Google also launched a Hangouts app for iOS, Android and the web, enabling dynamic, asynchronous chats with individuals or groups on Google+. The idea is to break down the platform-specific barriers that other communication systems hold up. Sadly, to embrace that will require moving to yet another chat program, and we're not entirely sure how many people are willing to do that. Again.
And last up, Google totally re-vamped Maps and Google+. The latter got a fresh look and, interestingly, a seemingly powerful Auto Enhance function that takes Picasa's venerable "I'm Feeling Lucky" filter to another level. Maps, meanwhile, gets a fresh, minimalist UI and a lot more smarts.
It's something that should have been done years ago.
BlackBerry had its own dev conference going on this week, where it did choose to launch new hardware. The Q5 is basically a low-cost version of the Q10, with a QWERTY keyboard and 3.1-inch display. No word on price, but expect it to be cheap: it's intended for developing markets. BlackBerry also made the long-expected move of pledging to develop a dedicated BBM app for iOS and Android. It's something that should have been done years ago.
Nokia, too, threw a new smartphone into the world. It's the Lumia 925 and, while in many ways it's very similar to the 920, it is strikingly different in one major area: materials. This is an aluminum-bodied device and is drastically (50 grams) lighter than its polycarbonate predecessors. The phone also features an improved camera lens array said to fix the sharpness issues of the 920. It's to be priced around $600 in Europe, but we're happy to say that T-Mobile is pledging to bring it to the US -- for an as of yet undisclosed sum.
Will people actually use them? Putting $5 worth into the virtual wallet of every Kindle Fire owner is a good start.
Finally this week, Amazon made some interesting moves. First, it confirmed the purchase of Liquavista from Samsung. Liquavista has a very low-power color display technology that might make sense in future Kindles. Meanwhile, the company went ahead and launched its own currency, called Coins. (Coins that, predictably, feature an Amazon warrior on the front.) With these coins you can purchase apps and media and other digital goods on Amazon, much like Microsoft's Xbox points and the various other virtual, retailer-specific currencies out there. Will people actually use them? Putting $5 worth into the virtual wallet of every Kindle Fire owner is a good start.