Pebble, which sold its intellectual property to FitBit, detailed plans for the remaining portions of its business. Pebble will not make or sell any more devices. The company says devices already in the market will work as normal and there are no planned changes to the user experience. Pebble warns that some functions may be lost over time and, more importantly, warranty support is no longer available for any Pebble watch. Pebble owners who run into trouble are directed to Pebble's support web site and forum. People who preordered Pebble's newest devices via Kickstarter and have not yet received their device will be given a full refund, automatically applied to their credit card. The company is not taking any more orders and has closed its Kickstarter campaigns. Pebble says watches purchased at retail locations may be returned based on the individual retailer's return policy. People should be able to find Pebble replacement parts and accessories from third-party vendors such as Amazon.com. Pebble executive Eric Migicovsky thanked Pebble supporters and the Pebble community for their support over the years. Migicovsky is not joining FitBit, but many of Pebble's software engineers are.
FitBit today said it has acquired key personnel and intellectual property related to software and firmware development from Pebble. FitBit did not buy Pebble's hardware assets. FitBit says the acquisition will allow it to bring products to market faster and will speed up its ability to develop customized solutions and support third-party applications. Pebble was an early entrant in the smartwatch market and made low-cost, platform-agnostic wearables that focused on usability. It got its start through several successful Kickstarter campaigns. FitBit is the market leader for health and fitness wearables. It has an entire line of trackers and smart devices that work with Android and iOS devices. FitBit did not immediately say what will happen to Pebble's hardware products, but Pebble's Twitter account said, "Pebble will no longer produce or sell new hardware. Active Pebbles in the wild will keep working." Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The transaction was completed December 6.
Following its recent release for desktop machines, Google has made Chrome 55 available to Android smartphones and tablets. Chrome 55 introduces a handful of new features. Chiefly, Chrome 55 makes it possible to download music, videos, and web pages for offline viewing. Downloads can be viewed and shared within Chrome. The updated browser also lets people see misspelled words in text fields and makes improvements to the contextual search user interface. Chrome 55 contains performance, memory, and stability fixes, as well. The browser is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Pandora has taken the wraps off Pandora Premium, its $10-per-month music streaming service that will compete with Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music. Like similar products, Pandora Premium offers ad-free, all-you-can-eat streaming of millions of tracks. It includes unlimited skips and downloads for offline listening. Pandora Premium competes with Pandora's own $5 monthly product, which is also ad-free and allows for some skipping. The major difference between the two is the recommendation engine. Pandora Premium relies on the data Pandora has collated via the Music Genome to the tune of one billion data points per day. It also takes advantage of users' own "thumbs up" activity and will create playlists based on those songs. The Premium product will be more aggressive about pushing recommendations, particularly when users reach the end of a play list or album. Pandora expects to launch Pandora Premium for mobile devices and the web early next year.
Google updated its Duo video chatting app this week and made a small number of enhancements to the program. Most importantly, the update introduces significant video quality improvements so chats are clearer. The update smoothes over the camera behavior when the phone is rotated. Google also cleaned up the signup process and resolved a bug that impacted sound during video calls. Duo is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Apple has agreed to pay a fine of $450,000 for improperly operating a hazardous waste facility in California. The company ran a plant in Cupertino that processed some 1.1 million pounds of hazardous waste. The plant was closed in 2013 and moved to Sunnyvale. California's Department of Toxic Substances Control alleged that Apple ran the facility without the state's knowledge. Apple blamed the transgression on "an oversight in paperwork." The state accused Apple of mishandling some toxic dust, but no one was harmed and neither was the environment. Apple made clear that its own safety standards are more strict than the law demands.
