Facebook has released an updated version of its Android client. It’s a fairly minor update, but it’s still something that will please Android owners, who have long complained that Facebook treats them as second class citizens.
Most of the stuff added to Facebook for Android 1.6 are things that have been present in its iOS counterpart for a long time. The biggest improvement is that it is finally possible to upload videos to Facebook using its official Android client. This update also adds support for Facebook Pages in the sense that users can tap the names of Pages present in their news stream to browse all content posted by that Facebook Page. However, search feature for Pages is still missing. The other improvement is in the news feed itself. It now supports a wider range of sources, and more stuff can be opened natively.
Interestingly enough, the new Facebook app demands permission to send SMS. I couldn’t find any option to send an SMS from the app itself, so I have no clue as to why the app insists on this permission. Do let me know if you manage to figure out exactly what is going on.
There are still boatloads of features missing from Facebook’s mobile application. Even popular features such as “Comment Likes” and “Name-Tagging”, which were released months ago, are yet to make their way to the mobile application. Facebook has been spreading itself thin, and it’s well known that it doesn’t spend too much manpower on mobile app development. Heck, the excellent iPhone app was created by a single guy, Joe Hewitt. Project Spartan might be more important to Facebook, but it wouldn’t really hurt to add a couple of extra guys to the mobile app development team.
You can download Facebook for Android 1.6 from the Market.
After months of speculation, and a surprising albeit brief appearance in the Android Market, Cut the Rope from ZeptoLab has finally landed on Android. GetJar has again managed to score an exclusive deal; however, the ZeptoLab bestseller should become available in the Android Market after twenty four hours.
Cut the Rope for iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod) has been topping the charts and receiving rave reviews ever since its release. The objective of the game is rather simple. You have to guide the candy that is attached to one or more ropes into the mouth of a hungry monster, called Om Nom, by cutting the rope at critical points. To earn brownie points, you have to pick up the stars scattered throughout the level.
Like Rovio, ZeptoLab is also opting for the freemium model on Android. The version hosted by GetJar is free, but advertisement supported. The same version will make its way to the Android Market soon. Additionally, we expect an ads-free premium version to make its appearance in the Market.
Since the game’s release in October, ZeptoLab has released numerous level packs including a special Valentines day pack. The Android version includes all the level packs, which means that the game ships with a massive 175 levels. You can go ahead and grab the game from here. However, be warned. It is dangerously addictive.
We’ve always said our mission is to provide the world’s premium content to people when, how and where they want it. And we know that a lot of people want that content on their Android smartphones. We’ve been working hard to make that a reality, and today, we have begun our early rollout of the Hulu Plus application on Android smartphones.
Hulu Plus will currently be available on six phones only which include the Nexus One, Nexus S, HTC Inspire 4G, Motorola Droid II, Motorola Droid X, and the Motorola Atrix with support for other devices coming out shortly.
Users of these devices can download a copy of Hulu Plus from Android market here. This link will not be available for incompatible devices so you might be disappointed. Another important thing is that Hulu Plus does not support most of the new Android based devices, however, we do hope that support for them will come out shortly.
Hulu Plus is a popular extension to the free TV show watching service which charges users to watch previous seasons of some famous shows on FOX, NBC and more. It is currently owned by Comcast and is actively looking for a new buyer.
Till then I will continue enjoying watching Family Guy and other shows on my desktop or iPod Touch.
2011 is turning out to be the year of dual-core Androids. LG has Optimus 2X, Motorola has Atrix, Samsung has Galaxy SII, and HTC has Sensation. The only major Android handset manufacturer that is yet to join the party is Sony Ericsson. SE’s current flagship device, the Arc, runs on a single core Scorpion chip. However, SE almost certainly has a dual core Android handset in the works.
At this moment, absolutely nothing is known about the successor to the gorgeous Xperia Arc. However, a picture of a previously unseen Xperia device has surfaced on the Chinese website Mobibal. Aesthetically, the new Xperia handset looks similar to the Xperia Pro. The sharp square edges present in the X10 and the Arc have made way for a more roundish look. The screen also seems to be a ginormous one, and might even be bigger than 4.3 inches. The Xperia blog believes that this device will be called the Xperia Duo. If the name seems familiar to you that is because earlier rumors had suggested that the Xperia X10 Mini Pro successor is going to be called the Xperia Duo.
Needless to say, there is a good chance that the entire thing is a fabrication. However, Sony Ericsson has never been very good with secrets. What ever the truth is, expect it to be revealed over the coming weeks through more leaks.
Sony Ericsson has come a long way since last year, when it released its first Android handset the Xperia X10. It got a lot of things wrong with the X10. However, it seems to have learnt its lesson. This year it launched the Arc and the Neo with the latest version of Android. It decoupled its custom skin (UX) from the Android core. It gave users of the new Xperia handsets the option of unlocking the bootloader. It backtracked on its initial announcement, and decided to provide the Gingerbread update to the Xperia X10. It delivered dual touch to the X10. And, Sony Ericsson doesn’t seem to be done yet.
