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printed May 28, 2017
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Qualcomm Must Pay BlackBerry $940M to Settle Royalty Spat

Friday, 2:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today announced the final award in an arbitration case between it and Qualcomm that was tentatively settled in April. Qualcomm must repay BlackBerry of a total amount of $940 million, including interest and attorneys' fees — a number that's $125 million more than the original award announced last month. The two were disputing "whether Qualcomm's agreement to cap certain royalties applied to payments made by BlackBerry under a license agreement between the parties." The binding arbitration settlement determined that Qualcomm's agreement did in fact apply to such payments, resulting in BlackBerry paying Qualcomm too much money over several years' time. The agreement is final and Qualcomm cannot appeal. Qualcomm will make the full $940 million payment May 31.


T-Mobile Last Major US Carrier to Offer Kyocera DuraForce Pro

Friday, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today added the Kyocera DuraForce Pro to its roster of Android handsets. The phone has been available to AT&T and Sprint customers since last year, and to Verizon customers since January. The DuraForce Pro includes a 5-inch full HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel wide-angle secondary camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The phone offers a fingerprint reader, NFC, Snapdragon 617 processor, 3,240mAh battery, memory card slot, dual front speakers, and push-to-talk. The device is fully ruggedized, washable, and can sit in 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. T-Mobile says its variant of the phone has new camera features, including an Action Overlay mode. This lets people record video with a "heads-up display" that includes speed, distance, altitude, elapsed time, and other data. The DuraForce Pro runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It costs $425.


Facebook to Make Its Instant Articles Compatible with Google, Apple Formats

Friday, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook wants content to be more readable across the web and took steps this week toward that goal by tweaking the SDK for its Instant Articles. Facebook's Instant Articles give publishers a way to streamline content for consumption on mobile devices, but Instant Articles aren't compatible with the mobile-first styles used by Google and Apple. The new Instant Articles SDK includes extensions that will let publishers create content that is compatible with all three formats: Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, and Apple News. The SDK includes support for AMP immediately, but won't add Apple News for several weeks. Facebook, Google, and Apple all want publishers to adjust their articles, photos, and videos for mobile devices. Doing so improves usability for phone and tablet owners. It will be up to individual publishers to adopt Facebook's new Instant Articles SDK.


Kodak Ektra Improves Camera and Lowers Price As It Makes US Debut

Friday, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Eastman Kodak and Bullitt Group this week launched the Ektra smartphone in the U.S. The handset was first announced in October 2016. Bullitt Group, which manufactures the Ektra, is the company behind other brand-name handsets, such as CAT. The Kodak Ektra is a camera-first smartphone and features a retro design. The Ektra has a 21-megapixel Sony IMX230 sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and dual LED flash. It includes optical image stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, and can capture 4K video. The front-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor. The phone includes a 5-inch full HD screen, MediaTek Helio X20 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. Kodak and Bullitt have improved the phone since it was first announced, particularly where the camera is concerned. The phone now includes support for RAW image capture, and has improved auto-focus, white balance, and color performance. Perhaps more importantly, Kodak and Bullitt have reduced the price significantly. In January, the companies said the phone would go on sale in April for $549. This week, the phone reached Kodak's web site for just $399, which makes it a much more compelling and affordable option. The Kodak Ektra is sold unlocked with support for the LTE networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid brands.


OnePlus Signals 'Last Call' for 3T Ahead of OnePlus 5 Debut

Thursday, 3:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today took to its blog to say the OnePlus 3T has reached the end of its production run. The phone is still on sale, but will only be available until current stock runs dry. After that, the phone will no longer be sold by OnePlus or its partners. The company plans to support the phone via software updates for some time, though it didn't specify for how long. The company is making way for its 2017 flagship, to be called the OnePlus 5. So far, we know that the OnePlus 5 will feature Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor, and that OnePlus is working with DxO to ensure the phone has the best possible camera. OnePlus hasn't said exactly when it will announce the OnePlus 5, but it is expected to arrive during the summer months.


