Posts Tagged ‘Android’

Android 4.4 KitKat Software Updates Arrive For Several Device Models

September 16th, 2014

Several devices have been receiving the latest Android 4.4 KitKat software updates in the last few weeks. Devices from Samsung (KRX:005930), HTC (TPE:2498) and Sony (NYSE:SNE) can now update to either the Android 4.4.3 or Android 4.4.4 software versions. Many of these devices are receiving their last update before Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) introduces its new Android L operating system. The new software is expected to be released in November and manufacturers like HTC have promised to begin updating their devices within 90 days of its initial release.

Meanwhile, find details about the latest Android updates below. To check if your device has an available Android update, access Settings > About phone > Software updates.

Samsung Galaxy S5

Members of the XDA Developers forum say that the Verizon Galaxy S5 is now updating to Android 4.4.4. Sprint has also hinted it will soon update its Galaxy S5 model to Android 4.4.4.

Sprint Galaxy Note 3

Samsung has confirmed the Sprint Galaxy Note 3 is now updating to Android 4.4.4. The update includes HD voice icon support, international Wi-Fi calling, Google security patches, Knox 2.0 and Kids Mode.

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S4

T-Mobile has confirmed its Galaxy S4 is now updating to Android 4.4.4. The device will also receive T-Mobile’s free inflight texting support.

Verizon HTC One M8

HTC has confirmed the Verizon HTC One M8 is now updating to Android 4.4.3. The device will also receive HTC’s Ultra Power Saving mode with the update.


HTC has halted the Android 4.4.3 update for the AT&T HTC One M8, stating the software brought on severe battery drain. The update has not yet resumed.

T-Mobile HTC One M7

HTC has confirmed the T-Mobile HTC One M7 is now updating to Android 4.4.3. The update will include Wi-Fi calling enhancements, among other fixes and new features.

Sony Xperia Z Line

Sony has confirmed the Xperia Z, Xperia Tablet Z, the Xperia ZL and the Xperia ZR are now updating to Android 4.4.4. The update includes battery and email performance upgrades, improvements to multimedia messages, calendar, Wi-Fi, contacts and other applications and other bug fixes and enhancements.


Android Wear first impressions: Doesn’t appear to be a must-have product yet

July 2nd, 2014

In its first iteration, Google’s Android Wear software for computerised wristwatches isn’t so much about innovation as it is an effort at simplification. Available in two smartwatches out within the next week, Android Wear is rather limited in what it can do. Even last year’s smartwatches do some things that Android Wear can’t.

But the new software should help rein in a marketplace of confusion and encourage app developers to extend smartwatch functionality, the way they have made smartphones even smarter.

In previous watches, each manufacturer modified Android in a different way, so software developers have had to spend a lot of time customising their apps. It’s typically not worth the bother because no single watch has enough users. To confound the problem, Samsung’s second-generation smartwatch, out in April, doesn’t use Android at all, but rather a fledging system called Tizen.

With Android Wear, software developers won’t have to rewrite apps every time a new watch from Samsung, Sony or another manufacturer comes out. And collectively, there might be enough smartwatch users to lure developers.

In fact, developers should have an easier time with Android Wear than Android phones. Phone manufacturers had customised Android so much that apps sometimes didn’t work. Android on phones felt like dozens of different operating systems. With smartwatches, manufacturers will pretty much take the software Google gives them and limit customization to hardware, choices of watch face and apps that come pre-installed.

I’ll have more to say on the first two watches, Samsung’s $199 Gear Live and LG’s $229 G Watch, in a separate review later. I used both to test Android Wear, and this review is about that.

Android Wear requires a companion smartphone running Android 4.3 or later. That covers Kit Kat and the later versions of Jelly Bean, but according to Google’s own stats, only about a quarter of Android devices have either. For a variety of reasons, many recent phones can’t be upgraded. And of course, no iPhones.

The companion phone doesn’t have to be from the same manufacturer as the watch. With both watches, I was able to use Motorola’s Moto G phone from November, Samsung’s Galaxy S III phone from 2012 and LG’s G3, which is coming to the US this summer.

After getting or updating some free apps on your phone, you need to link the watch and the phone wirelessly using Bluetooth.

Most of your interactions with the watch are by voice, similar to using Google Now on Android phones and Siri on iPhones. You can scroll through a short menu of functions, but it’s primarily there as suggestions and isn’t comprehensive. To activate the voice function, just tap on the watch face or say “OK, Google.” You can ask the watch to set an alarm, check your calendar or send a reminder.

You can’t use the watch as a speakerphone for calls, the way previous Samsung smartwatches allowed. But you can make calls or answer ones that come in. The call still goes through the phone, but that’s not a problem if you have a Bluetooth headset.

You can send texts by dictating a message or using canned ones such as “Yes,” ”No,” or “On my way.” You can’t add your own prewritten response, the way you can on Samsung’s previous watches. Android Wear also lets you send and receive emails and read Facebook notifications. I sent myself a draft of this story and was able to read all of it on the watch. If you prefer using the phone, there’s a button you can tap to have the message automatically open there.

The watches can also keep track of your daily steps, and Samsung’s has a heart rate monitor. These tasks and the clock functions are about all you can do without the phone nearby.

Where Android Wear advances smartwatch technology is in navigation. As long as the phone is nearby, you can get turn-by-turn directions on the watch. While walking down the street, you can look at your wrist and avoid having to constantly pull the phone out of your pocket. Sony’s SmartWatch 2 has a maps app, but it doesn’t work as well as Google’s.

Beyond that, the watch offers the types of notifications you’d get through Google Now on the phone, if you’ve turned that feature on. That includes local weather, birthday reminders and scores for your favorite sports teams. While jogging to work Tuesday morning, Android Wear even offered nearby bus stops in case I wanted to cheat.

Of course, I can simply pull out my phone for all that. Android Wear is supposed to make your life better by displaying relevant information on your wrist, rather than in your pocket. But you still need the phone nearby, and the voice recognition feature doesn’t always hear me correctly.

Android Wear isn’t quite there yet as a must-have product, but I can only imagine what it will evolve into in the months and years ahead. It helps that there’s now a unified system that software developers can focus on improving.


Google Highlights Android for Watches, Cars, Homes

June 26th, 2014

Google Inc. GOOGL +2.34% unveiled new software for watches, cars and living rooms Wednesday as the world’s largest online-search company tries to spread its influence to new screens and areas of life.

The strategy Google laid out at a conference for thousands of developers seeks to capitalize on the popularity of its Android mobile operating system, which powers the majority of the world’s smartphones and tablets. Now, Google hopes its various flavors of Android can knit together multiple devices.

“Wherever you go, you will run into Android, that’s the goal,” said Aleema Mawami, co-founder of app developer Streak and a former Google product manager.

Google’s announcements come as it vies with Apple Inc. AAPL +0.09% to control the various smart devices in people’s lives. In 2013, roughly four times as many Android smartphones were sold as Apple iPhones.

Yet the conference also highlighted how Google and Apple are taking pages from each other’s playbook as they court developers to build apps for the various devices powered by their software. Google is putting more emphasis on beautifying the design elements in Android, including new animations and 3-D effects. Meanwhile, Apple at its own developer conference earlier this month opened up its traditionally closed ecosystem to give developers more control over how their apps work on devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Google’s ambitions are very large. Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps, said more than one billion people now use Android devices every month. But he said Google wants to get smartphones in the hands of billions more, and he unveiled an initiative, Android One, to encourage the development of phones for less than $100 in developing countries.

In a 2 ½-hour keynote address, Mr. Pichai and other executives introduced new flavors of Android for wearable devices, cars, televisions and smartphones.

The plethora of new screens present difficulties for software makers, who will have to redesign apps to work in disparate settings, said Phil Libin, chief executive of productivity software maker Evernote Corp.

Developers are “going to have to think through the user interaction on each type of device very carefully,” he said. “There’s no magic that will make this happen.”

Even so, Google sought to show how its operating system will work across different devices. Laptops running its Chrome operating system will be able to run Android smartphone apps more easily, for example. Phones and smartwatches can be used to control Android TVs as well.

Smartwatches are the first new device to hit the market, with Android-powered models from both Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. 066570.SE +0.95% made available on Wednesday. For its part, Apple is expected to release its own smartwatch later this year.

Android smartwatch wearers will be able to automatically unlock their Android smartphone without having to enter a password, thanks to sensors in the two devices that will recognize one another. The watches will also respond to voice commands, so wearers can send texts, take notes and perform other tasks in concert with their smartphones. When users dismiss text messages and other notes on their smartwatches, they will also disappear from their smartphones.

Android TV is Google’s new operating system for the living room, which will run Internet-connected TVs from companies including Sony, Sharp and TP Vision, and set-top boxes made by Razer, Asus and others.

The devices, expected later this year, will be controlled from a viewer’s Android smartphone, an Android smartwatch, or through voice commands.

Voice control is also a major part of Android Auto, another new version of Android that Google announced for cars. Google hopes that will make it easier for drivers to use applications and services safely by keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

The company said that 40 more auto makers have joined its Open Auto Alliance, an industry group it formed in January to promote connected-car technology. The first cars with Android Auto installed will be available this year, it added.

Google is also trying to get Android devices used more by companies, which so far have been more welcoming to iPhones and iPads because they are perceived as easier to set up and secure. By contrast, Android devices are made by different manufacturers and sometimes use different versions of Google’s operating system.

Mr. Pichai said Google is adding more security features, including some from Samsung, in the next version of Android, due out later this year.

Google Docs, the company’s productivity software, will be able to handle Microsoft Office programs, such as Word, Mr. Pichai said. In the past, users had to convert a Word document to a Google version before they edited it.


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