Signing into TV and other video apps should be less painful thanks to the launch of Apple's Single sign-on service. Single sign-on allows people to enter their cable provider's credentials just once and then automatically be signed in to all that TV and video apps that require those credentials. At launch, the service is limited to CenturyLink, Prism, DirecTV, Dish, GTA, GVTC, Hawaiian Telcom, Hotwire, MetroCast, and Sling TV. Notable absences include Verizon's FiOS TV service, Comcast, Time Warner, and CableVision. Moreover, the initial batch of apps that support the service are limited, too. For example, A&E supports Single sign-on for iOS, but not tvOS. Similarly, NBC supports Single sign-on for tvOS, but not iOS. Major channels, including CBS and Disney aren't yet supporting Single sign-on. It is up to TV providers to voluntarily update their apps with support for Single sign-on, which is not mandated by Apple. Single sign-on requires iOS 10 and tvOS 10 or later.
Google today said it has implemented an approach it calls file-by-file patching to cut down the size of app updates. The technique can, on average, reduce the download size by 65% when compared to the original app. It's able to cut down some app downloads by as much as 90%. According to Google, the Play Store now sends Android devices a patch that details what's different between the old version and new version of the app. It then downloads only the bits needed to make those changes. In total, Google expects the effort will save Android device owners around the world an aggregate 6 petabytes of mobile data per day. Google hopes smaller app downloads will help improve uptake for app developers. File-by-file patching replaces the bsdiff algorithm previously used by Google, which was able to reduce app downloads by as much as 47%. People will not need to take any action to make use of the new updating process. Apple's iOS does something similar with apps downloaded from the iTunes App Store.
The European Union today approved Microsoft's proposed $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn. The Union set several conditions in allowing Microsoft to proceed. For one, it must allow other professional networks to link into Office, and must let PC makers choose whether or not to preinstall LinkedIn on their machines. Last, Microsoft must let rival networks access the Microsoft Graph for mining data. The U.S. has already approved the transaction, which can now move forward.
Google today said the Google Play Movies & TV store is now offering a small selection of 4K (Ultra HD) movies. About 125 titles can be purchased or streamed in 4K. Google is charging $8 for 4K rentals and between $25 and $30 for 4K purchases. Earlier this year, Google updated its Google Chromecast product with support for 4K, and other Google-compatible devices, such as the Xiaomi Mi Box, can also stream 4K content. Google didn't say how quickly it will ramp up its 4K library. The company did mention that the Google Play Movies & TV app is now available on 2016 model Samsung Smart TVs
Google today began rolling out an update to its Android Search app that separates information into two streams. Previously, the app displayed a long column of data, including calendar appointments, weather, news stories, and so on. Now, the app is dividing this information into two categories: upcoming events and current topics. The events section will contain details about travel, meetings, and important dates culled from the user's email and calendar. The topics section will contain a list of stories (news, weather, sports) that Google thinks the user will be interested in. The redesigned search app hits Android devices today and will reach iOS devices soon.
The U.S. Supreme Court today vacated a $399 million reward that Samsung had been ordered to pay Apple for violating the iPhone maker's designs. The court agreed with Samsung's position that it should not be forced to forfeit all the profits from the infringing devices because their design is just one aspect. The court said the lower courts had improperly calculated the fine and sent the case back to those courts for further deliberation. The case dates back to April 2011, when Apple first sued Samsung over its smartphones. An initial trial found Samsung guilty of willfully infringing on Apple's designs and rewarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages. That reward has been whittled down over the years in subsequent hearings.
Instagram today expanded the number of tools people can use to control their experience within the app. First, Instagram will allow people to turn off comments on their posts. The feature will be added to the advanced settings menu. Instagram says people will be able to turn comments back on whenever they wish. The social network also plans to let people "like" comments by tapping a heart icon that will appear alongside comments. Users will soon be able to remove followers from private accounts, too. People will not be notified if/when they are removed. Instagram believes this is a better alternative to blocking. Last, Instagram is adding a way for people to anonymously report posts that suggest a user may injure themselves. Instagram says the new features are rolling out gradually through an update to its Android and iOS apps.
