Verizon Wireless customers often feel like they live in some kind of safe haven from the evils of Ma Bell (i.e., ATT) — that is, until the Big Red carrier starts acting just like their competitor. The $30 upgrade fee has clearly irritated their most loyal users, but given how ATT charges $36 for the same thing, this controversy is likely to fade away until you actually have to fork over for a lust worthy phone. But that day isn’t today, so sit back and lower your blood pressure with some tech news for Wednesday, April 11, 2012.
Google+ Gets Tweaked for “A Simpler, More Beautiful” Experience
You may not be using Google+, but that doesn’t mean the search giant isn’t continually making improvements to it in your absence. The Google Official Blog today announced “a simpler, more beautiful” Google+ with enhanced navigation controls. Apps can now be dragged up or down to put them in the order you prefer, while hovering over certain apps reveals a new set of quick actions. The folks in Mountain View are also sprucing the joint up with “full bleed photos and videos that’ll make you really proud to post,” “a stream of conversation ‘cards’ that make it easier to scan and join discussions” and “an activity drawer that highlights the community around your content.” Last but not least, Google+ Hangouts gets a dedicated page with an always-updated list of invitations from the people in your Circles and a rotating billboard of popular hangouts. Are these changes enough to make you give up Facebook yet?
iStoryTime Offers Free Storybook App Supporting Autism Awareness Month
April is Autism Awareness Month, and developer iStoryTime is doing its part to contribute by making its Meet Biscuit storybook app free through Sunday, April 15 on both iOS and Android. “We believe digital devices such as the iPad, iPhone and other devices are great tools to enhance the learning process,” said Graham Farrar, founder of iStoryTime. “The fact that we’ve received a large amount of feedback from parents with autistic children makes us feel that our efforts in reinventing the art of storytelling is making a positive difference.” Biscuit, a little yellow puppy, is a longtime family favorite with over 16 million copies in print, and the app includes a storybook as well as digital coloring book, memory game (iOS version only) and puzzle ready made for little fingers. Meet Biscuit is an 80.7MB download from the App Store and the universal app is compatible with all devices running iOS 4.3 or later.
Kaspersky Lab Releases Flashback Trojan Removal Tool
Apparently seizing upon an opportunity since Apple is dragging their feet getting their own solution pushed out, Russian antivirus film Kaspersky Labs has released the Flashfake Removal Tool. According to MacRumors, the free Mac app “quickly and easily detects and removes the malware,” which is said to have afflicted upwards of 600,000 computers worldwide. The Mac-based tool follows Kaspersky’s release yesterday of a free web-based checker, which uses your computer’s UUID “to see if it has registered on the firm’s servers as an infected machine.” F-Secure, the company who first sounded the alarm on the Flashback trojan malware, is also offered their own free Flashback Removal app — so there’s no shortage of ways to get rid of this sucker way before Apple gets its act together.
Boinx Software Updates iStopMotion for iPad to Version 1.3
MacLife recently reviewed the nifty iStopMotion for iPad app, and one of the few complaints we focused on is how difficult it was to keep the tablet steady while you’re animating. Developer Boinx Software must have been reading our minds, because this week they’ve pushed out version 1.3, adding the ability to “now use the headset remote play/pause button to capture, both in iStopMotion and the iStopMotion Remote Camera app.” Awesome idea! The app has also been localized for French, Japanese and Chinese users and includes a new spinner in the top bar so you’ll know when the app is busy performing lengthy operations. Users creating larger movies will find the app now works a lot smoother overall, and some additional Retina Display graphics have been in thrown in for good measure as well. The update is free for existing users and $9.99 for new buyers, now available in the App Store.
Verizon Follows ATT Into the Land of Pricier Mobile Upgrades
Hope you’re not a Verizon Wireless customer ready to upgrade your tired old cell phone. According to Reuters, Big Red will start charging customers $30 per upgrade on top of the cost of the hardware itself, which is being at least partially blamed on high subsidies paid to Apple for each iPhone sold by the carrier. “Carriers pay such subsidies because devices like the iPhone help to attract new customers and boost revenue,” the report reveals. “However, upgrades can be less attractive to operators because despite paying a subsidy for the new device, mobile companies often get no extra revenue from existing customers who switch phones.” The $30 fee won’t kick in until April 22, so we wouldn’t wait much longer to grab that smartphone you’ve been lusting after — and take heart, because rival ATT already socks its customers with a $36 upgrade fee. Ouch!
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