Heads up, Facebookers; there’s a new design update coming to the ubiquitous social networking site. Before it lands in your lap, get a quick overview of what to expect right here, right now.
After overhauling profile pages and search, Facebook’s next task is to revamp the News Feed by reducing clutter and making the site’s main portal even more personal. The site promises “you [will] see all the stories you saw in your News Feed before, but with a fresh new look.” Each story (or post) that your friends share will show up in your News Feed will be highlighted in new ways to make content discovery easier; for example, photos, news articles, maps, and events will appear larger and brighter and more colorful and vibrant. Also new is the addition of several feeds users can choose from. There’s a new drop-down menu in News Feed that allows you to dig deeper into specific content your friends are sharing. For example, the Photos feed filters out everything except for the photos your friends are posting; the Music feed tells you what your friends are listening to and provides you information about the artists you like; and the Following feed will show you the latest news from the Pages you like and the people you follow. Mark Zuckerberg says the enhanced News Feed aims to “give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper we can.”
The new and improved News Feed is inspired by Facebook’s mobile presence. For example, the left-hand menu that users are used to exposing with a flick from the left-hand side of a tablet or smartphone’s screen will soon be accessible in desktop browsers. Also, users will have the ability to jump right to the top of News Feed whenever new stories trickle in. The main reason for porting over these mobile functions is to unify the overall Facebook experience across all devices. The “same clean look” will soon be present on our phones, tablets, and desktop browsers.
When is “soon” exactly? Facebook isn’t providing a hard date for the switchover, but the new News Feed will slowly roll out over the coming weeks on web and mobile, so says the company. If you’re itching to get your hands on the new design, you can join the feature’s waiting list right here; that site will also give you a visual rundown of it all. Facebook employees discuss the inspiration and vision for the News Feed redesign in a brief video embedded after the break.
Flip on your Xbox 360 today and you might find an update waiting for you to download and install. Microsoft releases updates to its video game console every fall and spring, and we’re well into October so this refresh shouldn’t come as a giant surprise. Nor should most of its features since the most prominent ones were highlighted at this year’s E3. But let’s recap. With nearly every update comes a refreshed dashboard with user interface tweaks; overall the design and layout largely remain the same, but you’ll notice that each hub now houses more tiles. Some of them are tailored to your gaming habits, recent activity, and content ratings, while others are merely advertisements. You can create a personalized folder of “pinned” items; you can pin your favorite games, movies, TV shows, and music to an easy-to-access destination on the dashboard. Bing search has been enhanced to allow for search by genre; for example, you can speak to your Kinect and say “Xbox, Bing sci-fi” and related content will show up. And last but not least there’s the introduction of Internet Explorer; Xbox nabs a web browser. Where’s Xbox SmartGlass? Microsoft is holding off on the second-screen experience until Windows 8 launches; when it does users will be able to control their consoles via tablets and smartphones and interact with content in new ways. (Learn more about SmartGlass here.)
Here’s how the rollout will work, according to Xbox’s Major Nelson. “To ensure a stable release, this will be a gradual deployment across subscribers and regions over the course of the next week. Our initial deployment will reach approximately three million consoles worldwide, with additional users being updated over the course of a couple weeks.” So there you go.
Announced separately from this fall’s dashboard update is the rollout of Xbox Music. With Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 on the horizon, Microsoft wants to forget the Zune era and start anew with a cloud-based music service that extends across the desktop/tablet OS, the phone OS, and the home console. Currently Xbox Music is available on Xbox 360. Users will notice a newly branded destination to browse, stream, and download music. In the Music hub there’s an Xbox Music tile that takes you to Microsoft’s collection of 30 million songs. To access the content, users must sign up for an Xbox Music Pass that goes for $9.99/month or $99.90/year. With the Pass, you can stream individual songs and full-length albums, ad-free. A free 30-day trial is offered if you feel so inclined to dip your toe.
When Windows 8 ships later this month on October 26, Xbox Music will be the destination for music consumption from Microsoft there, too. Unlike 360 owners, desktop/tablet users will have free unlimited, ad-supported access to the music database. Purchase an Xbox Music Pass and the ads go bye-bye; and also with the Pass, you’ll be able to save songs for offline listening. A feature called Smart DJ allows you to personalize a radio station based on your favorite artists. Since Xbox Music is a cloud-based service, your entire music collection (including playlists and Smart DJ data) is synced across devices including your desktop/tablet, phone, and console. Start streaming a song on your Xbox, pause it, and continue exactly where you left off on your tablet. You get the idea. Feel the urge to download a song for keeps? Purchase it in the Xbox Music Store, available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.
Speaking of Microsoft’s phone OS, Xbox Music will begin to rollout to WP8 devices as they ship after the OS’ release later this month. Xbox 360′s rules apply to WP8 devices–an Xbox Music Pass is required to access streaming content. To reiterate, free ad-supported streaming is only available to Win8 users. Microsoft notes that they plan to expand the service to other platforms (think Android, iOS) sometime in the future.
