When Google bought Motorola most industry experts have never been truly able to explain "why" it did so. Was it for Motorola's patents which could be valuable against an Apple? Was it as leverage against Samsung who were more or less dominating the Android based phone market? Was it that Google now wanted to become like Apple and make their own phones?
Google's wisdom has been questioned for a while regarding Motorola, as over the last couple of years – Motorola has eating millions out of Google's profits. But it seems Google had a plan for Motorola all this while.
A day ago, they announced "Project Ara" for Motorola. Project Ara is basically making a phone last longer but making them modular. So basically the idea is the phone will come apart in several modules and one could just change the screen if it was smashed or opt for a bigger battery instead of a better camera.
So what is the vision of Project Ara?
The vision is to replicate Android's open source nature into hardware. As in Project Ara is supposed to become a free and open hardware platform. Here are some images of the early designs with Project Ara.
Note the Moto X lock-screen notifications icon on these devices. The phones looks like a jigsaw puzzle full of modules and that is what it is supposed to be. It will contain a endoskeleton (endo) and modules. The endo-skeleton will basically keep the modules in place as a framework.
How has Google gone about planning to make modular phones?
Some of you might be aware of a concept called Phonebloks. The concept is similar to "Project Ara" and also promises freedom of customization and choice for users. The problem with Phonebloks was that the design it was suggesting looked "scientifically dodgy" but the idea of users modular built block by block is not really news. But Google is working with Phonebloks creator Dave Hakkens to tap into its community.
Google expects to roll-out a alpha versions of Module Developers Kit (MDK) over the next 4-5 months.
In 2007, Modu an Israeli company also came out with the idea of selling modular phones. The company went bust in 2011 and surely enough in May 2011 Google stepped in and bought many of their patents on modular technology. This means Google has been thing on these lines almost since the time they acquired Motorola.
The Canadian telecom company Wind, listed the Google Nexus 5 phone for pre-registration on its Facebook page. The post has been removed now but it was up for enough time people to take screenshots of the registration screen.
The phone is expected to be announced anytime soon. Google itself has listed it "mistakenly" on the Play Store. The mistaken listing now more or less confirms the expected specs for the Nexus 5.
Expected Nexus 5 specs
The screen will be 4.95-inch 1080p display.
Phone will run on 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM
The front facing camera will be 1.3 MP and the back camera 8 MP.
Obviously the OS will be Android 4.4 KitKat.
The phone will be available in two versions 16GB and 32 GB.
The leaks of phones is getting so ridiculous that hardly anything new is ever announced, which is a secret until the day of the launch. But the level of mistaken leaks sometimes, makes me wonder if these spec and image leaks are not just stage managed mistakes.
Whenever Nexus 5 is announced, much of what it will have will already be known. So the real surprise elements in store could be with what is new with Android 4.4 KitKat.
The Korean electronics giant LG has officially announced the G Flex phone. This smartphone is "different" because the display screen is curved. The phone retains the new trend of LG's flagship phones to have the power button at the back of the phone. The phone is currently available only in S.Korea and there is not signs yet on a global release.
Basic specs of the LG G Flex
The phone has a flexible OLED screen that allows the curved screen display. These screens usually are far more robust because of their flexibility. Also the shape of the screen with an inwards curve could mean fewer instances of the phone falling flat on the display screen to break it.
It has a 6-inch, 720p display. The display screen will obviously show notifications based on tilting of the device.
The device runs on 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and packs 2GB of RAM
The back camera is a 13-megapixel camera.
The 3,500 mAh battery is impressive as there are major engineering difficulties with fitting a battery inside a curved device.
The engineering and design challenges of curved display phones
While curved displays are possible because of the flexible OLED screen, the innards of the phone are not really flexible. The batteries, chips, sensors are not necessarily flexible and this would probably be a major challenge in how the phone is assembled and what sort of impact it has on such a phone's performance over the long run.
LG is not the first to produce a phone with curved display. Samsung already has one but that model curves from side to side, while the curve on the LG G Flex runs from top to bottom.
It's that time of the year when Apple releases an update to their desktop operating system and the power users try to use and experience every bit of it.
A few days back, during a special event, Apple released OS X Mavericks. I've been using it for 3-4 days and here's what I think about it.
Note: I tested Mavericks on a year old 13″ MacBook Pro – which isn't too new, nor too old.
Finder Tabs and Tags
I'm starting with Finder because it's easily one of the most used apps on my Mac. Thankfully, Apple did bring two features to this. Both of these features are practically useful too.
Finder Tabs look no different from Safari tabs. You hit CMD+T, and a new tab gets added. You can then switch between them and even transfer files by dropping over them.
Even CMD+Click-ing a folder now results in a new tab, instead of a window. If you have multiple Finder tabs, you can merge them. Click on the video below.
Next up is Finder Tags. The first thing you'll notice is that, the colourful tags looks popped out in the Finder app, where everything is monochrome. That's for bad or good, I don't know.
