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18 Jun 12 Sharp to Launch New Android-based User Interface to Differentiate …


Japan’s Sharp said Monday it will release a new user interface for its smartphones in an attempt to differentiate them from the Android masses.

The Osaka-based electronics maker’s new “Feel UX” will feature a simplistic design with large icons, and allow many phone functions, such as camera, photo gallery, and music player applications, to be accessed directly from the lock screen. Once unlocked, the interface has three main screens, one each for apps, shortcuts to phone features, and widgets such as calendars and clocks.

The phone’s lock screen can also automatically tweak its background photo to match the current weather, and displays updates on stocks and other real-time info as well as messages and missed calls. Unlike with competitors such as Apple’s iOS, the photo featured on the lock screen is never obscured by time or message information, which appear across a section in the bottom third of the screen in images provided by Sharp.

With the majority of smartphones based on Android and having increasingly similar feature-sets and specifications, manufacturers are hoping unique-looking software user interfaces will differentiate their products and hook customers. Sharp joins rivals such as Sony and Samsung in offering user interfaces that run on top of various versions of Android.

Sharp said it will initially phase the new design into its Japanese phones, but is “exploring its potential use in smartphones destined for international markets.”

Sharp, known mainly for its own line of LCD TVs and as a global supplier of LCD panels to other manufacturers, is also a major handset maker in Japan, offering smartphones based on its Aquos TV brand. The company also sells a limited number of mobiles abroad.

The new user interface was designed and built together with software design firm Frog Design, headquartered in San Francisco. Frog said the interface was developed over a nine-month period, and is being launched on seven different Aquos-brand smartphones in Japan.

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Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/257788/sharp_to_launch_new_androidbased_user_interface_to_differentiate_its_phones.html

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12 Jun 12 Apple iOS 6 vs. Android vs. Windows Phone (Comparison Chart)


Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicked off today with the unveiling of iOS 6 for the iPhone and iPad. Apple is promising over 200 new features in the latest version of its mobile operating system, but only a few of them were highlighted in the keynote.

June is an exciting month for smartphone fanatics as Microsoft is expected to unveil the next generation of Windows Phone at an event next Wednesday, June 20 while Google is expected to reveal its plans for the next version of Android, codenamed “Jellybean.”

While some of the features Apple announced today already exist on competing platforms, Apple is putting its own twist on these updates. For example, Siri, Apple’s voice-activated virtual assistant, is even smarter now with support for sports, movies, and restaurants. Siri can also directly launch apps, but you still can’t control these third-party apps with your voice.

Apple is also breaking up with Google Maps and launching its own Maps application with iOS 6. It includes local business information, Yelp integration, real-time traffic updates, and turn-by-turn navigation. Naturally, Apple has also added Siri integration to maps so you can ask questions along your journey such as, “Are we there yet?” or “Where’s the next gas station?” Apple has also added a 3D/fly-over mode to its Maps application, which shows you detailed 3D models of buildings and landmarks.


These updates certainly give Microsoft and Android something to chew on. While both competing platforms offer voice-command support, those features are crude in comparison to Siri’s artificial intelligence and natural dictation. Microsoft’s Bing Maps could definitely use a revamp in the next version of Windows Phone as its turn-by-turn directions feature is quite clunky (you must tap your phone at each turn).

We’ll be revisiting this comparison later this month as Microsoft and Google roll out new versions of their respective mobile platforms.

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Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/257363/apple_ios_6_vs_android_vs_windows_phone_comparison_chart.html

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04 Jun 12 PIE: A Chrome Extension That Can Help With Reading and Pronunciation


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English isn’t the easiest language to learn. It has lots of words that are spelled nothing like the way they’re pronounced–take “colonel” or “neighbor” for example. This can make it difficult to learn English, and even if you speak English well already, it can make it hard to learn to read and spell unfamiliar words.

Phonetically Intuitive English (PIE), an extension for Chrome, hopes to make it easier to learn to pronounce words you see online.

Basically what it does is replace the text on the page with identical words, but with diacritic glyphs. It has a corresponding chart that explains what the glyphs mean; for example, a small dot above a letter or a line though it indicates that the letter should be silent (letters like “i” would have a small line through them since they already have a dot above them).

You can customize the amount of glyphs it displays in the settings, so if you don’t want them appearing on every word, you don’t have to.

