphone. Google conquered most users' territory with Android climbing just over five percent (now totaling 36.4%) and still claiming first for mobile software platforms. Apple's iOS destroyer took second place (at 26%) partially due to RIM's S.S. BlackBerry OSsinking about five percent (now 25.7%) to claim third, while Microsoft and HP / Palm rounded out the bunch struggling to stay in the fight with even lower single-digit scores. In the OEM region Samsung claimed first yet again (although slightly dropping to 24.5%), with LG and Motorola landing in second and third respectively, each keeping its place from the prior quarter. In the last two slots, Apple again bested RIM whose devices barely dropped half of a percent, but enough to let the slight growth of iDevices snatch up 4th. The source link below is waiting to be clicked if you want the full battle statistics.

Droid Charge joins the wireless charging club, gets its own inductive battery cover

An HTC Thunderbolt wireless charging cover might still be a no-show on Verizon's site, but in the case of the Droid Charge, things are much simpler. Big Red quietly started selling a Qi-compliant inductive battery cover molded specifically for the LTE-equipped handset, allowing it to recharge when paired with any compatible charging pad. Verizon doesn't list specs, so it's unclear just how much heft that case will add to the phone's .46-inch frame. Still, if ditching your AC adapter is what you're after, you can hit the source link now and scoop one up for $29.99.

HTC sales in May reached $1.42 billion, more than double last year's total

We're seriously considering just reposting the same bit of text every time HTC's earnings come up for discussion. The story never seems to change. Taiwan's premier smartphone maker has once again blown away its performance from the previous year, having informed the Taiwan Stock Exchange that it tallied up T$40.62b ($1.42b) in consolidated sales for May 2011. That's a neat chunk of change more than April's T$38.73b and it also comfortably dwarfs last year's May total of T$18.82b ($656m). There's no breakdown of what devices are to credit for HTC's ever-ascending revenues, but if you ask us, its future prosperity looks pretty good with the Sensation, EVO 3D, and a few tablet-shaped things lurking on the horizon.


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