Nexus 5 Launch Likely Coming Today, Here’s What We Know So Far


Google’s Nexus 5 is not a real thing yet, but at this point it’s a foregone conclusion; Google will update its Android reference smartphone, which comes with the clean stock version of its mobile operating system, and it’ll probably do it today. Which is why it makes perfect sense that the leaks are now flying fast and furious.

The Nexus 5 will reportedly be unveiled later today, sometime around 8 AM PST according to a report from GottaBeMobile, and it’ll begin shipping tomorrow, November 1 with orders starting immediately. Whether or not it happens right at that time, the case remains that we’re probably going to see the phone today at some point, since a number of earlier reports also indicated Oct. 31 as the time for its official debut.

Google’s Nexus 5 is likely sourced from hardware partner LG, just like the Nexus 4, and it is said to have a 4.95-inch, 1080p display, with a Snapdragon 800 processor running at 2.3GHz, 2GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of storage, an 8 megapixel rear camera/1.3 megapixel front, and Android 4.4 KitKat. It’ll likely be the first KitKat device, which is a software update that brings a lot of refinements, along with replacing the stock SMS app with Google Hangouts now that it has SMS integration, we’re hearing.

According to one T-Mobile employee, the Nexus 5 will be available at that carrier the same day it’s announced, and will cost roughly the same as the Nexus 4 did on T-Mo last year (which is to say, at a considerable markup). Google has also updated the look and design of the Play Devices web store, prompting some to note that this could be in preparation for a Nexus 5 listing.

Google’s Nexus 5 seems like it’ll be a match for the current crop of top Android smartphones, at least on paper, and it’s a handsome device if early render and photo leaks are to be believed. Price and international availability remain the biggest question marks at this point, as well as the exact timing of availability, but we’ll be sure to bring you more as soon as we get any official info from Google.

TechCrunch » Android

Tesla Officially Opens West Coast Supercharger Circuit, Covering San Diego To Vancouver


Tesla’s West Coast Supercharger Corridor opened today, making it possible for owners of the Model S to travel free between San Diego and Vancouver, using Highway 101 and Interstate 5. This makes a Supercharger reachable within 200 miles to over 99 percent of Californians and 87 percent of those in Oregon and Washington.

A lot of attention has been paid to Tesla’s efforts to make a coast-to-coast trip in one of its vehicles a reality, via Superchargers and other charging stations, but blanketing the West Coast means that Tesla S owners can now travel from essentially the Mexican border to within the Canadian one without paying any money to fill their cars, and with a minimal amount of charging time required. Superchargers can charge a Tesla S to a capacity worth around 200 miles of driving distance in just 30 minutes, and the stations are positioned near restaurants and shopping centers to give you something to do while your car powers up.

To promote the new corridor, Tesla is having two Model S vehicles make the trip from San Diego to Vancouver, and they’ll be pushing updates to their various social media properties along the way. Spoiler alert: those cars are definitely going to make it without incident.

Supercharger rollout continues globally, with Tesla announcing plans in September to cover 100 percent of the population of Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Denmark and Luxembourg, and 90 percent of the population in England, Wales, and Sweden with a station within 320 kms by the end of 2014. Getting past that basic excuse of “I can’t buy one, there’s nowhere to charge” is clearly a huge part of the company’s global rollout strategy, which is why each of these Supercharger network expansions is a big win for Tesla and for founder Elon Musk.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Google Adds SMS Support To Its Android Messaging App As Facebook Axes It


A few days ago, a set of leaked images pointed to some pretty drastic changes to the Google Hangouts Android app, the biggest of which was that users would be able to send SMS messages without having to switch into another messaging application. Well, Vic Gundotra trotted onstage at a Google+ event in San Francisco (after a power outage caused a half hour stream delay, no less) today to confirm exactly that.

The Hangouts Android app will be indeed able to fire off bog-standard text messages, as well as share a user’s location and send/display animated GIFs like this one when the update rolls out in a few days.

If you’ll recall, the iOS version of the Hangouts app got at least one of these tweaks ahead of the Android version (which was a surprising and refreshing change of pace) – as of about two weeks ago, iOS Hangouts users could send and receive animated GIFs, and got the ability to make Google Voice calls over a data network as an added bonus. (I should note that last bit is a bummer, but it’s a story for another time).

But really, it’s that SMS support bit that seems the most intriguing if only because we’re starting to see some peculiar movement in the messaging space by players that have sought to own it. Take Facebook for instance. Earlier today it pulled back the curtain on a revamped Messenger app for Android, and the once-present support for sending SMS messages from certain Android devices is officially gone. To hear Facebook tell it, the feature was the victim of poor traction so it got axed. Fair enough – there are more than enough mobile messaging apps out there to fill the chat void for certain users, and Facebook Messenger is poised to reach plenty of them.

So two companies, two drastically different approaches to SMS. Though both aim to connect as many of their users as possible, Google’s approach is one that needs to be as fundamentally inclusive to Android users as possible. I don’t see Google axing SMS support even if it’s as much of a drag as Facebook’s attempt was.

Now that’s not to say that Google is necessarily dead set on owning the messaging experience on Android; that would run counter to the openness of Android itself, and it’s already been confirmed that users can set other SMS apps as the default in Android 4.4 KitKat. But there’s little question that Hangouts is much more attractive now than it was just a few hours ago.

This curious little addition has also revived questions about the future of some of Google’s other apps. Hangouts on Android is itself a fairly robust messaging application, and more than a few people have wondered whether or not it’s ultimately going to replace the occasionally iffy Google Voice app as a sort of centralized communications hub. At least, I’m hoping that’s ultimately where Google is taking things.

