Apple may have hogged all the headlines in September, but so far, Google is owning November. The Google Nexus 9 tablet is now available and Android 5.0, also known as Lollipop, is beginning to roll out to those using older Nexus devices. The system update, among other things, includes the new Material Design look. If you’re rocking a phone from another manufacturer or wireless carrier, check with those folks to see when you might get Lollipopped.
Google also officially released that new Gmail app for Android, which works on all devices running at least Android 4.0. You can find it in the Google Play store. The Google Calendar app for Android is also getting an update; it’s available already on Lollipop devices and will be arriving in the Google Play store soon for older hardware running at least Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. (The designers at Google must have had a hellaciously busy fall, as the Google Maps mobile app has also gotten a refresh.)
So, about Apple… although CVS and Rite Aid are spurning the new Apple Pay mobile payment system, Chase, Citi and Bank of America were all on board at launch and now another wave of banks is signing on to be part of Apple’s e-wallet. Navy Federal Credit Union, US Bank, USAA and PNC are all live now — or will be very soon.
Mobile payments, along with chip ‘n’ PIN cards like the ones used in Europe, are destined to replace the antique magnetic-stripe credit cards still in use here in the United States. But chip ‘n’ PIN may have some problems of its own. Researchers at Newscastle University in the United Kingdom have published a report that says a glitch in Visa’s contactless credit cards lets them bypass the standard £20 limit and approve unlimited cash transactions up to one million dollars without requiring a PIN – as long as the amount is requested in a foreign currency. Okay, guys, fix that now, please.
One somber note to the news this week: We would like to extend our condolences for all involved in the two horrible accidents last week involving spacecraft made by commercial companies. We speak, of course, of the unmanned Antares rocket that exploded in Virginia during the launch of a resupply mission to the International Space Station and also the deadly crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two in the Mojave Desert that killed a crew member.
Last week, Microsoft announced its new wearable fitness tracker — a $200 black tech bracelet with the catchy name of Microsoft Band. It works not just with Windows Phones, but Android models and iPhones as well; if you do happen to use Windows Phone 8.1 with it, you also a few other perks like vice commands to the Cortana assistant and text notifications. Now, if only the Microsoft Band did not look like a court-ordered monitor for those under house arrest…
Microsoft will be getting a new neighbor soon. The Seattle Times has confirmed that Apple is opening an engineering office up there in the Emerald City. The tech-scene corporate mixers are probably going to get a lot more interesting once Apple moves into town.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Christian Bale (left) has decided he was not right for the part of Steve Jobs in the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic. Deadline is reporting that Michael Fassbender is up for the part now, though, and that could be interesting. Fassbender has already shown off his brooding intensity as the young Magneto in the two most recent X-Men films, so the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field should be a snap.
Amazon Prime members continue to collect perks. Amazon has released a new service for them called Prime Photos, which brings unlimited digital-picture storage to Amazon Cloud Drive. Amazon also announced that its Prime members can take advantage of partnerships the company has set up with other retailers. For example, Prime members can now get free, next-day shipping on items purchased from the British fashion company AllSaints.com.
Looks like a few major corporations are hooking up on some deals:
- Disney, which has had a long history of partnerships with Apple, is also joining up with Google now for an Android version of its Disney Movies Anywhere app and a bit of interoperability between platforms.
- Apple is teaming up with Southwest Airlines to offer free in-flight streaming tunes from the Beats Music on its Wi-Fi enabled planes.
- Dropbox and Microsoft are working together to make Dropbox accounts directly accessible right from Microsoft Office apps.
And finally, if you loved the collection of console and PC games preserved and made available online at The Internet Archive, you’re probably going to love the site’s new Internet Arcade. Yes, now 900 classic arcade games like Defender, Millipede, Major Havoc, Stargate, Quasar and Cheeky Mouse and all those others mall-arcade faves can be relived in emulation right in your web browser. ‘Nuff said.