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Last October Google announced that a dedicated team had started working on an exciting modular and fully-customisable smartphone that could well change the way we look at the mobile phone industry for good.

Code-named Project Ara, the smartphone will consist of one framework and a series of separate sections. The thinking behind it is that people will be able to swap out these different sections as easily as buying a new app, completely changing their phone as they go.

We've heard a relatively small amount about Google's ambitious plans - apart from the odd photo and teaser video. But this week a few new details have emerged following the first Project Ara developer conference, which took place at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley.

Until we learn more about what took place at the conference, here's everything we already know about Google's Project Ara and its exciting plans for a fully-modular smartphone:

You'll be able to customise EVERYTHING about your phone

The Project Ara device will consist of an endo (short for endoskeleton), which is a basically a chassis to hold everything together. Onto this framework you're than able to attach any module you like. So are you into mobile photography? Attach an awesome, huge camera and a flash. Get mad when your phone runs out of charge? Add a much bigger battery. Like to show off about how big your gadgets are? Get a screen that's MASSIVE. You get the picture.

It'll (probably) be ready early next year

Those at the Project Ara developer conference have revealed that some users will be able to order their Ara from January 2015.

But it might start its life out as a cheap device in developing countries

Although the Project Ara smartphone may sound like something for early adopters and tech geeks, it looks as if Google might concentrate on launching the modular devices to those who don't have phones already first. With this in mind, it's set to be very cheap to begin with (possibly around $50) and only have the basics attached. People will then be able to add more as and when they need to.

It's much slimmer than you'd imagine...

If we told you that Google is building a phone out of lots of different blocks, you'd think it'd be a chunky toy-like device, right? Well according to sources and early prototypes, it'll only be 9.7mm thick. Surprising, but necessary if it's going to compete with current smartphones on the market.

....And it won't fall to bits as easily as you'd expect

Not only is the Ara smartphone not going to be super thick, but it isn't going to fall apart like a lame Jenga-version of a phone. All of the different components will be attached to the Endo skeleton using a series of super strong magnets on the back and small latches on the front.

It'll come in a few different sizes

According to those at the conference, there won't just be one endo to choose from, but three. Sizes are expected to range from a mini version to one that's much more like the sizes of the phablets we've seen from Samsung, Sony and HTC.

It won't be a Google-branded product (well not all of it)

The Endo base of the Ara will be Google-branded, but everything else, the battery, the camera, the screen, will be produced by other companies. This is great because it means lots of smaller, third party companies can get involved, but it also means enough need to get involved and see a future for the Ara to make it a success.

It could really change the industry (and it could also be a massive anti-climax)

If Project Ara is successful it'll mean that we'll be happier with our phones for much longer. If you're able to customise everything about your device, then why would you need a new one? You'd just swap out a bigger camera for a smaller battery, buy different coloured components to give your gadget a refresh or buy a finger-scanning module that's just as good as what the latest smartphone has to offer.

On the other hand, there's a long way to go before this ambitious project is actually turned into a working device anyone will want. After all, is a customisable smartphone something that we're all after? Or just the next big thing?

Let us know whether you'd love to get your hands on a modular device or whether you'll stick with the flavour of the month instead.


For one day only this week anyone (well, anyone in the US with cash to burn) could get their hands on a pair of Google Glass.

However, with such a small window to buy them, a large price tag and a lot of criticism about how they look, we bet a lot of early adopters will be on the hunt for alternative options now instead.

We've collected together our top five Google Glass alternatives, including a pair that looks the same, a pair that are as stylish as regular glasses and a few that aren't launching until the summer.

Let us know in the comments below which you're most excited about.

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1. Epson Moverio BT-200 Smart Glasses

The Moverio BT-200 glasses are Epson's attempt at building a state-of-the-art augmented reality experience attached to your face. Although they may look a little bulkier than others on the list - think Geordi La Forge in Star Trek - they have a dual-screen for a 3D display and a front-facing camera to capture video and pick up markers for AR apps.

