Google Play Offers “Free For Print Subscribers” Option

Google has just added a new feature to Google Play which allows users who subscribe to print magazines to get a free digital copy. As of now, this functionality is limited to only a fraction of the magazines on the Play store, though we should see more publishers implement the service in the near future.

If you subscribe to a compatible magazine and would like a free digital copy, you don’t have to do too much. First, find the magazine in which you subscribe to on the Google Play store and hit the “subscribe” button. If a ” Free for print subscribers” button appears, you can digitally subscribe to the publication free of charge. Upon clicking this button, you’ll be asked to log into your magazine subscription online. After you do so, you’ll be able to start reading your print magazine digitally for free.

Keep in mind that if you do get a free digital subscription to a magazine, you’ll only be able to view it on your Android phone or tablet. Google has not yet allowed free magazines to be viewed online.

Source: Google via Talk Android

Microsoft Wins Bid for R2 Studios Against Apple and Others

Last month, we reported that Apple along with Microsoft and Google were in talks to acquire home automation company R2 Studios. R2 was created in 2011 by Krikorian who founded Sling Media Inc., maker of the Slingbox TV streaming device.

Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft has won the bidding war. Microsoft will use the acquisition to improve its Xbox division and increase its presence in the living room. The price of the acquisition was not disclosed.

“Microsoft Corp. MSFT +3.41% has acquired a small home-entertainment technology startup to beef up its Xbox unit, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company, id8 Group R2 Studios Inc., was created by entrepreneur Blake Krikorian in May 2011. Mr. Krikorian will be joining the Redmond, Wash., software giant with a small team. As part of the deal, Microsoft also acquired some patents owned by the startup related to controlling electronic devices.

The price of the deal couldn’t be learned.”

R2 Studios is currently developing a home automation technology, but as of now, it does not have any products in the market except for an Android application.

Falcon Pro For Android Updated To v1.4; Brings Lots Of Minor New Features

If you are an Android user and an avid Twitter user, you will clearly know that there is a serious lack of a beautiful yet functional Twitter app for Android. The official Twitter client for Android is nothing but a mess, while Plume, Tweetcaster and other similar Twitter clients look absolutely horrible.

A relatively new Twitter client – Falcon Pro – however, has the potential of becoming the best Twitter app for Android. The app was recently released on the Play Store and has been steadily updated by its developer adding new features and squashing bugs. As a new year gift, the developer released a major updated for Falcon Pro that brings with it some basic features that were missing earlier, bug fixes and some minor new features.

Below is the massive change-log for the update -:

– Added YouTube api integration
– Added option to Enable double tap on tweets
– Added logout button
– Added hide keyboard on RT
– Added report for SPAM
– Added mute mangement from settings
– Added hashtag auto fill when searching for tweets
– Added slider for refresh rates
– New “More Actions” dialog design
– Removed retweets from search results
– Set back mentions of followers in timeline
– Enhanced conversation view with private accounts
– Changed reply icon in profile view
– Faster user profile loading
– Fixed the rotation problem on tweet writer with pics
– Fixed orientation change on main view
+ other fixes

Falcon Pro is among the first few apps in the Play Store that take advantage of the new YouTube API integration from Google. The new API integration will allow Falcon Pro users to directly watch YouTube videos when they come across a YouTube video link on their timeline without the need of opening the YouTube app.

While this update in no way adds all the missing features that Falcon Pro has compared to Plume or Twicca, they still help in improving the overall usability and experience of the app.

Nova Launcher Updated To v2.0; Brings Under The Hood Optimizations, Custom Icons Size And More!

Third party launchers have always been one of Android’s strength. Back in the Ginerbread days, ADW LauncherEx and Launcher Pro offered unmatched customisability and features including themes support, multiple docks and more. With Android 4.0, a new bunch of launchers took over the Play Store. Nova Launcher has stood apart from the rest, thanks to a very long list of features, stability, performance and a very responsive developer.

The launcher got an update go v2.0 last night that contains a lot of new features. I guess the developer wanted to give a gift to all Nova users with such a massive update.

