“Apples” in the car: Re-introducing Apple CarPlay

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Earlier this March, Apple finally announced and confirmed CarPlay, which is the long-awaited ‘iOS in the car’ project you possibly heard about. Because the lifespan of a car is so long compared to the life cycle of digital technologies like phones and the software they run, the challenge is to create a smart in-car infotainment system that can stay up to date even as your car ages. And so, the battleground is set for the mobile tech world just maybe this time with an “auto” attached to it.

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With the fact that most of the big names in the auto industry already have their own systems, it would be a worthy question to ask about what Apple brings to the deck that makes things different. Obviously the technology is not new; and we’ve already seen several cars natively running Android and offering some level of integration with Android smartphones. “CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing. We will take a moment to explore CarPlay thus, giving you what to expect from it.

First, and maybe most importantly, do NOT let the pictures fool you. CarPlay is not an in-car system that runs iOS or iOS apps. It’s a system that integrates your iPhone apps with your car’s digital systems, allowing you to control them and your device an an easier, tech-savvy manner. The idea is that you plug your iPhone into your car via USB, and viola! You can now use the functionality of your iPhone without having to fumble around with it and take your eyes off the road. Take a moment to imagine how safer and more convenient that could be.

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CarPlay aims to empower you to use all your iPhone’s functionality without actually touching it. So that includes playing your music, navigating to the shops, taking phone calls, reading text messages and even watching YouTube videos which you would be able to do from the start. In theory, there are no limits to the interplay. Perhaps you’ll even be able to turn your wipers on and off simply by talking to Siri or unlock your vehicle using your iPhone – but that’s a way off even if it’s possible. And For those who love to play around by “having a conversation with Siri” well, your dreams are as here as technology would possibly have it.

The CarPlay interface takes over the car’s LCD when the phone is plugged in, with all processing running on the device. Much like the iOS interface, CarPlay shows app icons, although in a bigger format. Once upon a time, cars had increasingly featured USB ports that let you plug in an iPod, iPhone, or iPad with its white cable, and control music playback using the car’s own touch screen LCD or dashboard controls. With this integration, you can browse music by artist, album, genre, and track, select something, and play it.

You get to control CarPlay using one of three methods:

  • Siri voice control: just press and hold the voice control button on the steering wheel.
  • Touchscreen: If your CarPlay-equipped vehicle has a touchscreen, you can use it to control CarPlay.
  • CarPlay also works with the knobs, dials, or buttons in the car. If it controls your screen, it controls CarPlay.

Apple’s plans to have third parties building CarPlay compatibility into their apps, making them usable through the system. Apps like Spotify, Podcast, Stitcher and Beats Radio are already confirmed and with access to all their online library features, that long and easy driving entertainment is guaranteed.

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No! No!! NO!!! Siri on CarPlay can NOT drive you home. Why? Because it cant! All it can do is give you turn by turn directions with audio cues using the Map app from Apple. You would also like to note that ONLY the iPhones with the lightning connector (iPhone 5, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s) are compatible with CarPlay so, those with the former 30-pin connector would finally have to consider that upgrade. Also no plans have yet been officially announced for an after-market version of CarPlay; which means that unless you buy a car which has CarPlay compatibility installed (of which there are none in existence at this time), you cannot have it. Cars with CarPlay functionality will be hitting the streets later this year, with models from Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes, Volvo and many other big names in the car industry who are also committed to support the CarPlay platform.

So, with that much said, what do you think about it?

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Enter… The Firefox OS

Do you know what’s interesting about the current free-for-all for mobile operating system dominance? You guessed right! New entries! We are sure you have heard of The Firefox OS by Mozilla? Sure you have!

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Launching a new mobile OS is a difficult project since the market leaders, Android and iOS, have such a big lead. Even Microsoft, with its near-infinite financial resources and vast ecosystem of complementary products, has struggled over time to gain traction. With the rising standards technology giants have set for themselves as they duke it out for market dominion, new entrants will have to face what I call a chicken-and-egg problem: developers don’t want to write apps for a platform without many users, while users don’t want to buy a phone without many apps.

First off, to sustain any early momentum, Mozilla will need to convince developers to build Firefox OS apps. Firefox OS apps will be built entirely using HTML5. According to Mozilla, the thousands of developers who already know how to build Web apps will be able to build Firefox OS apps with minimal additional training. And because they’re built on open standards, Mozilla hopes that Firefox OS apps will work reasonably well on other platforms that support HTML5—which is to say, all of them.