Tags appear in the sidebar and are assigned a colour. Tags can contain files and folders. I'm personally using it to group folders. For example, I have a 'code' tag which lists all the folders where I have code.
Tags can be added to documents right away and will be synced via iCloud.
Safari is not my default browser, not even in Mavericks, but it still impressed me with some of its new features.
To start, they tweaked the UI a bit – removing the faux 3D effect from new tab page. The feature that stands out is, the new Sidebar. It brings Bookmarks, Reading list and Shared links under single column.
Shared links is a new feature which grabs all the links from your Twitter timeline (and LinkedIn!) and lets you browse through links one after the other. It does a really good job at that.
Other neat additions include iCloud keychain which fills and remembers secure passwords for you. I use LastPass myself and many use 1Password, but nevertheless it's a fine addition.
Safari can also send you notifications from websites, even when it's not running. There are just a bunch of websites which support this now – including New York Times, NBA.com and few more. It's a really powerful addition to a browser.
The two finger swipe back gesture works better than ever, as caching is done well. On a whole, it's a tad faster.
Debuted in Mountain Lion, Notification center is a pretty useful addition to OS X. A lot of apps support it now and Apple has made it even better in Mavericks. Taking cues from Android, Apple has made notification in OS X actionable.
Let's say you received a message, you can reply to it, without actually opening the Messages app. Received a FaceTime call? Same thing. There will be an API for third party apps to include this functionality.
Previously, you could post to Facebook and Twitter from the Notification center, now you can even send iMessages.
New toys to play with
Apple has brought in two new system apps in Mavericks – Maps and iBooks. Both of these make Mac play well with iOS devices.
Everyone remembers the Apple Maps debacle, with that in mind, I didn't expect much from the Maps app – but to my surprise, it was very good. Keeping the data aside (which is what Maps lacks), the UX is really good. It's a whole lot better than using Google Maps' web app.
Pinch to zoom and panning work smoothly and everything feels faster. Some of the satellite imagery is stunning and look great in full screen. You can add bookmarks and they get synced via iCloud.
In spite of all this, Apple Maps will probably never replace Google Maps for me. Especially because, now that Google has Waze, you can expect even more accurate data in Google Maps.
iBooks in Mavericks bring in a simple way to purchase and read books. The library is pretty vast and there are a lot of free books too.
The reading interface gets everything out of the way and you can customise the look of it (fonts and all). iBooks can be interactive too, including having embedded videos, though I didn't try any such book yet.
Performance and Battery life
By far, the biggest change in Mavericks has to be the underneath performance and battery life tweaks. This is a great news for MacBook users, as you not only get more out of your existing RAM, but also get extra battery life.
After over 3 days of usage, I observed over 6-6.5 hours of battery life on continuous usage- as supposed to 5.5 hours on Mountain Lion. The difference will be huge in the new MacBook Air with Haswell processors.
Technically speaking, Apple introduced App Nap, Timer Coalescing and Compressed Memory. You can learn more about them at Apple's site.
Better performance means, the App Store app no longer stutters, LaunchPad is smoother, Safari is snappier, etc. Ultimately, you have to use Mavericks to understand the underneath improvements.
Death of Linen
While Apple didn't slap the flat interface they have in iOS 7, on OS X – they did made a few UI tweaks. The linen background which can be seen all over the OS, is now replaced with a solid background.
Take a look at the Notification center, Mission Control and LaunchPad. Dashboard has got a new background too.
Apps like Calendar, Contacts and Notes have been redesigned. I think Calendar looks good with no faux leather. I hardly use Contacts and Notes, but they look nice too. Icons of these apps are still the same, though.
What Apple has yet to fix
So Mavericks is indeed a good update for OS X. That doesn't mean it's all gold, though. Here are few thing Apple will have to concentrate on.
Every OS X user knows that the Messages app is a mess. Mavericks doesn't change that. The icon badge count in the dock keeps going crazy. It lags like crazy and the order of messages get swapped. Sometimes the iMessage service itself is down.
Apple clearly has to do something about this.
Are there bugs in Mavericks? Yes. Are they really intrusive and keep you from updating? No. Does Apple has to fix them? Indeed.
Best example is the bug in Finder app. Just open few Finder windows and close – to reproduce this bug. I had to do a killall Finder to get rid of this.
OS X Mavericks improves Apple's desktop operating system in quite a few areas. It makes your Mac faster, long last and brings useful features. It's indeed an incremental update – but that's what most OS X updates have been.
And it's free.
So why wait? Open the App Store app, update. It'll take around a hour to install Mavericks, apart from the gigantic 5.29GB download.
Did you try Mavericks? We are interested to know what you think about it!
Smart Responder is an app that disconnects an incoming phone call and sends a text message to the caller if the phone user is busy, for example driving a car or is in a meeting.
