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Category Archives: Android




I’m Obsessed with the New Instagram Update

Instagram has had a very similar UI since it was created. The tired old brown icon has occupied a space on the grid of my phone screen(s) for almost six years, but I’ve been using it less frequently over time. Simply put, I just got bored of it. The content became less interesting (blaming the friends I follow for that one) and the stagnant, dated UI didn’t compel me to check this drab feed of selfies and memes. Luckily, the update I got this morning for Instagram caught my attention immediately, and may have breathed new life into the application entirely.

Instagram ditched the brown and beige icon for a very eye catching gradient. The app itself has lost most of its color, opting for almost entirely black and white UI with a pink color for elements like notifications. It looks very “Apple”, and we’re expecting a similar look coming to Apple Music soon, which won’t matter to Android/Windows users, but there is definitely something that can be taken away from this update and the effect its having on users.

Instagram UI Update

Through exploring, I have found very few new features in the newest Instagram update, so it’s safe to say this is solely a UI update, and I’m so excited to use it again. As a developer or business owner, it would be worthwhile to take this into consideration for the systems your customers use. If adding new features or services isn’t having the effect you expected, or just isn’t something you’re doing right now, a new look can be enough to trigger more engagement.

Keeping your UI up to the current trends is critical to maintain and expand your user base. Unless you’re offering a highly specialized product, chances are there’s a competitor out there whose website or app has a cleaner, more user-friendly design. Users will gravitate towards interfaces that look simple, make it obvious where they should navigate to get their desired result. Using familiar elements to your design will make the user feel like they know what they’re doing, even if they’re seeing it for the first time.

Google to Discontinue Google Wallet Debit Cards.

Google Wallet CardGoogle Wallet is the longstanding mobile payment platform that brought NFC payments to the masses in 2011. Google has been heavily restructuring their payment applications recently, turning Google Wallet into a peer-to-peer payment service (a la Venmo, Paypal, SquareCash) and putting NFC payments into their new app Android Pay.

As of May 1st 2016, users will no longer be able to add money to their Google Wallet debit cards. On June 30 the cards will be fully cancelled by Google. The Wallet service will still work, and Android Pay is growing in support and adoption rapidly. Google has yet to say whether they will be creating an Android Pay card, or if they’re ditching the idea of replacing debit and credit cards altogether.

Because of the low adoption rate of NFC terminals, Google started offering a Google Wallet physical card that worked with ATM’s and traditional swiping terminals. The cards launched in 2013 and functioned by loading up your balance in the app, and spending with the card.

If you’re a Google Wallet card user looking for a convenient way to replace the plastic in your wallet, we have written about our pick for a replacement card previously. Of course there still isn’t anything wrong with actual bank cards, but many people out there are looking to simplify their wallets.

LG G5: Android is Better with Friends

LG recently announced the next iteration of their flagship Android device, the G5. Taking cues from both the G4 and the V10, as well as some unreleased Android devices, LG takes one of the most impressive innovative leaps with this new phone.

Build2016-02-22 12_20_07-LG G5_ Release Dates, Specs & News _ LG USA

The chassis of the G5 first caught my eye, bearing a striking resemblance to the most recent Nexus devices (the 5x especially), the G5 is a cozy 5.3” screen on a metal unibody. It has a very unique slight curve towards the top of the screen, which sets off the very futuristic look of the device. Unlike any unibody phone ever, the G5 features a removable battery and microSD slot. Samsung has migrated away from these removable components, opting to leave them unremovable like an iPhone. This is to the dissatisfaction of many Samsung customers, who I feel will find a great new home in LG’s ecosystem with this new device.
The rear volume rocker, which has been a unique LG Gx series feature, has been moved to the side of the phone. The back of the phone now houses a fingerprint scanner and an impressive dual-lens camera (one 16Megapixel, one 8Megapixel Wide-Angle).

