Google Photos to offer infinite storage for your photos and video

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That’s right. Flickr is so screwed when Google announced that the new feature coming to Google Photos is going to give you an unlimited back up of all your photos. Even Star Trek fans got stumped with their ‘space; the final frontier’ motto on this one and for good reason.

For years, Facebook detractors have been saying that Google+ was doomed to die. They weren’t very far off from this but somehow this has changed as the shake up at G+ gave life to a digital corpse. The old hats running G+ were fucking idiots. They didn’t have a plan or strategy to out run the cross hairs of Facebook.

True. G+ is not FB and FB isn’t G+.

Technically speaking, both use the same model to make money off you. By getting you to use their service, you become a candidate for targeted advertising.

Google Photos came automatically installed on your Android device with G+ app. This was inherently stupid of course but Google Photos had some nice functionality to it. The auto back up feature and auto-awesome gif images were nice additional features but come on, G+ like FB app were storage hogs on both iOS and Android devices. Picture wise, Google had to outgun the old FB and this they have done in style.

Facebook and G+ apps are big on storage. Don’t believe me, go do the maths on your storage requirement an you’ll notice that they are not only fat and bloated but offer little else in return for your digital needs. Google’s new Photos app is only moveable to internal storage of your Android device so that precious RAM can be saved for G+.

Facebook does none of these and even scales down your high resolution images so they never get stored in their original form.

Google Photos and DNG File Format

While iOS is still stuck in the stone age of JPG, Google has advanced its computational photography capabilities to include DNG files on its future camera app. Google is thinking in the line that if a picture can be processed better, then it can be a better picture for anything from Bokeh to Photo Spheres. Google Drive already supports TIFF files, a fact not known to many. When uploading your DNG files from your web browser, you can choose where it goes….to the infinite cloud space or the limited one as in Google Drive.

slide8b_framedSaving pictures in DNG is going to take a lot of space. Ask any Trekkie and they will tell you what all this amounts to. When Google said that it would give you photo back up….infinitely….you can technically put your Android device to upload all those pictures you have taken in the day through WIFI to Google cloud storage. You can also access Google Photos on the web.

And when you wake up from your deep slumber in the morning, those photos on your Android device and be erased as a copy already exist in the cloud.

Google’s cloud is impressive to say the least and is far cheaper than the image cloud service provided by Apple. Thankfully, you still have Google Photos for iOS so Apple users aren’t at a loss.

Google Stories

This is another advantage which few talk about. Google Stories is a scrap booking feature for you to create a flipbook slideshow of your images right within the Google Photos app. And that’s not all, like Flickr, your chosen photos can also be shared with a long list of other social networks.

Photos-Share-v4Google Photos is a new app for Android and you can download it here.

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Android to be Fragmented by the Big Guns of Mobile?

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Recently, Microsoft was reportedly an investor in Cyanogen, the rogue Android operating system that Google hopes to kill one day. With the investment, Google probably has to deal with another camp within Android that will split their control over the OS.

This is not the first, Amazon was the big player who decided to go its own way with the Kindle and launched a competing version of Android that has no relations with the Google version. Then came Nokia’s X series, which Microsoft decided to kill off upon taking control on the Finnish company.

Windows Mobile is still a struggling OS. Blackberry isn’t much of contender unless you’re the Snowden type so for the rest of us, it’s just Android and Apple iOS. The others like Tizen, Ubuntu and Sailfish OS have yet to deliver a viable competitor to the old time favorites. So Cyanogen seems to be a good bet, or so it seems. But the folks at Mi (rice in Chinese) have a better idea, why not take Cyanogen and skin that to their ecosystem?

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Cyanogen have been given a fresh start with a capital injection rumored to be around 70 million from Microsoft. It was struggling under its own open source weight and could not get enough geeks to support the numerous devices listed on its site. When Cyanogen decided to go commercial, they were not prepared for the task at hand so the money from Redmond will help sort out its own mess. Oppo has partnered Cyanogen in the past with the N1 variant but Oppo has since taken on itself to move forward into the Global market with a Google approved version.

MIUI Alternative

Hugo Barra may have left Google for greener pastures  in China. In Silicon Valley, he’s just another tech guy but at Xiaomi, he’s driving both MI phones and operating system to global markets. Xiaomi is an ass kicker in China. It runs and supports its own eco-system which emulates what Apple has done to some degree.

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For example, Xiaomi’s own MiMarket, which is just like Google’s Playstore, operates on the same principle as Apple’s Appstore in that it weeds out malware apps before listing it on its own store. However MiMarket is predominately in Chinese and is a hindrance to the English speaking world. Even though Mi user interface on Android have been floating around for people to download and install — many still do not know of its existence. MiUI isn’t exactly an ecosystem, what Xiaomi has done is to use the MIUI on Cyanogen Mod for people to experience what they have created on HTC, Samsung and Motorola.

