Apps  Music  2013-11-29 16:21:51

American messaging services could learn a thing or two from WeChat.The mobile-focused app is massively popular in China and spreading quickly abroad; of the 270-million-plus regular users of the service, about a quarter of those are outside of mainland China.Aside from its wide user base, WeChat’s biggest success looks to be in its bottom line: In-app purchases.Take WeChat’s recent experiment with the fast-growing Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi. The two companies teamed up to offer a limited number of Xiaomi’s latest flagship phone, the Mi-3, inside the WeChat app exclusively. Xiaomi set aside 150,000 devices to sell for the promotion, and the phones sold out completely — all within about 10 minutes. The free-to-download app also updated to include other in-app purchase options earlier this year, including a storefront for sticker-pack sales and, more importantly, an in-app social game network.  2013-11-29 15:05:46

If you have a Google Nexus 4 or Nexus 5 smartphone, you may want to know about an interesting security story coming out of a conference in Romania today. A system administrator at a Dutch IT company has found a vulnerability that amounts to a method for launching a denial-of-service attack on those phones, using SMS messages.Bogdan Alecu he demonstrated the vulnerability at the DefCamp 2013 security conference in Bucharest today. In an email exchange, he said he does independent security research in his spare time, and, according to his site, has given talks on vulnerabilities at other conferences, including one at DefCon in Las Vegas over the summer. He also writes a mobile security blog.Here’s how the vulnerability works. At attacker sends what’s called a Flash SMS, or a Class 0 SMS, to the phone. It’s a sort of super-text-message that doesn’t get stored in the in-box; rather, its contents get flashed straight to the screen.  2013-11-26 08:00:21

The BillGuard app will now help users save money, not just fend off bad charges.BillGuard, an iOS finance app that launched four months ago, would like to be the worthy successor to the seminal personal-finance site Mint, says CEO Yaron Samid. (And at least one early Mint employee tweeted that he’s already ready to bestow the crown.)Samid is not the only would-be contender, of course; others vying for the title of Mint 2.0 include Mint itself (now owned by Intuit), as well as the new Level Money.What BillGuard has historically done is track users’ credit-card spending so it can detect questionable charges and prompt users to dispute them.For that, BillGuard has 250,000 users, and about a third of them have been hit with bad charges that would have cost them an average of $215, Samid said. Flagging the charges has resulted in $50 million saved across a billion tracked transactions, according to the company.  2013-11-25 16:22:00

Coolpad isn't exactly a household name here in the States, but the outfit is otherwise known for its budget-minded offerings. Today, it is introducing the Flo, a 4.5-inch smartphone running Android Jelly Bean -- the company tells us this is the first Coolpad device with 3G capabilities to hit North America. (Sorry, folks, no LTE.) Aside from that, the Flo also sports an undisclosed dual-core, 1GHz Qualcomm chip, 4GB of onboard storage (expandable up to 32GB) and a decent 1,880mAh battery. Customers using T-Mobile's GoSmart prepaid service can snag one now for $99, which isn't too bad if you'd like to save a few bucks during your holiday shopping.  2013-11-25 10:51:33

Go big or go home. That’s the message we’re hearing from electronics giant Samsung, which today unveiled another oversized Android device to add to its large-screen smartphone lineup — although the Galaxy Grand 2 is more of a mid-tier smartphone than Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S4 or Note 3 devices. The Galaxy Grand 2 is even larger than its predecessor, sporting a 5.25-inch HD display (1280 x 720) with a 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s more powerful, too, housing a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, 1.5GB RAM, and a 2,600 mAh battery (that’ll net 17 hours of talk time on a single charge, according to Samsung).The rear-facing camera is still 8-megapixels, though. Internal storage is just 8GB out of the box, but you can toss in a microSD card for up to 64GB of space.  2013-11-25 07:05:00

Earlier today, HTC posted the Android 4.4 KitKat kernel source and framework files for the HTC One Google Play Edition, which usually means an official OTA update is imminent. Sure enough, a user on XDA Developers has now reported that he's received the update the safe way, over-the-air. That means you'll soon be able to bellow "OK, Google!" if you're rocking the Sense-less device, though some waiting may be in order if the rollout is staggered. Other benefits you'll notice will be a streamlined interface, better camera app with its own shortcut, improved battery life and more speed overall. Meanwhile, owners of the regular HTC One should get KitKat in January, at least in the US and UK. If you went for the Google Play Edition, you can check your settings for the update or, if you're feeling brave, download it at the "More Coverage" link after the break.  2013-11-23 13:26:00

