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Internet Glue Service IFTTT Launches On Android With Deeper Integration Than iOS

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The Internet connection and automation service IFTTT is launching on Android today, and it offers a deeper set of integrations with the OS than their iOS offering. This, of course, is due to Android’s more laissez-faire attitude when it comes to allowing apps to extend their tentacles into core OS functions.

If you’re unfamiliar with IFTTT or what it does, we’ve covered it a ton because it’s really useful. It allows you to hook together various internet services and mobile OS components to create recipes that do things for you automatically. Mixing and matching these components can lead to some pretty clever and time-saving tools.

The arrival of IFTTT on Android comes after a longish period of waiting, during which the company acknowledged that it was coming several times, but each time noting that it wouldn’t be just yet. I asked CEO and co-founder Linden Tibbets whether that was due to technical barriers or a matter of resources available to get an app they liked out of the door.

“Really a matter of resources,” he said. “There are many people, especially here in Silicon Valley that are “Apple/iOS passionate” developers. It’s much harder to find someone with the same level of passion for Android, though that is quickly changing. We really lucked out and found Jordan Beck who lives and breathes Android!”

Perhaps (somewhat ironically) thanks to Apple’s right turn in design language last year, the app itself fits in well with IFTTT’s overall aesthetic, mating up nicely with the iOS 7-friendly version for iPhone and iPad. I’ve been playing with it on the Nexus 5 and it scales up to a larger screen pretty handily. All of the major functions of IFTTT are there, with a few additional treats because Android is more permissive in general.

“Android apps have much deeper access to device level functions like volume, WiFi, and wallpaper images. You can also do really cool things around your phone call and SMS logs,” says Tibbets. He notes that you can finally send an SMS as yourselfrather than to a friend from an impersonal ‘IFTTT’ sender as you do on iOS. “Android also gives developers a number of useful hooks, called intents, that allow for running a process in the background right after an event happens, like taking a photo. Overall, this means much faster Recipes for Android specific Channels,” he adds.

The major Android-specific channels include ‘Device’, which allows access to triggers based on connecting or disconnecting from WiFi networks and actions like setting wallpaper or ringer volume based on those conditions. There are also location, notification, phone call, photo and SMS channels, each with their own set of OS tendrils and possibilities.

Sending a text to your wife when you leave work, for instance, allows you to attach your name directly to a text to a loved one, rather than from an impersonal service. Here’s an interesting one that turns all of your Phillips Hue lights into Red Alert mode when you miss a call, and another one that appeals to me that sends an SMS back to a person leaving a voicemail letting them know you don’t check your inbox.

The Android version of IFTTT looks like a nice addition to the stable of apps and the Web presence, with the additional benefit of getting a glimpse of what IFTTT is able to do on mobile with a bit more freedom. You can snag the app here.

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


The OnePlus One Offers Top-Tier Android Phone Specs At $299

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Not all smartphones are created equal, but the new OnePlus One (not to be confused with that other One, the HTC One) is roughly equivalent on paper with some of the most expensive smartphones in the world, albeit with a price that puts it much more within reach than most of those. The OnePlus One starts at $299 for a white 16GB version, and will also offer a 64GB variant in black for $349 when it goes on sale in mid-May. It’s a Nexus-killer, with more impressive specs at more affordable prices, running CyanogenMod for a highly customizable user experience.

The OnePlus One features a Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz quad-core processor, like the one powering the Samsung Galaxy S5, 3GB of RAM, a 5.5-inch IPS 1080p display protected by Gorilla Glass 3, a 13MP rear-facing camera supplied by Sony capable of recording 4K video and a 5MP front-facing shooter. It features a 3100mAh battery, offers dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, plus a wide range of GSM, WCDMA and LTE band support.

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The phone isn’t without its downsides – the battery isn’t removable and there’s no microSD card slot for storage expansion, but the use of CyanogenMod as its OS is interesting in itself. OnePlus is founded by former Oppo VP Pete Lau, where he spearheaded preloading that Android fork on the company’s N1 flagship device. The One is emblazoned with the Cyanogen logo on the back, as well as an etched OnePlus mark too, and offers tons of customization options, open access and the ability to flash ROMs, SMS encryption and more out of the box.