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This means there will be bugs though the support forum is relatively active to stamp those out. MiUI has its own channels in China that supports group buying, videos, music and games. It does not however offer Google type services such as Playstore and Gmail. Your MI account only gives you additional benefits such as a Cloud hosting account but beyond that, it’s pretty much the same.

Licensing Agreements with Google

Whenever a phone manufacturers wishes to use stock Android, it has to sign an agreement and pay a license fee. That fee is paltry, but you must offer standard Google services such as Maps, Playstore, gmail, etc before you can distribute it.

MIUI in China skips this process by breaking the stock google OS and installing its own with access to M i Market. So this means MIUI is a rogue Android OS just like Amazon’s. A rogue OS works best when you craft your own code into it—allowing you to access MIUI APIs that are proprietary. By doing so, it can also break certain app functions that adhere to strict Google standards—making them less likely to work when the app calls certain hardware routines. MI has a team monitoring the MI forums for bug reports and responds to them accordingly. So far, it’s been pretty good at handling concerns for MIUI for MI devices but but there is always a lingering concern that brands other than MI will not be entertained. There are loads of hardware issues that are not addresses and this has to do with Cyanogen Mod since MIUI doesn’t quite include the support for running its skinned OS on Samsung or HTC devices. MIUI is a good alternative to HTC Sense or Samsung Touchwiz but that’s generally where it ends.

Global March is a Slow One

Mi’s primary market is still China. Although Hugo Bara is spearheading its spread to third world nations, the problem with this march is that it is making baby steps instead of giant leaps, MIUI isn’t quite ready to offer the same eco-system that Apple does on a global scale. It is nice to see that Xiaomi has plans for global domination but it probably needs the necessary funding to go global at a more rapid pace.

What’s more, Xiaomi’s current Redmi Note 4G hasn’t got spectacular hardware specifications. 8GB internal storage along with 2GB RAM barely cuts it these days as more Google apps seem to occupy more storage space than ever. To think that the specs will last you 18 months into the future will be a gamble. Apps are getting more storage hungry and by this, you have to get a warehouse of sorts to keep them at bay. Every update of an App seems to swell in size and in the end, it just won’t hold all that without you first deleting and managing those that you seldom use.

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

To be frank, I hated the bloatware that came with Samsung devices. It tired to blend in a complete eco-system but failed at launch due to its lack of interest in competing with Google. As such, much of what you get on the Samsung app market is the same as those you get on Google Playstore. Trashing the Samsung bloatware is the main attraction for me at least.

The only difference is for the Galaxy Note series, where a series of apps were released to support the stylus input through Samsung’s own Appstore. Beyond that, Galaxy device users will find it very difficult to maintain those Samsung bloatware. Bloatware such as health apps and Samsung video and media centric apps cannot be erased.

Microsoft is in a very good position to hijack Android and splitting it from Google’s paws. It has the financial clout to pull it off and even make proprietary versions of it just like Amazon and Xioami in China (Xiaomi’s global march will be powered by an official version  of Google’s Android with MIUI 6 on Lollipop).

With the new investment in Cyanogen, Microsoft has to learn to find the right balance. Cyanogen opens the doors to users from HTC and Samsung that could be Microsoft centric—puffed up with a slew of Microsoft own services from Outlook mail, Bing Maps, Bing Streetview, Office 360 and Bing Search. Such a underhanded tactic could well destroy Google’s hold on Android. Will Nadella take this swipe at a rival after coming onboard as CEO? Only time will tell. Xiaomi does not have the clout to fight off patent lawsuits that will start flying when it enters global markets but Microsoft is already a patent leader in mobile technologies. As a matter of fact, Microsoft makes more money from mobile based patent royalties than it does from Windows Mobile licensing.

The long term view here is that Xiaomi will just be another User Interface for the rest of us while Microsoft could have its own ecosystem embedded in future releases of Cyanogen. That would be, in short, the worst nightmare for Google.

 

Google exits the Nexus Sphere?

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For the longest time, I have been waiting for the Nexus 6 from Google. Now Geeks around the world know that there is something special that should come with the Nexus 6 after all, it was strongly associated with the cult hit “Blade Runner” where replicants (codenamed Nexus) were bred to operate as humans. The Nexus 6 was supposed to be the most advanced version of all replicants, thus Google had a name to live up to as users waited with bated breath for the Motorola Nexus 6. Previously, Google had partnered LG and Samsung to give life to the Nexus. But not anymore.

