Category Archives: Tablet OS

New Google Now launcher available for Android 4.1+ devices

The good folks at Google have just made a new Google Now launcher available for all phablets, tablets, smartphones and what have you that run Android versions 4.1 and up. Not sure if this is something you should be taking advantage of (or not clear what an application launcher is)? This article’s right up your alley then.

Google Now Launcher at Google Play
Say it with me, “OK Google.”

The 4-1-1

The Google Now Launcher replaces the home screen and application drawer of devices it’s installed on, with the same home screen and drawer that Google debuted on the Nexus 5 in 2013. You get unique wallpapers as well as voice controls that can easily and quickly be activated when you say “OK, Google” when you’ve got your home screen activated.

Like many tech experts have mentioned, the new Google Now Launcher isn’t really an application launcher per se. It’s only a replacement for your home screen and application drawer. Any modifications that your phone’s manufacturer or that your carrier have made – to the notification center, the settings menus or the quick settings panel, for instance – aren’t going to change. The Launcher merely ties in to code that’s already been shipping with the Google Search app.

Why does it exist?

So why is Google releasing this new app? Well, given the vast array of Android devices available and how different one can be from another – even within the range of devices sold by one brand, such as Samsung – Google wants to try and ensure a consistent experience across devices, at least as far as launchers are concerned. By having folks with compatible devices install this new Launcher, Google wants to try and make sure their devices feel closer to the stock Android that ships on the Nexus devices.

Of course not everything will feel stock, given that – at this point at least – Google can’t make everything look and feel the same; it’s just a launcher after all. But this is an interesting start.

So, are you going to download and install the new Launcher? Search for it on the Play Store and install as you like, and then see if the stock Google experience – as far as launchers and application trays go, at least – is for you.

source [Ars Technica]

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iOS 8 beta 3 now available for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Are you an iOS user and do you like to live dangerously? If so, then you might be interested to learn that the third iOS 8 beta is now available for download. Read on to find out more about this newest preview version of Apple’s upcoming mobile operating system!

iOS 8 icon

Bug fixes aplenty – but plenty of issues still…

iOS 8 beta 3 provides fixes for some rather serious bugs that dogged those who downloaded the first two betas. While there are too many to mention in this article (and you should head down to our source link to check out Apple’s changelog), we’ll give you a couple of examples. For instance, Apple says that battery life issues that may have reared their ugly heads in the first two betas are fixed here. The company says that “extensive console logging of [the NCLaunchstats feature] may be a cause of reduced battery life”, and suggests a workaround: users should launch the Notification Center and then reboot the device.

Another example of a fixed issue: lock screen problems that became evident in the earlier two betas, and which prevented devices from waking when the home buttons were pushed. Apple’s workaround, in such cases, is to use the sleep/wake/power button.

There still are quite a few issues – iOS 8 is very far from being a finished product. For instance, one known issue is that tapping Emergency on the lock screen has no effect. Apple says that location-based recommended apps will not display on the lock screen.

… but the outlines are getting clearer

So you get the picture, we hope – the iOS 8 beta 3 is really nowhere at this point from being ready for downloading and installation across Apple-dom. It’s far too raw and there are really too many issues plaguing it. But hey – Apple’s far from claiming that it’s ready for widespread release, and the company does warn would-be installers about these issues and others like them.

Additionally, and more importantly, these and other issues notwithstanding, iOS users who brave the problems and pitfalls associated with installing a far-from-finished OS can take an early peek at Apple’s next version of its mobile operating system. Yes, there are issues – significant ones – but the outlines of Apple’s OS magnum opus are becoming clearer and more visible. We can’t wait to see how iOS will end up just a few short months from now.

(Once again, if our warnings have failed to dissuade you from wanting to give the iOS 8 beta 3 a try, register and/or sign inand download away!)

source [ BGR]

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Attention! A possible location data leak involving your Android tablet or phone

The tech world hasn’t quite gotten over Heartbleed and many of the latest data leak scandals, many of them involving location data. Not to be alarmist, but there might be a new one, and it might involve your Android device. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released a report saying that Android devices less than three years old may be inadvertently broadcasting their location history to people and/or other devices within Wi-Fi range.

