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Android Wear Update Adds Offline Music, Bluetooth Headphone And GPS Support

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Android Wear is getting its first big update, with features that make smartwatches using Google’s wearable operating system more standalone devices, including music syncing and GPS location support. That means if you leave your watch at home while you go out for a jog, you’ve still got access to sweet jams, and your watch can still tell you where you are, and how to get home.

The GPS features will work so long as an Android Wear device has the necessary hardware, which means no current shipping Android Wear watch can take advantage of them yet. The first Wear-powered smartwatch coming to market with GPS support is the Sony SmartWatch 3, which is up for pre-order starting today at Verizon’s website, and which lists a shipping date of October 30. Google says it’ll start selling the SmartWatch 3 via the Play Devices store soon, too.

Offline music storage is a feature that everyone can enjoy, and it’s also bundled with support for audio Bluetooth accessory connections. That means you can take your wireless headphones with you when you hit the trail, and your tunes, and leave your phone behind. Those features require the updated version of Google Play Music to work, but that’s also now available for download.

Google is also doing a discovery push to help surface more Android Wear software to users. It introduced eight new app collections to make the process of finding software for your wearable easier, and these include Health Fitness, Travel + Local, Tools, and more. A breakdown of apps by category is a sure sign of maturation for any software marketplace, which means that either the volume of apps has increased enough to warrant a need for this, or a desire on Google’s part to make discovery easier in order to spark downloads. Likely, both are motivating factors.

This Android Wear update was promised by Google back in September, alongside official support for developer-created watch faces, which is still coming at a later date in a separate update. Even though both were already on the roadmap, there’s no question that adding as many features as possible to Android Wear ahead of a competing platform launch from a certain fruit-logo’d competitor is very much to Google’s benefit, and to the benefit of Android in general.

Apple’s Watch platform will support activity tracking and workout data, but it won’t have dedicated GPS built-in, and statements on Apple’s website specify it using your iPhone GPS and Wi-Fi connections to track your distance moved. The Apple Watch will be able to store music on your watch for play independent of the iPhone, however, and will be able to connect to a Bluetooth headset, as revealed by Apple CEO Tim Cook in an interview with Charlie Rose from September.

Android Wear updates like this one will help Google turn the platform into a better draw both for hardware partners and for consumers, and the ‘iterate-in-public’ approach could help existing Wear device owners feel like they’re getting device upgrades without additional investment.

If you’ve got an Android Wear device currently, Google says the update should be rolling out to Moto 360, LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live hardware soon, so keep an eye out for a software update notification card on your wrist in the near future.

Image credit: Greg Kumparak

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/android/~3/4RGzGS07pAo/


Hands-On With The Nexus 9 Tablet

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The Nexus 9 in a nutshell: it’s big, and it’s beautiful.

I got to spend a few fleeting minutes with the device this afternoon, and though we plan to have a full review in the coming days, I thought I’d share my initial thoughts.

Like the jump from Nexus 5 to Nexus 6, there’s a pretty huge spike in quality and build feel from the Nexus 7 to the Nexus 9. The predecessor never felt cheap, mind you — but the new guy just feels great. The Nexus 9 is expected to cost $200 more than the Nexus 7 ($400 vs. $200), and it certainly feels like a pricier device.

With that said, it’s hard to look at the Nexus 9 and not see an iPad. It was easy to avoid with the Nexus 7, with its 16:10 (read: widescreen) display. By switching to a more traditional 4:3 aspect ratio, the Nexus 9 instantly looks a whole lot more like its closest competition.

Is that a bad thing? Not really. Outside of the devout fanboys, no one should really care. Use whichever device you like, and let them squabble amongst each other about the similarities.

Anyway: build quality, device heft, platform performance — at a cursory glance, it all seems top notch.

Android Lollipop runs like butter — for our impressions there, and for our experience tinkering with the wonderfully shiny Nexus 6, click right over here.

A few neat things to note about the Nexus 9:

  • You can now double tap the screen to wake it up, rather than having to hunt for an unlock button.
  • The new multitasking view found in Lollipop is quite impressive, particularly on tablets. While I wasn’t able to get it to work on-the-fly in my video above, many apps (like games) can be ‘pinned’ to the screen. In doing so, you make it so that whoever is using the device is unable to leave the application without entering your password. It’s great for handing the tablet off to kids, or whoever, and it takes all of a single tap to enable.
  • There’s a new guest mode that creates a temporary, sandboxed user account on-the-fly. Create the guest account, hand it to a friend, and all of your stuff is protected. When they’re done, tap a button and the account is gone. I’ve been asking for this for 2 1/2 years now, so you can imagine that I’m quite pleased.

[Videography by Kyle Russell]

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/android/~3/v2pNZio25E8/


Nokia Brings Its HERE Maps App To All Supported Android Phones

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This August, Nokia, the Finnish company that remains after selling its handset business to Microsoft, rolled out new versions of its HERE mapping product to Samsung smartphones, powered by both Android and Tizen. However, at the time, the company wouldn’t provide an ETA as to when other Android devices would gain access to HERE maps. That day, as it turns out, is today.

