It’s no secret Sony (SNE) is preparing to announce a 5-inch Android-powered smartphone to compete with Samsung’s (005930) successful Galaxy Note lineup. As is the case with all of the latest smartphones, Sony’s 5-inch phablet code-named “Yuga” has been extensively handled and benchmarked before the company even acknowledges its existence. According to Russian site Mobile-Review, specs for the Yuga include a display with a 1920 x 1080 pixel-resolution and a pixel density of 440 pixels per inch, a quad-core processor, a 12-megapixel camera, 2GB of RAM, 4G LTE and a plethora of ports including a microSD card slot, Micro HDMI, Micro USB. On the software end, the prototype phone was tested running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. More →
Have an old Kindle Fire lying around? Don’t trade it in just yet because with a little bit of tinkering, you can turn it into what amounts to a Google (GOOG) Nexus 7. XDA-Developers user “Hashcode” has written up instructions on how to install Android 4.2.1 on an original Kindle Fire with almost every feature intact. If you can live without the microphone (sound still works), deep sleep mode, Swype keyboard, multi-user profiles and USB camera support, then you’re good to go. All of the major tablet features including hardware-accelerated HD video for YouTube and Netflix (NFLX) work smoothly, and Liliputing’s hands-on video suggests the transformation works really well for browsing and games. The only downside is the battery life is not very good. True, you won’t get the Nexus 7′s higher-resolution display or sleeker design either, but it’s still a handy way to repurpose an old tablet. More →
Little by little, Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox SmartGlass app is becoming more useful. Microsoft Director of Programming for Xbox LIVE Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb announced on Monday the release of the Sports Picks app, which allows users to “make picks, compete with your Xbox LIVE friends and fight for domination of the leaderboard.” Xbox SmartGlass also has new ESPN and NBA Game Time experiences that provide second-screen information and navigation to “thousands of live events, highlights and replays” during a game. Xbox SmartGlass is compatible with dozens of existing Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8 smartphones and tablets as well as Windows 8-compatible mobile devices. The new update to Xbox SmartGlass is the latest in Microsoft’s attempts to position the Xbox 360 as the ultimate living room device.
DIY developers adore the $35 Raspberry Pi and huge communities have enabled the Linux-powered computer to do cool things like emulate Super Nintendo games and run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. What’s next for the cheap computer? The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced it’s launching the “Pi Store” – an app store created in partnership with IndieCity and Velocix. Anyone will be able to download and upload their own apps to the Pi Store for consideration according to Raspberry Pi’s website. The Pi Store will have 23 free apps at launch as well as paid content. As with the success of the Raspberry Pi itself, the Pi Store’s success hinges on the community’s support. The Pi Store can be accessed here.
Ready for another standalone Facebook (FB) app? AllThingsD is reporting the 1 billion users-strong social network is testing its own version of Snapchat, a messaging app that lets users send messages that self-destruct after a set time. Snapchat is now commonly known as the “sexting app” because it ensures there’s no digital paper trail left behind. According to AllThingsD’s report, Facebook’s Snapchat competitor will be very simple to use. Once the app is open, users will see a list of current messages between friends and holding down a finger on a thread will activate a timer for a specific message. The app will reportedly launch “sometime before the end of the year.” As with all of Facebook’s apps, the new Snapchat clone will likely be available for free on iOS and Android.