In review: your Xbox is about to be injected with new life, and Microsoft is ready to take on the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Spotify with the launch of their very own cloud-based music streaming service and storefront. If you’ve got an Xbox, you can explore Microsoft’s new offerings today; for the rest of you it will come baked in Windows 8 when it releases in just over a week.
The next time you login to Google’s social network things will look entirely different. That’s because the search giant has gone ahead and updated Google+’s interface practically from head to toe. You’ll notice that the static icons that used to live up top have been replace by a dynamic ribbon of applications that are now located to the left. Apps can be organized to your liking and quick actions can be accessed simply by hovering your cursor over them. Your list of Google+ and Gmail Chat buddies can be exposed to the right in a move that mimics Facebook’s sidebar. Other big changes include the Explore app that shows you “what’s hot” and trending on the network and Hangouts now has its very own page dedicated to informing you about open Hangouts you might be interested in joining. The new version of Google+ is currently rolling out to all members of Google’s social spot, so log in and explore the alterations and new additions today. After the break there’s a video highlighting it all.
Mark Zuckerberg announced his social network’s redesigned profile page dubbed Timeline back in September at F8, Facebook’s developer conference. Just shy of three months later and Timeline is out of beta and now available worldwide for Facebook users to see and interact with. The new look is fully detailed at this previous post, and there are a few new things you should know about concerning the rollout of Timeline. Facebook is giving users a 7-day review period once Timeline is activated on an account. This means that you’ll have seven days to review everything that appears on your timeline before anyone else can see it. During this time you can feature and hide stories from your past and get your profile page looking just the way you want it before all your friends view it. Once your Timeline is ready, you can terminate the review period and publish your profile page manually; or you can simply let the week pass and it’ll automatically publish. Timeline is currently rolling out to all Facebook users. If you haven’t received the update yet and want it now, head over to Facebook’s “Introducing Timeline” site and click the Get Timeline button. The redesign is also available to view at m.facebook.com and on the Facebook app for Android. There is no ETA for when the update will reach iOS devices.
Update: That was quick. Facebook just rolled out a new version of the Facebook app for iOS devices (v4.1) and it brings the Timeline experience to iPhones and iPod touches. Timeline support for iPads is still listed as “coming soon.” Note that you will only see Timelines on your mobile device(s) if the feature has already been enabled on the desktop browser-based Facebook. The update also brings access to subscribers and subscriptions and performance improvements.
On Thursday Twitter announced that it’s rolling out another new look for its homepage. This time around, the desktop and mobile experiences are getting simpler and streamlined. (New) New Twitter is organized into four sections: Home, Connect, Discover, and Me. Let’s take a brief tour…
Home is home to your personal collection of tweets. The desktop version is organized into two columns. To the left there’s your personal info including your name, profile picture, your number of tweets, who you’re following, and your followers; there’s also a link to your profile page and a way to quickly compose and send out a tweet. Underneath that you’ll find follower suggestions and the trending topics list. To the right there’s the familiar list of incoming tweets from the people you follow. The new interface allows tweets that are attached with images and videos to expand so you can easily explore embedded media. Replying, retweeting, and favoriting tweets are all just one hover and click away.
Connect acts as a hub very much like the Activity Feed of the old Twitter. It’s the place where you’ll see who has followed or mentioned you, retweeted or favorited one of your tweets. Tweets are organized by Interactions and Mentions. A search bar sits at the top and you can use it to find and discover people by entering their @username or full name.
Discover highlights trending topics and stories that are being talked about on the social network. This section is organized like this: Stories, Activity, Who to follow, Find friends, and Browse categories. Stories that are shown to you are based on recent popularity as well as your connections, location and language. Activity shows everything your connections do related to the accounts that they follow. See who else your connections follow, their lists and what Tweets they favorite, retweet or reply to most. In Discover the search bar at the top allows you to enter a hashtag or keyword to further explore a topic of your choice.
Me servers as your profile page and it can be fully customized from here. A gallery of your recently tweeted photos and videos are stored here, as are your Direct Messages.
The new Twitter design is the network’s most simplistic to date, and best of all it transfers over to the mobile space too. Whether you’re accessing Twitter from a desktop or your cell phone the experience will be nearly identical. How do you enable the new look? Easy! Download and login to the latest versions of Twitter on your iPhone or Android device and then you should be able to access the new desktop version. Twitter says they’re working on rolling it out to all users “over the next few weeks.”
Today Nintendo boosted its 3DS handheld with some fresh functionality. Nintendo said this feature was coming and now it’s finally here: after downloading the free software update, 3DS owners can now have fun with 3D video recording. You can record up to 10 minutes of glasses-free 3D video in continuous or stop-motion style. Another cool new feature is system transfer; if you’ve got a 3DS you can transfer photos, audio recordings and games, including save data, to other 3DS systems. Street Pass Mii Plaza and the Nintendo eShop have been updated as well. Buying and downloading content in the shop has been made easier; you can use your credit card to purchase content by adding only the needed funds, you can choose to Download Now or Download Later, and now there’s the ability to cue up downloadable content and let it install to your system in Sleep Mode. The update also includes something special for Mario Kart 7 players; any time you play online against another Nintendo 3DS owner in MK7, you can now automatically add them to your Friend List without a friend code. And last there’s Nintendo Zone. If you find yourself standing in one of Ninty’s 29,000 3DS hotspot locations you’ll be offered free and automatic access to game previews, 3D videos, trivia challenges, retailer promotions, coupons and more. Dig into the 3DS’ system settings to perform the software update right now.
