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23 Dec 12 Today’s Google Play surprise: The Polar Express


A lot of our readers haven’t exactly been thrilled with the surprises that Google Play is rolling out to celebrate the new year, and we can’t exactly blame them.

Yesterday, the surprise was the app version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. At least developer Oceanhouse Media went the extra mile to put all of its other Dr. Seuss apps on sale as well. Still it’s not the $0.25 apps that a lot of folks wish it was.

Today’s deal is the Caldecott Award-winning picture book The Polar Express, discounted to $2.99 from its normally hefty price of $18.95. There’s no denying that this is a substantial discount, but given some of the other sales that big names like Square Enix are offering themselves, it seems like these may not be the deals that most users want.

If you do like today’s deal, and want to pick The Polar Express up while it’s still discounted, hit the Google Play link in the sources section below.

What do you think? Does it warm your heart to see the discount on The Polar Express? Or would you rather see deals like those we saw this time last year?

SOURCES Google Play

sprint-100-american-express-card Deal: $100 American Express Reward Card available with every Sprint smartphone purchase: Galaxy S3, EVO 4G LTE, iPhone and others google-play-happy-hotelidays Google Play counting down to 2013 with a new deal every day Google-Longest-Day-Deals Google Play’s Longest Day Deals is on, dozens of apps and games discounted google-play-free-live-stones Today’s Google Play surprise: Free Live Stones

Kristofer Wouk is a tech writer, gadget reviewer, blogger, and whatever it’s called when someone makes videos. In his free time, he likes to make music, read and write short fiction.

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31 May 12 Dear Android App Developers, Can We Quit With the Menu Button Already and …

You see that massive, ugly black bar across the bottom of my HTC One X? Yeah, that would be the menu button that Android app developers refuse to move away from even though the Android team announced back in January that the death of the menu button was happening.

What they were hoping to accomplish with this move was a more consistent experience on Ice Cream Sandwich devices because going forward, Android was moving away from dedicated hardware menu buttons. Instead of coding your app to use a dedicated hardware menu button, they recommended that you take advantage of the action overflow capabilities in Android 4.0, which is essentially a menu button that is added to the app rather than one that is tied to a navigation button. If you do not code your app to use action overflow and instead tie it to a navigation button, you get the experience I have captured above if no menu button exists. 

Here are a few examples of apps still using the menu button, one being a Google app. And these aren’t all of them either, Foursquare, Hootsuite, ESPN Scorecenter, Sonos, Amazon MP3, Huffington Post, LinkedIn, and so on all continue to use a dedicated menu button with their apps. The list is enormous, and as you can tell, we aren’t talking about some tiny one-man operation here. These are the big boys that are failing to follow Android guidelines.


How should it work and why this move? Well, Google got half way there in their Reader app. As you can see from the screenie below and above left, the top right corner includes a 3-dotted button that is the action overflow area. When pressed, you get additional options that you would normally find when pressing a menu button. It makes sense to use this approach since ICS was built for multiple screens, some of which do not have hardware navigation buttons at all. If you code your app to use action overflow and it is tablet and phone compatible, you get the same experience on both. If you code it to use a menu button, depending on the phone and tablet that a person has, you may have two totally different experiences, which could be confusing to your users.

The reason I bring this up today is because we are seeing more and more phones launch without dedicated hardware menu buttons. The entire HTC One series along with the Incredible 4G LTE and EVO 4G LTE all do not have dedicated menu buttons and will have to experience the evil black bar. It’s time that developers recognize this. Unfortunately, these companies all likely test their apps on a Galaxy Nexus which has the ability to add a menu button to the on-screen navigation area, so they probably think that nothing is wrong.

The end of this issue is no where near completion, but you may want to start asking your favorite app devs to code their apps correctly. As devices continue to launch without dedicated menu buttons, you will soon understand the pain that some of us are experiencing on a daily basis.


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24 May 12 Android 4.0: HTC, Motorola, Sony Chart Different Paths

10 Ways To Get More From Your Android Device
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich has been slow to reach devices already in the market. Though the first Android 4.0 smartphone went on sale in November of last year, many owners of devices purchased with Android 2.3 Gingerbread on board are still waiting for their upgrades.

Some of those Gingerbread device owners may be dismayed to learn they won’t ever get the latest Android system software for their phone or tablet.

HTC, Motorola, and Sony recently provided new information on which devices will get Android 4.0 and when those updates will arrive. They’ve also noted which devices won’t get Android 4.0. Let’s look at how the field is playing out.

HTC. HTC is delivering Android 4.0 to a pretty decent selection of its devices. Looking at the smartphones slated for the upgrade, the list includes the Amaze 4G, Desire S, Desire H, DROID Incredible 2, EVO 3D, EVO 4G+, EVO Design 4G, Incredible S, Sensation, Sensation 4G, Sensation XE, Sensation XL, Rezound, Rhyme, ThunderBolt, Velocity 4G, and Vivid. Most of these phones are being sold by carriers in the U.S., though a few are available only in Europe or Asia.

As for timing, all the devices listed above will be updated by the end of August, but most will see Android 4.0 arrive sometime between now and July.

The bad news is that HTC’s three tablet devices–the Flyer, EVO View 4G, and Jetstream–will not be updated beyond Android 3.2 Honeycomb. That’s a shame.

[ Devices running Android 4.0 are still scarce. Read Android 4.0 Installed On Just 4.9% Of Devices. ]

Motorola. Motorola has committed to providing Ice Cream Sandwich to a pretty good selection of smartphones, but there are few glaring omissions. Most importantly, the Droid RAZR and RAZR MAXX will get the update before the end of the second quarter. These are the two most recent devices it has shipped, and both are sold by Verizon Wireless.