Instagram's Direct Messages Now Support Landscape Video

Thursday, 11:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today updated its private messaging tool, making it easier to share certain types of videos. Moving forward, people sending permanent pictures or movies to friends won't have to crop them before sending. Instagram's Direct messaging function supports landscape video, so video will appear in its native format. Instagram also made it possible to share web links privately. Links can be previewed within the message thread, including the ability to select phone numbers and addresses embedded on those sites. Instagram said the landscape and portrait upload tool reaches the iPhone today and will hit Android devices soon. Both iPhones and Androids can share links via Direct starting immediately.


T-Mobile Digits Lets You Call or Text from a Phone, Tablet, PC

Thursday, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 10:49 AM

T-Mobile said it Digits service, first announced last year, will go live May 31. Digits allows customers to use the same phone number across multiple devices, or multiple numbers on a single device. The service operates over LTE and works with most connected devices, including phones, tablets, wearables, and computers. Digits relies on an app for Android and iOS devices, though T-Mobile says Digits is also built into the native dialer on certain Samsung phones (Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge +, S7, S7 edge, S8, S8+, Note 5) and the LG G5. T-Mobile customers sign in on whichever device is most convenient in order to access to their phone number, voicemail, text messages, and call history. The service allows a single smartphone to support up to five phone numbers without requiring additional SIM cards. Similarly, a single Digits number can be used across as many as five separate devices. T-Mobile has been beta testing the service since early this year and says the ability to send text messages from PCs is a favorite amongst early adopters. T-Mobile suggests Digits could be beneficial to business customers, as it would allow them to have their personal number and work number ring the same phone, negating the need to carry a second handset. It can serve families, too, allowing landline-based home phone numbers moved to T-Mobile to ring all devices on a family plan at the same time. Digits numbers can be assigned to run on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon phones through the Digits app. T-Mobile said every T-Mobile line will be upgraded to Digits on May 31 for free. A single Digits line can be used on customers' phones, tablets, and so on. New Digits lines added to an existing account (for example, a second number for one phone) cost $10 per month. For a limited time, customers who subscribe to the T-Mobile One Plus plan will be able to add a second Digits line at no extra cost. T-Mobile warns that Digits lines support 911 calls and texts, but reaching 911 via the main account line is best.


Google Photos Adds Archiving Tool to Hide Sensitive Pix

Wednesday, 3:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The latest version of Google Photos makes it possible to archive photos for safe, out-of-sight keeping. The tool was added to Google Photos 2.15 for Android devices, though it is not yet available to iOS devices or on the web. The archiving tool now appears within the navigation drawer on the left. A tutorial will walk people through the feature upon first use, after which archived photos can be accessed via the nav drawer. Archiving gives people a way to push photos out of their main feed without deleting them. The pictures are still readily accessible, though they will be out of view unless purposely sought out. The archiving function was first spotted by 9to5Google. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Consumer Cellular Picks Up the ZTE Avid 916 and Moto G5 Plus

Wednesday, 3:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumer Cellular recently added the ZTE Avid 916 and Motorola Moto G5 Plus to its roster of Android-based smartphones. The Avid 916 (pictured), a variant of the ZTE Grand / Champ, includes a 5.5-inch 720p display, 1.3 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor, and 8 GB of internal storage. The phone has an 8-megapixel main camera with 720p HD video capture and a 2-megapixel front camera. The phone includes Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, GPS, and LTE. It supports microSD memory cards up to 64 GB and ships with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. The phone costs $80. The Moto G5 Plus, which Motorola released earlier this year, is available for $200 or four payments of $50. It has a 5.2-inch full HD display, 12-megapiel camera, and runs Android 7.0 Nougat.