The mid-may launch date is for Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States. While it’s hard to crack the stranglehold of the top OEMs in the smartphone market, this upstart definitely presents a compelling case – we’ll have to see if that’s enough to rouse consumers from their current OEM comfort zones.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/android/~3/09gdmt0M_aU/


The OnePlus One Offers Top-Tier Specs Android Phone Specs At $299

0 comments

Not all smartphones are created equal, but the new OnePlus One (not to be confused with that other One, the HTC One) is roughly equivalent on paper with some of the most expensive smartphones in the world, albeit with a price that puts it much more within reach than most of those. The OnePlus One starts at $299 for a white 16GB version, and will also offer a 64GB variant in black for $349 when it goes on sale in mid-May. It’s a Nexus-killer, with more impressive specs at more affordable prices, running CyanogenMod for a highly customizable user experience.

The OnePlus One features a Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz quad-core processor, like the one powering the Samsung Galaxy S5, 3GB of RAM, a 5.5-inch IPS 1080p display protected by Gorilla Glass 3, a 13MP rear-facing camera supplied by Sony capable of recording 4K video and a 5MP front-facing shooter. It features a 3100mAh battery, offers dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, plus a wide range of GSM, WCDMA and LTE band support.

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The phone isn’t without its downsides – the battery isn’t removable and there’s no microSD card slot for storage expansion, but the use of CyanogenMod as its OS is interesting in itself. OnePlus is founded by former Oppo VP Pete Lau, where he spearheaded preloading that Android fork on the company’s N1 flagship device. The One is emblazoned with the Cyanogen logo on the back, as well as an etched OnePlus mark too, and offers tons of customization options, open access and the ability to flash ROMs, SMS encryption and more out of the box.

The mid-may launch date is for Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States. While it’s hard to crack the stranglehold of the top OEMs in the smartphone market, this upstart definitely presents a compelling case – we’ll have to see if that’s enough to rouse consumers from their current OEM comfort zones.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/android/~3/09gdmt0M_aU/


Google Camera App Brings Lens Blur Background Defocus To Any KitKat Android Devices

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Google has a new standalone camera app available in the Google Play app store, and it can be installed on any smartphones or tablets running KitKat 4.4 or higher. The new app will also be rolling out to other devices in the future according to Google, so that might expand beyond just KitKat to those on other versions of Android.

The app offers a 100 percent viewfinder to show you exactly what you’re shooting without blocking the view with interface elements, and also offers a few trick modes for taking pictures including Lens Blur, Panorama, and Photo Sphere. Lens Blur offers background defocusing effect like those introduced by most smartphone manufacturers on their latest generation flagship smartphones, so it’s nice to see that kind of stuff democratized.

The Lens Blur feature in practice is kind of tricky to get right, as it required you shifting your phone upwards while remaining centered on your focal point. Samsung’s requires holding your phone in the same place for a while but produces more reliable results in my experience, and HTC’s needs its dual camera hardware in the new HTC One M8 but offers up strangely similar finished products. If used in the right circumstances, Lens Blur works remarkably well at mimicking the kind of depth of field you can capture from DSLRs.

Photo Sphere offers the ability to capture full, 360 degree immersive snapshots and is an extension of the kind of feature you’ll find from Panorama, but not limited to the horizontal plane. It’s the first time Google has made this available to non-Nexus devices, so check it out. I tried installing this on a Galaxy S5 without issue, and it’s a nice alternative if you’re not a fan of or are overwhelmed by the options of the stock offering of whatever device-maker you’ve chosen. Some users on Twitter report having issues getting the app to recognize your phone’s camera hardware, but a quick reboot should do the trick.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/android/~3/OLOwAmZ7J1w/


Google’s I/O Registration Lottery Happens April 15 – 18: May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor

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Google is doing something different with registration for its 2014 I/O Developer Conference this year. The company isn’t doing first-come, first-served this time around, which has resulted in a crazy scrum and a lot of server errors in the past, but instead will open a full two-day window during which anyone can sign up, after which Google will choose randomly from the entire pool of applicants.