AT&T today announced an expansion of its 5G trials with its first business customer. Intel has agreed to test AT&T's mmWave technology at its own Austin-based offices. AT&T and its technology partner, Ericsson, claim to have reached peak download speeds of 14 Gbps with 4K HD video and real-time camera feeds. This field trial will put business-class use-cases to the test, including internet access, VPNs, unified communications, and 4K video streams in the 15 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum bands. "Mobile video streaming continues to be a vital aspect of our 5G work, and this trial gives us an opportunity to test 4K HD video streaming across further physical distances between pieces of equipment," said Tom Keathley, AT&T's senior vice president, wireless network architecture and design. AT&T says the field trial will bring it one step closer to deployment. Until now, it has been testing its 5G technologies in the lab and some real-world spaces in Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, and California. AT&T hopes its technological path will help it contribute to the international 5G standard, which has yet to be defined by the ITU.
Google today made Android 7.1.1 Nougat available to Pixel and select Nexus devices. The refreshed operating system is available to the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, the Nexus 6P and 5X smartphones, as well as the Nexus 9 and Pixel C tablets. System images for side loading are already available online, and the over-the-air downloads will appear shortly. The most obvious new feature for end users is support for GIFs and animations within the keyboard. The Android keyboard can interact with third-party apps to create and apply stickers, videos, and other expressive content. Android 7.1.1 also adopts a 3D Touch-style interactive tool that will let people access up to five secondary actions or settings that can be reached directly from the launcher.
Apple today released a handful of new beta versions of its core operating systems. These betas are specifically for developers, rather than public beta testers. App writers can download and test beta 6 of iOS 10.2, beta 5 of watchOS 3.1.1, and beta 5 of macOS Sierra 10.12.2. Previous beta releases of iOS 10.2 show the platform includes Unicode 9 with a fresh batch of emoji, as well as new wallpapers, iMessage screen effects, camera settings, video widgets, and emergency contact alerts. The newest betas of watchOS 3.1.1 and macOS Sierra 10.12.2 include stability improvements. Apple typically makes the public betas for these platforms available a day or two after the developer beta.
Google today updated its Allo messaging app with two new languages. Allo now supports Hindi and Brazilian Portuguese for both Google Assistant and Smart Reply. People can say "Talk to me in Hindi" or "Talk to me in Portuguese" to gain access to the alternate languages. Google says Smart Reply should show suggested responses in the language it hears. Last, Google added new local stickers for Brazil in Google Allo. Google says the Android and iOS Allo apps will see these new features in an update due to arrive in the next few days.
Verizon Wireless today detailed a system update for its variants of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. The update primarily installs the latest security patches from Google, but also includes a number of software tweaks to improve performance. For example, it resolves several problems that prevented Pixel owners from seeing voicemail notification icons and accessing visual voicemail messages. It fixes a bug that impacted inbound call performance and another that garbled some on-screen text in the dialer. Last, the update lets people to choose cellular or WiFi as their preferred calling method when traveling overseas. The update is free to download and install over the air, but Verizon recommends users connect to WiFi first.
LG today promoted Jo Seong-jin, the head of its Home Appliance & Air Solutions business, to CEO of the entire company effective immediately. Jo will be responsible for all of LG Electronics' business units, which include mobile communications, home entertainment and vehicle components, and home appliances. LG promoted dozens of other executives in its annual review. Juno Cho, the head of LG's mobile division, will remain in place.
Google today made a new app available to Android devices that lets people share their location with others during emergencies. The app, called Trusted Contacts, simplifies the process of adding friends and family as emergency contacts. It allows trusted contacts to request location at any time. "If everything's fine, you can deny the request," explains Google, "but if you're unable to respond your location is shared automatically." This works even when offline or the phone's battery is dead. On the flip side, users can proactively share their location if they feel unsafe or become involved in an emergency situation. People added to the Trusted Contacts list will see the phone's activity status to know the owner is okay. The app is an alternative to something such as Facebook's Safety Check, which allows users of the social network to mark themselves safe during times of crisis. Safety Check is something that Facebook turns on when particular events warrant it. Trusted Contacts from Google can be used at any time, during any circumstances. Trusted Contacts is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Apple today released iOS 10.2 beta 5 for developers, mere days after releasing beta 4. App writers can download and test beta 5 of iOS 10.2. Previous beta releases of iOS 10.2 show the platform includes Unicode 9 with a fresh batch of emoji, as well as new wallpapers, iMessage screen effects, camera settings, video widgets, and emergency contact alerts. Apple hasn't yet updated the public beta to match the developer beta.
