May 26, 2011

Google and Sprint team up to take your digital dollars with new NFC payment system?

There's been rumors of a Google-fied mobile payment system for some time, and now it looks like the Mountain View crew is teaming up with Sprint to finally make it happen. Last month, we heard that the Now Network would bring NFC payments to its customers this year, and Bloomberg reports that the partnership and payment system will make its debut on May 26th. Apparently, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C. are the first cities getting the service, which is a much broader initial footprint than its Isis mobile payment competition. The anonymous sources also say that Verifone and Vivotech are providing the hardware and software that will let you replace your credit card with a Nexus S -- because you always wanted to replace your credit card with your Nexus S.

Update: According to All things D, the payment system will be put through its paces by none other than El Goog's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt at the D9: All Things Digital conference next week -- where we'll be on hand to peep the contactless payment presentation in person.

Microsoft announces Windows Phone 'Mango' update, coming in autumn

Mango may no longer be a secret in and of itself, but we doubt Microsoft would've set up an entire eventto preview its big Windows Phone update if there was nothing hidden up that Redmond sleeve. To that end, we've just come across an official press release from the company, released on its Romanian website. The machine translation awaits after the break.

Update: We've now swapped in the natively English press release. There's also confirmation that Mango will indeed be known as Windows Phone 7.1.

Update 2: Turns out Microsoft "had to give [the SDK] a name" and dubbed it 7.1, so Mango retains its formal WP7 moniker.

The first thing to note is that the update will be "freely available" to all current Windows Phone handsets, something Microsoft already committed to, and will be ready for download "at the beginning of this summer." (Update: it looks like our translation machinery betrayed us, tipsters are saying it's actually the beginning of autumn.) Naturally, the new goodness will also figure in new devices and from new partners, including Acer, Fujitsu, and ZTE. Those fresh faces join Nokia and the incumbent partners of Dell (maybe) HTC, Samsung, and LG to expand the WP ecosystem.

A Beta SDK of the new Windows Phone free tools will be available within 24 hours, we're promised, for developers to sink their teeth into.

In the communications department, Microsoft is introducing conversation threads, which seamlessly transition between MSN Messenger chats, SMS, and Facebook messaging to keep you talking to the same person irrespective of the method. New contact group tiles are also incoming, with the ability to send quick emails or IMs to entire groups. Twitter and LinkedIn contact integration is mentioned, though we expect this go a lot deeper in Twitter's case, as Microsoft has already demonstrated. Speaking of more in-depth integration, Microsoft has improved the Live Tiles to allow the display of more dynamic information from apps, which will of course be able to multitask beautifully. Internet Explorer 9 is also joining in on the Mango fun with support for HTML5. Jump past the break for all the details.

Update 3: Would you look at that, Bing search has gotten a thorough sprucing up as well. Video of all the new goodness follows after the break -- or you can click here to hit up Microsoft's own video library, which is loaded to the gills with feature overviews.

Steve Ballmer promises 'over 500' new features in Mango, teases new WP handsets

Just how big of an upgrade will the Mango release of Windows Phone be? Try "500 new features" big. Steve Ballmer revealed that seductively round number in a speech over in Japan today, where he also said that additional information about "who's going to be building Windows Phones" will be forthcoming at tomorrow's preview event as well. Combine that with an otherwise unsubstantiated rumor (more coverage link below) about Microsoft showing nine new Windows Phone handsets tomorrow, and it does seem like there'll be fresh hardware to go with the ripening software. Neither the Mango release nor any devices on show will be coming to market any time soon, mind you, but it's nice to think we'll get to see what the future of Windows Phone will look like in physical as well as digital form.

iPhone 5 may feature curved glass screen, continue iPod nano legacy

DigiTimes has been canvassing its manufacturing industry sources again, and today it's managed to extract some intel regarding Apple's typically secretive supply chain. Steve Jobs' team are said to have purchased between 200 and 300 glass-cutting machines, specifically in order to use them to slice up curved glass display covers for the iPhone 5. This move has apparently been in an effort to accelerate production, with glass makers reportedly showing a reluctance to buy the machinery themselves due to its prohibitive cost. Lest you think this sense of urgency might accelerate the iPhone 5 from its earlier-rumored September launch, DigiTimes also reports that yields of curved glass are not yet good enough to start using said fancy machines. So the iPhone may be headed for the same curvacious look as we've already seen on Dell's Venue and HTC's Sensation (or maybe even the concavity of the Nexus S), but as is Apple's wont, it looks like that will be done with a tailor-made, custom solution. At least those Cupertino designers have a couple of generations of curved iPod nano screens under their belt, giving them a good idea of how to handle the atypical glass frontage. Now if we could just have a good idea of when this phone will actually be on sale...