If that sounds like they’re leaving a bit too much to chance, console yourself with this fancy new I/O website Google created, which includes an interactive “Experiment” that’s pretty high concept, but possibly signals some of the areas of focus of this year’s show. Machine learning looks a likely subject, and possibly exoplanet exploration, though that last one might not be the central concern of all that many developer sessions.

Even if you don’t get picked to play at I/O in person, Google is offering live streaming video of keynotes and sessions, and there are going to be a set of I/O Extended events taking place at various locales around the world for people who like the human touch but can’t make it all the way to SF. Details regarding these Extended events will be released soon, Google says.

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


Samsung Galaxy S5 Review: More Evolution Than Revolution Despite New Hardware Features

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The Galaxy S5 (or S 5, if you ask Samsung) is the company’s latest flagship phone and sure to be a swift seller. The phone is, in its own way, beautifully designed and the materials, while clearly plastic, are durable and should maintain a luster over time. Is this an iPhone replacement? No, but it is a replacement for the S4 that should please shoppers already predisposed to Samsung and Android.

Video Review

Basics

  • 5.1-inch, 1920×1080, 432 ppi display
  • 16/32GB storage, 128GB expandable via microSD
  • 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, LTE
  • 16MP rear camera, 2MP front facing camera
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • Fingerprint reader, optical heart rate monitor
  • MSRP: $199.99 on 2-year agreement, $650 off-contract
  • Product info page

Pros

  • Heart rate monitor is genuinely handy, especially for aging population
  • Latest TouchWiz UI is best-designed yet

Cons

  • Still feels like a plastic phone
  • More misses than hits with fingerprint scanner

Design

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is not a revolution in industrial design. It looks like the GS4, with a bit of influence from the Note 3 that Samsung released last fall. The unit I tested had the black pebbled faux leather back, which is surprisingly pleasant to both touch and look at, and the phone is rimmed with a faux metal plastic border that reminds me of something from a 50s diner stool. It’s not the refined, all-metal design of the HTC One M8, but it is appealing in its own way. I still think Samsung would do well to join the big boys like Apple with use of high-quality materials, but if we must have plastic, then this is the plastic I’d opt to have.

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One advantage of the plastic: the back, at least, is relatively durable and drop-proof. Also, the phone is remarkably light, especially given that whopper of a display it’s packing. Plus, this is a water-resistant phone that doesn’t look like a water-resistant phone (read: it isn’t bulky) so that’s a plus. The USB flap door that ensures completely IP67 environment protection is a pain, however, given the frequency with which you’ll have to fidget with it to charge and connect to your computer.

Features

Samsung has refined TouchWiz, and the My Magazine feature on the Galaxy S5 is a nice way to get your social and news fix in one place, reminiscent of the BlinkFeed feature on HTC’s Sense UI. The built-in Samsung apps all get updates this round, but the best new features on the device are, surprisingly, the ones that sort of seemed glommed on unnecessarily.

The heart rate monitor Samsung included on the device uses pulse oximetry to detect a person’s heart rate through their finger tip. The concept is surprisingly simple, and my veterinarian brother says they’ve been using the tech to find your pet’s heart rate for years; essentially, it shines a light through the capillaries in your finger tip, taking snapshots of the size of the blood vessels within in rapid succession, to detect how engorged they are and then translating that into a number representing beats per minute. It’s a highly accurate measurement method, and indeed in testing it returned results that made sense given my relative level of activity, caffeination, time of day and more.

The fingerprint sensor is also interesting. It works decently well, but has a higher failure rate than Apple’s Touch ID sensor, at least when used natural with a one hand grip, swiping the thumb down from the screen over the sensor pad. This makes it suboptimal for use with unlocking the device, but used as a specific security tool for unlocking sensitive data within apps, or for authorizing payments, both of which are possible since Samsung makes the hardware feature available to third-party devs, it becomes a lot more interesting.

