Tag Archive: Google


nexus7-refreshed

The new Google Nexus 7 is a big improvement over the original with a bunch of additions like LTE and a super high-resolution display – the best in tablets, in fact. And that’s driving a lot of first generation device owners to trade in their old Nexus 7, according to gadget buy-back site Gazelle. There was a 333 percent spike in the number of Nexus 7 tablets traded in compared to the same day last week, for example.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, that spike was even higher – a 442 percent jump in Nexus 7 tablets happened between the day before Google’s official unveiling of the new model, and the day of. The Nexus 7 trade-in activity spiked so high that it made up nearly a quarter of all trade-ins for non-iPad tablets since the site began accepting them earlier this year.

Wednesday, the day Google made its announcement, was also the biggest Nexus 7 trade-in day at Gazelle to date, beating the next biggest day by 380 percent. That previous record was set when the new Nexus 7 leaked on July 17, which clearly prompted early adopters to take advantage of a small head start ahead of the big reveal.

The news means that Google Nexus 7 owners are probably happy with their devices and eager to grab new ones, by trading in their last-gen devices to fund their purchases, but there’s another stat that tells another side of the story: Gazelle saw no appreciable increase in iPad trade-ins on the new Nexus 7 launch day. That means Google probably isn’t luring iPad owners away from the iOS fold.

It’s probably not surprising to longtime tablet space watchers that the new Nexus 7, with all its apparent merit, isn’t an iPad killer. The Apple camp seems happy where they are, but the tablet market has plenty of room to grow; we’ll see if Google can expand outward, or if it’s mostly eating its own Nexus tail with this new model.

Chromecast

In what is a solid example of the best sort of problem to have, Google’s just-announced Chromecast video streaming dongle is already proving too damned popular for its own good.

At yesterday’s debut, Google announced that buyers of the $35 device would also be getting three free months of Netflix service with their purchase. Just 24 hours later, that deal is off. Sad trombone.

Why? “Overwhelming demand”, says the Googles. Someone had to pay for that service in the end, after all – so if Google can’t even keep these things on the shelves, they can probably get away with nippin’ out the Netflix perks.

With that said, those three free months might have been a non-trivial part of why the device was getting snatched up so quick. A streaming-only Netflix plan costs $8 per month ($24 for three months) and Google’s Netflix deal applied even if you were already a Netflix subscriber. For current Netflix customers (or for anyone who would be down to sign up for 3 months of free service) it brought the effective cost of the (already crazy cheap) Chromecast down to eleven dollars. At that point, there’s not even a decision to make.

If you snatched up a Chromecast before Google killed the deal: don’t worry. The LA Times got confirmation that Google will honor the promotion for all the early buyers, though it’s not entirely clear where they plan to draw the line.

Update: Amazon updated their product page to say they’ll honor the deal for anyone who ordered before 5:31 p.m. yesterday. Sucks for you, 5:32 ers!

[Disclosure: Google loaned me a Chromecast for the week so I can tinker with it. It's going back (read: I'm not keeping it), but I'd rather disclose too much than disclose too little. Review should be up this weekend.]

app ops

As expected, Google officially confirmed Android 4.3 at its event on Wednesday with Android chief Sundar Pichai. Among the new features/improvements in the update are a redesigned camera interface, Bluetooth Low Energy support, performance improvements such as smoother animations, and multi-user restricted profiles. But there’s apparently something else that Google didn’t talk about. Android Police has unearthed a hidden app permissions manager that allows users to selectively disable certain permissions for apps.

The feature is apparently called App Ops, and lets users toggle app permissions – such as location and the ability to post notifications – on and off for individual apps. Android Police notes that a developer has already created an app (available here on Google Play if you have Android 4.3 installed) that foregrounds App Ops, and has been having a play around with it.

The basic idea of the feature is apparently to give Android users more flexibility over what apps can and can’t do, allowing them to choke off battery draining features, say, or rein in irritating notification behaviour. If Google does decide to fully implement App Ops as a user-facing feature, there are potential big benefits here, from a security and privacy point of view, being as it could give users fine-grained control over what each app can do.

Apps they might otherwise have been tentative about installing could presumably be fine-tuned to fit their tastes now – which may also have some developer benefits, if it helps drive overall installs.

However Android Police notes that while App Ops does work, the feature is clearly not ready for the prime time yet – while testing it with the Facebook app they found certain app permissions only appeared in the permissions list once the app had made use of them, for example. Such messiness likely explains why Google has hidden App Ops and wasn’t ready to talk about it on Wednesday. We’ve reached out to Mountain View to ask for its plans for the feature and will update this story with any response.