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Thanks to ArsTechnica, we know the Firefox OS architecture has three layers, dubbed “Gonk”, “Gecko”, and “Gaia”. Gecko is the rendering engine at the core of the Firefox browser. Below Gecko sits Gonk, a bare-bones Linux distribution derived from Android. Above Gecko sits Gaia, a touchscreen user interface not too different from those found on other mobile operating systems. It makes sense that Mozilla would choose to make Gonk a derivative of Android because many device makers already know how to make devices that run Android. According to Mozilla “If you’re an OEM, you already have basically all the capabilities to run our system.” It is also worthy to note that since Firefox OS apps are essentially just Web apps, app developers are not required to use Mozilla’s app store at all. A developer can distribute a Firefox OS app as a “hosted app,” delivered from any Web server.

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Firefox OS looks familiar to anyone who’s used Android and iOS: when you turn it on, you’re faced with the familiar grid of apps. Swiping left and right slides in other pages of apps. And across the bottom of each page is a fixed set of four apps: the phone dialer, a text-messaging app, the Firefox browser, and the camera app. As with iOS, swiping to the leftmost screen launches a search app. But unlike iOS, this search app is wired not just to your own apps but also to the Firefox Marketplace and to the Web at large — remember, this is a browser-based OS. If you find an app you like in the search results, you can pin it to one of your screens for easy future access. Firefox OS comes with a range of built-in apps such as Facebook and Wikipedia, and even mapping services. A long-press on the home button invokes a task switcher so you can juggle among open apps.

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A contacts app lets you open up a screen full of information about people you know. It serves as a hub to phone them, send e-mail or text messages, or check their Facebook walls. Facebook integration also lets people import their contacts; Mozilla plans to add import mechanisms for services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail — something it knows how to do by virtue of its Thunderbird e-mail software for PCs.

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A camera app, which also is accessible from the lock screen, has tabs for taking photos or videos, and it’s got a link to the built-in gallery app. That app lets you crop photos, apply some basic color filters, adjust contrast, and take actions like sharing photos on Facebook or by Bluetooth wireless networking.

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It feels so much like an earlier version of Android. It’s definitely good, though, that Firefox OS can get a running start in the app ecosystem by mobilizing the vast army of Web programmers — programmers who might well be happy they can reach Firefox OS customers without having to jump through nearly as many hoops as the Apple App Store or Google Play present. It is already available of several phones such as the ZTE Firefox Phone, Keon and Peek by Geeksphone. Firefox OS should be fully open to all by 2014 and if successful, it should change the way we use the Web. We are used to visit websites but Firefox OS will bring an era where we will be using Web apps more than Websites. Ubuntu for Phones will also support Firefox OS to help bring in this change.

IPhone 5c and 5s reviews: The Changes and The Obvious

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After weeks of rumors, speculations, leaked photos and parody videos, Apple’s new iPhones were finally revealed on September 10 and as widely expected, the company announced two devices – the iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S.

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Apple has discontinued the iPhone 5 for the iPhone 5c, which sports a 4-inch display, as well as the same A6 chip. The company has gone for the cheaper option in producing the “next generation” iPhone as it now features a plastic wraparound back which comes in five colors — green, white, blue, red, and yellow — with matching screen wallpapers to complement the exterior. The color set has been commented on as being similar to that of the Nokia Lumia series but we would leave that opinion for you to explore. Yes, after these, there is not much to say about the iPhone 5c; it even has the same 8 Megapixel camera and 2 Megapixel on the front. You might as well tag it as a “plasticky” colored version of the iPhone 5 and to be honest, when I think about iPhones sometimes, I cannot help but also ponder about the native proverb that says that only a mad man does the same thing and expects a different result.

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iPhone 5s

Apple’s new flagship iPhone 5s which Apple “humbly” calls the “most forward-thinking phone anyone’s ever made,” sports a 64-bit A7 chip making it to the history books as the world’s very first 64-bit mobile phone. It’s made of high-grade aluminum and comes in silver, gold, and  gray.  For networking it has a dual band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 which was also available in the discontinued iPhone 5.

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The general features are pretty much the same, except for the new Touch ID fingerprint sensor that grants up to 5 fingerprints to access the phone. This feature takes phone security to a whole new level. The touch sensor, located under the traditional home button also links you to your Apple account which defeats the sometimes annoying type password feature.

