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Happy Mother’s Day 2013

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VentureBeat » Mobile
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Google shuts down SMS search (and barely anyone notices) May 12th 2013, 17:49
MobileBeat 2013 July 9-10, 2013
San Francisco, CAEarly Bird Tickets on Sale


Here’s some news that will sadden the few hundred tech-savvy people still using feature phones to grab information from the web.

Google has apparently shut down its SMS search service, reports Ghacks.net today. The shutdown actually happened days ago, but not many people noticed, according to a quick scan of Google News search. The service was probably pretty useful in 2006 (and earlier) when people didn’t quite see the need to get a data plan for the quasi-smartphones available. (Mind you, back then neither the iPhone or any Android-powered handsets were available yet.) This is especially true because it was completely free.

Just like you’d expect, Google SMS search service allowed you to send text message queries to “466453″ (GOOGLE), which would send back a handful of results to your phone. There were even a few shortcuts for returning the local weather, sports scores, and news headlines. Sending a message to the service now returns a notification that SMS search is no longer available.

We know SMS search is gone in the U.S. and Canada, but this might not be true in all regions. Google does have initiatives like its Free Zone to get third-world countries (and others without a strong tech infrastructure) using its services, as VentureBeat previously reported.

Photo via Sifter/Flickr

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thumbnailHTC’s One: At long last, the best smartphone is an Android phone (review) May 12th 2013, 14:00
MobileBeat 2013 July 9-10, 2013
San Francisco, CAEarly Bird Tickets on Sale


Finally, there’s an Android phone that doesn’t make me miss anything about the iPhone. It’s called the HTC One, and it’s the best Android phone I’ve ever laid hands on.

It might also be the best smartphone I’ve ever used.

That’s saying a lot. Until now, the iPhone 5 embodied everything I wanted in an ideal smartphone: a solid-yet-elegant design, seemingly limitless speed, and a great screen. Android phones have certainly come close, but up until now there’s always been something that inexplicably held them back: the Nexus 4’s lack of LTE, the Galaxy S4’s cheap-feeling plastic case, or Android’s own design immaturity until Android 4.0.

What makes the HTC One so great? Simply put, it’s a phone that never leaves me wanting. It has a great camera, it’s freakishly fast, and its screen is fantastic without needing to be oversized. It also packs in several features I never thought I’d want in a smartphone but that I’ve found myself coming back to quite a bit.

Did I mention it’s gorgeous? Holding the HTC One in your hand will instantly make your current phone seem cheap and dated. Yes — even if your current phone is an iPhone 5.

Perhaps most of all, I appreciate HTC’s restraint. Unlike Samsung’s pile-on of features and questionable technology in the Galaxy S4, just about everything in the HTC One feels like a deliberate choice meant to create a better experience. That’s important, as it may just be the company’s last chance to turn its dismal fortune around.

It’s just too bad that most buyers will probably ignore it.

HTC One 2013 with Blinkfeed

The good: It inspires pure gadget lust

The HTC One is so striking that strangers didn’t hesitate to ask me questions about it. “What is that?,” was a common refrain among New Yorkers as I was testing the phone throughout the city. I could tell they noticed it wasn’t just another Galaxy S or iPhone. It was something completely different — and they just had to know more.

One young couple I talked to, both Android owners, immediately noticed that the HTC One felt more substantial than the Galaxy S phones because of its solid metal case. They also appreciated the clean design of the phone, as well as HTC’s Sense software, which they noted was more tasteful and less intrusive than other Android phones they’ve used. These weren’t gadget geeks either, which made the conversation all the more intriguing.

I’ve tested plenty of phones in New York City, and the HTC One has managed to get me more attention than any other phone from random passersby.

You can chalk up its immediate appeal to that case, which is carved out of a single piece of metal and evokes Apple’s MacBook Air. HTC stacks the phone’s hardware to take full advantage of its limited internal space, which makes for a slightly rounded rear that fits comfortably into your hand. The HTC One feels like an evolved form of last year’s One S, which was one of my favorite Android phones so far. (Since it was only available on T-Mobile in the U.S., most people didn’t even know it existed.)


From afar, the HTC One looks similar to the iPhone 5, but up close it’s distinctly different. The One’s 4.7-inch screen commands most of its front, and it’s flanked by noticeable-yet-attractive speaker grills. Its screen is bright and vibrant with a sharp 1080p display. It even looked flawless under direct sunlight while wearing polarized sunglasses.

I initially thought the One’s stereo speakers were a gimmick (who really uses their phone like a boombox?), but I’ve grown to enjoy its ability to project decent audio. It’s particularly great for watching YouTube videos with friends — and it’ll amaze people used to tinny smartphone speakers. The One also includes Beats Audio support, but, as always, its impact on music quality felt negligible aside from making things a bit louder.

Under the hood, the One packs in a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor running at 1.7 gigahertz, as well as 2 gigabytes of RAM. Those are the same basic specs as Samsung’s Galaxy S4, and you can be sure that most other new Android phones will match it as well. For the most part, that means you can expect similarly fast speeds across most modern Android devices. The big differentiators for smartphones now are build quality, style, and features — all of which the One excels at.

