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  • Microsoft tests its own smartphone
    Posted on November 5, 2012 by ewilkinson

    There's no telling how a Microsoft-made smartphone would affect the company's dealings with hardware partners

     


    Right on the tails of a major week for Microsoft's Windows Phone 8, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that Microsoft may be developing a smartphone of its own to go with its new OS.


    The November 2 article, which cites "officials at some of Microsoft's parts suppliers, who declined to be named," says the company is running tests in Asia on their own smartphone, a device measuring between 4 and 5 inches.


    However, the article's sources say the company is still undecided as to whether the device in question will ever go into mass production. And, when asked about the phone by the WSJ last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer declined to comment.


    Still, the possibility is intriguing. Should Microsoft come out with their own handset to accompany Windows Phone 8, it's anybody's guess how that would affect its partnership with hardware partners, like Samsung, HTC, and Nokia. After all, Apple certainly doesn't let competitors use its smartphone OS.


    And, if Microsoft really is planning to launch its own mobile device, it would be a complete 180 for them, after years of developing the software and leaving the design up to others.


    Even so, as Gizmodo points out, a Microsoft-made smartphone could be a thing of beauty:


    "Microsoft’s eye for design is keener than ever, and while WinPho is great, it’s yet to make the impressions it could. Or even should. A Microsoft phone could change that."


    But don't get carried away. Quoting an older article on its own site, Gizmodo cautioned:


    "Even if these reports turn out to be totally accurate — and that’s far from certain — this does not mean that Microsoft is close to actually making a phone you can buy. It doesn’t even mean it ever will. Just that it’s developing the hardware, and testing it. That’s it."




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  • Image from Samsung's save the date for the October 24 kick-off to their Galaxy Note II world tour

     


    Wait Samsung, don't tell us. You may have revealed the last "next big thing" back in October, but is the "next next big thing" a larger Galaxy Note device? According to the rumor mill of late, the answer is yes.


    Within the same week that Samsung boasted of selling 3 million Galaxy Note II devices, a new DLNA certification (first reported on by SamMobile) shows that the company may already have some successors in the works.


    The certification lists two new Samsung-made devices – GT-N5100 and the GT-N5110 – that SamMobile says are sized between 7 and 9 inches. And if you're in doubt as to the fact that the devices listed will in fact be Galaxy Note variants, AndroidGuy points out that the certifications for all “previous Note products start with GT-N.”



    If there's any truth to SamMobile's report, it may be that Samsung is looking to fill the gap between their 5.5-inch and 10.1-inch Note models.


    As, for why Samsung would want to release a 7-inch Galaxy Note when they've already got the 7.7-inch Galaxy Tab, it may just be that the company sees the Note line, with its stylus pens, as distinct from the rest of their mobile devices.


    "Samsung clearly sees this market as separate from its mainstream phone line," writes Mobile Syrup, "and the two won’t necessarily cannibalize sales from either one."




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  • Our first 'Thank Gadget It's Friday' feature, Dexim's remote controlled Monster Truck for Apple devices

     


    We're making Fridays even more fun at the Pure Mobile blog, with a new weekly feature we're calling 'Thank Gadget It's Friday,' or TGIF for short.


    What better way to wrap up the week than with our favorite gadgets? And in this feature, we'll be bringing you our top picks in mobile accessories, from the coolest smartphone cases to the best phone docks and speakers.


    But we're kicking things off in style today, with an accessory that's a little out of the norm, and a whole lot of fun – Dexim's remote controlled AppSpeed Monster Truck.


    Definitely a toy for grown ups, the Dexim RC Truck uses Apple devices, like iPhone, iPad and iPod in lieu of a traditional controller. All you need is the free app that's provided when you purchase the truck.



    But that's not the only difference between this suped-up mobile accessory and a regular remote controlled car. Dexim's monster truck can be controlled by either traditional touch sensor or "gravity sensor," which lets you control the vehicle by tilting your device in different ways.


    The truck also has multiplayer mode for racing with friends, and comes with three preset stations that let you "automatically ZigZag, Spin, or Dance your vehicle to     music."


    As far as mobile accessories go, the Dexim RC Truck may not top the list of most needed, but it's certainly among the most exciting, and would certainly make a great gift for the techie in your life. Though we can think of more than a few people who'd simply want one for themselves.


    Vroom vroom!




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  • An update to Apple’s iOS 6.0 is now available for download from iTunes or over your wireless connection. Apple’s iOS 6.0.1 fixes some of the bugs that have already appeared and also provides the iPhone 5 with wireless update capability.


