Spotify announces major updates, additions to service

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At a press event today, Spotify announced some major changes to their service built on the data they have amassed from 25 billion hours of listeners using the service over the past seven years. Besides new content that is being added in the form of video clips and podcasts, Spotify is planning to move away from the concept of genres and toward playlists focused more on moods, time of day, and listening history.  Read more

Coalition of tech companies, others urge Obama to reject encrypted data backdoors

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Leading tech companies like Apple and Google, along with a host of cryptologists and other advisors, have penned a letter to President Obama urging him to protect privacy rights from attempts by law enforcement agencies to create backdoors to encrypted phone data. The move is in response to several months of statements from officials like FBI Director James Comey who have criticized tech companies for building encryption into their devices possibly at the expense of public safety. Against that fear, the letter notes that “strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security.” Read more

Microsoft opens beta testing for Office for Android on smartphones

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This past January Microsoft released Office for Android on tablet devices that were at least 7-inches in size. Today they announced another step in their effort to make the suite of desktop applications truly cross-platform and cross-device with the launch of beta testing of the app on Android smartphones. Microsoft says the interfaces for Word, Excel and PowerPoint have all been optimized for use on Android phones while preserving formatting and content. Read more

New Light Phone wants to be “your phone away from phone”

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In some areas of the U.S., the tiny house movement is leading consumers to build small, simple houses and eschewing the size and complexity of most normal houses. A new project on Kickstarter appears to be bringing a similar mindset to cell phones. The Light Phone is being designed as a credit card-sized cell phone that does one thing – phone calls. The device is being marketed as a way for people to get away from all of the distractions and intrusions created by today’s typical smartphones. Read more

LG Watch Urbane surfaces on Amazon in India at premium price

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The LG Watch Urbane has shown up on the Indian site for Amazon at a sale price of 29,990 rupees ($471 USD), which is considerably higher than what the smartwatch sells for in other parts of the world. In the U.S. the LG Watch Urbane has been listing at around $349 with the different carriers and even the Google Play Store. Possibly even more disturbing for potential Indian buyers is that the normal price is listed as 35,000 rupees ($550 USD).

At this time, LG has not issued an official announcement regarding the availability of the Watch Urbane in India, so the official price could be more in line with other countries and this could be a case of a retailer banking on early access and limited supply to try to charge a premium. The retailer in India is listing both the gold and silver version of the Watch Urbane as available and in stock.

source: Amazon India

Facebook Messenger games coming to platform soon

Fans of games on Facebook will likely be interested in knowing that fun times could be coming to the Messenger app that Facebook makes available for users. Since the launch of Messenger, third party apps have mostly been limited to those that enhance the communication aspects of the platform, giving users things like emojis, the ability to send sound clips, gif support and similar functions. Reports indicate uptake has been slow for these apps, so Facebook is planning to start pushing for games to expand to the platform in hopes of giving developers something a little “stickier” and with higher revenue potential. Read more

HomeUX seeks more beta testers for launcher

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Launchers are always popular for Android fans who want to extend the customization of their interfaces. With Android 5.0 Lollipop expanding to more devices this year, some developers are seeing a new opportunity to create new launchers that are in keeping with the design principles of Google’s Material Design guidelines and that take advantage of new APIs in Lollipop. One of those developers is the group behind HomeUX that hopes to produce a launcher that is “simplistic, yet highly functional.” They are currently soliciting additional beta testers for the latest version of HomeUX that is in development. Read more