Location data leak: I see where you’ve been

More specifically, the Foundation says that the names of wireless networks that a device has linked to in the past are what may be vulnerable this time around – from the names of networks in homes and workplaces to cities and travel destinations. The Foundation argues that this leak could potentially be more dangerous than previous ones, because the data that’s vulnerable – wireless network names – is clearly mentioned in human language.

In the tests the Foundation conducted, it discovered that “many of the modern Android phones we tested leaked the names of the networks stored in their settings (up to a limit of fifteen). And when we looked at these network lists, we realized that they were in fact dangerously precise location histories”. It traced this behavior to a feature introduced in Honeycomb known as Preferred Network Offload (PNO), which allows tablets and phones to maintain Wi-Fi connections even in low-power mode (when their screens are off).

The Foundation hastens to say that some other devices, including those running older versions of iOS, were affected (no devices running iOS 7, however, were vulnerable). Ominously, the Foundation added that many laptops were affected, including “all OS X laptops and many Windows 7 laptops”, but because laptops aren’t usually awake and scanning for networks while they’re being carted around, extracting locational history from them would be significantly harder.

A purported solution

The Foundation ends by offering a workaround – users can access their devices’ “Advanced Wi-Fi” settings and set the “Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep” option to “Never”. This, however, would cause an increase in data usage and power consumption. But would this be sufficient to stop a data leak? We’ll keep you posted.

source [ Electronic Frontier Foundation ]

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Xiaomi to put up Android ecosystem for tablets

Chinese tech firm Xiaomi, the formidable maker of smartphones – and soon enough, tablets – isn’t resting on its laurels and is looking at ways to cement its success. Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s CEO, has said that the company won’t just make Android devices (and equip them with its MIUI firmware), but will also focus on developing an Android ecosystem that will help bring its tablets more in line with those of American firm Apple.

Xiaomi Logo

Combating malware, focusing on quality

In an interview with DigiTimes, Lei Jun was quoted as saying that “the lack of a healthy ecosystem was the main problem holding Xiaomi back, and now Xiaomi is stepping up to try to establish an Android tablet ecosystem that is able to compete against Apple’s iPad”. He further pointed out that Android tablets are far from difficult to manufacture in terms of hardware, and that the main challenge faced by the industry is the lack of good quality and the low number of apps, including games.

Furthermore, as DigiTimes points out, even though Android tablet vendors have released many different kinds of tablets of differing sizes and specifications and at a wide range of prices, “none of these vendors appears willing to nurture an ecosystem for the Android tablet market” – which is why Xiaomi has decided to embark on this initiative.

Reality check

However, as many of our fellow tech pundits have pointed out, despite what Lei Jun was quoted as saying, this would be far from the first time that a tech manufacturer has decided to take on such a responsibility. LG has put one of its own up, which hasn’t gained too much traction, and so has Samsung – and despite Samsung’s vast resources, even its own efforts to set up an app store of its own have as yet not been very successful.

But this is Xiaomi we’re talking about – the tech firm that’s come so far in such a short time, one whose offerings sell out in mere minutes and are snapped up by its raving clientele – so it might yet be successful where others have fallen short. Let’s see how it all works out (or doesn’t, as the case may be).

source [ DigiTimes ]

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Microsoft Office apps for Android tablets in the works

Microsoft under the new fellow at the helm, Satya Nadella, is appearing far more dynamic than it’s been in years. The latest wrinkle in the company’s unfolding saga is that it’s currently hard at work readying the Microsoft Office software suite specifically designed for Android tablets, in keeping with its new initiatives. Read on to find out more about this new Microsoft development!

Microsoft Office logo

Microsoft Office for tablets, after iOS – but before Windows Phone

Our tech-savvy readership will doubtlessly remember that the software giant has already released Android-compatible Microsoft Office apps. We hasten to remind them that these apps will work with Android devices in general, including phones, of course, and are not specifically designed for tablets. This new bunch of apps will be intended for Android tablets – we suppose they’ll be taking full advantage of the extra screen space.