Two sticks, four face buttons, a pair of shoulder paddles and a d-pad: the formula for a modern gamepad and the layout of MOGA's Ace Power controller. It's a pretty standard assortment of inputs, but this controller happens to be the first fully featured peripheral to support Apple's new iOS 7 gamepad protocols. Naturally, we couldn't wait to put the pad through its paces.The MOGA Ace may have the normal assortment of buttons and triggers, but it has one trick most gamepads can't emulate: it telescopes. Taken out of the box, the Ace is hardly longer than an iPhone 5s, but pulling on either end stretches the peripheral to fit your iDevice. The Gamepad's left side retains enough tension to hold a device in place on its own, but our iPod had trouble identifying the controller unless we made a point of pushing the controller's edges inward to secure the connection. Once we had a compatible iOS 7 device locked in place, however, the Ace worked like a dream.  2013-11-22 11:19:14

Motorola is looking to a 3D printing company to help the company’s effort to make mobile phones out of a series of customizable parts.The Google unit is partnering with 3D Systems to help manufacture the custom gear needed for “Project Ara,” which aims to allow consumers to upgrade various parts of their mobile device without having to by a whole new phone.“With Project Ara, we asked the question, ‘How do we bring the benefits of customization and an open hardware ecosystem to six billion people?’ That is our driving application,” Senior VP and advanced research head Regina Dugan said in a statement. “It requires technical advances in areas such as material strength and printing with conductive inks for antennas. And those advances must support production-level speeds and volumes, which is a natural partnership with 3D Systems.”  2013-11-21 07:00:00

Remember the allegation that Samsung cheats at benchmarks? Despite the manufacturer's semi-denials, there's growing evidence to suggest that not only Samsung, but also a number of other Android phone makers engage in some level of chicanery. Usually, it involves programming a device to temporarily ramp up its performance if it detects the launch of a benchmark test, regardless of the consequences for battery life or processor temperature. This results in a higher score on the artificial test, but one that is unrepresentative of what the device could actually achieve if it had to pace itself for a real-world task that lasted for a longer period of time -- such as a 20-minute bout of gaming.So far, so bad. However, a startup called GameBench reckons there's another way.  2013-11-21 05:10:22

If the dreamers of the tech world have their way, the day will come when we'll use 3D printers to produce everything we need, from nourishing meals to spacecraft parts. Electronics have proven tougher to manufacture at home, however, due to their need for rigid circuit boards and highly integrated components. That's the problem addressed by a recently published paper from three Chinese researchers, who claim to have demonstrated a metal alloy that's liquid at room temperature and therefore printable with something as conventional as a standard inkjet printer.Because of its liquid state, their particular mix of gallium and indium can be printed on pretty much any surface.  2013-11-29 15:41:00

Watch out if someone sends a flood of text messages to your Nexus phone -- they may be trying to break in. IT administrator Bogdan Alecu has discovered an Android bug that triggers exploitable behavior in the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 whenever they're hit by a large volume of Class 0 SMS messages, or texts that aren't automatically stored on the phone. The denial of service attack usually forces the handset to reboot, but it can also disable the network connection (if temporarily) or crash the messaging app. Non-Nexus hardware appears to be safe, although Alecu notes that he hasn't had a chance to test a wide variety of gadgets. Regardless of the problem's scale, affected users will have to be cautious for a while; Google tells PCWorld that it's looking into the exploit, but there's no word on just when we can expect a patch.  2013-11-26 08:50:00

Motorola just gave Americans a surprise holiday gift: it's now selling an unlocked version of the Moto G in the US. Starting today, you can purchase both 8GB ($179) and 16GB ($199) editions of the entry-level smartphone with HSPA+ data optimized either for most US carriers (including AT&T and T-Mobile) or for international travel. Any orders placed today should ship by December 2nd, although you'll have to be content with a black shell -- the phone's colored backs and flip covers are "coming soon." Those on CDMA networks will still have to wait until January to get a Moto G of their own, but everyone else can start shopping at the source link.  2013-11-26 07:58:45

If people feel comfortable renting out their houses, and cars, to strangers, why not bikes?That's the question that the Lock8 founders asked themselves, inevitably leading to one of the first true smart locks for bikes. Plus, Lock8 uses its smart lock, paired with a mobile app, to facilitate a peer-to-peer marketplace.Today, Lock8 surpassed its funding goal on Kickstarter, with six days to spare.Lock8 also happened to be the winner at our first-ever TechCrunch Disrupt Europe Battlefield.The company launched the Kickstarter campaign on our stage last month, and has now received more than $80,000 with a few days left to spare.Lock8 works similarly to smart locks in homes; keyless unlock via pairing with a smartphone app. The Lock8 is installed onto the bike and is packed with sensors, which can alert the owner if someone is trying to steal the bike.If the thief manages to get the bike unlocked, the owner's phone can track the bike and even set off a remote alarm.  2013-11-25 13:43:21

