Top 5 Tech Gifts Under ₹5,000 (2014)

‘Tis the season as Google tells us through its doodles and I would like to help you guys make last-minute gift purchases for that geeky friend/ relative, this festive season.

This is a list of tech gifts that I’m sure that geeky friend of yours would like while you are on a budget of ₹5,000 only.

5. A 1TB External Hard Disk

Anyone who owns a computer with an SSD will have at most a 256GB internal storage. These people will appreciate an external storage solution. These days you can pick up a 1 TB external hard disk from any online portal for under ₹5000. Two of the top contenders are Seagate’s Backup Plus Slim 1 TB hard disk and competitor Western Digital’s My Passport Ultra 1TB hard disk. I have seen and used products by both of these firms and can say that their products are worth the money. You can grab both of these products from Amazon at a great discounted prices — the Backup Plus can be had for ₹4247 while the My Passport  Ultra is available for ₹4271. Since, the price difference is barely a hundred bucks I say go for the thinner and more portable Seagate Backup Plus Slim.

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4. ASUS Zenfone 4 A400CXG

ASUS Zenfone 4 is a great smartphone and is currently available for just ₹ 5000. The phone runs on Android 4.3 (upgradeable to 4.4), is powered by a dual core 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z2520 processor. It also features a 5MP rear camera, a 0.3MP secondary camera in the front, 1GB of RAM and a 1600 mAh battery. The phone also sports a 4-inch WVGA display with a decent display resolution of 233 pixels per inch. It has 8GB of inbuilt storage which can be expanded via microSd card. You can gift this smartphone to your mom or dad or pretty much anyone you know who is looking to move up from a feature phone to a smartphone. It is perfect for someone who is looking for a cheap Dual SIM smartphone! It can be grabbed from Flipkart for just under ₹5000 though I would recommend paying another hundred bucks and getting your loved ones the Gorilla Glass version.

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3. Over-the-head Audio Technica Headphones

For just under ₹5000 you can get a nice set of headphones from Audio Technica, JBL and a host of other audio giants, this festive season. Among these all of these brands, I’d recommend getting the Audio Technica  ATH PRO5MK2CM and the ATH-AD500X. While both of these headphones cost above ₹5000, you can grab both of them for just aback under at Flipkart.com. They are both very comfortable and provide a little bit of too much bass but that can be forgotten given the price at which you are getting these awesome pair of headphones. All-in-all your music-loving friends/relatives won’t hate you for getting them anyone of these sets.

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2. A fitness band

For just ₹3500, you can get a lesser version of the Misfit Shine, called the Misfit Flash and Sleep monitor fitness band. This band features a plain dial with red dot LEDs at the edge of the face. It can help your fitness freak of a friend to get up and follow his daily step goal to fitness and also help him/her monitor their sleep. Check it out at Flipkart.

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1. Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast is a USB device which connects directly into your ordinary TV and allows it to connect with all of your WiFi-enabled devices as well as the internet. You can use any Android 4.3+ phone, iOS device, Mac or Windows computer to control your television and even mirror your device’s display onto the TV. You can also use it as a photo frame  when not using it view other media. At just a buck under ₹3000, the Chromecast is a great gift for your loved ones! Since, it is officially only available at Snapdeal.com, I recommend you get it from there as there are other offers also applicable on it. You get 20GB of extra data every month from Airtel every month for 3 months and 2 months of free usage of EROS Now Premium to stream movies and audio produced under the production label.

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That’s it for the Under ₹5000 list of tech gifts. I will be posting other lists for under ₹1000, ₹10000, ₹25000 and ₹50000 soon. Till then, Happy Holidays people!

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Google to shut down its Google News service in Spain

Google is set to shut down its Google News service in Spain on 16th December.

The move comes as a response to a new intellectual property law set to be introduced in the country. According to the law, Google News and other news aggregating services will have to pay the Spanish publishers for showing their content or part(s) thereof.

The head of Google News, Richard Gingras, explained the decision in a blog post earlier today, which reads in part:

Sadly, as a result of a new Spanish law, we’ll shortly have to close Google News in Spain. Let me explain why. This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable. So it’s with real sadness that on 16 December (before the new law comes into effect in January) we’ll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain.

The Spanish law, nicknamed the “Google Tax”, did not specify how much the tech giant would have to pay publisher but it did allow for a hefty fine of more than $750,000 if found violated.

These Spanish “Google Tax” efforts come shortly after the proceedings in Germany, in 2013. Germany passed legislation last year that allows publishers to charge search engines and aggregators for using any content beyond headlines, but Google asked publishers to opt-in without requiring the fee, which some did. After a two-week experiment, German news giant Axel Springer dismissed a plan last month to restrict Google access to some of its content when its sites’ traffic decreased considerably, according to Reuters.