This, in the wake of Microsoft’s release of its Office for iPad suite – as The Verge says, that was the first of the company’s tablet-focused initiatives. Interestingly enough, “Office for Android Tablets”, or whatever its final name will be, will end up beating Microsoft’s own touch-enabled Office suite for its own Windows Phone devices to market. The latter are scheduled to be released in early 2015.

Beta testing ongoing

The Verge further quotes “sources familiar with Microsoft plans” who’ve told the website that the company is currently readying a private beta test for this upcoming version of Office. Microsoft, say these sources, is taking in participants (apparently in the U.S.A.?) via a special pre-release program. Those interested in testing beta versions of this and other versions of Office can make a beeline for the Microsoft SharePoint site to register their interest to do so.

All this is right in line with Satya Nadella’s efforts to refocus Microsoft around mobile and the cloud. As such, as many media outlets have already reported previously, Microsoft will not simply be stuck to one OS – “will not be bound to one app, one device, in one place”, in Nadella’s very own words – but is doing its best to try and make sure that it’s just a download away for anyone who’s using any major platform.

source [ The Verge ]

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Google rolls out Android 4.4.4 KitKat security-focused update for Nexus tablets, smartphones

If you’re the proud owner of an Android device, listen up. Google’s begun to make available a new over the air (OTA) update for your devices, starting with the Nexus tablets and phones – just a couple of weeks after the last one, 4.4.3, was released to great fanfare. Beginning yesterday, Android 4.4.4 KitKat (KTU84P) updates have been released, in the form of factory images, for a slew of Android devices including the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10.

And no, this isn’t the Android 5.0 update we’ve all been hankering for and wondering about – far from it. This is a new and unheralded update to Kitkat, one that has to do with security.

Android KitKat
image via zdnet.com

The dirty deets on Android 4.4.4 KitKat

Various sources around the web say that 4.4.4 repairs recently uncovered vulnerabilities in OpenSSL, which is of course one of the most popular libraries that supports the secure communications protocols known as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security).

More specifically, 4.4.4 was crafted especially to deal with the bug known as CVE-2014-0224. This is a bug that allows for what’s known as a “man in the middle attack” – yes, that kind of attack in which attackers set up independent linkages with two parties (or a server and a client) trying to communicate with one another and relays messages between them, with them believing they are communicating directly, whereas that is not at all the case.

So, yes, Android 4.4.4 KitKat is important – we’d say, vital, even. (Funny how some sites are saying that this is a minor update when it was created to deal with a dangerous bug.)

What to do now?

We should have more information on Android 4.4.4 soon – we hear that more information will be released very soon. Stay stuck!

Or, of course, if your device/s is/are already supported you can flash the factory image if you’d like to enjoy 4.4.4 now; conversely, just wait for the OTA update to be released. Either way, keep an ear to the ground and make sure you upgrade to 4.4.4 when you can; this sort of vulnerability can really prove problematic if you don’t do your due diligence to ensure that your beloved device/s is/are safe.

[ via Liliputing ]

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“Evidence” of Touch ID addition to updated iPads found in iOS 7.1

Apple’s range-topping iPhone 5S is currently the company’s only device featuring the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Various analysts, including KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo, have said that this might not be the case for too much longer; earlier in April, Kuo predicted that Apple’s newest tablets, the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display, would both gain the feature in 2014.

Now, as reported by iDownloadBlog, French iOS developer UNiCORN – bp_unicorn on Twitter – may have found concrete evidence that this addition really is about to take place.  UNiCORN claims to have unearthed a reference to Apple’s iPad family in the Touch ID resources in the iOS code.

Buried in the code

The full tweet is visible at https://twitter.com/bp_unicorn/status/459410216107257856. But here’s a screenshot of the image UNiCORN attached to the tweet:

image from @bp_unicorn, Twitter

 Hold your horses?