The FCC believes zero-rating content can hurt consumers and competition. The agency sent letters to AT&T and Verizon Wireless this week calling them out for exempting their own video services (DirecTV Now and go90, respectively) from customers' data caps. The agency believes the practice gives the carriers' own services an advantage over competing services. "We have therefore reached the preliminary conclusion that these practices inhibit competition, harm consumers, and interfere with the 'virtuous cycle' needed to assure the continuing benefits of the Open Internet," wrote FCC wireless bureau chief Jon Wilkins writes in the letter to AT&T. The FCC has already warned carriers that zero-rating content may be harmful. The regulatory body did not say if it intends to take steps or action against the carriers. The companies have until December 15 to respond to the FCC's letters. AT&T announced DirecTV Now earlier this week. The service is available to anyone who cares to pay for it, but only AT&T Mobility customers can watch via LTE without impacting their monthly data cap.
Verizon Wireless says its variant of the LG G5 smartphone is on deck for the Android 7 Nougat system update. The update adds new themes to the G5, the ability to retrieve deleted messages, multi-window support, enriched notifications, tweaked Quick Settings tools, simplified Settings Menu, and more sound settings. Verizon is encouraging G5 owners to download the system update via WiFi. Users will be notified once the update is ready for their phone. Verizon is rolling the update out in waves over the next few days.
Motorola does not plan to launch new smartwatches alongside the debut of Android Wear 2.0 early next year, reports The Verge. Shakil Barkat, Motorola's head of global product development, indicated the company will not release new hardware once Google's revised wearable platform hits the street. Motorola doesn't "see enough pull in the market to put [a new smartwatch] out at this time," said Barkat, though Motorola may revisit smartwatches down the road. "Wearables do not have broad enough appeal for us to continue to build on it year after year." Motorola's last wearable was the Moto 360 smartwatch, which debuted in September 2015. Since then, the company has focused chiefly on its mobile phones. Motorola hasn't written off wearables completely. "We believe the wrist still has value and there will be a point where they provide value to consumers more than they do today," noted Barkat. Huawei, too, has said it won't make more Android-based smartwatches, and Samsung swore off Android Wear in favor of its own Tizen platform some time ago. Google delayed the launch of Android Wear 2.0 from September to early in 2017.
Motorola today took the wraps off two additional Moto Mods for its Moto Z series of handsets. The first mod is a juice pack from Mophie (pictured) that packs a 3,000mAh power cell and 15W USB-C charging. A series of LED lights indicates how much power is within the juice pack and both the phone and the juice pack will charge when attached to one another and plugged in. The Mophie juice pack is available for preorder for $80 from Verizon Wireless' web site. The second mod is an in-car dock from Incipio. The $65 accessory holds, charges, and connects Moto Z handsets to most cars via the air conditioning fins. When docked, the phone automatically launches Android Auto for safer in-car use. Motorola didn't say when the two new mods will ship. The company did mention that it intends to release an average of four new mods per quarter moving through 2017.
BlackBerry's trio of Android smartphones can now download a series of system and software updates that add features and bolster performance. BlackBerry Hub+, for example, now allows users to hide specific accounts or stop them from syncing, as well as create custom views for emails from specific contacts. The BlackBerry Keyboard app has been improved with easier switching between languages, expanded Chinese language input, and support for fingerprint authentication (DTEK60 only). The BlackBerry Launcher has a new dark theme, and BlackBerry Password Keeper introduces a built-in browser, autofill tweaks, and support for non-Latin characters. Google says Priv, DTEK50, and DTEK60 owners should receive notifications once the updates are available to their handset.
