Mobile payment is kind of like a slightly more realistic version of the flying car a technology we've been hearing about seemingly forever that never really takes off. OK, so the analogy isn't perfect, given that a few companies are actually using things like Square and McDonald's has those tap pads for NFC payment, but given how long we've been hearing about it, you'd think it would be just a little more common by now.
Google continues to struggle gamely with pushing the technology out there, but struggle, unfortunately, is a pretty apt word in this case. The company couldn't even convince T-Mobile, with its newfound rebellious streak, to opt for a newly updated Google Wallet instead of ISIS a proprietary standard that uses non-NFC technology.
It's a shame that official support for Google Wallet is so limited among major carriers. (Currently, you're out of luck unless you're either rooted or using Sprint.) The latest round of new features, announced at Google I/O last week, added the ability to centralize rewards card offers for ease of use, integrated location services and a handy Instant Buy feature that cuts down on the pesky habit people have of thinking twice about a purchase. Snark aside, it's an impressive service.
Still, headlines like this one seem slightly overblown while the point that ISIS is only available in two U.S. cities (Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City, Utah) is a good one, NFC support is hardly universal either, and the fact remains that this simply isn't going to be a major issue for most users.
However, if the broader point is that, by freezing out Google Wallet, carriers are effectively retarding the progress of smartphone payments, I'm on board. Since NFC payment clearly hasn't been a world-beating differentiator for Sprint, I'm guessing Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T view it as just another headache, and one that comes with the potential for a bushel of lawsuits as soon as someone hacks the system. Which they inevitably will do.
And you thought remote lock/wipe and tracking were the pinnacles of smartphone security LoJack, a name you may know from the automotive world, now makes a version of its well-known tracking software for Android devices. In addition to being able to track, lock and wipe with the best of them, the software can't be removed from the device even with a full factory reset.
But the real eye-opener is the dedicated recovery team that LoJack can send out to get your lost or stolen Android back. That's right actual people will go retrieve the device for you. It'll initially be available only on Samsung Galaxy S4s, but other devices will be supported subsequently. First availability is set for "early this summer," according to an official blog post from partner Absolute Softwarehttp://blogs.absolute.com/lojack-for-laptops/2013/05/announcing-theft-protection-for-android-smartphones/.(H/T: CNEThttp://reviews.cnet.com/8301-12261_7-57585628-10356022/lojack-for-samsung-galaxy-s4-goes-hard-core-on-thieves/)
Not content with an initial exclusive on a LoJack-able phone, Samsung recently said it will dish out $800,000 in prize money to developers who come up with cool Galaxy S4 apps using the company's Chord SDK, which is designed to provide close-proximity peer-to-peer networks for gaming, photo-sharing and a host of other uses.
I'm sure somebody out there will be inspired by the prospect of $200,000 in first prize money (three second-place winners will get $100,000 each, while six third-placers will receive $50,000 a head) but I have to admit I have no idea what they'll come up with. It's sort of interesting that Samsung would build this SDK and then hold this contest that says, in effect, "we don't exactly know what the heck to do with this."
LG rolled out an all-plastic, flexible 5-inch OLED screen at SID Display Week in Vancouver, telling Engadgethttp://www.engadget.com/2013/05/21/lg-5-inch-oled-display-hands-on/ that it's cheaper, more durable and more energy efficient than glass-based screens. While this obviously won't mean flexible smartphones until they come up with a way to make everything else flexible as well, it's still a pretty impressive feat of engineering.
Rival Samsung has already demoed bendy screens in the last few months, but a recent report from rumor site SamMobilehttp://www.sammobile.com/2013/04/17/samsungs-flexible-display-has-been-delayed/ indicates that they're having technical difficulties getting their displays into production.
Finally, Flickr gave itself an extreme makeover on Monday, debuting a completely redesigned Android app and web interface, throwing in a free terabyte (!) of storage for members, to boot. (Wired says the free 1TB is ad-supported, though you can go ad-free for $50 a year.)
I've yet to tinker with the rebooted Flickr myself, but it certainly looks like an aggressive response to the Instagrams of the world from where I sit.
Email Jon Gold at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.
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