Earlier this year, Google launched the Android version of its Play Music app, which is intended to compete with stream-on-demand services such as Spotify and Rdio. Today, the Google Play Music software finally lands in the iOS ecosystem, in the form of an app customized for the iPhone.
It's free to download the app, and if you've already purchased tunes from Google Play – or uploaded tracks from your own collection – it'll be free to listen to those songs, too. But to make the most of the software, you'll need an All Access membership, which will set you back 10 bucks a month (on par with similar offerings from streaming music competitors).
For that price, you get unlimited access to millions of tracks, the ability to create and store playlists, and to listen to "custom" radio stations, à la Pandora. But before pulling the trigger, it may be worth reading some side-by-side comparison tests of Google Play Music and Spotify and the rest of the streaming bunch – although the price points are comparable, the same is not always true of the features.
So how does the iOS version of the Google Play Music app hold up? Pretty well, writes Ryan Whitwam of PCMag.com.
The software is "a mostly successful translation of the app to Apple's platform, and it fits in with the new style well," Mr. Whitwam argues. "However, there are a few places where the lack of a back button (as you'd find on Android devices) is a little bit of a pain point. It's also only optimized for the iPhone, so the UI is somewhat awkward on the iPad."
Streaming music services are a big business these days, and the market is only expected to grow. According to market analytics firm Parks Associates, the number of music streaming subscribers worldwide could reach 15 million globally by 2017.
Comcast, the Philadelphia-based media company, has begun offering HBO as a part of one of its basic TV and Internet packages.
Starting this month, consumers can sign up for a Comcast plan called Internet Plus, which includes Wi-Fi at a rate of 25 megabits-per-second; access to stations such as Fox, NBC, and CBS; and a subscription to HBO. The cost in most parts of the US will be $39.99 a month, although DSL Reports, which broke the whole story, says that some regions will see a monthly price of $49.99.
Either way, the deal looks like a pretty good one, especially for users who can do without the glut of basic cable channels – Comedy Central, ESPN, MSNBC among them.
"What’s notable about Comcast’s Internet Plus promo is that it leads with broadband as the primary service and touts any-screen access to TV shows – a pitch intended to prevent broadband-only subs from cutting the TV cord," notes Todd Spangler of Variety.
Perhaps the best part of an HBO subscription, of course, is free rein to watch videos on the much-beloved HBO Go mobile app, which conveniently houses thousands of hours of HBO programming, from "Game of Thrones" to "Boardwalk Empire." HBO has been pretty leery of unbundling the app – i.e. offering it as a standalone product.
Does the Comcast offer mean that HBO is inching closer to selling independent HBO Go subscriptions? Don't bet on it, writes Joan E. Solsman of CNET.
"For one, Comcast is a cable company, and cable companies are holding formation against becoming purveyors of Internet-delivered TV service," she writes. "After making decades of big investments in their distribution infrastructure, cable companies want people to be watching video by paying for a video service. Though they're happy to provide video on multiple platforms, they're toeing the line that subscribers must be paying for their TV service to get it."
Earlier this week, Apple announced it would make its new OS X Mavericks 10.9 operating system available as a free download through the App Store.
Mavericks, named after a popular surfing spot in Northern California, isn't exactly a sweeping overhaul of the hallowed Apple OS, but it does include a rejiggered Calendar, an improved iBooks application, multiple-display support, and a spruced-up Safari. And part of that new Safari experience is a sandboxed version of Flash, the popular multimedia player.
What is sandboxing, exactly? Well, in tech terms, it refers to protections that wall off the rest of the system from damage from potentially untrustworthy content. Adobe already offers a sandboxed Flash player on the Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome browsers. But until recently, Safari was left out of party.
In a blog post today, Peleus Uhley said the move would improve security on Safari. "For the technically minded, this means that there is a specific com.macromedia.Flash Player.plugin.sb file defining the security permissions for Flash Player when it runs within the sandboxed plugin process," Mr. Uhley wrote. "As you might expect, Flash Player’s capabilities to read and write files will be limited to only those locations it needs to function properly."
