Summer is here, which means it's time to go on vacation! Whether you prefer to make day trips to local points of interest, or plan far-flung adventures that span the globe, you're going to want your trusty smartphone by your side.
Google is about to make it easier to watch videos shot in different aspect ratios. With an update scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks, the YouTube mobile app will "dynamically adapt to whatever size you choose to watch it in. That means if you’re watching a vertical, square or horizontal video, the YouTube player will seamlessly adapt itself, filling the screen exactly the way they should." This means videos will automatically fill more of the screen as users move their phones around. Google said changes are coming to the desktop version of YouTube, too, which will focus on simplifying the look and feel of the service. For example, a new Dark Theme will offer a more movie-theater-like appearance to videos. Google is also prepared to expand some sharing tools that make it quicker to share videos directly from the viewing screen. Google didn't say exactly when these changes will reach the mobile and desktop versions of YouTube.
YouTube TV will soon be available to millions more people around the U.S. thanks to a significant expansion of the service. Google today said YouTube TV will reach 10 new markets, including Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington, D.C., Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, and Charlotte, over the next few weeks. People in these markets will be able to sign up for the $35-per-month service, which includes live TV streaming of local channels, unlimited DVR use, and up to six individual user profiles per account. YouTube says people can register to see when YouTube TV will be available in their markets. The service initially launched earlier this year in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Imagination Technologies today said it has put the entire company up for sale following its loss of business with Apple. Earlier this year Apple announced plans to make its own GPU for the iPhone, a part Imagination Technologies has manufactured for Apple for years. Apple was Imagination's largest customer and losing the GPU contract was a huge blow. The company has already listed two business units for sale and today made the entire enterprise available for purchase. Imagination said it already "is engaged in preliminary discussions with potential bidders." Despite these plans, Imagination has filed legal grievances against Apple because it believes the iPhone maker will not be able to create its own GPU without using Imagination's patented technology.
Apple today released a new beta build of iOS 10 for developers. iOS 10.3.3 beta 4, which developers can download over the air, is a minor, bug-fixing release. Apple hasn't provided any details about what's contained in the new code, nor has it released a version for public beta testers yet. This minor update is likely to be the last for iOS 10 before Apple releases iOS 11. Apple is already beta testing iOS 11 with developers and will soon make a public beta available for general testing. The final version of iOS 11 isn't expected to arrive until September. Apple today also released tvOS 10.2.2 beta 4.
Motorola today said its recently announced Moto E4 smartphone will go on sale June 22 in the U.S. The handset will be sold by Verizon Wireless Prepaid online for $70. Motorola also plans to sell an unlocked version the phone for $130 through Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Fry’s, Motorola.com, and New Egg. The company expects to offer the phone through Amazon's Prime Exclusive program, too, which will allow people to purchase the handset at a lower cost as long as they agree to view ads on the lock screen. The Moto E4 will reach Boost Mobile, Sprint, Flash Wireless, Jet.com, Republic Wireless, Target, and Ting in July. Motorola said the Moto E4 Plus won't reach the U.S. until later this summer.
Virgin Mobile today announced plans to become an iPhone-only carrier, but the carrier's Android-based handsets won't vanish overnight. Virgin's reseller partners, including Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, will continue to carry and sell Virgin Mobile's lineup of Android handsets along with the prepaid carrier's Data Love service plans, according to Justin Scott, Virgin Mobile's Director of Communications. These retail partners will not sell the iPhone for the Inner Circle yet, though Virgin anticipates they will later this year. Virgin says its existing customers won't have to worry about any immediate changes. All Virgin subscribers are welcome to keep their current phone and service plan. If they wish, customers can upgrade to the Inner Circle plan once it becomes available, but Virgin won't force them to right away. Virgin will, however, begin to phase out all Android handsets over time. "While we love our partners in the Android ecosystem and care deeply about our Android customers, the Inner Circle is a path to a different future," explained Scott. "Specifically, it's an opportunity to reposition the brand and align it with the other Virgin companies in the United States. We certainly didn't make this decision lightly and based some of it on consumer data. We chose to become the first iPhone-only based mobile carrier in the United States and launch a game-changing offer because it was time for Virgin Mobile to make a bold move." Scott did not provide any sort of timeline for phasing out the company's Android phones.
Apple today seeded iOS 11 Beta 2 to developers. It also offered up fresh betas of macOS 10.13, watchOS 4, tvOS 11, and Xcode 9. Apple did not say what new features are included in the fresh builds. The company first announced iOS 11 earlier this month at its Worldwide Developer Conference. The revised mobile platform takes aim at the App Store experience, uses machine learning, makes changes to the camera and control center, adds a file folder, tweaks iMessage, and improves Live Photos. This second beta is still an early build of the platform and is meant only for developers. Apple is expected to make the first public beta available next month.