By default, 5 instances come packed with the app. They are : Driving, Meeting, Theatre, Prayer, School. When you're at the temple, you may choose the Prayer mode to disconnect the calls and an auto-response 'At Prayer' will be sent. Similarly, you can choose the other instances. But at one time, you may choose only one particular instance.
Also, you can create your own instances. You should give a Title and a Message to create instances of your own. You can also long press the pre-loaded 5 instances to change the Title / Message.
Deleting the default 5 instances is not possible which is unfortunate as not everyone is blogs or is still young enough to be in school or college but the app allows deleting instances created by yourself.
Once you're done with all your jobs, you may disable the enabled instances and you can close the app.
Apple's Fall event is usually when the company announces the good stuff before the major holiday season (AKA shopping season) kicks off. Apple had already unveiled the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s over a month ago but the new iteration to the iPad, iPad Mini and MacBook Pro was eagerly awaited. Apple came out firing on all cylinders and here is a round-up of all devices announced at the Apple event.
What was the new iPad going to be called. Apple has had some mixed up naming convention, like after iPad 2 came the New iPad which was technically iPad 3. The new name suits it well and its called iPad Air (obviously borrowed from MacBook Air).
This tablet is light as in it weighs only 1 pound (0.45 kgs).
The display screen is 9.7 inch and support resolution of 2048 x 1536 and over 3.1 million pixels. It is with retina display.
It will run on the A7 chip and support 64-bit architecture, which will be a first for iPad.
iPad Air camera will take 5 MP photos with 1080p HD video recording and the front facing camera takes 1.2 MP photos with 720p HD video.
It will be available in space grey and silver. The device will also be available in WIFI only and WIFI+Mobile versions.
The iPad Air Wifi with 16 GB storage is available for $499. The price of the iPad Air Wifi + Cellular with 16 GB storage is available for $629.
iPad Mini with retina display
iPad Mini with retina display has been hotly debated. With Google unveiling a powerful Nexus 7 (2013) earlier in the year, it was no surprise to see iPad Mini get the retina display tag. iPad Mini with retina display will be released in November.
The iPad Mini with retina display packs the 7.9 inch display screen while supporting 2048 x 1536 resolution.
It will run on the A7 chip supporting 64-bit architecture.
iPad Mini camera will take 5 MP photos with 1080p HD video recording and the front facing camera takes 1.2 MP photos with 720p HD video.
The device will be available in grey, silver, white and black colours.
The iPad Mini with retina display like the iPad Air will ship in two varieties. The iPad Mini Wifi with 16 GB storage will cost $399 and the Wifi + Cellular with 16 GB storage is priced at $529.
What happens to the older version of iPad and iPad Mini?
The older iPad Mini will still be around and sold at $299. The older iPad 2 will be sold at $399. Both prices are for devices with 16GB memory. This is a good idea by Apple as it gives it basically 4 tablet devices out there in the market.
The MacBook Pro lineup has also been refreshed. The new 13-inch and 15-inch display screen MacBook Pro laptops will ship with retina display. The 15-inch MacBook Pro without retina display has been discontinued. The device will ship with the newly released Mavericks OS X.
The MacBook Pro laptops will run on Intel Haswell chips. The 13-inch device will pack a 2.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor. The device will ship with 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB storage variants.
Similarly the 15-inch MacBook Pro will run on 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor for the 256 GB storage variant and 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor for the 512 GB version.
MacBook Pro laptops will contain 2 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port. The battery for the 13-inch MBP will last for 9 hours and 8 hours for the 15-inch MBP.
The pricing of the 13-inch MBP with 128 GB storage is $1299 and for the 15-inch MBP for 256 GB storage is $1999. The MacBook Pro laptops should be available right away.
OS X Mavericks released and for free!
Apple's big announcement was the release date for OS X Mavericks. The new OS X version is already available for Mac users. Most importantly Apple is releasing this update free of cost. That means every user will probably save $20 that it took to buy the new update.
Yesterday's Apple's media event was pretty awesome. They unveiled the new iPad Air, Mac Pro, MacBook Pros and lot more.
There was one thing which wasn't expected though – giving away Mavericks for free. On the same day.
Mavericks is the first release of OS X breaking away from the cat family names. Apple has removed linen everywhere and has replaced with a solid colour – making it inline with iOS 7 style.
We already talked about the features before, the ones that stand out are Finder tabs/tags, better memory compression, longer battery life, iBooks and so on.
The update is available for all the devices which are running OS X Mountain Lion.
Updating is simple, just open the App Store app and download Mavericks. It's a huge update – 5.29 GB. The worst part is that, it might actually throw an error in middle and you have to start from scratch again.
My OS X download failed over 4 times, and after a few tries it worked finally. This is because of excess load on Apple's servers and there's hardly anything we can do about it.
One small tip though, is that, if the App Store app throws an error saying 'Download has failed' or anything like that – open Finder, go to /Applications and look for OS X Mavericks.appdownload. If it exists, launch it. The download should now resume.