Nov 10, 2011
Anand Srinivasan

What’s Next On Siri – Take Commands Over Phone Calls

Siri, your “humble personal assistant” could be doing a lot many more things very soon. A patent application made public today by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has revealed a newer version of the Nuance software that would enable the voice recognition software to record and interpret data provided to it over phone calls. The application has been filed by Nuance Communications – the company that powers the voice recognition technology on Siri.

In the patent application titled, “HANDS FREE CONTACT DATABASE INFORMATION ENTRY AT A COMMUNICATION DEVICE“, Nuance has described a new program that would initiate a recording system to store an ongoing conversation between the user and another person over a phone call and then translate this conversation into text and ultimately be able to interpret contact details like Name and Phone numbers that can be saved into the user’s phone book.

“In one embodiment, a recording system at a communication device detects a user initiation to record. Responsive to detecting the user initiation to record, the recording system records the ongoing conversation supported between the communication device and a second remote communication device. The recording system converts the recording of the conversation into text. Next, the recording system extracts contact information from the text. Then, the recording system stores the extracted contact information in an entry of the contact database, such that contact information is added to the contact database of the communication device without manual entry of the contact information by the user.”

Siri to take commands over phone calls?

The patent application points out that one of the important uses of such an utility would be while the user is driving and would hence not be able to note down details provided over the call. It is however interesting to note that the patent application is to a large extent specific about interpreting and storing “contact details” over the phone and not generic about taking all other sorts of commands. We will need to monitor future filings by Nuance to see the direction this exciting voice recognition technology is headed to.

Nov 9, 2011
Anand Srinivasan

Remove Ads From Android Notification Bar With AirPush Detector

If you have been using an Android phone, it is quite likely that you have been seeing ads on your notification bar. The ads are basically one liners that are marked with an icon that looks like a white star with a red dot in the middle. They are quite annoying especially because the notification bar is where you see all the important updates from your apps and is the last place one would want to see and click on an ad.

So, how do you remove them? Firstly, you need to know that it is not Android that shows the ads there in the first place. Instead, these ads are shown by some of the third party apps that you have installed in your phone. To do a quick check on what app is showing this annoying ad on the notification bar, simply tap on the ad and check out the name of the app that is displayed on the upper left side corner. This is the application that is showing these ads on your screen.

In most cases, this alone should be sufficient. But if you have multiple apps that is causing the problem, what you can do is install this free app from the Android market called the ‘AirPush Detector’. AirPush is basically the technology framework that enables the display of these intrusive apps. The AirPush Detector is an app developed by Dan Bjorge that lets you know all the apps on your phone that have this technology enabled (and so are causing this ad push).

Although the app is named ‘AirPush Detector’, the underlying application also helps detect other frameworks like LeadBolt, IAC  and Appenda and is so pretty comprehensive in its coverage. Download the AirPush Detector app on your Android phone by clicking here.

Nov 7, 2011
Anand Srinivasan

Google Could Be Killing Feedburner and Reader With Their New Google Plus For Brands

Google Plus for Business

When Google Plus launched earlier this year, the company made it a point to let us know that the service was still available only to personal profiles and that brands and businesses who want to build a Google Plus page of their own will have to wait. In an interview to VentureBeat, a Google spokesman had said at that point,

“There will be a product very soon that has businesses’ interests in mind… We want to give them the features businesses expect and the features that can improve the sharing experience both for consumers and businesses. You can expect to see a level of analytics and measurement that you’d typically find in Google products as well as a nuanced approach to how things are shared. It encourages and enhances conversation, it doesn’t just put things in the stream.”

With business profiles expected to be announced soon, speculations are rife on what this new feature could mean to the business of social media. As we have seen in the past year or so, Google has been consolidating their properties – at least the utility part of it. We now have just one universal social property (barring Orkut for Brazil and pockets of India) from Google. Google Buzz and Wave are shutting down. Google Reader is losing its ‘Share’ option. And all of these are being replaced by Google Plus. Similarly, Google Videos is being phased out as users are now being encouraged to share videos via YouTube alone. Most Google properties now have the uniform profile bar at the top of the page that lets users connect to the different Google properties at one place.