It was a bit tricky getting PIE to work on my Mac since it has only one font that PIE supports–Lucida Grande. I don’t mind the font, but I had to change all the font settings in Chrome as well as in PIE to make it use Lucida Grande or my tab would crash. On my PC, however, it was a lot more stable as it supports a wide range of fonts. I opened the same Wikipedia page I was testing with on my Mac, and it worked without me having to change any settings.

This seems like a great way to learn better pronunciation, but you have to know the meanings of all the little glyphs. This is a little more work than I’d personally like to put in, but I already know English. Somebody just learning would no doubt have a lot more motivation to learn what the glyphs mean. Also, children learning the diacritic glyphs at a young age could help with spelling and pronunciation as they grow up.

At any rate, give it a try and leave a comment to let us know if it helps.

[PIE]

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Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/256680/pie_a_chrome_extension_that_can_help_with_reading_and_pronunciation.html

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28 May 12 Motorola Videos Show Android 4.0 on Droid RAZR


Mobile phone maker Motorola’s update of the Droid RAZR to the Android 4.0 operating system appears to be on the way.

New official videos posted on the company’s Japanese website show the OS running on the handset. Spotted by Droid Life, several videos — some in Japanese –show off new features in Motorola’s custom version of Ice Cream Sandwich.

For instance, shortcuts for text messaging and the phone dialer have been added to the lock screen, so instead of unlocking the phone and then looking around for one of those functions, they’re right there; on stock ICS only the camera and unlock are available in this way.

You’ll also appreciate the way ICS lets you access your music controls directly from the lock screen when music is playing.

And if you’ve ever wanted to capture what you’re looking at on your phone’s screen, ICS makes it simple. Taking a screen shot is only a matter of pressing the down volume and power buttons simultaneously for a few seconds. The phone shows you a quick version of the image it snapped, then saves it to your gallery where you can store it or share with others.

The video lineup also includes one that shows off how Webtop 3.0 works. It’s an application that allows you to hook the phone up to an HDTV or monitor with an HDMI cable. Once the phone detects it’s connected to an external display it launches the Webtop app which lets you see all your apps on the bigger screen and access a full version of the Firefox browser.

Webtop came onto the scene back at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show when Motorola announced the Atrix smartphone and the “Lapdock” that made it act like a laptop computer. This was huge news because Motorola had somehow beat Microsoft and Apple in creating a converged smartphone-PC device. As CNET’s Jason Hiner aptly points out, now that Google owns Motorola the two companies are in a great spot.

“The success of Android has established Google as a key player in mobile computing devices, and once consumers and business users start looking to consolidate their many devices, Webtop could make Google the company that’s best positioned to make that consolidation possible,” he writes.

For the record, Motorola has said it will roll out ICS to Droid RAZR users in the second quarter, so that means anytime now.

Although it’s in Japanese, if you can’t wait to see how Android 4.0 looks on your RAZR, here’s video that will give you a glimpse.

Follow Christina on Twitter and Google+ for even more tech news and commentary and follow Today@PCWorld on Twitter, too.

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Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/256346/motorola_videos_show_android_40_on_droid_razr.html

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25 May 12 Google+ Android App Can Start Hangouts With Ease, Gets New Look


The Google+ app for Android just received a big update that simplifies the way users can start Hangout video chats from their phones.

Before now, users could only start a new Google+ Hangout by initiating a Messenger chat, then tapping a video icon in the chat window. For a major feature of Google+, the process was obscure and clunky. In the new app, users can start new Hangouts by tapping the home icon at the top-left corner of the screen, selecting “Hangout” and choosing friends or circles to invite.

With this new feature, Google can now start to gain a foothold in mobile video chat. Although Google has offered one-on-one video chat through Google Talk since April 2011, Hangouts are more interesting because they support up to 10 people talking simultaneously. That helps Google stand out from Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s Facetime.

Hangout creation isn’t the only new feature in the updated Google+ app. The app also sports a new look, with images that span the width of the screen for each post. Text is big and bold, and appears directly on top of each image along with +1 and comment counts. The downside to this approach is that posts are tougher to scan through in aggregate, because you often have to click on them to see the full text and associated links, but at least the posts themselves are more inviting.

A Closer Look at the updated Google+ App

Google updated its Google+ iPhone app two weeks ago, with the same visual overhaul as the Android app. Although Google took some lumps at the time for giving Android the cold shoulder, Google Senior Vice President Vic Gondotra said the Android version would have “a few extra surprises” to make the wait worthwhile. Indeed, the ability to start Hangouts without going through Messages is an Android-exclusive feature for now.