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The iPhone 5s sticking with the 8 Megapixel camera is a letdown. However, a few changes made quite a difference compared to previous iPhones. First off, the size of the image sensor has increased which leads to a significantly higher low-light performance and somewhat better pictures; even in poor lighting conditions. More interesting is the dual-color LED flash, which monitors the prevailing light and tries to provide a better color mix by providing the right mixture of lights (like more yellow or more blue, depending on the conditions). This leads to a consistent and greater quality of photos than its predecessors. Neither the HTC One nor the Samsung Galaxy S4 has this feature so, let’s not get too hasty to conclude that the camera is “vaguely similar.”

The iPhone 5S also offers a new “burst mode” for the still camera (taking 10 shots per second), where you can hold the button down and it will take the pictures – and then present the single shot it thinks is the best from the series. (You can still choose from among the set, and keep as many as you want). There is a “slo-mo” option for video recording where you can choose which parts which can be slow and which are fast in a simple editing function.

Some people worry about how there can be a balance between the powerful 64bit A7 processor and battery life. Apple’s solution is the co-processor called the M7 which is specially designed to collect data from the phone’s various sensors, including the GPS and accelerometers. This M7 chip is suspected to be Apple’s flagship idea for a possible wearable computing future so expect to hear about it later on. The iPhone 5s’ battery life lasts about 10 hours of 3g talk time and LTE browsing .

A saddening conclusion is that there really is not a total mind blowing experience between these iPhones and what we already have. But smartphones are not just about hardware; the user experience is also as important as security and Apple does deliver that. Combined with the new iOS 7, positive results on sales would not surprise me one bit… as well as the otherwise. 😛

The new Nexus 7: A second shot at a good idea?

google-nexus-7-logoAs if the war for what device dominates the 7 inch mini tab form factor was not cruel enough, technology giants Google decided to play another entry with their new Nexus 7, which became available since yesterday, July 30th.

The new Nexus 7 features a raft of improvements over last years Nexus 7; even though they practically look almost the same. First to mention would be that unlike the former Nexus 7, this one comes with the latest update of the Android OS (Jelly Bean 4.3) which of a truth is not that big of a difference really except that you can now have separate customizable spaces, including personal homescreens, wallpapers, apps and storage; which is an appealing idea. So, those whose tablets usually get in the hands of others do not have much to worry about anymore when it comes to people tampering with stuff.  It features a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Processor with an Adreno 300 400Mhz, which in simpler terms means the tablet should run pretty fast. there is also 2GB of RAM, a 5MP rear facing camera, 1.2MP front facing camera, Bluetooth 4.0LE, Wireless charging and a new HDMI slim port. With all of that for just about $30 extra, it is sure that comparing sister Nexus devices would lead to some level of unfairness.

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Even though the 7 inch screens of both devices are typically same, the new Nexus 7 runs at 323 PPI which is ridiculously sharper than the previous one at 216PPI. This display is one key feature that holds the retina-less iPad mini to question (well, of course until apple decides to release an iPad mini with retina display).  Watching movies on the new Nexus 7 is quite commendable honestly; and your Android OS has never looked crispier on any other tablet. The speaker sound on the new Nexus 7 is also improved, and thanks to its thinner design, it even weighs lighter than the previous. With up to 9 hours of HD video playback and 10 hours of web browsing or e-reading, there’s plenty of juice to get you through the day. And very much unlike the iPad, The new Nexus’ slim and lightweight design makes playing games much less strenuous to the wrists.

A truth remains that the new Google Nexus 7 champions the small tablet market for the meantime. A downside to the device would be that there is no SD card slot but its cheaper price range and crispy sharp HD display would give anyone with an iPad mini a run for his money. Google’s second shot at the Nexus 7 isn’t very groundbreaking in terms of innovation but the price is very inviting to tablet newbies. If you owned the previous Nexus 7, then this is certainly a worthwhile upgrade.

Selling an “excellent” keyboard: A BlackBerry Q10 Review

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Okay. Here comes a second phone that runs the BlackBerry 10 OS: the BlackBerry Q10.

The BlackBerry Q10 is a sister phone to the BlackBerry z10 released earlier in the year; but there are very obvious differences between the two smartphones. Very much unlike the Z10 which adopted the full touchscreen idea which seemed to be the norm for smartphones these days, there’s no mistaking the fact that the Q10 is a BlackBerry handset.

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The keyboard says it all, with distinctive rows of keys separated by bands of silver, and the shaping of the keys themselves, giving all the clues you need. BlackBerry has quit on the curved keyboard design of the earlier models to a straight one; possibly to maximize space. The keyboard may seem to the smartphone connoisseur as an overhauled cliche but it is actually commendable… especially compared to the older generations of the BlackBerry handsets. Keys are easy to find under the fingers thanks to their center ridges, and even click a little when pushed. There’s a small nubbin on the D key whose second function is the number 5, helping you find the number keys by feel easily. The design is the first from BlackBerry without a section between screen and keyboard offering shortcut buttons and some sort of screen navigation device. This multi-use is welcome, but it makes the positioning of the Micro-USB port and a Micro-HDMI connector on the left edge of the phone rather irritating.