The BT-200 glasses are also packing a number of head-motion sensors, a gyroscope, accelerometer and compass sensors. Like most of the devices on the list it's running on a version of Android.

The Moverio BT-200 glasses are expected to launch in the next few months and will cost around $700. For more info take a look at the BT-200's specs over at the Epson website.

2. GlassUp

The GlassUp finished a little short of its Kickstarter funding goal, but it went ahead with Indiegogo instead and received all of its money to make the project a reality.

The glasses are designed to alert wearers of real-time information that's happening on their phones, like incoming emails, texts and social media updates.

Although this may just sound like a glorified smartwatch or hands-free headset, it comes with apps built-in, like apps and TripAdvisor that provide wearers with turn-by-turn directions and ratings on places to visit and hotels.

The GlassUp is due to have a June 2014 release date and is available to pre-order now for about £184.

3. LaForge Optical Acis

The LaForge Optical Acis is designed to look like a regular pair of glasses, and - like many other devices on the list - you can get your prescription lenses added into them.

Their functionality is fairly basic in comparison to the Glass, serving up a series of notifications about what's going on on your smartphone, but it also has a built-in camera and microphone too.

The Acis is only available as part of a beta testing programme for now, and for $820 you can get on the list to start trialling the glasses in the summer.

4. Ion Eyewear WeOn Glasses

The WeOn glasses may look a lot more stylish than every other competitor on the list, but their functionality is pretty basic. These glasses will alert you of notifications on your phone with a series of colourful LED lights, and that's about it.

They're much more for the style-conscious and allow you to add your own prescription lenses, which for $125 makes them cheaper than some non-flashing designer frames.

5. Vuzik M100

Vuzix claims its M100 glasses are the world's first commercially available smart glasses and they certainly beat Google Glass as they've been available for the past few months and are much cheaper at $999.99.

Unlike Glass the device only covers one eye, but it does come with the same on-board 5 megapixel camera with the ability to record in HD. Funnily enough, it also runs an Android-based operating system, meaning it's compatible with a whole load of apps.

The M100 has a range of sensors on-board, like an accelerometer and a compass, which makes it ideal for a more industrial, medical and retail focused target audience.

For more information visit Vuzix.com.

Remember Project Ara? It's Google's big plan to create a modular smartphone, which would allow people to pick and choose exactly how their mobile phone would look and operate based on a series of blocks, or modules.

Well the Google team has released a new video all about Project Ara and the people behind it, which reveals a load of interesting details about what the future of our smartphones could look like.

Watch the video and you'll see an early prototype that shows the different modules are kept in place with magnets, as well as how the phone could look with a bit of added styling.

We're hoping to find out much more about Project Ara at the Ara Developer Conference on the 15th and 16th of April.

nike air max-big.jpgTomorrow it's the 27th birthday of Nike's iconic Air Max trainers and to celebrate ASOS and Nike are teaming up to wow us all with a Google+ Hangout that'll feature tips about the best ways to style your sneakers.

It sounds like a solid social media plan that's bound to draw in a few Nike fans, but it's a huge deal for Google+ because the Hangout will make use of a new +Post ad unit that appears right in your Google+ News Feed. People who are served the ad will be able to watch the Hangout and then buy the products that are being touted all from within the Google+ platform.

Although Google added in +Post ads late last year, this is the first time brands will allow consumers to shop directly from an ad unit. We've seen similar fashion brands attempt to sell their products by using smart ways to dress up video content - like French Connection's Youtique - but maybe this is how Google+ will prove it's a destination brands really should pay more attention to.


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It seems Google has finally had enough of people criticising its new Glass wearable device and has taken to its Google+ Google Glass page (of course) to explain why it's awesome and not creepy/stalkery/lame.

A post called Top 10 Google Glass Myths discusses a number of top myths, like Glass is the ultimate distraction from the real world, Glass is banned everywhere and Glass marks the end of privacy. Although the responses to these myths are clearly written by someone wearing rose-tinted Google Glass, we do applaud Google's efforts to break down some of these barriers.

Google also shared a few images along with the post and the most interesting has to be the one documenting the evolution of Glass, which you can see above. It's certainly come a looooong way.