    To download the new OS version wirelessly, go to the “Settings” menu and bring up “Software Update,” If you’re updating your iPhone 5, you’ll be asked to first download an updater for iPhone 5. This enables the wireless updates to be installed.


     



    For older iPhone models, the iPod Touch and iPads with iOS 6 already installed, you can get the 6.0.1 update at “Settings”, “General”, “Software Update.”


    Your phone’s “Learn More” gives you a screen with the information below that tells you what bugs have been fixed:


    “This update contains improvements and bug fixes, including:


    • Fixes a bug that prevents iPhone 5 from installing software updates wirelessly over the air
    • Fixes a bug where horizontal lines may be displayed across the keyboard
    • Fixes an issue that could cause camera flash to not go off
    • Improves reliability of iPhone 5 and iPod touch (5th generation) when connected to encrypted WPA2 Wi-Fi networks
    • Resolves an issue that prevents iPhone from using the cellular network in some instances
    • Consolidated the Use Cellular Data switch for iTunes Match
    • Fixes a Passcode Lock bug which sometimes allowed access to Passbook pass details from lock screen
    • Fixes a bug affecting Exchange meetings”


    If you’re ready to start the download, you click on a quick user agreement confirmation, and the update begins. Your phone will give you instructions for the rest.


    One of the bugs that the update is supposed to fix is the one that causes static and horizontal lines on the screen when you’re downloading a new app. So, if you thought you’d caused the problem because your new iPhone 5 has already hit the concrete a couple of times, the update will offer some comfort. Add a little insurance for future whoopsies and improve you device’s bounce factor with a good case.




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  • The latest addition to the Lumia family, Nokia's Verizon-exclusive Lumia 822 arrives this month

     


    And we thought they'd never get back together...


    Verizon announced this week that, for the first time in three years, they'll be carrying a Nokia smartphone.


    The Nokia Lumia 822, a version of the Lumia 820 customized for Verizon, will start rolling out to Verizon subscribers this November, a press release announced. Though no release date has been publicized, a source told Engadget that it may be available by November 8, while BGR thinks it'll be out on November 12.


    With the announcement no doubt timed to coincide with all of Microsoft's recent events, the smartphone runs on WIndows Phone 8, and is available exlusively through Verizon.


    So how, exactly does the Lumia 820 stack up against other Lumia devices? Well, for one, it's curvier, and its camera pod and flash placement has the same lengthwise setup as the Lumia 920 and 810, "instead of the transverse layout found on the Lumia 820," writes Engadget.


    As for specs, the Lumia 822 packs a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, has 8 GB of internal storage, and 1 GB of RAM, though you can get models with up to 64 GB.


    Its 4.3" screen has a resolution of 800 x 400, and it's got an 8 megapixel camera as well as a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera, and an exchangeable shell for wireless charging.


    It body seems pretty sturdy, which is no surprise for a Nokia phone, though some have called it a little thick. Still, says one TechCrunch reviewer, "If anything, the version I played with was even thicker than normal because someone had swapped the stock backplate with the wireless charging plate, but the end result was a device that was still very comfortable to hold."


    Available in white, black or grey, one of these bad boys will run fairly cheap – about $100 on a 2-year contract with Verizon.




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  • U.S. wireless carriers and the Federal Communications Commission have joined together to create a national database that locks stolen cellphones out of carrier networks.


    Smartphones and other mobile devices are so easy to snatch. They’re small and portable. They’re worth a lot of money. They’re easy to pirate with just a swap of a SIM card. The FCC's database of stolen phones is designed to limit theft to the plastic and electronics and not the information contained inside.


    The database works by blocking a stolen cellphone’s IMEI number, making it impossible to get service for that phone. AT&T and T-Mobile have teamed up, and their joint database is online now. Verizon and Sprint are supposed to have their joint effort up and running soon. In the next year, the four major carriers are planning to merge their databases. Smaller carriers will join in along the way.


    Eventually the FCC and the U.S. carriers will expand the database to cell providers all over the world. “The goal is to not only protect the consumer by cancelling the service, but by ultimately protecting the consumer by drying up the aftermarket for stolen phones,” said CTIA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Chris Guttman-McCabe.



    While we can’t stop ourselves from leaving our phones in the coffee shop or having it picked out our pocket, there are things we can do to protect our privacy. Use PINs or passwords, and make sure you know how to use your phone’s remote-wiping capabilities. It might seem like closing the barn door after the horse has left, but at least a thief has only stolen your high-buck smartphone and not your identity.