Pebble smartwatch gets price cut and new fitness features!

Pebble, the smartwatch startup which started the wearable wrist revolution a couple of years back with its KickStarter campaign, has recently revised the prices of all of its models, bringing the price of the entry-level Pebble down to $99 and the premium Pebble Steel to $199. Along with the decrease in price, the startup has also improved upon the fleet of fitness-related features introduced to the watches in an update earlier this year.

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The Pebble smartwatch and Pebble Steel had aspirations to track fitness, but were never able to do background tracking — an essential feature for counting steps. That’s changed now: Pebble’s latest software release adds true background fitness tracking capabilities, while partnerships with Jawbone and Misfit have resulted in new apps that work on the Pebble to run continuously and track steps and sleep, just like an everyday fitness tracker.

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Fitness bands have been selling alongside the likes of the Pebble for a while now, but as Apple and Google have demonstrated, smartwatches can comfortably include most of the exercise-related features as standard. The new Pebble update sees both regular and Steel versions of the Pebble track steps and sleep-related data in the background, eliminating that tedious rigmarole of having to leave the Misfit app open for step-counting.

Different fitness apps are free to use their own algorithms to interpret the data: or, as Eric Migicovsky, CEO of Pebble, explained during a phone call to CNET, some are even working to develop non-fitness apps, like one to track epileptic seizures while sleeping. The Pebble will be able to track fitness (or use its compass) while offline and unpaired with a phone, holding up to 140 days of data without syncing. But the initial apps won’t sync with phone apps yet: that feature will be coming soon.

Along with the new features and price drop, Pebble is also expanding the reach of its smartwatch, with Fry’s, Sam’s Club, and Sprint in the U.S. joining Dixons, O2, and Amazon in the UK to begin retailing the device today onwards.

All these moves by the startup seem to point to the fact that they feel threatened by the entry of the big names like Apple, Motorola and LG with their state of the art looking smartwatches like the round Moto 360 or the svelte Apple Watch…

What do you think of these changes made by Pebble? Let us know by sounding off in the comments!

Meet the first Android One smartphones from Spice, Micromax and Karbonn

Fulfilling its I/O 2014 promise, Google, yesterday, unveiled the first three Android One handsets – the Karbonn Sparkle V, Micromax Canvas A1, and Spice Dream Uno – all priced sub-₹7,000.

All the three manufactures have adhered to the minimum specification requirements set by Google. The phones have a 4.5-inch display (845 x 480 pixels), dual SIM support and run a stock version of Android 4.4. Hardware specifications include a quad-core Mediatek processor, 1GB RAM, 4GB storage, microSD card for expansion (up to 32GB supported) and dual cameras. This specification set ensures a fluid experience for the user, as opposed to many cheaper Android phones that are already.

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The Karbonn Sparkle V will be available in Magnum Blue, Mild Grey, Wild Red and Pearl White colour variants exclusively via Snapdeal at ₹ 6,399.

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The Spice Dream Uno will be available in Black and White colour variants exclusively via at Flipkart at Rs. 6,299.

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The Micromax Canvas A1 will be available in Black and White colour variants exclusively via Amazon, priced at Rs. 6,499.

All these devices also “features particularly important to Indians” – dual SIM card slots, a FM radio tuner, and a microSD card slot for additional storage. Google apps such as Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Search, and Google Translate will come pre-loaded on the phones.

Google has also partnered with Airtel users will get free OTA Android software updates over 3G as well as 200MB worth of apps per month for six months at no cost.

The search giant also announced that in the coming weeks the YouTube app will get offline video playback in India, allowing users to store videos via Wi-Fi on their Android device, and watch them later without data connectivity.

Sundar Pichai, Google Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome & Apps, announced at the event an expanded set of hardware partners for the Android One initiative, including Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, Asus, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, and Xolo, as well as chipmaker Qualcomm.

The company also announced that Android One program will be expanded to Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and additional countries in South Asia by the end of the year.

Google’s cheap Android One smartphones go on sale today

At Google I/O, this June, the Android maker announced that it will partner with smartphone manufacturers around the world to create smartphones which will give existing and first time smartphone buyers, and, new and existing mobile internet users, a high-end internet experience on smartphones, without burning a hole through their pockets.

Android One is a program announced by Google’s head of Android, Chrome web browser and apps Sundar Pichai back in June which promised rich smartphone experience on low-cost devices as Google will set minimum standards on hardware and software to be used by handset makers.

