- Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S start receiving Android 4.1.2 over the air
- Zeiss Cinemizer head-mounted OLED display wends its way into stores
- LG Optimus G for AT&T will be available November 2 for $200, pre-orders begin tomorrow
- With the launch of Xbox Music, Zune is truly no more
- 'Samsara' creators Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson discuss the digital filmmaking divide (video)
- Ooma HD2 handset and Linx adapter available on Oct.17 for $60 and $50, respectively
- Xbox: The new face of 'entertainment' at Microsoft, beyond just video games
- Netflix streaming launches in Sweden, lets you get your Bron on
- Lumia 920T leaks in China, could be Nokia's ticket to a huge new subscriber base
- Slickdeals' best in tech for October 15th: 60-inch Sharp AQUOS LCD HDTV and a slew of components
- Telus nixing activation fees for new and current subscribers
- Vodafone Germany expects Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 on November 1st
- Minecraft creator shows test footage of '0x10c' space sim, dishes early details (video)
- LG outs Jelly Bean update itinerary (for the Korean market, anyway)
- Kindle DX no longer available from Amazon, potentially discontinued
- Hands-on with the first SmartGlass app, Dance Central 3's Party Time DJ
- Nintendo Wii console drops to $130 in two-game bundle
- Felix Baumgarter breaks YouTube record as 8 million viewers watch his space jump (video)
- Acer announces Aspire 5600U and 7600U all-in-ones, coming this month for $1,000 and up
- Acer outs T232HL and T272HL touchscreen displays, on sale this month for $500-plus
- Robotic wheelchair concept adds leg-like movement, tackles stairs with ease (video)
- Raspberry Pi Model B gets RAM boost to 512MB, keeps $35 price tag
- iOS 6 tethered jailbreak updated with official Cydia, quicker installation for your A4-packing device
- Amazon eyeing up TI's smartphone chip business, according to Israeli newspaper
- Softbank confirms 70 percent Sprint acquisition for $20.1 billion
- Logitech's K810 keyboard pairs with up to three devices, has a button for switching apps in Windows 8
- Visualized: Google Street View car fleet gets ready to conquer (and map) the world
- Xbox Music heads to Xbox 360 first tomorrow, PC / tablets on Oct. 26, WP8 soon after; we go hands-on
- Toshiba Excite 10SE / AT300SE gets caught visiting the FCC, may tout Jelly Bean
- How would you change the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight?
- Refresh Roundup: week of October 8th, 2012
- Apple extends 1TB Seagate HDD replacement program to cover additional iMacs
- FCC to allow encryption of basic cable, with a few strings that Boxee approves of
- Switched On: Android's tablet troubles
- CNBC: Softbank to pay $20 billion for a 70 percent stake in Sprint
- Wacom Cintiq 24HD touch review: the pen-enabled display tacks on multi-touch gestures
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 12:32 PM PDT
When Android 4.1.2 hit the airwaves for upgrades, it was limited to a very exclusive club of Nexus 7 owners. Google has widened the gates considerably as of today: we're receiving multiple reports of GSM-based Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S owners getting the new Jelly Bean build through official, over-the-air channels. Upgrades here aren't as noticeable as they are on the reference Android tablet; besides fixes, we've mostly heard that it's now possible to expand a notification with a single finger. Those with CDMA-based phones are left out so far, but if you discover any surprise extras before 4.1.2 hits our own devices, be sure to leave us a tip.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 12:01 PM PDT
Zeiss must be doing well in the lens business, as it hasn't exactly been in a rush to get its Cinemizer OLED on to shelves. Still, we're happy to say that the head-mounted display is at last slipping into retailers: Amazon partners are now carrying the regular 870 x 500 version for $749 in the US (German titling aside) and £578 in the UK. It doesn't look to be the version with head tracking that we tried earlier this year, but you'll still get a 3D image through HDMI 1.4 in addition to 2D through either the HDMI link or analog input. The price makes it a tempting alternative to the more advanced but costlier Sony HMZ-T2 -- and for those who'd like something slightly more discreet-looking while they zone out with a good movie.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 11:41 AM PDT
The details have finally come: the LG Optimus G on AT&T will be coming to stores beginning November 2nd, and will go for $199.99 after a two-year commitment. Eager early adopters, however, will be able to head over to the carrier's website to pre-order the device. Let's recap what you're getting for your hard-earned money: a 4.7-inch 1,280 x 768 True HD IPS PLUS display, Android 4.0, a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4, 8MP camera (rather than the 13MP module on the global and Sprint models), 2GB RAM and dual-band AT&T LTE. We have a feeling it will be joined in close succession by several other hard-hitting smartphone giants, which means you may have to modify your holiday wish list pretty heavily over the next few weeks.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 11:30 AM PDT
It's over, folks. Or at least nearly over. Write it down -- time of death: 12:01AM ET, October 16. That's when the Zune brand is officially no more, and "Xbox Music/Video" and its store replace the Zune Marketplace; the final, quiet end of a brand that's been waning for years. "Yes, the Zune brand is gone, and the Zune products are gone," Xbox Music GM Jerry Johnson told us in a meeting last week. While Zune devices will still work with Windows 7, and the Zune Pass simply becomes the Xbox Music Pass, the brand is effectively no more, joining the Kin and Microsoft Bob in the annals of MS history.
Bizarrely, the branding will continue on for Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 users, with the Zune Marketplace mirroring Xbox Music's content. That's likely due to Xbox Music being exclusive to Windows 8 devices (which includes the Xbox 360, despite its age, and Windows Phone 8) -- Microsoft promises a continued focus on Xbox Music going forward, while Zune support drops out. In the end, though Zune was a failure for Microsoft, Johnson said it was a worthwhile learning experience for the company. "The Zune brand got associated with a device, and what we did with Xbox Music is actually turn around and say, 'Let's build something from the ground up, leveraging what we've learned from a lot of these different things.' But it's not gonna be device-centric, it's gonna be service-centric," he explained.
In Johnson's eyes, the failure of Zune as a brand is directly tied to the failure of Zune as a device -- and having the highly successful Xbox brand tied to its media offerings, he's hoping to skirt previous negative perceptions and relaunch Microsoft's place in media delivery. Whether that'll happen remains to be seen, but either way, this is the final nail in the Zune's coffin -- not just as a device, but as a thing in the world.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 11:00 AM PDT
We've set up shop in a conference room above Third Avenue in Manhattan, a Canon 5D trained on Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson. I find myself apologizing awkwardly for the setup, several times. There's a long boardroom table in the middle and a customary junket breakfast spread to the right. It's about as plain as meeting rooms come, save for a few movie posters lining the walls, advertising films distributed by the indie film company that owns the space. Hardly ideal for our purposes, but here were are, all clumped into a single corner, with the director and producer of Samsara flanking a cardboard poster for their movie, leaned atop a stand. It's not the welcome befitting the creators of a big, beautiful sweeping cinematic masterpiece. But they're tired -- too tired to care about such things, perhaps. They dismiss such apologies, clip their lavaliere microphones on over their shirts and sit down.
Fricke motions to the single SLR seated atop a tripod, explaining that he used the same model on a recent commercial shoot. "We have a solid background grounded in shooting in film, and that just stays with you," he adds. "When I'm shooting like with a 5D, like what you're using now to shoot this interview, I'm working with it like it's a 65 camera. It's my frame of reference, my background. I'm just wired that way." The world of filmmaking has changed dramatically in the two decades since the duo first unleashed Baraka on the world, a non-narrative journey across 25 countries that became the high-water mark for the genre and a staple in critics' lists and film school syllabi.