Chromecast coming to the UK on March 1st

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British users wanting another way to get internet content on their telly have some good news coming next month: the high street retailer Currys are due to start selling the diminutive dongle from March 1st.

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If you've never heard of Chromecast, don't worry - it has flown rather under the radar as Google have cautiously built the device up over the last year or so. Essentially, it's a USB-stick style dongle, that plugs into your TV into a spare HDMI slot.

Once setup, it connects to your wifi network and will allow you to wirelessly stream content straight to your TV from your computer, phone or tablet at the click of a button. For example - if you browse YouTube with a Chromecast on the network, a button will appear in each video's toolbar offering the chance to play it through the TV instead.

On a technical level, the way it works is that the dongle is essentially a miniature computer - the dongle runs a version of Google's own Chrome OS - so it can run videos independent of the device that triggered them (ie: you can start a film playing on Netflix, and then switch your computer off without stopping it).

The limitation until now, for American users of the device has been the limited number of supported services on the device - apart from YouTube, support has been thin on the ground with only Netflix, Hulu (the American equivalent of iPlayer) and a few others offering Chromecast support. This looks set to change as, almost in-line with the UK release, Google have opened up the software development kit - which means many more websites and apps will be able to support it very soon indeed. Fingers crossed this means that we'll get support for the likes of the iPlayer and 4oD.

What's especially attractive about the Chromecast as a device is the price: we're expecting it to be around £40 at the most - making it a no-brainer for those who have so far resisted getting connected in the living room. Look out for it from March 1st!

google-nexus7.pngSome big-ish news from Google today which today brings the Nexus 7 tablet to the UK while at the same time announcing a price cut on its, Nexus 4 handset.

The tablet comes in two flavours - a 16GB model will set you back £199, while the 32GB model is a still very competitive £239. There's no delivery charge either.

As for specs it sports a 7.02-inch 1920 x 1200 HD IPS display with 323ppi and Corning Gorilla Glass on the front. Inside its has a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with 2GB of RAM, and it comes with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean pre-installed.

There is also a 5-megapixel camera is on the rear and a 1.2-megapixel camera on the front. NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are all present and correct and its has a abtey life of around nine hours.

As for the Nexus 4 smartphone it is now down to £159 for the 8GB model and £199 for the 16GB model.

googleplay.jpgThe big news this morning is that Google Music, which was announced in the spring and has been working in the US for several months now, has become available in the UK and other European countries.

You can sign up now and get a month for free and then pay an intro rate of £7.99 per month. It will eventually cost £9.99.

But what is it and how does it stack up against the current king of online music Spotify?

The similarities

In many ways the services have a lot in common, They both allow you to stream whole albums and the catalogue of tracks they boast is very similar. There's no Beatles or Led Zeppelin on either of them, but then you guessed that already. They both have deals with companies to deliver new albums though Spotify has the edge on indie and European music for now.

The music discovering offerings are also similar too with Google Music including offering up recommendations on what to listen to next based on your listening habits.
Listeners can also turn any song into a "radio station", with the service intelligently creating an endless playlist of songs based around the artist and track you've selected, with each song complementing your original choice.

Both services stream music at a maximum of 320kbps.

But there are some key differences

Price - Spotify has a lot more flexibility here. For starters it has a free ad supported version - Google starts at £7.99 a month. Spotify's PC only version is cheaper too at £5.99 per month. For the full versions both will come in at £9.99 a month (though Google has an introductory offer of £7.99) which will let you listen to and store songs on mobile. Google scores here as you can store up to 20,000 tracks, a lot more than the 3,333 offered by Spotify.

Platforms - Google can be played from a browser on a PC or Mac, and on an Android based smartphone. If you have an iPhone you can access the service via the browser. Spotify has a browser service for PCs, an app for PCs as well as apps for both iOS and Android devices.