Facebook Tweaks Trending News and Expands Fundraising

Wednesday, 2:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook updated several of its offerings today, including how it handles trending news and supports fundraising campaigns. Facebook says it has redesigned its trending news function with the goal of surfacing higher-quality content in the news box. Moving forward, clicking on a trending topic opens a new carousel with stories from a variety of publications that users can swipe through. "By making it easier to see what other news outlets are saying about each topic, we hope that people will feel more informed about the news in their region," said Facebook. News articles highlighted in the trending stories section are the most popular on Facebook concerning that specific topic. Popularity is determined by a number of factors. The new trending stories box is available on the web, but Facebook says it is only just beginning to test the new trending stories on Android and iOS mobile devices. Facebook hopes to expand the new trending stories to all mobile users soon. On the fundraising front, Facebook is expanding the ability to raise money to more organizations and groups. For example, personal fundraisers are now available to everyone in the U.S. over the age of 18, and are available in two new categories (community and sports.) Fundraisers are easy to create and share in order to take advantage of the community effect. Facebook says people can raise money for education, medical costs, pet medical costs, crisis relief, personal emergencies, funerals, sports, community, and nonprofits. Facebook says it is able to review all fundraisers and launch them within 24 hours. The platform supports payment processing, vetting, security, and fraud protection for a small fee.


Republicans Want 'Ringless Voicemail' to Fill Your Inbox with Ads

Wednesday, 11:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Republican National Committee hopes the FCC will approve a request from a marketing firm that would allow companies and organizations to silently send messages straight to consumers' cellphone voicemail inboxes. Such voicemails could be prerecorded political messages or even advertisements. The so-called "ringless voicemail" idea has been on the FCC's docket since March, when a marketing firm called All About the Message LLC asked the agency to approve its technology. All About the Message says its tech shouldn't be governed by robocalling regulations because it technically doesn't even qualify as phone calls. Moreover, the firm argues it won't interrupt consumers with automatic, robotic, dead-air phone calls at inconvenient times — behaviors that have helped define robocalls and the laws keeping them in check. The RNC supports All About Message's technology and suggested the FCC approve it lest political parties' First Amendment rights be trampled. "Political organizations like the RNC use all manner of communications to discuss political and governmental issues and to solicit donations — including direct-to-voicemail messages," said the RNC to the FCC in paperwork filed last week. "The Commission should tread carefully so as not to burden constitutionally protected political speech without a compelling interest." Consumer advocacy groups, including the National Consumer Law Center, say the change would amount to inbox pain for consumers. "I think it's unfortunate that there's a push by any political party to reduce the protections in [the robocall rules] for cellphones," said the NCLC's Margot Freeman Saunders in a statement provided to Recode. Saunders believes robocalls are one of many factors behind consumers' growing abandonment of landlines. Taking away the current rules could leave people "completely overwhelmed by messages" that cannot be prevented from filling their inboxes. The Democrats have not taken a side on the matter.


T-Mobile Ups Throttling Threshold to 32 GB

Wednesday, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it will allow customers to use more LTE data before potentially throttling them. Previously, T-Mobile would slow the mobile internet speeds of the heaviest users after they surpassed 30 GB of mobile data in a single billing period. T-Mobile bumped that threshold to 32 GB effective immediately, which means T-Mobile subscribers can use more data before possibly being hit with slower mobile data speeds. T-Mobile says customers who exceed the 32 GB threshold might see their top speeds dialed back only when the network is congested. T-Mobile anticipates this won't impact too many users (the top 3%). The 32 GB threshold resets each month. T-Mobile calls this practice "network prioritization" and says it is primarily used as a way to manage network load.