When the team began photography on Samsara back in 2007, it considered abandoning its film roots for the world of digital. "Four or five years ago when we started," Fricke, the film's director, explains, "we looked hard at what was out there in digital. It just wasn't ready for the road. There weren't any real 4- or 5k cameras ready. It was kind of nice because we were like, 'Great! Let's shoot it in 65[mm],' which is still the standard. It's really the image capture that gives you the most dynamic range. Since that's our content, the image -- we're not working with actors and dialogue -- that's what we were after. It was really to get at the essence inside these images, and 70 is the way to go."
In 2012, however, the beauty of celluloid may well present more problems than it's worth, according to the duo. "It's at a level that you'd really have to think hard about not doing it now going out in digital," says Fricke. "There's a lot of issues shooting film, getting film stock in and out -- we went to 25 countries, there's a big price to pay shooting in film because you have to deal with exposed film / unexposed getting it in, you can't take it with you. Like when we made Baraka 20 years ago, we could carry it with us or check it in, they wouldn't X-ray it, and it just doesn't work like that anymore. So it's very challenging." Magidson adds, simply, "The issues with film are only getting harder, not easier."
For one thing, there's the weight concern. I mention the word "crew," and Fricke answers, quickly, "What crew?" The room erupts in laughter. The team on any given shoot is around three to four people -- the same often required for a far more humble Engadget Show shoot, such as this. "They're 70mm cameras, and they are heavy," says Magidson, "but it's pretty manageable. And we've been doing it for a while, so we've got it down. It's a very efficient road package that has all this capability, but it's also very refined at this point. You just don't want to be running around with anything you don't need because you have a price to pay for every piece of equipment you carry. You don't want to be taking the stuff you don't want, don't use." Film also doesn't afford the same ability to just shoot and shoot that filmmakers enjoy with digital. "[Film is] a little more formal," explain Magidson, "and you're not just firing away at everything. It's much more measured. It's like trying to hit a bull's-eye with an arrow rather than shooting stuff with a machine gun, you know? It's expensive to shoot, to roll the camera, because you've got film stock and processing and all that."
Should the duo ever embark on a follow-up, however, there seems a fairly good chance that it will be shot digitally. "There's new imagers coming out," says Fricke. "They're going to be 8k, 10k imagers coming in a year or so. So, I think they're here."
And while digital capture wasn't quite up to Fricke and Magidson's high visual standards while filming Samsara, the duo did utilize a computer for the editing process. But, as with the shooting, they maintained the sort of filmmaking principles their works had adhered to well before a new technological option was on the table. "We just scanned out negatives in this deep-digital intermediate process, and never cut it, just scanned the film reels," Magidson tells me. He adds, "There's only one dissolve in our film. It's all cut-to-cut-to-cut. It's an approach to editing that Ron really likes. Ron doesn't like dissolves. We got one in there, but that's it. It's really about the film. We don't need to utilize all the capabilities of these editing software programs. We're not taking them to any kind of limit with what we're doing. We're just cutting. And yeah, it's a great tool."
Editing in digital affords Fricke and Magidson the ability to make subtle changes -- removing things like cars and birds from the frame during the film's time-lapse segments, for one thing. "When you're out shooting a nice shot for a 12-, 14-hour star field segment, and you end up with like 15 seconds of footage over the night and a car drives through a scene, you don't want to dump that it if you don't have to. We are able to fix that." Fricke adds, "I remember the shot we did in Burma from the hot air balloon over Bagan. You're up in the balloon, and it's phenomenal. Shooting away, and you don't see these details, but when we're cutting it, suddenly there are electrical poles and lights and things that. 'God, it'd be nice if we could take a few of those out of there.'" You also don't want to dump an otherwise fantastic shoot due to a shaky camera. "We used gyro on all the aerials which is unbelievably wonderful," says Magidson, "but on the Myanmar, on the Burma stuff we used a hot air balloon so it was a little bumpier, but we were able to stabilize [in post] it a bit."
But while the pair aren't nearly as firmly traditional when it comes to the analog and digital divide as many diehard would hope (even going so far as doing a good deal of location scouting on YouTube), the appreciation of technology has its limits. It's all a matter of context, really -- the right tools for the right jobs. Certainly, there's no need to shoot an interview with two filmmakers destined for the web using the same devices as an epic like Samsara -- nor is the same screen required for the consumption of both. "The content really comes alive on a big screen in 7.1 surround, not on a computer, not on an iPhone," says Fricke. Magidson agrees without hesitation, "It is about the emotional impact of the imagery. The technology is not an end in itself. It's really to deliver a brilliance and a vibrancy and an emotional immediacy that you feel from that kind of imagery."
This interview was first aired as part of the latest Engadget Show.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 10:37 AM PDT
Ooma's Telo telephony device is pretty wonderful all by itself, but pairing it with the company's soon-to-be-released HD2 handset and Linx peripheral presents a whole new opportunity to the VoIP crowd. The HD2 -- the second generation Telo handset first introduced at CES 2012 -- offers some smartphone-esque functionality to your home phone: syncing with contacts across various social media services, for one, and profile photos popping up in the 2-inch color screen as identification on incoming calls. It launches very soon -- October 17 -- at US and Canadian retailers with an asking price of $60, despite previously being given a March 2012 launch window.
The Linx -- which was outed in an FCC filing earlier this year -- adds a much more quaint ability to the Telo: the ability to plug in any normal landline phone (yes, even that free football phone you got with your Sports Illustrated subscription in the mid-'90s). The Telo can handle up to four connected phones, in the HD2 handset or Linx-connected devices (including fax machines, also from the mid-'90s). Linx connectors are also available as of October 17 at US and Canadian retailers with an asking price of $50.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 10:00 AM PDT
The most striking takeaway from a recent meeting I had with Xbox Music GM Jerry Johnson wasn't the Spotify-like service he was in New York City to show off, but rather what he said about a much larger internal change at Microsoft. Having been relegated to the world of video games for the past decade, Microsoft is opening up its Xbox branding to a larger world of media. "'Xbox' is actually going from thinking about gaming in a device to being the entertainment face for all of Microsoft," Johnson said -- a major change from the Xbox name's place as a stand-in for "the Halo and Gears of War box," trotted out once or twice annually by lower level execs from the Washington-based software giant. "That's what the company -- all the way up to Steve Ballmer -- have gotten behind. That's why you're gonna see movies on Windows 8 slates, you're gonna see music, and it's gonna be branded as 'Xbox.'," he explained. This naming convention carries to Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 RT as well -- all post-Windows 7 Microsoft devices (and Xbox 360) will refer to music and video libraries as "Xbox Music" and "Xbox Video," respectively.
But to many, that shift could be confusing. Isn't "Xbox" that thing in the living room? When "Xbox Music" shows up on Windows 8 devices later this month, will your average user understand that, no, they don't have to own an Xbox to listen to the music therein? Johnson's not worried about that potential reality. "The brand has continued to evolve," he argued. "I don't think it's left anything behind, I think it's broadened the number of people who engage in these type of experiences. And Microsoft as a company I think recognizes that, and it's more about Xbox meaning 'entertainment.'"
But I'm not so sure Johnson's right. Before "Xbox Music," there was "Zune Marketplace" -- while Zune (the hardware) was never anywhere near as successful as the Xbox brand is, the concept of tying the marketplace to a single product name seems confusing at best. In simple terms, when you see "Xbox Music" on your Windows 8 device, there's no context for "Xbox" meaning "entertainment." To many, "Xbox" means "video games." Johnson certainly understands this logic, as applied to the aforementioned Zune Marketplace.