Music integration - Google has an edge on Spotify in that the new service integrates with its cloud based storage system. So you can upload all your music to the cloud and it will be accessible on any PC using Google Music. This is very useful for people who like music in genres which aren't well represented on either of the streaming services (obscure 60s stuff, jazz, easy listening, exotica etc). It also means that it is easy to create playlists that contain both yours and Google Music which are then available anywhere. For some users this is a serious advantage over Spotify.

Overall - Which one you choose I think depends on a number of factors. If you are a casual music streamer then Spotify's free service will probably suffice for you. If you are an Apple diehard too Spotify has the edge. Where Google Music scores is the integration of your own music with the streaming catalogue. that is a small, but significant niche. It will be interesting to see if and when Spotify addresses this.

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Will you be buying the Google Chromecast?

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It has been hailed as a smart move by Google, but will you be investing in one? The Google Chromecast, which debuted yesterday is a dongle that plugs into your TV's HDMI socket and enables you to stream video content from a number of devices to your screen.

It is apparently compatible with Android and iOS phones and tablets and Google showed it working with a Windows laptop yesterday too. And it is limited in the video it can stream focusing on staples like YouTube and Netflix. It pulls in the video from the web as opposed to your device and is also compatible with Google's in the cloud wireless streaming audio service Google Music.

It has already gone on sale in the US for the very competitive price of $35. There's no details of a UK launch, but if it is a hit in the US it shouldn't be too long before we see it over this side of the pond.

There are already a number of devices that perform a similar service from the excellent Roku through to Apple's TV offering. You can also watch services like Netflix and YouTube from a number of devices like games consoles.

So will you be buying a Chromecast?

googlenexuss4.jpgA few days ago during Google I/O the company took the wraps off a version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 that also incorporated a Google Nexus experience. the key difference between it and the existing version of the S4 is that Google version would run stock Android Jelly Bean and that means it is much more customisable by the maker. So on the Google model, for example, you wouldn't have those Samsung apps and interface.

Well the bad news is that it doesn't appear to be heading to the UK, at least for now. Google has confirmed that the handset, which will be available in the U.S. on June 26, will only be US for the time being.

There is clearly a demand for Stock Android on both sides of the Atlantic, so it will be interesting to see if any other makers - coughs, HTC - offer it.

Earlier today Gerald at Tech Digest run a story about how a highly offensive 'Racist Jokes' app has landed on the Google Play store.

Quite rightly IMO he says that is shocking that Google could be making money from the app and that it might even fall foul of Racist and Religious crime laws in the UK.

And then I saw this

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What in any possible way is this funny? It is just utterly offensive.

Say what you like about Apple, but at least its app store is clean.

Google needs to take a very long hard look at its app policies and fast.


Yep it is another of those Downfall parodies - and we haven't seen a good new one in a while.

Here Hitler learns that Google is shutting down Reader as part of its 'Operation Spring Clean.'

All that's left for the Fuhrer is to keep up to date by 'reading retweets from Stalin.'

Nice work

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Well I didn't see that coming... In a move that has already ignited a huge debate on the web Google has announced that it will pull its RSS driven Google Reader service in July.

In an announcement it said

Google says it is shuttering Reader and deprecating or shutting down a number of other services as part of the company's "spring cleaning" initiative -- one that seeks to help the company focus on the features that need the most use.

So it appears that Google Reader just isn't as popular any more asit used to be.

So at this point you are probably either crying tears of sadness or asking the question what exactly is RSS?

Dealing with the latter first. RSS is a way in which blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video can be pulled from websites in a standardised form. RSS readers like Google Reader then enable people to skim through hundreds of articles from multiple sources at speed as they look for important and relevant things to read. It was all the rage a few years back.

As you can guess Google Reader has been a much loved tool of bloggers and journalists since its creation seven years ago.

So why is no one apparently using it anymore? I think there are two key reasons. Firstly Google Reader looks dreadful. It pulls stories into its system in a way that simply isn't attractive or engaging. You really need to have a compelling reason (like journalists have) to wade through it on a daily basis.

Perhaps more importantly it has been superseded by social media and especially Twitter which work in a less systematic but often more intelligent way than an RSS reader. So, you might not get to see every story, but if you follow the right people who are generous in what they are sharing you get to see the stories that really matter - often along with the tweeter's opinion on them. You can also access stories from the sites in real time via their Twitter feeds too.