Google sold its entire mobile unit to Lenovo for a princely sum of US$2.91 billion while keeping almost all of its trove of patents. This effectively marks the end of Google’s foray into the smartphone business as it concentrates on the core activities of producing a better Android operating system.

Red March from China

The anti-Chinese sentiment is strong in the US, and with the mid-term elections coming up, there will be more Chinese bashing to come but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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Lenovo has made a name of itself in China but it hasn’t got the same muscles as Samsung to crack the international market. Even Asus has done better and now that the Oppo has also made its foray into the Global market with CyanogenMod, we can only expect to see more China brands invading the US market.

Going global for the Chinese is all about cracking the most difficult foreign markets. Having a go at the US market without the distribution, retail and service infrastructure is tantamount to suicide. This is what Lenovo bought into. Anyone can buy a brand name, but core assets are infrastructure are vital in a war against the likes of Apple.

Lenovo’s own K series and VIBE models haven’t score much of a hit globally and with the Motorola name in its best, it could finally develop a phone that people will rave about.

Nexus Users feel Cheated?

Eric Schmidt was seen sporting a Motorola X and from that day, Android fans were excited about the prospect of having a Motorola Nexus 6.

Well it might as well be a Lenovo Nexus 6 if you get my drift but you won’t be seeing that way as Lenovo intends to use the Motorola brand name to extend its reach. Google will continue to use the Nexus name, and the Nexus 6 will live on. Motorola will continue with the X2 or X3, and it will be no slouch.

The biggest manufacturers of handsets in the world are the Chinese. Regardless of your brand, you manufactured in China to get the best possible deal.

Google has never been a hardware manufacturer, its core strengths has been in firmware and software. I have always suspected that when Google bought up Motorola, it was for its patents and not for the physical assets so with this out of the bag, Google will continue to make a better Android for everyone.

 

 

Photosphere on Android: No Root Required

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One of the most exciting thing to come out of Android in the 4.3 update was Photosphere, a bubble photo capture feature found on Nexus devices but Google unfortunately did not make that available to all as it was included as a native camera app. So if you have updated to 4.3, chances are that you’ll still be missing this feature unless you got yourself a stock standard Android update like those found on Nexus and Motorola phones.

Photosphere APKs to the Rescue

The folks at XDA released an APK file for users to download and install the Google Nexus camera app and you can find them here.

But a word of warning. It doesn’t actually work on all devices running Android 4.3. Part of the problem is probably the hardware. The Galaxy Note 2 did allow me to run the app but the images shot on it were far from stellar. The overlapping images didn’t stitch well and the whole bubble image turned out to be more of a psychedelic attempt at feeding LSD directly into your brain. You can view my failed attempt here.

Shooting a bubble is relatively easy. It can take anywhere from 3 to 5 mins to complete the photography cycle before you can stitch it all together.

The APK file is actually a Gallery and Camera app, the camera’s bubble capture capability is buried under this APK. Samsung has its own dedicated camera app in Android 4.3 that doesn’t support Photosphere so you need to remind yourself to launch the Google Gallery or Camera app instead of your usual device camera app to capture and view bubble photos.

Photo Bubbles are Hip

Well, Instagram is so old school so why not get some new school shooting with Bubble photos? Allow me to give you an idea what Photosphere is to Google.

  • It is to be used alongside Streetview, where places prove inaccessible to their cars.
  • Photosphere can be shared on G+
  • On mobile, Photosphere can only be viewed in real-time using the Maps application or Web browser.

Both iOS and Windows Mobile have competing Bubble type photography features but on unfortunately on iOS, it is not native. Apple couldn’t care two hoots about Bubble photos but a few Apps that support the iPhone, including Microsoft’s Photosynth.

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Google Maps and Photo Bombing Opportunities

In recent past, Photosphere was the domain of the DSLR. You needed one of those to shoot the photos and put them together. However with the new mobile capability on Google approved devices, ANYONE can shoot a photo bubble, upload it and have that seen all over the world. For advertising mileage, there isn’t anything better! People who contribute to Photosphere can effectively Photo Bomb the image with banners and advertisements before uploading those to Google maps.

Hardware Compatibility Issues

Right now, Google hasn’t got any plans to make Photosphere a standalone app, but it might do so if it wants more people to contribute to the platform. The chief reason for this omission so far has to be hardware issues. Dual core devices with 1GB of RAM won’t cut it. Shooting photo bubbles and stitching them together is a RAM intensive operation. There is also the question of accelerometer compatibility as this is used heavily when all the photos are being put together.

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For now, you can download the Google approved Gallery APK with Photosphere and try it on your device. It might not work but if it does, then it is good to go. Google has released a slew of APIs to support Photosphere for use on websites and blogs so you won’t be seeing the last of this for a very long time.