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In a few hours from now, Google will launch in India the first set of these Android One smartphones.

Google aims to bring user experience found on high-end smartphones to the affordable end of the device spectrum by controlling the hardware and the software, kind of like what Apple does.

Micromax, Karbonn and Spice will be the first three handset makers to sell these devices to customers, as Google aims to extend the reach of Android into emerging markets, especially India where only 29% of about 920 million mobile phone users own smartphones, offering a far higher potential than markets like China or the US where smartphone penetration is nearing its peak.

With Android One’s adoption in India, where smartphone market doubled to 44 million last year and has touched 36 million devices in the first half of 2014, Google will be able to deliver latest OS updates faster, reduce variations of the OS, which in turn will help them to update apps.

The smartphones are expected to be be priced under $100 or roughly ₹6100.

“It will be interesting to watch if they are able to maintain that Rs 6,000 price band or whether it will go to Rs 7,000 – Rs 7,500 since Google is also specifying the hardware,” said Karan Thakkar, senior market analyst- mobile phones and tablets at research firm IDC.

Online retailer Flipkart had briefly put a listing of one such Android One phone by Spice – Spice Android One Dream UNO Mi-498.

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Along with the obvious latest version of Android, 4.4.4, the smartphone sports a 5MP rear camera with LED flash, a 2MP front camera,is powered by MediaTek SoC with 1.3GHz quad-core CPU and Mali 400 GPU, a gig of RAM, and 4GB of built-in memory with microSD card slot. It features a 4.5” FWGA IPS display, 1700 mAh battery and dual-SIM support.

The offerings by Karbonn and Micromax are supposed to carry the same feature set as the Spice smartphones.

With high stakes riding on the launch, Google is said to have set aside more than ₹100 crore with its partners on advertising and marketing.

“What they (Google) need to look at is having a tie-up with the telco providers, so that internet also comes to them,” said Vishal Tripathi, principal analyst at Gartner.

Reports suggest that Google has tied up with India’s leading carrier Airtel to offer bundled internet usage.

Apple reports Google to the FTC regarding in-app purchases by kids

It seems Apple isn’t too happy that it was singled out for a FTC investigation into “making it too easy for children to make in-app purchases”: following its own settlement back in January, the company’s general counsel Bruce Sewell promptly reported Google for the same thing, according to Politico.

“I thought this article might be of some interest, particularly if you have not already seen it,” Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell wrote to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Democratic Commissioner Julie Brill, pointing to a report that criticized Google’s app store over the same issue of unauthorised in-app purchases …

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Tim Cook said at the time of the settlement, in January, that it felt unfair to face FTC sanctions after a Federal judge had already approved Apple’s response of contacting all 28 million customers who might have been affected in order to reimburse them.

It doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled. To us, it smacked of double jeopardy. However, the consent decree the FTC proposed does not require us to do anything we weren’t already going to do, so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight.

Apple’s lead lawyer apparently contacted the FTC less than a week after its own settlement.

Behind the scenes, Apple sought to convince regulators it shouldn’t be singled out for blame. Sewell, the company’s general counsel, shared with Ramirez and Brill a Consumer Reports story that faulted Google for allowing your “kid to spend like a drunken sailor” for 30 minutes after an adult initially entered a password.

Amazon is already under investigation by the FTC for the same issue, despite having since changed its policies in line with those adopted by Apple, so it seems likely that Google might find itself next in line even though it has ,too, addressed the problem in a similar way.

Nest to acquire IP camera company, Dropcam, for US$555 million

Nest has announced, two days ago, that it’ll be purchasing IP camera company Dropcam for $555 million. According to Re/code, Nest is acquiring the firm on its own without the assistance of Google, its parent company, and will be incorporating Dropcam into the Nest brand. Engadget has also corroborated with Nest that it has indeed purchased Dropcam  outside of Google.

Dropcam makes one of the more popular WiFi surveillance cameras on the market and most recently released an advanced Pro version for $199 late last year. Along with the hardware, Dropcam also provides a service that lets you view what the camera’s seeing via the web or a dedicated Android or iOS app. There’s an optional subscription plan that’ll give you access to Dropcam’s Cloud Recording service that records video as well. Engadget has also corroborated with Nest that it has indeed purchased Dropcam  outside of Google.

 

“The teams are very well-aligned and we love the product,” Rogers said. “We both think about the entire user experience from the unboxing on. We both care deeply about helping people stay connected with their homes when they’re not there.”

 

We’re not entirely sure yet on how Dropcam will work in concert with Nest’s smart thermostats and smoke alarms, but we imagine it’ll open more possibilities for the connected home.

