Minuum for Android Wear; a useful smartwatch keyboard

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When we last saw Minuum talking Android Wear, their concept was a spectacular rendering of how the round face of a Moto 360 could make typing on the tiny screen easier. Sadly, we quickly learned that concept would never work, but a new video released by the company holds promise. This time, concept gives way to reality.


Minuum was always meant for this, almost a harbinger of things to come. Since its days of crowdfunding, Minuum has been looked to as the defacto option for those times when a “normal” keyboard just won’t work. Android Wear — and smartwatches in general — is just that; a time when QWERTY utility just isn’t effective.

Minuum, however, makes quick work of the small screen, using a series of swipes and zooming animations to help you along the way. It’s the first time we’ve looked to a smartwatch as an option for sending messages sans voice.
Let’s also be realistic that voice-texting is a great option, but not always useful. There are times you don’t want everyone around you listening in on a message; the point of text-based messaging is to remain private from the outside world.

Minuum may not have wowed the world on a smartphone, but its found a home on Android Wear, and could be the first native keyboard that is both usable, and makes sense. Check out the video below, where Minuum is shown off on the two existing Android Wear devices. While we’re still waiting to see how they’ll handle a round screen, this at least gives us all hope that typing on the tiniest of screens might end up being useful.

Android Wear will support third-party watch faces

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As with Android, customization will be a reality for Android Wear and the smartwatches that run it, with a response being given to the oft-asked question: will Android Wear support watch faces from third-party developers? The answer is yes.

The information comes Google’s Wayne Piekarski, who posted confirmation on his Google+ account early this morning. “Customization has helped Android thrive, and the same will be true for Android Wear,” he said. He went on to say that Google is working on a custom watch face API.

Check out our SlashGear Wearables Hub for more news!

The reasons, says Piekarski, is that without an official API, making a watch face that is high quality “takes a fair bit of tweaking”. This is because of the interactions the watch face has with the stream and ambient mode, the latter of which includes rendering the watch faces in a different way.

With an official API, making custom watch faces will be easier and will ensure they’re as visually appealing as they are gentle on battery life. The promised changes are said to be coming soon, but developers are warned some won’t be available until “we migrate Android Wear to the Android L release later this year.”

That HTC Smartwatch? It’s a designer’s flight of fancy

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The eagle-eyed were ecstatic: HTC had shared a video of its design studios and there, lurking in plain (if pixely) sight, seemed to be the much-rumored HTC smartwatch, right there on a designer’s desk. It was enough to reignite speculation about an HTC-made Android Wear wearable, but now HTC has waded in with some cold water, claiming the whole thing is just a designer’s tinkering.

According to an HTC spokesperson, the prototype is indeed a smartwatch, but it’s not specifically what HTC plans to actually make. Instead, it’s a design exercise by one of the team, rather than an early product.

“HTC encourages our design team to explore and tinker with new ideas and even models, as is the case with the watch some viewers noticed in our recent HTC Design video. It in no way indicates an actual product HTC is planning to release. Keep an eye on this space for exciting new products from HTC when they are ready to be announced!” HTC

The video, which you can see below, showed both a CAD model and a physical prototype of the smartwatch. With a square screen, it seemed HTC’s designer had a similar idea to LG and Samsung – which both have Android Wear watches on sale already – rather than following Motorola’s path with the circular MOTO 360.

HTC has already said it plans to join the Android Wear party, but there’s no timescale for that to actually happen. Back in May, leaks suggested HTC was looking at round not square displays, and though it’s unclear if that will actually be the case it might be a sensible strategy for the firm.

Nokia Z launcher receives significant update, pre-beta program opened for new users

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Nokia rolled out Z launcher for Android in June that predicts apps and brings them in the front depending upon user usage pattern and preferences.  Today, the Z launcher has received an update  that will allow you to configure the way you want your favorite apps to appear on your home screen, using drag and drop.

“Today, we’re releasing our first significant update to Z Launcher based on your feedback and suggestions. Z Launcher will notify you of an update, but you can also check manually in Z Launcher settings.We have incorporated some of the most popular suggestions in this latest version with more to come. We’re still in the early phases of developing Z Launcher so please keep sending us your suggestions for improvements”

posted Nokia Z launcher via its blog.

The Z launcher was previously available for a limited number of users however, this update has also opened more pre-beta sign ups. Nokia says that it has rolled several user-requested features into the update and that it plans to continue to do so in the future.
The list of changes included in the update:

  • Configure Favorites via drag-n-drop on your home screen – #2 requested feature on user forum.
  • Hide apps, Uninstall apps via press-n-hold: A quick way to get rid of stuff you don’t want – #3 top requested feature on user forum.
  • Better support on HTC One and Moto X – We continue to work on adding support for popular devices.
  • Wi-Fi SSID incorporated into our algorithm – Aimed at improving the algorithm’s ability to recognize and promote apps used on specific networks.
  • Data Insight – Explore how you use your phone, what apps and contacts you access and when. If people like this feature, we’ll develop it further, but for now we kept it simple.
  • Bug fixes here and there – We’ve worked hard to make Z Launcher more reliable.