"Labeling the Zune brand with the device is something that happened right out of the gate. And when I was over in Europe and they were bringing the Zune brand over to represent the delivery of content, the first thing people would ask is, 'Well, are you gonna sell a device?' And the Zune brand got associated with a device," he said. Given that, isn't that same risk apparent with Xbox Music? "We learned a lot of good things from Zune, but we also realized that it was a brand, and it was a product, that was clearly focused ... my playlist didn't go from my Zune device well, they weren't connected that well from the service as they should've been," Johnson admitted.
He also said, "It really informed what we're doing now" -- except it doesn't seem to be informing the main branding of the service. Sure, the Xbox is grander in scope than the Zune ever was -- over 50 percent of time spent on the Xbox 360 is with non-gaming applications, for instance -- but its primary function is still games, as it has been for the history of the brand. Johnson's hoping to change that perception. "We believe this is all part of that journey, where as people start to think about Microsoft and they think about entertainment -- whether it's gaming, music, television, movies -- 'Xbox' is what will be the face of that going forward for Microsoft."
Regardless, we'll see how it plays out in the coming months and years. The concept of unifying media across disparate Microsoft devices is a good one; whether or not people will actually engage that concept remains to be seen. And whether they'll even know such a thing is possible given the confusing naming convention adds another wrinkle to the still nascent initiative.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 09:45 AM PDT
Sweden is home to some of the world's better known movie makers and some very high speed data connections, but it has only had so much love from movie streaming services that you'd think would be a natural match. Netflix is making that union a reality today through the launch of its Watch Instantly service in the country. Pay 79 kronor ($12) a month and you'll get access to a mix of both international and domestic movies and TV shows on any device that can take Netflix in the country, which includes at least computers as well as Android and iOS devices. Other Nordic territories are still promised as coming soon; although that won't be much help to Danes, Finns or Norwegians, we're sure Swedes won't mind having one more excuse to flaunt their cheap fiber internet access.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 09:22 AM PDT
It's not just America waiting keenly on the Nokia Lumia 920 and its PureView powers -- new images have popped up proving that this Windows Phone 8 device is also headed to China. Corroborating earlier reports of a Lumia 920 that is compatible with China Mobile's TD-SCDMA network, the phone's settings screen mentions "CMCC", which is a reference to that operator -- although it's not clear whether the handset will also support the carrier's fledgling LTE network. The pics only show a dark-colored variant, but Nokia will no doubt be depending on the booming Chinese market to bring some sunshine to its balance sheet.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 09:03 AM PDT
Looking to save some coin on your tech purchases? Of course you are! In this round-up, we'll run down a list of the freshest frugal buys, hand-picked with the help of the folks at Slickdeals. You'll want to act fast, though, as many of these offerings won't stick around long.
If you're looking to get a jump on some of your holiday shopping, perhaps this round of tech deals will provide the necessary motivation to do just that. A 60-inch Sharp AQUOS 1080p LCD HDTV tops the group, and a smattering of components round out the lot. Keep and eye on those pesky discount codes and rebate links, though, because we'd hate for you to miss out. Head on past the break to peruse the whole list.
This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 08:44 AM PDT
Oh the ever-so-wonderful activation fees. For some lucky folks in The True North, however, these one-time, undesired carrier tolls will be a thing of the past very, very soon. Today, Canadian carrier Telus announced it's taking a cue from Consumer Cellular and waving goodbye to those activation fees you so love; meaning it'll no longer charge the accustomed $35 to new customers or even the $25 for current subscribers who have just recently snagged a new device. Still, the nice gesture doesn't come without a cost, as the carrier has also said it plans to start charging $10 for SIM cards in order to "cover the product cost that was previously included in their renewal and activation fees " -- that's if you don't already have a compatible one, of course. Regardless, the plan is set to go into full effect come the first of November, with Telus noting it is all part of its plan to continue the "journey to be fair and transparent and help customers understand when they are paying for tangible products or value-added services."
TELUS says goodbye to activation fees
Listened to customers' feedback and put them first by simplifying fees
TORONTO – As part of the company's commitment to putting customers first and being fair and transparent, TELUS today announced it will no longer charge a $35 activation fee for new customers or a $25 equipment exchange fee for renewing customers who purchase a new device. TELUS is the first of the established brands to eliminate activation fees as part of the company's ongoing efforts to make the customer experience clear, simple and easy.
As part of its clear and simple pricing initiatives, TELUS is continuing its journey to be fair and transparent and help customers understand when they are paying for tangible products or value-added services. Effective November 1, TELUS will begin charging $10 for SIM cards to cover the product cost that was previously included in their renewal and activation fees. With the new SIM card charge factored in, new and renewing customers can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they will see a net upfront saving. A new SIM card is only required when customers don't already have a compatible TELUS SIM card for their device.
"The wireless industry and competitive landscape have changed over the years and with that, our customers' needs have evolved," said Brent Johnston, vice-president, Mobility Solutions, TELUS. "Our customers have told us they feel activation and renewal fees are unfair. We have been listening and that's why we're giving them exactly what they've asked for."
TELUS is putting customers first and embracing new ideas to make the TELUS experience better. By listening to customers, TELUS has not only eliminated activation fees, it has dramatically simplified its entire fee schedule. This builds on a series of improvements made over the past several years where TELUS has also eliminated carrier 911 and system access fees on all its Clear and Simple rate plans, reduced bill shock with Flex Data Plans, Data Notifications and Worry-free Travel, added Caller ID and Voicemail as standard on all TELUS rate plans, simplified device pricing with Anytime Upgrades and revolutionized mobility contracts by introducing a Device Balance instead of the dreaded contract termination fee.
To learn more about what TELUS is doing for its customers, visit telus.com/you.
TELUS (TSX: T, T.A; NYSE: TU) is a leading national telecommunications company in Canada, with $10.6 billion of annual revenue and 12.8 million customer connections including 7.4 million wireless subscribers, 3.5 million wireline network access lines, 1.3 million Internet subscribers and 595,000 TELUS TV customers. Led since 2000 by President and CEO, Darren Entwistle, TELUS provides a wide range of communications products and services including wireless, data, Internet protocol (IP), voice, television, entertainment and video.
In support of our philosophy to give where we live, TELUS, our team members and retirees have contributed more than $260 million to charitable and not-for-profit organizations and volunteered 4.2 million hours of service to local communities since 2000. Fourteen TELUS Community Boards lead TELUS' local philanthropic initiatives. TELUS was honoured to be named the most outstanding philanthropic corporation globally for 2010 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, becoming the first Canadian company to receive this prestigious international recognition.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 08:06 AM PDT
Everyone knows that Nokia's Lumia 820 and 920 are slated to arrive in November. But how soon into the month? Going by Vodafone Germany's assertions, both of the devices will come just as some of us are nursing our Halloween candy hangovers -- that is, November 1st. While neither Nokia nor Microsoft has confirmed the timing independently, it lines up with a brief mention of a similar date at retailer MediaMarkt and would follow just two days after the big Windows Phone 8 event where Nokia is likely to take center stage. Provided Vodafone isn't just being optimistic, it gives us hope that the North American launches of the advanced Lumias won't be far behind.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 07:28 AM PDT
Gamers have been waiting on tenterhooks for Markus "Notch" Persson's next offering, titled 0x10c, and while the Minecraft creator has detailed some aspects of the upcoming game, even he's not sure exactly how it'll end up. Newly released video footage (after the break) shows a first-person shooter aboard a spaceship, and the creators told PC Gamer that they'd "really like for stuff to go wrong," so that players can use creativity and resource-gathering, Minecraft-style, to fix it. Persson also said that the ship would contain a fully-programmable 16-bit computer (which sounds a bit like a recent Minecraft mod), and that multiplayer would be added early in the development. Apart from that, though, the team admitted "we don't know where 0x10c is really headed," and that they shouldn't "raise too many people's expectations." Based on the rampant speculation so far, it seems like that ship may have already sailed.
