Weekend news roundup: All the best Android news from last week (January 20 – January 26)

android-logoAs we close out one week and kick off another, let’s take a moment to look back at the attention-grabbing headlines from the past seven days (January 20 – January 26). Some of the news you may recall, some may be new to you, but all of the topics below are worthy of a mention.

 

Google’s hidden Fitness API discovered

Earlier this month, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, every company under the soon announced a generic Bluetooth enabled pedometer and marketed it as the hottest wearable on the market. But the thing is, your phone already knows how many steps you take. If you have a Samsung phone, there’s even an app called S-Health that’ll track your steps for you. According to the Google Operating System Blog (which isn’t affiliated with Google), they say they’ve discovered an API that Google is working on that will make step tracking a key feature in Android.

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Sony Xperia Z2 to come with 5.2-inch 1080p display, 3GB RAM & KitKat
Over the weekend, we got the first glimpse of the Sony ‘Sirius’ Z2 and its new UI along with details about it screen size and processor. Today, thanks to DooMLord and XperiaBlog, we have some more details about this upcoming flagship from Sony.

Rumor: Samsung to announce the Galaxy S5 on February 23rd in Barcelona at 18:00 local time

Eldar Murtazin, the famous Russian journalist from Mobile-Review who always seems to know what’s what, published one hell of a tweet this morning. According to him, Samsung will unveil the Galaxy S5 in Barcelona on February 23rd at 18:00. That’s one day before the start of Mobile World Congress. Previous rumors said Samsung would hold an event in March in either London or New York, so Eldar’s tweet, assuming it’s accurate, changes everything.

Rumor: The next Google Nexus 7 will be an 8 inch Intel powered tablet made by ASUS

Google is likely going to refresh the Nexus 7 this year, just like they did the year prior. According to DigiTimes, ASUS will still be making the product, but get this: The 7.0 inch screen be be bumped up in size to 8.0 inches. And the Qualcomm processor in the current Nexus 7 will be replaced with one from Intel.

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Next version of Android will break most of the root apps

With Android 4.3 and Android 4.4, Google made it tough for root access to work properly, thanks to some major underlying security changes and SELinux. It looks like the next version of Android are going to make things even worse.

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Motorola now offering teak, ebony and walnut backs for the Moto X

As promised, Motorola started offering the Moto X with a variety of custom wood backs. The handset maker recently made the bamboo option available and now it has added teak, ebony and walnut to the lineup. The four wood options can be added to a Moto X phone using the Moto Maker customizer tool.


Tinkerers have figured out how to make the Galaxy Gear work with Google’s Nexus 5

Samsung’s smart watch, the Galaxy Gear, is a great product (read my review) that’s unfortunately priced too high and only works with other Samsung devices. Actually, scratch that, the second point has just been made moot thanks to the work done by people who live in the XDA forums. If you have the patience to follow this nine step installation process detailed on Smartwatch Fans, then you can make a Galaxy Gear work with a Nexus 5. Note that they’ve tried to make the Gear with other Android phones, but have failed.


Chrome for the desktop has a flaw that allows sites to keep your microphone on all the time

Tal Ater is a developer that discovered a “bug” in Google Chrome several months ago whereby any website could open a window in the background and begin recording audio. Now for this to work, you as a user will first have to grant permission to a website to enable the use of your microphone. After you click accept, then it’s game over.

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Motorola aiming for sub-$100 smartphones, more customization options on high-end devices

With the Moto G, Motorola proved that a low price doesn’t necessarily mean you have to suffer a poor user experience, managing to fit in mid-range specs while pricing it close to the low-end offerings of the competition. According to Motorola, that was just the tip of the iceberg – in a chat with the folks over at TrustedReviews, CEO Dennis Woodside revealed that the company is looking at achieving price points as low as £30 ($50).


The Galaxy Note 3 Neo leaks. Again.

Say you want Samsung’s current flagship smartphone, the Galaxy Note 3, but you can’t afford the high price tag. Samsung’s got something just for you, and it’s called the Galaxy Note 3 Neo. Compared to the Note 3, the Neo is slightly smaller (5.5 inches versus 5.7 inches), has a screen that isn’t as impressive (720p versus 1080p), isn’t as powerful (six core Exynos versus the Snapdragon 800), and has less RAM (2 GB versus 3 GB). Best of all, the Neo looks exactly like the Note 3, but those hardware differences will shave about 150 Euros off the Note 3′s price.


Sony’s Xperia Z1S is now on sale

Sony’s current flagship smartphone, the Z1, has just launched on American operator T-Mobile as the Z1S. Except for the name and the new position of the headphone jack, both the Z1 and the Z1s are pretty much the exact same device. We’re talking 5.0 inch 1080p display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800, 2 GB of RAM, and a 20.7 megapixel camera. How much does T-Mobile want for this thing? Either $530 upfront or $22 per month for the next two years, the choice is yours.

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More LG G Pro 2 hardware details leaked: 3GB RAM, Android KitKat, LTE-A connectivity

The G Pro, LG’s first attempt at a high-end phablet, wasn’t even remotely what you’d call a successful smartphone. But as is the natural order of things, manufacturers never stop trying, and LG has been rumored to be working on the G Pro 2, a handset that will reportedly be announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) next month and will feature a 5.9-inch display of 2K (2,560×1,440) resolution.


Samsung’s Q4 2013 numbers are out: Tablet sales explode, record revenues, but profits dip

Samsung has just published their Q4 2013 financial results. There aren’t really any surprises here since the company issued estimates several weeks ago that were pretty much spot on. Revenues hit a record 59.28 trillion Korea won, but profits fell 18% quarter on quarter to roughly $7.7 billion. Why the drop? Samsung says the phone division is doing great, and the tablet division saw sales double. It’s Korea’s currency that’s to blame, along with a one-time bonus to celebrate the company’s 20-year anniversary of their new management structure. Oh and apparently they made a bit too many televisions as well.


Qualcomm buys 2,400 Palm patents from HP

Motorola may have invented the analog cellphone. And Nokia may have invented the digital cellphone. But it’s Palm that invented a lot of what we call “mobile computing” today. Before there were smartphones, there were personal digital assistants. They had app stores, they came in various screen sizes, the later models could even be used as audio and video players. Palm used to be the king of this space, but they failed to leverage all that talent into something that could compete with Android and iOS.


Samsung launches the Galaxy S III Neo+ in China. And no, this isn’t a prank.

The Galaxy S III is going to turn two years old in a little over a month, so one would think that a company would spend all their efforts trying to promote their new products, right? Not Samsung. They just launched a brand new Galaxy S III variant in China called the Galaxy S III Neo+. Not only does it use the new “Neo” suffix, but they’ve also added a plus sign for whatever reason.

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Everything we know about Samsung Galaxy S5 so far

It has been nearly 9 months since Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S4 via a disastrous theatrical performance in New York. In another couple of months, we will once again see the company go all out for announcing its 2014 flagship handset and the Galaxy S4 successor — the Galaxy S5.