Another possible complication attached to the feature is user confusion if a user doesn’t realise that the reason a particular in-app feature isn’t working is because it has been toggled off at source. A similar problem can occur on some Android devices with the quick settings in the notification tray overriding the main setting for things like silencing sounds/ringtones. Add in per app permissions and the potential user confusion is enormous. Android Police notes that one way for Google to get round could be to include some kind of system notifications warning users when App Ops is limiting app permissions. Although that would get old pretty quick if users get nagged every time they open an app with restricted permissions.

It is also possible that the App Ops feature has been created by Google to power the multi-user restricted profiles feature it did announced on Wednesday, which allows for parental controls to be implemented on Android devices.

The Android platform also has the most malware activity associated with it of all the mobile platforms, so the App Ops feature could be something Google is lining up to help bolster security concerns attached to Android. For instance, the feature could allow users to block apps from making calls – to kill off premium rate phone call/SMS malware – or trace which apps have been making calls to identify rogue software.

google_translate

Google likes to create things that gather data, which can be used to determine intent and for all kinds of profitable purposes. There’s no bigger fish in that pond than the Babel fish – that invention of Douglas Adams’ in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series that instantly translates one language to another to make communication seamless. That’s because Google would be processing literally everything a person says to another (at least while travelling), which adds up to a lot of mineable data.

Google is working on exactly that kind of invention, according to a report from The Times today. Hugo Barra, Google’s VP of Android Product Management, told The Times that Google plans to make real-time translation devices that will translate language for simple conversation across language barriers. Already the system is “near-perfect” between some languages, Barra says, especially in environments where there is no background noise to confuse the input detection.

Google already offers Google Translate, which offers text translation, as well as entire webpage translation on the web. The goal now is to make instant back-and-forth conversation translation a practical, usable reality that can make it possible for someone to accomplish everything they need to in an unfamiliar language without learning a lick of it. As with most sci-fi staples, however, Google says this is likely still several years away from becoming a shipping product.

For Google, whose efforts include Google Now, the personal assistant and automated digital planner that aspires to anticipate your every need, building an instant human translation engine is not a surprising move. What’s surprising is that it works “perfectly” in certain conditions right now, and that we could all be walking around talking into one in just a few years time, which means it’ll be here before we know it. Time is an illusion, after all; lunchtime doubly so.

Songza Google logo

It was bound to happen eventually. Google has made its official countermove to Apple’s recent acquisition of Beats, with the purchase of the music streaming service, Songza.

In an official announcement today, Google revealed that they have purchased music streaming service, Songza. The application has been popular on both iOS and Android for quite some time, so its certainly an app that has plenty of credence in the market. Perhaps not surprising, but the 40-person Songza team will now be assimilated into the Google machine. Songza has said on their website that nothing in the immediate future will change, and that the application will continue forward without issue. However, in a related report by The Wall Street Journal, Google plans on incorporating the application/service into its own Google Play All Music service.

As one can imagine, this is seen as a direct reply to Apple’s acquisition of Beats, which included Beats Music, a music streaming service.

Do you, or have you used Songza in the past? What did you think of it?

[via Songza]

Google Glass

Ready to become a Google Glass “explorer?” You’ve once again got the chance. One month after putting a limited stock of Glass on sale for a single day, Google said Tuesday that the face-mounted computer is available to consumers once again. Last month was the first time Glass was made available to the general public. Glass was initially available only to developers, but Google slowly expanded the program to include regular people. The company terms these early adopters “Google Glass explorers,” and the project remains in beta mode. In a Google+ post, Google said Glass will remain in the explorer program while the company tweaks its hardware and software. But as long as supplies last, anyone in the United States can buy one on Google’s online store.

Read the full story at CNN Money.

india1

Amazon is known for pouring the revenue it generates back into its business. Now, it’s ready to give a chunk away.

The Seattle-based retailer today announced a corporate philanthropy program called AmazonSmile, which allows Amazon shoppers to direct 0.5 percent of their purchase totals at the e-commerce giant toward a charitable organization of their choice. Amazon will then donate the money on behalf of its customers.

At launch, “basically every physical product is eligible” for the program, according to AmazonSmile general manager Ian McAllister.

But there are exceptions. Digital-media products such as Kindle e-books won’t be eligible for the program, although that could change, McAllister said. Purchases made through Amazon’s subscribe-and-save subscription program are also ineligible.

There will be no cap on donation amount.

The program will only be available to shoppers who visit Amazon via a special Web address – smile.amazon.com – instead of the normal Amazon.com homepage.

When customers enter through the new gateway, they will be prompted to select from one of a handful of featured charitable organizations, or to search a database of nearly a million 501(c)(3) organizations if they are looking to support a cause that isn’t featured. That breadth of choice pretty much matches up with the Amazon brand.

The shopping experience the customers encounter on the AmazonSmile landing page will otherwise be identical to the regular Amazon.com site – same selection, same prices – with the exception that eligible products will be marked as such on product detail pages, the company said.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company will market the program on Amazon.com, via email, and on its social network accounts.

