Will be among the first to get Android L
With as little fanfare as possible despite an event invitation earlier this month, Google has finally announced their long awaited lineup of low-cost Android phones that will be among the first to ship as part of the company’s new “Android One” lineup. The devices – which are currently being developed by smaller, lesser known brands Micromax, Karbonn and Spice Mobiles – are being positioned as ways to get Google into the lower-priced, entry level phone market that has been traditionally dominated by “dumb phones” such as those in Nokia’s Asha platform.
Most Android One smartphones will go for about $100, and all of which will be built on some low-end-but-not-abysmal specs, like a 480 x 854 4.5-inch display or a 5-megapixel camera. All will come running with the latest version of stock Android, Android 4.4 “KitKat”, and all will be among the first tier of phones to get a free update to Android 5.0 “L” when that becomes available at some point in the future.
Microsoft has their building blocks
Mojang isn’t a big studio, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from paying a big price for it. While the Swedish indie studio is home to less than 50 employees, these guys are hard at work on one of the biggest games the gaming industry has seen in some time – Minecraft, the multiplatform wonder that has captured the heart of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of gamers across potentially even more devices. And now, for a cool $2.5 billion, it belongs to Microsoft. Or it will as soon as the deal closes, rather.
While it’s not inherently clear as to what Microsoft plans on doing with Mojang, you can bet that Minecraft won’t see any neglect going forward. Minecraft is essentially the singular big product the company has ever put out, which means that Microsoft’s interest in the company has to be directly relating to Minecraft. More than likely, the company is planning on using the studio to build up the in-house studio support of their Xbox (and likely Windows, including Windows Phone) gaming platforms.
While that may sound like it makes sense, and also pretty exciting – Microsoft is a massive company with enough clout and money to improve all the ways Minecraft has lagged behind some expectations in recent years -it should also kind of scare you. Minecraft is famously available on just about every platform known to man (as long as that platform doesn’t happen to be made by Nintendo – sorry, fellow Wii U and 3DS fans), and Microsoft likely has very little interest in becoming an enthusiastic PlayStation or Android developer. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that Minecraft will ever become an Xbox and Windows exclusive, it does mean that we know where their priorities lie; indeed, Microsoft promises that Minecraft will “remain available” on all available platforms.
Mojang leader Markus “Notch” Persson has taken this opportunity to leave the company he helped build, explaining his feelings towards both the sale of his company to Microsoft as well as his personal feelings towards his relationship with his fans and game development in general in a new note posted on his personal website (and mirrored here) entitled, appropriately, “I’m leaving Mojang.” Notch claims that the deal, to him, isn’t about the money – but rather his sanity.
Two iPhones, an iWatch, and a USB cable walk into a bar...
It’s almost here. Tomorrow, Apple is holding its first big special event of the year (excluding WWDC) – and we’re expecting it to be quite the doozy. Apple is certainly going to be using the event to launch its upcoming iPhone lineup, but what else could be in the pipeline? Last year around this time Apple announced not one, but two new iPhones alongside the announcement of the final build of iOS 7, and we’re expecting an equally – if not more – impressive showing this time around. So without further ado, this is what you can realistically expect at Apple’s special event tomorrow. No bullshit, just the good stuff.
What to realistically expect…” is a series of posts which we use to temper expectations concerning upcoming Apple events. We’ve got a pretty good track record here, with only one small miss with our iPhone 5s/5c event predictions. Read on to hear today’s expectations.
Will partner with OEMs for low end, quality hardware
September is winding up to be quite the busy month, and now Google itself is getting in on the fun. The company has just sent out media invitations to a Special Event set to take place on September 15th in India. While the invitation is fairly cryptic – all we can really gather from the invitation, seen above, is that we’ll be talking Android – today’s reports indicate that Google plans on announcing a new partnership (dubbed “Android One”) with OEMs to release a lineup of low end, budget smartphones running Android.
