Wednesday, February 27, 2013

HTC Rhyme to get de-bloated in upcoming OTA

The HTC Rhyme was one interesting phone to behold when HTC announced it, but we didn’t expect it to be the type of smash mouth device that HTC would prioritize when it comes to delivering Android updates. We’re not totally disappointed it still hasn’t gotten Ice Cream Sandwich — after all, this one-off device was aimed at the crowd who probably wouldn’t care about bleeding edge software in the first place — but it would be nice to get it.

That said, it definitely will be getting a small OTA update soon as Verizon has posted new details about it to its support site. The upgrade actually de-bloats the experience, removing video on-demand, music on-demand and the now-dead (well, dead if you have a modern Android device) V Cast. There are no other notable changes it seems, so sit back and relax as we wait for this one to roll in (we imagine no one’s in a huge rush to grab it either way).

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Skype update lets tablet users revert to phone interface

The last major Skype for Android update brought support for Android tablets, but users were disappointed to find out the app got rid of the all-important portrait mode. This probably didn’t matter much to those with 10-inch tablets, devices that are rather unwieldy and impractical to use in that orientation, but those on 7-inch devices such as the Nexus 7 might feel a bit differently.

Well, Skype has released an upgrade today to address all that for the time being. Today’s upgrade adds an option that will allow users to switch between tablet and phone user interfaces at a moment’s notice. The tablet user interface is still locked to portrait orientation, but the phone interface will let you use Skype in the more comfortable portrait configuration. It’s worthy to note that the phone interface has much of the same features as the tablet version, so you aren’t really missing out on any features.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a necessary bridge as Skype continues to tweak the tablet user interface to make it easy for all users to enjoy. Grab it from the Google Play Store and see if you can’t win a bit of your comfort back.

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LG Optimus LTE 3 leaks

It looks like LG will soon come to town with a new LG Optimus LTE as the third edition in this line has leaked. It was spotted in LG’s home base of Korea, and it will apparently come with a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, a 720p display,a 2,420mAh battery, and will come with Android 4.1.2 out of the box.

It gets iis name from the LTE radios sitting inside, obviously, so you can expect 4G speeds, as well. This device won’t challenge LG’s new Optimus G line, but it could be a nice option for folks who need a 4G smartphone at inexpensive costs. The Optimus LTE 3 is said to be headed to store shelves later this year, but don’t be surprised if its launch is limited. SK Telekom will be offering it, at least, so we know LG’s got its home front covered.

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Chrome for Android update brings improved scrolling performance

The Chrome for Android team has been quite busy lately. A new build for Android devices has come to the stable channel, it brings a lot of improvements and changes. The most notable change will be the improved scrolling performance in webpages. It’s a gripe many of us have had ever since the browser launched, and it’s one that Google hasn’t been as quick to address as other areas. The hatchet is buried for the time being now, though, so head to your favorite site and start flinging around to see just how much smoother it is.

Another big change is the increase in responsiveness to pinch-to-zoom on web pages. Again, it’s something we’ve all let out a slight moan about even if the implementation wasn’t bad enough to drive us away from the app. Other changes include faster interactive pages due to an update V8 javascript engine, continuous audio playback while Chrome is in the background (it will pause when a phone call is in progress, though), support for more HTML5 features, and more.

A few users are already raving about some of the changes in the Google Play Store so get over there and give it a whirl for yourself. For you new folks, it’s a free download, so if your stock browser, Firefox, Opera, or whatever other browser you currently prefer has been giving you trouble lately then you owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot.

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HTC One to be OEM’s only true flagship for 2013

HTC seems to be taking its new strategy quite seriously. After HTC halfway broke its 2012 promise of not diluting its smartphone line-up with as many devices as it could, it seems the Taiwanese OEM is much more serious about cutting down the fat. Speaking with Omio, HTC’s Phil Roberson confirmed that HTC would not be going the route of yesteryear’s One line, where there were tons of different variants to get consumers confused (no one was worse than Sony in that regard, but I digress).

Nope, instead the HTC One — the one that was unveiled in New York City last week — is going to be the only One of the year: no HTC One XTLMFAO OMGPOP Edition or anything of the sort. That’s not to say this will be the only high-end HTC smartphone of the year — HTC still has the mid-range sectors to target, as well as a Windows line to promote — but the HTC One will remain at the top of HTC’s totem pole.

The Samsung-esque strategy allows HTC to focus on branding and marketing one phone across many different carriers. No longer does it have to run a campaign for X-phone because it’s on Y-carrier. HTC won’t have to delegate manufacturing resources and time to tons of different smartphones. Accessories can remain carrier-agnostic.

We enjoyed everything about that strategy on Samsung’s end, so we’re happy HTC is following suit. It’s a win-win for everybody involved, and we couldn’t be happier to see HTC finally realizing that over-saturation isn’t always the right answer.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Google Stores to launch by holiday season [RUMOR]

Google may not be ready to call itself a successful online retailer, but it seems they may be taking the next step very soon. If the latest rumors are to be trusted, Google could be releasing its very own physical retail store by this year’s holiday season. Yes, you might be doing your Christmass shopping at a Google store this year!