I imagine Google will simply Hangout creation in its iPhone app eventually, but the company hasn’t said when that will happen.

Follow Jared on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ for even more tech news and commentary.

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Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/256196/google_android_app_can_start_hangouts_with_ease_gets_new_look.html

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23 May 12 Feeling Lazy? Let Android and Arduino Stir Your Pots Instead


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[Photo: Element 14]If you’re anything like me, everything around you can distract you from cooking–something I’m not particulalrly good at. While something is simmering, you may float away to do something on your computer, only to come back later and find you’ve ruined the food. If you have an Android phone or tablet though, Ben Heck’s latest hack gives you an assistant to help save your meal.

This hack focuses on an app, which uses Bluetooth to control a pot-stirring gadget. The laser-cut wooden hardware consists of an actutor arm, chip clip (for gripping the spoon) and trapezoid timing belt. Servomotors allow the cooking assistant to rotate the spoon to and fro in the pot. The height and spoon positioning can be adjusted too, depending on pot size. An Arduino Uno helps keep the stirrer moving once the app connects.

The Android app is made using the Google ADK. It lets you see how hot your food is and control the speed and direction of the spoon–this means once you’re set up, all you need to do is control the arm with a slider on the app. The Bluetooth from the phone or tablet sends the Arduino commands to keep your food moving in a specific way.

This is a pretty handy app and gadget to have around if you like to keep busy rather than watch your pots. Of course, this app could be even cooler if it had the option to continue stirring without needing the slider control, but the arm of the gadget would probably make this tricky to impliment. If it makes food delicious while you continue to sit on the couch though, it’s already a dream app!

[Element 14]

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Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/256039/feeling_lazy_let_android_and_arduino_stir_your_pots_instead.html

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22 May 12 Amazon’s Android Appstore Allows Users to Test Apps on Phones


You no longer need a PC browser to test out apps from Amazon’s Appstore for Android. The online retailer recently announced that you can try out apps before you buy them by using the company’s new beta feature, Test Drive for Android. All you need is a compatible device and the Amazon Appstore for Android app version 2.6.53 or higher.

Amazon's Android Appstore Allows Users to Test Apps on PhonesThe company said only select Android devices will be able to use the new feature at launch, but did not elaborate on which phones were compatible. If your phone is compatible, a green “Test Drive” button will appear on an app’s product page above the “Save for Later” and “Share” buttons. Amazon said more devices will be able to use the new feature in the coming months.

Amazon has more than 5,000 Android apps ready to use Test Drive, and it aims to make the entire Appstore catalog available. At launch, only apps that use basic touchscreen features and device accelerometers have Test Drive enabled. Apps that require multitouch, a keyboard, microphone, camera, gyroscope, near-field communication (NFC), or GPS are not yet available.

Unlike Google Play’s 15-minute refund policy, Amazon’s beta version of Test Drive for Android does not require you to purchase the app first to try it out. Instead, the company puts the power of the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) servers to work. Whenever you try an app via Test Drive, a version of the app is launched on Amazon’s EC2 servers. Your taps and other inputs are sent to Amazon’s servers, and all display and audio outputs are sent back to your device. You can purchase an app at any point during your test drive.

Amazon's Android Appstore Allows Users to Test Apps on PhonesTo check if your phone has the latest version of Amazon Appstore for Android, open the app’s settings. You should see the version of your app under “Version and Release Notes.”

Amazon originally launched Test Drive as a PC-only feature in early 2011 with the debut of the Appstore for Android. The company said it has enabled more than 16,000 apps for the PC-based version of Test Drive since then.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/255969/amazons_android_appstore_allows_users_to_test_apps_on_phones.html

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22 May 12 Google Chrome Overtakes Internet Explorer


Google’s Chrome is now the most popular Web browser worldwide, surpassing Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for the first time, according to the latest figures from StatCounter. After years of slowly chipping away Internet Explorer’s market share, Chrome took the lead with 32.76 percent share, while IE dipped to 31.94 percent.

Just a year ago, Internet Explorer was leading the Web browser market share with 43 percent, followed by Mozilla Firefox with 29 percent, and Chrome was third with 19 percent. Twelve months later, IE has lost 12 percent of the browser market share while Chrome gained 13 percent to the detriment of IE and Firefox, which also lost about 4 percent of its users and now comes in at just over 25 percent.