This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 06:56 AM PDT
LG has released a schedule for the Optimus VU, VU II, G and LTE II to get Jelly Beaned with the latest Android 4.1.1 flavor -- at least in its home market, Korea. It'll start next month with the Optimus LTE II and continue in December with the Optimus G, a device we've pawed a number of times. The first quarter of 2013 will see refreshes for the Optimus VU and VU II, both 5-inch 4 x 3 aspect ratio models, the latter of which was only recently launched. There's no word on how that'll translate to stateside model upgrades, which of course depend on the vagaries of US carriers -- and we all know how that goes.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 06:32 AM PDT
The Kindle DX never quite took off the way Amazon was intending. While a 10-inch e-reader certainly sounded good in theory -- especially for the broadsheet addicts out there -- it was too unwieldy and expensive for mass market appeal. While Amazon has continued to sell the device, and recently at a steep discount, it has been left out of every upgrade cycle since mid-2010. Now, after just three short years, it appears that Amazon has quietly killed the super-sized line. The retailer has finally removed the DX from its Kindle carousel and it's no longer listed as available direct from the company. Though, you can still pick one up from third-party sellers. We've reached out to Amazon for comment and will update if and when we hear back.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 06:00 AM PDT
Since getting outed just head of Microsoft's big reveal, Xbox 360's SmartGlass has been under wraps. When Xbox Live VP Marc Whitten officially introduced SmartGlass soon after at E3 2012, we learned a teensy bit more -- tablets and smartphones (Android, Windows Phone 8, and iOS, even) would get second-screen functionality via an upcoming free application -- and got some hands-on time with it. That application has yet to launch, but Dance Central 3's SmartGlass functionality is already here. Well, almost here -- the game becomes publicly available tomorrow, and the app won't launch for a few weeks still -- but we got our hands on Dance Central 3's SmartGlass companion app a bit early at a New York City review event last week.
Being the first SmartGlass application to launch has its advantages, such as setting the bar. By no means is Dance Central 3's SmartGlass application a thorough, necessary accompaniment (for a game that already requires Kinect, that's probably a good choice), but it does add some neat side fun for friends waiting in the wings to get their respective grooves on. "Party Time DJ" allows friends -- employing their iOS, Droid, or WP8 tablet/smartphone, via the Xbox SmartGlass app -- to queue up the next song in the game's neverending "Party Time" mode, or create a playlist. They can also queue downloadable tracks to the Xbox 360 (which thankfully requires approval on the 360 prior to purchase), or swap difficulty settings. Sadly, though the opportunity for real-time griefing presents itself rather clearly here, developer Harmonix chose not to allow song-swapping or difficulty changes mid-song. "Because it would kill them," Harmonix rep Nick Chester told us.
Should you be dancing all by your lonesome, there's functionality for you as well. A calorie/fitness tracker shows how much fat you're burning off while getting your groove on over a set period of time, and a challenge tracker displays progress toward weekly in-game goals (set weekly by the developers at Harmonix). Facebook integration is also part of the package, but none of that was operable just yet -- we were shown the app in its development staging program, as the official app won't go live until a yet-to-be-determined time (we're guessing near/on October 26, when Windows 8 and its mobile variants launch).
When it does launch, it's not clear exactly how the DC3 app will work with the 360 -- presumably the "listening" connectivity we saw at E3 will detect you're playing the game while using SmartGlass. Chester said the "app" is little more than an HTML5 file -- yes, SmartGlass requires a data connection of some form to work -- so updates can be handled directly from the developer side, meaning updates are likely non-existent to the app (that said, one may be required on the Xbox 360 to add in new SmartGlass functionality). Dance Central 3 is the first Xbox 360 game with SmartGlass functionality built in, and it arrives at retail tomorrow. As previously noted, the smartphone/tablet application won't arrive until some time in the next few weeks -- it's identical across all mobile platforms, at least for Dance Central 3.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 05:25 AM PDT
With both the holidays and the Wii U fast approaching, Nintendo has decided to drop the price of its older Wii console to $130 when sold with Wii Sports Resort and Wii Sports. The cheaper package should arrive in the States by October 28th and will ship in black (alongside black Wii Remote Plus and Nunchuk controllers), thereby replacing the current New Super Mario Bros. bundle that sells for around $150.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 05:18 AM PDT
Felix Baumgartner might not have broken Joe Kittinger's world record for the longest time spent in freefall, but he did smash a fourth milestone during his dive. In addition to records for the highest ever jump, longest distance fall and fastest downward speed, the stunt was watched by eight million YouTubers at the same time. While the site hasn't divulged exact stats, that figure is apparently higher than those who watched President Obama's inauguration. That said, if you weren't one of the eight million, you can head on past the break to watch the highlights reel -- unless you're already bored of watching a man fall, unaided, you know, from space.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 05:00 AM PDT
For the most part, Acer blew its Windows 8 load back at IFA and Computex, but as we're learning now, the company still had a handful of goodies left to announce. The outfit just introduced a pair of touch-friendly, Win 8-ready all-in-one desktops, the 23-inch Aspire 5600U and the 27-inch Aspire 7600U. As you can see in the press shots, the design here is fairly minimal, with an edge-to-edge display, a transparent panel at the bottom of the bezel and a thin frame measuring less than 1.4 inches thick. The machines can also tilt so that they lie at a nearly face-up 80-degree angle.
In either case, you'll get a 1080p panel, with 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. Either machine, too, can be configured with Acer's InstantOn technology, which promises 1.5-second resume times. The 27-incher has a discrete NVIDIA GT640M GPU with 2GB of video memory, however, while the 23-inch model is stuck with integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics. Further, while they both have Core i5 CPUs, the 5600U has a 2.4GHz 3110M, while the 7600U has a 3210M, clocked at 2.5GHz (overclockable to 3.1GHz). The 7600U also has two HDMI inputs, whereas the 5600U has one. Finally, the U5600 will be available in touch- and non-touch-enabled configurations, while the 7600U will be touch-only. Both will be available this month, with the 23-incher starting at $1,000 for touch-enabled models, and $1,150 for touchscreen variants. The 7600U will sell for quite a bit more: $1,900.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 05:00 AM PDT
It must be Big Touchscreen Day over at Acer headquarters. In addition to announcing a pair of all-in-one desktops, the company is trotting out two touch-enabled monitors, available in 23- and 27-inch sizes. Though both have 1080p resolution, the 23-inch T232HL uses IPS technology to achieve wide viewing angles, while the larger T272HL has a Vertical Alignment (VA) panel. Otherwise, the specs are near-identical: a 100 million to 1 contrast ratio, 5ms response time and a trio of inputs that includes VGA, DVI and HDMI. As for design, you'll notice they have a similar industrial design as the new all-in-ones, with thin frames, edge-to-edge displays and a see-through stand. Both will be available this month, with the 23-incher going for $500 and the 27-inch model selling for $700.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 04:18 AM PDT
Why choose between legs and wheels when you can have both? Well, that's the theory behind a robotic wheelchair concept from the Chiba Institute of Technology, which uses leg-like motion to conquer obstacles a run-of-the-mill wheelchair can't. The key is the five axes its base rotates on, allowing individual wheels to be lifted off the ground and moved in a walking style. It can tackle steps and various other obstacles whilst remaining stable, and can even turn 360 degrees around its center with the help of some onboard stabilizers. A gang of sensors on the chair detect incoming obstructions and deal with them automatically, but changes in wheel torque can act as substitute triggers, should the sensors fail. Judging from the video below, it's pretty advanced for a concept, but its creator wants a bunch of people to try it out so he can "fine-tune the user experience." It may not be quite as cool as Stompy or the mighty Kuratas, but it's definitely more practical for a trip to the shops.