Bandwidth.com today said it will divest its Republic Wireless business, spinning the company off into a separate business. Republic Wireless has been selling low-cost service since 2011. It relies mostly on WiFi, but when WiFi is not available its customers are able to connect via the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile. Bandwidth.com also powers Alphabet's Fi service and Microsoft's Skype service. Bandwidth.com's leadership feel Republic has grown enough thanks to its 300,000 subscribers and $100 million in annual revenue, and its time the company stood on its own. Moreover, Republic competes with Bandwidth.com properties such as Fi and it no longer makes sense to house competing products under the same roof. Once the spin-off is complete, Bandwidth.com chief operating officer Chris Chuang will be named CEO of Republic Wireless. Republic does not intend to make any immediate chances to its existing service plans.
Nokia today said it plans to return to the smartphone business during the first half of 2017 through its partnership with HMD Global. HMD Global recently completed a series of transactions between HMD, FIH Mobile Limited, and Microsoft that will allow it to make phones bearing the Nokia brand. The partnership between HMD and Nokia was first announced in May. HMD Global is a Finland-based business and will design smartphones that will then be manufactured exclusively by Foxconn. Foxconn is one of the world's largest device makers and manufactures the iPhone for Apple. HMD Global will pay Nokia licensing and royalty fees for smartphone and tablet sales. HMD Global boasts experienced Nokia veterans among its leadership team, but Nokia itself has no investment nor ownership stake in HMD. HMD Global and Nokia are relying on the know-how of the former Nokia execs at HMD's helm and the strength of the Nokia brand to return to the market. Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft in 2014, which was then wholly based in Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Moving forward, Nokia-branded handsets will run Google's Android platform. "We've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown around the world for the return of the Nokia brand to smartphones," said Brad Rodrigues, interim president of Nokia Technologies.
Sony today said it has begin distributing the Android 7 Nougat operating system to its Xperia XZ and Xperia X Performance smartphones. The platform includes multi-window support, longer battery life, more messaging options, manual camera controls, and a revised home screen experience that includes Google Now. Sony said it is rolling the update out slowly. Owners of older Sony Xperia phones will be happy to learn that the company plans to make Android 7.0, Nougat available for the Xperia Z3+, Z4 Tablet, Z5, Z5 Compact, Z5 Premium, X, XA, XA Ultra, and X Compact. Sony didn't say when these devices will receive the update.
The Moto Z series of handsets might be given the power of Project Tango through a modular accessory, according to Motorola CEO Aymar de Lencquesaing. Speaking to journalists today Lencquesaing said, "The tablet folks did a phablet and worked with Google, the Tango team, to come out with a Tango phablet." That device is the Lenovo Phab2 Pro. "Going forward, we'll have to address as a group how do we reconcile the products that are at the fringe? We're likely to have a Tango module to basically enable the Z to have Tango functionality." Project Tango as realized on the Phab2 Pro uses a series of cameras to measure the environment and then map over it with augmented reality content. Lencquesaing did not say if a module for the Z is already in the works, nor when such a module might be released.
OnePlus today made OxygenOS Open Beta 8 available to the OnePlus 3 smartphone. This new platform shifts from Marshmallow to Nougat and introduces a significant number of user interface changes. For example, the beta build refreshes the design of the notifications and setting menus. It also adds multi-window view, notification direct reply, status bar icon options, and quick launch for third-party applications. OnePlus says there are some known issues in the Nougat beta, which breaks Android Pay and introduces some stability and performance problems. OnePlus warns that the beta cannot be installed over-the-air and will instead need to be side loaded manually. Moreover, beta testers will not easily be able to return to earlier versions of Android/OxygenOS without reformatting their device. OnePlus said it is working to create a single software build for the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T based on Nougat. It expects to do that by the end of the year. Until then, the 3 and 3T will be updated separately. The company recently updated both handsets. The 3T, for example, was updated to OxygenOS 3.5.3 while the 3 was updated to OxygenOS 3.2.8. Both of these system builds are incremental updates that focus mainly on resolving bugs and performance issues. They are rolling out slowly as over-the-air installations.
