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Sound-isolating headphones let you really hear your own voice

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Image: Mashable, Pete Pachal

LAS VEGAS — Have you ever worn noise-canceling headphones and wished they were, you know, not so noise-canceling?

That’s the idea behind OnVocal Mix360, a pair of behind-the-neck headphones that let you adjust exactly what you hear.

The headphones themselves are sound-isolating, passively blocking out most ambient noise. But the magic happens when you pair your Mix360 with the accompanying app (iOS and Android), which lets you adjust the levels of the three sounds you’re experiencing: the music you’re listening to, the ambient noise and your own voice.

OnVocal Mix360 app
The Mix360 app has sliders for adjusting exactly how much ambient noise you want to hear.

Image: Mashable, Pete Pachal

You control all three inputs with sliders on the app. When you make an adjustment, the Mix360’s three microphones go to work, bringing in the sounds you want to hear — similar to Bose’s noise-canceling earbuds.

You might want to go completely music-only for the duration of a subway ride, for example, but then turn up the ambient noise when you get to where you’re going — to avoid any unfortunate collisions.

Trying out the Mix360 at CES 2105, I came away impressed with how well it did its job. It did take a second for the adjustments to kick in — but when they did, a noise-filled ballroom went from muffled to crystal clear. There is a bit of artificiality to the sound at first, but that sensation quickly goes away.

When you turn up your own voice, you’re in for a surprise. The headphones render it in the way that others hear it, not you. “Do I really sound like that?” will likely be your first question.

The Bluetooth device is rated at 9 hours of battery life for music listening. The Mix360 will be available in May, but you might not like the sound of the price tag: $299.

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Microsoft: Yes, We’re Bringing Back the Start Menu

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Image: Mashable, Pete Pachal

In a surprise announcement, Microsoft said it would bring back the Start Menu to the Windows desktop. It’s not a part of the coming Windows 8.1 Update, but will come in a future upgrade.

Microsoft’s Terry Myerson showed off the new version of the Start Menu to an audience of developers at Build 2014 as he explained that users would be able to find apps via the menu. Users would also be able to run Modern (aka “Metro”) apps within windows on the desktop.

In a demo, Myerson showed that the new Start Menu looks similar to as it did in Windows 7, but it includes a minimized version of the Start screen right beside it.

The Start Menu’s return follows Microsoft’s announcement that apps across all its consumer platforms can now be “universal,” meaning they will run across phones, tablets and PCs with little to no re-coding.

For developers, universal Windows apps have clear benefits. It means a developer needs only create a Windows app once, then make minimal adjustments to them to optimize the experience for devices with different screens and capabilities, since the platforms share APIs, security and other resources.

For users, the benefit is a consistent experience across every device they have running Windows software. Another plus: You won’t have to buy the app again and again if you want it on both your phone and tablet.

Microsoft said the Xbox One would also be able to run universal Windows apps, although it didn’t give a timeframe.

Microsoft also announced new tools for to help develop apps across other platforms, introducing WinJS, or Windows library for javascript, an open-source resource that will help developers make Windows apps that work on the web, iOS and Android, too.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/04/02/universal-windows-apps/

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RIP YouTube iPhone App, 2007-2012 — Why You Won’t Be Missed

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Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Back when the iPhone first launched, there was a joke about the YouTube app on it. One nerd, or tech reviewer, would describe it as a “dumbed-down YouTube experience.” To which another would shoot back: “is that even possible?”

Well, here we are, five years later. YouTube the service has gotten a whole lot stronger and smarter in so many ways (as well as a whole lot dumber in some of its corners — something which turns out to be exceedingly and eternally possible).

But the iPhone app, even transplanted to the iPad, has stayed exactly as dumb as it always was. It’ll find the YouTube content you want a third of the time, if you’re lucky. They should call it YouRoulette, because you never know what a search might bring.

No wonder iPhone users in the know long ago switched to simply going to m.youtube.com on Safari, where a lot more stuff is available. When I heard about that fix, I was mad as hell at myself for all the wasted time on the app.