T-Mobile Goes After Verizon Customers with Latest Promo

Wednesday, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile hopes its new "Get Out of the Red" deal will tempt Verizon customers to switch to T-Mobile. T-Mobile is offering to pay the remaining balance on Verizon subscribers' handsets and allow them to use those same handsets on T-Mobile's network. Lots of caveats apply. In order to qualify for the deal, Verizon customers must be in good standing with Big Red and come to T-Mobile with an Apple iPhone SE, 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, Google Pixel, or Pixel XL. These phones have the proper radios to support T-Mobile's LTE network. The company is working to add other devices to the list. Verizon customers will need to port their number to T-Mobile, sign up for a T-Mobile One plan, buy a new T-Mobile SIM card, and sign up for T-Mobile's Premium Device Protection Plus insurance plan for $15 per month. Once all these criteria are met, T-Mobile will pay the remaining balance on the Verizon iPhone or Pixel, whatever that may be. T-Mobile says customers will be reimbursed for their Verizon iPhone/Pixel balances within 15 to 30 days via prepaid MasterCard. T-Mobile is pitching the idea as an easier way to switch carriers as it doesn't require people to backup or transfer content from one phone to another. The offer works with Verizon handsets because by law Verizon's LTE phones must be unlocked. AT&T and Sprint customers cannot take advantage of this offer precisely because their phones are carrier locked. T-Mobile's Get Out of the Red promotion will be available starting May 31. T-Mobile is, however, throwing a bone to AT&T and Sprint customers. T-Mobile said it will pay off the remaining handset balance and/or early termination fee for AT&T/Sprint customers who port a number to T-Mobile and finance a new device on T-Mobile's equipment installment plan. Last, T-Mobile customers who already have two T-Mobile One plans will be able add two additional lines of service for the price of one. This promo requires autopay.


Google Improves Family Sharing In Calendar, Keep, and Photos

Tuesday, 2:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today detailed how families can use their Google account to stay connected and in sync with one another. Google already allows people to share media via Google Play Music, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Books. Moving forward, families can take advantage of Google Calendar, Keep, and Photos to manage appointments, tasks, and libraries. For example, the shared Google Calendar lets families keep track of group plans and other events, while Google Keep makes it possible to capture and share ideas with other family members. Shared albums in Google Photos requires only a few taps to push those weekend snapshots to everyone, while YouTube TV allows up to six people to maintain their own cloud-based DVR for online television shows. Google says the new family tools are rolling out to Google Calendar, Keep, and Photos in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New, Zealand, Russia, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. starting today. YouTube TV is available in select markets around the U.S. Families, as defined by Google, support up to six members per household.


Ailing LeEco Will Layoff 325 U.S. Employees

Tuesday, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LeEco today said it will largely erase its corporate presence in the U.S. as it refocuses its efforts here. The company, which exists as the YouTube/Netflix of China, first announced plans enter the U.S. market at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2016. It followed nine moths later with a splashy October 2016 press conference launching phones, TVs, and connected bicycles — all of which were to be sold online directly to consumers. The company expanded too swiftly, ran into cash problems, and scaled back plans earlier this year. "While we’ve made progress in growing our distribution channels, the challenges with raising new capital have made it difficult in the past few months to support all of our business’ priorities," said the company in a statement. Thanks to the cash crunch, LeEco cannot support its U.S. employees and will let up to 70%, or about 325, go. "Our goal is to continue to gain momentum. In the past few months, we have gained a large foothold in Chinese-speaking households in the U.S. by offering tailor-made products and content for this community. We believe this provides us an opportunity to build on our strengths and grow from there." LeEco didn't explicitly say which products it will continue to offer U.S. consumers, nor how swiftly its U.S.-based employees will be let go. Just yesterday, the company's founder stepped down from his CEO role at one of LeEco's major business units.

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Facebook Adds Social Functions to Live Video

Tuesday, 11:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced two new features for live video that should make it more interactive and social. First, there's Live Chat With Friends. This allows people to invite their friends to a private chat thread that accompanies a public live broadcast. For example, users can begin watching a live video from their favorite artist and invite their Facebook buddies to talk about it in real time. Facebook says people will be able to follow public conversations as well as private chats during live video at the same time, and private chats will continue after the live broadcast ends. The feature is being tested in several countries right now and should become more widely available over the summer months. The second new feature is called Live With. This feature lets people broadcast live video with a guest. "To invite a friend to join you in your live video, simply select a guest from the Live Viewers section, or tap a comment from the viewer you want to invite," explained Facebook in a blog post. "Your viewer can then choose whether or not to join your broadcast. You can go live with a guest in both portrait mode and landscape mode." Facebook thinks this will be a great way for high-profile users (read: celebrities) to interact with regular people and fans. The Live With feature is now available to all users, profiles, and pages.


