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In Brief

Audible audiobook
photo: Audible.com

Choosing between reading an ebook on your own or having it read to you just got a little easier: Amazon updated its Kindle reading app with Audible integration on Tuesday. You’ll have to pay a little extra for the professional narration but you won’t have to switch between the Kindle and Audible apps if you want to hear your book aloud. Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice function keeps track of your place regardless of whether you or an in-app narrator is reading. Amazon says the updated Kindle app is now available for both iOS and Android devices.

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In Brief

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After what seemed an eternity, Google Chromebook owners can finally watch Google Play video content offline on their devices. Earlier last month Google announced this requested feature was coming and on Thursday night, the company launched it with a short post on Google+. Chromebook users will first need to install a new Google Play Movies and TV extension in order to download video purchases or rentals for offline playback. Of course, if the screen on your ChromeOS device isn’t big enough, there’s a Chromecast button to send video wirelessly to a larger display.

In Brief

project tango tablet
photo: Google

Amazing new technology doesn’t come cheap. Take Google’s Project Tango tablet, for example: When it becomes available later this month, it will cost developers $1,024 to purchase. The 7-inch tablet with mobile Nvidia Tegra K1 processor is filled with various sensors to add 3-D mapping and other advanced scanning software. Here’s the thing: There really isn’t much software for the device because it’s really an attempt to see what developers can do with the hardware. Google says that programmers can “express interest” in buying the tablet now with Google I/O attendees getting the first crack at the prototype hardware, while the tablet SDK is available now.

wwdc 2014
photo: Apple

Mac and iOS developers migrate annually to Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference to see what’s in store for the coming year. We’ll have a running live-blog during the Monday morning keynote at 10am PT so you too can get a glimpse of Apple’s future plans. Read more »

In Brief

Samsung Gear 2

Rumored earlier this month, Samsung now has a firmware update for last year’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch that replaces the Android software with Samsung’s own Tizen. Sam Mobile reported the news on Friday, saying the update will bring longer battery life, voice commands for the camera and a music player app to the Galaxy Gear. After the update, currently available as a download, the Gear will look and behave far more like the newer Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches. The change won’t likely impact Google, which has its own Android Wear smartwatches due out next month from other hardware partners.

In Brief

microsoft-spot-watches

We knew Microsoft has had smartwatch aspirations for some time — remember the SPOT Watches above from a decade ago? – and now it appears that such a device will work with more than just Windows Phone. Forbes reported on Thursday that Microsoft’s watch will also support Bluetooth notifications from Android and iOS handsets, which would be a clever move: Microsoft’s global smartphone share is relatively small, but expected to grow through 2018. Forbes’ sources suggest the possibility of a release within months with the watch capable of health and heart-rate tracking through optical technology from the Xbox Kinect group.

In Brief

mi 3

The reign of the U.S. is nearly over when it comes to handset revenues. Research firm Strategy Analytics pegs 2014 as the year that China unseats the U.S. thanks to an expected 430 million handset sales in China by year-end. That’s far and away above the 163 million to be sold in the U.S. All of those phones in China will produce revenues of $87 billion, compared to the $60 billion for U.S. phone sales. The revenue figures show that the U.S. market is skewed higher to expensive smartphones, unlike China whose smartphone growth is in the early stages while 3G and 4G networks are built out.

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