Beta testing has expanded to include Moto X and HTC One users, but as beta testing continues it’s likely that Nokia will add to the list of phones that are compatible with the launcher.

Samsung Galaxy Star 2, Star Advance and Ace NXT officially launched in India, starts at Rs. 5100

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Samsung has officially launched the Samsung Galaxy Star 2, Galaxy Star Advance and Galaxy Ace NXTsmartphones in India. The Galaxy Star 2 has a 3.5-inch HVGA display, powered by 1GHz single core processor and has 2-megapixel rear camera. The Galaxy Star Advance has a 4.3-inch WVGA screen, powered by a 1.2 GHz single-core processor and comes with a 3-megapixel rear camera with LED flash. The Galaxy Ace NXT went on sale earlier this month and packs a 4-inch WVGA screen and comes with a similar single-core processor and 3MP rear camera with LED flash as the Star Advance.

All these run on Android 4.4 (KitKat) with Samsung TouchWiz Essence UI. It supports 12 Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Guajarati, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, and Assamese.

Commenting on the launch, Asim Warsi, Vice President, Marketing, Mobile & IT at Samsung India said

Samsung is committed to offer the best in technology and innovative products at an affordable price to the consumers. We believe in cutting across language and data cost barriers to ensure every consumer has access to the world of smartphones. Especially created for the Indian market Galaxy Star 2, Galaxy Star Advance and Galaxy Ace NXT have been launched to provide a larger set of consumers with the experience of superior mobile technologies and richer internet experience at an affordable price.

Samsung Galaxy Star 2 specifications

  • 3.5-inch (320×480 pixels) display
  • 1 GHz (SC6815A) single-core processor
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) OS
  • Dual SIM
  • Dimensions: 109.8 x 59.9 x 11.8mm; Weight 107.6 grams
  • 2MP rear camera
  • 3.5 mm audio jack, FM Radio
  • 512MB RAM, 4GB internal memory, expandable up to 32GB with microSD
  • 2G (EDGE), Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1300 mAh battery

Samsung Galaxy Star Advance specifications

  • 4.3-inch (800 x 480 Pixels) LCD capacitive touch screen display
  • 1.2 GHz dual-core processor
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) OS
  • Dual SIM
  • Dimensions: 130.2 x 67.9 x 9.8 mm; Weight: 138 grams
  • 3MP camera with LED Flash
  • 3.5mm audio jack, FM Radio
  • 512MB RAM, 4GB internal memory, expandable with microSD
  • 3G HSPA+, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v 4.0, GPS
  • 1800 mAh battery

Samsung Galaxy Ace NXT

  • 4-inch (800 x 480 Pixels) capacitive touch screen display
  • 1.2 GHz dual-core processor
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) OS
  • Dual SIM
  • Dimensions: 121.4 x 62.9 x 10.7 mm
  • 3MP camera with LED Flash
  • 3.5mm audio jack, FM Radio
  • 512MB RAM, 4GB internal memory, expandable with microSD
  • 3G HSPA+, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v 4.0, GPS
  • 1500 mAh battery

The Samsung Galaxy Star 2 comes in White and Grey colours and is priced at Rs. 5,100. Both the Samsung Galaxy Star Advance and Galaxy Ace NXT come in Black and White colors and are priced at Rs. 7,400 respectively. These smartphones also come with  200MB of free data per month for Vodafone users for six months.

Pebble Steel Unboxing and First Impressions

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It’s still very early days for smartwatches but Pebble, the Kickstarter success story, already looks like a veteran. Pebble, the first Smartwatch that ignited the whole market frenzy for wearable devices, has been out for a long time, so long that it already got a facelift through Pebble Steel, mainly for people looking at a premium version of the original. It was exactly that, a premium version of the Pebble, adorned with steel, glass and leather, while the original was fully plastic and silicone. There was also a general shift in design and a better overall finish, with minor changes to the power connector and the addition of a LED at the front. These changes also command a premium, with the price at $249, almost matching the recently launched Android Wear devices. We had finally got one a while back, the stainless steel version, so here’s the unboxing of the Pebble Steel, in case you are looking to get one –

  • Pebble Steel with leather strap
  • Extra stainless steel strap
  • Screwdriver for removing straps
  • Information booklets
  • Modified magnetic pin connector for charging via USB

When it comes to the Smartwatch itself, it’s pretty much a great looking Pebble, with a premium fit and finish. The leather strap, the new metal buttons, the new gorilla glass over the display, and even just the notification LED are notable additions and changes. For anyone looking at buying a Pebble, the Steel should be the natural choice as it is just so much better, while retaining all the great things about the Pebble. But it’s no Android Wear Smartwatch with snazzy touchscreens or Google Now alerts, but we are sure those watches can’t stay on for more than 2 days even with minimal use.