Nest itself was just purchased by Google just four months ago for $3.2 billion.

 

Mozilla reportedly developing its own Google Chromecast competitor, probably called the “NetCast”

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser and the upcoming Firefox OS, is working on a media-streaming stick set to directly compete with the Google Chromecast and other similar products, according to GigaOm. The device, as expected, runs on Mozilla’s own Firefox OS, originally designed for smartphones, and is apparently referred to as “Netcast” within the Firefox browser. While the device doesn’t yet have a name or release date, it’s said that it will be more open to developers looking to hack its capabilities.

The new streaming device has allegedly been in development for some time, and changes are still being made. The focus here, however, is on openness; GigaOm reports that developers will eventually be able to code apps for multiple platforms, including Windows Phone and Amazon’s Fire phone. However, it’s unclear how involved Mozilla is in the hardware’s development. In an official statement, a spokesperson wrote:

“Firefox OS is an open platform freely available for any company to build on top of without restriction. This means companies can experiment with different form factors that run Firefox OS.”

The statement may seem like a thin denial aimed at possibly instilling the idea that a third-party could be behind this project, and it’s certainly possible that some other company is responsible for the hardware side of things, but the software is certainly coming from inside the company, as indicated by the references in the browser. Check out a video of the device in action, after the break:

Continue reading Mozilla reportedly developing its own Google Chromecast competitor, probably called the “NetCast”

Google overtakes Apple to become the “BrandZ Most Valuable Brand” of 2014

Millward Brown’s annual BrandZ study, which was released today, declares that US search engine Google has overtaken rival technology titan Apple as the world’s top brand in terms of value. This is a reversal from the previous 3 studies, which found Apple ranked just above Google.

In the study, Google’s brand value shot up 40 percent in a year to $158,843,000, while Apple came in at only $147,880,000.

“Google has been extremely innovative this year with Google Glass, investments in artificial intelligence and a range of partnerships, all these activities send a very strong signal to consumers about the essence of Google,” said Benoit Tranzer, the head of Millward Brown France.

Apple, which dominated the top position for three straight years, saw its brand value fall by 20 percent to $147.88 billion.

The top 10 of the 100 slots were dominated by US firms. IBM was in third place at $107.54 billion, a fall of 4 percent, followed by Microsoft at $90.19 billion — a 29 percent rise.

Of course, this study doesn’t actually point to which company is the most valuable. Instead, Millward Brown uses a combination of financial information—including projected future sales—and customer surveys to determine how much a brand is worth—or how much of the company’s value comes from customers’ views of that company. The entire process of determining a brand’s value is detailed on the Millward Brown website.

Essentially, information from customer surveys is used to determine a “brand contribution” number for each company. This number refers to how likely customers are to remain loyal to a company and other similar factors. This “brand contribution” is then multiplied by certain financial figures and the resulting figure is “brand value.”

This “brand value” represents how much of the company’s overall value comes from its brand. If it sounds a non-scientific, that’s probably because it is. Still, it’s interesting to see how consumers and firms like Millward Brown rank these companies.

Coming Soon: Google Ads on thermostats, refrigerators and car dashboards!

Targeted ads have popped up in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds as well as inside mobile apps and more. That said, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that Google has seemingly explored the possibilities of beaming those advertising bits to some rather unique places. The company has told the Securities and Exchange Commission, in a letter concerning mobile revenue disclosure, that it may choose to serve ads on “refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google made the statement in support of its contention that it shouldn’t have to break out ad revenue from mobile devices.

Google argued that it doesn’t make sense to break out mobile revenue since the definition of mobile will “continue to evolve” as more “smart” devices roll out.

“Our expectation is that users will be using our services and viewing our ads on an increasingly wide diversity of devices in the future,” the company said in the filing.

While the statement is purely a defensive one – the company not wanting to share more data than it has to with competitors – the specific thermostat example seems unlikely to have been chosen completely randomly.

Google added the Nest smart thermostat to Google Play three months after purchasing the company. Nest remains on sale in Apple stores, both retail and online.

Nest was created by former Apple engineer, also known as the ‘father of the iPod’ Tony Fadell. Fadell sought to allay concerns about Google’s acquisition of the company soon after it was announced, promising that all data collected by Nest was used only to improve the product, and that any changes to that policy would be opt-in. Nothing was said about serving non-personalized ads, however.

Audi, Honda and other auto makers have ported the mobile OS into vehicles, Android Wear is set to sort smartwatches and we’ve also seen smart fridges and ovens at CES for years now.