Either way, SMS support in Hangouts could also serve as a shot across Apple’s bow – the folks at Cupertino often tout iMessage’s cross-device capabilities, but in practice the service doesn’t always work as well as it should.

TechCrunch » Android

Barnes & Noble Outs The $119 Nook GlowLight, We Go Hands-On


For better or worse the holidays are right around the corner, and that can only mean one thing: consumer electronics companies are slaving away on new hardware designs and trying to get those final products onto shelves in time for an annual feeding frenzy.

Barnes & Noble is no different. Well, it’s a little different – when I sat down with Digital Content EVP Doug Carlson earlier today he was eager to paint a picture of a savvy bookseller that’s still aware of the human elements of peddling tomes (digital and otherwise). But it wasn’t long at all before he got down to the business at hand and revealed the $ 119 Nook GlowLight, a new e-reader the company will start selling today.

The news will come as little surprise to BN fans considering the company tellingly dropped the price of its previous GlowLight model back in August in a bid to clear out its supply channels ahead of today’s announcement.

I got the chance to play with the Nook GlowLight for bit, and – speaking as a Kindle devotee since the early days – it’s a surprisingly compelling little package. The first thing you’ll notice about it is just how light the thing is: at 6.2 ounces, it’s almost like you’re holding nothing at all. My e-reader of choice (and constant literary companion) has been Amazon’s first generation Kindle Paperwhite, and it’s considerably weightier than the device BN managed to put together.

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The other big draw here is the Pearl display, and the fact that the Nook engineering team managed to figure out how to do away with the full screen flashes endemic to e-ink panels. Naturally, BN wouldn’t divulge exactly how it managed to get the job done, but it’s quite a feather in their cap considering Amazon doesn’t seem to have cracked that particular code just yet. It definitely doesn’t hurt that the panel is awfully crisp (it packs 62% more pixels into the same display size as its predecessor) and the lights nestled around the edge of the screen provided even illumination… if not quite as even as the new Paperwhite.

As it turns out, the Nook GlowLight really shines (ugh) when it comes to the little things too. That hefty bezel that runs around that display may turn some off, but my inordinately picky thumbs appreciated the size – there’s just more room for my fingers to rest on the thing, something I can’t say of my Kindle. And the new white chassis BN has run with (in a way BN’s going in the opposite direction that Amazon has with its Kindle designs) provided a bit of visual resting space, almost like it’s extending the margins of a page.

While I’m talking about the chassis, it’s also worth pointing out that the new GlowLight also has a silicone band that protects the edges of the device that feels rather nice. It doesn’t seem to take much effort to pop off that bit of silicon trim off either, it wouldn’t shock me at all if Barnes & Noble sold colorful replacements so users could customize their readers.

And what of that human element? The Nook’s recommendation system features insights from Barnes & Noble team of booksellers to help pump up the value of its results – to hear Carlson tell it, the algorithmic approach that Amazon takes to building a profile for recommendations means it’ll never be able to make the intuitive leaps that lead to readers broadening their horizons.

As always, I’ll refrain from passing judgment on the thing until we get to take the final hardware for a spin, but Barnes & Noble has made plenty of thoughtful choices here. If I wasn’t so invested in Amazon’s vast, vast content ecosystem, I’d definitely consider making the switch – it’s just that promising.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Google Launches Invite System For Early Glass Explorers And Preps Updated Hardware


Hey Google Glass Explorers, Google thinks you’re keen. Really, they do.

So much so in fact that the company has been quietly working on an updated version of the Glass hardware, and those of you who shelled out $ 1,500 to be among the first to support the project will be able to swap your existing units for the second revision for free.

Of course, Google Glass is still a ways off from its general launch date – expect it to land some time in 2014 on some sort of Google barge – so naturally Google is gearing up to expand its pool of guinea pigs Explorers. To that end, existing Explorers will have 14 days to choose three acquaintances who are worthy of paying $ 1,500 for Google Glass.

But let’s back up for a moment. What exactly makes this new iteration so special? So far it seems like a pretty incremental upgrade – unless you’re like me and wear honest-to-goodness specs everyday. Google’s Glass team has confirmed on (where else?) its Google+ page that this version will be able to be fitted with “future lines” of prescription lenses. It’s also going to pack a mono earbud, presumably because the existing bone conducting speaker system isn’t exactly the loudest thing you’ll ever hear.

With any luck, Google will have tweaked the internals a bit too, as the existing loadout is getting pretty long in the tooth. In case you’ve forgotten, it sports a TI OMAP4430 chipset and 1GB of RAM, which essentially means that in an age of incredibly high-powered components in smartphones, current Glass owners are walking around with the equivalent of a Galaxy Nexus on their heads.

And in case you were curious, here’s a copy of the email Google is sending out to eligible Explorers, just so you know what to look out for:

Being part of the Glass Explorer program is pretty insane (good insane): let’s face it, using cutting edge technology that changes every month requires a certain sense of adventure. We’re looking for more Explorers like you to be part of the program, so we’ve opened up a few more spots and this time, you decide who gets in. We want you to invite three people to join the Explorer Program, people who you believe would make great Glass Explorers.

You have 14 days to invite 3 of the best potential Explorers you know to buy Glass.
Just a reminder that all Glass Explorers must:

  • be a US resident
  • be 18 years or older
  • purchase Glass
  • provide a U.S. based shipping address OR pick up the device in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: thank you for all your feedback and support. It’s because of you that Glass has come this far, and we’re truly grateful.

TechCrunch » Gadgets