Software

LG made some interesting decisions on the software side. As a long-time Android user, I’m used to every year meaning more features added to a phone. Most of the time they were a lot of impractical, useless features that I would wind up disabling anyway (ahem, Samsung’s gesture based navigation). With the G5 LG looked into the customer feedback and market research and decided to simplify the UI. LG removed many unnecessary/unused features, such as dual window and Q slide, and much of the bloatware that came with its predecessors. LG also ditched the app drawer and all apps will be on the homescreen of the device, similarly to how iPhones organize apps. This move comes from market research suggesting users would prefer to keep the apps on the homescreen, rather than isolated in their own drawer. The rest of the UI has been slimmed down to run faster, which should fly on the hardware packed into this device.

Hardware

The phone is one of the first to come out with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 820. It comes with 4GB of RAM 32GB of on-board storage. As I mentioned before, the phone has a micro-SD slot for expandable storage and a replaceable battery, which you access by pulling the bottom of the device down. The battery and bottom lip slide out and so do all the replaceable components. This mechanism is what makes the device truly innovative, as the bottom lip can be replaced with different modules to enhance or add to the features of the phone.

Friends

Beating out the highly-anticipated Project Ara, LG introduces modular accessories to the G line with what it calls “Friends”. Currently LG has produced two Friends for the device, but they are allowing third party manufacturers to access the specifications to create many more unique tools for the phone. The two that LG have produced give a good idea of what kind of potential these modules have. The first is the LG Cam Plus, which looks like the shooting side of a standalone camera. This Friend adds additional hardware controls to the dual lens camera and even adds additional battery life, bumping the phone up to 4000 mAh. The second module is called the LG Hi-Fi Plus, which adds a 32bit amp to the phone to improve the quality of audio coming out of the 3.5mm jack on the phone.

 

While the Friends are the most exciting part of the phone, they are also the most risky move by LG so far. With every other change made to this device emphasizing simplicity, will the modules scare users off? I can think of at least a dozen people I know personally who wouldn’t want to deal with extra parts to keep track of, and would probably never even remove the stock Friend on the phone. Hopefully the move towards modules sticks, and other OEM’s will start implementing similar features to their flagships, but we will have to wait and see how the G5 sells to make any predictions for their competitors.

Major Android Security Hack Uncovered

android-devil-malware-100247149-carousel.idgeAttention Android Users!

With just a simple receipt of a text message, your Android can be hacked. This is likely the biggest smartphone flaw ever discovered, CNN reports that, “it affects an estimated 950 million phones worldwide.” The issue is rooted in the way in which Androids are programmed to analyze incoming text messages, even before they have been opened. For instance, with Google’s Hangouts app, any media file that you receive (pictures, videos, audio) is automatically processed as soon as it is received. Because of this, “a malware-laden file can start infecting the phone before it’s even opened.”

The hacker needs only to send a text with a malicious media file to your phone to potentially gain complete control of your Android device. With that, he or she will be able to wipe out your device, access apps, open and review sensitive information on your phone, or even turn your camera on without you knowing.

Google, owner and operator of the Android OS, has acknowledged the vulnerability. In fact, they were made aware of the hack – and even provided with a potential fix – as early as April 9 by cybersecurity firm Zimperium. Google has assured that a patch would be made available for all customers, but according to Zimperium, a fix still isn’t largely available.

Although Google has likely developed a patch to this vulnerability, due to Android’s dependence on carriers and phone manufacturers, the company can’t simply push the fix directly to user’s devices, as main rival Apple has the luxury to do. The fix must be coordinated with disparate manufacturer platforms (Samsung, LG, Motorola, etc.) and then disseminated through the carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint – just to name a few…). Google claims they have delivered a solution to its carriers, but it is still unclear whether or not the solution has been passed along to their users.

Until security firms like Zimperium declare this issue clear, Android users can disable auto-fetching of multi-media messages by accessing the Settings menu within their default messaging app. Tap Settings -> Advanced -> (deselect) Auto-retrieve MMS messages.

Users can find detailed instructions here.