The BlackBerry Q10 features a dual-core processor running at 1.5GHz and 2GB of RAM which is a suitable entry for this generation of mobile devices. The BlackBerry Q10 supports LTE, HSPA+ and EDGE with its microSIM sitting under the backplate. The backplate provides protection for a MicroSD card, which thankfully you can access without removing the battery. This can be used to augment the 16GB of internal flash storage, some of which is taken up by the OS and preinstalled apps: fresh out of the box, leaving about only 11GB free. The 2,100mAh battery, incidentally, is rated for up to 13.5 hours’ (3G) talk time and up to 14 days on standby. The Q10 supports Near Field Communication (NFC) and GPS and has a full set of sensors — accelerometer, magnetometer, proximity sensor, gyroscope and ambient light sensor.

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The BlackBerry Q10’s 720p display pumps out great looking colors and clear images with the help of Super AMOLED technology and a tight pixel density of 328 dpi — but, it’s a 3.1-inch square! While it may look good, even in direct sunlight, what you can do with such a small screen is a different story; and watching a movie would make quite a formidable example. Web surfing is another good example: surfing the web on a BlackBerry Q10 is quite a pain. When using a “business oriented” spreadsheet in Quickoffice or any MS Excel lookalike, you may have to agree that small screens and business software do not fit too well.

rolloverAn interesting feature for corporate users is the new BlackBerry Balance which keeps business apps, services and data separate from the user’s personal information. Anyone interested in speedy text-based communication will appreciate the feature called ‘Type and Go’. This builds on the universal search concept that lets you find apps, map locations, do web searches and more simply by typing on the keyboard then tapping the app or URL icon that appears. As long as you’re on a main screen and not in an app, you can type to make something real happen. Type “SMS Jack” and you can send a text if Jack is in your address book. Even typing “Email My Wife” will do a similar job. The phones main 8-megapixel camera at the back shoots 1080p HD video, while the front facing 2-megapixel camera can handle 720p. Both shoot in 1:1 (square), 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios, which are easily switchable via on-screen icons.

A big issue BlackBerry users may have is The Blackberry App World’s rather small library of applications and tweaks compared to iOS and Android. So, you don’t get to do too much random stuff with your Blackberry phone. Although being mission specific and business critical does seem like a good approach, it may just end up being boring as a whole when the hype is over. There are a few tasks that the Blackberry Q10 excels at; but these are those that it is designed for such as chatting with your Blackberry contacts, email functions and other “business” needs. It looks good as a Blackberry phone though; so if all you are after is a better BlackBerry then, the BlackBerry Q10 would work for you.  The BlackBerry 10 OS would seem refreshing to almost anyone, and the BlackBerry Q10’s well balanced keyboard should impress; but for just a while… and then later, you might realize that the BlackBerry Q10 remains just another significant entry to the slow evolution of Blackberry phones.

iOS 6 untethered jailbreak now available!

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If you have been one of the many people crying everyday because you somehow obtained an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch device on iOS 6 and above of which, you could not enjoy the numerous benefits of jailbreaking, dry your tears and read through. iOS 6 has FINALLY been pwned!!

iOS 6 came in with a number of new additions that is actually worth the upgrade. iOS 6 brings “Siri” to the iPad 3rd generation and iPod touch 5th generation, facebook integration, camera improvements, all new UI for AppStore, Music, Calendar, Clocks, Weather and a host of other new things you have always expected to see. A possible jailbreak was anticipated and now it is here!

The very new jailbreak software “Evasi0n” was realeased by team Evad3rs and allows a full iOS 6 untethered jailbreak on the following devices:

  • iPhone 5
  • iPhone 4S
  • iPhone 4
  • iPhone 3GS
  • iPad 4
  • iPad 3
  • iPad 2
  • iPad mini
  • iPod touch 4
  • iPod touch 5

Evasi0n supports the following iOS firmware versions:

  • iOS 6.0
  • iOS 6.0.1
  • iOS 6.0.2
  • iOS 6.1

And one more thing: it is compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac so dont worry. These guys have got you covered no matter your PC operating system.

Ready? You can start by visiting the official website of the Evad3rs: http://evasi0n.com/

Enjoy!