Instagram Bows Location and Hashtag Search

May 23, 2017, 9:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it easier to find story content in its mobile app based on location or interests/topics. A new story ring now appears at the top of the explore section. Stories that have location stickers applied to them will be added to the ring so people can view myriad stories shared from around the world. Similarly, people can now mark their stories with hashtags, making them searchable to others. Instagram says these stories may be shared with a much larger audience via the explore tab, but users can opt to share their location or hashtagged stories only with followers (rather than everyone). The new searching tools will appear in Instagram 10.22 for Android and iOS, which is rolling out this week.


Snapchat Debuts Story Collaboration Tool

May 23, 2017, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today unveiled a new feature that makes it possible for many people to contribute to the same story. Snapchat calls the new tool custom stories. One person creates the story and then invites others to add their own snaps. The creator can limit the story so only those invited to contribute are allowed to see it. Further, the creator can geofence the story so only people in a specific location can see the story. Snapchat says stories will disappear after 24 hours if no one contributes to them. Snapchat's new collaborative stories are rolling out to Android and iOS devices in a fresh update to the mobile app.


YouTube TV App for iOS Adds AirPlay Compatibility

May 23, 2017, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its YouTube TV app for iOS and gave it the ability to push content to the Apple TV. The Android version of the mobile app can cast video to Chromecast-enabled TVs, but Apple TV users were left without a way to connect the gap between their iPhone and television set. The new version of YouTube TV for iOS adds AirPlay, allowing iPhone owners to view YouTube TV programming on their television set through the Apple TV. YouTube TV for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store, but the availability of the service is limited to just a handful of markets for the time being.


Apple and Nokia Bury the Patent Hatchet

May 23, 2017, 7:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it has settled its patent complaints against Nokia and the two have signed a multi-year patent license. The two corporations sued one another in December of last year concerning licensing fees for Nokia's patents. Nokia said Apple refused to pay fair prices, while Apple accused Nokia of antitrust behavior. Nokia had sold its patents to patent-assertion firms that then demanded higher rates. Moving forward, Nokia will provide Apple with network infrastructure products and services, and Apple will resume selling Nokia-owned smart devices (Withings) as the two look at future potential digital health offerings. Apple is set to pay Nokia a significant upfront fee and then on-going payments. Both companies expressed positive sentiments in having the matter behind them. "We are pleased with this resolution of our dispute and we look forward to expanding our business relationship with Nokia," said Apple COO Jeff Williams. Companies often use lawsuits as a negotiation tactic.


Samsung Itself Offering T-Mobile Galaxy S8 BOGO

May 22, 2017, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has rolled out a simpler and more direct buy-one, get-one offer for the Galaxy S8 smartphone. Under the terms of Samsung's deal, customers must buy two Galaxy S8 handsets for full price and activate at least one on T-Mobile's network via Samsung.com. Samsung will then issue a rebate for up to $750 to cover the cost of one Galaxy S8 within seven to 10 days after the purchase is made. The rebate is applied as a refund directly to the original payment method, excluding taxes, shipping, or other fees. T-Mobile's buy-one, get-one offer, in comparison, requires new/upgrading customers to sign up for its monthly installment plan for both devices and wait up to eight weeks for a rebate card that can be applied to the second device. Samsung's offer lets customers pay off the second phone almost immediately. Moreover, it can be combined with the free entertainment kit offer, which includes the Gear VR with Controller headset and six free months of Netflix.


LG X Venture Delivers Inexpensive, Rugged Performance

May 22, 2017, 9:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 22, 2017, 9:57 AM

LG today announced the X venture, an affordable Android smartphone that can take a beating. The phone has an IP68 rating for protection against water and dust, and a mil-spec 810g rating for durability against drops, bumps, scrapes, and other abuse. The phone features a 5.2-inch full HD screen with glove mode. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. LG says the main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with a standard field of view, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens. The phone packs a massive 4,100mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 for all-day battery life. Other specs include barometer with outdoorsy software, as well as Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, FM radio, and NFC. The phone supports memory cards up to 2 TB and it charges via microUSB. The X venture runs Android 7 Nougat. AT&T plans to sell the LG X venture starting May 26, with support for its ePTT service, for $11 per month for 30 months, or about $330.