Microsoft Sues Samsung Over Android Patent Fees

M v SamsungYou know Samsung, maker of those super popular smartphones you may have seen around this year? Galaxys, Notes – yeah, THOSE.  Did you know Microsoft gets a royalty for every Android smartphone Samsung sells? Talk about a good deal.

The set up is part of a patent-sharing agreement the companies negotiated in 2011. But the Microsoft Corporation is claiming Samsung was late on the most recent payment and is refusing to pay interest on the late payment – and Microsoft ain’t having it.

Rightfully so as Microsoft makes an estimated $2 billion a year on patent royalties related to devices running on Google’s Android operating system made by Samsung and other companies. That would be more than 9% of the $22 billion in profit Microsoft made over its past fiscal year.

David Howard, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel had this to say in a blog post on Friday: “After spending months trying to resolve our disagreement, Samsung has made it clear in a series of letters and discussions that we have a fundamental disagreement as to the meaning of our contract.”

The lawsuit acknowledges Samsung has been paying faithfully up until Microsoft announced the purchase of Nokia’s smartphone sector last fall. Microsoft’s Howard claims that Samsung is using the acquisition “as an excuse to breach its contract.”

This certainly places Microsoft in an awkward position, as Samsung is one of the few major smartphone players to manufacture and sell Windows Phone devices. However, with billions on the line, going after lost royalties as per the 2011 agreement is worth the risk.

So far, Samsung has only issued a very brief statement: “We will review the complaint in detail and determine appropriate measures in response.”

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, But We Wish We Were!

 

Google_fiber_logoGoogle’s chic new Internet service, Google Fiber, continues to expand! The city of Overland Park, Kansas will be the latest recipient of the gift of ultra-high speed Internet. Overland Park approved an agreement to bring Google Fiber, joining an ever-growing list of cities in the Kansas City metro area; Fiber is also currently available in Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah.

Just how fast does Google Fiber claim to be? Over 100 times faster than most U.S. connections, delivering speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. For reference, at that speed, you can download a feature-length movie in about 30 seconds and a full album in less than six.

Arguably the best part about Fiber, aside from its ridiculous speed, the service costs less or about the same as pretty much every other premium ISP. Google plans to keep expanding the service, eyeing cities like Atlanta, Portland, Salt Lake City, and Nashville – just to name a few.

Understandably, the service is difficult to get off the ground, as it requires an expensive fiber-optic network that must be built underground. But if recent history is any indicator, Nationwide Google Domination won’t be too far off.

A message to Google from Phoenix AZ: Take us over please.

Newtek to Announce 2013 Financial Results on Monday, March 31, 2014

Aside

newtek-logoNewtek, The Small Business Authority®, today announced that it will report its full year 2013 financial results on Monday, March 31, 2014. A conference call to discuss these results will be hosted by Barry Sloane, Chairman, President and Chief Executive. Officer, and Jennifer Eddelson, Executive Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer, on Monday, March 31, 2014 at 4:15 pm ET. The live conference call can be accessed by dialing (877) 303-6993 or (760) 666-3611.

A live webcast of the call and the corresponding presentation will be available in the ‘Events & Presentations’ section of the Investor Relations portion of Newtek’s website at http://investor.newtekbusinessservices.com/events.cfm. A replay of the webcast with the corresponding presentation will be available on Newtek’s website shortly following the live presentation.

[News Ticker]: Why NOT $19B for WhatsApp?

whatsappMobile mobile messaging service WhatsApp functions as yet another social network; one where users can send messages either to one or many recipients simultaneously. The may even share their locations if they so choose.

The users are exactly the kind that Facebook is seeking. They’re active, uploading more photos per day than even Facebook users. What’s more, WhatsApp boasts 70 percent daily user activity (that’s 8 percent better than Facebook!)