This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 03:26 AM PDT
So you got your Raspberry Pi all set up, you overclocked it and you even made it run Atari 2600 games. But then, it seems, many of you wrote to the UK-based outfit to complain about the fixed 256MB of RAM. Indeed, the budget mini PC maker says that requests for a memory upgrade have been among "the most common suggestions" it's received since it launched the device. However, rather than introduce a pricier version, the company has decided to offer 512MB as standard with all future Model Bs (including all current and outstanding orders), while sticking to the original $35 price tag. Good news? Sure, even if your current unit just got relegated to secondary secondary PC status.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 02:32 AM PDT
The iPhone Dev-Team has just outed a new version of Redsnow that opens up iOS 6 to an official version of the sinful, definitely-not-Apple Cydia store, but you'll still have to be tethered to use it. The process is now simpler, as the latest version recognizes your already-installed iOS 6 OS and installs only the necessary jailbreak files, and Cydia is now installed automatically as well -- rather than needing a complex workaround like the last version. If you're willing to put up with the tethering and have an A4-powered iPhone 4, 3GS or gen-4 iPod touch device, the laundry list of how to do it is at the source below -- but there's always the risk of bricking, so caveat emptor, of course.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 01:39 AM PDT
Remember when Texas Instruments revealed it was planning to dump its mobile processor business in favor of embedded systems? Israeli business sheet Calcalist is reporting that Amazon is in "advanced negotiations" to snap up that part of TI's OMAP division, which currently supplies processors for the Kindle Fire and the Nook HD. The paper suggests the company is emulating Apple's purchases of chip designers in order to lower the price of future hardware -- which it currently sells at cost.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 01:12 AM PDT
In a joint press conference, Softbank has officially announced that it is buying a 70 percent stake in US mobile carrier Sprint for $20.1 billion. The Japanese company is paying $12.1 billion for existing shares, with a further $8 billion for new shares that the network is issuing. CNBC has reported previously that it would net Sprint around $3 billion in much-needed cash, which it could use to regain control of Clearwire and bolster its LTE rollout. When Dan Hesse took to the stage, he said that the company's heavy investment (both in Network Vision and in its iPhone gamble) would bring a "margin expansion" in 2014.
SoftBank to Acquire 70% Stake in Sprint
Sprint Stockholders to Receive Total Consideration of $12.1 Billion in Cash and 30% Ownership in Newly Capitalized Sprint
OKYO & OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (BUSINESS WIRE), October 15, 2012 - SOFTBANK CORP. ("SoftBank") (TSE: 9984) and Sprint Nextel Corporation ("Sprint") (NYSE: S) today announced that they have entered into a series of definitive agreements under which SoftBank will invest $20.1 billion in Sprint, consisting of $12.1 billion to be distributed to Sprint stockholders and $8.0 billion of new capital to strengthen Sprint's balance sheet. Through this transaction, approximately 55% of current Sprint shares will be exchanged for $7.30 per share in cash, and the remaining shares will convert into shares of a new publicly traded entity, New Sprint. Following closing, SoftBank will own approximately 70% and Sprint equity holders will own approximately 30% of the shares of New Sprint on a fully-diluted basis.
SoftBank's cash contribution, deep expertise in the deployment of next-generation wireless networks and track record of success in taking share in mature markets from larger telecommunications competitors are expected to create a stronger, more competitive New Sprint that will deliver significant benefits to U.S. consumers. The transaction has been approved by the Boards of Directors of both SoftBank and Sprint. Completion of the transaction is subject to Sprint stockholder approval, customary regulatory approvals and the satisfaction or waiver of other closing conditions. The companies expect the closing of the merger transaction to occur in mid-2013.
SoftBank Chairman and CEO, Masayoshi Son, said, "This transaction provides an excellent opportunity for SoftBank to leverage its expertise in smartphones and next-generation high speed networks, including LTE, to drive the mobile internet revolution in one of the world's largest markets. As we have proven in Japan, we have achieved a v-shaped earnings recovery in the acquired mobile business and grown dramatically by introducing differentiated products to an incumbent-led market. Our track record of innovation, combined with Sprint's strong brand and local leadership, provides a constructive beginning toward creating a more competitive American wireless market."
The SoftBank transaction is expected to deliver the following benefits to Sprint and its stockholders:
Provides stockholders the ability to realize an attractive cash premium or to hold shares in a stronger, better capitalized Sprint
Sprint CEO, Dan Hesse, said, "This is a transformative transaction for Sprint that creates immediate value for our stockholders, while providing an opportunity to participate in the future growth of a stronger, better capitalized Sprint going forward. Our management team is excited to work with SoftBank to learn from their successful deployment of LTE in Japan as we build out our advanced LTE network, improve the customer experience and continue the turnaround of our operations."
SoftBank will form a new U.S. subsidiary, New Sprint, which will invest $3.1 billion in a newly?issued Sprint convertible senior bond following this announcement. The convertible bond will have a 7-year term and 1.0% coupon rate, and will be convertible, subject to regulatory approval, into Sprint common stock at $5.25 per share. Immediately prior to the merger, the bond will be converted into shares of Sprint, which will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of New Sprint.
After closing, Sprint's headquarters will continue to be in Overland Park, Kansas. New Sprint will have a 10-member board of directors, including at least three members of Sprint's board of directors. Mr. Hesse will continue as CEO of New Sprint and as a board member.
The Raine Group LLC and Mizuho Securities Co., Ltd. acted as lead financial advisors to SoftBank. Mizuho Corporate Bank, Ltd., Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. and Deutsche Bank AG, Tokyo Branch acted as mandated lead arrangers to SoftBank. Deutsche Bank also provided financial advice to SoftBank in connection with this transaction. SoftBank's legal advisors included Morrison & Foerster LLP as lead counsel, Mori Hamada & Matsumoto as Japanese counsel, Dow Lohnes PLLC as regulatory counsel, Potter Anderson Corroon LLP as Delaware counsel, and Foulston & Siefkin LLP as Kansas counsel.
Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Rothschild Inc. and UBS Investment Bank acted as co-lead financial advisors. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, LLP acted as lead counsel to Sprint. Lawler, Metzger, Keeney and Logan served as regulatory counsel, and Polsinelli Shughart PC served as Kansas counsel.
Posted: 15 Oct 2012 01:00 AM PDT
It was last week that Logitech announced two mice and a trackpad, all optimized for Windows 8. As it turns out, the outfit wasn't quite finished unveiling its Win 8 lineup: the company just outed the Illuminated Bluetooth Keyboard K810, which has a hotkey for toggling between open programs. It also features Easy Switch, a technology first introduced on the K760 that allows the device to pair with up to three Bluetooth-enabled devices at once, regardless of the OS. As for the switching bit, each paired device gets assigned to one of three function keys; just press the button to start using the keyboard with that device. In theory, then, you could have the same keyboard hooked up to your PC, tablet and phone, and be able to type on all of them from minute to minute, though that admittedly seems like an unlikely scenario.