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  • Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says there have already been 4 million Windows 8 upgrades

     


    Microsoft put the finishing touches on a massive month this week, with the global launch of Windows Phone 8 Monday, and the Build developer conference Tuesday.


    The company already launched their extra-sized Surface Tablet earlier this month, as well as holding their Windows 8 event.


    But what most of us were really waiting for was windows Phone 8, and now it's here. Touted by the event's speakers as "the most personal smartphone operating system you can get," Microsoft began by highlighting the growing number of apps for Windows Phone, 120,000 and counting.


    However, speakers stressed that people, not apps, are the focus of the revamped OS, and called out Apple and Android for not doing enough to really change smartphones since they arrived on the scene.


    As such, Microsoft is banking a lot on one of Windows Phone 8's main features, "live apps." Live apps move like live tiles and update themselves, so that your phone becomes like your fingerprint, says Microsoft.



    "For example, the Facebook app updates the lock screen with your personal photos,"  explains WebProNews. "A number of app developers including Twitter, Zynga and Rovio are updating their apps to take advantage of live apps."


    That brings us to what TechCrunch says the "future of the Windows 8 platform," hinges on – the developers.


    Because the OS – nevermind the idea of live tiles – is so new, Microsoft's going to have to lure developers to it for it to really take off. At the moment, says TechCrunch, the number of new Windows 8 apps is "underwhelming," and that may explain the somewhat middling reviews Microsoft's Surface Tablet has received:


    "Most of the reviewers cited the lack of apps – and not the hardware itself – as one of the reasons they didn’t enjoy the experience."


    But as he took the stage to kick off the Build developer conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer already had some positive news about the new OS' reception, saying that there have already been 4 million Windows 8 upgrades in just the few days since its launch. Hopefully some of those interested parties are developers.


    But as for regular users who want to get in on the new OS, Windows Phone 8 will be globally available by November across a number of devices, including the Nokia Lumia, and HTC and Samsung smartphones.




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  • Nuance Communications just released the beta version of their Dragon Mobile Assistant software for Android.


    Dragon is the name of a line of speech recognition software products that can do things like make calls, keep your calendar and send texts just by giving your phone a command. The English version of the app is available on Google Play for free right now. It works on the Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 OS or later.


    Nuance dominates the market for speech recognition. They’ve been working with Apple on their voice control technology, the most famous being Siri (available on iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.)


    Here's how the voice recognition software works on your phone.



    Start the app with the greeting, “Hi Dragon”, and then give it a command like:


    “Tell Lori, ‘I’ll come find her when I get to the restaurant.” or
    “Schedule a meeting for 2 p.m. tomorrow.” or
    “Give me directions to the Statue of Liberty” or
    “What’s the weather in Chicago?”


    As long as Dragon can interpret what you said, you'll get an answer.


    Nuance’s press release says it’s plan is to expand availability and debut new features by year end. “We’re at a transition point where voice and natural-language understanding are suddenly at the forefront,” said Vlad Sejnoha, chief technology officer at Nuance Communications. “I think speech recognition is really going to upend the current [computer] interface.”


    If you've ever tried to call about a complaint or order a prescription over the phone, you've experienced Nuance's voice technology. It's been used in places like calls centers for awhile.


    Now the rapid rise of powerful mobile devices is spreading the use of voice interfaces. One reason for the stunning advancements in voice recognition technology is that smartphones have so much processing capability. They can access high-bandwidth data connections that exist on massive servers in the cloud. The combination of more data and more computing power means sophisticated programs like voice recognition will fit into smartphones.


    Apple’s Siri was the first to bring voice-recognition technology to mobile devices, and (finally!) Nuance has now brought Android a little closer to having its own voice functionality. Others like the Windows Phone platform, other mobile systems, and a lot of apps won’t be far behind. The interfaces still have to be refined, but the good news is that the capability of talking to our devices is already built in to the hardware.


    Nuance doesn’t plan on stopping at cellphones. Inspired by their success, the company is working on putting speech interfaces in many more places like televisions and vehicles.




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  • This week kicked off with a bonanza of Nexus news from Google

     


    Hurricane warnings mat have put an end to Google's plans for an October 29 event, but Android fans won't have been disappointed with what Googled offered up on Monday instead: a bonanza of news about their highly anticipated upcoming Nexus devices.


