Today in Tech News Digest, Samsung unveils the Galaxy S5, the Nokia X is revealed, WhatsApp announces free voice services, Google is rumored to be working on a smartwatch, the Xbox One gets its first price cut, and selfies may be helping to spread head lice.
Samsung Unveils The Galaxy S5
As expected, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S5 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The South Korean company’s latest flagship device isn’t a huge step up from the Galaxy S4, offering a similar design and only slightly improved specs.
The front of the S5 looks the same as the S4, but the back has been given a soft-touch, dimpled finish available in black, white, blue, and gold. The S5 comes with Android 4.4.2 (Kitkat) and a slightly tweaked version of the company’s TouchWiz UI.
The Galaxy S5 comes with the updated S Health app that can be paired with the Galaxy Gear wearables, and a heart rate sensor which measures your pulse through your fingertips. The other hardware tweak is a fingerprint scanner, which we have already seen on other phones, including the iPhone 5S.
First impressions from people at MWC suggest the Galaxy S5 is a solid smartphone, but one that doesn’t bring anything new to the market. Samsung, like Apple, seems content with sticking to a winning formula rather than doing anything exciting or innovative. Which is a shame for those of us bored by incremental annual updates.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is being launched globally on April 5, with the price still to be announced.
Android-Powered Nokia X Revealed
After months of speculation that Nokia was working on an Android-powered smartphone, the Finnish company has revealed the Nokia X. It does indeed run on Android rather than Windows Phone 8, but it’s a forked version of Google’s operating system, making it much less appealing. This forked version of Android — based on 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) — sees Nokia creating its own store full of apps.
The Nokia X range actually comprises three handsets, with the X, the X+, and the XL. All offer cheap hardware, with specs designed to appeal to the low-end market. So much so that the Nokia X handsets won’t be released in North America, Western Europe, Japan, or Korea. Instead, these phones are being aimed at South America, Eastern Europe, and poorer parts of Asia.
It remains to be seen what Microsoft will do with the Nokia X range when it completes the acquisition of the company in the weeks ahead. I’m guessing this will be a short-lived experiment.
WhatsApp Adding Free Voice Services
WhatsApp, which was recently acquired by Facebook for $19 billion, is adding voice services to its messaging app. Users are already able to send voice messages to each other, but this update — due to debut in Q2 — will bring real-time voice calls to the service.
These services will be free in that WhatsApp is sticking to its $1-per-year after the first 12 months revenue system. Founder (and new billionaire) Jan Koum promised “no planned changes” despite the acquisition.
Still, those who aren’t fans of Facebook should check out the WhatsApp alternatives guarding your privacy.
Rumor: Google Working On Smartwatch
Apparently Google’s smartwatch is being made by LG, and will launch at I/O.
— @evleaks (@evleaks) February 23, 2014
Google is rumored to be working on a smartwatch, with LG lined up to be its hardware partner. The existence of the device could be announced as soon as March, with a grand unveiling set for the Google I/O conference in June.
Smartwatches have failed to take off in a big way thus far, but with Google and Apple both rumored to be gambling on the form factor things could change quickly in 2014.
Xbox One Gets First Price Cut
— Xbox UK (@xboxuk) February 24, 2014
Microsoft has cut the price of the Xbox One just three months after launch. Sadly, the price cut is only for the U.K., and only knocks £30 ($50) off the price. The Titanfall bundle will cost £399 ($665) in the U.K. but only $500 in the U.S., meaning American gamers are still getting a better deal. Because Microsoft hates British people.
Selfies Spread Head Lice, Mmmkay
Dear Lord, some publications actually picked up the “Selfies Cause Lice Outbreaks” story.
— Philip Michaels (@PhilipMichaels) February 25, 2014
And finally, selfies could be helping to spread head lice. That is, at least, if you choose to accept the word of someone with a vested interest in the subject.
Marcy McQuillan told SFist that there had been a “huge increase of lice in teens this year” due to them “sticking their heads together every day to take cellphone pics.” But then she would say that, being the owner of a business specializing in the removal of head lice.
Still, anything that helps dissuade people from taking selfies is a positive, so may Marcy keep fighting the good fight.