MeeGo 1.2 lands for netbooks and tablets, leaves handsets hanging on the telephone

MeeGo 1.2
Just because Nokia has done everything short of taping a "Dear John" letter to MeeGo's mirror doesn't mean the OS is dead. In fact, Intel's Linux-based baby just got a refresh to version 1.2. So what's new this go around? Well, primarily it's under the hood stuff, like improved Atom support and bug fixes out the ying yang. New audio and networking stacks have also been added for A2DP streaming and HSPA+ support. The tablet UI that Intel was showing off in February is has arrived, to complement the standard netbook version and the in-car interface. Sadly, the handset edition was left out of this update. Those eager to dip their toes in the MeeGo water can download the latest version at the source link.

Android Honeycomb has hidden Gingerbread interface, enabled by higher LCD density

Google's already indicated that tablets and smartphones won't be sharing the same Android build untilIce Cream Sandwich in Q4, though interestingly enough, it turns out that the tablet-friendly Honeycomb actually has Gingerbread's interface quietly tucked underneath. According to modder Graffix0214, all you need for making the jump is one simple tweak in a system file: assuming you already have root access, use your preferred method -- Pocketables recommends the LCDDensity for Root app -- to change the LCD density value to 170 or higher to emulate a smaller, denser display. After a reboot, you should then see some Gingerbread love as demoed by Graffix0214's video after the break; and likewise, set the value to 160 or lower to roll back. It sure is nice to have an option, eh?

Nokia's Windows Phones will feature dual-core ST-Ericsson U8500, says STMicroelectronics chief

As you'll no doubt be aware, Qualcomm currently enjoys a stranglehold on processing hardware insideWindows Phone handsets. Its Snapdragon chip stars in both Microsoft's original and updated chassis spec for the platform, but its hegemony may soon be coming to an end. STMicroelectronics (the ST in ST-Ericsson) boss Carlo Bozotti is cited by Forbes as saying that Nokia will use ST-Ericsson hardware to power at least some of its Windows Phones. The dual-core U8500, a long-time Nokia favorite, is touted as the first such system-on-chip to appear, with its successors helping to populate Nokia's expansive WP lineup in 2012. The only intel we've had so far on Nokia's initial handsets for the new OS revolved around Qualcomm-based devices, so even if ST-Ericsson is indeed going to infiltrate the Windows Phone ecosystem, it doesn't look likely to be among the very first Nokias out of the gate.

Phone Oximeter saves lives

We'll be honest with you, we don't know a lot about marketing healthcare devices to everyday people, so perhaps posting a goofy YouTube video with some re-written classic rock songs is standard practice in the industry. Whatever the case, the University of British Columbia's Electrical & Computer Engineering in Medicine team managed to bring its Phone Oximeter to our attention, and all said, this could be a handy little device for monitoring vitals outside a hospital setting. The meter hooks up to a smartphone -- an iPhone for trials, but we're told it works with Android, Windows, and others -- displaying the wearer's blood oxygen level and heart and respiratory rates, and transmitting the readings to the hospital. The department has already done some field testing with the system, trying it out at the Vancouver General Hospital and bringing it to Uganda, where low cost medical devices and Journey spoofs are in high demand.

Google adds News Near You

We can't say location-based services have the best reputation right now, but Google continues to crank them out regardless. The search giant introduced "News Near You," a feature that lets you search for news stories that are based around your current position. After pointing your Android or Safari browser to Google's news page and agreeing to reveal your locale, you'll find these customized stories in its own special category. We tried out the site for ourselves, and within a few seconds we were discovering new and wonderful things in our own neck of the woods. You can check it out, too, provided you don't mind Mountain View knowing exactly which bit of woods your neck happens to reside.

RecognizeMe unlocks your jailbroken iPhone using your face

We don't often jailbreak our iPhones to test apps, but a facial recognition unlock tool seemed a worthy excuse, so we gave it a shot. RecognizeMe uses the front-facing camera in your iPhone 4 (and iPad 2, eventually) to unlock the phone for its owner. Unfortunately, it also unlocked the device for Brian Heater (center), our resident 900 number enthusiast, and Bianca Bosker, Huff Po's tech editor and our only other friend in the newsroom. The app includes a setting for verification threshold, so we played around with that, trying a dozen times to get the app to ignore Brian, but even at 80 percent it was recognizing both of us (65 percent was the cutoff for Bianca). Bumping the threshold up to 100 percent finally locked Brian out, but at that level, the device wouldn't unlock for anyone, making it totally secure -- and totally busted. Verification took a full 25 seconds to timeout (compared to 5-15 seconds to grant access at lower levels, depending on lighting conditions), so using this app requires p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e. At this point, RecognizeMe is a $7 gimmick that might impress your grandmother (assuming she doesn't ask to try it herself), but if you need to keep your device under lock and key, a tried-and-true passcode is still the way to go.