Small Company Takes Apple to Court Over Apple Pay Patents

May 22, 2017, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Universal Secure Registry, a small firm from Boston, has filed a patent complaint against Apple and Visa over the technology used to create Apple Pay. According to the lawsuit, Kenneth P. Weiss, CEO of Universal Secure Registry, holds 13 patents pertaining to the use of fingerprints and one-time tokens in order to authenticate secure financial transactions. Weiss pitched the technology extensively to Visa in 2010. Visa agreed to a 10-year nondisclosure agreement and even assigned engineers to understand how Universal Secure Registry's process worked. Visa never adopted the technology, but several years later worked with Apple, MasterCard, and American Express to create Apple Pay, which launched in 2014. Apple Pay relies on fingerprints and one-time tokens to facilitate iPhone-based mobile payments. Patent law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan — one that represented Samsung and its fight against Apple over Android patents — suggested Universal Secure Registry take Apple to court over the patented technology. Apple has not yet responded publicly to the lawsuit.


LeEco Founder Steps Away from CEO Role

May 22, 2017, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jia Yueting, who founded China's LeEco, is cutting back on his responsibilities in order to help the company better focus on products. Specifically, Jia has stepped down as the CEO of Leshi, LeEco's main business unit. He remains the chairman and CEO of LeEco. Leshi is the part of the company that provides internet and video services in China. It is the core of the firm. LeEco later spread to TVs, smartphones, electric cars, and other connected products. These businesses sapped LeEco's finances and caused a cash crunch that eventually saw LeEco scale back its expansion plans. Former Lenovo executive Liang Jun will take Jia's place at the helm of Leshi. At the same time, Leshi's CFO, Yang Linjie, will be replaced by Zhang Wei. Jia gave the change a positive spin, suggesting that he'll be able to provide the proper amount of guidance to the business units he now governs. LeEco sold several phones directly to U.S. consumers online, including Le Pro3.


5 Most Important Things Google Announced At I/O

May 19, 2017, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google I/O, the search company's annual developer conference, is wrapping up after a whirlwind few days in Mountain View, Calif. Google hit attendees with a blitz of announcements centered around artificial intelligence, machine learning, and mobility. While much of what Google showed off is meant for its developer partners, plenty will reach consumers in the days, weeks, and months ahead — not only on Android devices, but iOS, the web, your car, your wrist, your headset, and more.

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Google Pushes Minor Update to Android O Beta

May 18, 2017, 7:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today distributed a bug-fixing update to the Android O beta. The small patch, weighing it at about 55 MB, is meant to smooth out some performance issues present in the initial build. People enrolled in the Android Beta program should see the fresh update hit their devices shortly. The Android O beta works on the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, and Nexus 5X.

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DxO Working with OnePlus to Improve Its Camera Tech

May 18, 2017, 6:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

DxO and OnePlus today said they're developing the camera of the OnePlus 5 smartphone together. OnePlus has indicated that the OnePlus 5, which will be the successor to last year's OnePlus 3T flagship, will arrive in the months ahead. OnePlus hasn't shared any real details about the phone, such as the screen size, processor, or camera resolution. OnePlus doesn't have a carrier distribution deal in the U.S., but it does sell its phones directly to consumers online.


Android Pay to Support Payments via Google Assistant

May 18, 2017, 3:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week rolled out the Google Payment API, a new set of capabilities that will allow anyone to make in-app or online payments with any debit or credit card associated with their Google account. Google says this option will simplify the process for people to checkout and make purchases online, as it negates the need to fill out cumbersome purchasing forms. Moreover, the API will make it possible for people to send or receive payments via the Google Assistant. Whether the Assistant is accessed through a smartphone or Google Home, users can say, "Ok Google, send $10 for Jane for pizza" and Google will do exactly that. A separate payment tool for developers, called the Card Linked Offers API, smoothes over the process of supporting loyalty cards and programs. It gives developers a new channel for interacting with customers and rolling out targeted offers. From a consumer standpoint, it will be far easier to add loyalty cards to Android Pay once developers update their app with the Card Linked Offers API. Google expects these capabilities to roll out later this year.


