I bought a Chromebook.

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The Acer C720-2800 to be exact.

My Dell laptop has been showing its age the past year or so, and I’ve been sort of going back and forth on what to get to replace it.  I considered all my options: all-in-ones, desktops, low to midrange laptops, convertible tablets/laptops, Ultrabooks, Macbooks, and Chromebooks.  I ultimately opted for the Chromebook, and so far I am really happy with my choice.

What is a Chromebook?

Chromebook runs Google’s Chrome OS, which is an operating system that consists of a Chrome browser and a file manager.  Just like the Chrome browser on Windows and Macs, the Chrome browser on a Chromebook has access to the Chrome Web Store, where you can download various web apps that work within the Chrome browser.  Some apps are essentially a shortcut to a site and some are specially designed for Chrome.  Some even provide offline access.  Once added to Chrome, these apps can be found on an app list and also pinned to an app launcher, which can go at the bottom, left, or right side of the display.  The Chrome Web Store is not as varied as the app stores found on Android and iOS, but it isn’t a bad selection and it is growing.  It goes without saying that the vast majority of Chrome Web Apps require an internet connection to work.

Chrome OS vs. Windows and OS X

Depending on one’s needs, a Chromebook can be a great device.  But Chromebooks differ from Windows and Macs in several important ways.  First, Chromebooks are designed to use the cloud and rely heavily on having an active internet connect.  Some apps do have offline capabilities; most notably to me is Google Drive, where you can view and edit Documents, Presentations, and Drawings with no connection.  But for anyone who has tried to edit a spreadsheet in Drive while on a wifi-less plane (I have), it can be very frustrating to discover that a connection is required.  This is less of a problem with wifi in more places now, but it is something to consider.  For me, 99.9% of the time I will either have a wifi connection or be able to work on something offline, so this wasn’t a huge issue notwithstanding my frustrating flight experience.  [UPDATE 12/11/13:  Google updated Sheets to include offline editing.]

The second major difference is that you can’t install programs on a Chromebook.  That means no iTunes.  No Office (though there is a web-based version of Office).  No Adobe Photoshop.  This can be a dealbreaker for some.  The lack of iTunes is an issue for me, and if my Windows laptop died I probably would have needed something with iTunes instead of or in addition to my Chromebook.  Most of my music needs can be satisfied with Apple TV, my phone, and Google Play Music, so I can get by with just an occasional iPod sync with iTunes on my old laptop.

Advantages of Chromebook

Despite this, there are many solid reasons to buy a Chromebook.  First and foremost is price.  My Chromebook has an 11.6” display, weighs less than 3 pounds, and has 4 GB of RAM, 16 GB solid state storage, and a Haswell-based Celeron processor (which is more than adequate to power the lightweight Chrome OS).  It cost $250.  There is also a $200 Acer C7 Chromebook that is identical to mine except that it has 2 GB of RAM.  All my research says that 4 GB is worth the extra $50.  All Chromebooks so far have been in the $200 to $300 price range, except the high-end Chromebook Pixel.  Most lightweight Windows PCs and Macbooks cost several times the price of a Chromebook.

In addition to price, Chromebooks also come with other benefits: automatic updates, built-in virus protection, no eventual slow-down than often plagues Windows PCs, battery and resource efficiency, and a boot-up time of less than 10 seconds.  Google also throws in a bunch of freebies, including 2 years of 100 GB Google Drive storage (a $120 value) and 12 gogo in-flight passes.  The Drive space makes using a Chromebook much easier, and while I have enough storage on other cloud services to satisfy my needs, Drive integrates nicely with the file manager and has some great productivity tools.  Another cool feature of a Chromebook is that, because everything is in the cloud and because Chrome OS is exactly the same on all Chromebooks, the experience on one Chromebook is identical to the experience on another, which makes traveling and sharing devices much easier.