As the product name would suggest, the keys have a backlight glowing from underneath. The lighting will automatically turn off if you haven't been using the keyboard for a certain period of time, but thanks to proximity sensors they'll kick in again when the keyboard detects your hands hovering close by. Lastly, the keyboard has a rechargeable battery rated for a month of runtime, though given the fact that it charges over USB, we can see some people bypassing the wireless connection entirely and leaving it plugged in. The K810 will sell for $100. Look for it to hit US stores in October, with European availability following a month later. In the meantime, we've got some hands-on shots below. (Psst... the Fn key is where the app-toggling button will be on final models.)
Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810 Improves Multi-Tasking Across Platforms with Easy-Switch Bluetooth Technology
"It's increasingly common for people to use more than one device over the course of the day, and we saw an opportunity to help ease the transition among screens with the Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard," said Mike Culver, vice president of brand development for consumer computing platforms at Logitech. "Using Logitech's heritage of high quality and reliability, this keyboard combines the functionality and design people expect with simultaneous multi-device pairing, which they will appreciate."
This thin keyboard is designed to look right at home next to all your devices with its real brushed aluminium and sleek lines, regardless if you're working on a Windows 8 PC, Apple iPad® or Android smartphone.
To increase the keyboard's usability in low-light conditions or at night, auto-adjusting illumination ensures the laser-etched key characters are always bright and easy to read. The keyboard also uses proximity detection to turn on the lighting when your hands approach it, and automatically dims or brightens, depending on the amount of light in the room.
Pricing and Availability
Posted: 14 Oct 2012 11:03 PM PDT
Ever wonder how Google can make such grandiose claims for the sheer amount of Street View imagery it collects? Here's how. Google's Masrur Odinaev has posted a snapshot of a central mapping car parking lot that shows dozens of the camera-equipped Subaru Imprezas amassed ahead of future runs. While it already represents more Street View cars in one place than anyone outside of Google would normally ever see, what's most impressive is remembering that this addresses just a portion of the entire vehicle mix -- aside from the local cars you don't see in the photo, there are extra units worldwide providing street-level coverage alongside tricycles and underwater expeditions. Odinaev's look reminds us just how much effort is needed to make Street View a common feature -- and that there are are legions of Google staffers whose low-profile work goes a long way towards making our navigation easier.
Posted: 14 Oct 2012 09:00 PM PDT
When Xbox Music goes live tomorrow on the Xbox 360, console owners will be the first to access the Spotify-esque service from Microsoft. Well, some of them will at least -- existing Zune Pass subscribers (now an "Xbox Music Pass") and folks willing to pony up $9.99/month or $99.90/year who also have an Xbox Live Gold account gain access to Xbox Music's 30 million global song database via data stream (18 million songs for those of us in the US). Okay, okay, a free trial is available for 30 days. After that, though, 360 owners lose access unless they pay up.
Then, on October 26, Windows 8 PC and tablet users get the service for free -- with or without the Xbox Music Pass -- albeit with ads laced in. Windows Phone 8 is in the same boat with Xbox folks: no song-specific streaming without an Xbox Music Pass. That won't arrive until some time "soon after" the PC/tablet version. Microsoft says the ad-supported free streaming is unlimited on PC and tablet, but that's only for the first six months, after which it becomes time limited. A bummer for sure, but Microsoft's banking on you digging the service enough to snag an Xbox Music Pass. But will you?
Like with Spotify and Pandora, some basic artist info, album/song info, and images garnish playing tracks, though not all artists are created equal -- some artists had no images, while others had a detailed dossier. Microsoft says it's adding more all the time, though. Xbox Music Pass holders can hang on to tracks for offline listening as well, which show up in your library and can be added to playlists. And should you wish to listen to a "Smart" radio station based on an artist/song/album, you can employ the "Smart DJ" (previously "Smart Playlist") to create just such a station. The whole shebang is tied directly to your Microsoft login, mirroring settings and library data on all your devices (Xbox 360 included) accross the cloud. That same concept applies to playback, as you can pause a song on one device and pick it up right where you left off on another. Songs can also be purchased through the streaming service with or without the Xbox Music Pass, should you really want to hold onto that Barry Manilow track.
The tile and pin design is nigh identical across all Xbox Music platforms -- the now commonplace Microsoft Helvetica against contrasting colors, with content occasionally arranged in sets of tiles. On the Xbox 360 it runs sluggishly, plodding through each menu as the aging hardware is wont to do, though Kinect voice commands help alleviate the feeling of lag. That situation thankfully doesn't apply on tablets and smartphones, at least on the two unnamed devices we used. Navigating content is relatively easy and intuitive, with the touchscreen offering the easiest accessibility -- the Metro UI really begs to be used with a touchscreen device.
Unlike its PC, tablet and smartphone brethren, the 360 version of Xbox Music isn't capable of being used in the background while executing other applications -- everything else aside, this is the service's most glaring flaw. Though some folks may navigate to the Xbox Music application and launch it just to catch up on some tunes, the inability to plug that music into a game experience is a massive oversight. Considering that functionality already exists for music stored on the 360's HDD, it's hard to understand how this doesn't carry over to the company's new flagship music service.
Xbox Music is the next big push for Microsoft, and it launches first on Xbox 360 tomorrow -- replacing both the "Zune" name and Windows Media Player in one fell swoop (the second death of the Zune, if you will). Windows 8 tablets and PCs get it at launch on October 26, while Windows Phone 8 gets it "shortly after." The service is also heading to unnamed other platforms, says Microsoft, "at a later date." When fully launched, Xbox Music and its store will comprise 22 regions worldwide, and the free streaming service for tablet and PC is headed to 15. Microsoft anticipates adding additional regions "throughout the coming year."
Introducing Xbox Music: The Ultimate All-in-One Music Service Featuring Free Streaming on Windows 8 and Windows RT Tablets and PCs
REDMOND, Wash. - Oct. 14, 2012 - Today, people need to use multiple music services to get exactly what they want. There are download-to-own music services, Internet radio services and subscription services that allow you to consume all the music you want. But, as more music services have emerged, it's become harder than ever to enjoy the music you want - and to experience it the way you want it, on any device. Whether it's music you've purchased on your smartphone, a music app on your tablet, listening to songs through the living room TV or turning to Internet radio on your PC at work, the music you love is scattered across different services. Enjoying music today requires too much work.
Xbox Music isn't just a listening experience that shows your tracks in spreadsheets and lists. Taking full advantage of every screen on which you enjoy music, Xbox Music elevates your music experiences with striking visuals. As you listen on your tablet, PC, phone or TV,1 your screen comes to life with artist photos, bios, cover art and discography.
1 Limited hours of free streaming after 6 months; unlimited with paid subscription. Compatible devices and Internet required; ISP fees apply. On TV, Xbox Music is streaming only and requires an Xbox 360 console and additional subscriptions (each sold separately). Some Xbox Music content may not be available via Xbox Music Pass and may vary over time and by region. See xbox.com/music.
Posted: 14 Oct 2012 08:57 PM PDT
If you're Toshiba, what do you do when you're looking to goose interest in the Excite 10 tablet? Roll out a quick follow up, of course. Accordingly, the FCC has just recently cleared a refreshed tablet, the AT300SE, that the Bluetooth SIG suggests will be called the Excite 10SE in North America. As shown, it's a European-spec WiFi model that gives away little by itself. It's when we combine this with the Bluetooth listing and speed tests that a clearer picture of the upgrade emerges -- there's been an AT300SE in GLBenchmark's performance charts that we've seen running Jelly Bean (unavailable to current Excites) on top of what looks to be the familiar 1,280 x 800 display and 1.3GHz Tegra 3. While there may be other surprises lurking in areas the tests can't reach, the documents point to a quick nip-and-tuck from Toshiba to keep tablet sales afloat rather than a full overhaul.
