Category Archives: Tablet PC

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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New FreedomPop plans to transform LTE tablets into phones

Further blurring the lines between devices – as if the distinction between them isn’t already blurry enough in this day and age – California-based service provider FreedomPop has announced plans to debut new plans, coupled with inexpensively priced LTE tablets for those who want them, that will rock connectivity features that will make them the equal of smartphones, at least as far as usage is concerned. Intrigued? Read on!

Samsung GALAXY Tab 3 8-inch Android tablet PC
Calling, texting, and surfing… on one of these babies (and others)

Free voice, data and SMS ahoy

For those of you from the States who love freebies and who hanker after better voice and data service, FreedomPop may be just what the doctor ordered, so to speak. Not only will the company’s new plans feature free data, they’ll also offer free voice and SMS, thanks to a new feature that allows for users to associate unique phone numbers with their FreedomPop tablets. It’s an interesting workaround that will allow those using tablets to use them just like phones. (Hopefully not to the extent that they hold up their tablets to their faces in public to make calls and all that jazz, but we digress.)

Wait, how much data, voice and SMS, you ask? 500 MB of data, 200 voice-minutes and 500 texts. Not unlimited, but not too shabby.

FreedomPop apparently wants users to use their LTE-powered tablets however they see fit or are most comfortable. Not only will these tablets feature telephone features, for instance, they’ll also allow their users to communicate seamlessly using apps like Uber or WhatsApp – apps that require a device phone number. Not bad, eh?

What units are available?

Okay, we’re sure many of you are suspecting that the catch is that the only tablets available will be no-name tablets, or brand-name tablets but which are so iffy that they might as well be no-namers. Not to worry – FreedomPop will (initially at least) sell two LTE-powered tablets, namely the iPad mini ($319) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 ($199).

But you don’t have to buy a unit from them to get access to these plans: the company says that users who already have LTE tablets can also sign up for these new plans.

source [BGR]

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NPD DisplaySearch: Quarterly slate shipments decline for the first time

If quarterly tablet shipments are any indication, it seems that tablets may not be as white-hot as almost everyone thought they would be – at least, not as hot as they used to be. Research firm NPD DisplaySearch said that at 56 million units, shipments of tablets in the first quarter of 2014 were lower than in the same quarter in 2013 – the very first time that such a decline has taken place.

NPD DisplaySearch logo

Seven-inchers are slumping, according to NPD DisplaySearch

While this is partly due to delays in the launch of new products, it’s emerging that seven-inch tablets are doing poorly. According to Hisakazu Torii, vice president, smart application research at NPD DisplaySearch, “Tablet PC demand in 2014 is being impacted by falling demand for seven-inch-class sizes in emerging regions and in China, where many local white-box brands have experienced lower-than-expected shipment growth.”

Why could this be the case? Experts say that competition from phablets is dampening demand for smaller tablets. Moreover, this competition is expected to reduce demand for these tablets through 2018. The report said that unit share for tablets 7 inches to 7.9 inches got as high as 58% in 2013, but that is as high as it will probably get; NPD expects this figure to decline in 2014 and beyond.

And what, then, about the much-ballyhooed saying that tablets would kill the PC? As Adrian Kingsley-Hughes reports for ZDNet, shipments of notebook PCs were actually up in 1Q 2014 – purportedly better than expected thanks to the commercial PC refresh cycle and migration of users to Windows XP. So maybe tablets aren’t going to be the PC killers that they were purported to be after all.

Improvements on the horizon

However, this doesn’t mean that tablets will be completely out of the picture; NPD also says that larger tablets, those 8 inches and above, will start booming, with shipments of 8 to 10.9-inch units overtaking those of smaller units by 2018, while shipments of 11-inch and larger tablets will exceed 10% of the market by that same year.

(We add that these are shipment projections and not sales projections – sales figures are another animal altogether. But please do stick with us to keep abreast of developments in this sphere.)

source [ NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report]

via [ ZDNet]

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Apple shifting some microprocessor production to TSMC

Apple’s been dependent on Samsung as a supplier of some of its most sophisticated components, like microprocessors, for years. But a change may be in the air: we hear that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. or TSMC has begun shipping its first batch of microprocessors to Apple. What’s more, Apple and TSMC have already agreed to work on “more advanced chips next year”. Read on to learn more!

TSMC Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. logo

A key development

Make no mistake, this is quite a significant development. Samsung has been Apple’s only supplier of microprocessors, dating all the way back to the 2007 launch of the iPhone – and this marks the first time that any other company is shipping Apple microprocessors. It’s not for lack of searching, of course; Apple’s been trying to reduce its reliance on Samsung over the past few years, but it’s found more than once that few other companies can match Samsung’s skill at churning out high-quality components to scale.

As a result, TSMC stands to see a big boost to its bottom line; analysts reckon that this new deal inked with Apple represents no less than 10% of TSMC’s revenues.

