Week in Tech: Online storage wars, wearable tech

USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham highlights this week's top headlines from the world of technology. VPC

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LOS ANGELES -- In case you missed it, here are your tech headlines for the week, highlighted by a massive boost in online storage, a new smartwatch from Samsung and major TV stars making new shows for Amazon.

Let's begin with online storage.

Whether you're watching footage of homes destroyed in a Napa earthquake, or severe damage from fires, it doesn't take a genius to realize that the safest way to back up your photos, videos and documents is via online storage, and what's called the cloud.

Using the service Dropbox has become the most popular way to do that, serving 300 million folks who have been spending an average $10 monthly to store up to 100 gigabytes of data.

This week, Dropbox bettered its offer by ten times -- $10 will now get you 1 terabyte of data, matching Google's recent price drops. Microsoft countered with a plan aimed at businesses -- but anyone can apply for 1 terrabyte at $2.50 a month.

Bottom line: the consumer is winning the storage wars.

Meanwhile, in other tech news for the week:

--Samsung debuted yet another new smartwatch, the Gear S, with a 2-inch screen. It's way more stylish than the model introduced back in June. And what of that new digital watch from Apple? Reports this week say the rumored Apple product won't be sold as a watch. Instead, analysts point to a wearable health product -- like the Fitbit -- that will have more features, but can also tell time.

-- Netflix didn't exactly clean up at the Emmys this week, despite the acclaim of such series as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. It came up empty in the prime-time categories. But meanwhile, rival Amazon is continuing its push to wean viewers away from the networks and watch original shows on phones, tablets and TVs. This week, five new series debuted on Amazon, starring veterans Paul Reiser, Dana Delaney and Ron Perlman. To watch, you need to subscribe to the $99 yearly Prime offering of two-day shipping and entertainment.

-- Finally, the top new app of the week, on the iPhone download chart, is FaceQ, a free avatar maker, while the no. 1 new Android app is Link, a social network that connects you to people nearby.

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10 awesome things you didn’t know your phone could do

Kim Komando, Special for USA TODAY 7:03 a.m. EDT August 29, 2014

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You've had your smartphone for a while. But let's face it: you've never read the manual. You take great pride in the fact you know how to use it. Then, it happens.

You see someone do something extraordinary with his or her phone that you did not know was even possible. Friends don't let friends have smartphone skill envy. Here are some of my favorite secrets buried in your phone settings that you probably don't know, but will use now.

Quick note: There are so many versions of Android out there that these instructions won't work for every phone. Where I can I've included apps that do the same thing.

1. Take a screenshot

Have you ever wanted to capture something on your phone's screen? Maybe it's a hilarious text from a friend, an interesting Facebook post, or you want to send someone an image to show them how to do something.

iPhone

Press and hold the Home button along with the Sleep/Wake button. You should hear a shutter click. The screenshot will appear in your Camera Roll or Saved Photos section.

Android

Hold the Power and Volume Down buttons at the same time. The image is saved to the "Captured Images" folder in your Gallery app. That only works in Android 4.0 and higher, though. For Android 3.0, 2.3 or earlier, use an app like AirDroid.

2. Block calls and texts

Have you ever had someone who just won't stop calling or texting you, even after you asked nicely? Here's how to block them.

iPhone

To block calls on an iPhone with iOS 7 or later, open the Phone or FaceTime app. If the person is already a contact, tap their name, scroll to the bottom of the page and tap Block This Caller. Then tap Block Contact.

If the person isn't a contact, tap the Info button, then scroll to the bottom of the page and tap Block this Caller. Then tap Block Contact.

If you want to block texts, open the Messages app and tap a message from the person you want to block. Tap Contact in the upper right and then tap the Info button. Scroll to the bottom and tap Block this Caller. Then tap Block Contact.

You can edit your blocked contacts later at these locations:

Settings>>Phone>>Blocked

Settings>>Messages>>Blocked

Settings>>FaceTime>>Blocked

Android

On Android, go to Settings>>Call settings>>Call block. Under "Incoming calls" tap "Call block list" and then tap Create. You can enter a number, or tap the picture icon to find the number in your Contacts list or in your call logs.

If you don't see these steps or want more blocking options, check out these call- and text-blocking apps.

3. Use a real password

iPhone and Android both default to a 4-digit PIN for unlocking the phone. That's OK as long as you don't use something simple like 0000 or 1234. However, I know some people who want even more security.

iPhone

To set a real password on an iPhone, go to Settings>>Passcode. From there, swipe off the option that says Simple Passcode. Here, you can set your passcode with letters and special characters for better phone security.

Android

Go to Settings>>Lock screen and tap Screen lock. You can set what level of security you want, from a simple swipe to a password. Select Password and type in the password that you want. It should have a mix of letters, numbers and special characters to be really safe.

