Google Play Music has a new feature that allows users to create radio stations based on their current playlists. The new radio station tool appears to allow for a shortcut to having a more diverse and accurate station than the typical artist or song based tools that take time to learn the best songs to play based on feedback. A quick comparison of my DMX stations shows the playlist-sourced station did a better job playing the hits. Users can create a station by navigating to Playlists and tapping the column of three circles and selecting "Start radio." The tool works only with handcrafted playlists, so auto-created playlists for Recently added, Purchased, or Thumbs up will not work.
Google is quick to throw up a sale in celebration of certain milestones, and the latest promotion is to commemorate Google Play turning two. Google has lowered the price on several apps, games, and media its storefront, including free in-app bonuses or discounts in games like Badland, FIFA 14, and The Sims FreePlay. Several Dr. Seuss books can be had for only $1, movies like Star Trek: Into Darkness and The Great Gatsby are $9.99 or less, and an annual subscription to Entertainment Weekly is now at half price. The full list of deals are viewable in Google Play.
Windows Phone 8 users now have a dedicated Facebook Messenger app rather than the old solutions of using the Facebook app or the Messaging Hub. The switch to a standalone app includes new support for stickers and photos, and lets users jump right to messages rather than rely on the app. More importantly, it makes it easier to distribute updates when new features are added. It's far easier to issue app updates than it is to issue firmware updates when the messaging client is updated. Redundancies are created in notifications, so users will need to turn off message notifications in Facebook and Windows Phone if they were previously enabled.
Dish Network still isn't giving up on its wireless aspirations. Though the company missed out on opportunities to purchase Sprint and Clearwire, it's still amassing wireless licenses for the eventual launch of a wireless provider or sale of its comparatively small but valuable spectrum holdings. Dish won the entire set of licenses in the 1900 MHz frequencies recently auctioned off by the FCC. Dish offered an unchallenged bid of $1.564 billion for 176 licenses and walked away the winner of the auction. Now that Dish has added to its spectrum treasure chest, the hard part becomes figuring out how these new airwaves can help launch the wireless network CEO Charlie Ergen seems determined to start.
The latest statistics from Google show that Android 4.4 KitKat is still a very small portion of active devices. KitKat notches only only 2.5 percent, up from the 1.8 percent reported last month and likely to increase next month with the release of new KitKat updates and phones from HTC and Samsung. In the meantime, the leading platform versions remain Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (35.3 percent), Android 4.2 JB (17.1), Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (15.2), Android 4.3 JB (9.6), and Android 2.2 Froyo (1.2).
BlackBerry Messenger will complete its cross-platform hat trick and arrive on Windows Phone at an undisclosed date later this year. Having already made the jump to Android and iOS last year, BBM will support the Windows Phone platform in the summer. That's a very long time to wait, especially considering the continued growth of WhatsApp and the impending launch of Facebook Messenger. BBM will face even stiffer competition when it launches later this year, but the app's spread to Android and iOS has lead to millions of new users.
While Google Maps is the more known provider of public transit directions in the US, Nokia's HERE Transit solution has gained a wide reach in several markets spread across the globe. Nokia today share some progress statistics about Here Transit, including the revelation that it supports subway, tram, and bus directions in 800 cities in 53 countries. Service has been expanded in parts of the United States, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Mexico City, Israel, Sweden, and Brazil. It has also added schedules in several countries, as well as confirmed plans to complete coverage in several other countries. Details about the expansion can be found here. HERE Transit is available for download in the Windows Phone Store.
BlackBerry has made good on its promise to bring its messaging service to older model Android devices. BBM originally worked only on Android 4.x devices, but it has since been updated to work on the millions of phones still running the outdated Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Adding support to older devices offers BBM access to significantly more people because Gingerbread accounts for 1 in 5 active Android devices. Gingerbread is especially active in many of the emerging markets that BlackBerry is still a strong player, so getting more people under its service umbrella should be a positive for the company.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear temporarily costs half as much as it normally does. BestBuy.com has a 50 percent off sale for the Android-powered smart watch that lowers the price to $149.99 with free shipping included. This does not appear to be in connection with recent reports of a permanent price drop for the Gear. A price drop to make the Gear more appealing is rumored to be on the way; however, Best Buy has it listed as part of its Daily Deals, so if this interests you, make the purchase now rather than later.
The Google Nexus 7 debuted in July 2013. Quick math should tell you six months have passed since then, but Verizon Wireless has not made the Android tablet available until this week. The anticipated arrival will finally come February 13 when Verizon begins selling the Nexus 7 (32GB) for $349.99 when purchased off contract or $249.99 with a two-year agreement. The 4G LTE-compatible tablet can be added to a Share Everything plan for $10 per month when purchased online or in Verizon stores starting this Thursday.