Tech Shot

Sep 21

Pandora redesigns and scraps 40-hour limit

In the past 6 months, online music sites continue to increase. Spotify had a big release, Grooveshark continues to get more attention, and MOG now has a free option. Pandora, the popular internet radio site, has been seemingly stagnant. But no longer. Today they released a revamped version of their site. The code its built on is completely different. It’s now an HTML-5 site. If you don’t know what that means, it’s ok. HTML-5 looks to be where most sites and applications are heading now. It’s a great way to ensure similar experiences of sites whether on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. The new Pandora looks pretty good. I’d prefer the main info box area be a bit wider, but then there’d be less room for ads. And ad space is something Pandora has increased with this redesign. I might be paranoid, but it seems like more audio ads have been interrupting my songs as well. What I’m most excited about with this new release, is the end of the Pandora’s 40-hour play limit. Specifically during exam time and holiday breaks, I often reached the free monthly limit. I don’t have to worry about that any longer though. It’s exciting to see Pandora respond to other music sites. And for now, I definitely prefer Pandora to discover new music online.

Pandora rolls out HTML5 redesign to everyone, drops 40 hour listening cap

Sep 20

Google+ leaves invite-only trial

After being in a private, invite-only beta for close to 90 days, Google’s social service, Google+, is now available to the public. And with its public debut, come some nifty new features. The main changes come to the hangout feature, which most would describe as “video chat”, but offers much more. Along with sharing video of your face, you can share your screen, Google docs, and Google sketchpad; or you can create or watch a video broadcast. Along with hangouts and a few other changes, the Google+ mobile app has also been updated and provides many new options previously unavailable. It is worth noting that Google+ is still in beta form. It’s only changed from “field trial” to “open beta”, so there’s still much more to come. But might Google be preparing its social service to face-off against the soon-to-be-revamped Facebook? Seems likely. Announcing these features two days before Facebook’s f8 conference is no coincidence. I like it (and +1 it). Let the competition continue.

Google+: 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99… 100.

Conflict in the Android family; first HTC, now Samsung

Since its inception, Android has prided itself on being “open”. And its openness has been one of the main driving forces behind its rapid worldwide success. Rather than release one phone model once a year, ala Apple’s iPhone, Android phones are constantly being released and manufactured by various manufacturers. With different manufacturers comes options - customers have a lot of choices over model-type and network provider. The Apple iPhone is to Android phones as the Apple Mac is to Windows PCs. Apple offers two or three different levels of their desktop or laptop computer. You can get a Windows PC manufactured by Sony, Dell, IBM, Samsung, Toshiba, Acer, etc. all with different looks, builds, and specs. The same is true of Android phones. Samsung, Motorola, and HTC have led the pack for Android phones. But with Google recently buying Motorola Mobile, questions over the Samsung and HTC’s relationships with Android are looming. Though Google bought Motorola Mobile for patent rights to protect all of Android, even those outside of Motorola; their actions give preference to Motorola. HTC and Samsung are both good at making phones, but can they make good non-Android phones? Probably. HTC is rumored to be looking into purchasing and reviving the recently discontinued HP WebOS. And now Samsung may be shifting focus onto its own in-house Bada operating system and opening it for expansion. I don’t expect Android to immediately lose their market hold if HTC and Samsung leave, but the Android brand will look different - likely more similar to Apple’s iPhone system. The mobile phone market can change very quickly. And I suspect in the next 12 months for there to be viable phone options outside of just iPhones and Androids.

Samsung Looking to Open-Source Bada

Be an Angry Bird

Last weekend, while coaching my soccer team of 3 and 4 year olds, one boy excitedly wanted me to know that during the whole game he was going to be an angry bird. This meant he would act like a bird running around the field flapping his arms like wings. The craze over a fairly simple game that originally launched for the iPhone in late 2009 continues to grow. From kids to adults, Angry Birds is much more than just a game. And now, just in time for Halloween, you can take another step in displaying your love for Angry Birds. Costume Discounter is selling Angry Bird costumes for adults and children. Here’s the link: Costume Discounter - Angry Birds.

Sep 19

More words available for more friends - Hanging with Friends now for Android

Zynga, the creator of the popular mobile game, “Words with Friends” has released “Hanging with Friends” for the Android mobile platform. Having been available for iOS devices for a few months, you can now play against users of other phone operating systems. Games and apps that allow cross-platform features for use between iOS, Android, Windows, and Blackberry mobile devices always tend to catch my eye. Now all my friends have iPhones; and not all my friends have Android phones; but we still want to play with each other. Hanging with Friends is most similar to the classic pen-and-paper game, Hangman. After getting burnt out by trying to keep over 10 games of Words with Friends going simultaneously, maybe Hanging with Friends can offer a good, fun alternative.