Other notable U.S. handsets from Motorola that are on deck for Android 4.0 include the Atrix 2, Atrix 4G, Droid 4, and Bionic, all of which should be updated by the end of the third quarter. Owners of the Photon 4G will have to wait until the end of the fourth quarter for the update to arrive. If you’re a Droid 3 owner or Droid X2 owner–both of which went on sale less than a year ago–forget about Android 4.0. It’s not in your device’s future.

Unlike HTC, Motorola will update its tablets to Ice Cream Sandwich. That means the Xyboard 10.1, Xyboard 8.2, and Xoom Wi-Fi + 3G/4G should enjoy some tasty dessert, which will start being served in the beginning of the third quarter.

Sony. Sony has already started rolling out Android 4.0 to some devices, including the Xperia arc S, Xperia neo V and Xperia ray. Following those, the Xperia arc, Xperia PLAY, Xperia neo, Xperia mini, Xperia mini pro, Xperia pro, Xperia active, and Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman will receive Ice Cream Sandwich starting at the end of May/early June. Most of the devices listed above should see the update by the end of June.

Sony will be quicker than Motorola to deliver Android 4.0 to its tablet devices. The company confirmed this week that both the Sony Tablet P and Sony Tablet S will have Ice Cream Sandwich by May 31.

If you don’t see your device on any of the lists provided by HTC, Motorola, and Sony, chances are it won’t be updated to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. But that means your device is so old you should probably buy a new one, anyway. There are already a few Android 4.0 devices available in wireless stores today, so head on down and grab one.

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16 May 12 Apple Scores an Android Hit: HTC One X, EVO 4G LTE Held Up at Customs

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11 May 12 Sprint: Android 4.0 hitting HTC EVO 3D and HTC EVO Design 4G in June

By (@jr_raphael) G+

HTC EVO 3D HTC EVO Design 4G Android 4.0 Sprint

Got an HTC EVO 3D or HTC EVO Design 4G phone on Sprint? Good news: You’ll be getting the Android 4.0 upgrade next month, according to the carrier.

During an interview at the CTIA mobile tech show in New Orleans this week, Sprint VP of Product David Owens casually mentioned the phones’ upgrade plans while discussing their newly launched counterparts on Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile.

The prepaid versions of the EVO 3D and EVO Design 4G are launching with Ice Cream Sandwich, Owens explained, while the original Sprint versions of both phones will receive their ICS upgrades “in the June time frame.” The phones will have HTC’s Sense 3.6 interface, however, not the newer Sense 4.0 seen on the One X and One S devices.

(The EVO Design 4G discussion starts at about 6:25 into the video; the EVO 3D discussion starts at the 8:20 mark.)

Android Power TwitterFor a closer look at some of the changes Android 4.0 will bring to your phone, click over to my Android Ice Cream Sandwich FAQ. And remember, you can find the latest upgrade status for any phone or tablet in my Android 4.0 upgrade list; it’s always kept up to the date with the most current info available for all devices.    

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on , Twitter, or Facebook.

Article copyright 2012 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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08 Apr 12 Android this week: Instagram arrives; Sprint LTE phones soon; Galaxy Note here

This week saw Instagram arrive on Android devices after a full 16 months of iPhone exclusivity. The social photo sharing app provides a number of image filters and makes it simple to snap a picture and post  it to a user’s Instagram feed. Clearly, there was much pent-up demand for the software as a reported 2,000 people were signing up through the app every minute.

Two immediate aspects of this launch jumped out at me and both of them were related to the iPhone. First, the application looks more like an iOS app ported to Android; not one that uses the typical or recommended Android interface elements. That’s not necessarily an issue, but it has some Android users grumbling.

Second, iPhone users wasted no time ridiculing Android thanks to the new app. I’ll grant them that the iPhone 4S has a stellar camera, optics and photo software that takes great images, but not every Android handset camera is junk. And even a good handset can yield crappy images in various situations. Even worse, was an attitude of smugness or superiority from the far end of the spectrum as evidenced by this tweet below. The fact is, there are many great mobile device choices that work well for different individuals: Instead of mocking them, we should appreciate that we have choices at all.

Speaking of choice, more than 5 million people in the world have chosen the Samsung Galaxy Note. I received a review unit from ATT on Friday and handset is growing on me; not literally, which is good, given the 5.3-inch display. At CES, I felt the Note was too wide in my hand but that was with only a few minutes of playtime to film a video of the device. After using it for a single day, I’m starting to appreciate the size.

I’ll have a full review forthcoming, but in the short time I’ve used the Galaxy Note, I’m thinking it could replace both my Galaxy Nexus and my Galaxy Tab 7.7 tablet. Why? It has the features, usability and portability of both in a single device.

That’s just my gut reaction, of course, and not everyone will find the large device to their liking. But those who are asking the question of whether this is a tablet or a phone are asking the wrong question. I’ll soon have a follow up post on what’s the right question to ask when considering if the Galaxy Note is suited for you, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, Sprint users gained the promise of new Android phones for the carrier’s upcoming LTE network: The LG Viper and the Sprint EVO 4G LTE. The EVO model is already building up buzz, mainly because it’s a version of the HTC One; a consolidated product line that HTC hopes to turn around flagging sales.

Look for the EVO 4G LTE this quarter for $199.99 (with contract), running Android 4.0 and latest version of HTC Sense on a 4.7-inch 1280×720 resolution screen. Qualcomm’s 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 will power the handset, which will also use HD Voice for improved audio quality on calls.

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