Posted: 14 Oct 2012 07:25 PM PDT
Barnes & Noble's Simple Touch with Glowlight was here long before Amazon's glow-in-the-dark offering, and has found its way onto plenty of your nightstands. We thought it was great, except wishing it was cheaper and had 3G, and since the company has remedied the former if not the latter gripe. However, has the last six months of reading been totally blissful for you? We're inviting you to place yourself in the hirsute shoes of CEO William Lynch and tell us what you'd change if you were in charge.
Posted: 14 Oct 2012 06:00 PM PDT
Your smartphone and / or tablet is just begging for an update. From time to time, these mobile devices are blessed with maintenance refreshes, bug fixes, custom ROMs and anything in between, and so many of them are floating around that it's easy for a sizable chunk to get lost in the mix. To make sure they don't escape without notice, we've gathered every possible update, hack, and other miscellaneous tomfoolery we could find during the last week and crammed them into one convenient roundup. If you find something available for your device, please give us a shout at tips at engadget dawt com and let us know. Enjoy!
Official Android updates
Unofficial Android updates, custom ROMs and misc. hackery
Refreshes we covered this week
Posted: 14 Oct 2012 05:28 PM PDT
Last year, faulty 1TB Seagate drives living in 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs purchased between May and July of 2011 were at the heart of Apple's HDD replacement program. Now, Cupertino has extended the initiative to encompass rigs sold between October 2009 and July 2011. Customers with an affected iMac are eligible to receive a free drive until April 12, 2013 or for three years after their desktop's original purchase date. Curious if your machine contains an afflicted hard drive? Simply visit the source link below and plug in your computer's serial number to find out. If you do need a replacement, an Apple Store or authorized service center will be happy to help -- just remember to back up your drive before parting with it.
Posted: 14 Oct 2012 03:14 PM PDT
As you might expect, the cable industry has been taking measures to protect its business by asking the FCC to allow encryption of basic cable -- something that has never been done and that many have rightly opposed. The FCC responded by releasing new rules on Friday and while cable operators will be able allowed to encrypt all their channels, it isn't without a few strings. The Boxee blog voiced its approval of those strings, which basically amounts to a requirement that when an operator encrypts, it also needs to make basic channels accessible via IP -- with or without some hardware in your home -- so that Boxee and others can still tune in. The other, less interesting stipulation, is that you might be entitled to at least one free set-top box or CableCARD for up to five years, depending on what package you subscribe to or if you are on Medicaid. The free hardware will only be for existing customers who apply within four months of when your provider rolls out the basic cable encryption. The real loser here are those few who actually use the Clear-QAM tuner in their TV, or perhaps those that use HTPC software that'll never get an update.
Posted: 14 Oct 2012 02:30 PM PDT
If Google had to pick a device category in which it wanted Android to dominate, it would certainly be mobile phones for many reasons. Indeed, the original band of Android backers was dubbed the Open Handset Alliance. However, a strong position in tablets would not only have helped to round out the Android ecosystem, it would also have created a beachhead from which to take on Microsoft prior to the launch of its tablet strategy.
Alas for Google, sales of Android tablets have been lackluster and several PC-centric licensees -- including Acer, Dell, Lenovo, Sony, Toshiba and even Android standard-bearer Samsung -- are hoping to improve their standing in the tablet market with imminent products based on Windows.
With just a few weeks before that onslaught and a new iPad expected, Google recently implored developers yet again to optimize for tablets, detailing guidelines to enrich their apps for the larger form factors. This is at least the fourth major attempt by the Android benefactor to step up developer support for its tablets.
After the lackluster performance of the original 7-inch Galaxy Tab, Google seemed to start things off on the right foot (at least in terms of encouraging optimization) with the Honeycomb release of Android. However, the relatively low volumes of that operating system may have put off developers to the idea of optimizing Android apps for tablets. Indeed, Google set a precedent by refusing to establish a tablet-optimized classification for what was then Android Market, a stark contrast to the highlighting of iPad apps in Apple's App Store.
Things seemed as if they would get better with the release of Ice Cream Sandwich, which finally reunited the tablet and handset (and TV) versions of Android under code that Google made available. At its launch, Google promised to make an extra effort to encourage optimizations for tablets while sticking to its guns on not highlighting tablet-optimized versions of software. Apple continued to showcase the higher quality of iPad apps versus their Android tablet counterparts, including Twitter (which has likely been turned off by Google's aggressive marketing of a competitor in Google+).
The success of the original Amazon Kindle Fire brought Google back to a play from its handset playbook. It partnered with a licensee to create a Nexus device and, like Amazon, highlighted the digital media commerce integration of the Nexus 7 at a low device price. The Nexus 7 served to raise the profile of Android tablets, but hasn't moved the needle dramatically and of course has had almost no impact on where the real volume has been in terms of the iPad and the hybrid-honed ambitions of PC vendors.
Throughout all this, Google has continued to push for tablet apps while trying to cling to the idea that all apps should be scalable. That, though, is an inordinately developer-focused message. Consumers don't care about how apps come to take advantage of their devices, but they do notice an experience that doesn't measure up to what a device is capable of. Google must match its Google Play push with its Android app efforts. It doesn't necessarily need to create a tablet app category. However, much as it wouldn't want to sell low-fidelity music or movies riddled with compression artifacts, it must do a better job of consistently matching optimized apps to a tablet audience. That is the best way to reward developer effort.
Posted: 14 Oct 2012 02:25 PM PDT
Rumors of Sprint's $12 billion acquisition by Softbank weren't exaggerated, they were understated: according to CNBC, the Now Network will announce a $20 billion transaction with the Japanese network on Monday, granting Softbank a 70 percent stake in the company. According to people familiar with the matter, Softbank will purchase $8 billion in shares directly from Sprint, snagging an additional $12 billion in stock at $5.25 a share from other shareholders. The Japanese firm's payout would net Sprint $3 billion, money CNBC supposes it might use to regain control of Clearwire. Softbank's cash may also be used to bolster Sprint's ongoing LTE rollout, which is poised to light up in over 20 markets in the coming months. The details are said to be officially announced tomorrow morning, but we've reached out to Sprint for a comment in case it wants to spill the beans early.
Update: Just heard that the announcement is due at 4am Monday, so we'll likely learn more then.
Posted: 14 Oct 2012 12:00 PM PDT
A few weeks ago, Wacom started shipping a new version of its Cintiq 24HD pen display for creative pros that first broke from cover last September. The appropriately named Cintiq 24HD touch carries virtually the same outer styling as the OG model. An ergonomic base still cradles the massive 24-inch screen and can be configured to your particular seating preference. On the inside, though, there's a host of changes. As the name suggests, the major difference between the two is the addition of multi-touch controls to the more recent offering. However, the added functionality does come with a pretty hefty price tag, as the Cintiq 24HD touch costs $1,100 more than its elder sibling. Are the additions of touch gestures and an improved display panel enough to justify forking over the extra coin, or will the less expensive option work just fine in a studio setting? Read on to find out as we tackle that very question.