However, as other experts have hastened to explain, such references to the iPad have already existed in past updates to iOS, and said feature has yet to see the light of day on any of the existing iPad models.

Moreover, as iDownloadBlog points out, iOS code often incorporates such “hooks” for features that seemingly never end up making it to the devices or models in question. Why, therefore, should we think that these particular snippets of code should be any different, and should thus be worthy of any attention?

A potential revenue booster

According to other experts, given Touch ID’s purported reason for existence – or at least one of them – it makes precious little sense for Apple NOT to incorporate Touch ID fingerprint sensors in its latest iPad models.

Over the years, nearly 1 billion have signed up for iTunes accounts with Apple – most of whom have registered their credit cards with Apple. A wide range of experts have said that the addition of Touch ID could be just what Apple needs to provide these users with a quick, easy and secure way to purchase goods and services online, and thus transform not just its smartphones, starting with the iPhone 5S, but also its tablets into portals through which these users can be converted into buyers.

Let’s wait and see how things turn out.

[Via iDownloadBlog]

[Source: bp_unicorn on Twitter]

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3 Awesome Tablet Developments You May Have Missed

Technology has always moved at such a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ pace that sometimes we feel that something had been sprung upon us while we were napping under rocks. Since the tablet space, or better yet the mobile space, had been enjoying something of a golden age these past couple of years, this tends to happen a lot. Here’s a round-up of tablet developments you may have missed in the recent months.

Windows Embedded 8 Handheld

About a dozen posts back, we talked about Panasonic’s phone-sized ToughPad, the FZ-E1. Apart from being made to withstand higher than normal abuse – drops from a height, dives into 1.5 meter deep water – this baby packs a Windows Embedded 8 Handheld operating system.

Panasonic ToughPad FZ-E1 and FZ-X1

What is this sorcery?

Gone are the days when devices for enterprise use just allow for sending emails or reading documents – and gone are the days too when enterprise equates to Blackberry, but that’s another story all together. These days, businesses need a platform that offers Point-of-Sale (POS), and inventory management, among other things. Devices with this OS are equipped to handle such things and therefore pack features like barcode and magnetic stripe readers.

Okay, so this doesn’t really affect you too much as say, Windows Phone 8.1, but it does look promising. Can you imagine a future-world where you don’t have to queue at the cashier to pay for your purchase? All you’d need to do is locate a store employee, pay, and be on your merry way.

source [ PocketNow ]

Everything-in-One and Dual-Boot

The only real way we can explain the rise of do-it-all devices, convertibles, and dual-boot slates is that manufacturers are trying to cure option paralysis. That or they take into account all of those comments. You know, the ones that go, “I would totally buy this if it came with an active digitizer/a keyboard accessory/a cup holder” or “This would be better if it had Windows 8.1/Android 4.4 KitKat/some other Linux distro.”

Asus Transformer Book Duet TD300 Windows and Android hybrid Tablet PC

A lot of these are already on the market, including the Asus Transformer Book Trio, while others are still on the drawing board like the Toshiba 5-in-1 concept PC.

The Asus Transformer Book Duet, slated for release in May, mixes up Windows and Android operating systems with convertible capabilities. The question on our mind is, ‘Will these jack-of-all-trades devices prove to be masters of none?’

True Octa-Core

So MediaTek has finally released their new chip, the MT6592, and they’re calling it the “true octa-core”. It has actually made its way to a few tablets and phones. How is this different from other octa-cores like the Samsung Exynos Octa? Well, instead of having four main cores and four auxiliary cores, the MT6592 has 8 main cores.

What is this sorcery?

The MT6592 crams 8 low-power ARM Cortex-A7 cores into a neat package that allows all eight cores to work at the same time. We’ll allow the graphic to explain the rest:

MediaTek Octa-Core Processor

Of course, whether or not MediaTek’s chip works better than say Qualcomm’s or Samsung’s chips is arguable – since you know, the latter options have the luxury of being associated with higher end devices. If anything, this development can prove awesome for the low and mid-range devices. Can you imagine a US $200 tablet with octa-core? That would probably fly off the shelves, but since we don’t know how much this will potentially cost manufacturers, we’ll file it under “Wishful Thinking”, at least for now.

