It's been a busy month in the Android app world, particularly if you want useful tools or visual tweaks. There's one big app that we're not featuring in this roundup: the Google Now Launcher, AKA the Google Experience Launcher. We're omitting it from the main list because it's only compatible with Nexus and GPE devices - even the few standard Android devices that have been upgraded to KitKat can't play with it unmodified.
Love it or hate it, the Galaxy S5 will almost certainly be the best-selling Android phone in 2014. Whether or not the hardware actually warrants those kinds of incredible sales figures is largely irrelevant, thanks to Samsung's marketing machine and consumers' general willingness to buy things they're familiar with. And "familiar" is certainly an excellent way to describe the phone's hardware. While it isn't quite the ho-hum upgrade that came with the GS4, and there are some significant hardware features that add to its value, the GS5's overall design probably won't win it any new fans.
The smartwatch craze has gotten a little out of hand, if you'll pardon the pun. Various manufacturers and innumerable crowdfunding campaigns seem ready to leap into the shallow waters already populated by Pebble, Sony, Fitbit and the like. Just because Samsung's Galaxy Gear is the most mainstream of these wearable devices doesn't mean it's the best - on the contrary, in addition to general dissatisfaction with the somewhat rushed hardware, many reviewers found themselves questioning the need for a relatively powerful and feature-filled device on their wrist.
Samsung unveiled literally three smartwatches at MWC this year. If that tells you anything, it should be this: the company is desperate to make a wearable product stick in the marketplace. It will do anything to whittle down the form factor, price point, and functionality consumers are most responsive to. And thus, we now have 3 Gear devices to choose from - the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo, and the Gear Fit - Samsung is taking its shotgun approach to the smartphone market and inundating you with wearable choices, hopefully enough choices that you will actually choose to buy one
I reviewed the original Galaxy Gear.
Samsung has announced a slew of improvements to its KNOX enterprise security product at this year's Mobile World Congress. For starters, users can now manage two separate secure containers per device, ideal for consultants with multiple clients or people who just want to better separate work data from personal files.
The total list of changes goes much deeper.
- Two separate secure containers per device, for example, for consultants who work for several companies or doctors who work for several clinics.
Looking for the previous roundup editions? Find them here.
DigiCal Calendar & Widgets
Today's roundup is presented by DigiCal Calendar & Widgets from Digibites.
The phablet market is exploding, and just about every manufacturer wants a piece of the oversized pie. Here at Mobile World Congress ZTE has just announced the Grand Memo II LTE, the successor to last year's Grand Memo. It ups the screen size to a full 6 inches of IPS goodness. Well, maybe goodness - they aren't saying what the resolution is just yet, just "HD," which I'll assume means 720p.
I honestly think the YotaPhone was one of the coolest smartphone innovations of 2013, and while I wouldn't exactly be the first in line to buy a device from an unproven OEM, Yota Devices has once again piqued my curiosity with their announcement of the "next generation" YotaPhone here at MWC.
The new YotaPhone solves what was arguably the biggest problem with the original's otherwise innovative concept - interacting with the e-Ink display.
File this under more is better – Qualcomm has just announced new ARM chips with more bits and more cores than ever before. The Snapdragon 610 and 615 are the chip maker's new 64-bit mobile processors, and the 615 packs eight CPU cores. Despite the big headlining features, these aren't intended to be flagship chips.
Qualcomm is in the habit of making custom CPUs for its ARM chips – those are the Krait cores you hear so much about.
Just in case you were worried there wouldn't be anything intriguing or unexpected about Galaxy S5, check this out - Spritz, a new company (launched February 23rd) looking to "reinvent reading" will be coming exclusively to the S5 and Gear 2 by way of an email app. From Spritz's news release it isn't clear whether this will be the default app on the phone or a preloaded one, but the technology itself makes it interesting either way.