Sayonara, Samsung?

This news comes of course against the backdrop of a shift in the Apple-Samsung relationship. While Apple has continued to be one of Samsung’s best customers over the years, the two have also become tough competitors, as Samsung has successfully managed to develop smartphone and tablet lines of its own. Apple has hauled Samsung to court more than once over supposed patent infringements; although it may have won most of those battles, Apple has been forced to continue to rely on Samsung to provide microprocessors for its popular devices.

Additionally, of course, although it does continue to be the world’s top Android manufacturer, things aren’t all rosy for Samsung at present. It’s blamed increasing competition from Chinese manufacturers for its below-par profits (just a few days ago, we heard that profits for the last quarter could be as much as 25% below those in the same quarter last year). And what with Google’s upcoming Android One initiative – which will result in cheap Android phones becoming even more competent and Google-compliant – and Apple’s upcoming big-screen iPhones, the pressure on Samsung will only increase.

Will this deal with TSMC be the beginning of the end for this longtime business relationship? And will Samsung be able to do anything to counter these developments? We’ll just have to wait and see.

source [ Wall Street Journal]

via [ BGR]

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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 and LG to sell a Project Tango tablet in 2015

Hold on to your beanies, tech boys and girls. At the recently concluded Google I/O, Google announced that it and LG are partnering to bring a tablet running the pioneering Project Tango 3D mapping and modeling device to the market as soon as next year!

Google Project Tango

Cool, but what’s Project Tango?

OK, for those of you not in the know, Project Tango is an initiative of Google’s Advanced Tech and Projects (ATAP), which was formerly part of Motorola and was retained after Google sold Motorola to Lenovo. ATAP is tasked to craft and roll out next-gen, cutting-edge tech and devices. For its part, Project Tango focuses on combining purpose-built hardware and custom-created software (built using Android as a foundation) to generate real-time 3D maps of the world.  Advanced stuff, but only available at the eye-opening price of US $1,000 and change.

Why LG? Those of you who’ve been following the tech and gadget press know that LG is a trusted partner of Google – it’s been tapped to craft two Nexus devices, among others. Working with a partner such as LG will help Google leverage its hardware creation expertise and, we think, will also help ensure that the price of the tablet will be somewhat more palatable than the current one.

As for what you can do with such a device, well… Imagine being able to scan a room precisely and exactly just by standing in the center and activating your tablet, and then, say, switching décor and furniture to see exactly how it might look without even needing to lift your head – or doing the same with a garden or a commercial space. Imagine playing games that seamlessly incorporate both people and things around you – even those that are in motion. And so on, and so forth.

When and how much?

Well, we’re as excited as you all are to find out when this super-tablet will drop and how much it’ll go for, but no details are available just yet. We feel certain that Google and LG are working hard to bring it to market as soon as possible, though, and at a price that’s far more palatable to the public.

via [ Tablet-News ]

source [ Android and Me ]

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Viva “Volantis”! Here’s the Rumored HTC 8.9” Nexus Tablet

All the uncertainty about the Nexus lineup notwithstanding, HTC seems to be continuing to work on the next-generation midsize Nexus tablet for Google. Android Police has just posted information regarding the HTC’s rumored 8.9-inch Nexus tablet, the “Volantis” (its other name appears to be “Flounder” – perhaps not the best name for the latest member of a lineup whose future might be on the rocks, but we digress.)

HTC Volantis Nexus Android Tablet PC
image via androidpolice.com

Some hot “Volantis” (rumored) stats right here

The specs are really quite appealing – Android Police claims that the Volantis’ 8.9 inch screen will possess a 2048 x 1440 pixel resolution and will be powered by the NVIDIA Logan 64-bit processor, making it something of a powerhouse. What’s more, the tablet’s body is also said to be noteworthy; it’s supposedly made of aluminum and will boast zero-gap construction.

The Volantis will supposedly be just 0.79 cm thick and will weigh 418 grams. That’s for the Wi-Fi version; the LTE version is said to weigh only a tiny bit more, 427 grams. Stereo front-facing speakers make the Volantis a gaming and multimedia lover’s delight. The cameras don’t seem particularly powerful, however, at just 8 MP (main) and 3 MP (front-facing), if you’re the kind of person for whom megapixel count matters. Neither does the 2 GB RAM nor the 16 GB/32 GB of internal storage impress, although, again, this isn’t too far off from what you get with similar tablets.

Shut up and take my money!

If you’re sold, you may want to set aside US $399 for the 16 GB or US $499 for the 32 GB Wi-Fi versions of the Volantis. Further, LTE connectivity will supposedly cost quite a bit more (possibly as much as $600 and up). Of course, as Android Police notes, the pricing may very well change between now and the launch date.