You can download Mavericks – and the new Safari, with all the new features, including the sandboxed Flash – to your machine via this link. Is it worth it? Probably, writes Matt Peckham of Time.
"It’s not a blanket guarantee of security, of course, since what an app needs to do can still, by design, involve access to critical or sensitive resources, but sandboxing prevents the app, or someone exploiting the app, from poking around anywhere they’re not supposed to be," he writes. "Think of it as putting the operating system’s resources behind doors with keycard access, then only handing out keycards to apps that warrant it."
On Wednesday, LinkedIn rolled out a couple of new mobile features intended to improve the user experience on mobile versions of the job site.
The first is a "complete reinvention" of the LinkedIn iPad app, with a cleaner, media-heavy design and a personalized navigation bar. The iPad app, which you can download for free at the iTunes Store, also includes a new search bar that allows users to browse job listings by company or groups, such as Poetry and Literature (fat chance), Steel Detailers (better), or Black Belt POWER Networkers (sounds intriguing).
Next up is something LinkedIn is calling Intro. The feature works inside the iPhone Mail app, and it uses technology from Rapportive – which was acquired by LinkedIn in 2012 – to display a small amount of data on the sender of an e-mail.
So let's say you get a message from an HR manager at a big software developer, which would like to hire you for a new programming gig.
Assuming you're both on LinkedIn, you'll see the manager's picture, his title, and his location (see image at left). And if you click on the manager's title, you can see if you both have connections on LinkedIn.
"Gone are the days when your career is confined or bound to a set schedule. Now, the opportunity to change your career trajectory can happen anywhere, at any time," LinkedIn's Deep Nishar wrote today on the company blog. "People are cultivating their goals and aspirations on the go, and finding that their career is more satisfying when it transcends what they do from 9-5."
In the second fiscal quarter of this year, LinkedIn posted revenue of $364 million. The company says it now has 238 million members.
So no, it's not particularly good timing, what with the big-budget launch of the iPad Air and the iPad Mini with the "Retina" display.
But on Tuesday, Nokia did take the wraps off the very first Nokia-built, Windows-powered tablet, which the company is calling the Lumia 2520. (As monikers go, 2520 doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Air, does it?) The specs are suitably impressive: a 10.1-inch HD display, an 2.2GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 4G LTE and Wi-Fi antennas, a 6.7-megapixel back-facing camera, and the new Windows 8.1 operating system.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is the "Power Keyboard," a cover/keyboard/bonus battery – think: the Touch Cover on the Microsoft Surface – that Nokia promises will boost battery life by up to five hours, all while making typing feel "as natural as on a laptop."
In a hands-on test with the device, Brad Molen of Engadget said that "if you've played around with Lumia phones in the past, the 2520 will be immediately familiar to you. It's much thinner and sleeker than we originally expected, and it's very comfortable to hold."
And over at CNET, Sarah Mitroff says the high-res display shows a lot of promise.
"Like the Lumia smartphones, the 2520 uses Nokia's ClearBlack Display filter, which promises to cut down on glare when you're outside," she writes. "That's important, because unlike a smartphone, on which you might just be quickly checking your e-mail or taking a photo, you're more likely to spend more time on your tablet outside, reading or watching a video. If the screen's performance outdoors is as good as Nokia says it is, it will make it much easier to use your tablet in sunlight."
Nokia says the Lumia 2520 will be available in a range of colors, including glossy red and white, and a matte version in cyan and black. Release date is the fourth fiscal quarter of this year, with a price tag of $499 in the US. But don't expect that "Power Keyboard" to be free: The device will cost you an extra $149, Nokia says.
Google stock has topped a grand a share for the first time.
Boosted by stronger-than-expected third quarter revenue of $14.98 billion – and a jump in mobile advertising – shares in Google shot up to $1,007.40 on Friday morning. (As of writing, share prices are hovering closer to $1002.) The surge was widely attributed to the number of paid clicks on Google's various platforms, which Google said was up 25 percent from the same time last year.