4. See text easier

Having a hard time reading things on your phone's small screen? Bump up the font size to something a bit easier to see.

iPhone

Go to Settings>>General>>Accessibility and turn on Bold Text and Larger Text. You can choose either one or both, depending on your preferences. You will need to restart your phone for Bold Text to take effect.

Android

Go to Settings>>Accessibility. Under Vision, tap Font size and set it to Large. Some phones include an even larger Huge option.

5. Read things out loud

Want to keep your eyes off your phone for a bit? Have it read things to you out loud.

iPhone

Go to Settings>>General>>Accessibility and turn on VoiceOver. You have the option to practice with VoiceOver, set the speaking rate and more.

You will need to do some playing around to get used to it. For example you can touch and drag your fingers around the home screen to have it read what's there. Double tap to activate an app, while one tap will give you details about it.

VoiceOver will read directions to you in Maps, have your camera tell you how many people are in your shot, and get spoken photo descriptions. You can also hand write notes and letters on the screen and have VoiceOver translate your messages into text for Mail and other apps.

Android

Go to Settings>>Accessibility and tap TalkBack. If you don't see it, you can download it from the Google Play store.

Turn it on and your phone will read whatever you touch on the screen and incoming notifications. Hint: To perform a regular swipe gesture, you have to use two fingers instead of one.

To adjust your TalkBack settings, go to Settings>>Accessibility and tap Text-to-Speech options. You can adjust the voice engine and speed rate.

Then go to Settings and turn on Hands-free mode. This will tell you who is calling or messaging.

6. Customize alert vibration patterns

You've set a custom ringtone for each of your contacts, but that doesn't help when you have your phone on vibrate. Fortunately, you can create custom vibration patterns as well.

iPhone

Go to Settings>>Sounds>>Ringtone>>Vibration. You can tap out patterns to record. Or, you can go into your contacts list and hit Edit and select the Vibration option for each contact.

Android

Go to Contacts and tap on a contact name. Under Vibration Pattern, tap Default and choose a preset pattern. Or tap the Create button and tap on the screen to create your own pattern.

If you don't have this built in, there are third-party apps like Vybe that can do this as well.

7. Flash camera LED for notifications

Need a quiet alert about notifications and don't want to use vibrate? Have notifications trigger your phone's LED camera flash instead. Just make sure you turn this off or keep your phone hidden when you go to the movies.

iPhone

Go to Settings>>General>> Accessibility and turn on "LED Flash for Alerts." Now every time you get a notification, your phone's rear camera will flash.

Android

Go to Settings>>Accessibility and turn on "Flash notification." If your phone doesn't have this, try an app like Flash Notification 2 from the Google Play store.

8. Better ways to take pictures

Tapping your phone's screen to take a picture sounds good in theory, but in practice it can make shots a little shaky. Here are some better options.

iPhone

Hold your camera in landscape mode and press the Volume Up button on the side.

Android

Open the camera app and tap the gear to see the settings. Scroll down to Voice control and turn it on. Now you can take pictures with the commands, "Capture," "Shoot," "Smile" and "Cheese."

If your phone doesn't have a built-in camera app with this feature, you'll need a third-party app like Say Cheese.

9. Take multiple pictures at once

If you're taking pictures of a moving object, squirming kid or people who tend to blink, you often want to take a bunch of pictures at once.

iPhone 5s/5c

Open the Camera app. Tap and hold the shutter release button on the screen - or press and hold the Volume Up button - and the camera will start taking multiple pictures. Release the button when you want to stop.

The iPhone can take up to 10 pictures a second. It will group the photos for you automatically so you can quickly find the best ones.

Android

Open the Camera app. Tap the gear icon to open the settings and turn Burst Shot on. Then tap and hold the shutter release button and the phone will take multiple images until you release the button - or it hits the preset limit for your phone. The photos will be grouped for you in your gallery.

If your camera doesn't have this option, you can grab a third-party camera app like Snap Camera HDR, or wait for your phone to get an updated to Android 4.4.

10. Turn off music automatically

A lot of people use their phone to listen to music as they go to sleep, or as they're doing a project. But you don't want it running forever and draining your battery.

iPhone

Go to the Clock app and click on "Timer," then "When Timer Ends." From here, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the screen and select "Stop Playing."

Android

Open the music player and go to Settings. Look for "Music auto off" and set it to however long you want the music to play. There are also third-party apps like Sleep Timer available.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, newsletters and more, visitwww.komando.com. E-mail her at techcomments@usatoday.com.

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Apple’s big September: iPhone up first

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LOS ANGELES – If it's September, there's surely a new, larger iPhone in your future. And plenty more fun toys as well.