As we've already mentioned, the Cintiq 24HD touch has much the same design as the previous, non-touch offering. In fact, the only difference you'll notice is that the controls at the top of the display's face have changed -- and that's if you're looking closely. These buttons now toggle touch functionality on / off, bring up an on-screen keyboard and display ExpressKey / control reminders. One thing that hasn't changed: the weight. Undoubtedly, the first thing you'll notice is the mass of the 62.9-pound (28.6 kg) kit. If you happen to forget about this bit of information, your courier will be quick to remind you when it arrives. When you tack that figure on with the 30.3 x 18.3-inch (769.3 x 463.74 mm) surface area that also remains relatively unchanged, you'll find a substantial amount of space will need to be dedicated to the high-end peripheral. In other words, once you find a resting spot, you'll think twice about relocating.
One thing that hasn't changed: the weight. Undoubtedly, the first thing you'll notice is the mass of the kit.
Let's chat about the base for a bit, shall we? This unit rests atop an enclosed black box that hides all of the requisite cables from sight. Cables head into the back of the base and connect beneath two user-removable panels on both sides of display's back -- making the only visible port the lone USB connector on the left side of the front. Metal arms reach up from the black platform and sport two pairs of hinges for adjusting the viewing angle. The first set is level with the base and allows the device to rotate forward, toward the user. A second sits on the side of the display and can be used to rotate the panel between being parallel with your desk to sitting perfectly perpendicular to it. Large handles on the 24HD's sides control the latter adjustment while a release that's situated on the base allows for the former. The aforementioned arms are the only two parts of the device that aren't shrouded in black, providing an aesthetic accent to the rest of the behemoth.
Moving on to the business portion of things, the 24-inch H-IPS panel, we'll begin to encounter the new features of the Cintiq 24HD touch. Again, on the surface, the display appears to be an exact replica of the previous version. A set of programmable ExpressKeys rest on either side of the ultra-wide bezel and a single Touch Ring is included with each. Resting along the main display are two Touch Strips, too. You still won't find any printed-on labels here, as all of that information remains on-screen like we've encountered on the regular 24HD and the Intuos5 touch. Speaking of the extra real estate around the outside, what may seem like a waste initially is actually a nice place to rest forearms and elbows when you're in the heat of a Photoshop editing session. We quickly decided that the added space was a welcome addition indeed.
The unit's display panel sports a few added features (in addition to the touch gestures) that give it a bit more of an advantage over the first Cintiq 24HD. First, this pen-enabled device covers 97 percent of Adobe's RGB gamut. That's up from 92 percent on the previous release and accounts for 1.07 billion colors. Resolution remains at 1,920 x 1,200 for the 16:10 display, with 500:1 contrast and a 178-degree viewing angle in tow. It's still a matte-coated affair that we found to be quite accommodating to our red-eyed stares for hours on end during the course of this review. Well, as cozy as gazing upon a screen for long periods of time can be.
We found the matte-coated affair to be quite accommodating to our red-eyed stares for hours on end.
Truth be told, the color production on the display is quite nice. Brightness controls can be jacked up to 300cd/m2, offering a wide range of adjustment to fit the lighting in your workspace. Sitting so close to the display during out tests, we definitely noticed individual pixels. But let's be honest, when your peepers are situated mere inches away from the screen, those tiny squares are going to be easy to see -- even on an H-IPS device.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? That's the approach that Wacom has taken with its tried-and-true pen. The same input device that we spent some quality time with alongside the Inutos5 touch a few months ago is also included with the Cintiq 24HD touch. It still comes with 10 replaceable nibs that are housed inside a holder for the pen when you're not digitally painting your next comic series. Internally, 2,048 levels of sensitivity are at work and the top end retains its eraser duties by default.
Setup and software
After bribing a couple of your best mates to help you raise this behemoth out of the box, the hard work is over. From there, it's two connections (USB and DVI) to your work machine and you're a driver install away from on-screen sketching. Keep in mind that you'll need a $30 adapter for the DVI cable in order to connect to a Mac's Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt jack. The entire process took us less than 10 minutes before we were able to fire up Photoshop. Of course, this is if you're willing to hit the ground running with Wacom's default settings for the ExpressKeys and touch gestures. One thing you will want to do is calibrate the pen so that all of the action happens directly under the tip. This adjustment only takes a few minutes and will save you loads of frustration.
Configuring all of the ExpressKeys, multi-touch swipes and pen actions is easily done in the System Preferences panel under Wacom if you're on a Mac (we used a MacBook Pro for our tests). Here, you'll find access to all of the functions that a button, finger or pen click can control. You can also sort all of your application-specific commands here as well. Looking to add to your software library? The Cintiq 24HD touch includes full versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements, Anime Studio Debut, Nick Software Color Efex Pro 4 Select Edition and a 90-day trial version of Corel Painter 12. During our time with the display, though, we made use of Adobe Photoshop CS5 and the Corel Painter 12 trial in order to put the unit through its paces.
Touch gestures and general use
While the multi-touch functionality provided some useful shortcuts during our work sessions, any action that required more than two or three fingers became quite cumbersome. The most useful gestures were two-finger actions: pinch to zoom in / out and rotating the canvas. These two commands worked almost flawlessly and kept us from having to reach a short distance to the ExpressKeys to move around the file. When we needed a tool or action that required more than two fingers, though, our results were much less enjoyable -- much like we saw with the Intuos5 touch. Eventually, we found ourselves programming all of the gestures used most often to the two-finger settings and leaving the rest to very limited use. Using our non-pen hand to man the controls along the bezel while moving in to zoom or rotate became our preferred setup.
The most useful gestures were two-finger actions: pinch to zoom in / out and rotating the canvas.
As expected, the pen functionality with the Cintiq 24HD touch worked flawlessly. We encountered performance similar to what we saw with the Intuos5 touch, making our work sessions quite enjoyable. We found that the pen input eased tasks like photo editing, hand-rendered typography and any chore that required a brush. Speaking of brushes, you'll notice all of those 2,048 sensitivity levels at work with a digital paintbrush or a tool that's used to tidy up a few images in Photoshop.
If the hefty price tag immediately turns you away from the Cintiq 24HD touch, there are a couple of other options from Wacom that are a bit easier on the ol' wallet. As we've already discussed, the non-touch version of the 24HD is still available and -- aside from the lack of multi-touch functionality and a handful of improvements to display panel itself – knocks an aforementioned $1,100 off the final price ($2,599). The outfit also offers the recently announced Cintiq 22HD pen display for $1,999; however, the base / stand isn't nearly as accommodating (despite its ability to rotate) as the one we've handled here. It also touts a 21.5-inch LCD instead of the H-IPS panel that the 24-inch offerings make use of.
It should come as no surprise that the pen functionality on a Wacom display or tablet is going to be stellar -- especially on the high-end kits like we spent time with here. We never encountered a hiccup with the pen functionality, and having all of those pressure levels at your disposal should be a major improvement over a regular mouse, to say the least. However, given the fact that we only really made use of a few touch gestures once we settled in, we're not so sure spending the extra cash for the touch model is worth it. Of course, the two-finger zoom and rotate actions are quite convenient, but we would like to see the same consistency in those that call for four or five fingers as well. Aside from a few improvements to the display panel, touch functionality is really what distinguishes the two and we aren't convinced that the additional $1,100 is a sound investment.
Multi-touch gripes aside, both the Cintiq 24HDs are stellar peripherals for any design professional. The ability to draw directly on screen in a host of applications shaves valuable time off of most creative tasks and offers more precise control than moving a mouse around on your desk. Another huge plus for these pen displays is the ability to maneuver the unit into just about any position you could image to make sure that you stay comfortable while burning the midnight oil. The ergonomic base / stand has as much to do with our affinity for these two as the displays themselves. Even if you don't splurge for the touch-enabled model, these 24-inch displays from Wacom should definitely be on your shortlist when the time comes to make a big purchase for that new studio.
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