Android’s Billion Phone Year

A huge milestone has been passed by Android. 9to5google.com says there were a billion Android smartphones shipped in 2014. Strategy Analytics says they had expected the billion number, but only with tablets added in. China was a big help to pushing that number…sales there have doubled since 2012.

Over at Apple, an updated version of iTunes was just released. Thenextweb.com reports that version 12.1 includes a new widget that lets you see what’s playing, skip ahead, and buy songs right from the widget.

DARPA, the folks that basically gave us the internet, has a new futuristic project. Engadget.com says they are developing new tech that lets robots learn from YouTube videos! The idea is to teach the machines not only to collect data, but how to act on it. Don’t expect the rise of the machines to happen any time soon, though!


Full Microsoft Office Hits Android and iOS

Office for Android is completely live. Microsoft announced on their official blog that the ‘Preview’ has been lifted, and you can download free Office apps from the Google Play Store. Outlook is also now full featured for iOS on the Apple App Store. You do need an Office 365 subscription though.

MIT startup SolidEnergy may have cracked the code for better smartphone battery life. Bgr.com says they’ve built a lithium-ion battery with an ultra thin anode and special electrolyte that can double battery life…and it will be out this year!

Scientists at University of Rochester have developed super water repellant metal and other materials using lasers. Theverge.com reports that earlier chemical treated surfaces tended to lose the repellency, but this can’t be rubbed off.


The Next HTC Flagship Phone Will Be Two

Leaked renderings show the upcoming HTC One M9…code named Hima. 9to5google.com says usually reliable Evan Blass sees a regular and a ‘plus’ size, and the regular one doesn’t have a hardware home button.

It helped sales before, so Motorola is again discounting the Moto X. According to theverge.com, it will be $140 off February 2nd through Valentine’s Day…the same price as Moto had Cyber Monday.

With all the hoopla about Apple’s sales and earnings, here’s something that slipped under the radar. Appliedsider.com says Google Play downloads are growing, but Apple’s App Store still commands 70% of digital storefront revenue.


Connected Home: Mattress Pad, Meet Thermostat

From Luna, there’s a smart mattress cover that tracks your sleep. The next web.com says that although many gadgets can do that, this $179 mattress pad also can connect with Nest thermostats and adjust the heat in your home.

Geekwire.com reports that Alaska Air is phasing out their digEplayer, and will rent out Windows powered Toshiba tablets for 8-10 bucks for long haul flights. They’ll have an array of movies, Xbox games, music, and magazines. Free for first class, of course.

Secure chat app Wickr has added the ability to save photos and share with up to 151 friends securely for 24 hours on Facebook. Engadget.com says your friends logged into Wickr will see your post…others will just see random cat pictures!


Snapchat Adds Non-Disappearing Content

Snapchat is readying to start publishing original videos and articles…a feature that was delayed from implementing last fall. Theverge.com says the service, famous for self-deleting pictures that vanish in seconds, will launch its ad supported ‘Discover’ service late this month. In addition to original pieces from their own journalists and video producers, they will have content from CNN, ESPN, and Vice.

One of the great drags on electric car sales is the fear of running out of battery power. Cnet.com reports that BMW and VW have partnered with Chargepoint to create charging corridors. In the deal, Chargepoint will deploy at least 100 chargers along the East and West coasts. These will be able to fast charge, getting an electric vehicle up to 80% charge in less than a half hour. The plan is to have no more than a 50 mile gap between stations, and have them in place by the end of the year.

If proof was needed to show how badly people want to get away from Windows 8 iterations, 170,000 have signed up since Microsoft’s event this week to be Windows Insider beta testers for the upcoming Windows 10. Gigaom.com says that’s a 10% bump since the program started last fall. A lot of people are at least WANTING to love Windows.


The Smaller Phone Carriers Duke It Out

The carrier wars have escalated. A day after T-Mobile rolled out a program letting loyal customers avoid credit checks, Sprint has unveiled one guaranteeing any T-Mobile customer $200 credit for a working and activated T-Mobile smartphone. 9to5google.com says it’s still not as sweet a deal as Sprint offers switchers from AT&T and Verizon.

According to BGR.com, the upcoming Apple Watch, currently seeing much hand wringing over lack of battery life, will actually be more powerful than the first iPad. Meanwhile, Apple has hired Burberry’s VP of Digital Retail Initiatives. Chester Chipperfield is expected to help reorganize part of Apple’s stores to feature the watch.

Scientists have developed self-destructing nano-bots and implanted them in mice. Engadget.com reports that they are first being used to treat peptic ulcers and other stomach disorders. They can survive the gastrointestinal tract long enough to release medication, then destroy themselves without leaving any trace of harmful chemicals behind. You won’t be turning into a Borg for a while, yet!


Amazon Rolls Out Answer to Apple iBooks Author

Thenextweb.com says Amazon has released it’s Kindle Textbook Creator. A beta that will help educators get their materials onto Kindles is out today. Unlike Apple’s iBooks Author, the Amazon tool can create publications for Android, iPads, Macs, and PCs.

Apple has patented a smarter smart cover. Apple insider.com reports that users could access information by partially opening the smart cover, or use gestures on it to control iPads inside. It could mean less physical buttons on future iPads.

It sounds si-fi, but researchers at UC Riverside, Georgia Institute of Technology, and in China have developed a keyboard that converts strokes into energy, protects your computer from hackers, and is self-cleaning. Cnet.com says no word on when it might be on the market.


Pay Parking Tickets From Your Smartphone

Ticket Zen, the app from the dubiously named Terrible Labs, has hooked up with PayByPhone’s municipal parking payment service. Techcrunch.com says now you can scan the bar code on the ticket with the Android or iPhone app, and pay a parking ticket instantly.

Samsung is dropping a key feature of the Galaxy S5 on the upcoming S6. Bgr.com reports the S6 will NOT be waterproof! They will make an ‘active’ version with waterproofing…for an extra charge.

The Kahn Academy has revamped its iOS app, and now ALL the training videos there are available on iPads for the first time. The verge.com says that includes 150,000 learning exercises! It automatically syncs with your desktop, too.


HP Jumps In To The Giant Tablet Market

With a possible giant iPad widely rumored, HP jumped in with a 12.3 inch Android tablet. The verge.com says it looks like a giant HTC One M8, but does match iPad’s screen resolution. It starts at $569, with a 7.9 inch model setting you back $449.

Marriott is testing offering Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Pandora directly through the TVs in their rooms. Androidcentral.com reports that the services will end up being tacked on as a ‘premium’ internet tier.

Gigaom.com reports that Facebook is testing voice to text in their Messenger app. Facebook is a little late to the party with this, but hopes to add features to grow its Messenger app active user base.


HTC Will Reveal The Next One (M9?) Shortly

HTC will show it’s newest flagship smartphone- which most are dubbing the One M9- on March 1st at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The verge.com says it will be the successor to the top rated One M8. HTC may also show one or more wearable gadgets it’s been working on with Under Armour.

Virgin Mobile USA will now offer a contract free 4G family data sharing plan. According to engadget.com, plans start at $65 a month for 2 lines and 4 gigs, or up to $115 a month for 4 lines and 12 gigabytes. That’s $28.75 a month for each device. They do run on Sprint’s network, which is the slowest in the country, however.

The Next Samsung hero phone, the Galaxy S6, will likely have a fingerprint scanner similar to Apple’s. Gigaom.com has picked up a report from SamMobile that says Samsung will ditch the reader you have to swipe for a touch sensor like iPhone and iPad have.