The carrier stores are still the dominant place for Americans to get their new cellphones, but two other retailers — Apple and Best Buy — have emerged as significant channels.Apple, of course, sells only iPhones, but accounts for about 11 percent of retail phone sales, according to a survey from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. Best Buy, which sells phones from all major carriers and all the big operating systems, accounts for 13 percent of sales.“Surprisingly, in light of its recent financial troubles, Best Buy has significant power,” CIRP’s Michael Levin said. Because they work with all the major operating systems and carriers and the big phone brands, Best Buy has emerged as one of the few places to really see it all.“So, all major manufacturers and operating system producers, and even the major carriers, need Best Buy,” Levin said, noting the moves by Apple and Samsung to build store-within-a-store outlets inside Best Buy.  2013-11-25 10:02:07

Smartphones just passed the 50 percent mark this past quarter, finally edging out feature phones. But by 2017, 82 percent of all phones sold will be smartphones, according to market researcher NDP. And 30 percent of them will be sold in China. “Smartphone market growth is being fueled by entry-level smartphones from international brands and white-box vendors in emerging markets,” said Tina Teng, an analyst at NPD DisplaySearch. “We expect aggressive pricing moves to continue, prompting first-time smartphone buyers to upgrade earlier.” That’s a compound annual growth rate of 21 percent, while feature phones will decline at about 16 percent annually. Smartphones just reached the 250 million mark in a single quarter for the first time, and just recently passed the 50 percent market share.  2013-11-25 05:18:00

Though smartwatches may or may not be selling well, such market conditions aren't stopping newcomers like Qualcomm and others from entering the game. Now, China's ZTE has told the WSJ that it'll launch its own model in the second quarter of 2014 with features similar to Samsung's Galaxy Gear, but at a lower price. Before you get too excited, the yet-unnamed device will just launch it in China at first, and it'll only be compatible with the company's own smartphones -- like the Nubia Z5 shown above. However, ZTE said it may roll it out in Europe and the US later and might also launch future smartwatches that work with any Android device. Though the market for wrist-borne wearables in China is tiny compared to the smartphone segment, ZTE's mobile marketing chief Lu Qianhao said that launching such a product may give its smartphones a competitive advantage.  2013-11-22 13:59:00

The Moto G may not reach the US until January, but that doesn't mean it will be unavailable on North American shores until then. Motorola's budget wunderkind has just reached the continent through Canada's Telus and its low-cost Koodo brand. Both carriers are selling the 8GB smartphone for $200 CAD ($189 US) off-contract; thriftier shoppers can get the Moto G for free on a two-year Telus agreement, or $50 at Koodo with a $150 use tab. Other local carriers aren't expected to offer the Moto G in the near future, so this may represent the best chance of getting the handset for both Canucks and eager American importers.  2013-11-21 17:24:06

All four major U.S. carriers said Thursday that they will stop billing for most premium text messages, acknowledging such services had become a significant gateway for fraud.Vermont’s attorney general, along with regulators in 44 other states, had been looking into the issue of unauthorized third-party services, known as “cramming.”“While [premium text] has some benefits, like charitable giving, it is also a major contributor to the current mobile cramming problem,” Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell said in a statement. “We are pleased that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have decided to stop the flow of money from the pockets of ordinary people to the bank accounts of scam artists. We’re hopeful the other carriers will soon follow their lead.”Most of the carriers will still allow customers to donate to charitable causes, political campaigns or both, while ending most other paid test messaging.  2013-11-21 06:39:00

Got a Nexus phone but can't wait for the over-the-air update process to deliver the latest and greatest operating system to your handset? Simple, clear the service framework data and commence mashing the update key. Not so fast, hotshot, says Google's Dan Morrill, who has taken to Reddit to advise users against the approach. On the thread, the engineer has said that wiping the data will invalidate your push notifications in a variety of minor, yet annoying ways. While this process won't brick your smartphone, Morrill advises that if you want to save yourself some annoyance, you use adb sideload to avoid the messiness altogether.  2013-11-20 16:46:38

Google today launched a Newsstand app for Android, which combines its existing Flipboard-style Currents app, its Google Play magazine app, and a new newspaper subscription service to offer a variety of paid and free publications in one spot. The new Google Newsstand app shares a name with Apple's own Newsstand and it also mimics the functionality of the built-in app that Apple first debuted in 2011. As with Apple's Newsstand, Google's Newsstand aggregates content in one convenient location, combining all of a user's subscriptions for magazines and newspapers. Google does, however, go one step further, combining content from an array of sources into a single newsfeed, and the company has also partnered with multiple publications to offer subscriptions directly within its app. Google Newsstand shares several similarities with Apple Newsstand, but it is arguably more useful with its in-app subscriptions and its Flipboard-style feed.

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