Apple for the second consecutive year won the Harris Interactive’s “Brand of the Year” award in three categories. The company beat out rivals including Google, Samsung and Amazon to earn the award for its MacBook computers, iPad and iPhone. Apple’s computers led HP, Dell and Sony, while the iPad bested Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices, Google’s Nexus tablets and Samsung’s various Galaxy tablets. The iPhone was the top brand for mobile devices, ahead of HTC, Samsung and LG. Verizon was also awarded top prepaid carrier of the year for the second consecutive year and top mobile network for the third year in a row. Harris Interactive’s press release follows below. More →
The Los Angeles school board signed an agreement with Apple in June worth $30 million that will see students in the Los Angeles Unified School District receive a free iPad. According to CiteWorld, the program will launch this fall with 31,000 iPads being delivered to the district. By 2014, the program will expand to 640,000 tablets, accounting for all students in the district. The tablets will come preloaded with educational applications and other programs to assist students with their studies. The program hopes to prepare students for the real world by exposing them to new technology that may not be available in their households.
Google confirmed in June that it had acquired social navigation company Waze. Initial reports had suggested that Google may have paid up to $1.3 billion for the company, however the actual amount was revealed to be significantly less. The Associated Press reports that Google paid only $966 million for Waze and its team, which it plans to merge with its mapping division. It was also revealed that in the second quarter of 2013, Google acquired seven other smaller companies for a total of $53 million. Google previously said that it plans to integrate Waze’s traffic features and crowd-sourced data into its Google Maps service, while continuing to build and work with community of users that made Waze great.
Apple’s next-generation MacBook Pro with a Retina display may launch later than expected. According to a report from the China Times, a refreshed version of Apple’s high-end MacBook won’t ship until October. Earlier reports had claimed that the computer would arrive in mid-to-late September. The latest rumors suggest that the next-generation MacBook Pro with a Retina Display will be thinner and more powerful than the current model. The new notebook will also reportedly feature Intel Haswell processors that will improve battery life by 50% and a full HD FaceTime camera. Prices for the 13-inch and 15-inch models are expected to be in line with current-generation models.
Google is building a mobile translator that will one day make traveling around the world a breeze. Hugo Barra, Google vice president of product management for Android, revealed that the company is in the early stages of developing a “real time” translation tool, The Times reported. He noted that his team has created “tons of prototypes,” adding that he plays with the device “every other week to see how much progress we’ve made.” While the technology may be a few years away, the executive said the system is “near-perfect for certain language pairs”, such as English and Portuguese, and has “close to 100% accuracy” in a room with no added noise. Poor microphones or noisy environments, however, are still proving troublesome. Bara hopes to one day integrate the system with the company’s Google Now service on mobile devices.
A new report suggests that Chromecast may just be phase one of Google’s plan to take over the living room. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company showcased a prototype of an Android-powered set-top box to select individuals as early as the Consumer Electronics Show this past January. The device, which was reportedly similar to Apple TV, is said to have included a video camera and motion sensors that would allow owners to use Google’s Hangouts service for video conferencing. Other features reportedly included the ability to download Android apps, play games, watch movies and TV shows from the Play store, and stream content from services like YouTube. The device was being shown off by then Android chief Andy Rubin and was reportedly set to launch at Google I/O in May. It is unclear if the device was scrapped for the recently announced Chromecast TV dongle, or if it might arrive somewhere down the road.
The United States government has accused five men from Russia and the Ukraine of masterminding the largest hacking scheme in U.S. history, The Wall Street Journal reported. The group allegedly hacked NASDAQ, Visa, J.C. Penney, 7-Eleven and JetBlue, among other companies, from 2005 until early last year. The men are accused of illegally obtaining roughly 160 million credit and debit card numbers, and allegedly stealing more than $300 million from at least three of the companies they attacked. The men are said to have scouted various retail locations to discover any vulnerabilities in their payment-processing systems. They are also accused of installing unauthorized software on corporate computers that granted them back door access to the systems at a later date. Two of the men are in police custody, while three others are on the loose and considered fugitives.
Apparently Google TV isn’t dead, despite Google’s announcement of the Chromecast streaming device. Google revealed in a post on Thursday that partners will continue to launch Google TV-enabled HDTVs and boxes, adding that it is “working with partners to bring the latest experience of Android and Chrome to devices later this year.” The company believes that “there is ample room for both products to exist and succeed.” Warren Rehman, a Google employee working on Google TV, later confirmed that Google is planning to bring the Chromecast wireless streaming feature to Google TV devices later this year.
Fresh off Google’s announcement that it will launch a Textbook section in its Play store, a new report claims HP is planning a low-cost tablet to target the back-to-school crowd. According to Digitimes, HP and Walmart will partner to sell a $99 Android tablet in the coming weeks. The device is said to be equipped with a 7-inch display and a single-core Intel Medfield processor. HP will be the first major vendor to release a sub-$100 tablet, which some industry insiders believe could pressure other companies to follow suit. The low-end specs, however, will make HP’s new tablet a harder sell than devices like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire. Google on Wednesday announced that it has partnered with the five largest textbook publishers — Cengage, Wiley, Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Macmillan – to allow customers to buy or rent discounted digital textbooks. The company’s new education hub will launch in August.
A new report claims that LG’s upcoming flagship smartphone will be available on Verizon in the coming months. According to Korean news outlet The Kyunghyang Shinmun, LG will launch the G2 in South Korea in early August, in North America sometime in September, and in Europe and other markets by October. The publication cites an unnamed LG executive who claims the G2 will arrive in the U.S. on Verizon. Recent FCC filings have revealed that both AT&T and T-Mobile will also offer the smartphone at some point this year. The latest rumors suggest that the G2 will be equipped with a 5.2-inch full HD 1080p display, a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 13-megapixel rear camera. LG is expected to announce the device at a press event on August 7th.
Shares of Facebook have surged more than 25% since the company reported second-quarter earnings ahead of Wall Street’s expectations. Facebook’s growing ad business helped the company pull in $1.81 billion in revenue, however a new report suggests that those same ads are hampering the user experience. A report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, per Business Insider, revealed that more than a quarter, or 27%, of Facebook users believe ads are negatively affecting their experience on the site, compared to 23% of LinkedIn users and 12% of Twitter users. More →
Google’s new Chromecast device lets iOS and Android smartphone and tablet owners wirelessly stream content to their TVs. It it also compatible with Chrome browsers on Windows and OS X, and Chrome OS devices. The small dongle, which was announced at a press conference on Wednesday, plugs directly into the TV through the HDMI port. At $35, Chromecast is an affordable and convenient way to watch your favorite online content on your TV. But as appealing as Chromecast sounds to many consumers, it may not sit well with some TV executives. More →
Nokia this week unveiled the 4.7-inch Lumia 625, the company’s largest Lumia smartphone to date. A new leak may confirm earlier reports, however, that Nokia is looking to go even bigger. An image published recently by anonymous industry insider C Technology revealed what is said to be the front panel from an upcoming 6-inch Lumia smartphone. The device is reportedly in mass production and is expected to launch later this year with the Windows Phone 8 GDR3 update, which will add support for full HD 1080p displays and quad-core processors. The leaked image follows below. More →