So, does this consolidation provide us with a direction that this new Google Plus for Brands will take? One of the most likely possibilities is that Google could integrate the “RSS reader” functionality right into the service. A significant number of ‘Brands’ on Google Plus are likely to be blogs and other news media websites. At present, these websites have separate buttons to let users subscribe to RSS and newsletter feeds. In addition to this, these websites also carry a +1 button for independent posts as well as the website as a whole.

The next step in Google’s consolidation strategy could be to integrate these different elements so that users may follow their RSS feeds, newsletter subscriptions and brand postings on Google+ right from the notifications section on the top of their Google window. What this means is that users no longer have to independently follow the brand pages on Google+ and re-read the same posts on their Google Reader. Instead, Google could be moving towards making Reader and Feedburner redundant by providing these features on Google Plus.

Why should they be cannibalizing their own properties? For one, Google does not monetize Reader or Feedburner and the only reason these properties have existed is to keep competition in the segment at bay. By moving towards one property that will fulfill all these requirements, Google would not only be keeping the interests of its users intact, but also establish a larger active base of users for Google Plus who will help the company beat its nemesis Facebook in the social networking segment.

Nov 6, 2011
Anand Srinivasan

iPhone Not Connecting To Bluetooth After iOS 5 Upgrade?

A number of iPhone users have been writing in on the Apple support forums that they are having trouble connecting to Bluetooth devices after upgrading to the new iOS 5 operating system. What happens typically is that the iPhone may not be displaying the Bluetooth icon on the top of the screen even though you have the Bluetooth option turned on in the Settings option. Also, the iPhone may refuse to recognize any other Bluetooth enabled devices in the vicinity which means you may not be able to connect to any other device.

There is a simple fix for this though. What you need to do is go to Settings -> General -> Bluetooth  and turn the option Off and then turn On again one more time. Your iPhone will start recognizing Bluetooth enabled devices once again. So how frequently will you see this problem? Every time you restart your iPhone. In any case, this is a major irritant for those of you who frequently connect your iPhones to Bluetooth devices. And if you own a new iPhone 4S that has battery issues as well, good luck since you will also have to deal with the phone conking out every now and then.

Let’s hope Apple fixes this issue soon in the next update.

Nov 4, 2011
Guest Author

Internet Explorer Might as Well Be Non-Existent

Internet users have long poked fun at Internet Explorer and any of its users. While the browser can be used across any mobile broadband connection, it hasn’t exactly been a favorite of the internet savvy. Earlier this year, there was even a faux study released that suggested that internet users who preferred Internet Explorer were actually less intelligent than other internet users who chose different browsers.

In spite of these jabs and the negative commentary, however, Internet Explorer had continued to account for over 50 percent of all web browsers used – mainly because it came with every computer that operated on Windows. It’s hold, however, ended in October.

Due to the increase in Apple products using Safari, such as the iPhone and iPad, and Firefox’s growing popularity, Internet Explorer is no longer able to account for over 50 percent of browsing on the web – a percentage it relinquishes after a decade long hold. The only area in which the browser maintains its majority status, at 52.63 percent, is with desktop browsers – otherwise, it is becoming more and more obsolete, especially as the dependency on mobile browsing rises.

As of right now, Internet Explorer only accounts for 6 percent of browsing on smartphones and tablets. Safari on the other hand, has a majority of the mobile market with an astonishing 62.17 percent – most of which the iPhone can be thanked. Firefox, which is the second most popular overall browser, accounts for 21.20 percent of traffic, while Chrome and Safari account for just a fraction more than Firefox when combined.

While Internet Explorer is still the most widely used browser, most people are wondering who actually still uses IE, and a majority of those users are most likely those who are too lazy to change their default browser after they purchased a PC operating on Windows.

Unfortunately, Internet Explorer will only continue to lose ground as more and more mobile devices take over where desktops and laptops leave off. Simply put, people love their smartphones and tablets because of their portability, and their use has exponentially grown over the first year alone. Unless Internet Explorer evolves to offer an exceptional browsing experience, it will most likely lose out to Firefox in the near future and become nonexistent in the mobile browsing world.