Google is said to be working with a variety of OEMs, including relative no-name brands Karbonn and Spice, in order to launch a variety of devices soon. No word yet on whether or not we’ll get any more information on either Android 5.0 “L” or the true successor to the Nexus program, but we’ll let you know what happens to come out of the corporate giant’s mouth.
iCloud lacked brute force detection
By now, you probably know that a number of celebrities have been the target of a nude photo leak that has said to have lead to the leak of potentially hundreds of photos and videos. Of course, this vehement violation of human privacy is a despicable act in and of itself – the thought that there are individuals out there who would go to any length to obtain such photos and violate women (and men) is nauseating. But where there’s a will, there’s a way – and unfortunately, Apple seems to be at the center of that way.
According to new reports, the leak stem from a security issue that was previously present in Apple’s iCloud cloud storage system. iCloud automatically backs up a user’s photos (among other data) into the cloud, which can then be downloaded to any authorized computer capable of logging into the iCloud account. Hackers claim that Apple had failed to implement any sort of brute force detection software into iCloud’s login authorization, a loophole that enterprising hackers worked around using software called iBrute, which “guessed” at password combinations at a dizzying speed.
Essentially, in layman’s terms, that means that anybody with the knowledge of a celebrity’s iCloud email address would be able to keep guessing at their password until they hit on the correct password by chance, forever. A simple loophole, which Apple has reportedly now implemented, stops users from trying passwords after a couple of incorrect guesses. The new protection is similar to how Apple’s iOS software locks users out of devices after a number of incorrect passcode guesses.
While there’s yet to be any confirmation from either Apple or the supposed hacker that this method was the one used to illegally obtain the celebrity’s passwords, Apple has confirmed that they are investigating their role in the issue, if any. Still, the fact that this loophole existed and had been easily exploitable up until just today indirectly implies it could have been the root cause.
iPhone 6, iWatch, oh my
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire – and there sure is a lot of smoke to wade through while talking about Apple’s still-yet-to-be-confirmed September 9th Special Event. Re/code was the first to peg that date as the long awaited iPhone 6 reveal event, but as the days have gotten shorter and the calendar has gotten closer, we’ve been learning more and more about what it is Apple will actually be announcing. Yes, of course the iPhone 6 is still happening, but that’s just the beginning of the story.
For one, Re/code today has another breaking exclusive claiming that Apple will use their September 9th event not only as the iPhone 6′s coming out party, but also as the long awaited “iWatch” reveal. According to Re/code, Apple had originally planned to announce the device – which is not expected to hit stores until early 2015, narrowly missing the holiday rush – during the company’s rumored October Special Event, however decided to bump up the schedule for reasons uncited. Apple is reportedly still planning on holding a Special Event in October, where the company may reveal the sixth generation iPad, the third generation iPad mini, and a new 12″ MacBook with a Retina Display.
According to today’s new iWatch report – which, while unconfirmed, come from some rock solid sources – Apple’s wearable will be all about health and automation. The iWatch will act as a fitness tracker, syncing information about today’s activity and general health data with your iPhone and iPad using iOS 8′s new built in HealthKit framework. HomeKit, Apple’s automation functionality, will also be put to good use. Early reports indicate that the iWatch could be used to – say – automatically unlock your frontdoor when you step within a couple of feet of it while wearing your iWatch, or automatically turn on the lights when you enter a room.
Separately, we expect the iPhone 6 to be revealed in two sizes – one with a 4.7″ screen, and another larger model with a 5.5″. We expect both iPhone 6 sizes to be available simultaneously, however with the 4.7″ model available in much larger quantities in initial shipments. The game plan could be set up similarly to how Apple dealt with the rollout of the 5s and 5c models last year; the 4.7″ iPhone, like the 5c, will be available for pre-order immediately while the 5.5″ iPhone, like the 5s did, will launch on a first come, first serve basis without a reservation program in place. Apple did this last year to give everyone a fair shot at nabbing an iPhone 5s on launch day, which was similarly restrained.