Hanging with Friends now available for Android

Introducing Google Wallet, a new way to pay

By now, you may have heard of Google Wallet. That’s because when a company as big as Google releases a product as big as Google Wallet, the news stories expand beyond just tech sites. With smartphones having replaced your home phone, your portable gaming system, your book library, your phonebook, your Walkman, and your GPS…they now want to replace your wallet. Rather than carry around all your coupons, membership cards, gift cards, and credit cards, what if you could just wave your phone at the store register to pay? If it sounds straight from a futuristic sci-fi movie, you’re right. This technology might be the biggest change in payment methods since credit and debit cards joined the cash and personal checks family. Granted, it’s still early on in the process. Google Wallet is only available with a few banks and certain smartphones. But the technology has arrived and is accessible to the general public. Visa, Verizon, AT&T, and Apple are among many companies that are set to create some competition for Google Wallet. Google’s just kicked-off the party. Keep an eye on your wallet, it might not be around for long.

Launching Google Wallet on Sprint and working with Visa, American Express and Discover

Expect Facebook to change…a lot

This Thursday, Facebook is hosting its f8 conference. Huge changes are expected to be announced including: implementing music/video/media services, profile page redesigns, and new button options in addition to ‘Like’. I’ll be updating you on all the official features and later this week, but I wanted to give you a head’s up for now. Plus, with Facebook’s “Project Spartan” rumored to be launching in a few weeks as well, it looks like the most popular social networking site is working hard to retain that title. Changes are coming. Let’s hope they improve the all-too-familiar Facebook platform.

Expect This Year’s f8 To Be Huge — The Biggest Since Facebook Platform Launched

Instead of a new iPad, how about two new iPhones?

While a lot is unknown about Apple’s releases of the next iPhone and iPad, here are a few suggestions that fit with very common leaks and rumors:

- Apple will launch an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 4S this October.

- The iPad 3 will not be released until 2012. With its current market domination, there is no need to offer an upgrade option to the iPad 2.

But as always with Apple, it’s difficult to know very much about their unreleased products.

iPad 3 in ‘11? No. Two new iPhones? Seems so

Another hint at the launch of an Amazon tablet - international Amazon Appstore

There is little debate or disagreement that Amazon will be launching a low-priced, custom tablet later this year. Although based on Android, it will be all-Amazon all-the-way. From music to games to shopping to reading, everything will go through Amazon’s own services, allowing them to make profit through this means and offer the device at a consumer friendly low price. Knowing this, today’s news that the Amazon Appstore is now available internationally supports the rumors that the official announcement of an Amazon tablet is coming. Rather than using the Android Market, the Amazon tablet will distribute mobile apps through it’s own Amazon Appstore. Making the Appstore available internationally begins its exposure to users Amazon hopes will purchase their tablet later this year. With their free-app-a-day deal and Amazon’s experience with marketing and online shopping, the Amazon Appstore has the potential to be tablet users go-to store for their mobile apps. Amazon’s strategy for launching their own app store is begin to make a lot more sense. Amazon, you continue to impress.

Amazon Appstore looks to be rolling out internationally

Netflix DVD shipping service (aka Qwikster), expanding to video games too

By now, you likely know Netflix is officially separating its DVD shipping and movie streaming services. What many haven’t realized is that in the public announcement, Netflix owner Reed Hastings also subtlety mentioned that Netflix’s new DVD shipping service Qwikster will also allow customers to rent video games for major gaming platforms. Users have been asking for this feature for awhile. This might explain why the currently-unpopular-new-name ‘Qwikster’ is not specific to films and movies only. The ambiguous name could also allow the company to ship other forms of future entertainment besides only movies and games. I’m not sure what that medium might be, but it does allow that potential for future expansion. Interestingly, even more than the movie industry, the video game market seems to want to move towards digital download distribution rather than physical discs or formats. While both - movie and gaming markets - are heading in that direction, Netflix’s creation of Qwikster is acknowledging that we’re not quite there yet, and there is still money to be made in physical distribution shipping. Now it will be interesting to see if and how Gamefly - the dominant video game rental/shipping service - will respond.

Look Out, GameFly: Netflix’s New Qwikster Service Ships Video Games, Too