It’s been a while since I’ve been unable to keep my hands off of a piece of tech, but the One’s combination of confident style, speed, and useful features has made it my go-to gadget over the last few weeks (beating out the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini).

Filed under: Gadgets, Mobile

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HTC One 2013 with Blinkfeed

Toshiba’s KIRAbook takes aim at the mystique of the MacBook Air (review) May 12th 2013, 14:00
kiraIn geek circles, Apple’s MacBook Air is worshipped as a godly gadget. Toshiba is going after that today with the launch of its KIRAbook laptop, a high-end machine that is designed to be nicer than Apple’s object of affection. For Toshiba, this isn’t just the launch of one computer. It’s the start of a brand, dubbed KIRA.

The machine is made of high-end materials and it has a spectacular display that can rival Apple’s Retina Displays. But it’s pricey, starting at $1,599 for a 13.3-inch model and rising to $1,999 for a high-end version. That’s a very steep price for a Windows 8 laptop, which can be found below $600 these days. But it’s a statement that says Apple isn’t the only computer maker that can employ craftsmanship in its products.

The PixelPure display’s native resolution is 2560 x 1440, giving you razor-sharp clarity. No other Windows 8 laptop has such ultra-high resolution, which delivers 221 pixels per inch on the 13.3-inch screen. That’s a 90 percent increase over standard high-definition displays (with resolutions of 1920 x 1080). When you turn it on and view a web browser with that resolution, everything seems tiny. You have to blow up the text to be able to see everything. That plain text is a lot sharper and easier to read.

It’s great for looking at your own content, but it the machine uses Intel’s HD 4000 integrated graphics, so you won’t be playing heavy-duty games on this machine. You also won’t find 4K resolution content in large quantities to view on this machine, as Hollywood isn’t quite caught up with that technology yet.

Apple’s 13-inch Macbook Air sells for $1,200 for 128 gigabytes of storage and $1,399 for 256 gigabytes.

The case is built with AZ91 pressed magnesium alloy and a honey-comb based that makes it feel solid. Toshiba says that is twice as strong as typical aluminum alloy laptops. It also uses Corning Concore Glass, and its exterior is resistant and durable. But the machine weighs only 2.6 pounds and it is 0.7 inches at its thinnest point. The edges of the laptop are stylishly rounded.

The battery life isn’t great, but it’s acceptable. The KIRAbook uses a high-capacity lithium polymer battery. It also has a 256 gigabyte solid state drive (flash memory) and eight gigabytes of 1600 megahertz main memory. The machine is fast and responsive.

One of the drawbacks is that Toshiba’s machine is using Ivy Bridge, the combo graphics-processor third-generation Core platform that is nearing the end of its life cycle. Intel is releasing code-named Haswell processors in June, but Toshiba couldn’t wait for that. It will update KIRAbook with Haswell, but not until late this year.

The high-end models have touch screens and Intel’s fastest Core i7 processors, including the high-end 2.0 gigahertz Intel Core i7-3667U. the sound system has Harman Kardon speakers and DTS audio processing. The machine uses Toshiba’s AirFlow II technology, a thin multi-phase fan cooling system. The hinge is stabilized so when you pound on the touchscreen, the machine won’t lean back.

The machine comes pre-packaged with Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 and Premiere Elements 11 software, and it has a two-year subscription to Norton Internet Security, Norton Anti-Theft, and Norton Online Backup. Photoshop will shine on this machine, as you’ll be able to take advantage of the high resolution by looking at more content at the same time.

Toshiba is providing its Platinum service and support. It is available today at Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, the Microsoft Store, B&H, Adorama, and on Toshiba Direct. The Kira brand will likely serve as the high-end of Toshiba’s line-up. Other laptop brands include Satellite, Portege, and Qosmio.

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6 apps guaranteed to make this Mother’s Day memorable (for you and her) May 12th 2013, 12:00
MobileBeat 2013 July 9-10, 2013
San Francisco, CAEarly Bird Tickets on Sale

somee card mothers day

Anna Alenius-Mathson is the head of communication for Rebtel.

Ever since Mother’s Day was established in 1908, Americans have asked themselves the eternal question: “What should I get for Mom?” And for more than a century the answer has usually involved giving her either greeting cards or flowers (or both). The explosion of mobile apps has found a way to change this, bringing mom squarely into the digital age, with products designed to make her feel close even though the distance between you may be great.

So if you’re looking for some new ideas on how to make mom feel special, here are a few clever app ideas that just might do the trick.

Say hello to virtual scrapbooking

Help Mom get on board with one of the nation’s top hobbies with the ScrapPad Mother’s DayPhoto Journal (Free), a virtual photo album scrapbook for the Mac and iPad. For Moms that are already Scrapbooking pros, this app will enable her to abandon her glue stick and create top-quality scrapbook layouts quickly and easily.

Albums can be organized and stored systematically and text can be easily entered in a variety of fonts and colors.

The best part is that all ScrapPad album pages can be shared with others or printed with excellent resolution, so even if Mom doesn’t own the app, you can send the album as a gift so she can show it off proudly to her friends.

Give mom the gift of professional style photos

The Camera+ ($.99) app for iPhone and iPad will let mom fine-tune your mobile camera until it takes photos as well as a pro camera can. It offers a variety of shooting modes, a stabilizer, exposure adjustments, even a grid tool that lets you use the Rule of Thirds to make compositions more intriguing.

The app uses your iPhone’s flash as a continuous fill light to improve the quality of your photos, and there’s even the ability to add aftereffects, use filters, do cropping and touch-up, add borders, as well as an easy-to-use storage system and sharing capability, so Mom can save and share all those sharp photos of her kids and grandkids.

If cards are ‘a must’, why not try a fresh approach?

The Cleverbug Cards App (Free) not only gives you the ability to customize and send your own cards, but it also reminds you about upcoming birthdays, anniversaries and special events. It conveniently stores all of your friends’ and family’s birthdates in proper order and offers hundreds of cards that are classified into useful categories (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), which you can customize with personal photos or special messages.

The finished design can then be printed out by Cleverbug on high-quality card stock paper and mailed anywhere in the world. Or you can simply post your customized card directly to your Mom’s Facebook wall to show her that you’re thinking of her.

Help Mom chill out with the relaxation app

Give Mom the opportunity to relieve the tensions of each challenging day with a “sound bath” app called Serenity ($1.99), which claims to offer thirty different video and audio options that will help listeners unwind and relax.

Videos include a beautiful waterfall, peaceful fields, underwater vistas and even heaps of adorable sleeping kittens, while sounds include rain, distant thunderstorms and moving water.

There’s also undulating abstract forms that combine with sound to create synchronized light shows, which can be an effective tool for meditation or for use prior to sleeping. Mom can even watch it with Apple TV or stream the high-quality audio to her AirPlay speakers for maximum enjoyment.

A new twist on the Mother’s Day bouquet: Virtual flowers

If you’re completely dead-set on flowers, why not try something a bit unexpected.Flowerly (Free) is an app that will let you send a bouquet of virtual flowers to anyone you love in seconds. Bouquets range in appearance; some are free and some are part of premium bundles.

All you have to do is customize your own message, choose a contact from your iOS address book or your Facebook friends list, and combine it with the bouquet using a card template. Then, mail the whole virtual gift either by email or via Facebook.

The ease of sending makes it worthy download, not just for your Mom, but any Mom you know that deserves some love and recognition.

Send a virtual heart beat (… the next best thing to being there in-person)

Mom probably hasn’t heard your heartbeat since the pre-birth ultrasound days with her doctor looming close by, so surprise her this year with the gift of your own beating heart, which will bring back fond memories of babyhood — and motherhood.

Re:Beat (Free on iTunes and Google Play) allows you to capture and record the exact rhythm of your beating heart by placing your fingertip upon your phone’s camera or by tapping the screen to the rhythm of your heartbeat. The pattern of your heartbeat will then be transformed into a warm animation whose sound and vibration are perfectly in sync with your own heart. You can even send a greeting with your heart like, My Heart Will Always Beat For You or Wishing I Was There.

In terms of imagination and creativity, all these great options leave the traditional flowers-and-card option far behind, so if you can’t be there in-person, why not surprise here with one of unique ideas, which will give her something she can truly treasure, while keeping you close to her heart.

Anna Alenius-MathsonAnna is internationally responsible for all strategy and planning pertaining to Rebtel’s PR and communication activities. Anna has more than a decade of experience in the field of PR, marketing, digital media.

Mother’s Day card via Someecards

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Anna Alenius-Mathson

Google to launch ‘Google Play Games’ platform services for game developers May 12th 2013, 04:57
android-appsGoogle is evidently serious about making games easier to discover on the Android platform. Android Police reported Saturday that it received a leak of a full document describing the new Google Play Games service that makes Android games more social.

The platform is much like Game Center on Apple’s iOS platform. Google Play Games, which will be part of Google Play Services v3.1.36, will have multiplayer functionality, leaderboards, achievements, and cloud game saves. By offering these services as a part of its platform, Google will offload that work from game developers. It will also make Google Play games more viral, since players will be able to share their game achievements with friends and engage those friends in the game via a social chain reaction. Developers have been calling for such a platform for a while, and rival platforms have emerged to offer the same thing, such as the iOS-Google Play cross-platform service coming from OpenKit.

The services are a recognition of how games have become to the Google mobile platform. In the U.S., games account for three-fourths of all revenue on the Google Play store, according to App Annie. In South Korea, the percentage of revenue that comes from games is 95 percent.

In the Play Games Settings part of the Google Play menu, you will be able to turn on game notifications and manage who can send those notifications to you. Google+ will hand identification of players. The code that Android Police reviewed showed a Synced Game Saves function, where you can save your game to Google’s cloud so you don’t have to worry about losing it if you lose your phone or you switch to play on another device. Play Games will handle invites and matchmaking. It also has features for unlocking achievements, lobbies, icon badges, and in-game chat.

We have put in a request for comment to Google.

Filed under: Business, Dev, Games, Mobile, Social