Over at the BBC, Rory Cellan-Jones notes that at the time of Google's IPO, in 2004, "early skepticism about the search giant's real value was quickly dissipated, as investors marvelled at the fast growing earnings from its advertising formula. Then, from 2007 the shares halved in value as doubts surfaced about whether the growth story could continue. But, over the last four years, as Google has shown that it can be as big a force in mobile advertising as it has been on the desktop, confidence returned sending the shares ever higher."
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To that end, Google is seeing a leap in mobile traffic at YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006 for approximately $1.65 billion in stock. In an earnings call yesterday (hat tip PC World), Google said that mobile YouTube use made up a full 40 percent of its traffic, compared to just six percent in 2011.
In related news, after passing the 900 million activation mark last month, Google announced it had hit 1 billion Android activations. At the same time, Google said that the next iteration of the Android operating system would be named not after a jelly bean or a cupcake, but the Kit Kit bar. Current Internet scuttlebutt has Kit Kat arriving later this month.
The complaints started a few weeks ago, when the Apple iPhone 5S first hit shelves: The motion sensors appeared to be malfunctioning. Not cataclysmically, but enough that many users reported compass and level readings that were off.
Independent tests conducted Mario Aguilar at Gizmodo confirmed that the gyroscope, compass, level, and accelerometer readings on iPhone 5S did not match readings from traditional devices. "This compass shortfall won't have you confusing east from west when you get out of the subway," Mr. Aguilar wrote. "But for more detailed mapping and way-finding apps, a 10 degrees disparity could impact what an app thinks you're doing and which way you're going."
So what's the source of the discrepancies? Well, it could have something to do with hardware. Alex Colon of GigaOM points to a new RealityCap report that traces the problem to a Bosch Sensortech accelerometer, a change from the STMicroelectronics accelerometer included in previous iPhones. The whole thing gets extremely technical, but here's the CliffsNotes: That Sensortech accelerometer may be calibrated incorrectly.
Either way, Apple hasn't confirmed the existence of sensor-related issues, so it's unclear if any long-term fix is forthcoming. But if you're looking for something a little shorter-term, you could take the advice of Serenity Caldwell of MacWorld, and attempt to recalibrate the sensors within the compass app.
In related news, many users have complained that the iPhone 5S is afflicted by a "blue screen of death" error that seems to occur when users attempt to access iWork apps. There's some hope, however, that the new iOS 7.0.3 update, which is expected to be launched at some point this month, could include a fix for the BSOD. Hey, maybe a sensor fix is forthcoming, too.
Back in June, Apple released a lengthy report on "Apple Campus 2," otherwise known as the Apple "spaceship" – a massive, four-story, futuristic-looking complex that will eventually sprawl across 2.8 million square feet of prime Cupertino, Calif., real estate.
According to Apple, among the benefits of the spaceship are more jobs for locals; an additional $32 million in revenue from property taxes; and one-time construction period revenues of $38.1 million.
And now, according to the San Jose Mercury News, the Cupertino City Council – in front of a "standing-only" crowd – has unanimously signed off on the new campus, which is set to open in 2016.
"As my mom used to say, 'don't bite the hand that feeds you,' " area resident Carol Baker said at the meeting, the San Jose Mercury News reports. "If we don't honor Apple with this building, they'll leave. There's no reason for them to stay here and be loyal to a community that doesn't support them. But if they left, it would be a disaster for the city."
Some locals have worried about increased traffic and the environmental impact of such a large facility. Meanwhile, critics such as Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times, have panned the look of the new campus. The building, Hawthorne has written, "keeps itself aloof from the world around it to a degree that is unusual even in a part of California dominated by office parks. The proposed building is essentially one very long hallway connecting endlessly with itself."
