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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

LG G Flex: First impressions

LG finally introduced its first curved display smartphone in India, the G Flex, at an event in New Delhi. Indian consumers will have to wait till next year to get their hands on the device, as the G Flex will be available in India only in February 2014.We got a chance to play with the LG G Flex at the event however, and sum up our first impressions below.
When we first held the G Flex in our hands, we were definitely a bit taken aback by its ergonomic curved design, which definitely is the device's USP. The G Flex is curved on its horizontal axis which gives the device's top and bottom edges a curl shape.

Following closely on the lines of LG's current flagship smartphone, the LG G2, G Flex also features rear physical keys for power and volume controls. LG has equipped the LED light on the rear power key which comes handy for notifications and while taking a selfie. The keys are metallic and offer good tactile feedback, very much like the LG G2. The volume-up button also doubles up as a shortcut key to launch the Quickmemo app on long press and the volume-down button acts as a camera shortcut key on long press when the phone is locked.
The G Flex also includes a number of ports around the edges including the 3.5mm audio jack and the charging port that sits at the bottom panel, while the micro-SIM card slot sits at the left panel of the G Flex. The rear panel includes the primary 13-megapixel camera with an LED flash, which is accompanied by an IR Blaster.
It would be unfair to end the design part without talking about G Flex's self-healing back that has been creating a buzz worldwide. When we wanted to test the self-healing capability of the G Flex, we were sure we needed a scratchy material; unfortunately we didn't carry a knife so we tried our key chain to rub the rear panel and gave it a surface level scratch which was very much visible initially. After some time, we noticed that the scratches were reduced but not completely eliminated. While looking the G Flex from a certain angle, it looked that the scratches were gone, although it was pretty much noticeable. However, we must confess we were impressed and believe that the G Flex can easily handle day-to-day bruises.
Coming to the hardware of the G Flex, it is powered by a quad-core 2.26GHz Snapdragon 800 (MSM8974) processor with an Adreno 330 GPU, and 2GB of RAM. The G Flex easily handled multitasking with ease, and the apps opened and closed instantaneously. Performance wise, the G Flex fared well in our limited testing.
The G Flex sports a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera. During our usage, the camera app opened instantly and did click at good speed without any shutter lag. The G Flex is powered by a 3,500mAh battery and weighs 177 grams. The LG G Flex comes with 32GB inbuilt storage, which is non-expandable.
The LG G Flex runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, which is a disappointment as we expected LG to ship Android 4.3, the most recent iteration of the OS with the phone. However, with LG finally revealing plans for rolling out the Android 4.4 KitKat update for the flagship smartphone, the G2, we expect that the G Flex will also get the KitKat treatment soon

Facebook acquires Branch social network, team to lead 'Conversations' group

Facebook on Monday confirmed that it has grabbed a hold of Branch, a social network that focuses providing online forums for insightful conversations.
Terms of the deal were not released, but some reports estimated the price at $15 million. The company also owns the news link-sharing service, Potluck.

"I am thrilled to announce that we will be continuing our mission at Facebook," Branch co-founder and chief executive Josh Miller wrote in a Facebook post, that he said was fired off while vacationing at a mountain locale in Japan.

Miller wrote that the New York City-based startup's twin social networks, Branch and Potluck, will continue to operate independently but its nine-member team will form a Facebook Conversations group.

The group's goal will be to help Facebook users connect in meaningful exchanges based on interests, according to Miller.

The start-up launched about two years ago with backing from The Obvious Corporation, a technology firm incubator formed and backed by Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams.

According to Techcrunch, which cites confirmation from Facebook, the Branch Media buyout is a 'talent acquisition.'

The Facebook announcement by Miller read:
After two years building Branch and Potluck, I am thrilled to announce that we will be continuing our mission at Facebook!

We will be forming Facebook's Conversations group, based in New York City, with the goal of helping people connect with others around their interests. Their pitch to us was: "Build Branch at Facebook scale!"

Although the products we build will be reminiscent of Branch and Potluck, those services will live on outside of Facebook. A more thoughtful note and details to come soon but I am writing this haphazardly from a mountain in Japan (I was tipped that the story was going to leak while on vacation).

World's first insured Bitcoin vault opens in UK, uses 'deep cold storage' techniques

The world's first Bitcoin storage service that insures deposits of the digital currency against hackers and accidental loss has opened in London.
Bitcoin is a virtual currency that can be generated through complex computer software systems with solutions shared on a network.
Although the digital currency is gaining popularity, concerns about its security are on the rise. Online wallets used to store Bitcoins have been subject to a number of cyber-attacks and some users have also suffered from accidental loss.
The new Bitcoin storage service offering insurance in UK, named Elliptic Vault, uses "deep cold storage" techniques to secure the digital currency.
Bitcoin keys are encrypted and stored offline. There are multiple copies, protected by layers of cryptographic and physical security.
The copies are accessible only via a quorum of Elliptic's directors.
The facility's founders claim they are the "first in the world" to offer insurance for Bitcoin owners.
Unlike money stored in a conventional bank, Bitcoins are not insured and there is no way of retrieving them.
"One of the main concerns people have with Bitcoin is that it's quite difficult to store securely," Elliptic co-founder Tom Robinson told the BBC.
"Offering people insurance seemed an obvious step," said Robinson, an Oxford graduate, who started the company with two friends.
Lloyds of London is the underwriter for the Elliptic Vault service and insurance payouts will be calculated using the Bitcoin to US dollar exchange rate at the time a claim is made.
Elliptic's launch comes as governments around the world are deciding how to legislate for the digital currency.
Asian financial hub Singapore has become one of the first countries to issue guidance on taxation for Bitcoin businesses, although it also said it was monitoring transactions to detect illicit financing by criminals and terrorists.
In India, a number of Bitcoin operators have suspended their business following the recent warning by the country's central bank against use of such virtual currencies due to potential money laundering and cyber security risks.
However, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is yet to come out with a clear regulatory framework for Bitcoins.
In the US, Overstock.com has become one of the first major online retailers to accept Bitcoin.
Bitcoin came into existence in 2009. It has become the world's most expensive currency and its per unit value soared past $1,200 level or about Rs. 63,000 in November 2013.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Purported iPhone 6 metal frame leaked, points to a large screen

The highly anticipated next-generation Apple iOS smartphone, thought to be called iPhone 6, has again turned heads towards itself, with an alleged metal frame leaked in a couple of images surfaced online by a website called C Tech.
According to the images of the alleged iPhone 6 metal frame, the screen mounted on it is expected to be around 4.7-inch or even 5-inch in size as speculated by GforGames website. The images also show a thinner frame, which is approximately 6mm.
Surprisingly, the leaked metal frame is compared with an Apple iPhone 5s handset, showing the former to be slightly shorter and wider in size than the latter.
It is too early to jump to any conclusions, as the authenticity of the images and the frame itself remains to be confirmed. However, the website is considered as reliable as it previously leaked the specifications for iPhone 5c seen in the wild.
Other recent reports indicate that the proposed Apple iPhone 6 device will retain the 8 megapixel camera sensor like iPhone 5s, but with improved optical image stabilisation, reports Chinapost. Industry speculation in the past had hinted at the new iPhone sporting a 16-megapixel camera.
The rumour comes from Nomura Securities, a financial group, which cites Largan Precision's falling shares. Largan Precision is one of the major suppliers for camera lens modules for smartphones, tablets, digital cameras and other devices. The shares are said to be falling because of the rumours that Apple with keep its next version of iPhone limited to 8 megapixels only, and not Largan Precision's new module.
However, the news should be taken with a pinch of salt as nothing concrete has been revealed till now. Apple may just give a bump to iPhone 6's camera sensor, as it has maintained the 8-megapixel size for three generations, since the iPhone 4s.