And from whom did I hear it? From YouTube staffers themselves. Even they didn’t believe in the thing.

So it’s really not such a bummer to hear Monday’s news — Apple has dumped the YouTube app from the next iPhone/iPad operating system, iOS 6. It’s ostensibly because “our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended,” according to an Apple spokesperson.

I’m sure it has, but I’m also sure Apple couldn’t be more relieved about that. This is a company that cares about great design, about stuff that just works, and the YouTube app was never that. It was so hobbled, it reminded me of the awful old WAP mobile web browsers that Apple effectively destroyed with the iPhone.

I’m also sure it’s just a coincidence that Apple is distancing itself from Google in general, for example replacing the Google Maps app in iOS6 with its own (called, confusingly enough, Maps). If you want the Google Maps iPhone app, chances are you’ll have to download it again — though what we don’t know is whether you’ll be able to make it the default for maps.

We do know that Google is working on a new YouTube app, according to the same Apple source. We’re still waiting for confirmation from YouTube.

Regardless, we’ll soon see the end of an app experience so poor, it couldn’t have made the iPhone look worse if the Android team had planted it there.

You’ll notice it’s one of the few original apps you can’t actually delete on your iPhone? Consider it deleted now, and good riddance.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/06/rip-youtube-iphone-app-2007-2012-why-you-wont-be-missed/

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Apple Patents the Virtual Page Turn

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Apple is now the proud owner of the page turn.

In a patent approved this week by the United States Patent Office Apple was awarded a design patent for “Display screen or portion thereof with animated graphical user interface.”

The patent illustration shows three images: One with the corner of a page being turned slightly, the next with it halfway, and a third showing the page almost entirely turned over.

A feature used in Apple’s iBooks, and books in general, the patent represents one of 38 different patents granted to Apple this week.

The New York Times points out that this isn’t the first “seemingly obvious” patent that Apple has been awarded. Previously the company was granted a patent for the musical note icon it uses to represent iTunes and the glass staircase it uses it stores.

Over the past several years Apple has made quite a few headlines for its involvement in patent suits against other device makers.

Earlier this year Apple won a patent lawsuit against Samsung, walking away with $1 billion in restitution, and has recently made moves to go after Samsung products that were released after that court ruling, including the Galaxy Note 10.1.

Earlier this week it settled a different patent case with handset maker HTC with a 10-year licensing agreement of patents held by both companies reportedly requiring HTC to pay Apple $6-$8 per Android handset it sells.

Should Apple have been awarded a patent for the page turn? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Thumbnail Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kertlis Patent Image: US Patent and Trademark Office

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/16/apple-page-turn-patent/

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Microsoft Plans to Ship Up to 5 Million Surface Tablets This Quarter

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It has been a busy week for the tablet industry — and it’s just Tuesday.

Apple sent out an invitation to a press event where the iPad mini is believed to be released, casting a shadow on Microsoft’s Surface ship date, coming Oct. 26.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Microsoft placed an order for 3 million to 5 million tablets, similar to amount of tablets orders placed for Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Component suppliers have also said that Apple placed orders for 10 million smaller versions of the iPad.

As the battle for the tablet market reaches a peak this month, the Pew Research Center announced than 25% of Adults in the U.S. own a tablet computer.

Which are you more excited for, the Surface or the suspected iPad Mini? Let us know in the comments.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/16/surface-tablets/

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Motorola Unveils Kevlar-Clad Atrix HD for Business Users

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Motorola has officially introduced the Atrix HD, an Ice Cream Sandwich-based model geared toward business users.

The company unveiled the model, which boasts a 4.5-inch 1280 x 720 HD Colorboost display, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, LTE, 8 GB of storage and an 8-megapixel camera, as well as Kevlar-clad back side, on its website on Wednesday. The Atrix HD is billed as “business ready” partially because it comes preloaded with Webtop an app that, with an HDMI display and Bluetooth peripherals, can make the phone a PC replacement.

Pricing has not yet been set for the model, which will be distributed via AT&T.