The massive change-log of all the new features and changes introduced in the latest version can be found below -:

  • Custom Icon Size (Prime)
  • Swipe actions on any desktop icon (Prime)
  • Custom wallpaper cropping
  • Increase maximum desktop grid size
  • Infinite Scroll Drawer Setting
  • Alphabetical list drawer style
  • Small Icons Dock Setting
  • Force wallpaper scrolling on USA SGS2
  • Aggressive Desktop Setting (Keep in memory)*
  • Lower memory usage
  • Improve scrolling performance
  • Fixes, optimizations and tuning
  • *”Retrieve Running Apps” used for Aggressive Desktop and warning when multiple launchers are running

If you have not already, go ahead and give Nova Launcher a try on your Android device running Ice Cream Sandwich or higher.

Lock Down Your Facebook and Google Accounts with Privacyfix

Way back in 2010, just as the controversy surrounding Facebook’s Open Graph was exploding, we had reviewed a nifty bookmarklet called ReclaimPrivacy that could automatically scan your Facebook settings and highlight areas of concern. Recently I came across a Firefox and Chrome extension called PrivacyFix, which does the same thing, but better.

As soon as you install the extension, it will scan your currently-logged-in Facebook and Google accounts, as well as your browser cookies to identify privacy threats. Once it finishes scanning, you will see a neat report, which highlights potential areas of concern. Privacyfix explains each of the identified issues, and assists you in fixing them.

Privacy-Fix-Facebook-Privacy-Settings-Recommendation

Privacy Fix also maintains a database of popular websites that track and retain user data. For websites with an opt-out policy it offers to send a mail requesting to opt-you out. Additionally, it can delete existing tracking cookies, and block tracking cookies from being placed in the future.

Privacy-Fix-Facebook-Privacy-Settings-Configuration

Privacyfix is a simple, hassle-free solution that goes a long way towards avoiding accidental privacy breaches on social networks. Both Facebook and Google offer great privacy tools. Unfortunately, they are either difficult to find, or too confusing for most users. By automatically identifying and highlighting potential issues, Privacyfix makes things easier for the user. It’s a tool that even your parents could use with confidence. Go ahead and download it. There is no reason not to.

Privacy-Fix-Health-Bar

[ Download Privacyfix ]

Google Spotted Testing Quick View for Wikipedia in Mobile Search

Google Search is known to test new features on random unsuspecting users. At any point of time, there are probably several different versions of its search page floating around. The latest feature that has been spotted in the wild is “Quick View” for mobile search results.

Google has been offering the Quick View option for documents (PPT, PDF etc.) for quite some time. Now, it’s toying with the idea of introducing Quick View for websites. Wissam Dandan spotted that Google is displaying a Quick View link in the search results page for Wikipedia pages. Tapping on the link opens up the mobile version of Wikipedia.

Google-Mobile-Quick-View-1 Google-Mobile-Quick-View-2

Currently this feature seems to be limited only to Wikipedia. However, there’s no reason why Google couldn’t expand this feature to include all webpages. It can either attempt to load the mobile website whenever possible, or load a stripped down version (sort of like Readability mode) of the webpage. Right now this feature doesn’t really make much of a difference; however, I like the concept. Hopefully, Google will expand the feature and roll it out to all mobile users in the future.

The Problem Of Every Nexus 4 Owner – Severe Battery Drain Thanks To “msm_hsic_wakelock”

I got a Nexus 4 in the first week of December, and have been loving the device since then. It has nearly everything that I would have asked for in the next Nexus. A stunning screen, blazing..and I mean absolutely blazing fast performance, a usable camera and good battery life with a catch. The catch here is that I need to use my Nexus 4 connected to a Wi-Fi network if I want it to last me a day with 3-4 hours of screen-on time.

On 3G/HSPA+, the Nexus 4 suffers from some serious battery drain. The over-night drain on 3G can be as high as up to 20%, which should not happen. After all, the device is just idling for 8-10 hours. Why should there be such a high battery drain?

I am not the only one facing this problem. Each and every Nexus 4 owner has been facing the same issue. For some reason, there is a very high battery drain on the Nexus 4 when it is connected to mobile data. The culprit behind this is the “msm_hsic_wakelock” process. From what I have read on XDA forums, this process is used every time by the OS for any kind of mobile data activity, which causes a wakelock. While this is completely fine, the problem is that the wakelock is not dropped or released after the task is done, causing excessive battery drain. If your Nexus 4 is facing the same issue, you will see a very high % of “Android OS” and “Android System” usage in the Battery stats.