Gamers, are you ready for dat new New Xbox Experience? Today Microsoft is lifting the veil on the latest dashboard user interface for Xbox 360. And this one’s a doozy. Besides an entirely new “Metro” look to match Windows Phone’s and Windows 8′s skins, the refreshed dashboard introduces expanded voice control with Kinect, Bing voice search, YouTube, enhanced Facebook sharing capabilities, cloud storage, beacons, updated parental controls, and customized applications for televisions, movies, internet videos, sports and music. Starting today, EPIX and TODAY (MSNBC) join Netflix, Hulu Plus, ESPN, and Zune for video offerings in the United States. Later this month, Crackle, iHeartRadio, MSNBC.com, TMZ, UFC, Verizon FiOS TV, VEVO, and Vudo join in on the fun. And in early 2012, CinemaNow, HBO GO, MLB.TV, and Xfinity On Demand will become available to use on Xbox 360s. Soon, Microsoft’s four-year-old console is going to transform into a viable destination for nearly all of your entertainment needs. With all of these options to watch TV and movies and listen to music, playing games will suddenly become a just a part of what Xbox 360 is all about. Add in some refined Kinect voice and motion support and you’ll finally get a taste of what living in the future is really like. This dashboard update is certainly something to be excited about. Get your download on today by simply booting up your Internet-connected 360.
In related news, Microsoft has also outed the Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone users. The free app allows you to search the Xbox catalog for movies, TV shows, music, games, and apps right on your phone and view detailed content information. You can even pair your phone to your console and beam purchased content from one device to the other. Content playing from your 360 can be controlled via your phone (play, pause, rewind, fast-forward), and you can navigate the new dash using your phone’s touchscreen instead of a controller if you so desire. Download the free Companion app today.
Update: Microsoft has decided to share the wealth and offer a similar companion app for iOS users. iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch owners running iOS 4.3 or higher can install My Xbox LIVE. The free app allows you to log into your Xbox LIVE account to read and send messages to friends, manage your friends list, read and edit your full profile, customize your avatar, and view and compare your achievement progress with friends. Sadly, you won’t be able to search the Xbox catelog–this biggie is only available for Windows Phones for obvious reasons. Download the iOS edition at the App Store.
The folks at Mountain View are constantly working hard to bring new experiences to the Internet, as well as updating the ones we use most. You know that horizontal (recently painted black) navigation bar that rests at the top of every Google webpage, including the search homepage? Well, it’s going away to save screen real estate and unify all that Google has to offer. The new Google bar isn’t a bar at all, really. It’s comprised of three sections: Google menu, Search, and Google+ tools. All three of these sections will be found in the spot location across all of Google’s products. The Google menu is accessed by hovering your mouse over the Google logo in the left hand corner, saving you a click to reach Google’s other products like Images, Maps, and Gmail. Search sits in the top middle, and easy access to Google+ tools is on the right. Navigating Google, searching, and sharing links with friends is now a more streamlined and cleaner experience. The new Google bar is rolling out soon.
After months of testing a new layout dubbed “Cosmic Panda” Google has finally rolled out an updated look for YouTube. First off, the homepage is totally redesigned and built to be customized to your liking. To the left you’ll find a YouTube Channel line-up. If you’re signed in with a Google account the setup is like this: a list of your Subscriptions, including Google+ and Facebook social integration; From YouTube categories, including trending and popular videos; and Suggested channels for you. To add a channel to your list simply click the Add channels buttons up top to be directed to a listing of all video categories; subscribing to channels from there is a one-click process. Back on the homepage, when you click a channel from your line-up content will appear in the center of the page. Instead of navigating you to an entirely new URL, the new YouTube homepage keeps you in one place while you’re browsing content. Play a video and then you’ll be brought to the uploader’s channel so you can watch the video and comment on it. Speaking of channels, Google has updated those spaces as well with new templates and a sharper layout. And with inspiration from Cosmic Panda, Google has opted to stick with the trial’s consistent gray background, bigger video thumbnails, and a more streamlined watch page. The new YouTube is available to play with today; sign in with a Google account to customize.
Last, Google has produced an interesting video that tells the “short history of the evolution of search, highlighting some of the most important milestones from the past decade—and a taste of what’s coming next.” Watch it after the break. There you’ll also find videos highlighting the new Google bar and YouTube’s cosmetic transformation.
