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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Android this week: Galaxy Note updates; Android 4.0 on AT&T; New Acer tablet

Some may think that a stylus shouldn’t be anywhere near a phone or a tablet, but Samsung is trying to prove them wrong with the Galaxy Note. The 5.3-inch Android smartphone includes Samsung’s S Pen for note-taking  but that stylus will gain much more functionality with a software update next quarter. A suite of apps to specifically take advantage of the S Pen will be bundled with the Android 4.0 update for the Galaxy Note.
The new Premium Suite of software will add improved handwriting recognition, including a way for the phone to translate written math functions. Eight new folder templates bring customization for specific annotations, such as recipes, sketches, diary entries and more. The software can also recognize and correct drawn shapes; useful for flow charts or other brainstorming activities:

Although Samsung is taking a chance with the stylus feature of its Galaxy Note, it can help the device stand apart from the crowd; some specific tasks actually are well suited for a stylus. But the software has to support such a hardware accessory, so it’s good to see Samsung trying to add value with improved stylus apps.
Google itself is trying to add more value to the Android platform, adding improved integration between the Google Voice and native phone apps. With the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android, voicemails from Google Voice appear in the phone’s call log and can be reviewed directly in the phone application.
Unfortunately, Android’s ability to support user interface skins and other customizations may interfere: The new voicemail feature doesn’t work on the HTC Vivid, AT&T’s first phone to get the Android 4.0 update. That issue aside, AT&T this week announced which phones will see the Ice Cream Sandwich update: Nine in all, as well as the Galaxy Tab 8.9 slate. The carrier says these updates will be available in the coming months.
While waiting for Android 4.0 on those devices, you can now get it on another tablet. Acer updated its Iconia line with the new A510; the company’s first quad-core slate. Priced at $449, the 10.1-inch tablet offers 1280 x 800 resolution, support for 1080p video capture at 30 frames per second (after a software update), a gigabyte of RAM, 32 GB of internal storage and the ability expand capacity through a microSD card slot. Unlike the Acer Iconia Tab A500 I reviewed last year, this new model drops the full-sized USB port in favor of micro USB.


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