The worst part? In all likelihood, this problem can only be solved by Google and LG/Qualcomm. Flashing a custom ROM or a kernel or formatting your phone is just not going to solve this issue.

The only temporary solution to this problem is to use Wi-Fi on your Nexus 4. For some reason, the “msm_hsic_wakelock” wakelock is greatly reduced when the Nexus 4 is connected to a Wi-Fi network.

There are quite a few Nexus 4 owners out there that face severe battery drain that is not caused by the “msm_hsic_wakelock” process. For them, some random apps or process will create a wakelock and drain their phone’s battery. Sometimes these apps or processes will be some key system processes that cannot be disabled or uninstalled.

We, the Nexus 4 owners, are at the mercy of Google and LG/Qualcomm for now. Until and unless, Google and or LG/Qualcomm release a software update to fix this severe battery drain, there is not much Nexus 4 owners can do. I had hoped that Google would release a software update to fix this issue before the holiday season starts, but that did not happen. Hopefully, Google will roll-out a software update to fix this issue sometime in early January.

P.S. – You can comment/star or up vote on Google’s Android bug tracker.

For more reference, head over to this XDA thread.

Motorola and Google Working On The “X Phone”

Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google is working with Motorola on their first big device, known internally as the “X Phone”.

WSJ reports that Motorola and Google is looking at using flexible displays with a ceramic body so that the phone can be more stress-resistant. However, the companies are running into some supply-management issues, which might lead them to re-think their strategy.

Reports also suggest that Google and Motorola are focusing on making the camera top-notch, hardware wise as well as software wise.

While Motorola has consistently failed to come-up with a remarkable handset in the last couple of years, the push from Google might just be it all needs.

Don’t expect this new handset from Google-Motorola to come out anytime soon. With the Nexus 4 just being released, this new handset won’t hit the shelves until late next-year.

Apple in Talks to Acquire Home Automation Company R2 Studios

According to The Wall Street JournalApple, Microsoft, and Google are all potential buyers for home automation firm R2 Studios, part of the id8 Group founded by Blake Krikorian. The company was created in 2011 by Krikorian who founded Sling Media Inc., maker of the Slingbox TV streaming device.

R2 Studios, which is developing home-media and automation technology, has remained largely mum about its plans but last year released an app that turns Android phones into touch panels for controlling heating and lighting systems wirelessly. R2 Studios also holds some patents related to controlling electronic devices and interfaces.

The status of the discussion and terms under consideration remain unclear. A deal may not happen and some talks may be preliminary.

R2 Studios is currently developing a home automation technology, but as of now does not have any products on the market besides from an Android application that can control heating and lightning systems.

The reports also says that R2 also owns some patents related to “controlling electronic devices and interfaces”, in addition to its existing app work. If Apple does plan to release a television at some point, this technology could fit along nicely.

Google Music Introduces Free Song Matching Feature in the US

Google-MusicGoogle Music hasn’t exactly set the world on fire as Google was hoping it would. However, there is no denying that it is a pretty neat service. It’s biggest selling point is perhaps the free digital locker that could store up to 20,000 songs in the cloud. Unfortunately, before you could use the digital locker, you had to manually upload your media library. Even with a conservative estimate of 5 MB per song, we are looking at 100 gigs of data transfer for 20,000 songs. Obviously, this could take a while.

The good news is that starting today, users won’t have to upload their library before being able to access it through the cloud. Thanks to the newly introduced song matching feature, Google will simply cross-reference song signatures before unlocking access to that song in the cloud. Google’s desktop app called Music Manager will take care of syncing songs from your PC to the cloud. This feature was available for European users for over a month, but was enabled for US users only a few hours back.

Google’s competition also boasts of a similar feature; however, Google is the only one to offer it for free. Apple charges $24.99 for iTunes Match services and stores up to 25,000 songs. Amazon’s Cloud Player Premium also charges the same amount, but it can store up to 250,000 songs. Amazon also offers a free version, which is limited to 250 songs.

The Scan and Match service has long been dubbed as a sin tax. Since none of the service providers attempt to validate the source of the music file, it’s assumed that a lot of the tracks in the users library are illegally sourced. Apple and Amazon pay out most of its subscription fee to publishers as a compensation. AllThingsD is reporting that Google also has a deal in place with record labels. However, instead of paying them on a per-user basis, it’s offering a hefty upfront payment.