If Sony Ericsson Brazil is to be believed, then the new update will introduce full multi-touch support to the Xperia X10. As mentioned above, Sony Ericsson delivered dual-touch to the X10 through a firmware update released earlier in the year. While dual-touch is good enough for pinch-to-zoom, two-finger scrolling, and other simple operations, it is often not good enough for gaming. SE Brazil reiterated in the comments section of its blog update that the new update will indeed deliver full multi-touch, and promised more details soon. The multi-touch issue has been a sensitiveone for Xperia X10 owners since Sony Ericsson has changed its position multiple times. While this news will undoubtedly excite Xperia X10 owners, it will also raises a very important question. Full multi-touch support through nifty software tricks is impossible. And if the Xperia X10 hardware was capable of multi-touch all along, then why did Sony Ericsson insist to the contrary?
Unconfirmed chatter also suggests that Sony Ericsson might deliver multiple other improvements including 16 M colors, new kernel, and an unlocked bootloader. The update is scheduled for Q3, 2011; however, don’t be shocked if it is released earlier.
Back when Facebook announced its Open Graph Protocol, I wrote that Mark Zuckerberg is a helluva ambitious bloke. He doesn’t want Facebook to be just another website we use every day, he wants Facebook to become an integral and essential part of our daily lives. Open Graph enabled Facebook to weave itself into the fabric of the web, and collect huge amounts of data on our preferences and interests.
Now, if TechCrunch is to be believed, Facebook is working on a new platform aimed squarely at mobile users. The new platform, codenamed Project Spartan, will leverage HTML5 and other web technologies to deliver mobile applications and games. The initial target will be iOS devices (iPhones and iPads running Mobile Safari). However, given that it will essentially be a HTML5 based platform, it shouldn’t be too hard to extend Project Spartan to Android and other mobile platforms.
According to the report, there are about 80 outside developers currently working with Facebook on Project Spartan. Facebook will essentially act as a wrapper around these apps, and support sharing options and monetary transactions (through Facebook Credits). The app developers are expected to roll in their applications within the next couple of weeks, in preparation for the impending launch of Facebook’s app store.
Mobile app stores are blossoming and even the little known ones like Opera Mobile Store are pulling in hundreds of thousands of downloads per day. Given its huge user base and cross-platform presence, Facebook obviously believes that this is another segment it can compete in. While browser based apps have the advantage of being cross-platform, the lack of system level access (access to APIs) will also make them restricted in many ways. Facebook’s app store won’t be able to outperform or eliminate Apple’s App Store and Android’s Market. However, it doesn’t need do. Even if it succeeds in grabbing a decent percentage of users, Project Spartan will be a lucrative platform that will steal a significant amount of revenue from the likes of Apple. And of course, it will give Facebook foothold in another segment that initially seemed to have little to do with the social network.
Google’s experiment with alternate distribution channels might have flopped as far as the Nexus One is concerned, however it did succeed in winning a million hearts. The Nexus One went on to become the ultimate developer and power user handset, thanks to its quick firmware updates and customizability. Google followed it up with Nexus S manufactured by Samsung, which again proved to be popular among Android enthusiasts. However, more than six months have passed since its release. Unsurprisingly, rumors about the successor to the Nexus S are already beginning to rear its head.
BGR claims to have learned that the successor to the Nexus S, which will tentatively be called the Nexus 4G, is under development. As the name suggests, it will be equipped with a LTE (4G) radio. Apart from that, it will feature bleeding edge hardware that is head and shoulders above what is currently available in the market. It will boast of a dual core 1.2GHz or 1.5GHz CPU (OMAP 4460 or a 28nm Krait-based Snapdragon) and 1GB of RAM. The powerful hardware will be complemented by a giant sized screen with 720p HD resolution. Once again, the rumored resolution, will be a major step up. However, the large size and sublime resolution will pose a few interesting challenges regarding usability and battery life. Furthermore, the Nexus 4G will feature 1080p video recording; however, the camera will be a 5 megapixel one. Nevertheless, resolution is not the best indicator of quality, and BGR believes that the Nexus 4G will be able to deliver high quality images thanks to its enhanced optics. And last but not least, the next-gen Nexus will ship with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Ice Cream Sandwich is expected introduce many of the enhancements showcased in Honeycomb (Android 3.0) to mobile phones.
The manufacturer of the next Nexus is not yet known; however, recent leaks suggest that Google might have picked HTC again to build the Android flag bearer. The Nexus 4G is expected to be released around Thanksgiving.
J. J. Abrams projects have a reputation of creating cool viral experiences that serve the dual purpose of engaging with fans and spreading the word. Whether it was LOST’s alternate reality games or Cloverfield’s viral marketing campaign, Abrams offered fans hungry for additional information an engaging and rewarding experience. Abrams latest project is Super 8, which hit the theatres this week. As with almost any Abrams project, the web was abuzz with excitement right from the get go. To further fuel the hype for the science fiction inspired by the good old summer flicks of the 80s, Super 8 used innovative strategies like embedding an interactive trailer within Portal 2, besides relying on good old viral campaigns (Scariest Thing I Ever Saw). However, perhaps the most inspired move by Super 8 is its iOS app.