Google Hopes New API Will Improve Android Wear Complications

May 18, 2017, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new version of its Complications API for developers in order to help them create better experiences for Android Wear. Complications are dynamic data sets that appear on watch faces, such as step counts, notifications, weather alerts, and similar. Specifically, the refreshed API can now auto-size text to fit in bounds defined by watch face makers and it includes a full rendering tool to handle style and layout factors for complications. The API adds more sample code that developers can cut-and-paste into their apps, as well as a new test suite for checking that watch faces can handle all the fields and complications together. The new Complications API is for Android Wear 2.0 and up. Google released the second-generation wearable platform earlier this year. Google also said it is offering developers a new Wear UI library for handling user interfaces. Notably, Google is killing off the card pattern and multi-directional UIs for Android Wear devices. This change will occur over time.


First Look: What's New In Android O

May 18, 2017, 2:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week released the first public beta of Android O, the next version of its core mobile platform. Android O has a handful of interesting new features, including picture-in-picture, notification dots, autofill for app logins, easy text selection, and much more. Android O may not be huge on hallmark additions to the platform, but it shows an excellent level of refinement from Google. We downloaded the Android O beta and took it for a quick spin. Here are our first impressions of this super early build of Android O.

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Verizon to Sell Asus' ZenFone AR Project Tango Phone

May 18, 2017, 12:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 18, 2017, 12:53 PM

Verizon Wireless will be the first U.S. carrier to offer a Project Tango smartphone to its customers. The forthcoming Asus ZenFone AR will arrive later this summer, according to Google executive Johnny Lee. The ZenFone AR is significantly smaller than the first Project Tango handset, which was the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. The ZenFone AR will also be compatible with Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Asus first announced the ZenFone AR in January. It sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a vapor cooling system. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. The exact availability is not yet known.

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FCC to Begin Dismantling Title II Net Neutrality

May 18, 2017, 12:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today voted down party lines to begin the process of undoing the Title II designation that governs net neutrality. "The FCC is proposing to return to a regulatory framework that preserved a free and open internet for almost 20 years," said the agency on its Twitter feed. The previous FCC Commissioner, Tom Wheeler, installed the Title II designation and bright-line rules in 2015 in order to protect consumers from onerous business practices. Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has long derided the decision and stated early in his tenure his intent to walk back the regulations. Today's vote doesn't immediately strip Title II from net neutrality, but it puts the ball in motion. The FCC wants to return to the Commission’s original classification of mobile broadband internet access service as a private mobile service, rather than a utility. The FCC intends to "eliminate the catch-all internet conduct standard created by the Title II Order. Because the Internet conduct standard is extremely vague and expansive, ISPs must guess at what they are permitted to do. Eliminating the Internet conduct standard is therefore expected to promote innovation and network investment by eliminating regulatory uncertainty." Last, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on the idea of eliminating the bright-line rules that define what mobile broadband providers can and cannot do, such as throttling, and paid prioritization schemes.


Chrome for Android to Support VR Browsing

May 18, 2017, 12:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it plans to bring full virtual reality support to its Chrome browser for Android handsets. With Chrome VR, people will be able to experience full web sites in virtual reality, watch web-based videos in virtual reality, and interact with web sites through their VR headset. Google suggests that Chrome VR can pair with augmented reality tools when, for example, shopping for furniture in order to help define whether or not things will fit in your house. A new version of Chromium is available to developers from GitHub so web writers can get started in creating VR experiences for the web. Google didn't say when it expects to offer a final version of Chrome VR to the general public.