That said, both of these features are unlikely to make a splash in your daily life. The heart rate monitor is a handy shortcut for aging users who need to keep tabs on their cardiovascular health fairly regularly and change their behavior accordingly, but for the most part, it’s little more than a neat trick to pull out at parties and then quietly forget about.

Of the software features included on the Galaxy S5, the best is probably Milk Music, which is for U.S.-customers only and offers streaming radio, ad- and subscription-free. The service works great as a replacement for terrestrial radio thanks to its auto-start, dial-based discovery interface that required minimal user input to get to the music, and it has an impressive library of tracks thanks to Samsung’s use of Slacker Radio to power the service. Milk Music is available to any recent Galaxy device, however, so it isn’t necessarily a reason to buy.

Display

Samsung’s GS5 display is definitely a sight to behold, but it’s very hard to impress in the display world these days – or too easy. In terms of display quality related to pixel density and the crispness of text and graphics, I haven’t been able to discern a difference since Apple introduced its Retina display on the iPhone 4. The Galaxy S5′s screen size is impressive, however, and makes for a great way to watch mobile video thanks to full HD resolution and a 5.1-inch diagonal surface area, all in a phone that manages to still not feel overly large for a pocket.

Is it the best screen in the smartphone business? Very possibly. Is it a huge improvement over the GS4′s screen? For most users, no, and in fact, it actually has less pixel density than its predecessor. If screen quality is a key decision point for those considering an upgrade from last year’s model, then keep that wallet closed; the GS4 still has an excellent screen, and the GS5 hasn’t made any strides in that regard to merit an expensive upgrade. Plus, as with seemingly every Android device, auto-brightness still has major issues getting things right. Apple seems to be alone in divining the secret sauce for properly dimming and brightening your display based on ambient conditions.

Camera

The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S5 benefits from the company’s alter-ego as a camera maker, and works very well in optimal conditions, with fast autofocus and high res 16MP captures. But it still doesn’t fare all that well in low-light situations, the bane of all mobile cameras, and some of the features new to the GS5, while impressive from a tech standpoint, leave a lot to be desired.

Specifically, the focus selection option on Samsung’s phone is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it produces great final results, letting you create portraits with background blur that look like they were taken with much more expensive cameras with fancy interchangeable, wide aperture lenses. On the other hand, they take a long time to capture, which makes getting candids with them near impossible, and taking portraits an exercise in “wait, no don’t move yet, it’s still processing.”

The trade-off for your patience is that the photos are much better in terms of overall quality than the selective focus pictures captured with the HTC One M8′s Duo Camera (which captures images much faster though). But the effect can be replicated on other devices, including the iPhone, using third-party camera apps, so it has a lot less value as a selling feature for the GS5 over other handsets.

Battery

The battery on the Galaxy S5 is removable, so that’s already a big advantage over some of the competition. It bumps up capacity over the GS4′s power house by 200mAh, which puts the total at 2,800mAh. In practice, it improved things over the GS4 and gave a full day of use under normal to high circumstances, but the HTC One M8 still outperformed it overall. The GS5 doesn’t offer any quantum leaps in battery tech, in the end, but if you like having the option to swap, it’s there with the GS5, and not with the One.

Bottom Line

The Galaxy S5 offers some genuinely useful stuff that the Galaxy S4 doesn’t, with extreme water and dust-protection (which really works, based on a brief 30-second submersion test and use in a fairly strong downpour) that should give most users a lot of extra peace of mind. It also increases the screen size even further, refines the look and feel of the all-plastic case and improves the onboard camera. You get some extra hardware widgets on this new model, both of which feel a little like kitchen sink additions.

Overall, though, the Galaxy S5 can’t help but feel like a dressed up Galaxy S4. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and new users will be very happy with their purchase. It might not be enough to convince existing device owners to upgrade, however, and if you’re on the fence between this and other devices like the HTC One M8 or the upcoming iPhone, it’s probably best to wait it out or try competing devices in person. I stand by my declaration that the One is the best Android smartphone currently available, but Samsung’s GS5 is a close contender for the crown.

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


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