Speedtest is a project that tries to determine the main parameters of the different mobile carriers via crowdsourcing. Just download the app, choose your carrier plan, and compare your signal strength, coverage and speed against other carriers across the globe. The app can be downloaded for free here: Speedtest on Google Play.
Facebook today announced Facebook Home, the first step in making the most personal computer in your life more personal.
During a special event today, Facebook announced a new initiative to make mobile phones more personal. The first step is to release Facebook Home, a launcher replacement for Android that puts Facebook content front and center on the device. From the lock screen, to the launcher, to even what Facebook is calling Chat Heads floating persistently above other apps.
The goal with Facebook Home is to change the way we use our most personal computer, the smartphone. The typical interface on a smartphone is not that much different from what it was 32 years ago when Windows 1.0 was released. A series of windows with icons. Home is the first step to try to flip how we think about our relationships and data and put the interactions first. It’s a good first step, but like most things will need a few revisions to be widely popular.
For one thing, at launch on April 12, only the latest of the latest phones will be able to access the app. The Galaxy S III is the oldest phone on the list, three of the devices on the compatible list aren’t even out yet. Here’s the list of compatible devices for launch: HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung GALAXY S III and Samsung GALAXY Note II. The upcoming devices that Home will work with include the GALAXY S IV, HTC One, and HTC First. The HTC First will be the first phone to come with Facebook Home as the default launcher, pre-installed.
There are three main parts to Facebook Home. The home/lock screen, the chat heads, and the launcher. The home/lock screen allows viewing of the latest of Facebook News Feed stories, at least the ones with large enough images to look good. Swiping left and right to view more stories, double touch to like, or hit the comment bubble to add thoughts to the post.
When in home screen mode your avatar will be shown at the bottom of the screen. This allows opening apps, going to Facebook Messenger, or quickly accessing the last app used.
Above, Facebook Home, Home Screen / Cover Feed In Action.
The Chat Heads feature is a system-wide persistent floating bubbles showing avatars of friends that have send Facebook Messages. The chat heads allow interaction with their message, replying, ignoring, etc.
Above, Chat Heads in Action
And finally, the launcher. This replaces the standard launcher in Android and allows both a full, alphabetized list of apps along with the default view, a grid of bookmarked apps. The launcher also has buttons to quickly post a status update, photo, or check-in.
In the short time I had with it, Facebook Home actually works surprisingly well. It has been specifically optimized to deliver the quick response that is expected of a system level app. Apparently a new physics engine was created to support the animations and keep everything smooth.
Facebook looks to open up Home to other applications in the future. This would allow access to notifications from other apps, viewing updates from other apps in the cover feed, and even interacting with other apps while the phone is locked. This is all coming and no specific details were announced.
Facebook also took a bit of time to announce the HTC First. The first device that will ship with Facebook Home as the default launcher. While this does give Home a few extra features, the phone itself is a wholly uninteresting mid-level device.
Facebook Home will be available for download on April 12 to users of the phones listed above. Others will be rolled out, hopefully quickly, in the coming months.
Samsung and AT&T have announced that the Galaxy Note is finally hitting US shores this February. This is a phone for those who believe that 4.7″ displays are just too tiny. This is a phone for those don’t care if their phone fits in their pocket or not.
The Galaxy Note comes with a 5.3″ 1280×800 display. Yes, that’s HD resolution on a 5.3″ screen, with pixel density right below the Galaxy Nexus and iPhone 4, with a 284 PPI (pixels per inch) compared to 316 and 330 PPI respectively. This is designed to be a phone/tablet hybrid, offering more workspace than most phones, while being more portable than a tablet. It might be a struggle to fit in many pockets, but reports of the Kindle Fire fitting in people’s pockets are out there, so this should fit as well.
The screen isn’t the only HD element this behemoth of a phone boasts. The rear camera can take 1080p video and 8-megapixel photos, and the front-facing camera is 2-megapixels as well. The processor is a a dual-core 1.5 GHz one, faster than the 1.4 GHz Exynos processor in the international version. This thing is not underpowered.
The Galaxy Note also comes with a special stylus called the S-Pen that is designed to work with the screen and with special apps, like their S-Memo app that can be used to doodle, convert handwriting into text, and more.
The phone ships with Gingerbread, not with Ice Cream Sandwich, though it has been announced that it is coming. As well, the hacking community (who have had international versions of the device to play around with) have released custom ROMs for the device, and there is an early build of CyanogenMod 9 for the Galaxy Note that is ICS as well. However, with the S-Pen functionality, it may be preferred to wait until source code for an official ICS build is released, so custom ROMs could take advantage of special Galaxy Note features.