In targeting business users, Google is no doubt looking for remaining BlackBerry defectors. Android’s share of the overall market topped 50% in the U.S. in April, while BlackBerry’s was 13.4%, a huge drop from the previous year’s 28.9%.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/05/atrix-hd/

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Martian’s Smartphone Watch Will Make You Feel Like James Bond [HANDS-ON]

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What’s Next For Google’s Nexus Brand Of Devices?

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When Google introduces a new Nexus-series device, we know we’ll have a fresh Android revision to play with, along with all the new features and improvements that arrive with such a release. But that’s only a part of what makes Nexus models so captivating.

Google’s been taking full advantage of the high-profile spot these devices take to draw attention to new hardware, which we often see subsequently adopted by manufacturers all across the Android spectrum. You can call it “Google leading the direction the market’s heading,” or just acting as inspiration, but there’s no doubt that its Nexus hardware often serves as a trend-setter. With the Nexus 7 now a reality, our thoughts are already turning to the next Nexus device (the Nextus?), and we find ourselves asking, “just what might Google be planning for its future Nexus hardware?”

Taking Stock: Past Nexus Models

For starters, let’s look at what Google’s accomplished with its Nexus devices so far. The HTC-made Nexus One was bound to hold a special place in the Android history books, solely by nature of being the first smartphone of its kind. With the phone’s release, Google set the bar for the level of software support we’d continue to see with the rest of its Nexus lineup, featuring front-line exposure to the latest Android releases often weeks — if not months — before any other phones receive similar manufacturer support.

As for the Nexus One hardware itself, it may not have offered many brand-new features, but it highlighted a few key manufacturing choices that were just then becoming more important. It featured an early AMOLED screen, exposing users to the kind of great contrast such components offer. There was also a big focus on reducing handset thickness. It’s easy to forget just how chunky some early Androids were, and measuring more than half-an-inch thick was par for the course; the Nexus One slimmed things down to just under 12 millimeters, and things have only been shrinking since.

Switching manufacturing partners to Samsung, Google continued this trend with the Nexus S in late 2010. The handset was one of the first smartphones around to support NFC (a feature we’re still waiting to see widespread acceptance). It highlighted the importance of ergonomics with its Contour Display curved screen, and was an early example of the move manufacturers have been making away from microSD support.

The Motorola Xoom has special relevance as the first Honeycomb tablet, and while it continues to get Nexus-level software support, as a non-Nexus device, it’s a bit outside the scope we’re dealing with here.

The Galaxy Nexus introduced many of us to 720p displays on phones, and invited manufacturers to do away with hardware Android buttons on their handsets in favor of on-screen software controls. More recently, the Nexus 7 gave us a similar example of Google removing unneeded hardware, this time the rear camera. While that’s reportedly a cost-saving decision, rather than a pure design choice, it’s encouraging manufacturers to look past the status quo, and really think individually about just what features each device really needs.

In What Direction Is Google Steering Android’s Future?

OK, that brings us pretty much up to date. So, where do we go from here?

Some of the things Google’s done, like axing hardware Android buttons, are the type of change that’s going to be hugely tricky to predict. On the other hand, there are some hardware innovations just coming to the forefront of smartphone design that Google could always grab and run with.

We’re going to be seeing 1080p screens in smartphones in the near future, and there’s still a lot of confusion regarding them. Largely, we’re just not sure how much use they’ll actually be, or if we’ll even be capable of readily appreciating the improved resolution. Maybe Google will adopt such a component for the next Nexus, and make a point to deliver it alongside software that finally convinces us of the value of such super-high-res displays.

Google hasn’t really used Nexus devices to push next-generation SoCs, and we’re not sure there’s any reason for it to start now. Chances are, we’ll be looking at a bit of a cool-down in the race for cores, with manufacturers settling on quad- or dual-core designs for now and focusing more on improving things like power consumption and execution efficiency.