Still, Apple has repeatedly pledged to Cupertino that it would honor Apple's long relationship with the city – and given how much Cupertino stands to earn from the new building, it was unlikely from the start that the council would turn the company down.
"Steve [Jobs] transformed Apple into one of the most innovative companies in the world and we understand the responsibilities that come from carrying his legacy forward with this project," Dan Whisenhunt, Apple's head of real estate and facilities, told the council, according to the San Jose Mercury News. "We've designed it with the same care and attention to detail as we do with all Apple products."
On Tuesday, Apple sent out invitations to an Oct. 22 press event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco. The invitations are short on specifics: As Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch notes, the only text on the invite is the phrase "we still have a lot to cover." That could be a nod to the array of products Apple is almost certain to unveil – new iPads and MacBooks among them – or it could be a hint about some kind of next-gen iPad cover.
Either way, new devices are forthcoming. But what can we expect out of the next iPad? Well, for one thing, look for a thinner casing, a slimmer build, and what 9 to 5 Mac calls "a smaller overall footprint." Meanwhile, there is a fair deal of chatter around the possibility that Apple might introduce some new iPad colors, including gold, as it did with the recently-released iPhone 5S.
Also interesting: A purportedly leaked photo (admittedly blurry and of uncertain provenance) that appears to show a new iPad with a Touch ID fingerprint scanner button. Which would make sense: Apple's already got the tech in place, courtesy of the iPhone 5S.
Perhaps the biggest question involves a new iPad Mini. Many onlookers have been expecting Apple to unveil an iPad Mini with the same high-resolution Retina Display as the flagship iPad (perhaps at the expense of a slightly chunkier shell). But newer reports from Reuters and other outlets suggest that the next Mini may be delayed until 2014, due to supply chain issues with the Retina Display.
"If they don't put in retina ... there will be howls," Forrester analyst Frank Gillett told Reuters.
It’s almost August – which means rumors about the new iPhone are coming at a good clip. Though Apple has made no announcement about unveiling a new iPhone in September, it’s widely expected to do just that, and new reports suggest that the latest version (which is being referred to as the iPhone 5S) will include a fingerprint scanner. There’s also evidence that Apple will release a separate, less expensive “iPhone 5C” model with a plastic case.
Information about the fingerprint scanner comes from Apple rumor site 9to5Mac, which quotes an iPhone developer who dug into a leaked version of the iOS 7 beta software.
The software includes a folder called “BiometricKitUI,” which suggests some kind of input that takes advantage of a user’s fingerprint. The folder mentions “fingerprint status,” and describes a print scan that involves a user touching the Home button with their thumb. 9to5Mac cites an unnamed “source familiar with the development of the new iPhone” who says the fingerprint scanner is meant to unlock the phone – though it could also be used for other things, such as making mobile payments more secure.
This folder’s presence doesn’t necessarily mean anything – but it’s worth mentioning that last year Apple bought Authentec, a security company that builds fingerprint sensors and encryption technology. An iPhone with a fingerprint sensor would be a boon for password-management and financial companies, which would (theoretically) be able to use it to make sensitive information carried on the device that much more secure.
Also on the hardware front, rumors of a plastic “iPhone 5C” model have popped up in several different places this week. On Tuesday, case manufacturer Elago posted a set of cases on Amazon.com that purport to fit the new iPhone, though none are available for purchase. Meanwhile, Chinese phone site WeiPhone posted a picture of what looks like retail packaging marked with “iPhone 5C” decals. French site Nowhereelse, which first noticed the image, speculates that the “C” stands for “colors,” in deference to an earlier rumor that the lower-cost iPhone will come in several different hues, much like the iPod.
These rumors certainly don’t come from ironclad sources, but taken together they paint a believable picture of what we might see from Apple this fall. They join earlier rumors that the new iPhone will sport an improved camera that will take dramatically better pictures in low light, and new voice features including better dictation.
Readers, what’s your take on these rumors? What would you most like to see in a new iPhone model? Let us know in the comments section below.
For more tech news, follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffwardbailey.