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Vine for Android updated with sharing to Facebook and other improvements

Jun 21st 2013, 16:55

Vine for Android official

Instagram made waves yesterday with when it gained video capture capabilities, but there’s also some good news this week for bite-size video fans that use Vine. The company announced today on Twitter that its Android app has been updated to version 1.1, and in the process has gained new features like the ability to share to Facebook, search for users and hashtags and also clear the app’s cache. The full version 1.1 changelog is as follows:

  • Search for users and hashtags
  • Share to Facebook
  • Improvements to capture speed, quality, and audio/video synchronization
  • Clear cache option available in Settings
  • Other bug fixes and UI improvements

That list of changes may look small, but there’s some pretty major tweaks in there. Sharing to Facebook is a big addition, especially after the Facebook-owned Instagram added video to its service, and the various other enhancements ought to help users improve the overall quality of their Vines. If you’re rocking an Android device, you cm snag version 1.1 of Vine at the Google Play link below. Once you’re done installing, be sure to swing by the comments below to let us know what you think of the update and the improvements that it brings!

Via @vineapp, Google Play: Vine for Android

I want a smartwatch, but not in its current form

Jun 21st 2013, 16:45

I like smartwatches; really, I do. They’re awesome pieces of technology because they work with our smartphones to let us know the important notifications that come through without making us actually take our phone out of our pocket, or miniscule actions like changing the track on the music player. They’re little things, but it can add a lot of convenience to our everyday lives.

Despite that they’re able to make our lives easier to an extent, there hasn’t really been a smartwatch to hit the market that also made it “big”. And I don’t mean “big” like it was talked about for a few weeks and then forgotten about (which has been pretty much all of them); I mean big enough to make people think, “Wow, this is totally the next big thing to hit this industry!” It hasn’t happened yet, and with about 16 smartwatches that have come and gone on the market, you have to wonder why they’re not doing so well. I mean, it is a pretty cool idea.

At least, Sony must think so: on their Xperia Twitter account, Sony teased that “1/3 smartphone users want smart wrist wear. #itstime #MAE13” which makes us think that Sony plans on unveiling a second smartwatch during Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai next week. I can’t disagree with the Twitter statement, though; I do want a smartwatch!

However, I still haven’t bought one yet. Even though I said that the Pebble smartwatch was (is) a good idea, I can’t get over the design of it. It’s pretty much the same reason I’ve never been a big “watch” person my entire life. They’re just too uncomofortable for me to get used to. The design that smartwatches currently have just seem like they could be improved upon. A smartwatch shouldn’t just mean that the inside of the watch got smarter – the design could use some reworking too.

The way that the Pebble smartwatch, among others, is designed is too reminiscent of how regular watches already are. It’s chunky, and the design was originally made for a gadget that was primarily made to tell time (which means that smaller faces are completely acceptable). These smartwatches, which require a pretty sizeable screen, could easily utilize some of that technology that we have been hoping for when it comes to our smartphones, and in that sense could make smartwatches even more revolutionary – not to mention, some of the designs we’ve seen for “future” smartphones could actually function better as a smartwatch, in my opinion.

For instance, take the flexible graphene displays that I’ve mentioned in past articles. The thin, bendable, and nearly indestructible material would work perfectly on a smartwatch. Not only does the bendable display make sense as a smartwatch (conforms to the shape of your arm) but it could also work great as a tester to see if this type of technology is actually something that consumers want to use. Being that smartwatches only perform a few select functions for our smartphones (notifications, music selection, notes) along with other watch-like functions (time, date, stopwatch) it would seem to be a lot easier to utilize this material in a smartwatch form over an entire smartphone.

Not only would graphene displays pair well with the smartwatch idea, but I would also be willing to bet that a smartwatch is one of the few things in life that could actually work with a transparent display. We’ve seen that engineers were working on a transparent smartphone prototype earlier this year, but as a phone I just don’t see that technology working out very well. As a smartwatch, however, the material would already be against your skin so you have a constant ‘background’ of sorts. I mean, the actual use for a transparent display in general is really only there for the “coolness” factor, but if you’re going to incorporate that into any gadget a smartwatch would be a better solution than a smartphone in my opinion.

I would like to see smartwatches improved upon in the future, and don’t get me wrong: the design that current smartwatches have are still relevant, just not to everybody (like me). But I would be all over a transparent graphene smartwatch like gravy on mashed potatoes, I can tell you that.

Readers, what do you think of the current design of smartwatches? What changes would you make to them? Share your opinions with me in the comments below!

Images via Slash Gear, Wired

LG Optimus F3 Unboxing

Jun 21st 2013, 15:45

Aaron unboxes the LG Optimus F3, a mid-range smartphone from Sprint.  Packing 4G LTE connectivity, the Optimus F3 has a 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU, 4-inch display (480×800 pixels), 5-megapixel camera with 1080p HD recording, 2,460 mAh battery, and Android 4.1 with LG’s UI.  It has nothing on the LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy S 4, or HTC One, but brings some great features over from the LG Optimus G Pro, including the notification light behind the home screen.

View video here

HTC One paired with $100 Google Play credit in new RadioShack promotion

Jun 21st 2013, 12:10

HTC One box

iOS users aren’t the only ones that are the target of a new retailer promotion today, as RadioShack has announced that it’s offering a $100 Google Play credit with the purchase of the Android-powered HTC One. The offer is good with both the AT&T and Sprint variants of the One, with pricing for the two variants set at $149.99 and $79.99, respectively. The fine print of the deal states that customers will need to sign a two-year commitment with their carrier of choice and that the Google Play credit must be used within two weeks of purchase. The promotion runs through June 30.

The One is HTC’s current flagship smartphone, packing a 4.7-inch 1080p display, 1.7GHz quad-core processor, front-facing BoomSound speakers, UltraPixel rear camera, 2.1-megapixel front camera and 4G LTE, all of which is crammed into an aluminum unibody frame. RadioShack’s prices for the AT&T and Sprint versions of the One are decent deals by themselves, but adding in a free $100 Google Play credit for apps, games, media and other content makes them definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for a new Android smartphone. You can check out the promotion yourself by hitting up the RadioShack link below.

Via Android Central, RadioShack

If not Nokia, then which company can propel Windows Phone forward?

Jun 21st 2013, 11:00

While I was chatting with a sales associate in a wireless retail location, a customer heard us talking about the Lumia series, and the state of Windows Phone in general, and came over to ask us some questions. Granted, she was talking more to the sales rep, but that’s to be expected. She was looking for a new phone, so obviously she should be talking to the person who can actually sell her a phone.

In any event, she played around with one of the Windows Phone-based devices on the wall, moving the Start screen up and down, watching as the Live Tiles did their animated thing, and she seemed pleasantly surprised by what she was looking at. As she inspected the device, she was busy asking questions, like, “How many apps are there?” “Can I get that photo sharing app that my daughter uses?” “How’s the camera?” And plenty more.

The rep had answers for all these things, and answered them dutifully. It only took a few minutes, but by the end of it the customer had walked away, found a Galaxy S III, and started talking to another rep about that particular handset. I should have kept watching, because she was in the store for a bit longer, but I didn’t see what phone she walked out with.

All I know is, it wasn’t a Windows Phone device.

As I sit and write this, and think about the core of what we’re going to be talking about here, I should have caught up with that nice lady and asked her why she didn’t go with Windows Phone. Why, for whatever reason, she decided to go with another platform, another device, instead of going with the handset that the sales rep had spoken so highly of. (And, for the record, it is rare that I hear sales representatives talk highly about Windows Phone.)

But I didn’t, and here I am, not necessarily speculating on why someone may not pick Windows Phone, but something a bit finer. I want to look at Nokia. I want to look, and talk about, the company that, as far as I can tell, is the only company that honestly cares about Windows Phone as a platform. And, moreover, I want to talk about the other options. Because let’s face it, there are other options.

But, as the title suggests, if not Nokia, then who?

Hardware is important to the Android market, but it doesn’t have to the most important part. The software can play a much bigger role, depending on how you look at it. Between HTC, Samsung, LG, and every other hardware manufacturer that includes a proprietary user interface with their devices, they bank a lot of money on that software standing out against everyone else. Sure, they’ve got to make sure that the hardware stands out, but the software is just another piece of the puzzle that can make or break the whole thing apart if it doesn’t quite fit.

For Windows Phone partners, though, the hardware absolutely has to stand out. I think that’s one reason why Nokia went with such colorful devices with the original Lumia 900. But obviously HTC jumped on that bandwagon, and now HTC is venturing out into other areas. They’ve got the aluminum Lumia 925 coming down the line. There’s the Lumia 928 with “the best low-light photos,” thanks to the camera. The hardware changes are a necessity, because if the hardware didn’t stand out against companies like HTC or Samsung, then all these devices would just look the same, thanks to Windows Phone.

And I agree with Anna that Nokia seems to be the only company putting any real effort into making Windows Phone succeed, and there’s an obvious reason for that. Ever since 2011, when Nokia and Microsoft came together to work in a “strategic partnership,” there shouldn’t have been any confusion about Nokia’s push to get their brand out there with Windows Phone on their devices.

But ever since the Windows Phone 8X by HTC launched, and Microsoft seemed to be cozying up to another company, things have been strange. Nokia used to sell both the hardware and the software in their ads, and now they’re focusing a lot more on just the hardware. As if they don’t want you to pay so much attention to Windows Phone, and focus more on the high-quality products Nokia creates.

But is that working? It’s anyone’s guess at this point. Windows Phone could be gaining ground, but the question remains: Is it because of Nokia? Or is it due to Microsoft’s software? Is Nokia outpacing HTC and Samsung in Windows Phone-based sales? And, would that be surprising, considering Nokia’s the only company here in the States to offer up more than one phone running Microsoft’s latest version of their mobile operating system?

So, my question to you, is if not Nokia, then who? Because Nokia does seem to be the only company putting any real effort into selling Windows Phone, while every other company is just tossing out a handset when they feel like it, and focusing on other platforms (Android). I’ve written about how I’d like an HTC One running Windows Phone 8, and that still stands true. I think that’d be a killer device. But would you buy something like that? What about a Galaxy S 4, or a Galaxy S4 Active, running Windows Phone? An LG Optimus G Pro?

Are HTC, Samsung, LG or any other company in a position to rake in better sales, or draw in more people to the Windows Phone fold than Nokia? Since reports are saying Microsoft is no longer interested in buying Nokia’s device business, should Microsoft start putting a bit more focus on HTC and Samsung to create high-end WP8 devices? Let me know!

Instagram gets video and rips off Vine, but do you really use short video that much?

Jun 21st 2013, 10:55

Instagram now has short video sharing capabilities, and Anna did a pretty good job of comparing it to Vine and HTC’s Zoe and examining the pros and cons of each. Short videos are clearly gaining in popularity, or Instagram wouldn’t have bothered copying Vine and adding more time and filters to the videos to distinguish itself. But do you actually shoot videos in everyday life?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a six or 15-second video clip may be worth a little novella, right? Or is a picture worth a thousand words because it’s a very specific moment in time — a fraction of your observations that can never be reproduced again? Since there isn’t much to see outside of the frame of a photo, and there is often just a little action within it, our minds are left to interpret everything else. Did something happen just before or after that photo to make it more interested? We’ll never know, and that’s where these little video snippets come in.