Which really isn’t all the bad considering that only those of lower intelligence actually uses the browser. It’s simply a matter of survival of the fittest.

Oct 31, 2011
Guest Author

The Samsung Galaxy SII – Snapping and Capturing

The Samsung Galaxy SII’s 8 megapixel camera has often been described as the best on a smartphone. With an LED flash and autofocus it is user friendly and compares well with others available on the market. Along with its large screen for multimedia purposes, the fabulous 8 megapixel camera has been one of the main reasons for the popularity of Galaxy SII deals. So is it as good as people claim?

An improvement from the 5 megapixel cameras found on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S and HTC Desire, the quality of pictures is notably clearer and sharper. It is the add-ons and features that means this camera phone takes on the compact market. The shutter speed is quicker, meaning users can take pictures in fast succession. The autofocus takes a little longer and unlike the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc the autofocus feature cannot be turned off.

Users can personalise what is most important to them when taking pictures. So a column on the left hand side of the screen allows you to add shortcuts for those function you use most regularly. These can be individually set for the camera or for video.

Other features include ISO, an option to change exposure settings, a timer, an anti-shake device (vital as the phone is so lightweight although it does mean the camera takes a little longer to take a picture) light metering options and 13 scene modes. Four different filters help enhance picture taking options, whether indoor or outdoor. The Outdoor Visbility setting, for example, is a preset that increases the contrast to tackle direct sunlight making it more flexible. More macro modes have preset options for changing the exposure and metering to correct colours and brightness. Like other digital cameras blink detection holds off the shutter for a fraction of a second and the smile shot again ensures you get perfect family shots. The wide angle lens does cause some barrel distortion meaning some objects can lean into shot.

The video is 1080p with Full HD and 30 fps. It captures excellent colour and records audio well. Recording and playback is affected by whether it is daytime or nighttime with best results in indoor daylight although a video light does improve settings for darker shoots. Resolution can be reduced down to 176 x 144 and exposure and white balance can all be altered.

The speed of the phone, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor means it is one of the most powerful on the market, and also means there is little disruption or catch up when taking a picture or video or changing options. Both in stills and video this makes it an impressive camera phone. Images can be edited in a Photo Editor app available from Samsung. This allows for small editing, cropping and stylizing. As on other Android phones there is also Snapbucket which allows for uber-stylized edits and playing with images.

The impressive 4.3” screen and Super AMOLED Plus display makes this a great smartphone for playback. Some critics have voiced concerns that the pictures look better on the phone’s display rather than when uploaded onto laptops. The ability to share pictures quickly and easily via the Social Hub means it is simple to take pictures and video and then upload them to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. The screen and the camera on the SII certainly live up to the hype, and are a large part of the reason that Samsung has managed to shift so many phone contracts for this Galaxy.

Oct 19, 2011
Anand Srinivasan

How Many Mothers Are On Facebook? Here Are The Numbers

Is your mom already on Facebook? According to the latest report from eMarketer, there is a 69% possibility if she is an internet user in the United States. The report provides some really interesting numbers that show that the number of online moms who access Facebook will grow from 62% in 2010 to well over 73% in 2013. In absolute terms, this means a rise of nearly 4 million users from 20.6 million to 24.5 million. What do these numbers mean? Click on the arrow on the top of this article to read more.

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Oct 16, 2011
Anand Srinivasan

Sound Amplifier For iPhone Fixes Poor Sound Quality

If you are a frequent visitor to the Apple Support Forums, you will not be surprised with the number of new threads from users who are dissatisfied with the sound quality on their iPhones. While I am fortunately not one of those, it certainly does help if you can play music and videos at a volume higher than your iPhone’s maximum capacity. The new Sound Amplifier for iPhone from WirelessGround is something you should then check out.

iPhone Sound Amplifier

While it is marketed as an accessory for the iPhone 4, this Sound Amplifier also works with the older models like the iPhone 3G and 3GS as well as the latest iPhone 4S model. According to the company website, this rubber accessory can add up to 12 decibels of sound to your iPhone speakers. In addition to this, the way the accessory is designed also makes it possible for the users to deploy it as a stand for your iPhone while listening to music.