The Super 8 iOS app is quite possibly the coolest official app for a movie, ever. At first glance the iOS app appears to be an old Super 8mm film camera simulator. Simply fire the app and press the red button to start recording retro style footages. You can add filter and lens effects like color, chromatic, black & white, sepia, x-ray, negative and infrared. It also comes with neat “shake” and “scratch-and-dirt” effects. Once you are done, you can review your creations from the projection room. You can either export the films to your computer through iTunes, or directly email them.
However, the coolest bit about the app is its integration with Aurasma, which is a company specializing in augmented reality technologies. To leverage this feature select the AR Lens and point the camera at Super 8 posters. Aurasma will use image recognition to play teaser videos and trailers based upon the poster.
The Super 8 app was initially available as a free download from the iTunes App Store, but now costs $0.99.
Over the years, a lot has been said about Android’s fragmentation problem. Manufacturers and carriers often took months to deliver operating system updates, if they delivered them at all. Thankfully, the Android update scenario seems to have taken a turn for the better. Manufacturers like Sony Ericsson have cleaned up their act in a big way, and have promised to deliver quick updates. Google has also begun to wield its influence to nudge manufacturers and careers in the right direction. However, now that the software fragmentation problem is showing signs of settling down, another major issue is rearing its ugly head hardware fragmentation.
Google has very little say over the hardware configuration of Android devices. Current generation Android handsets run on everything from ARM A9 to ARM A6 and ARM A11. Google wants Android to be ubiquitous. It wants Android handsets to dominate every segment from basic low-end devices to cutting edge high-end smartphones. This is in stark contrast to the approach taken by Apple and even Microsoft. Apple restricts iOS to handsets manufactured in-house (i.e. iPhone). Microsoft on the other hand has laid out stringent minimum hardware specifications that all Windows Phone handsets must satisfy.
In theory, Google’s approach has some significant advantages like affordability and diversity. It allows for healthy competition between hardware manufactures, and it fosters innovation and rapid improvements in hardware capability. Hardware fragmentation by its own isn’t a major headache. However, as always, vested interests have found ways to exploit the freedom offered to them by Google to gain unfair competitive advantages.
Hardware manufacturers are tying up with game developers to artificially restrict games to their own platforms. The biggest culprit is probably nVidia, which has roped in several big names to launch Tegra exclusive titles (often called Tegra HD or THD games). Quite obviously, no one expects a budget handset to be able to run graphics intensive games like Riptide GP. However, thanks to the Tegra exclusive tag, even beasts like the Samsung Galaxy S II aren’t capable of running the jaw dropping ski racer from Vector Unit. Imagine shelling out big bucks to purchase the latest and the greatest Android smart phone in the market, and then discovering that you can’t play most of uber cool games for Android, as you have an Exynos chip instead of Tegra 2. This is an entirely artificially imposed restriction that if not checked will be a major deterrent for mobile gaming enthusiasts.
It is one thing to optimize a game for a specific platform, but it is quite something else to cripple it or make it unplayable on other equivalent platforms. Unlike in the PC gaming segment where games are often optimized for either nVidia or ATI (AMD) graphics cards, but run pretty well on both, nVidia is making some games simply unavailable for other platforms.
Earlier this month, an enterprising developer at XDA found a way to fake the graphics capabilities of the handset. His app, called ChainFire3D, can manipulate OpenGL feature identifiers with the press of a button. With the help of proper plugins it can run Tegra 2 exclusive games like Samurai Vengeance 2, Guerrilla Bob THD, and Riptide GP on several non-Tegra handsets including Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy S II, Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, HTC G2, HTC Desire, and Nexus One.
Sony Ericsson has also been doing something similar with its Xperia Play exclusive games (mainly published by Gameloft). Sure some of the games require hardware keys for full gratification, but most of them are perfectly enjoyable even without dedicated hardware keys.
Tegra Zone Games on Nexus One with ChainFire3D
Google has indicated in the past that it is serious about Android as a gaming platform. However, if Android wants to take on iOS in the mobile gaming segment, then it will have to deal with this artificially created hardware fragmentation problem. The purpose of the operating system and graphics libraries like OpenGL is to abstract the hardware from the software. Whether a game runs on a given handset should be determined by the capability of the hardware, and not some other superficial restriction. If Google wants to retain even a semblance of openness in the Android ecosystem, then it must step in, and prevent this artificial fragmentation.
The wait is over. Opera Mini 6 for iOS is finally here. Back in March, Opera Software released Opera Mini 6 and Opera Mobile 11 for a host of platforms including Android and Symbian. However, iPhone and iPad users were left in the lurch as Opera awaited App Store approval from Apple.
The iOS edition benefits from the same improvements that Opera introduced to other mobile platforms. The new release is optimized for the higher resolution offered by iPhone 4 and the iPad. It also features a super smooth and fast pan and zoom. The shades of red that have long characterized Opera’s mobile releases have made way for sleek black gradients, the menus has been redesigned, and a new share button has been added. It’s now possible to share the web page you are currently surfing on My Opera, Facebook, Twitter and vKontakte.