Before the fall dashboard updates arrives to Internet-connected Xbox 360s, Microsoft flipped the switch on updating its Xbox website. The homepage has been revamped to feature content in the “Metro”-style layout that is coming to Xbox and with Windows 8. The “My Xbox” section of the website has been renamed “Social” and this is the new destination where gamers will go to login to their Xbox Live profiles away from the their consoles. The updated Xbox Live portal is organized in four categories. Home gives gamers a quick glimpse at their recent activity, their friends’ recent activity, online friends, messages, Xbox Live events and related news. Friends provides a list of all your Xbox Live friends, online and off. In Messages you can read and send messages to your friends. And in the Activity section you can view your recent activity, out of your friends who recently played the games you did, and you can view all of your played games, achievements, and gamerscore information. Also in this section you can set Beacons, a marker that notifies your friends that you want to play a certain game with them. You can have up to three Beacons active at a time, and you can add custom descriptions. For example, you can set a Beacon for Halo 3 and add a description like “Let’s play from 7-10 PM.” No matter where you navigate in Social, your avatar will follow you, as will links to view your account, redeem codes, add Microsoft Points, view your Download Queue, and visit your profile. In addition to updating the My Xbox section of the site, Xbox Live members can now browse, preview, and download media such as movies and TV shows in a browser and this content will be attached to your Live account; this means that all downloaded media can be viewed on any PC, Xbox 360, and Windows Phone that your Live account is connected to. Check out the new Social portal at Xbox.com right now!
[Via Xbox Forums]
Kindle Fire, meet your head-to-head competition. Today Barnes & Noble announced their latest e-reader, the Nook Tablet. On the outside, the Nook Tablet looks nearly identical to its predecessor the Nook Color. This time around, it’s almost entirely what’s on the inside that really counts. The Tablet is fast, packing a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. The 7-inch multitouch screen (1024 x 600) displays 16 million colors ultra-bright and features full IPS lamination to reduce reflection and glare and offer extra-wide viewing angles and clarity. The display can play full HD 1080p content. Battery life is quite impressive, too. The Tablet offers up 11.5 hours of reading time or 9 hours of video viewing. There’s 16GB of onboard storage, and this can be expanded with an SD card. Built-in WiFi allows for web surfing and downloading books, magazines, newspapers, comic books, apps and other content. (Note that though the Tablet runs Android Gingerbread, users will not have access to the Android Marketplace.) It’s thinner than the Color weighing in at 14.1 ounces and it features a soft touch back design. A built-in microphone allows users to take advantage of the new Read and Record feature which allows parents to record narration and let their kids play it back when they’re reading their favorite stories. The newest Nook also sees an upgrade in entertainment selection. It comes preloaded with Netflix and Hulu Plus apps for movie and TV show selections (Flixster with UltraViolet is coming soon) and Pandora, Rhapsody, Grooveshark, and MOG are available for streaming music.
During their press event, B&N highlighted their Tablet’s advantages over Kindle’s Fire. In addition to featuring a better display with superior viewing angle, more than 2X the memory, a lighter design, more RAM, and better content rendering, Nook Tablet owners will also have the assurance that if they ever need product support they can visit a local Barnes & Noble store to resolve their issue. That is something Amazon sadly can never offer as it is strictly an e-tailer. The Nook Tablet is now up for preorder at $249 and it releases next week on November 18. That is a fat $50 more than the direct competition coming from Amazon, so be careful when you’re shopping this holiday season.
Besides announcing the Nook Tablet, B&N also took time to refresh and make cheaper their other e-readers. The new and improved Nook Color will ship with B&N’s “largest software update ever” that will bring Netflix, Hulu Plus, and music streaming apps to the device, as well as a refreshed library and enhanced shopping experience. The new Color ships this December at $199. Existing owners of the Color will automatically receive the update at no cost over WiFi next month. And finally there’s the tried and true Nook, now renamed the Nook Simple Touch. It will also come preloaded with a software update that will enable better battery life (users can read for up to 2 months for one hour a day). The update, which is now available for existing Nook owners to download, also makes the screen crisper and the page turn rate faster. The rebranded Nook Simple Touch is available to buy today at a low $99 with “no annoying ads.” Stings a bit, doesn’t it Amazon? Game on.
This week Sony announced an overhaul for PlayStation Home, an avatar-based gathering place for the PS3 gaming community. The new Home experience revolves around the following new “genre-based districts”: Action District (a gathering place for hardcore gamers), Sportswalk (for sports fanatics), Adventure District (for Uncharted 3 fans), Pier Park (for arcade gameplay), PlayStation Home Theater (features videos tailored specifically for PlayStation gamers), and PlayStation Home Mall (sells avatar items and other downloadable content). Along with a new futuristic Hub and an integrated Activity Board, the upgraded Home will offer up a slew of free-to-play game titles “based
upon a freemium business model” including a FPS called Bootleggers ’29, a racer RC Rally, and a puzzler Cogs. For a quick preview, jump after the break to watch a video tour of the revamped virtual hangout; the full PR is pasted directly below it. After that, fire up your PS3 and roam free!