However, as a photographer, I really do wonder whether short video snippets from Instagram or Vine or Zoe will be the way we communicate visually. Before any of these short video services became available, how often were you recording quick video snippets and sharing them with friends or even keeping them to yourself? Is this medium becoming more popular now just because it’s available, and its novelty still hasn’t worn off?

Maybe I’m being too snobby about videos, especially short videos. There are times when a six-second clip can be more powerful than a still image (e.g. when it’s of a band playing a song, motion accompanied by sound can have more impact than a photo of the band just standing on stage). The nice thing about Zoe is that it does hybrid video and still photo clips, although it doesn’t give you the flexibility to customize those clips yourself.

A few days ago I suggested that a cure to smartphone boredom is to create new content, so Instagram’s announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. The thing with Instagram videos or Vine is that it makes sharing small slices of our lives so easy, and digesting the video clips that our friends share is simple — it’s all in one stream. Perhaps this new short video fad could be the start of new trends or art projects in addition to just sharing the minutiae of our lives.

So that’s where my question comes in. Do you use services like Instagram and Vine to share what’s happening with your life, or do you prefer crafting and editing your photos and videos so that they can be considered artistic and interesting? I’ve seen everything from documentary photography, art, food, cats, sunsets, fingernails and make-up and more on Instagram, so I’m very curious to know how PhoneDog readers use Instagram and Vine as part of their social media presence.

Let us know how you use these services, and whether you keep a tight-knit circle of friends or share it publicly and hashtag everything to death so that the whole world can see.

Samsung Galaxy Ring tipped to be headed for Boost Mobile

Jun 21st 2013, 09:10

Samsung Galaxy Ring Boost Mobile leak

Just a few short days after first appearing in Virgin Mobile garb, a new leak has shown that the Samsung Galaxy Ring may be headed to Virgin’s MVNO brother as well. Images posted by @evleaks have revealed a white version of the Galaxy Ring with Boost Mobile software on its homescreen, including a “Boost Zone” application. There’s no word on exactly when the Boost variant of the Galaxy Ring might launch or how much it’ll cost when it does.

The Galaxy Ring is mid-range handset with a 4-inch display, 5-megapixel rear and 1.3-megapixel cameras, 1.4GHz processor, 4GB storage and a microSD card slot. Android 4.1 is also on board, meaning that buyers will have access to Jelly Bean-specific features like Google Now. While we’ll have to wait until the Boost Mobile Galaxy Ring is official before we know anything about it for sure, but it seems likely that it’ll be pretty similar to Virgin’s variant, including its $179.99 price tag. Stay tuned and I’ll give you a shout once Boost makes an announcement.

Via @evleaks

Iron Man can save a lot of things, but I don’t think HTC is one of them

Jun 21st 2013, 08:10

When it comes to the entertainment industry, over the past several years we’ve seen an emphasis and a strong interest in “superheroes”. We’ve seen popular characters from old comic books like Spiderman, Batman, Captain America, The Hulk, and Iron Man adapted to become featured in live-action films. Time and time again these characters appear on the big screen to save the day, in one way or another. In recent news according to Bloomberg, HTC, a struggling manufacturer in the mobile industry, is planning to hire one of the actors that is most recently known for playing Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr.

HTC hasn’t officially commented on the celebrity endorsement, which is said to be costing HTC around $12 million for the two-year global marketing campaign, but Bloomberg used two people who know about the company’s plans as their citation. Assuming it’s true, I have to admit, I don’t think that this will necessarily do HTC any significant favors in the long run.

It’s been reported that Robert Downey Jr. will be endorsing HTC’s products as himself, not as his on-screen counterparts. This aspect of the business strategy is good, considering that not everybody necessarily sees Robert Downey Jr. as “Iron Man”; he’s played several important roles in TV and movies, so limiting the endorsements by one of his many characters would only be limiting whatever potential that he could bring in for the company.