It is interesting that the most successful RSS readers for the iPad at least - are services like Flipboard which focus on social media as much as RSS feeds and deliver articles in a compelling, and often beautiful way.

I do wonder though that Google might be doing a Wispa by announcing its intention to close the service.

In 2007 Cadbury's announced that it was pulling the Wispa bar, a move which provoked a huge social media campaign to keep it and which ultimately increased its sales.

The same thing happened with BBC Six Music, Under pressure to initiate cuts I think that BBC execs cynically earmarked the service for the chop knowing that its demographic of social media savvy largely middle class listeners would campaign vigorously to save it. The end result was that its profile shot up and it became too popular to close.

So maybe, just maybe, Google is pulling a similar stunt with Reader. There are already blog posts calling for it to be saved. I just wonder of the threat of closure might give it the shot in the arm it needs to survive.

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After weeks of speculation and rumoured leaks, Google has revealed its next shiny, new Chromebook, the Chromebook Pixel, a high resolution notebook device running on the Chrome operating system.

Tech Digest reports, that with a 12.85" touchscreen, the Pixel is much bigger than Chromebook's from other Google partners and its 2560x1700, 239ppi display and anodized aluminium body makes it a great option who those who would otherwise look to purchase one of Apple's MacBooks. But in actual fact it's got 19 more pixels per inch than Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina display.

The Pixel has a 3:2 ratio display and Google says this is due to its web-centric nature, which will accommodate vertical designs more than standard applications, meaning you won't have to scroll around and mess about to view everything.

As you'd expect, the new device isn't cheap, expect to pay $1,299/£1,049 for the Wi-Fi only version, while the LTE build will cost $1,449 in the States. So far, no 4G version is slated for release in the UK. Cost taks into account onboard storage capacities; 32GB for Wi-Fi only, while there's 64GB in the LTE model.


We've been hearing loads (and kinda seeing loads) about Google's latest Glass project over the past year or so, the wearable headset that looks like a prop straight out of a sci-fi movie, which lets you do all kinds of things just using your peepers and your voice.

Well today everyone's talking about Google's latest preview video, created to showcase all of Glass' awesome capabilities and we're ridiculously impressed and terrified in equal measures.

From the examples in the video (which we've embedded above), Google Glass will respond to your voice and allow you to do all kinds of things, like record video, take photos, call and message your contacts, surf the internet and maybe even offer translation services too, the first time we've heard about that feature in any of Google's promotional content.

It all looks really exciting, but we are concerned that it won't be too long before none of us are leaving the house without a visor thing strapped to our faces.

The video was released at the same time Google announced its pre-order programme, but don't get too excited, if you want to get your hands on Google Glass you'll have to qualify and then fork our $1,500 for a developer version.

Check out www.google.com/glass for more information.

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After years of making resolutions then breaking them within hours we've been careful this year to come up with plans that are cheesy and pretty abstract, like "be more happy" and "chase those dreams" and it seems we're not the only ones. Google has created a map to coincide with the New Year that aims to plot resolutions from across the world and show off its data visualisation and translating skills in the process.

You can browse via country or even type of resolution, some are achievable and great for personal development, like "go to the gym more", some are really sweet, like "volunteer once a month" and others are just a bit creepy, like "find a woman".

Check out: www.google.com/zeitgeist/2012/resolutions/

In a bid to prove just how much better Google's mapping services are compared to Apple's, the company has decided to say "Pfft, maps of the land? We now own the sea bitchez. Yeah, THE ACTUAL OCEAN. SO THERE."

Google's popular street view service is no longer constrained to actual streets, but now delves down into the depths of the sea to bring us some incredible panoramic shots from six locations around the globe, including The Great Barrier Reef, the Apo Islands in the Philippines and Hawaii's Hanauma Bay.

On the Official Google Blog Brian McClendon, the VP of Google Maps and Earth, wrote:

"Today we're adding the very first underwater panoramic images to Google Maps, the next step in our quest to provide people with the most comprehensive, accurate and usable map of the world.