Virgin Mobile USA, which is owned and operated by Sprint, transformed itself today into new provider much more closely aligned with the Virgin brand. Significantly, Virgin Mobile USA is now an iPhone-only carrier, meaning Apple's iPhones are the only phones Virgin will sell moving forward. Further, shoppers will be able to buy and activate an iPhone on Virgin Mobile USA at Apple Stores. Pricing for Virgin Mobile iPhones starts at $279 for the 32 GB iPhone SE and ranges up to $969 for the 256 GB iPhone 7 Plus. According to the company's web site, Virgin Mobile does not offer financing for iPhones and customers will have to pay full price. The company now offers only a single service plan. For $50 per month, Virgin Mobile USA provides unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S. International roaming add-ons start at $5 per month. There are limitations on Virgin's plan: video playback is capped at 480p, music is streamed at 500Kbps, and gaming is streamed at 1.5Mbps. Virgin says mobile data speeds will be suppressed when the network is congested. For a limited time, Virgin Mobile is offering up to 12 months of service for just $1. The $1 yearly service offer is only available to customers buying a new iPhone and activating it on Virgin's network. Customers will have to sign up by July 31, 2017 to score the $1 deal. At the end of the 12-month service plan for $1, customers will automatically be moved to the $50 plan. Last, the $1 yearly plan and iPhone purchase buy customers access to the Virgin Inner Circle. The Inner Circle is a promotional program that provides benefits with other Virgin-branded properties. For example, Inner Circle members who buy one plane ticket on Virgin Atlantic will be given a second ticket for free. Inner Circle members who book two nights at a Virgin-owned hotel will be able to cash in on a third night for free. Virgin says these offers will be made available to Inner Circle members every few weeks. Customers interested in this package can pre-order one of Virgin Mobile USA's iPhones starting today. The phones and Inner Circle will become available starting June 27. Last, Virgin said it will offer "pre-loved" iPhones starting in the fall, allowing customers to take advantage of more affordable prices.
Snapchat today updated its mobile app and made it possible for users to share their location with one another. The tool appears to have just two modes, on and off. When users choose to share their location, all their friends will see where they are on a map. Alternately, users can remain in "Ghost Mode" to keep their location private. Snapchat says users' Actionmojis will show up on the map only when they open Snapchat. The map supports zooming, so you can see where all your contacts are as they move about cities or regions. Snapchat sees the feature as a way for people to find one another when out and about and share experiences. Snap Map is being added to the Android and iOS mobile Snapchat apps over the days ahead.
Summer is here, which means it's time to go on vacation! Whether you prefer to make day trips to local points of interest, or plan far-flung adventures that span the globe, you're going to want your trusty smartphone by your side. Here are our top smartphone picks to help you get the most out of your summer sojourns.
Spotify and Facebook have rolled out a new tool they believe will make listening to music more social. The tool, called Group Playlists for Messenger, lets people create and build Spotify playlists together within Messenger. Spotify suggests Group Playlists for Messenger can be ideal for parties, road trips, or other times when several people want to collaborate on a playlist. One user, a Spotify subscriber, will need to kick off the playlist and then share it with friends through Messenger. Once shared, anyone in the conversation can add songs even if they're not on Spotify. The feature is available beginning today.
The Unicode Consortium this week announced Unicode 10, which includes 56 new emoji characters and four new scripts. Some of the new emoji include facial expressions (raised eyebrow, hand-over-mouth), more men and women (bearded man, woman in head garb), hand symbols, food (dumpling, fortune cookie), clothing items, animals (dinosaurs, bugs), vehicles (flying saucer, sled), and a curling stone. The Consortium says the new scripts cover some of the world's lesser-used languages, including Gondi, Soyombo, Syriac, and Gujarati. The Unicode Consortium often offers a preview of its releases before they are made final, but this week it announced and released the final build of Unicode 10. It will be up to operating systems, platforms, and applications to adopt the new emoji. Some of the new faces are already built into Android 8 O.
ZTE today began pushing Android 7.1.1 to its Axon 7 Mini smartphone. Like the same update that reached the larger Axon 7 earlier this year, today's update for the Axon 7 Mini adds support for T-Mobile WiFi Calling; a wider selection of gender-balanced emoji and GIFs; performance improvements to Google's Daydream VR; and the latest security patches. ZTE says it also fixed bugs and tweaked behaviors throughout the operating system. Android 7.1.1 Nougat heralds split-screen multitasking and better power management. People who own the Axon 7 Mini can download the update manually via the system settings tools on their phone or wait for it to arrive over the air.