The source comes from 9to5Google, who claims this is an “extremely reliable source”. We have no idea what that means, but they must be pretty sure that the insider has a good sense of what goes on behind Google’s closed doors.

The idea seems to have sparked from wanting to market Google Glass to the general consumer. The best way to do this would be to hand the units to shoppers and let them test the emerging piece of technology. Having the expensive and rare devices available in a retail store could mean the difference between failure and success, if you ask us.

Though we are quickly moving to an internet-dominated market, brick and mortar stores still play a huge part of marketing. Consumers want to be able to use something before making the decision to purchase it. They want to hold it, feel it, smell it, use it, see its capabilities, experience it first-hand and compare it to the competition.

It’s the same reason why people go to dealers instead of just ordering a car from the manufacturer’s site. I know I often purchase products at Best Buy instead of Amazon for this very reason, even though Amazon tends to have products a bit lower priced most times.

Of course, Google would also be taking a huge risk. They have been offering a rather depressing experience selling their own few devices from the Google Play Store. We understand online and physical retail stores are completely different entities and they could end up offering the best experience, but the Search Giant simply hasn’t proven itself in this area.

Our very own Quentyn has recently written a great editorial on this topic. He goes into detail about the pros and cons of Google opening a retail store, so check that article out to learn more about what could come out of this.

I personally think it would help more than it would harm. It would bring some exposure to Google TV, Nexus devices, Chromebooks, Google Glass and any other upcoming Google products. Tell us what you think, though! Do you think Google will totally screw this one over?

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Latest HTC One teasers tip superior camera, audio experience

It’s not quite surprising to see HTC hyping its next big smartphone up to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but with all of this pre-show hype we’re not expecting to be disappointed. Once HTC takes the stage to unveil the HTC One in New York City tomorrow morning we’re expecting to be blown away by several of its features. Well, it seems HTC will be putting an emphasis on a few different things.

For starters, the latest series of teasers feature a close-up of an iris with some sort of image within the pupil and the numbers 2-19-13, a close-up of some Canon lenses with that same date on it, and the outer edges of a pair of stereo speakers with a graphic featuring the date in between. We imagine the iris is tipping us off to a high-resolution display, the Canon lenses tease an out-of-this-world camera sensor, and the stereo speakers tell us to expect a superior audio experience (likely something Beats-infused).

In regards to that last point, the latest HTC One leaks show what appear to be a set of speakers on the front as well as on the back. It’s not often we get a phone with stereo speakers, so we’re definitely interested to see how this will sound in practice. There was also a fourth pic which showed a series of videos ready to be played back, but we’re not exactly sure what HTC’s referencing with that particular image.

That’s just one of many things we’ll be looking to get a hands-on taste of once we arrive in New York City tomorrow for HTC’s big unveil. Stay tuned to Phandroid as we provide live coverage of everything the Taiwanese company has to offer for its main money maker for 2013.

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Could Samsung announce the Galaxy S4 March 14th in New York?

We were surprised to learn that Samsung wouldn’t be unveiling the Samsung Galaxy S4 around Mobile World Congress this year, an event the company usually steals the show at with its annual Galaxy S announcement. Since then, the biggest question regarding the Galaxy S4 aside from the “what” has been the “when.” Well, according to new rumors we might be less than a month away from an official unveiling.

According to Eldar Murtazin — who tends to have more hits than misses when it comes to these rumors — Samsung will look to announce the Samsung Galaxy S4 in New York City March 14th. The previously rumored March 15th date is only one day off, so either way we’re eyeing “mid March” as quite an important window for Samsung.

Some might say Samsung would benefit from beating the competition to the announcement punch, but announcing its flagship smartphone a full two weeks after all of its competitors ensures its wares and the excitement regarding its announcement won’t be outclassed for quite some time. Samsung would have to be mighty confident that it has a surefire winner on its hands to wait that long, and we don’t expect anything less than “stunning” if the innovative Galaxy Note 2 (and even the Galaxy S3 in its heyday) is anything to go by.

We’re said to expect a 5 inch 1080p HD Super AMOLED display, Samsung’s new Exynos processor with an 8-core CPU and an 8-core GPU, 2GB of RAM, a 13 megapixel camera on the rear, a 2 megapixel camera on the front and more. Recent rumors suggest the S Pen will remain exclusive to the Galaxy Note series for the time being, though we never put much stock into the possibility of the S4 getting S Pen in the first place.

If the above rumors regarding the announcement date are true then we won’t have to wait long after Mobile World Congress to see invites for a New York City event rolling in, so let’s get through this month’s big show first (where Samsung is expected to unveil an 8-inch Galaxy Note tablet).

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