I tried the Sound Amplifier with my old iPhone 3G and could readily notice the significantly improved volume from the iPhone speakers. Here is a video demo of the product although I must say that the video does not do justice to the actual improvement in sound quality that I experienced.

The Sound Amplifier for the iPhone is now available at WirelessGround for $9.95. You can check out more details about the product from their website by clicking here.

Oct 15, 2011
Anand Srinivasan

Barnes & Noble NOOK Color Owners Primarily Women

When Barnes & Noble launched the NOOK Color, not many actually expected the device to be anything more than an also-ran. With more sophisticated devices like Samsung Galaxy Tab vying to be the iPad killer, the NOOK Color was just a NOOK with tablet benefits. But a recent snippet revealed by a company executive shows the NOOK Color does have something unique to itself that is not the case with any of the other tablets in the market. Click on the arrows on the top of this page to read on.

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Oct 14, 2011
Anand Srinivasan

HTC Sensation XE – D’ya Feel the Beats?

The HTC Sensation is already a familiar model in the smartphone market. The XE, on the other hand, has yet to prove itself. The first of its kind to bear the Beats logo, it takes advantage of the latest audio technology as well as a slew of other new features. Here we look at the addition of Beats audio processing, and ask whether it’s enough to compel smartphone owners to make the transition to HTC. Can the making of a mobile phone be determined by audio alone? No, is the simple answer, although thankfully the XE has a few other tricks up its sleeve that should make HTC Sensation XE deals even more popular than those for the original model.

As well as beats galore, you see, the XE is packing juice. The handset offers a 1730mAh power pack, truly outdoing the all-consuming battery of its predecessor. The battery is now powering a 1.5GHz dual core processor, to the extent that the previous Sensation’s stuttering internet is now fluid and speedy in comparison. In terms of design, the XE is an edgy little number. It bears the same shape and striped aluminium design as the original Sensation, but a darker chassis and red trim have given it a slight facelift. We’re not complaining; it looks pretty darn smart.

Nice as the aesthetics are, we must return to the beats and specifically to the sound system tailored by Dr Dre himself. Back in August, HTC decided to take a 51% stake in Beats Electronics, paying a reputed $300 million for the pleasure. All this to enhance the sound of a smartphone? Yep, that’s correct. As it would happen, you’ll need a pair of Beats ear buds to make the most of the new audio features, but these are conveniently bundled with the XE handset. Upon plugging your ear buds in, the Beats profile is automatically loaded up, with the relevant icon appearing in your notifications at the top of the screen. From here, you can adjust the sound enhancement to alter the overall sound quality and bass level. Just that, for $300 million? Wow. HTC better hope they can shift a lot of mobile phone contracts to recoup their investment.

The extent to which you’ll appreciate Beats really depends on your taste in music. The sounds are definitely improved, but the bass is altogether debatable. The audio is very – how to put this – vibrant. Expect a multitude of complaints from fellow commuters who take a dim view of your banging dubstep. Whether you’ll be able to hear those complaints with your super-cool and stylish Beats buds in remains to be seen. If you like to feel your music as much as hear it, you’ll love the low vibrations that emanate from the XE. Otherwise, you may find the dynamics to be subdued, with high frequency notes being lost amidst the grimy bass. Dr. Dre, prior to the phone’s launch, said: ‘For Beats…this represents a critical step in our continued mission to clean up the destruction of audio caused by the digital revolution; and reengineer how sound is delivered so that the consumer feels the music the way that the artist intended.’ By the sounds of it then, he’s a fan of the XE. Then again, if you were receiving a commission on every handset sold, you’d also be vociferously repping it to the world.

HTC bought a stake in Dre’s company because of the firm’s audio manipulation technology, and they’ve certainly marketed it as the feature that defines the new Sensation XE. It remains to be said though: do your favourite artists intend for you to burst your eardrums while listening to them? At a shade under £500, perhaps you’d be better jacking the phone altogether and acquiring a ghetto blaster instead. If you’re going to p*** off everyone on the bus, might as well do it in style.

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