Read more: [ Engadget ]

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Android 4.3 Jelly Bean: Everything You Need to Know

During Google’s event last July 24, they not only unveiled a thinner, faster, and better Nexus 7, they also unleashed a new version of their operating system to go with it – Android 4.3. Dubbed as “an even sweeter Jelly Bean,” it’s not just a cosmetic update to Google’s latest dessert-flavored OS.

Google Android 4.3 Jelly Bean Operating System

Android 4.3 Changelog: Fixes and Features

Okay, first off, here’s the changelog:

  • Bluetooth Low Energy support
  • Bluetooth AVRCP 1.3 support
  • OpenGL ES 3.0
  • Restricted access mode for user profiles
  • Improved DRM APIs
  • Easier text input
  • Faster user switching
  • Hebrew and Arabic RTL support
  • Background Wi-Fi location
  • Dial pad auto-complete
  • Support added for five more languages
  • App-specific developer options
  • Developer logging and analysing enhancements
  • System level support for Geofencing and Wi-Fi scanning APIs
  • Security enhancements
  • Added fine-grained application permissions controls
  • Camera view changed
  • Google Play Music updated
  • Bug fixes

Looking at the changes, a couple of features stand out. One of which is DRM APIs, which will basically improve the services of video streaming companies (like Netflix). It will let you stream 1080p HD video on your Android 4.3 phone or tablet PC without irking copyright holders or anything like that. Another good new feature is “Restricted access more for user profiles.” It’s basically parental controls, so you can set up multiple user profiles on your Nexus 10 and prevent your kids from using some apps, games, and content. You can do this on a per-user basis, so you can open up more apps for your teenager, but restrict more for your ten year old.

When will I get it?

Android 4.3 has been rolled out to certain devices, though the first to come with it out of the box is Google’s second generation Nexus 7 (2013 version). Google devices, including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, first-gen Nexus 7, and Nexus 10, are the first in line to get the update. Updates are also lined up for the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition and the HTC One, but those will come from Samsung and HTC.

Android 4.3 is a minor update to the Jelly Bean version, but as usual, you can expect better performance and user experience. We’ll probably have to wait a little longer for Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie, but 4.3 should tide you over until then.

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Android Key Lime Pie: Google’s New OS

Android Key Lime Pie is the next serving of Google’s dessert-themed operating system, version 5.0. Just what can we expect from this upcoming OS? Read on to know more.

Android Key Lime Pie: Google’s New OS

Android Key Lime Pie: What We Know Now

For one thing, tech pundits have heavily speculated that Android version 5.0 may debut together with the second coming of Google’s wildly successful Nexus 7. As rumor has it, the second gen Nexus 7 tablet will be coming in July – or at least, within the year. We really can’t say for certain yet, but if FCC filings and speculation are to be believed, then July is a safe bet. Others speculate that we may see the it in the upcoming Nexus 5 smartphone, which is rumored to be scheduled for July. Anyway, what do we know about Android Key Lime Pie?

According to Android Central, Google is working with the Linux 3.8 kernel. If the kernel makes it to the updated version of Android, we may see lower RAM usage and therefore better performance and multitasking. Less RAM usage would also allow Key Lime Pie more legroom in devices with say, only 512 MB of RAM – meaning it may be available in a wider range of devices.

When are we going to see this operating system?

Little else is known about Android Key Lime Pie, and speculation is of course running wild on the Internet. We’d have to wait for a proper announcement to know exactly what would be included in the OS and what improvements would be made. We like the idea of the latest Android version being made available to devices with lower specs; it would certainly bridge the gap between those that still operate Gingerbread and those with higher versions.

Like always, we’ll keep you updated on the latest news regarding this so watch this space. In the meantime, we have a few ideas of what we’d like to see on the new Android, including better multitasking, definitely, and maybe a feature for blocking those annoying app update prompts. How about you? What would you like to see on Key Lime Pie? Sound off below!

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