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YouTube VR to Support Co-Watching

May 18, 2017, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is updating YouTube VR with the ability for multiple people to watch and share experiences at the same time. The new tools will make it possible for those with their own headsets to do what Google calls co-watching. People will be able to enjoy the content and discuss it in real time, even when viewing from separate locations. Google is working with its content producers to create more VR content for YouTube, all of which will be accessible in the new Daydream 2.0 Euphrates platform.

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Google Updates Daydream to Version 2.0 Euphrates

May 18, 2017, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 18, 2017, 12:20 PM

Google today provided some insight on its Daydream virtual reality platform and says a new version of Daydream will soon make its debut. Daydream 2.0 Euphrates targets standalone VR headsets and is powered by Android O. The entire experience is handled in virtual reality. Daydream 2.0 updates the home experience for standalone headsets and smartphones. Euphrates includes a new dashboard that will appear on top of any app and lets people remain in VR even when checking settings, reading notifications, and multitasking. Euphrates also adds Google Cast support, allowing people to pick a destination and cast from Daydream to other devices such as television sets. Daydream 2.0 makes it possible to capture screenshots and then share them via social networks. Google said there are eight Daydream compatible handsets right now, and it expects that number to increase significantly by the end of the year thanks to new entries from LG, Motorola, Asus, and others. Google believes tens of millions of Daydream devices will be in the market by the end of the year.


Facebook Streamlines Messenger

May 18, 2017, 11:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today said it is simplifying the main screen of Facebook Messenger, returning the app's focus to messaging. Facebook has over the last year added numerous features to the messaging tool and the app's usability has suffered somewhat as a result. The app introduces tabs along the top for all the different actions and features, rather than cramming them in small slots on the home screen. The tabs will also show users which of their friends are available for conversations, as well as a dedicated place to host group conversations. The bottom bar now offers shortcuts for making calls, taking pictures, searching or people, playing games, and, later, exploring the forthcoming discover tab. Last, Messenger includes a red dot to help people see what's new. "These changes are designed to make Messenger simpler for you — to help you get to your contacts quickly, jump into your conversations where you left off, start new chats, and stay up to date," said Facebook's David Marcus. The new Messenger is hitting Android and iOS devices this week.


Cricket to Sell LG Stylo 3 Starting May 19

May 18, 2017, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 19, 2017, 3:23 PM

Cricket Wireless today said it, too, will sell the LG Stylo 3 beginning May 19. A CDMA version is already available from Sprint and Boost, and a slightly higher-end Stylo 3 Plus is available from T-Mobile. The Stylo 3 has a 5.7-inch 720p HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, and fingerprint reader. The phone includes LG's stylus and dedicated pen software. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat. Cricket Wireless has priced the LG Stylo 3 at $170.

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Android O Adopts New Emoji Design

May 17, 2017, 7:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Android O replaces the squishy emoji blobs that have long been a part of Google's stock operating system with more traditional, circular emoji. Many of Google's handset partners include their own emoji on Android phones, but the clean version of Android that runs on Pixel and Nexus devices includes the blob-style emoji. Android O puts the basic design and shape of the emoji in line with what other companies offer. The redesigned emoji are included in the new Android O beta release that Google made available earlier today.

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Google Updates, Renames Android Device Manager

May 17, 2017, 5:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Android Device Manager application. The app has a fresh design and, more importantly, a new name. Moving forward the app is called Find My Device. As before, it's a tool to help people find, lock, or erase lost or stolen Android devices. Some of the new features include the ability to check the lost device's wifi and battery status, as well as view the last known location in the event the phone has lost power or been turned off. Find My Device is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Developers Can (Finally) Create Instant Apps

May 17, 2017, 3:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 17, 2017, 5:12 PM

Google today made its instant apps tool available to all developers. Google first announced instant apps at its I/O developer conference in 2016. Instant apps can run in the browser via search results even when not installed on users' phones. The idea is to improve the visibility of apps, allow people to test them, and encourage more app downloads. Only a few developers have had access to instant apps since last year. Now, any developer can create instant versions of the apps. Google said it will take most developers about four or five weeks to modify their apps to run in the instant format. It will be up to app creators to use this tool before instant apps begin to appear in search results.


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