Choosing a Chromebook

There are several Chromebooks on the market.  Their operating systems are identical to one another, and the real differentiator is hardware.  Acer is being aggressive with its C7 line.  I went with the Acer C720-2800 because it received great performance reviews (here, here, and here) in terms of speed, power, and battery life.  In fact, it was universally considered the best-performing Chromebook to date (except Chromebook Pixel, below).  The Acer C720-2848 for $50 less and with 2 GB of RAM instead of the 4 GB found in the C720-2800 was also in the picture, but I decided the extra RAM was worth the cost.  Neither of Acer’s C7 Chromebooks are works of art from a design perspective, but I would much rather a computer that performs well than one that looks good but is frustrating to use.  [UPDATE 11/26/13Acer just announced a $300 version of the C7 that features a touchscreen display, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of solid state storage – double the 16 GB found in the other two models of the C7.  While the touchscreen is tempting me to return my Chromebook, I think at the end of the day 4 GB of RAM will have a greater impact on performance when multitasking and dealing with media-heavy websites, and therefore make the device more enjoyable to use, than having a touchscreen.  Still, that’s a great price for a touchscreen laptop.]

Google has put its weight behind the HP Chromebook 11, which a Google design team helped create.  The Chromebook 11 is a similar size to the Acer C7, comes in various colors, and can charge with the same micro USB charger that many phones use (although charging via this method can be very slow).  While the HP Chromebook 11 won on style, reviewers found its performance to be slow.  Plus it is currently not being sold after reports of overheating chargers.  There is also an HP Chromebook 14 with a 14” screen rather than my 11.6” screen.  With that extra screen real estate, the HP Chromebook 14 is 4 pounds; 1.25 pounds heavier than the Acer C7  Another Chromebook that received a lot of press is the Chromebook Pixel, designed by Google with the highest resolution display of any laptop.  At $1,299, it is really a device for enthusiasts and it probably makes more sense to get a nice Ultrabook or Macbook and run the Chrome browser on it at that price point.  There are other Chromebooks out there, but the Acer C7, HP Chromebook 11, and HP Chromebook 14 seem to be the three devices that are leading the pack.

Wrapping up

So far I love my Chromebook, and think it is a great device for me.  I have used so many Google services on a regular basis before buying it, and using Google services and limited other services on a Chromebook is a breeze.  That being said, many people – particularly non-tech savvy people – have their idea of what a computer is ingrained in their minds, and for those people to enjoy a Chromebook they’d really have to be open to changing their way of thinking, and using Google Docs instead of Word, Google Play Music instead of iTunes, and the cloud.  For those people, a Chromebook would still be a nice secondary device for email and web browsing.  For me, it will do almost everything I need it to do in my daily work and social life, and the lighter design, lower price, longer battery life, and Google integration made the Chromebook a smart purchase for my primary computer.

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Google I/O 2013: subscription music service, unified messaging, and improved gaming, Maps and Search, and more

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Google’s much-anticipated Google I/O 2013 developers conference began today and Google announced some interesting new features and products.  Google’s blog entry is pretty comprehensive and definitely worth a read, and here’s a quick rundown of what was unveiled:

Google Play Music All Access: a $9.99 per month ($7.99 if previewed by the end of June) music service akin to Spotify that allows unlimited on-demand plays and custom playlists.

Google Play games: coordinates multiplayer games and syncing of game data across devices.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Google edition: an unlocked Galaxy S4 that runs stock Android and will receive updates directly from Google rather than from Samsung.  It’s not a Nexus device because Google did not design the hardware, but it is the next best thing.  It runs on AT&T and T-Mobile’s LTE networks and will be sold by Google for $650.

Google Chrome: enhancements to how video is streamed, payments are processed, as well as “Chrome Experiments” to show the cool graphical and gaming capabilities of Chrome.  These enhancements are largely designed to encourage developers to create more graphics-intensive applications for Chrome.

Google+: an improved multi-column Stream with suggested hashtags based on the post, a free-standing Hangouts app (available on Android, iOS, and Chrome) that is meant to unify chatting and includes some really interesting group and video features, and enhancements to Photos that automatically back-up photos taken by mobile devices and sift through them to choose the best to share.