Apple proposing smaller SIM standard

It looks like the Micro SIM (announced with Apple's first iPad last year) is destined to shed a few more grams, an Orange spokeswoman said -- contradicting an earlier rumor claiming that Apple is trying to kill off the chip altogether. SIM cards in their current form have been in use for over a decade (a Micro SIM is simply a standard chip without the extra plastic), and today's devices look nothing like the cell phones of 2001, so it's no surprise that the SIM we've come to love and loathe has run its course. If adopted only by Apple devices, however, a new form factor would be an incredible setback for iPhone unlockers, since an unlocked device is useless unless multiple carriers offer a compatible SIM. Apple has submitted its proposal to ETSI with support from Orange, which says we may even see the smaller SIM sliding into devices next year.

Unannounced Samsung 'Hercules' headed to T-Mobile, bearing demigod-like specs

The Samsung Infuse 4G is a beautiful 4.5-inch tabletphone, but it's not for the spec junkies of the world -- a single-core processor and Android 2.2 just don't impress such folk these days, regardless ofactual performance. However, This is my next reports Samsung's cooking up a $350 handset that ticks all the boxes on the superphone list -- a beast of a smartphone it's tentatively calling the "Hercules." Mind you, we're still in rumor territory, but feast your inner speed demon on the possibility of these: a dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060 processor (the same as the HP TouchPad), a 42Mbps HSDPA radio, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of flash storage and Android 2.3, along with the same 4.5-inch 800 x 480Super AMOLED Plus display as the aforementioned Infuse 4G. The same whispers say it'll have a 8 megapixel camera with 1080p video capture, MHL support and NFC, and should play for T-Mobile... assuming the buyout doesn't succeed. Our existing smartphones are already preparing to seethe with jealousy.

LG Revolution finally landing at Verizon on May 26th

LG Revolution finally set to hit Verizon on May 26th
We thought it'd be here by now. We thought it'd be the first with Netflix. We thought a lot of things about the LG Revolution, but now we're closer to knowing the truth. According to documents uncovered byDroid Life the phone is coming next week, May 26th, and it is, indeed, shipping with Netflix, which you can watch on its 4.3-inch, 800 x 480 touchscreen. The LTE-equipped phone will be running a version of Android 2.2 that will surely have seen some cosmetic enhancements, not the least of which is Bing integration. Yes, it's been Binged, but if the price is right, maybe that's not the end of the world. As to the price: no word on that yet, but "wireless charging" is listed as a standard feature, so at least you won't have to pay extra for a chubby battery door.

Intel promises smartphones in 'first part of next year,'

After Intel's early smartphone ambitions failed to bear fruit, experiencing delay after delay, the company seemingly decided it'd be a bad idea to give reporters so much as a ballpark release date. Well, the company's confidence must have returned, because CEO Paul Otellini just told investors that those 32nm Medfield smartphones are indeed on the way. "You'll see the first Intel-based phones in the first part of next year," he said at the company's annual investor meeting today, adding later that there will be "phones shipping in the market from major players" at that time. Here's hoping.

Why all the delays? Intel blamed its partnership with Nokia, calling it a mistake. "In hindsight, Nokia was the wrong partner to have picked," said Otellini, but told attendees that the time both companies spent working together won't be wasted entirely: Intel is currently shopping around their co-developed handset as a reference design.

Microsoft outlines new enterprise features coming to Windows Phone 'Mango'

When Microsoft takes the stage May 24th to preview the next release of Windows Phone, will there be any surprises left for the peanut gallery? In the last week we've seen numerous features announced orleaked, an awfully big coincidence given the timing of next week's event. More cats were let out of their bags today at Microsoft's annual TechEd conference keynote, as several enterprise-related capabilities were shown off that both companies and consumers have sorely missed on their phones.

First up are pinnable email folders, giving users the opportunity to pin a specific folder of higher priority -- such as emails from your boss or wife -- to your start screen. Toss in email threads complete with conversation view, and now Mango is looking even more drool-worthy. But there's more, folks: Exchange users frustrated by online having access to recent correspondence can look forward to server search -- a new function that'll enable you to sift through your entire email collection if need be. Rounding out the grocery list of new updates is Lync support, complex alpha-numeric passcodes for higher security, Information Rights Management support, and -- hallelujah -- the ability to connect to hidden WiFi networks natively. About time, right? Take a peek at the full breakdown of the new features at the source link.

Toshiba enters pixel density fray with 367ppi LCDs for cellphones

Toshiba LCDToshiba just fired its own salvo in the pixel density wars at SID 2011. The company is showing off a range of LCDs for cellphones that top out at an almost imperceptibly fine 367ppi on its 4-inch HD (720 x 1280) model. Beyond just cramming more red, green, and blue dots in each inch, these panels also top the bar-setting Retina Display in the contrast department with an impressive 1,500:1 ratio. The company also brought a smaller 3.3-inch screen with a resolution of 480 x 864 to Display Week that hits a respectable 300ppi. They're not quite as impressive as these HAST LCDs, but who really needs to put 1080p in their pocket? (Want is a different story.) Of course, Engadget is on the scene and, if you're lucky, we'll let you live vicariously through us as we tour Toshiba's booth -- you know, as a reward for your loyal readership.


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