Today Google flipped the switch and transformed Gmail with a new look. It was previewed back in July and now it’s ready for primetime. The navigation panel on the left is more customizable; you can resize the labels and chat areas depending on which section you access most often. Search has been upgraded, too. The search box up top now features a drop box with helpful options that should make finding exactly what you’re looking for easier and faster. You can also create filters from search queries. Emails have been aesthetically transformed to look like streamlined conversations. Profiles pictures for your contacts show up inside emails and unneccesary text has been stripped out of view making reading a conversation a better experience. In addition, Google has figured out a way to make the Gmail window fit your screen perfectly; the spacing between elements on the screen will automatically change based on the kind of display you’re using. In the settings menu, you can play around with display density and manually select “comfortable,” “cozy,” and “compact” views. Last, the Gmail team has added high resolution themes to the mix. They say most of the popular themes have been upgraded to HD, so the switch on your end should happen automatically. The new look has rolled out to everyone today; to enable it simply click the “Switch to the new look” link located at the bottom right in Gmail. There’s a brief video highlighting these changes after the break.
Update (11/3): Today Google finally released an official Gmail app for iOS devices. Google says they’ve “combined your favorite features from the Gmail mobile web app and iOS into one app so you can be more productive on the go.” The Gmail app promises to bring speed, efficiency, and optimized touch input to the table. The iPad version takes advantage of the larger display, naturally. Moments after Google released the Gmail app into the wild, unfortunately, they pulled it from the App Store due to “a bug which broke notifications.” As soon as the app returns to the Store you will be notified.
Update 2 (11/16): And it’s back! Get your download on right here.
Updating Google TV just wasn’t enough for the G-Men. Around the same time Google announced the forthcoming GTV updates, they flipped a switch and introduced four additions to their social network project known as Google+. First, they’ve stolen a page out of Twitter’s playbook and Paris Hilton’s vocabulary to come up with a “What’s Hot” trending topics section. Users can now search and view the most popular items being shared on the network. Next, Google is giving users the opportunity to watch shared content spread across the social network with Google+ Ripples. Described as a “visualization tool for public shares and comments,” Ripple will allow users to zoom in on shared events and identify top contributors. If this “experimental” feature sounds interesting to you, give it a spin! The Google+ Creative Kit has been added to the Photos section of the site. The kit provides users with more ways to edit and personalize uploaded photos. Last, the company has announced that Google+ is now available to all Google Apps customers worldwide. Read more about it at Google’s Enterprise blog. All of the new updates described here have already rolled out to users, so if you’ve got an account check ‘em out. Video after the break.
Update (11/3): Today Google baked YouTube functionality inside Google+. Login to your Google+ account and you’ll find a new YouTube icon hanging out in at the top right of the screen. When you wave your cursor over it, it’ll expand and ask you ”What would you like to play?” Enter a query and Google will automatically play a related video and generate a playlist of related videos in a separate window. You can easily share YouTube videos with your friends on the network, and they in turn can open a related playlist directly from your post. Also, YouTube playlists will now reveal themselves in Google+ search results.
Update (11/7): And the Google+ updates keep on coming. Today Google rolled out Google+ Pages worldwide. In simplest terms, Pages are profiles for businesses and brands. They look and function almost exactly like individual profiles. A shiny badge is plastered on Pages to distinguish them from regular users. Beyond that, sharing information, circle relationships, Hangouts–it’s all the same. Pages will now show up in Google+ search results. Additionally, Pages will show up in standard Google search results when you add the “+” before your query. For example, when you type “+Pepsi” in Google and hit enter, you will instantly be taken to Pepsi’s Google+ Page. Google’s calling this Direct Connect. Watch it in action after the break, then give it a go on your own.
Google admits that their initial attempt at meshing television and the Internet “wasn’t perfect.” On Friday the company laid out their plans for Google TV 2.0 and their hope is that with the new software additions and refinements, customers will be more enticed to purchase a GTV box or compatible TV set if they haven’t already done so. At the official Google TV blog, the development team divided the changes into four categories. First, the user interface has undergone a cosmetic facelift and is now “much simpler” to navigate. The new customizable home screen displays favorite apps across the bottom of the screen and an “all apps” folder allows users to quickly browse every pre-installed and added app. Next up is refined search. There’s a new app called “TV & Movies” that allows users to “easily browse through 80,000 movies and TV episodes across cable or satellite, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and many other sites.” Before, the search box allowed users to type a query to make it easier to find a specific TV show. While that search box remains present, the TV & Movies app–which aggregates content from all kinds of services including live TV and Internet-based locations–makes exploring and discovering content in one place a reality. Third is an enhanced YouTube experience. YouTube videos are now available to watch in HD and the video service is more closely integrated with Google TV search. For example, when users search “hysterical baby” they will be able to save the search results as a “channel” to access any time. And last but certainly not least is the addition of Android Market. Google says that “Android developers can now bring existing mobile apps or entirely new ones to TV.” Obviously apps requiring a touch screen, GPS, or telephony will not be made available for download on Google TV devices, but Google claims that “50 developers have seeded the Market with cool and useful apps” made specifically for use on a TV. As in all app markets, the selection will grow over time. Another update to GTV includes the ability to view online pictures in a new Photos app.
