The biggest user-facing change in Android 4.4 KitKat is, without a doubt, the launcher. The new launcher experience provides deeper Google Now integration (it's literally the leftmost homescreen), beautiful transparent navigation buttons and notification bar, always-on Google Now listening, and a much cleaner app drawer. For now, though, this launcher will remain a Nexus 5 exclusive - Google wants to see what the reaction is before expanding this 'Google experience' to other devices or the Play Store-using public.
Assuming you don't live under a rock, you probably know the Nexus 5 launched on the Play Store last Thursday. In the US, Google's newest handset will cost you $350 for the 16GB model, and $400 for the more capacious 32GB variant. The launch went relatively smoothly, though stock of the 16GB Nexus 5 quickly evaporated - for the black version, within minutes - and latent purchasers of the 32GB version are now in for a weeks-long wait before enjoying the sweet embrace of KitKat.
BBM for Android is officially out. We reviewed it. And while it looks like there's a little bit of fishy business going on with ratings and reviews of the app in the Play Store, the number of downloads obviously isn't all fake - there's substantial interest in this app. But from who? BBM as a platform has been the exclusive privilege of BlackBerry owners since its public introduction in 2006, and it has never featured interoperability with any other IM service.
Another poll about colors? Yep. Our own Liam Spradlin mocked up what a white Nexus 5 might look like after some pretty likely bogus images of such a device appeared on the web late last week. Here's a more realistic representation of what each will probably look like.
White phones do tend to get a bit dingy and yellowed / grayed over time, but there's something about the N5 whited-out that really appeals to me.
If you take a look at the mockup below (featured in this article), created by our very own Liam Spradlin, you'll see what we strongly believe the Android 4.4 homescreen is going to look like. New icons, transparent notification bar and nav buttons, and a stronger emphasis on white. Personally, I'm a big fan - Android 4.4 is cleaning up a lot of the messy, heavy-handed Tron-esque styling that hung on in the transition from Honeycomb to Ice Cream Sandwich.
After reviewing the Galaxy Gear, my feelings about smartwatches are the same as ever: meh. But a lot of people really, really like the idea of smartwatches. And it seems more and people either own one, or have one on order. So that's this weekend's question, nice and easy: do you own a smartwatch?
While nothing has been officially announced just yet, it seems all but certain that CyanogenMod will be coming to Oppo's new smartphone, the N1, as an officially supported alternative to the company's own custom software layer. I can indeed confirm that something CM-related is happening, because Steve Kondik is here in Beijing for the event (as am I!), which will be happening later tonight (more around very early morning in America).
I know, Chromecast and Google TV are obviously two different products. They don't share the same features or functionality, and one can be wildly more expensive than the other. But they're also attempting to solve the same problem, albeit with competing philosophies. That problem? Making your TV smarter.
The Chromecast chooses to do this as a sort of 'bridge,' making your smartphone, tablet, or computer the control center for your TV, while the Chromecast itself just acts as a sort of facilitator for this process.
Our time at IFA is drawing to a close, and after the dust has settled, it's pretty clear who came out on top in terms of interesting unveils - Samsung. The Note 3's new features, enhanced display, faster processor, and continued focus on maximizing screen space without increasing the size of the device itself have clearly kept people interested in the increasingly-popular line of handsets. Having played with the Note 3, I must agree - it's better in nearly every way than its predecessor.