Despite all of that, though, I feel as if HTC could have spent their new marketing budget a little more wisely. Just last year HTC had a marketing budget of only $1 million, which may sound like a lot to you and me until you consider the fact that Samsung dedicated $10 million to their marketing budget. This year, HTC surpassed Samsung’s marketing budget by $2 million, but is banking their success on one person. Although I’m sure this budget includes more publicity (commercials, billboards, Internet ads, etc.) HTC needs to put the focus back on their phones, not on a celebrity they paid for to endorse them.

I’m no marketing guru by any means, but as a run-of-the-mill customer I have always found it more humbling when celebrities endorse phones they like simply because they like them. For example, back in 2011 Katy Perry tweeted that after she switched from her beloved BlackBerry to an iPhone 4S, she didn’t dig the loss of physical buttons and returned to her BlackBerry. Whether she was paid to say that or not, I have no idea. But if she was, it was a brilliant side-marketing campaign for BlackBerry through a simple celebrity tweet. And what about the iPhone? The popular Apple device is still frequently seen in the hands of celebrities on and off screen, and I’m sure they’re not paying every single one of them to flash that darling Apple sign once in a while during events and galas. And if they are, well, that’s just another sign of good, subtle marketing. It’s not all “in your face” about it; they just walk around and carry the phone because they like it.

HTC has had a pretty great run with the HTC One so far; I think a lot of people were surprised at how much they liked the device, given HTC’s dry spell for a couple years running at this point. But that’s just one phone; we still need to see more from HTC that proves to us that the One doesn’t stand for “One Hit Wonder”. In my opinion HTC is doing a good job of staying away from incessantly throwing an influx amount of devices at us like Samsung has, but at the same time I think they’re really jumping the gun (in the wrong direction) by spending so much on a celebrity endorsement. I mean, I could be way off about this, but I seriously doubt that Robert Downey Jr. will be able to save HTC if they can’t keep a constant flow of impressive products over the next couple of years. I think that’s what HTC needs to focus on in order to build itself back up from the ladder they fell from.

Readers, what are your thoughts on this marketing move from HTC? Do you think that a celebrity endorsement from the famous Iron Man actor is enough to save them from sinking? Share your thoughts and opinions with me in the comments!

Images via Talk Android, Movie Web

Ting ditches old billing model and adopts postpaid system

Jun 21st 2013, 08:05

Ting logo

When Ting originally launched in early 2012, the Sprint MVNO’s big draw was its customizable rate plans that let a customer select how many minutes, messages and megabytes that they’d want each month. The customer would then go through their cycle like normal, and he or she would be credited for any unused voice, text and data or would be bumped up to the next plan tier if he or she went over the allotted amount.

Ting has announced that it’s making a big change to the way that it operates, deciding to do away with its original plans and instead have more of a postpaid model. Under the new system, customers will use however many minutes, messages and megabytes that they need each month, then pay for the usage levels that they hit. Minutes, messaging and data are all still separate categories, and Ting says that there’s no change to its $6 per month per device fee. Existing Ting customers that are in the middle of a billing cycle right now will reconcile with Ting at the end of their billing period and then be moved to the new system.

Ting says that it made the decision to move to a new payment system because it’s previous plan and reconciliation setup was too confusing and took too much time to explain to potential customers. The operator also says that it makes more sense for the customer to keep their money and pay at the end of each period rather than paying Ting and then possibly getting a credit. Finally, Ting felt that it’s previous system was “too much like the sort of games the whole industry plays with rollover this and ‘unlimited but not really’ that,” saying that it didn’t want to look like it was operating like other carriers.

While Ting’s actual rates haven’t changed with its new system, now customers won’t need to worry about setting up a plan or wondering how much of a credit or additional payment they’ll run into at the end of the month, which ought to simplify things for both Ting and its customers. If you’d like to learn more about Ting’s new payment system, you can check out a video from the operator below. What do you think of Ting’s decision? Would you consider switching to Ting because of it?

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Via FierceWireless, Ting