As just about every major smartphone maker gears up to introduce their own 1080p-resolution Android “phablets,” one platform that apparently won’t be getting larger screens with higher resolutions is Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Phone 8. According to Bloomberg, HTC (2498) canceled plans to build a large-screened smartphone with Windows Phone 8 “because the screen resolution would have been lower than competing models” – 720 horizontal lines instead of 1080. The company recently released the Android-powered DROID DNA with 5-inch 1080p-resolution display in a svelte chassis and had plans to “claw back share from Samsung Electronics Co.,” with a large-screened WP8 smartphone. But Bloomberg reports HTC concluded large-screened WP8 phones “wouldn’t be competitive against Android devices from HTC, Samsung and others.” More →
With its app development situation improving, Microsoft (MSFT) announced this week that it has expanded its Windows Phone Store to 37 new markets around the globe, bringing the company’s app store presence to 191 total markets. Alongside the new regions, Microsoft also revealed that its WindowsPhone.com Web Store is accessible in 112 markets. Coinciding with the new market launches are new features: Universal search to make content discovery easier, app installation to SD cards (for when an Internet connection is not available), and a new reinstallation feature that makes transferring account information less troublesome. More →
Although Google+ hasn’t turned out to be quite the Facebook (FB) ”killer,” Google (GOOG) is still very serious about expanding its social network. The company announced on Friday an upcoming update to its Google+ Android app with new features for “including on-the-go profile editing, an easier way to author content, and a subtle notice when there’s new stuff to read.” Google is also adding some killer photo features: up to 5GB of full-sized photos can be backed up for free via Instant Upload and Android 4.2′s 360-degree “Photo Sphere” panoramas can be shared to the mobile stream. More →
This week has been a very good one for Research In Motion (RIMM) and BlackBerry 10 news. First there was the teaser by RIM, then a detailed leak from Vietnam, followed by a mouth-watering video walk-through leak. And now the company has released a new video with Vivek Bhardwaj, Head of Software Portfolio for BlackBerry showing off BlackBerry 10′s touchscreen keyboard. As BlackBerry purists know, nothing beats a physical keyboard, until maybe now. Bhardwaj says the keyboard on BlackBerry 10 is visually designed to look and feel like a physical BlackBerry keyboard with frets in between key rows “maximized edge-to-edge.” The keyboard is also more intelligent and personalized, automatically learning words based on your vocabulary for future suggestion. The keyboard’s also got a cool contextual awareness feature that automatically adds spaces between words when you need to rapidly type something out. Bhardwaj says the software knows how to infer where the spaces should go and that the content awareness is smart enough to switch between several languages such as English and Spanish. We’ve posted the full video below, and the new keyboard capabilities look awesome.
Smart TVs, particularly Samsung’s (005930) last few generations of flat screens, can be hacked to give attackers remote access according to a security startup called ReVuln. The company says it discovered a “zero-day exploit” that hackers could potentially use to perform malicious activities that range from stealing accounts linked through apps to using built-in webcams and microphones to spy on unsuspecting couch potatoes. Don’t panic just yet, though. In order for the exploit to be activated, a hacker needs to plug a USB drive loaded with malicious software into the actual TV to bypass the Linux-based OS/firmware on Samsung’s Smart TVs. But, if a hacker were to pull that off, every piece of data stored on a Smart TV could theoretically be retrieved.
Ridiculous sizes aside, oversized smartphones (“phablets”) that border on tablet territory are here to stay. By next year, the crop of smartphones with 5-inch displays will seem tiny compared to phablets with 6-inch+ screens. According to The Korea Times, Samsung (005930) is reportedly planning to launch the Galaxy Note III with a 6.3-inch OLED display in 2013. By comparison, the current Galaxy Note II has 5.5-inch display. Huawei also (002502) confirmed last week it will release a Galaxy Note II competitor with a 6.1-inch screen. Having pioneered the “phablet” category, Samsung might see no problem with consumers adjusting to even bigger smartphones. More →
Hot on the heels of its email redesign, Yahoo (YHOO) announced on Wednesday that it has completely redesigned the Flickr iPhone app. The new app borrows heavily from Instagram and focuses on what makes Flickr special: photos and communities. Yahoo’s new Flickr app also includes 16 filters with their own fancy names to go head-on with Instagram and Twitter’s recently updated app that added eight filters. Users can now access the Flickr app with numerous accounts including Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG) and photos can be shared to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or via email. The new Flickr app is available for free on iPhone but to our disappointment, there isn’t an iPad-optimized version. More →
The beauty of Instagram is its simplicity and lack of advertisements. But if comments made by Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s (FB) vice president of global marketing solutions are accurate, advertisements could be coming to Instagram in the near future. When asked if Facebook would put ads on the photo-sharing app and micro social network, Everson said that “eventually we’ll figure out a way to monetize Instagram.” Given Instagram’s explosive growth since Facebook acquired it in April for $1 billion, it makes sense for the social network to expect a return on its investment. Everson didn’t mention a specific timeframe for when Facebook plans to monetize Instagram, but said that many brands are using the platform to engage with followers and that monetization was definitely “going to happen.”