According to Google the update to Google TV will rollout to compatible devices made by Sony first starting this week and then it’ll make its way to Logitech’s Revue sometime after. Google promises that more software updates are on the way, “as well as new devices on new chipsets from multiple hardware partners.” With Google’s TV efforts evolving and speculation that Apple is about to enter the fray, the Internet on the TV initiative is just heating up. See what the new Google TV interface looks like in the gallery below. Video after the break.
On Tuesday newly appointed Apple CEO Tim Cook hosted a press event to launch the next iPhone and detail the new version of iOS and the upcoming iCloud service. Breakdown, commence.
The successor to the iPhone 4 is not the iPhone 5; it’s the iPhone 4S. It serves as an incremental upgrade to its predecessor much like the iPhone 3GS was to the iPhone 3G. The exterior design of the handset remains the same; the changes can be found on the inside. The 4S packs the same processor originally designed for the iPad 2: Apple’s dual-core A5 chip. The company says that users can expect speeds up to 2X faster than the previous iPhone. In addition, the 4S also contains a new dual-core GPU that renders graphics up to 7X faster than the iPhone 4. At the keynote games developer Epic previewed Infinity Blade 2 (out December 1) and it looks magnificent.
After speed, Apple went on to upgrade the device’s camera. The 4S sports a new 8 megapixel camera. The sensor has 60 percent more pixels allowing users to shoot 3264 x 2448 photos with crisp detail. CMOS backside illuminated allows for 73 percent more light, a hybrid IR filter allows for better color accuracy and uniformity, a five element lens setup allows for 30 percent more sharpness, auto white balance has been improved by 26 percent, and a larger f/2.4 aperture is now featured. Also, the Camera app launches much faster and the shot to shot capability is twice as fast as before; it now takes 1.1 seconds to shoot your first photo and then 0.5 seconds for each additional shot. According to Apple’s research, these speeds blaze past the Android competition. And there’s this: the backside camera shoots video in full 1080p HD resolution and features real-time video image stabilization and temporal noise reduction helps in low light conditions.
The phone’s antenna system has also been tweaked. The dual-antenna design of iPhone 4 remains, but now it can intelligently switch between both antennas to transmit and receive data more efficiently. This results in the device’s ability to download data up to twice as fast as before (HSDPA performance: 14.4 Mbps down, 5.8 Mbps up) and you can expect better call quality. The 4S is a world phone, meaning GSM and CDMA technologies are built in and users can roam internationally on both networks.
And then there was the “one more thing…” Apple announced Siri, the device’s “intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking.” With the iPhone 4, holding down the home button will prompt the phone to initiate the rather crude voice-activated menu where you can say things like “Call Home” or “Play Kanye West.” Siri takes this to an entirely new level of awesome. Apple designed Siri to “understand context allowing you to speak naturally when you ask it questions.” Here are some examples to help illustrate. You can ask Siri “What is the weather like today?” and it will display the current temperature with visual aid. Then you can ask for an “hourly forcast” and it will provide that information, too. You can also say things like “Wake me up at 6AM”, “Find me a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto”, “Give me directions to Hoover Tower”, and “Schedule lunch at Friday on noon with John Smith” and Siri will answer you intelligently. It will access the clock app to set an alarm; it will search the ‘Net for Greek restaurants and sort them by Yelp customer ratings; it will launch Maps and provide directions; and it will look into your calendar and create events for you (if there’s an event that clashes with the new one you’re attempting to make, Siri will inform you about this and ask if you want to reschedule one of them). And the hands-free interaction doesn’t end there. Siri has access to many of the apps preloaded on the 4S. You can make Siri read aloud your text messages and emails and it’s also integrated with Reminders, Safari (“Search Wikipedia for Neil Armstrong”) and Wolfram Alpha’s database (“Define mytosis”). An information pane inside the Siri interface will provide users with a list of prompts they can use. And when you ask Siri “Who are you?” it’ll answer “I am a humble personal assistant.” Ha, try it! It also does dictation; a new mic icon is now part of the virtual keyboard. Siri is an iPhone 4S exclusive, and it works over WiFi and 3G. At launch it’ll remain in beta and support English, French, and German; Apple promises over time additional languages and services will be added.
The iPhone 4S, which will ship with iOS 5 and iCloud services, releases October 14 and is now available for preorder. It’ll sell in black and white flavors at the following price points: 16GB: $199, 32GB: $299, 64GB: $399, all with new two-year contracts of course. Additionally, Sprint joins AT&T and Verizon Wireless to become a carrier of the iPhone. (Note that the iPhone 4 will continue to sell at a new low price point of $99 (8GB) and the iPhone 3GS (8GB) can be picked up at no cost. When the 4S ships on the 14th it’ll release in the US, Canada, Austrailia, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan; on the 28th it’ll make it’s way to 22 more countries and by December 2011 it’ll sell in over 70 countries and with over 100 carriers. Apple claims this’ll be the fastest rollout ever for an iPhone.
iOS 5, iCloud, and iPods after the break. (Click here for more…)
Facebook redesigns profile pages with Timeline, partners with app developers to make things more social
Hot off the heels of updating the News Feed and adding the Ticker, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced more changes coming to the social network at today’s F8 developer conference.
