I like little notebooks. I need a place for my introspective musings. Moleskine notebooks are fine. But now there’s DODOnotes, a clever little notebook *slash* iPhone holder that could soon earn a place in my pocket.
This contraption is from DODOcase, the same San Francisco-based startup that created the make-a-tablet-look-like-a-book craze. DODOnotes costs $13.95 and is available for both the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4. Sorry, Galaxy S owners; DODOcase doesn’t want your money.
This isn’t a case, per se. DODOnotes is more of an open sleeve. A colorful elastic band holds a naked iPhone into a slight frame. Yeah, that band prevents the owner from, well, playing Dots while it’s held in place, but answering the phone or glancing at notifications is totally possible. But for most actions, the phone needs to be removed. The case is available in red, black or blue.
DODOcase tapped Mohawk for the paper. There are 30 tear-out pages of Mohawk’s Superfine soft white eggshell paper. No lines.
DODOnotes isn’t for everyone. This won’t be a mass hit. But it’s certainly a clever take on the classic notebook. It’s available for order now but takes 2-3 weeks to ship.
Google sadly scrapped its plans to introduce a plastic “universal” credit card that works at point-of-sale as a way to use its Google Wallet service out in the real world, but the company has not given up on its NFC-powered payments solution just yet. The company announced Wednesday evening that the Google Wallet app now works on more phones: the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Note II and HTC One on Sprint and the Samsung Galaxy Note II on US Cellular.
As you may have noticed, there’s a looming problem with Google Wallet, and no, it’s not international support. It’s that Google still can’t roll the app out across the U.S. Of the big four mobile carriers here, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, all but Sprint are backing a competing NFC-based payments initiative called Isis. Though this program is only in pilot trials in Austin and Salt Lake City, it’s clear the carriers are hoping to delay and impede progress of competitive solutions when they can, using regulatory red tape and any other legal loopholes they can find.
In Verizon’s case, the company skirted around the FCC’s 2012 decree which said it couldn’t block applications from download, with a few exceptions. (Initially, the carrier blocked the installation of the application from Google Play entirely.) According to Verizon, the secure element being used in Google Wallet is the issue. The carrier told the FCC that the app requires integration with the secure element on the device – something that makes it different from other m-commerce apps like Square or PayPal. And this is a “secure and proprietary piece of hardware” that’s “fundamentally separate from the device’s basic communications functions or its operating system,” said Verizon.
“Verizon has a straightforward process under which Google or others could launch devices on Verizon’s network with Google Wallet included,” Verizon responded at the time of the FCC inquiry.
In a sense, the carrier is positioning the Google Wallet app as something that requires additional oversight and control because of the way it integrates with phone hardware. Nevermind that the Verizon-backed Isis solution works in almost exactly the same way. (More on that here - specifically, see the amended complaint the site links to for a discussion of technical issues.)
So Google Wallet’s app continues to be non-functional on Verizon today.
Meanwhile, other carriers like T-Mobile don’t even seem to be bothering to try and hide the fact that they’re actively stopping the app from working on their devices because of their involvement with Isis. Take T-Mobile for example, which in response to a question about why Google Wallet doesn’t work on the Note II, posted on Twitter today:
Oh, Isis is the “standard” now, not NFC? Nice try, T-Mobile.
Google is offering a version of the Samsung Galaxy S4, arguably one of the top current Android devices, with Jelly Bean 4.2 unlocked on Google Play beginning June 26, the company revealed at I/O today. The news is big because it’s the first non-Nexus device to get blessed with this opportunity, and Google says it will be updated in time with all other Nexus devices.
The Galaxy S4 will cost $649 with no contract, and will be usable on both AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S., Google said today. At that price it isn’t exactly cheap, but people are probably willing to pay for an untouched Android experience on some of the most powerful smartphone hardware available.
The S4 is not only carrier unlocked, but it also has a fully unlocked bootloader. That means that owners of the device can load their own software on to the device, including things like CyanogenMod, which allows for extremely deep device software customization options. In other words, this new unlocked S4 will essentially be the ultimate developer plaything, but again it’s likely to have more or less niche appeal because of the high price tag.
What’s interesting about this is that Samsung emphasized all its software additions to the stock Android experience at the Galaxy S4 launch event, and this is basically stripping all that away. Reviewers seemed more or less overwhelmed by Samsung’s software smorgasbord, so this might result in a much better device overall.
Flipboard has just updated its iOS app to add a few more features for its 50 million+ readers. Back in March, Flipboard announced a new feature that would include user-created magazines, which seems to have excited Flippers.
In fact, the company announced that users have already created 500,000 curated magazines. Like ours.
That said, today’s update to version 2.0.2 brings with it a new Friends category in the Content Guide, allowing users to easily find their friends’ magazines. But it goes beyond that. Flipboard has even added new profile pages that have a better insight into readership and curation activities.
Past that, version 2.0.2 also offers better sharing. You can select a social network and use various sharing options in the revamped sharing menu, and you can also shoot off stories via SMS.
You can even save images from Flipboard direct to your device now, as the update allows users to save to camera roll as an option within the share menu.
Last, but certainly not least, Flipboard is hooking up Google Reader users with one last hurrah. The Flipboard 2.0.2 app for iOS has just received improved navigation for Reader RSS folders as well. Unfortunately, Google Reader will die a quiet, sad death on July 1.
Still, Flipboard continues to grow as the social news consumption space gets even hotter. Along with the newly launched magazines feature, the company has also been working to implement new features via a partnership with Samsung. Flipboard comes pre-installed on the new Galaxy S4, and even has Samsung’s AirView feature integrated, letting you peek into all the headlines of a certain category without ever clicking through. Or even touching the display.
If you’re interested in Flipboard 2.0.2, head on over to the App Store.
Samsung is moving quickly to diversify its phone line, with variants of the S4 popping out of the woodwork left and right, including the Galaxy S4 Zoom, which features a rumored 10x optical zoom on its rear camera. Today the Galaxy S4 Active, a ruggedized, smaller version of the flagship S4 has hit the Bluetooth Special Interest Group for certification, which means it could be coming along shortly, too.
The S4 Active is supposedly a water- and dust-resistant phone designed for use with an active lifestyle, or in outdoor conditions where generally phones don’t fare very well. The S4 Active would compete head-to-head with Sony’s latest lineup of phones, including the Xperia ZR announced today, which is a smaller version of the Xperia Z with slightly less impressive specs. It’s submersible in water for up to 1.5 meters, however, which pits it against the Active’s rumored feature set.
Both the Active and the Zoom S4 variants remind me of how companies are diversifying in another crowded, near saturated market: point-and-shoot cameras. Manufacturers regularly highlight the long zoom and rugged versions of their devices, as these are areas where consumers feel they need more than what’s available to them on the smartphone devices they carry around every day.
Manufacturers like Sony and Samsung moving in this direction with their devices marks an attempt to broaden their lineup’s appeal vs. other similar competitors, but also encroaches on the territory of single-purpose devices like the camera. And the market is likely to get more crowded, not less, as Google has been teasing devices that can withstand harsh environmental forces coming from its Motorola acquisition, through executive statements.
I said previously that Samsung is essentially preparing a phone for every feature to compete with any unique advantage its rivals may try, and the S4 Active is definitely that. But these variant devices also have the potential to act as advance market research for tech that can be adopted back into a flagship device: if any is particularly successful, it provides a roadmap for Samsung about what will draw customers to the S5 or beyond.
The S4 Active getting its Bluetooth certification means it’s likely to get a consumer reveal before too long, so we should see exactly how far Samsung has taken the rugged phone concept soon.