And when it comes to International use, WhatsApp users are responsible for more than 19 billion messages per day, including 200 million voice messages and 100 million videos.Given the App’s colossal user base, its staggering purchase price might actually prove to be a bargain – particularly when compared to some noteworthy competitors. For example, LinkedIn’s trading price comes at about  $153 per user, Twitter at $140 per user, and Facebook itself trades at about $123. So the $42 price per user FB paid for WhatsApp isn’t so seemingly absurd at all, anymore.

[source: CNN]

4 Signs Your Biz. Is Ready For a Mobile App

HiResFor the last few years, mobile app usage has grown to such a colossal point that lately it seems like every business thinks it’s a necessary part of their development; “App up or perish in obscurity” is the new thinking. The problem: not every small business needs a mobile app, nor does

If you develop an app that your customers never end up using, not only will you have wasted significant money, but every time someone looks at your app, sitting unused on their device, they will begin to subconsciously associate your company is stagnancy and irrelevance – not exactly great branding. This is what we mean when we say that as much as a well-timed, highly engaging app can give your company a marked boost, an app that serves no practical purpose can do more than fail to help your company – it can actually hurt it.

If your company is currently debating whether or not to take your business mobile, take note of the following 4 signs. These are good markers for whether or not mobile app development would be a smart use of your time and resources.

1.     You have enough money

Mobile app development is not cheap, nor should it be. By now, there are individuals and companies out there who offer super cheap mobile apps but this is a situation where you truly do get what you pay for. The only thing worse than not having a mobile app when you could genuinely benefit from one is having one that looks or functions cheaply. Don’t cut corners here: if you don’t have enough money to hire a fantastic developer, you don’t have enough money for a mobile app right now.

2.     Your app opens growth potential

Like any other investment you make, there needs to be a possibility that the addition of a mobile app to your customer outreach arsenal is going to foster growth for your company. How exactly that looks for your business is a very unique formula, but that’s what makes the research part before development so crucial – you need to identify which parts of your market you aren’t currently fully engaged in, figure out how to reach them, and brainstorm ways to trigger that engagement with a mobile app. Until you’ve figured out that equation, there’s no real reason to dig into the process of going mobile.

3.     Your app fills a need in your market

You absolutely must check out what your competition is doing in the mobile market (and really, you should always be aware of your competition, not just when it comes to mobile) before you solidify your plans. Even companies who offer similar services and products can function very differently in terms of what their mobile app does. Ideally, your app will be the only one to fill a certain need in a market.

4.     Your app serves your business model

For example, if you run a yoga studio, maybe your app allows students to sign up for classes, pay their dues, and check schedules. The idea is to find a way to have an app support your preexisting business model, not create some brand new service or function that you didn’t have before.

Congratulations! You’re the Newest Member of Google’s Sales Team!

google-magnifying-glass-600By now, we’ve all wised up to the fact that Google Inc. is first and foremost a data company. That’s right, the cost of our most beloved free search engine, and widespread use of all those Android commodities we adore, is our personal information and preferences.

If you use Google products (which according to a recent Pew survey 78% of individuals who own a smartphone report regularly using at least one Google product) you’ve seen this data collection in action in the form of targeted Gmail ads and the occasional merchandise suggestion. Beginning on November 11th, you may start seeing some familiar faces, including your own, used to endorse products and services. On Tuesday, Google announced new Terms of Services that will enable advertisers to display user names, photographs, and comments made about products or services on any Google site.

The new policy uses comments, ratings, and feedback that users provide to promote business’ ads on the Google ad display network. This bold attempt to further monetize user data is being touted by Google as a way to create friend-based recommendations that will be more effective than the comments of anonymous strangers.

More effective? Certainly, but the value of these personal endorsements (and cash made as a result) is felt by the advertiser and Google only. Our personal recommendations will most likely result in increased sales, but we will not receive any kickbacks or payment for our service.

Not comfortable with advertisers reaping the rewards of your freely given recommendations? Luckily, there is a way to opt out of the digital pimping of your likeness and name, which can be found here. Take some time to check out Google’s latest Terms of Service updates within your privacy settings.

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