Tech Roundup: iOS 7 on iPhone, Android KitKat & More

[A recurring feature on the latest in Science & Technology.]

iOS 7 on iPhone vs iPad:
When iOS 7 came out, I wrote how indescribably gorgeous the interface was, and how it was a bit laggy on my iPad 3. A sucker for simplicity and minimalism that I am, there can be no words to describe the stark clean skeuomorphic-free design, which becomes more pronounced once you start using an iPhone 5s. A perfect communion of hardware and software, that's what the iPhone 5s is. And iOS 7 beautifully complements the phone's exquisite craftsmanship, a fact that seems to have lost in translation with the iPad. Don't get me wrong, but I feel iOS 7 feels more suited for the phone than the tablet.

iOS 7 on iPhone 5s
The system wide Helvetica Neue typography adds a touch of consistency that I have previously experienced only on my erstwhile Nokia Lumia 800, and the animations that stutter on my iPad work flawlessly here (of course due to the latest A7 processor inside). My iPad 3 is not so unusable with iOS 7, but the operating system does feel a tad unfinished in comparison.

My only nitpicks, the Control Center feels cluttered, the music app is a bit of a mess and the icons - no beating around the bush - could have been designed way better. Just when I was getting used to the Safari icon, here comes an eyesore in the form of iBooks. All said, iOS 7 may be a fresh coat of veneer over familiar functionality, but it's beyond doubt a foundation for things yet to come.

Google (Android) is slowly, yet steadily, consolidating its ecosystem:
Since its inception five years back, Android ecosystem has witnessed exponential growth. What used to be called Android Market rebranded to Google Play in March 2012 as Google slowly began to bring all its offerings - music, movies, TV shows, books, magazines, apps and games - under one umbrella. Still one significant aspect was missing: news. One must also recollect that Google's web services such as Gmail, YouTube, Blogger and a whole bunch of others existed as disparate entities themselves until recently when the search giant began to unify all of them by creating a common virtual identity for each user through Google+.

In the process several services that didn't fit in the larger scheme of things faced the axe, the most prominent being Google Reader. While Google had another RSS reader cum social magazine app Google Currents up and running, it never attained the popularity of its peers like Flipboard, something which it hopes to rectify by rolling out a brand new Google Play Newsstand app that combines both the features of Play Magazines and Currents, thereby making it a one stop destination to read news dailies and magazines. The iOS version is expected to hit next year.

What you still won't get after KitKat update:
Android KitKat (4.4) update for Nexus 4, 7 and 10 and (surprise!) Moto X has begun to trickle down, but here are some features you won't see after the update:
>> Google Experience Launcher: You read it right! The crux of the user interface overhaul has been the new Google Experience Launcher (GEL), but Google has decided to keep it a Nexus 5 exclusive for now. In essence, the launcher you will be seeing is the same that comes with Jelly Bean (4.3). Nonetheless with the latest Google Search update, sideloading GEL will allow you to enjoy the new features.
>> Translucent status and navigation bar: KitKat brings in translucency to the status and navigation bars, but for some reason known to itself, Google has again made it a Nexus 5 only feature. It surprisingly does fine on the Moto X though.

With Vine, and now Instagram and Waze, are things beginning to look up for Windows Phone?
Windows Phone has had a long persisting complaint about its lack of third-party apps, but things are suddenly looking better after Instagram and Waze made their apps official on Microsoft's mobile platform. Twitter too debuted its video sharing app Vine two weeks back, and popular personal finance app Mint is expected to follow suit shortly. Instagram especially is a huge win for Microsoft, for at one point the service's CEO Kevin Systrom had no interest in even developing an app for Windows Phone. So I suppose it would have taken significant efforts from both Nokia and Redmond to get it on board.

Moreover after three years of arrival, Windows Phone has finally begun to capture a sizeable chunk of the smartphone market (again thanks to Nokia's concentrated efforts), and though the argument about app parity sounds silly, it's bound to continue unabated until all the popular apps on iOS and Android like Pinterest, Temple Run, Dropbox, and others land on Windows Phone, which is surely a long way to go.

Samsung to cough up $290 million for patent infringement:
That Samsung has been ordered to pay $1.05 billion for infringing on Apple's patents is old news. However a couple of months after the jury verdict, presiding judge Lucy Koh ordered a retrial regarding $450 million of the original award, and while Apple adjusted the numbers down to $350 million in the second damages calculations, Samsung said it owed only $52 million. The deliberations having completed, the jurors seem to have sided with neither of the two companies, and have asked Samsung to pay up $290 million, which takes the total to $888 million. Not a billion dollar verdict anymore, but hey for Apple it's all about innovation and hard work!

In other news:
  • Frederick Spanger, the only recipient of two Nobel prizes for Chemistry, passes away.
  • Researchers find 'Huh?' to be a universal word; means the same in different languages across the world.
  • Oxford dictionaries declares 'Selfie' as the word of the year.
  • Australian websites hacked in retaliation against government snooping of Indonesian President as revealed in latest Snowden leaks.
  • Sony and Microsoft sell 1 million units of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles in 24 hours as console war heats up.
  • Winamp media player to shut down on December 20, 2013.
  • Nokia shareholders approve Microsoft's purchase of the Finnish company's handset division.
  • Google Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 2013 Edition go on sale in India.
  • Popular cloud storage service Dropbox to raise $250 million in funding; company to be valued at $8 billion, reports Bloomberg.
  • Google finally updates its search app on Windows Phone platform with voice commands, but no Google Now yet.
  • Kindle Fire OS update for its tablets adds Goodreads integration among other improvements.
  • Nokia rebrands its Lumia exclusive music streaming service as MixRadio.
  • HTC One Max now available in India for Rs. 61,490.
  • Google's Android platform comes under scanner in European Union for alleged anti-competitive behavior in search engine market.
  • Twitter removes option that lets users get direct message from any follower.

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