As far as pricing, a good guess is that the base configuration 4.7″ iPhone 6 to sell for $199 with 16GB of included storage. The 5.5″ iPhone 6, meanwhile, could launch with 16GB of storage for $299. Apple will continue to offer both the iPhone 5s as well as the iPhone 5c, with the iPhone 5s selling for $99 with 16GB of storage and the iPhone 5c selling for free with 8GB of storage. However, it is important to note that these plans are far from confirmed at this time.
And yes, I think it exists
I’m going to make a fairly bold statement here – the upcoming 5.5″ iPhone (we’ll call it the iPhone 6, for posterity’s sake) is real. And it’s coming. In fact, it’s probably coming this year – the timeline isn’t clear quite yet, but it’s getting there. And this is your first look at it, courtesy of Evasi0nJailbreak.com. What you’re looking at in the photo above is in fact a 5.5″ iPhone 6 enclosure sitting next to and compared to the equally real and coming 4.7″ iPhone 6 enclosure.
EvasionJailbreak says that they managed to obtain this “deep within Apple’s supply chain in China,” and it is indeed consistent with some earlier rumblings about the iPhone 6. For one thing, we’ve seen this design practically a million times before – enough that at this point, there really isn’t any doubt that it’s real. Another thing is the screw holes in this iPhone 6 dummy is consistent with earlier, unverified leaks of the 5.5″ iPhone 6′s logic board.
The iPhone 6 is expected to be announced at a press event on September 9th, 2014. Whatever Apple decides to announce, we’ll be here reporting on the latest and greatest from Apple and Mr. Jony Ive. And whether you believe the 5.5″ iPhone 6 is coming or not, one thing is clear – Apple is finally ditching that 4.0″ screen form factor. Hallelujah?
I originally said burger but McChickens are great
Earlier in the decade, McDonalds made a dramatic shift in course when they decided to sell high-end (or, well, faux high end) coffee products with their McCafé lineup. Now today McDonalds is taking another new bold direction as the company has hired a new U.S. vice president of digital, Julia Vander Ploeg, in a new position created for a new digital direction. To supplement this new hire, McDonalds is looking to hire a brand new team to work on – wait for it – a new digital music delivery program.
McDonalds is looking for a team to work on “a variety of digital music and entertainment experiences that McDonald’s will provide to customers”, specifically with an emphasis on “establish[ing] multi-channel music and emerging entertainment programs to reward our most enthusiastic customers and drive frequency.” CNBC reached out for an official comment on the new direction and received no comment.
Of course, that’s not all - if you’re a fast food joint with a new emphasis on digital, you’re going to want to allow customers buy your product on the go from your smartphone, a la Panera Bread’s new direction. And that’s exactly what McDonalds wants, with another new job posting revealing that McDonalds is hiring a team that will focus on “removing physical boundaries to allow our customers to connect to and order McDonald’s any time or place, globally.” Or, simply put, they’re looking for people to build an online ordering app.
McDonalds has been dabbling more and more with digital promotions in recent times, with the company beta testing and then subsequently launching the new McD App which comes with monthly promotions and deals for customers.
But is it enough?
As PC sales keep shrinking, Microsoft’s flagship software – Windows 8 – has failed to see much love from customers or OEMs. The industry is increasingly switching over to tablets running competitor’s software; not to mention low powered – and low priced – notebooks running Google’s Chrome OS operating system (“Chromebooks”), which have been best sellers on Amazon for months now. Microsoft is keenly aware of the situation, of course, and has been fighting against the Apple iPad for some time now with the company’s Surface lineup, and now they’re tackling the Chromebook problem with a line of new low powered, low priced notebooks of their own, running – of course – Windows 8.1 rather than Chrome OS. The first of this new initiative is the HP Stream 14, a 14-inch notebook revealed today by a leak published by MobileGeeks.
According to the leak, the HP Stream 14 has an unspecified AMD processor, a midrange 1366 x 768 pixel display, 2GB of RAM, and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage depending on the model you’re looking at. No word yet as to when the HP Stream 14 will be hitting your local Best Buy, but I’d bet it’ll be sooner rather than later and when it comes, it should cost you just around $199. Microsoft must be keen to pick up sales of their Windows 8 devices, and if there’s one thing we know, there’s certainly a market for low priced, but quality devices.
Yes, Sharp makes smartphones
Sharp isn’t usually the first name to come to mind when one thinks of smartphones, but prepare to get your mind blown. Sprint and Sharp have just jointly announced Sharp’s latest and greatest line of smartphones, the Aquos Crystal line – and they’re coming to Sprint. But wait, there’s more. Long have we waited for a smartphone with truly no bezels, and that’s exactly what Sharp is planning on delivering when the line gets released later this year. That’s right, both the low end Aquos Crystal and the impressively high spec’d Aquos Crystal X have just about no bezels. Take that, bezels!
Getting into the knitty gritty of specs, the Aquos Crystal X comes knocking with a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, and an untold amount of storage, RAM, or camera power. The lower end Aquos Crystal on the other hand has a pretty puny 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 and a 5-inch 720p display, so that’s pretty weak. Both smartphones are expected to be running some variant of Android (more than likely Android 4.3 or 4.4), and Sprint is holding a press conference where it plans on spilling all the beans tomorrow night, so you don’t have to wait too long to hear more about pricing and availability.
Hey, they have a lot of competition
Pebble was one of the first out with a functional, usable, and not-too-ugly-looking modern smartwatch in 2013, but things have changed drastically since then. The smartwatch competition has heated up like perhaps nobody could have expected; Samsung, Sony, Fitbit, LG, and even Google have gotten into the game big time, and Apple is expected to launch its very real and very powerful “iWatch” smartwatch before 2014 draws its last breath. In early 2013, Pebble had little competition – today, there’s little shortage. Pebble is fully aware of its situation, and has responded with full force; the company has today announced that they have hired away Itai Vonshak and Liron Damir from LG. Vonshak and Damir are best known, of course, as the head UI designers of LG’s incarnation of webOS.
Make no mistake, this is the real thing. Pebble knows they’ve got a good thing going, and the company is in no way ready to drop the ball to the likes of Google and Apple. Today’s hiring of two of the industry’s top designers will absolutely make a mark on the company’s inevitable next-generation smartwatches. And with almost two years of experience, two talented designers, and quickly growing brand recognition, Pebble may very well have what it needs to keep up its title as the industry’s leading manufacturer of smartwatches.
That would be the Note 4, of course
Samsung has announced the Galaxy Alpha. I mean, I guess that’s news – the device was only rumored up until this point, and it marks the first smartphone to feature Samsung’s new all-aluminum design that the company says will trickle down and up to other products in the company’s portfolio – including, more than likely, next year’s flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S6. It’s an okay, decidedly midrange phone – just like we reported the other day – with a modest dual-core (or quad-core, if you’re in very certain markets) processor, 2GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel camera, and a 720p 4.7″ display. It comes in Black, White, Gold, and Blue. All fine.
But really, can we stop pretending that this is Samsung’s answer to the next iPhone? I know it’s not, and – yes, I’m talking to you, mainstream media outlets – you know it’s not. The next iPhone will be a high end device with Apple’s fastest A8 processor, their best camera; it’ll be the model with the most RAM, the highest quality displays. It’ll be Apple’s flagship. And the Galaxy Alpha? This isn’t Samsung’s flagship. Not even close.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not wrong to say Samsung’s got a competitor up their sleeves slate for release soon. They totally do – it’s called the Galaxy Note 4, and it’s rumored to be coming soon; probably next month. It’ll have Samsung’s fastest processor, their best (and biggest) display, and all the RAM and storage and processing power you could want.
But let’s not compare Apples to Alphas, okay?