Your profile page is about to undergo an extreme makeover. The page is becoming wider to offer up more content at a glance and it will house three distinct sections: Cover, Stories, and Apps. Your Cover is dominated by an enlarged image, something that is separate from your profile picture and better expresses who you are. Your Cover can be personalized at any time and with any image you uploaded to Facebook. This section of the profile also shows off your About info (where you live, where you went to school, your job, your relationship status, etc.) and it also gives your friends a quick glance at your total number of friends, photos, likes, etc. Directly below that section is your Stories; this is an enhanced version of your Wall and it’s defined by an integrated Timeline. The Timeline makes it easier to highlight and go back to older posts. Up until the introduction of this new interface, the only way to see go back and see post from the past is to scroll all the way down to the bottom of your profile page and click “Older posts.” Users are forced to keep clicking that link to dig into the past. With Timeline, the past is easier to rediscover with the ability to highlight past memories that you don’t want people to forget happened so fast. All the content you ever posted on Facebook can be scrubbed through by date (month, year). And the Timeline is totally customizable; you can go back to a particular date and add events and pictures that you might have forgotten to post at the time they occurred. You can mark (or “star”) your favorite stories and these will expand to widescreen so your friends can see them more clearly. You can also remove the stories you want to hide. In addition to your Stories, the Timeline section of your profile page will also highlight apps.
Facebook has offered apps in the past, but never like this. Zuckerberg and company have teamed with more than a handful of third-party developers to make apps more social on Facebook. Here’s an example: You’re an avid user of the new music streaming service Spotify and you’ve connected your Facebook account to your Spotify account. Since you’ve been using Spotify when it launched earlier this summer in the US, you’ve been listening to tunes and sharing what kind of music you listen to with your friends over Facebook. Today Facebook is bringing the listening and sharing experience to a whole new level. When you tell Spotify to share your listening habits to your Facebook friends, not only will they see what you are listening to but they’ll also be able to play the song directly within Facebook (granted your friends also signed up for Spotify). This will make music discovery simpler and definitely more social. And the world of social apps only begins with music. Facebook also partnered with major developers like Netflix, CNN, Kobo, and Foodily to make sharing what movies you’re watching, news and books you’re reading, and recipes you’re cooking a whole lot more engaging. The social apps you use regularly will show up in your friends’ News Feeds and Tickers and of course inside your profile page on your Timeline alongside the rest of your Stories.
In sum, Facebook wants your profile page to evolve into “the story of your life.” It will become the place where you and your friends can see what you’re all about and discover your life accomplishments as they happen. And with social apps, you and your friends will have greater access to sharing and engaging in conversation around similar interests you may never have known existed. Users tend to lambast Facebook for messing around with the interface on a regular basis, but it’s tough (at least for me) to deny the sheer amount of potential social apps have for the future of online interaction and discovery. And with Timeline, you won’t have to worry about your most exciting and interesting posts getting lost in the past. Of course, it’s tough to say how effective all of this is going to be without having played around with it. Facebook says social apps are rolling out today and the new profile design is going out to developers now and will slowly trickle out to all users soon. For now click here to view a sample “New Profile” and start getting used to the future of social networking.
In May Microsoft previewed the first major upgrade to its rejuvenated mobile OS. Mango will bring multitasking, IE9, and deeper social network integration, among other things, to Windows Phone 7 devices. This fall, AT&T intends to upgrade their entire WP7 portfolio to Mango. Nice! But there’s more. In a press release (in full after the break), Ma Bell also announced three brand new handsets that will ship with Mango on board in Q4. The new and improved Samsung Focus S features a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, 1.4GHz processor, a rear facing 8 megapixel camera and a front facing 1.3 megapixel, ”4G”-capable speeds, and a thin profile at 8.55 millimeters. The Focus Flash downgrades things a bit and packs a smaller 3.7-inch Super AMOLED screen, a 5 megapixel camera with front facing camera, but it keeps the speedy 1.4 GHz processor. And finally the large-and-in-charge HTC Titan features a 4.7-inch display, 1.5 GHz processor, and 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash. Pricing and exact available will have to wait.
Update: Microsoft shows off a bunch of Mango’s new features in dramatic video fashion after the break.
The ESPN app on Xbox Live is getting its first major update since it launched last summer. The dashboard can be customized to feature your favorite sports teams so fans can see a daily feed of news and highlights from those specific teams; the addition of the ESPN BottomLine keeps fans in the know with breaking news and score updates; a Mini Guide can be called up from the bottom of the screen to give fans a preview and quick access to personalized sports content; and Reminders and Live Alerts can be set. Two new features that stand out are Split Screen and Voice Control with Kinect. Fans can watch two events at once (i.e. watch ESPN3.com live events on both screens or a live event on one while catching up on ESPN.com news and highlights on the other) and they can navigate through the Content Guide, skip to the next highlight, or play, pause, and rewind plays through voice control.
Remember that access to ESPN3.com live events is only available to customers of an affiliated service provider; if you’ve got that and you’re an Xbox LIVE Gold Member you’re set! Screenshots below, demo videos and full PR after the break.