    In lieu of an event unveiling, Google has simply made an announcement online, confirming what most of us have been suspecting for some time – A Samsung-made Nexus 10 tablet, and an LG-made Nexus 4 smartphone.


    The rumors of an LG Nexus 4 smartphone have been confirmed by Google

     


    The fact that the new gadgets couldn't be revealed live didn't seem to lessen the impact of the announcement, as major news organizations and leading tech sites jumped onto the Nexus news en masse.


    Now, we're breaking down all the latest talk to give you the major points of this dual announcement.


    Release dates and pricing:


    Both the Nexus 10 tablet and Nexus 4 phone will be available as of November 13 in the U.S and Canada, as well as in several European countries and Japan for the Nexus 10.


    Google's pricing the unlocked LG Nexus 4 at 8GB for $299, and 16GB for $349 or $199 through T-Mobile with a 2-year contract.


    Specs and reviews:


    There's already been a lot of positive reactions to the Nexus 10.


    With a slightly more curved body than most of us had anticipated, the entirely Samsung-made tablet has a 10" display that Gizmodo's calling better than retina at 300 pixels per inch.


    Inside, it boasts a a dual-core 1.7GHz Samsung Exynos processor, 2 GB of RAm, and is available in either 16 GB or 32 GB models.


    Powered by Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), it's also got front and back cameras and front-facing stereo speakers.


    The new Samsung Nexus 10 tablet

     


    As for the new LG smartphone, the Nexus 4 also runs on Android 4.2 and, like the Nexus 10 tablet, has gotten good reviews, with Gizmodo claiming "it might be the best Android phone yet."


    A collaboration between Google and LG, it bears a lot of resemblance to the LG Optimus G, but has a more rounded body, better software, and new features like PhotoSphere and Gesture typing.


    Behind its 4.7", 320 ppi screen, it's got a quad-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2 GB of RAM, and comes in either 8 GB or 16 GB models.


    A couple of other strong points are its 8 megapixel rear-facing camera, and the fact that it supports wireless charging.


    If you're looking for detailed specs, TechCrunch has a pretty complete list for both devices here.


    Meanwhile, we'd like to know what you think about Google's new Nexus devices. Are you planning to get one? Both? How do you think they live up to all the hype? Leave your opinion in the comments section.




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  • Apple’s determination to remain different may finally have backfired. It seems the Lightning connector has brought back to life an old argument over universal standards.


    Back in 2009, 10 major cellphone manufacturers agreed with the European Union that there needed to be one standard design for the connectors that charge cellphone batteries. A universal connector would give a much longer shelf life to chargers if the ones purchased today would still work with the devices designed down the road.


    These manufacturers agreed to use the micro-USB charger design that is used with almost every type of mobile device – except Apple products. While Apple was one of the 10 manufacturers to agree to the universal standard, it decided to show compliance through the use of an adapter. While everyone else designed their equipment for the micro-USB connector, Apple kept their 30-pin connector as the standard for all their devices.


    Now, Apple has shown their continuing commitment to their own design with the introduction of the Lightning charger. But now Apple’s competitors aren’t the only ones irritated by the company’s ongoing rebellion. By redesigning their connector (which definitely was long overdue), they’ve forced all their current customers to buy new hardware in order for their equipment like docking stations and chargers to work with the next and future generations of iPhones, iPads, iPods, iMacs… you get the idea. We’ll give Apple a (very) small bit of credit for the Lightning adapter, but still, it’s another few bucks out of your pocket.



    Apple no doubt is a believer in the “wow” factor. They don’t want to just make consumers happy. They want to knock us off our feet with style, innovation and technology. Apple may have seen their loyalty to a proprietary connector as necessary to maintain the Apple aura.


    Apple’s connectors do more than charge and sync. From a single port all Apple equipment can be connected to every other one, and with an adapter, that same port can also output these devices to non-Apple equipment like an HDMI television. With most of the other micro-USB compatible equipment out there, you need separate ports – one for charging and one for connecting (and a lots of other functions.) More ports add bulk and can make Ironman’s suit look like the Incredible Hulk is wearing it.


    Apple is going to always behave like they own the sandbox, and as long as they’re making more money than anyone else, they can. Maybe we don’t want to stop them, either. Even now, none of their competition has truly matched the style and quality inherent in most Apple products. It’s good for us that they keep trying, though.



    This post was posted in Apple and was tagged with 30-pin connector, Apple connectors, Lightning connector, Lightning adapter

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