The above image is clearly indicative of the changes, but it also shows how similar they are, in, you guessed it right, software. The Pebble Steel runs on the latest software from the company but is pretty smuch exactly the same on the both, as the experience is something Pebble wants consistent. You get remote Bluetooth capabilities, like controlling music, turning your phone to silent, sending pre-configured messages, and then you get all the notifications that you want displayed on the Pebble. There are also plenty of third party apps and games that work great on the Pebble, augmenting the experience that you already have. It has the same display, the same internals and the same battery life, which is always a good thing. But there’s always more to it than what it seems, so we will get back to you with a full review later, but until then, keep checking our blog for more on the Smartwatch scene. Have any questions? Let us know in the comments section below.s

Samsung Galaxy Alpha to sport a 720p display according to Samsung Developer Console

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Samsung Galaxy Alpha leaks just keep on coming our way. We’ve seen it leak in images along with expected specs. What struck us most when it comes to that leak was some talk about a 4.7″ which will allegedly be 720p in resolution, that was really hard to believe. Well, according to Samsung Developer Console, that part is true.

This report comes from SamMobile alongside a screenshot. It sure seems odd and out-of-place, but this device is not supposed to be as high-end as some other devices. Although the leaks are somewhat conflicting, if previous leaks are to be trusted this device is going to have a beastly processor made by Samsung which is supposed to compete with a Snapdragon 805, alongside 3GB of RAM and an aluminum trim around the device. We can’t call this mid-range, now can we. The only black ship thus far is the display, which many people will have a problem with I guess, even though I wouldn’t mind a 720p considering I still use it and don’t feel the need to upgrade.

LG’s 5 inch Windows Phone 8.1 handset launching soon?

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LG is working on a 5 inch Windows Phone under the model number LG D635. According to Alan Mendelevich, the founder of cross-promotion network AdDuplex, the handset has showed up in the network’s database.

The LG D635 will feature a 5-inch HD (1280x720p) display. At present no further information about the specs of the phone are known. Considering the screen resolution, the phone might fall in mid range category. In May, LG Uni8 running on Windows Phone was leaked which was touted as the first handset from LG running on Windows Phone 8.1 device.

The last Windows Phone handset launched by LG was the Optimus 7 in 2010. Earlier in February, Microsoft partnered with nine smartphone manufacturers to launch more Windows phone. LG was one of the partners including others like ZTE, Xolo, Karbonn, Lenovo and others.

Fitbit comes to Windows Phone 8.1

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Users of Windows Phone devices have long been left out of the fitness bands and wearables group due to lack of official applications on the platform. Earlier this year, Microsoft had claimed that it was working on changing that. With the Windows Phone 8.1 update, the mobile operating system got much improved bluetooth support including much needed Bluetooth LE support which is most important for low power wearables. Fitbit is the first company to take advantage of it.

As stated on the product page, the key features include:

  • REAL-TIME STATS: Automatic and wireless syncing for all Fitbit activity and sleep trackers through Bluetooth 4.0
  • FITBIT ON YOUR START SCREEN: Pin the Fitbit Live Tile to your Start screen and quickly view your step count
  • STAY ON TRACK: Real-time and historical stats in easy-to-understand graphs, to help track progress and set goals
  • LOG MORE THAN ACTIVITY: Recently enhanced food database of more than 350,000 foods with accurate nutritional data for faster, better food-logging and calorie coaching
  • GET MOTIVATED: Fitbit’s motivational social tools like notifications and badges, to help reach target goals
  • STAY SOCIAL: Ability to challenge friends and family with leaderboards, direct messages, cheers and taunts

The company aims to make its application for the wearable fitness tracker available on the Windows Phone 8.1 app store. As expected, the application has all core functionality including automatic syncing as well as real time stats. it is also possible to log nutritional information through the food database. Prospective users will need a device running Windows Phone 8.1 and the Lumia Cyan update in addition to Fitbit hardware of course. While only one of many fitness trackers out there, it is a move in the right direction and as the elephant in in the room, it should motivate others to target Windows Phone as well.

Google Search testing interactive timeline powered by Wikipedia content

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Google is developing a Knowledge graph tool that pulls data from Wikipedia to create interactive timelines based on the item being searched.  The feature generates content from Wikipedia in a periodic manner about search queries.

Chrome and Search enthusiast Florian Kiersch has posted screenshots of a new Knowledge Graph tool that automatically generates timelines of broad historical topics that are taken from Wikipedia. Kiersch gave a gist of the feature with few examples where a simple search for ‘Google’ showed all the details about the company, its founders and other important events in an yearly order. Another screenshot related to a search about World War I showed a timeline  above your main search results. These interactive search results can be navigated by a user.

Kiersch stated that the new search feature is in its nascent stage and will be ready in about three months. It is not clear if the feature is limited to only desktop or mobile. He has also posted a small video on its Google+ page that showcases the feature.