A couple months after updating the MacBook Pros, Apple has gone ahead and reinvigorated their MacBook Air and Mac mini products. The thin-and-light ultraportable notebook now boasts faster Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, the high-speed Thunderbolt I/O port, and a backlit keyboard. The 11-inch model is available in two customizable SKUs. The base $999 model packs a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 2GB of memory, 64GB of flash storage, and Intel HD Graphics 3000. The $1,199 model upgrades the memory to 4GB and the flash storage to 128GB. Moving along to the 13-inch model, two additional SKUs are offered. The $1,299 model features a 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB memory,128GB flash storage, and Intel HD Graphics 3000. The $1,599 model upgrades the flash storage to 256GB. Certain models can be customized to feature Intel Core i7 processors (up to 1.8GHz) and upgraded flash memory (up to 256GB). The new incredibly thin MacBook Air measures 0.11-inches at its thinnest point and 0.68-inches at its thickest. Apple claims it is is up to twice as fast as the previous generation thanks to the upgraded Intel processors. The 11-inch model (at 2.38 pounds) provides up to 5 hours of battery life, while the 13-inch model (2.96 pounds) offers up to 7 hours of battery life. It comes with a full size backlit keyboard and an improved glass Multi-Touch trackpad. Ports include MagSafe for power, 2 USB 2.0, headphone jack, Thunderbolt, and an SD Card slot (on the 11-inch model only). WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 are included; the USB Ethernet Adapter ($29) can be purchased separately. Note that the $999 MacBook Air is the base laptop Apple offers today; the white plastic MacBook has been discontinued.
Like the newly enhanced MacBook Air, the Mac mini is speedier and packs Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and the Thunderbolt port. Additionally, graphics can be upgraded to AMD Radeon HD. Three SKUs are offered. The base $599 model comes with 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 2GB memory, 500GB hard drive, and Intel HD Graphics 3000. The $799 model upgrades the processor to 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, the memory to 4GB, and the graphics to AMD Radeon HD 6630M. These two SKUs can be customized to feature upgraded memory (up to 8GB) and hard drive space (up to 750GB); the pricier SKU can be configured with a 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i7. The third and final SKU is the Mac mini with Lion Server and its specs include: 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 4GB memory, Dual 500GB 7200-rpm hard drives, and Intel HD Graphics 3000 for $999; memory and hard drive capacities can be upgraded. Ports include Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire 800, HDMI, Thunderbolt, 4 USB 2.0, SDXC card slot, and audio in/out. WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 included. Notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about the Superdrive; that’s because Apple’s decided not to include a CD/DVD drive in the new Mac mini. A bold move if you ask me. BYO keyboard, mouse, and display.
Speaking of displays, in addition to updating their computers Apple has also given their Cinema Display a minor refresh. The newly branded 27-inch Thunderbolt Display features the 16:9 edge-to-edge glass design, a 2560 x 1440 resolution with IPS technology (that is, an ultra wide 178 degree viewing angle), and it’s the world’s first display to include the Thunderbolt I/O port. The display also includes includes a built-in FaceTime HD video camera for video conferencing, a 2.1 speaker system for high quality audio, an integrated MagSafe charger to keep Mac notebooks charged, three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, and one Gigabit Ethernet port. The cost is $999.
All three products–the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and Thunderbolt Display–are all available today. The new computers come preinstalled with Apple’s latest and greatest operating system Mac OS X Lion. Get a closer look at everything in the galleries below. Official PR sits after the break.
You can call it Exteme Makeover: Google Edition. Over the past few weeks Google has been rolling out a new look across many of their services, including the Google homepage, Gmail, Google Calendar, and YouTube. “The way people use and experience the web is evolving, and our goal is to give you a more seamless and consistent online experience—one that works no matter which Google product you’re using or what device you’re using it on,” explains Google. In a word they’re simply streamlining all their intertwined experiences, and the changes are ” founded on three key design principles: focus, elasticity and effortlessness.”
At Google‘s homepage you’ll surely notice the new black strip located across the top; the colorful logo is smaller and centered, the Search and Lucky buttons have a new hue, and the About, Privacy, and Advertising links have been moved to the bottom left-hand corner of the page. In Gmail and Calendar everything is bolder and more roomier to match the new homepage aesthetic. Design cues were certainly carried over from Google+. Google’s also experimenting with YouTube’s look; Cosmic Panda is the codename for the video player’s new sheen. YouTube is positively sleek in its new coat of paint.
Google’s homepage and Calendar changes have been rolling out to users automatically. To experience Gmail and YouTube’s new flairs you must enable it manually. In Gmail, select “Preview” and “Preview (Dense)” themes in the Themes tab in Gmail Settings; to play around with Cosmic Panda head over to this YouTube portal and click “Try it out.” Since Google’s still testing it out and awaiting customer feedback, you can revert back to the classic look at any time.
It will take time for every Google service to fall in line aesthetically with the new homepage, but there’s no denying that Google’s first wave of cosmetic changes is simply delightful and, well, downright sexy.