The Galaxy Note for AT&T will be available in stores on February 19th, with preorders beginning on February 5th â€“ and those preorders will be received as soon as February 17th. Will US customers respond well to this massive phone-tablet hybrid, possibly leading to a new wave of hybrid devices, or will it be a colossal failure? By which we mean it’s big. That is one big phone.
Security is becoming an unfortunate hot-button issue in the Android world as of late, with one major phone manufacturer in hot water over a data leakage, and a new phone that features a silly glitch that compromises a phone’s lock settings.
HTC Android phones feature a security issue where any app that requests Internet access can get access to an extreme amount of data that could be used to clone the phone and access sensitive user information. Malicious apps could get access to the user’s accounts, phone numbers, text messages, GPS data, and system log dumps that contain vast swaths of information that could be recovered from them. Again, this can be done just simply through an app that requests internet access. Android Police, who originally reported this story, created a proof of concept app that shows just what data can be acquired through this security chasm. As well, there’s a suspicious VNC server app that HTC has added, and there exists the possibility that a hacker could find a way to activate this and take complete control over a user’s phone.
Luckily, not all HTC phones are affected, though the Evo 4G, Evo 3D, Thunderbolt, and possibly other phones could be affected. Users who root can delete one APK, /system/app/HtcLoggers.apk to help fix this vulnerability. Some custom roms, such as CyanogenMod, do not feature this vulnerability at all. Similar to the PDF exploits that led to JailbreakMe on iOS, the way to make one’s phone safer is to hack it in order to remove vulnerabilties. Oh, the irony. HTC was notified of the vulnerability a week before the post went up, but didn’t promise a fix until October 4th (3 days after the story was initially reported), and an over-the-air update patching the vulnerability is in the works.
However, other Android manufacturers can’t just sit back and laugh at their competitor’s misfortune; Samsung’s Galaxy S2 has issues in the US. Specifically, the AT&T version of the Galaxy S2 can have lock screen security bypassed by waking a device by tapping the lock key, letting the screen time out, and then pressing the lock key once again. This will bypass any security on the AT&T Galaxy S2; reports indicate that the Sprint Galaxy S2 does not suffer from this issue.
Apparently Android manufacturers need to keep a tighter lock on their devices’ security, as users could potentially find their devices and sensitive data compromised by shoddy programming.
The Samsung Galaxy S II has been out in Europe for months now, but the US is about to finally get their hands on the smartphone that has been a big seller across the pond. Here are 5 important things to know about the Galaxy S II’s launch in the US:
All 3 phones share similar hardware specs: 8MP rear camera with flash and 1080p video recording, 2MP front camera, 16GB memory, gyroscope, HDMI adapter support, and the Samsung Exynos dual-core 1.2GHz processor. On the software side, the phone runs Gingerbread, comes with the TouchWiz launcher, Samsung Media Hub, Samsung’s Task Manager, an easy screen capture feature by pressing power and home simultaneously (amen!), and a voice command feature called Voice Talk.
All of the US Galaxy S phones will be classified as “4G” phones, though the actual connection speeds will be defined by whatever the carrier defines 4G as.
Unlike the last generation of Galaxy S phones in the US, the phone will actually be called the Galaxy S on AT&T and T-Mobile. The Sprint variant will be called the Epic 4G Touch, and will be the first Galaxy S II phone available in the US, starting September 16th. The other carriers’ phones should be available this fall.
Notably missing from that list of carriers is the other major carrier in the US, Verizon. There is no word on if or when they will be offering the Galaxy S II, but this hurts Samsung’s presence in the US with making the Galaxy S line universally available, one of the strengths of the first-generation Galaxy S phones. TheDroidGuy points out that this may be because Verizon classifies LTE as 4G, and there’s no LTE-capable Galaxy S II model yet.
The phones all share the same 800×480 AMOLED screen, though T-Mobile and Sprint are using a 4.5″ screen. AT&T’s going slightly smaller, with a 4.3″ screen that is the same as the international variant, and the battery they’re using is 1650 mAh versus T-Mobile and Sprint’s 1800 mAh batteries. This will also make the AT&T phone thinner, though.
AT&T and social gaming publisher ngmoco have announced a partnership that will bring Mobage social games (from ngmoco’s parent company DeNA) to AT&T Android customers. The app will apparently be available through the Android Market, but may be restricted to AT&T customers. Carriers have the ability to restrict the display of certain apps on the Market to users, and to display certain apps to certain carriers. This may be the groundwork for games like Pocket Frogs, previously announced for Android via Mobage’s tools, to be released to Android owners for the first time. As well, over 100 other games were promised through Mobage when Pocket Frogs was announced, so AT&T owners may soon be getting their hands on a bunch of these titles. AT&T has been making a bigger commitment to gaming, as evidenced by this, their partnership with OpenFeint, and the upcoming release of the Xperia Play on their network.
Sony Ericsson’s gaming-focused Android phone with physical gaming controls, the Xperia Play, is starting to make its way across the US, with the phone becoming available on AT&T, which was recently revealed at an AT&T event in New York City. The AT&T version of the Xperia Play should be largely the same as the Verizon version, will come preloaded with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), and will come in a new blue color as well as the original black. While the Xperia Play has had a wide variety of games announced that will either be exclusive, or have support for its controls, it has lacked reach in the US so far; with it now being on two of the US’ top four carriers, this should prove beneficial to developers releasing exclusive content on it, and should increase the likelihood that future games and phones have Xperia Play support. However, the release of the phone has not been a huge announcement for either AT&T or Sony Ericsson quite yet, though the phone is not yet officially available for sale, nor has any announcement on a release date been made yet.
One of the biggest problems with AT&T and Android has been their lack of sideloading applications on their phones. However, AT&T has announced that along with a variety of new Android phones including ones with hardware keyboards, they will enable sideloading in the future. This means that AT&T users should be able to enable ‘installation of non-Market applications’ in the near future. The first phone confirmed to have this feature is the incoming Samsung Infuse 4G. According to AT&T senior vice president of mobile devices, Jeff Bradley, the decision to disable the option to sideload applications was done in part for user security, and in part because AT&T couldn’t remove any ‘bad apps’ that might be installed. Of course, sideloading is a setting that must be enabled by the user, apps always prompt when they are being installed, and simply making this an option would have been the simplest option for users. Of course, power users have always been able to root and install custom roms that support sideloading and other features.
A big reason for this change might be the Amazon Appstore. It works through sideloading applications to the phone that are sold through Amazon’s storefront on their store. This has been unavailable to legitimate AT&T users, and it has offered paid apps for free on a daily basis, as well as cheaper prices for apps like Fruit Ninja thanks to their more flexible pricing. They sell Fruit Ninja for $0.99, whereas on the Android Market it is currently ~$1.28. Presumably, they could not sell it for $0.99 on the Android Market due to whatever base price it is set to in their region. Of course, $1.28 corresponds to more than $0.99 Australian, so why this price is what it is in the US is confusing, but the point is that region-appropriate pricing is something that the Amazon Appstore provides that the Market does not yet. This is completely avoiding the fact that Amazon is giving away paid apps on a daily basis that AT&T users are not privy to yet.
Of course, how much influence Amazon and their Appstore had on AT&T’s decision is unknown – but given Amazon’s power player status, it must have had some input on AT&T’s decision. It is good that AT&T is finally taking a step to letting their users use their phones in the way they want, though.
AT&T recently announced its agreement to buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom for $39 billion with the German company receiving $25 billion in cash and $14 billion in stock, giving it an 8% stake in AT&T, assuming all goes well and the merger happens.
It’s important to note that while the two companies have reached an agreement, it could take up to a year for the deal to go through, essentially creating a GSM monopoly within the United States. Obviously, the regulatory commission will be taking a special look at this situation and will have the final say in any proceedings.
By now everyone should have noticed the nice new shiny Android Market that I told you about last week. It seems they’ve been slowly adding in all those promised new features and today they announced another new feature for AT&T customers: Direct Carrier Billing. If you happen to be an AT&T customer you should now see a “Bill my AT&T account” option when purchasing an app from the Android Market. This new change will give AT&T Android customers an easier and more organized way of keeping track of their “phone” related charges.
With CTIA ENTERPRISE & APPLICATIONSâ„¢ 2010 underway it’s only fitting that Motorola would unveil its future lineup of Android based smartphones. Motorola is focused on bringing greater choices and flexibility for consumers and business IT departments when it comes to Android smartphones. The list of phones and features is quite impressive and spans across multiple carriers. Motorola has remained committed to being a key player in the Android movement and their newest lineup reinforces the fact that Android is quickly becoming a preferred platform amongst smartphone users.