What about RAM? The move to 2GB feels like it should have been a bigger deal than it was, and its recent arrival on a couple Androids (like the GS3) didn’t get much fanfare. By the time the next Nexus arrives, we’ll likely have seen even more phones debut with this kind of memory, but maybe Google can still find a way to make it special; that doesn’t necessarily mean adding even more RAM, but it could try something with higher speed, lower latency components, or introduce changes to Android that let it take advantage of such a glut of memory in more impressive ways.

Google may not see a need for a big camera on a tablet, but smartphones are another beast entirely; maybe Google will try to bring the kind of imaging quality we see on the Nokia PureView 808 to Android. Perhaps it could even try something a bit out-there, like pairing such a powerful image sensor with a standardized way to attach mini add-on lenses, extending the phone’s abilities as a camera even farther.

Then there’s the issue of just how the next Nexus will be made. We’ve heard rumors that Google might be planning to team up with multiple manufacturers for a series of Nexus models, all arriving at once. Would each one come up with their own take on a similar design, or would each focus on just a few key elements? Maybe LG would have the 1080p Nexus, and Sony would have the super-camera Nexus?

There are a ton of directions Google could take with its next phone. We could keep guessing up until the model’s actually revealed, and still never hit on just what the company’s been planning. Whatever it is, though, you can bet that the rest of the Android world will be watching closely, and be ready to follow Google’s lead.

Thanks: Pocketnow staff
Image: XDA-Developers forum

This article originally published at Pocketnow
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/21/next-nexus/

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Skype Fixing Bug That Sends Messages to Wrong Person

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Skype announced on Tuesday it will be rolling out a fix over the next few days to correct a system bug that is sending private instant messages to the wrong recipients.

Following a series of reports from Skype users that their accounts were misdirecting messages to others on their contact list, the video-chat company will be releasing updated versions of Skype likely later this week.

The Skype versions affected by the bug that will receive an update as follows: Skype 5.10 for Windows, Skype 5.8 for Mac, Skype 4.0 for Linux and Skype 1.2 for Windows Phone.

“The hotfix addresses an issue that occurs only when a user’s Skype client crashes during a Skype IM session, which may in some cases result in the last IM entered or sent prior to the crash being delivered to a different IM contact after the Skype client is rebooted or logged in as a new user,” Skype said in a statement on its company blog. “Although we cannot determine precisely how many users may have been affected by this error, we believe the number is small given the very specific circumstances under which the error occurs.”

Skype also noted that not all versions were affected — users of Skype 5.9 for Windows, Skype 2.8 for Android and Skype 4.0 for IOS have not experienced any issues.

The company has also corrected an issue with File Sending on the desktop versions of Skype, which prevented users from saving files if they used a hard disk drive in FAT32 format.

BONUS: 10 Skype Chat Tricks for Power Users

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Google’s New App Will Take You on a Field Trip

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Google Thursday launched an app called Field Trip, “your guide to the cool, hidden, and unique things in the world around you.”

Working in the background on your Android phone, the app pops up a card on your handset when it thinks you’re around something interesting. A map view within the app can also help you seek out locations around you on your own.

Field Trip suggests places and experiences that fall under a number of categories: Architecture, Historic Places & Events, Lifestyle, Offers & Deals, Food Drinks & Fun, Movie Locations, Outdoor Art and Obscure Places of Interest around you. Information for the cards comes from trend-setting publications such as Thrillist, Zagat, Songkick and Atlas Obscura.

Ranging from a history lesson about a building you walk by each day, to a recommendation on where to get lunch, information about locations pops up as you walk by rather than you having to seek it out. This way, the app might help you uncover something you didn’t even know you were looking for.

The frequency you receive Field Trip notifications can be selected from three different app modes.

If you have a Bluetooth headset connected to your phone, you can have it read information about locationswhile you’re walking. The app can also detect when you’re driving and audibly tell you about places as you’re passing.

If you find a great new location using Field Trip, you can also share it with friends on social networks such as Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

The smartphone-optimized app is available now for Android phones, with an iOS version expected in the future.

Check out the video below for a look at Field Trip in action.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/27/google-field-trip/