"Now, anyone can become the next virtual Jacques Cousteau and dive with sea turtles, fish and manta rays in Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii."

To get such spectacular images Google has teamed up with The Catlin Seaview Survey, a scientific study of reefs and underwater treasures caught on an SVII underwater camera.

Check out the Complete Underwater Collection now, but don't blame us if you spend the rest of the afternoon virtually swimming along The Great Barrier Reef.

Related: Google Maps lets you visit landmarks from the comfort of your home

[Via Google]

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Back in April Google revealed limited details about Project Glass, which is essentially a code word for a pair of super sci-fi goggles complete with built-in Augmented Reality tech, the ability to capture photos and video, a 3G connected display, voice commands and a whole load of other awesome features.

Although the glasses aren't available quite yet (rumours suggest there'll be a launch in early 2013), it seems Google wants the world to think of them less as a nerdy gadget and more of an aspirational fashion accessory, as they've made a rather unexpected appearance at New York Fashion Week.

According to Digital Trends, Google teamed up with fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg to kit out models in the geeky goggles and then transmit the footage from the runway directly to the web.

All of the content from the show will then be made into a short film called "DVF Through Glass" (oh how pretentious and oh so fashion), which will be released this Thursday on the DVF Google+ page and Google's YouTube channel too.

Although it may seem like an unlikely pairing it makes sense that Google is keen to show the world the goggles aren't just for Star Trek fans and uber geeks, but can be used by run-of-the-mill, beautiful supermodels and those with serious dollar to spend on Diane Von Furstenberg clothes too.

Related: Google's Project Glass: Augmented Reality specs from the search giants (Tech Digest)

[Via Digital Trends Via WWD]

google-maps-indoors.jpgAhh Google Maps, without that shiny little app we'd have been even later for meetings, died of caffeine withdrawal on multiple occasions and would never have stood a chance of finding that pretentious cocktail bar.

Well good news, the popular service ventured indoors at a number of key locations in the US and Japan last year, but now it's set to be rolled out here in the UK too.

Android users will soon be able to click on one of 40 venues (that are mainly in London, sorry), including airports, shopping centres and public spaces, and will be able to view a detailed floor plan to help them find their way around.

The latest iteration of the app, Google Maps 6.0+ , will also tell you whereabouts you are, which exit you're closest to and the floor that you're on. This may all sound like a hell of a lot of technology to find your way around what is essentially just a building, but in huge airports when you're worrying about a flight or conference centres, the added indoor capability could be really handy.

[Via The Next Web]

nexus-7-tablet.jpgGoogle have taken the keynote of the Google I/O 2012 conference to reveal the Nexus 7 tablet. Built for Google by ASUS, it packs version 4.1 Jelly Bean of the Android operating system and is positioned to take on the Kindle Fire at a mere $199 in the US.

Thin and light at just 340grams, the Nexus 7 has a 7 inch 1280x800 HD display, powered by a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset and 12 core GPU. A front facing camera for Google Hangouts is onboard, while Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity all make the cut. Battery life is good for 8 hours of HD video playback.

Google are heavily pushing the device's gaming and media capabilities, shipping the tablet with a pre-installed copy of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" as well as several e-books, and a $25 coupon for grabbing games from the Google Play app store.

Taking pre-orders now, the tablet is expected to ship in mid-July.

UK pricing sees the 8GB version of the tablet sell for just £159, while the 16GB hits £199.

The specs in full follow:

- 7-inch 1280 x 800 HD display (216 ppi)

- Back-lit IPS display

- Scratch-resistant Corning glass

- 1.2mp front-facing camera

- 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm

- 340g

- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n

- Bluetooth

- 8/16 GB internal storage

- 1 GB RAM

- Micro USB

- 4325mAh (Up to 8 hours of active use)

- Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)

- Quad-core Tegra 3 processor

- MicrophoneNFC (Android Beam)

- Accelerometer

- GPS

- Magnetometer

- Gyroscope

[Via Tech Digest]

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