Android Police adds that the Volantis’ will be no mere product launch when it happens; it’s rumored to be the launch device for the next version of Android (“Android L”) when it’s purported to drop in Q4 2014. (It seems a bit unrealistic to expect the Volantis to be introduced at Google I/O, which is only a few days away.) Further, Android Silver, as many experts have already said, may well be the death knell of the Nexus program, but given that the Silver products may not be introduced until 2015, a couple more Nexus devices to keep the lineup fresh may be in the offing.

Then again, who knows? Everything here could be correct, only some of it, or none of it at all. Only time will tell – and come visit us again for more on the HTC Volantis!

source [ Android Police ]

via [ Tablet-News ]

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PiPo tablet line with Rockchip RK3288 CPUs coming up

Chinese tablet maker PiPo is reportedly cooking up a new tablet PC line armed with Rockchip’s newest CPU, the RK3288. The new line is slated to be introduced at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair in April, and though the rest of the details are still a little vague, let’s check out what we can expect, shall we?

PiPo tablet PC with Rockchip RK3288

Rockchip’s RK3288 CPU

So what do we know about Rockchip’s brand spanking new chip? Well, it is a quad-core processor based on the ARM Cortex-A17 architecture. It clocks in at 1.8 GHz, and packs a Mali T-764 graphics processing unit that can reportedly support OpenGL ES3.0, OpenCL1.1 and DirectX11. It has H.265 hardware decoding with a 4K x 2K video decoder.

Impressive, is it not? We have to admit, it is not quite as impressive as higher end CPUs like the Qualcomm Snapdragon, Intel Bay Trail-T, and Nvidia Tegra 4, but this wasn’t exactly designed to go up against those heavyweights. Instead, it’s made to feature in mid-range devices like PiPo’s new slates. Also, the RK3288 is quite an improvement from Rockchip’s last gen RK3188, as it reportedly is 50% zippier than the latter.

PiPo’s new line of tablet PCs

According to gadget site Liliputing, PiPo is planning three tablet PCs with the new chip. The new line will feature 8.9-inch, 9.7-inch, and 10.1-inch slates. The 8.9-inch and 9.7-inch tablet PCs are expected to have 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution displays, while the 10.1-inch slate will have a higher 2560 x 1600 with support for 4K video playback. As mentioned above, details about the new line are still quite vague. The rest of the technical specifications and features are expected to be made official in April.

Additional notes

So what else can we expect? Considering Rockchip’s popularity with Chinese manufacturers, the Rockchip RK3288 is expected to feature in more tablet PCs in the future and we may see them in the HK Electronics Fair too. What do you think? It certainly looks promising, at least on paper. We will have to see the RK3288 in the flesh to judge how it performs in real life conditions. But judging from the promised specs on these, we have to say, the future looks bright for low cost tablet PCs.

We’ll keep our eyes peeled on PiPo’s new line and other tablets that may feature Rockchip’s CPU so stay tuned.

via [ Tablet-News ]

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Is Google going for a Nexus 8.9?

According to a report from CNET, Google is gearing up on its plans to make a Goldilocks-sized Nexus 8.9. Let’s check it out, shall we?

Google new Nexus 7 Tablet PC (2013)
Will the Nexus 7 have a slightly bigger brother this year?

Nexus 8.9 in the works?

In an email to CNET, Rhoda Alexander, Director, Tablet and Monitor Research at IHS Technology, said that Google is planning an 8.9-inch tablet PC slated for release later this year. The interview covered a few important things about this rumored slate, so let’s break it down.

Production is going to start in July or August. This means that we will probably see this tablet PC – if the statements hold water, that is – in time for the holidays. Alexander indicated that HTC may be the manufacturer behind this upcoming Nexus tablet.

The Google Nexus 8.9 is going to be a premium, “high performance” device. According to Alexander, this baby is expected to have high end specs. She also indicated that production will be limited, and as a “lower volume product” the Nexus 8.9 will have a higher “price tag to support the specifications.” She did not have any information about the pricing, but she did say that the slate may become available upwards of US $299.

The new Google Nexus 7 is in the works too. Alexander said that they “still expect to see a 3rd generation of the Nexus 7 product at some point in 2014 but do not have any confirmation of actual contracts for such a product at present.”

Other Notes

Unfortunately, juicy details like specs and features were not discussed. Judging from the current market though, the Google Nexus 8.9 would have a number of strong competitors – and it’s not even out of the gates yet. There’s the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 on one end, and of course, the Apple iPad mini with Retina Display on the other. Samsung also has the upcoming Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4.

All three have premium specs, including the most blindingly crisp displays anywhere, and premium price tags as well. Will Google go down this route? Right now, it looks like it. This 8.9-incher may be what most people have been praying for, so we’re not complaining. We’re interested to know more about this baby, but we will have to wait for further confirmation. Until then, we will have to file this bit in the rumor bin.

source [ CNET ]

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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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