A note about Google Hangouts:  In my opinion, Google Hangouts and the All Access music service were the two biggest announcements today and I feel that Google did not make enough of an effort to really promote Hangouts.  Gmail and gchat are pretty universally liked and used, but for whatever reason people have an aversion to Google+ despite how great of a service it is.  I think Google would have been much wiser to announce Hangouts as a freestanding multi-platform messaging service that integrates with Google+ rather than putting Hangouts right in the middle of the Google+ presentation and making it look like a service of Google+.  Regardless, so far the app looks and works great.

Search: Search now includes spoken questions and answers on computers running Chrome, and Google Now adds more reminder-related features, like dictated notes and reminder cards for new music, movies, books, and TV shows.

Maps: the browser-based Maps will now be full-screen and the map will be drawn based on what Google thinks we want to know.  For example, if you search for restaurants, the map will be drawn to show other similar restaurants that Google thinks you’ll like, and directions to the restaurant you select.

Overall Google made some interesting announcements today, with the two common themes being integrating various devices that run Chrome and Android and adding more and better prediction to the information Google gives us.

Facebook announces Facebook Home

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Today Facebook announced Facebook Home, a Facebook-centric launcher for Android. A “launcher” for Android is the software that controls how your homescreen looks and functions, including app layout and appearance, page transitions, and how to access your app drawer. Launchers typically go hand-in-hand with a manufacturer’s skin/user interface, so HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz are two user interfaces that each have custom launchers. The Facebook Home launcher replaces whatever launcher is currently on your phone.

Cover Feed:
Facebook Home eliminates the multiple home screen functionality that we are accustomed to in favor of a single, full-screen Cover Feed that shows constantly changing posts by friends. The launcher cycles through posts, or you can swipe to the next one, and you can “like” and comment on posts directly from the Cover Feed. While there is still the option to use the traditional drop-down notifications function, notifications in Facebook Home appear more colorful and pop up directly on the Cover Feed, and can be selected or swiped away. Facebook’s Director of Product unfortunately said that ads will eventually come to Cover Feed. At the bottom of Cover Feed is a small photo of your face that can be dragged to Messenger, App Launcher (below), and the last used app.

Chat Heads:
Facebook Home emphasizes communicating with friends and combines text messages and Facebook Messages into one (which was previously available through the Facebook Messenger app). When someone messages you, a picture of their face pops up on your screen and you touch their face to respond. A cool function here is that the face can be moved on the screen so as to be there when you want to reply while not interfering with whatever you’re doing on the screen.

App Launcher:
The App Launcher controls how you access and open apps. It has two screens – favorite apps and an app drawer with all apps, and with Facebook getting rid of the ability to put apps on the homescreen, the App Launcher is the gateway to all non-Facebook apps.. Even from the App Launcher favorite screen, you can still post status messages, photos, and check-in. So while the Facebook Home App Launcher allows non-Facebook apps to be used, the focus is definitely Facebook.

Availability:
Facebook Home will be available in the Play Store on April 12, on the HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II. It will roll out to more smartphones and tablets in the future. A nice thing Facebook is doing is promising monthly updates.

HTC First:
Facebook also unveiled HTC First, which is a mid-range Android smartphone that comes with Facebook Home pre-installed. The phone’s specs really aren’t anything to write home about and it is really just to show off Facebook Home, so I won’t go into any more detail on it. It’s also being released on April 12 for $99 on AT&T.

My Thoughts:

I check Facebook on my phone several times a day and use Facebook Messenger to chat with several people.  When I see other people using their phones when I’m out and about, I often see them checking Facebook.  So Facebook has plenty of regular Android users. And I think Facebook Home is an interesting idea for Facebook and as far as I know Facebook is the first major tech company to develop more than just an app and widget for Android, so good for them for giving it a shot.  And it actually looks pretty cool.

All that being said, I really don’t see that many people using Facebook Home as their primary launcher.  Today’s smartphones serve so many different functions that even if there is an improved Facebook experience, it is not worth the sacrificed functionality and versatility that Android offers.  As I said, I use Facebook and Facebook Messenger a lot.  I also use Gmail, Google Talk, Google Currents, Google Chrome, Google Now/Search, Associated Press, New York Times, Twitter, and Google Play Music daily, and I like to be able to use all of those apps side-by-side.  I know I’ll still be able to access those apps but it seems like they’ll take a back seat to Facebook. While I think Cover Feed and Chat Heads would be fun to use, I don’t see myself giving up my variety of apps just for a better Facebook experience.  I’m also not sure how I feel about posts by people I never talk to occupying my entire homescreen. I will definitely give it a try though, and for anyone else who wants to I recommend Home Switcher to easily switch between launchers and change the default launcher.

For further reading check out Facebook, The Verge, cnet, and The New York Times. And here’s the promo video:

Google Maps is available on iPhone

Today Google’s new Google Maps app for iOS went live in the App Store and features spoken turn-by-turn navigation directions and transit directions, though it is still missing offline functionality found in its Android counterpart. There has been a lot of speculation in the past year over what caused Apple to ditch Google Maps for its native mapping software, and most stories I have read center around turn-by-turn navigation and which party was responsible for its absence. Either way, turn-by-turn navigation is almost a necessary feature at this stage, so I’m glad to see it included in Google Maps.

If I were Apple I’d have mixed feelings on the release of this app – Apple’s Maps app got the company a lot of bad press and even forced Apple to apologize, so on the one hand Apple must be somewhat relieved that its customers now have a solid Maps app and can stop complaining, but at the same time Apple’s Maps would have improved over time, and now with fewer customers using Apple’s Maps, this will be a more difficult task. Personally I think Apple got too much of a late start and is not presently equipped to make a Maps app comparable to that of Google. If that’s the case then I think it is good for Apple that iPhone users will be able to use Google Maps so that in the Android vs. Apple debate that many smartphone buyers go through, the Maps issue will not be a “plus” for Android. And it’s good for Google because it can continue to improve its Maps with more user data and feedback, and it’s good for iPhone users because they will have access to an excellent Maps app. I’m interested in reading more reviews of Google Maps for iPhone, but so far the app sounds pretty good.

Worth noting also is that Google is releasing a Google Maps SDK so that app developers can incorporate Google Maps into their iOS apps.

Technology Week in Review

Apple v. Samsung Patent Litigation:
Things keep getting more and more complicated in this patent battle. Last week Judge Lucy Koh of the United Stated District Court for the Northern District of California granted Apple’s motions for a preliminary injunction banning the sale of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone. This week, Judge Koh denied Samsung’s motions to stay the Galaxy Tab injunction and the Galaxy Nexus injunction. The Galaxy Nexus ban went into effect after Apple posted a $95.6 million bond, which it did on Tuesday after Judge Koh denied Samsung’s motion to stay the injunction. After that, Google pulled the Galaxy Nexus from its Google Play Store, and promised that sales would resume next week after the release of Android Jelly Bean, which would address the unified search patent that was the basis for the injunction. I hope that there is still some form of unified search included in the software update, and the more I have thought about it this week, the more I don’t think it is appropriate for Apple to have a patent on all methods of unified search (for more on the legitimacy and necessity of software patents, see the quotes from Judge Posner, below).

On friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which is especially attuned to handling patent cases, denied Samsung’s motion for an immediate stay of the Galaxy Tab injunction but granted Samsung’s motion for an immediate stay of the Galaxy Nexus injunction. The appellate court directed Apple to respond to both motions to stay by July 12. An important distinction to note is that an immediate stay and a stay are really different forms of relief here, and the grant or denial of a motion for an immediate stay only impacts the time period before the motion for a stay is decided, which will be sometime after Apple responds. So, after Apple responds, the court will grant or deny a stay of the Galaxy Tab injunction and grant or deny a stay of the Galaxy Nexus injunction. But again, according to Google, it sounds like there will be a software update that will allow the Galaxy Nexus to be sold even if the injunction is reinstated. Either way, I would think Samsung – and probably Google – will continue to fight to invalidate the “Siri patent” relating to unified search, as that is really core to Google’s business.

And speaking of the Siri patent, a Chinese company is now claiming it invented and patented that technology and is suing Apple in China.

Judge Posner speaks out about software patents:
Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is a highly-respect jurist, especially in the intellectual property arena. He stopped the Apple v. Motorola patent infringement action, which – no surprise – involved Apple claiming that Motorola used technology patented by Apple in Motorola’s smartphones, from going to trial last month. In his opinion dated June 22, he wrote that Apple’s asserted patent of technology that allows for smoother playback of streaming video “is not a claim to a monopoly of streaming video!” This past week, in the wake of the Apple v. Samsung injunctions, he spoke out against software patents and questioned whether they should even exist. His reasons included that there is already incentive for technology companies to innovate because being the first to market new technology provides enough financial benefit without patent rights to that technology, innovations are cheaper in the technology world than in other areas, there are so many minor patents that go into one device, and because technology companies have so much money to bring infringement actions in an effort to get a competitive advantage, which is not the aim of patent law.

The reason for patent law is to promote invention and innovation by giving inventors the exclusive right to their inventions for a limited time period. In my opinion, these current patent battles hurt innovation because there are so many different technologies that go into a device that it seems almost impossible to make state-of-the-art devices without taking a risk of ending up having to fight a costly patent infringement lawsuit. Maybe companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung, have the funds to take such a risk and the reward for them makes the risk worthwhile, but some smaller companies may feel differently and not bring great technology to market.

Apple settles IPAD trademark dispute in China:
Check out my post from earlier this week for more on this.

The Nexus 7 continues to get good press:
The New York Times writes that the Nexus 7 could be a game-changer and give the iPad a run for its money.

iPad Mini and retooled “new iPad” on the way?
Maybe Apple really has some tricks up its sleeve, or maybe the Nexus 7’s imminent release and rumors of a Kindle Fire 2 have stirred the rumor pot, but this week brought more reports of a smaller “iPad Mini” and a retooled “new iPad” with a new display and thinner casing. According to the reports, both devices could release this year. I guess anything is possible, but I think Apple is pretty consistent with the devices it releases and when it releases them, so I would be surprised if either of these devices come out this year.

Two lighter stories:
Walmart is running a promotion for Energy Sheets, which is a Listerine Strips-like product with caffeine, where it will send Energy Sheets spokesman/rapper Pitbull to whatever US Walmart location gets the most new “likes” on Facebook. Two guys with either a good sense of humor, good taste in music, or both, started an #ExilePitbull campaign to send Pitbull to the most remote Walmart in the country – on Kodiak Island off Alaska. So far the Kodiak Walmart page has over 67,000 “likes,” more than 11 times the Kodiak Island population.

Def Leppard has been at an impasse with its record label over royalties for digital downloads, and as a result, much of Def Leppard’s catalog is not available for digital download in stores like iTunes and Amazon. In order to make their music available without caving in to their record label, Def Leppard has decided to re-record their songs. The band is not at all happy that they had to resort to this and called these new recordings “forgeries.” I listened to the new recording of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and it sounds pretty good, but I agree with the band that it is so hard to re-create recordings from so long ago when the band members were younger and at different stages of their lives than they are now. In the end, though, it’ll get their songs in iTunes and hopefully bring in some revenue and also make it easier for younger music fans who only download music to get exposed to Def Leppard.

Google Unveils Android Jelly Bean, Nexus 7 and Nexus Q, Google+ and Google Play Improvements, and Google Earth 3D Goes Live

Google had a busy day today at its I/O 2012 event and unveiled several new software and hardware offerings.


Android Jelly Bean:
Google unveiled the next version of Android, dubbed “Jelly Bean.” Jelly Bean is more of an incremental update than what we saw with Ice Cream Sandwich, and is aimed at giving a smoother user experience. New Features include improved notifications, better keyboard/predictive text and voice typing, and redesigned search and improved Voice Search. Also, Jelly Bean includes Google Now, which uses “cards” “that get[] you just the right information at just the right time,” whatever that means:

Android Jelly Bean will be released in Mid-July, and will be pushed via OTA updates to Galaxy Nexus (thankfully!), Motorola Xoom, and Nexus S.


Google Unveils the Nexus 7 Tablet:
The Nexus 7 is the first Nexus tablet – a tablet designed with Google’s input – and is built by ASUS. It features a 7″ 1280×800 display, a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, 1 GB RAM, WiFi, BlueTooth, NFC, GPS, micro USB, a 1.2 MP front-facing camera, a 4325 mAh battery with a stated 10 hour life while web browsing and 8 hour life while watching HD movies, and it weighs 340 grams. The device will ship with Jelly Bean, and will be the first device to ship with Google Chrome as the stock browser. It will retail for $199 for the 8 GB model and $249 for the 16 GB model, and there is a limited time offer to receive a $25 Google Play credit with the purchase of a Nexus 7. The device is expected to ship in mid-July.

Judging by the commercial below, the Nexus 7 will tie in with the Google Play Store’s apps, games, music, movies, TV shows, books, and magazines, as well as Google Maps, GMail, Google+, and YouTube. It will be able to do other things, too, but the marketting suggests that it is intended to be a media consumption device to compete with the Kindle Fire.

I think the Nexus 7 looks really good, and the price definitely makes it an appetizing choice for someone looking to buy a tablet. I do wonder, though, with the increase in display size of top-tier Android phones, which range from 4.5″ to 5.5″, whether there will be some consumers who feel that the Nexus 7 is not enough of an increase in size over their smartphones to warrant buying it and carrying it around. I still think even with my 4.65″ Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus 7 would be a nice improvement for reading and watching movies while travelling long distances, and for $199 I’d consider it.


Google Unveils the Nexus Q:
The Nexus Q is a media-streaming device that can connect to a TV, receiver, and/or directly to speakers, and stream content from Google Play Music, Movies, and TV, and YouTube. It is a black sphere with a 4.6″ diameter, with 32 LED lights that move to the music, ethernet, WiFi, micro-HDMI, and amplified stereo speaker outputs (with a 12.5 watt output per channel). It can be controlled by Android phones and tablets (I don’t think there is a free-standing remote for it), and the top half of the dome can be turned to adjust the volume or tapped to mute the volume. The Nexus Q has the ability to let party guests request songs from their own library, and Nexus Qs can also be linked together to provide sound in multiple rooms. The device will retail for $299 and is expected to ship in mid-July. Here’s the commercial:

$299 seems steep to me for this kind of device, especially one that relies solely on Google Play content, which although improving is still limited. Its music capabilities seem to be what Google is marketing, but I really do think if Google added a few more video content channels and/or an AirPlay-like streaming from apps on Android devices, the price tag would be easier to swallow. It is relatively simple to hook a computer, iPod, or phone up to a stereo system, and I don’t think the added music functionality is worth the price. As for movies and television, the iTunes Store, which can be accessed from the $99 Apple TV, has a far better selection than the Google Play Store. If Google could let people watch content from apps on their phones, or maybe even browse the web using their phones and the Nexus Q, then the Nexus Q would be much more enticing to Android users. All that being said, that little sphere would look pretty cool on my entertainment center, but unless I come into a lot of money, I don’t think it is worth the price.

Google Play Store will now carry magazines, television shows, and allow for movie purchases (as opposed to just rentals):
That is self-explanatory, and it is obvious from the Nexus 7 and the Nexus Q that Google is trying to step up their content offerings.

Google Improves Google+:
Google also announced several improvements to Google+. First, there will be a new Google+ app designed for tablets that is attractive and user-friendly, and also a redesigned Google+ app for Android phones. The apps are available for Android devices now and for iPads in the future.

Google also announced new Events functions, including “beautiful invites,” Google Calendar syncing, a “Party Mode” that instantly uploads photos taken during an event to the Event page, and a way for guests to upload photos after the event to the Event page as well.

I like Google+ and think it has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, no matter how great its features are, it will live and die based on the number of people who use it. Right now, less than 10% of my Facebook friends use Google+, and I think those who do “use Google+” only have a profile page and don’t actually visit the site or post updates. So no matter how great the features are – and some Google+ features are awesome – I won’t use Google+ for social networking unless there are people there with whom to network. I’m hoping people start switching to Google+, but I feel most of my friends won’t make the jump as long as they are relatively happy with Facebook.

Google Earth for Android Goes 3D:
The 3D Google Earth functionality went live today in the Google Play Store. The 3D maps cover 14 cities so far, and look pretty good. Surprisingly, New York City, my hometown, is not featured in 3D yet.

Technology Week in Review, June 8, 2012

Here are some of the stories that caught my eye this past week…

Samsung Galaxy S III is coming to all four major US carriers:
Samsung announced that the will be carried on all four major US carriers (and US Cellular). Verizon pre-orders have already begun, and the device can be had in white or blue at $199/$249 for 16GB/32GB version (with a two-year agreement). The Verizon version is expected to ship on July 9, and sometime after that will see a software update that gives it global roaming capabilities. It is coming to Sprint and T-Mobile on June 21 and AT&T on June 18. The biggest change for the US version is that it sports a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor as opposed to the 1.4 GHz Exynos quad-core processor found in Europe. Still, the phone looks great and if I were up for a renewal I’d get it – and I don’t say that out of dissatisfaction for my Galaxy Nexus, which I love, but more out of a desire to always have the newest gadgets. Speaking of the Galaxy Nexus, the Verizon 4G LTE version is now available for one cent on Amazon, presumably due to the Galaxy S III’s imminent Verizon release.

Apple is trying to prevent the sale of the Samsung Galaxy S III in the US:
Apple first requested a preliminary injunction barring sales of the Galaxy S III in the US, and then requested a temporary restraining order. It seems like Apple is trying to argue that the infringements are the same as those found in the Galaxy Nexus, which is the subject of a similar infringement action by Apple, in order to tack on the Galaxy S III claims so that the court can decide more quickly. I don’t know if this will work, and the judge already seems annoyed by this litigation, stating that she can’t be “an Apple v. Samsung judge” and has other matters to attend to. It’s a tough position for a court to be in: on the one hand, a large chunk of Galaxy S III sales and the alleged injury to Apple’s market will occur before a court can properly decide the case, so that favors the court rendering a preliminary decision; but on the other hand, a phone really only has a 3-6 month window during which it is the “hot” phone before being replaced by a newer, better phone, so delaying the release – and pushing it closer to the iPhone 5 fall launch – could really injure Samsung and benefit Apple, so a court should really be hesitant to grant Apple any kind of preliminary relief based only on Apple’s claims.

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is next week:
With Apple’s WWDC – where iOS 6 is expected to be announced – around the corner, BGR previewed what to expect for iOS 6, including a new Maps app. BGR also revealed some new iPhone 5 specs, including that it has a 4.08″ display.

Facebook releases App Center and introduces larger Newsfeed photos, but is “boring” and still getting sued over its IPO:
Facebook’s App Center went live on Thursday with over 600 apps. In other Facebook news, Facebook introduced larger Newsfeed photos, 1 in 3 users said Facebook is “boring,” and Facebook continues to be hit with lawsuits over its disappointing IPO.

Google adds offline maps to Google Maps and 3D imagery to Google Earth:
Google upped the ante on its already-popular mapping services on the eve of Apple announcing its own mapping service in iOS 6. For more on this, check out my post from Wednesday.

Linkedin passwords hacked:
Linkedin confirmed that 6.5 million passwords were compromised and that “hashed” (a form of encryption) versions of the passwords were posted, and some were decrypted and posted in plaint text. No longins or emails were compromised. Linkedin disabled the passwords of the affected accounts and emailed the users of those accounts with instructions, so if you haven’t heard from Linkedin you should be safe (I am, thankfully).