Apple has sent out the invites for a Sept. 9 press session, where it is widely expected to introduce a new, revamped iPhone that will be in stores later in the month.

In turn, Apple could unveil two other new products, an updated iPad and a new wearable health device that can also tell time. Early speculation suggests it could be more like a Fitbit or Jawbone Up than a traditional smartwatch.

Pent-up demand for the new iPhone is huge. Apple is expected to sell 10 million units of the new phone on its opening weekend, which would be a record, predicts RBC Capital Markets. That would top the opening 9 million unit weekend of the iPhone 5s and 5c by 1 million.

The new iPhone is expected to have:

– A larger, 4.7-inch screen, up from the current 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5s and 5c. The larger screen brings Apple closer to the competition. Several Galaxy phones from Samsung have 5-inch screens, and the new LG G3 has a whopping 5.5-inch screen.

While several reports have said Apple will have two models available, the 4.7-inch and a larger 5.2-inch model, long-time Apple analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies believes Apple will just have one new size – 4.7 inches. The 5.2 inch-model "is just too big," he says. The co-called "Phablets" – larger smartphones – "have just not taken off," he adds. Out of the 2 billion smartphones sold yearly, just 10% have the larger screen, he notes. Consumer alert: you'll need to purchase a new case for the iPhone – the older ones will be too small to fit the new one.

– Look for a new, more scratch-proof screen, made out of synthetic sapphire crystal. This will help keep your iPhone more shiny and new looking, but it won't totally eliminate the problem so many complain of – shattered iPhone screens.

However, sapphire is expensive to produce. Bajarin says it adds $100 to the price of the iPhone. He believes a sapphire screen will be available as an add-on option. "I just cracked my iPhone screen, and it cost me $150 to replace," he says. "If I could get a screen that wouldn't shatter, for $100, I'd do it, just for the insurance."

Sapphire will give Apple "a competitive advantage over Samsung and LG," says Richard Doherty, an analyst with the Envisioneering Group.

–The new iPhone almost surely will have a stronger processor. The current A7 chip will be replaced with the A8. In terms of performance, the new chip is expected to be more energy efficient and about 30% faster in terms of performance.

– Battery life. It's expected to be slightly improved. Since the new iPhone will have a larger screen and thus more "real estate," Bajarin says the device will be able to fit a bigger battery.

– The iSight camera will be improved. More people take photos on an iPhone now than any camera, and Apple uses new iPhone releases as an opportunity to upgrade its optics. In fact, photos will be a big part of the new iPhone. The iPhoto app is being discontinued in favor of a new app, simply called "Photos," which will make it easier to search through photos, save them to the cloud, and shoot time-lapse videos.

– Make payments with your iPhone. NFC, which stands for Near Field Communications, is a technology that lets consumers make payments just by swiping their phone – instead of a credit card – at retailers. Several Android models have it now, but the new iPhone will also have it, reports Wired magazine.

Apple is expected to focus on the new iPhone on Sept. 9, and invite reporters back by October for the iPad and wearable tech announcement.

The new wearable device will "narrow its focus" from that of a timepiece to be more like the Nike Fuelband "on steroids"– monitoring health and sharing information with health providers, says Bajarin.

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Samsung, LG announce new smartwatches

Eli Blumenthal, Special for USA TODAY 1:19 a.m. EDT August 28, 2014

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While most of the attention for smartwatches is focused on Motorola's upcoming Moto 360 and Apple's rumored wearable, Samsung and LG aren't getting out of the way. On Wednesday night both South Korean companies unveiled two new wearables, the Samsung Gear S and LG G Watch R, respectively.

For Samsung the new smartwatch marks the company's sixth wearable announced within the last year, a trend that started last year with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch introduced alongside the Galaxy Note 3. The new Gear S however, is arguably the company's most fashionable device yet, featuring a large, curved 2-inch Super AMOLED display.

The watch, which runs the company's Tizen operating system and not Google's Android Wear, also features a heart rate sensor to work with Samsung's S Health app and will provide turn-by-turn directions through Nokia's Here maps service. Similar to Samsung's earlier wearables, the Gear S uses Bluetooth to connect to your phone, but the device also features Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity to allow you to respond to messages or forward calls to your wrist for the times when your phone is not with you. The company claims the device, which is water and dust resistant, will get about two days of battery life.

Samsung says the new smartwatch will be available globally in October, though exact pricing and release dates weren't announced.

The LG G Watch R.(Photo: LG)

For LG, the G Watch R is the company's second smartwatch following up on this summer's launch of the original G Watch. While the company, along with Samsung, was among the first to release an Android Wear device, the G Watch's blocky design was rather uninspiring when compared to other Android Wear devices like the Moto 360. To fix this the company has decided to release the G Watch R, its second Android Wear watch this time featuring an all-new round design focused on a 1.3-inch OLED display. The new display allows the G Watch R to look more like a traditional watch, with LG claiming the display will be viewable in sunlight, a problem that has plagued earlier smartwatches including the original G Watch.