Instagram today made it possible for people to share their live broadcasts through the Stories tool for up to 24 hours. Once users conclude a live broadcast, they can tap a new "share" button to add a replay of the the live broadcast to their Stories. The tool also makes it easy to discard live videos whenever the broadcaster might wish. According to Instagram, the shared replays will be visible to followers through a new button that appears on the profile photo on the Stories bar. People need only tap the button to watch the associated live broadcast, which supports scanning forward and backward 15 seconds at a time. The new replay feature is included in the latest version of the Instagram mobile app for Android and iOS.
Google today simplified the process of managing monthly bills for subscribers to its Project Fi wireless service. Starting this week, Project Fi gains a new tool that helps the account manager easily determine what each member of the plan owes and send them a bill. Google says once the feature is enabled, Project Fi can automatically calculate the cost for each individual line. The service supports payment reminders, which it will send to each individual line. Further, Project Fi can accept payments through Google Wallet. Project Fi users need only tap the payment notification they may have received and follow simple steps to send their payment to the account manager. Owners can then cash out the payments to the debit card or bank account of their choice. Google says this new tool is rolling out to all Project Fi subscribers this week. Project Fi is available only to select handsets, including the Nexus 5x and Nexus 6p, and Google Pixel and Pixel XL.
Google today said it will no longer support the Android Market application on devices running Android 2.1 Eclair and older after June 30. Once the change takes place, devices running those operating systems will no longer have access to the Android Market, which was the original app store for Android devices. Google says this will impact only a very small number of users, as the vast majority of Android devices are running much newer builds of the operating system. Google will continue to support the Google Play Store app on devices running Android 2.2 for "as long as feasible." Practically speaking, Android 2.3 Gingerbread is the base operating system to offer full Play Store support via Google Play Services. The bulk of Android users needn't worry about Google's plan to cease supporting Android Market on Android 2.1 Eclair.
OnePlus today revealed its 2017 flagship handset, the OnePlus 5. The company has long offered high-end Android phones at affordable prices. The OnePlus 5 is the company's most advanced smartphone yet and it still manages to be affordable. The OnePlus 5 boasts a metal unibody design with a slim and rounded profile. The phone carries over the popular alert slider from earlier OnePlus phones and measures 7.25mm thick. Other hardware features include USB-C, a front-mounted fingerprint reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, and dual-camera array on the back. The two Sony camera sensors are 20- and 16-megapixels with apertures of f/2.6 and f/1.7, respectively. The 20MP sensor offers telephoto zooming while the 16MP sensor is better at low-light capture. OnePlus says it uses both lenses and sensors to help sharpen focus for all photos. The phone's optic AMOLED display measures 5.5 inches across the diagonal with full HD resolution. OnePlus picked Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor and the handset comes in two memory configurations: 6 GB of RAM with 64 GB of storage, and 8 GB of RAM with 128 GB of storage. Other specs include a 3,300mAh battery with Dash Charge, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, WiFi, and Cat 12 LTE with 3x carrier aggregation and support for 34 worldwide LTE bands. The phone relies on Android 7 Nougat as a base with OnePlus' user interface, which it calls OxygenOS, on top. Some of the features include App Priority, for personal app selection, and reduced latency for quicker input. It also packs Ambient Mode, which relies in sensors to adjust the backlight for eye comfort. The OnePlus 5 comes in black or gray and will cost $479/$539 when it goes on sale June 27. OnePlus says preorders open today.
Apple is taking another angle in its patent fight with Qualcomm. The iPhone maker is going after one of Qualcomm's core strategies, which is to demand a percentage of the sale price for every iPhone sold in addition to the cost of the processors, basebands, modems, and other Qualcomm chips that may be inside. The fresh legal framework, seen by Reuters, suggests Apple is relying on a brand new Supreme Court decision (Impression Products v. Lexmark, May 2017) to argue that Qualcomm should only charge for the patent license or the chips, but not both. Apple also asked the court to force Qualcomm to drop its countersuits against Apple's manufacturing partners. Apple is withholding a significant amount of cash from Qualcomm while the legal spat plays out, and Qualcomm, in turn is targeting Foxconn and others to recoup the money. Apple believes the fight should be between Apple and Qualcomm only. Qualcomm is tangled in a web of legal lawsuits strung around the world concerning its licensing practices.