Android 4.4 KitKat now on 1.4 percent of all Android devices: Google

Google has released the official statistics regarding the usage of the various versions of Android. Continuing the trend spotted in the previous month's report, those devices that are running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and Android 4.4 KitKat are on the rise. Like the last report, most Android devices are running a version of Jelly Bean. Beginning April 2013, the distribution data charts are now based on the data collected from each device when the user visits the Google Play store. Google also stopped including Android 1.6 Donut and Android 2.1 Eclair in the data, as it is gathered from the new version of Google Play store app, which supports Android 2.2 and above.Google announced Android 4.4 KitKat update late in November last year for their Nexus devices, but most other players, like Samsung, Sony and LG still have not released the Android 4.4 updates for their devices. Industry analysts say that the upgrades will start rolling in within the first quarter this year.
However now, according to monthly Android distribution numbers, KitKat has increased its share to 1.4 percent of all Android devices. This is a 0.3 percent increase from the previous month, where it was 1.1 percent.
Incidentally version 4.3 of the Android OS platforms, Jelly Bean, also continues to gain ground. It can stem from the fact that the new 4.4 upgrade has not yet come on most Android devices except the Nexus devices. The current share of the Android 4.1.x Jelly Bean-powered devices is 35.9 percent (interestingly, dropping from 37.4 percent the previous month). The two new versions of the Jelly Bean, 4.2 and 4.3 grew by 2.5 percent each bringing the grand total of Android 4.x.x to 59.1 percent. This is a growth of 4.6 percent compared to the previous month, where it was 54.5 percent.
Android 2.2 Froyo, 2.3 Gingerbread, and 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on the other hand, are losing shares as predicted. All three versions dropped their cut in the overall distribution. Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich were the biggest losers with 2.9 percent and 1.7 percent drops respectively, which is actually more than they lost last month, hinging at updates intensifying. Curiously, Android 3.2 Honeycomb is still refusing to disappear form the map. The tablet-only Android version continues to sit on a 0.1 percent share - it has been there for a few months now.
It's worth pointing out that the total sample excludes forked variants of Android (the ones on Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets) and variants in China that don't include Google services.

Nokia 'Normandy' Android phone engineering prototype leaked in purported image

While Nokia still hasn't revealed plans for its rumoured Normandy budget Android phone, a new leaked live image now points to the existence of such a device.The new purported leaked image of the alleged Nokia Normandy comes from a Chinese Twitter user, named @seamissu. The twitter user claims that the leaked image is of the long-rumoured Nokia Normandy, and calls it an 'engineering prototype'. The tweet reads, "The engineering prototype of Nokia Normandy." The leaked image shows the alleged Normandy smartphone with Nokia branding on the screen, which usually appears when switching on a device.
Further the leaked image purportedly reveals the back button below the display that appears to be a capacitive touch button, similar to what usually seen on Nokia's Lumia smartphones. Unfortunately, the leaked image shows the alleged Normandy in a casing which covers most of the rest of the design elements of the device. It's worth pointing out that this is the first time a live image purportedly shows the alleged Normandy Android phone, and we have in the past seen a number of supposed renders of the rumoured device.
Earlier this month, the rumoured Nokia Normandy was leaked in image which purportedly revealed a completely custom Android interface running on top of the device. The UI looked reminiscent of the software on Nokia's budget Asha line-up, though it was obviously Android underneath.
Notably, an earlier report had suggested that Nokia, following the lead of Amazon, has been working on a fully-tailored or forked version of Android. Further, the report claimed that the alleged Nokia Normandy smartphone has been targeted at the low-cost segment as an Asha-equivalent smartphone, but with access to more traditional smartphone apps - a benefit that the report suggested had been missing in Nokia's dated Series 40-based Asha phones.
The leaked Normandy images also showed dual-SIM support, lock screen notifications, an on-going call screen (that could be the dialler app, but looked very similar to popular messaging app Viber) and a login screen for Microsoft's Skype.
It is still to be seen if Nokia can release its rumoured Android phone ahead of the completion of the Microsoft deal.