This is not the first time Chrome has leapfrogged Internet Explorer. For a single day in March, Chrome was estimated to have held a few percentage decimals over IE. This time however, Chrome overtook IE for the entire week, though by still less than a percentage point.

While Chrome is leading the browser market worldwide, in the U.S. it still has a lot of catching up to do. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer still has a wide lead at home with 37 percent, with Chrome a distant second at 23 percent, closely followed by Mozilla Firefox 22 percent.

StatCounter figures are generally reliable, as they are based on data collected from some 15 billion page views around the world. However, these stats can wildly differ from one provider to another, as for example NetMarketShare shows Internet Explorer had 54 percent share this month, while Chrome has 19 percent, and Firefox has 20 percent.

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Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/255886/google_chrome_overtakes_internet_explorer.html

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21 May 12 Google Chrome Overtakes Internet Explorer


Google’s Chrome is now the most popular Web browser worldwide, surpassing Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for the first time, according to the latest figures from StatCounter. After years of slowly chipping away Internet Explorer’s market share, Chrome took the lead with 32.76 percent share, while IE dipped to 31.94 percent.

Just a year ago, Internet Explorer was leading the Web browser market share with 43 percent, followed by Mozilla Firefox with 29 percent, and Chrome was third with 19 percent. Twelve months later, IE has lost 12 percent of the browser market share while Chrome gained 13 percent to the detriment of IE and Firefox, which also lost about 4 percent of its users and now comes in at just over 25 percent.

This is not the first time Chrome has leapfrogged Internet Explorer. For a single day in March, Chrome was estimated to have held a few percentage decimals over IE. This time however, Chrome overtook IE for the entire week, though by still less than a percentage point.

While Chrome is leading the browser market worldwide, in the U.S. it still has a lot of catching up to do. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer still has a wide lead at home with 37 percent, with Chrome a distant second at 23 percent, closely followed by Mozilla Firefox 22 percent.

StatCounter figures are generally reliable, as they are based on data collected from some 15 billion page views around the world. However, these stats can wildly differ from one provider to another, as for example NetMarketShare shows Internet Explorer had 54 percent share this month, while Chrome has 19 percent, and Firefox has 20 percent.

Follow Daniel Ionescu and Today @ PCWorld on Twitter.

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Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/255886/google_chrome_overtakes_internet_explorer.html

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14 May 12 Android Trojan Mimics PC Drive-by Malware Attack


Researchers have noticed one of the first examples of Android “drive-by” malware from an ordinary website, a dangerous type of automatic attack more commonly used to infect Windows PCs.

Discovered by security company Lookout Mobile Security on a number of webistes, the decidedly odd “NotCompatible” Trojan is distributed using a web page containing a hidden iFrame.

Any Android browser visiting an affected page (the attack ignores PC browsers) will automatically start downloading the malware without the user being aware that this has happened. (See also “5 Free Android Security Apps: Keep Your Smartphone Safe.”)

This isn’t quite a PC drive-by attack because the user still needs to install the app, at which point it relies on the user having ticked the “Unknown Sources” box (in most cases this box would be unticked) that allows non-market apps to be installed.

The rough equivalent of this layer on a Vista or Windows 7 PC would be the User Access Control (UAC) which is usually circumvented using social engineering or by misrepresenting the nature of the application.

NotCompatible eschews such tricks beyond simply claiming to be a security update. It’s not sophisticated but it might fool some users, some of the time.

Malware’s Mission Unclear

The purpose of the infection is a bit of a mystery.

“This specific sample, while relatively well constructed, does not appear to go to great lengths to hide its intended purpose: it can be used to access private networks,” said Lookout’s blog.

“This feature in itself could be significant for system IT administrators: a device infected with NotCompatible could potentially be used to gain access to normally protected information or systems, such as those maintained by enterprise or government.”

The affected sites appeared to have low volumes of traffic but the company believed the exploit iFrame was being served on other sites it had yet to identify, it said.

The warning is stark; mobile malware creators are experimenting with what is possible for this class of malware and have found a way to get mobile malware on to devices without them having to visit third-party app sites as has been the case up to now.

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Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/255538/android_trojan_mimics_pc_driveby_malware_attack.html

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