A rep for Charity:Water, one of the organizations Amazon touts in its press release, said it will not do paid advertising of its own to promote AmazonSmile, but will publicize it to its social network followers.

Corporate charitable giving is nothing new, of course, and can take on varied forms. Google’s charitable initiatives include grants, free product handouts and an overall pledge of one percent of its profits toward its charitable organizations.

Last year, Walmart said it gave $1 billion in cash and in-kind contributions to U.S. organizations.

And Salesforce is known for donations and discounts to nonprofits of its customer-relationship-management software.

But the sheer size of Amazon’s customer base, the ease with which donations are made once someone becomes aware of the program and the charity choice given to shoppers make for a unique program. For those who end up making a routine out of shopping through smile.amazon.com, there will likely be the feeling that you’re doing good while shopping, which has the potential to be another powerful differentiator to set Amazon apart.

“At their scale, there’s potential to truly test whether &#8216cause’ affects buying decisions,” said Jeff Smith, chief innovation officer at Matter Unlimited, a boutique creative agency focused on social-responsibility campaigns. “It would be fascinating to really connect the dots.”

A side benefit of corporate-giving initiatives like this one are the tax deductions – and Amazon’s case is no different. The company, not Amazon shoppers, will receive the tax benefits for the donations. Donations will be made through an entity called AmazonSmile Foundation and will come out of Amazon’s pockets, not from any of its marketplace sellers.

McAllister, AmazonSmile’s GM, said tax benefits did not guide the decision to launch AmazonSmile. Nor did focus groups or customer surveys.

“We thought our customers would love it,” he said of the reason for the initiative.

When I asked a spokesperson whether Amazon cares about what Wall Street and its shareholders will think about a company that doesn’t frequently turn a profit creating such a charitable initiative, the response was similar.

“We think our customers will love it,” he said.

A day after announcing a promotion that gave Chromecast buyers three free months of Netflix, Google has pulled the plug on the offer. Google told the Los Angeles Times that it quashed the giveaway “due to overwhelming demand for Chromecast devices,” which move video from the Internet to the TV, and which retail for $35.

google-plus-local-app

According to a report circulating the web, Google is officially retiring its Google+ Local application for iOS as of August 7. However, as far as we can tell, the app has already been removed from Apple’s iTunes App Store, and links pointing to the app, when clicked, provide the message that “the item you’ve requested is not currently available in the U.S. store.”

The report being cited by a number of publications is based on 9to5Mac’s blog post, which refers to an email sent in by a tipster. We’ve also obtained a copy of the email, as well, forwarded to us by Mark Traphagen who had posted about the app’s closure on Google+. (See full email below).

In the email, Google explains that the Google+ Local app on iOS will be retired on August 7, as the updated version of the Google Maps app can now offer a number of the functions the Local app once provided, including the ability to search by categories of places, read place information, reviews, pricing, and addresses, plus the ability to rate, review and share the places you’ve been to and discover.

In addition, the email says that after August 7, users would no longer be able to access the Google+ Local app on their iOS device, but any reviews and ratings created would be available on both their Google+ profile and within the Google Maps app for iOS.

However, the actual link to the app from a Google Search result or other webpage is currently broken. In addition, a search inside the iOS App Store for all Google apps shows that the app is no longer available there. (Though we did spot what appears to be a beta test of something called Google Coordinate. Oops, that’s an enterprise product. We knew that.)

9to5Mac’s blog post uses an App Store affiliate link to point to the Google+ Local app, and this is now redirecting users who click to the Google Maps iOS application instead.

We’ve reached out to Google to confirm the situation, but it seems pretty apparent, as is. Google+ Local for iOS is no more, even though it’s not yet August 7. (Update: Google confirms the app is being retired.)

Though much of the functionality has now made it over to Google Maps, the Local app was useful for its singular focus, which made it an easy-access tool for local listings. Maps is a more robust, feature-rich application, which doesn’t always work best when you’re in need of speed. But the Local app hadn’t been getting much attention in recent weeks, leading to several negative App Store reviews where users complained. One even said the project “has been put on the back burner” and Google should “just get rid of it.”

And so it seems Google did.

Under the Larry Page era at Google, the company has been busy streamlining its product lineup and areas of development, with a heavy emphasis on its social platform, Google+. Already, Google+ had absorbed Local on the web, but the Google+ iOS app doesn’t yet contain “Local” as an option in the sidebar, which is why the email likely pointed users to the Google Maps flagship application instead of both it and the Google+ app.

Not only was Google+ Local a duplicate of functionality that is better served elsewhere, the app itself was struggling to gain adoption. The app had less than a 1 percent reach across U.S. iPhone users, reports Onavo Insights. In June, less than 0.75 percent of U.S. iPhone users opened the app at least once, compared with nearly 35 percent who opened Google Maps.

Below, the full email below Google sent Google+ Local users:

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