According to a post on Nokia’s HERE blog, HERE for Android is today available for all supported Android smartphones. The company says it’s testing as many devices as possible, but the general rule is that the smartphone should be running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or higher. For best results, the phones should have 1 GB of RAM or more, and a screen size between 4 and 6 inches.

Nokia has not yet launched HERE for Android on Google Play, however. Instead, users are directed to “side-load” the app onto their phones from Nokia’s website or by side-loading the app to the phone from a PC. (Instructions for both are posted on Nokia’s site.)

Ostensibly, the decision to stay out of Google Play for now is because the new mapping application is still in beta testing, and Nokia wants more time to take in feedback, criticism, and bug reports before releasing the app more broadly. The app launching today is not without its glitches, after all – for one thing, Nokia says it found that some Android “cache cleaner” applications actually wiped out the navigation voices in the HERE app, and a fix is still a few weeks out.

Nokia’s HERE maps launched on Samsung shortly after the company lost its leader Michael Halbherr, who stepped down as CEO of HERE in August, following flat sales.

HERE maps are only one of the remaining Nokia’s remaining businesses, and it includes the consumer-facing maps apps that run iOS, Windows Phone, Tizen and now more broadly on Android, as well as the mapping deals which see HERE used on websites and mobile devices such as Microsoft’s Lumia devices.

Historically, Nokia prefers a partnership strategy, which could be another reason why the app has not yet launched into Google Play – it could be that mobile testers are wanted to help Nokia clean up the code before it signs deals with other Android smartphone distribution partners beyond Samsung.

HERE maps, for those unfamiliar, grew out of the company’s acquisition of Navteq in 2007, and offer a viable alternative to maps from Google or Apple with traffic, weather and transit data in addition to maps for some 200 countries, turn-by-turn navigation, business and place search, offline access and more.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/android/~3/yvsF4sm2v38/


Gmail For Android Will Soon Support Yahoo Mail, Outlook And Other Email Services

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Use email? Own an Android device? Not a fan of Gmail? There’s good news coming your way.

Google is preparing a major update for Gmail for Android that will, among many things, finally handle email accounts from other service providers, such as Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo and AOL [mandatory disclaimer: AOL is, of course, the owner of TechCrunch]. That’s according to the sleuths at Android Police, who discovered evidence of a redesigned app that is expected to launch soon.

You can glimpse a look at the unified Gmail app for Android in the video tour below, which was surfaced by Android Police.

The refreshed looking app — which follows Google’s new Material Design language — includes round icons, a clean and bright design and, most notably, said support for third-party email accounts.

We expect this update to roll out this week and suspect that this update has been anticipated by loyal Google customers for some time. Apple’s iOS has long supported multiple email accounts, so you Android folks out there will finally get on par — although, to be honest, if you’re still using antiquated email services today, then you’ve only got what you deserve up to this point.

That’ll be one less excuse for not responding to your boss’s email, anyway.

Headline image via Cairo / Flickr

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/android/~3/49C3nX93POs/


Android Lollipop Easter Egg Casts Andy The Android As Flappy Bird

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Android 5.0 Lollipop is coming soon, and shipping on Google’s new Nexus hardware, but a newly discovered Easter Egg in the build is already available in the developer preview. The hidden, fun feature in Android 5 is accessible via the Settings menu, with repeated tapping on the Android version number listing, and gives users the chance to play through an Android Lollipop-themed version of the viral hit Flappy Bird.

The game looks fun and diverting, and it’s included in Android 5-running devices for free. This isn’t the final shipping version of Lollipop, and we’ll have to wait until we get our hands on some new Nexus hardware before we can verify it makes it through to that version, too, but generally speaking, Google does offer some kind of Easter Egg in its shipping software updates.

Unlike Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen, however, whoever was responsible for this game at Google probably won’t have an apparent existential crisis, pull the software, go into hiding in Vietnam and return later with sequels that have nowhere near the viral potential of the original.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/android/~3/T0HdzdPvoZA/


Gmail for Android will soon support Yahoo Mail, Outlook and other email services

0 comments

Use email? Own an Android device? Not a fan of Gmail? There’s good news coming your way.

Google is preparing a major update for Gmail for Android that will, among many things, finally handle email accounts from other service providers, such as Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo and AOL [mandatory disclaimer: AOL is, of course, the owner of TechCrunch]. That’s according to the sleuths at Android Police, who discovered evidence of a redesigned app that is expected to launch soon.

You can glimpse a look at the unified Gmail app for Android in the video tour below, which was surfaced by Android Police.

The refreshed looking app — which follows Google’s new Material Design language — includes round icons, a clean and bright design, and, most notably, said support for third-party email accounts.

We expect this update to roll out this week and suspect that this update has been anticipated by loyal Google customers for some time. Apple’s iOS has long supported multiple email accounts, so you Android folks out there will finally get on par — although, to be honest, if you’re still using antiquated email services today then you’ve only got what you deserve up to this point.

That’ll be one less excuse for not responding to your boss’s email, anyway.

Headline image via Cairo / Flickr

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/android/~3/49C3nX93POs/


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