The G Watch R also adds a heart-rate monitor and power button, two things the G Watch lacked, but otherwise offers many of the same features of the original including being waterproof in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. LG hasn't released pricing or release dates for the G Watch R, but says the device will be available "early in the fourth quarter of 2014."

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Apple loses bid to block sales of 9 Samsung phones – FOX 13 Tampa Bay, WTVT-TV


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Apple loses bid to block sales of 9 Samsung phones
FOX 13 Tampa Bay, WTVT-TV
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Report: Apple to reveal wearable device next month

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It appears a new iPhone won't be the only device Apple plans to unveil during its big event in September.

According to Re/code, the company is not only unveiling two iPhones at an event on September 9, but a wearable device. The report does not specify whether the wearable will be a smartwatch, but says it will likely take advantage of Apple's HealthKit suite of fitness and health apps as well as the HomeKit of connected device apps.

Shares of Apple are up 1.2% in afternoon trading.

Reports of Apple announcing a wearable device aren't new. In June, Apple was reportedly planning to produce a smartwatch for launch in October.

Apple would enter a growing market, as more companies plunge into wearables. Google started rolling out its line of Android Wear smartwatches this year, while Samsung and Pebble already have their own smartwatches available to consumers. There's also the separate line of fitness bands from companies including Nike and Fitbit.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

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Tech Five: Apple’s next iPad, Time Warner outage

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Wall Street isn't swayed by reports Apple may start production on a larger iPad. Let's take a look at the tech stocks to watch Wednesday.

Apple. The company is working on a 12.9-inch version of the iPad to drum up sales, reports Bloomberg. The largest iPad currently available on the market boasts a 9.7-inch display. Production is reported to start by the first quarter of next year.

Time Warner Cable. Share activity for the media giant is silent after confirming a massive outage Wednesday morning. The company says issues with their "Internet backbone" unearthed during routine maintenance caused the outage. Services have been restored to most customers.

AT&T. The telecom giant will combine its wireless and business units, reports Reuters. Ralph de la Vega, former chief of AT&T Mobility, will lead the combined units. Shares of AT&T are up slightly in pre-market trading.

Facebook. The company's photo sharing service Instagram unveiled Hyperlapse, an app for creating time-lapsed videos. It's available for free on Apple's app store.

TiVo. Shares of the media company dipped in morning trading after reporting an increase in subscriptions during the second quarter and a $350 million share repurchase program.

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80 percent of Time Warner Cable subscribers woke up without Internet this morning. Here’s why.

August 27 at 9:37 AM

(Reuters/Joshua Lott/Files)

Time Warner Cable is recovering from a major Internet blackout after network problems led to a sudden disruption of service for all of its broadband subscribers nationwide, the company said Wednesday.

The outage occurred at 4:30 a.m. Eastern time, according to company spokesman Bobby Amirshahi, and knocked out access to the Web for TWC's 11.4 million residential customers who buy Internet service. That's nearly 80 percent of Time Warner Cable's entire residential customer base of 14.4 million.

By 6 a.m. Eastern, the company said, the problems had been mostly fixed.

"During our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services," TWC said in a statement.

Time Warner Cable is currently working with Comcast to complete a $45 billion merger. TWC has a significant footprint in New York, Ohio, and California, and a merger would give Comcast control of many of the TWC customers in these areas.

(SNL Kagan)

The massive outage, however brief, probably doesn't help the company with regulators who've signaled they'll examine the deal closely. The Federal Communications Commission is responsible for determining whether allowing the two companies to combine would be in the public interest.

Meanwhile, ads for Verizon FiOS are appearing at the top of some searches for "TWC" on Twitter, though it's unclear whether the ads are connected to the outage or simply the result of a prior business decision.

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Arizona gun range instructor accidentally shot dead showing girl, 9, how to fire … – New York Daily News


New York Daily News

Arizona gun range instructor accidentally shot dead showing girl, 9, how to fire ...
New York Daily News
An Arizona gun range instructor was accidentally shot dead by a 9-year-old girl he was showing how to fire an automatic Uzi, police said. The little girl's parents were using cell phones to film the tutorial when tragedy struck around 10 a.m. Monday, Sam ...
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Amazon’s Play: Videogames as Sport – Wall Street Journal


Wall Street Journal

Amazon's Play: Videogames as Sport
Wall Street Journal
The e-commerce giant said Monday it agreed to acquire Twitch Interactive Inc., a popular Internet video channel for broadcasting, and watching, people play videogames, for about $970 million in cash. The deal is Amazon's second biggest, and underscores ...
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