Twitter today made its Moments story-creation tool available on mobile phones. Moments, which has been available on the web since September, lets people assemble a series of Tweets about a subject or event into a single package that tells a complete story. Moments are found in a separate tab in the Android and iOS mobile Twitter apps. People can subscribe to Moments, which will be inserted into the timeline. Moments can be loaded with multimedia, such as photos or videos, to make them more engaging. Moments are displayed in chronological order, with discernible beginning, middle, and end segments. The feature is being rolled out to mobile users worldwide.
YouTube today said people can now livestream video at up to 4K resolution. YouTube has supported 4K playback since 2010, but today marks the first time users are able to stream 4K video live. People can stream both standard and 360-degree video in ultra high definition at up to 60 frames per second for smooth action. YouTube believes the option will benefit its creators.
Netflix today made it possible for U.S. customers to download and store movies and television shows on mobile devices for offline playback. Netflix made the announcement via its Twitter account and said, "Airplane mode. Road trip mode. Stuck-in-the-subway-for-20-minutes mode. Your favorite stories are now available for download any time." The initial selection of shows and movies that can be downloaded is rather small, but should expand over time. A new version of the Netflix app is being made available to Android and iOS devices today that supports offline playback. The feature does not cost extra to use. Competing services, such as Amazon Prime Video, have supported offline playback for some time.
Facebook has added video games to its Messenger application. Launching in beta in 30 countries, Facebook users will be able to play Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, and 14 other games inside Messenger. The gaming feature lets people challenge one another and creates a score-based leaderboard with game results. The feature is available to newer Android and iOS devices and will be added to the newest version of the Messenger app. Facebook says it will add more titles and expand to more markets over time.
AT&T's prepaid service, Cricket Wireless, is offering customers a one-month free trial of DirecTV Now, the new internet-based television service from AT&T. Unlike AT&T, however, Cricket is not zero-rating DirecTV Now. This means Cricket customers cannot watch an unlimited amount of DirecTV Now via Cricket's wireless network. Instead, they will be encouraged to seek out WiFi whenever possible. Cricket says customers can use the Cricket WiFi app, which is preloaded on most phones, to find free WiFi hotspots. DirecTV Now includes four pricing tiers that range from $35 to $70 per month. For a limited time, early adopters can score 100 channels of content at the entry-level $35 price. HBO and Cinemax cost $5 extra.
Samsung today said it will consider a dramatic overhaul to its corporate structure, but it isn't making any immediate moves. The company is weighing whether or not it should split the firm into a holding company and operating company. The idea is to simplify its complicated structure while also appealing to shareholders to improve value. The company will weigh its options for the next six months before making any major decisions. Some items on the table include a new dividend program, a deep look at its cash holdings and investments, as well as new board-level directors for major business groups. Samsung is a family-run business and one of Korea's largest.
A quick hands-on tour of the DirecTV Now app for Android. (An iOS version also available.) This is the boldest attempt yet to bring all of the major network and cable content to cord-cutters, and the full service is available from mobile apps, in addition to home streaming boxes. We took a quick look, and found a rich interface, but also a few annoyances. Read on for our impressions.
Alongside its new DirecTV Now streaming television service, AT&T announced Fullscreen and FreeView. Fullscreen includes more than 1,500 hours of ad-free content (movies, television) for $6 per month, while FreeView includes ad-supported content for free. Fullscreen is a video-on-demand platform that's compatible with iPhone, iPad, select Android Phones, Chromecast, and Apple TV. For a limited time, AT&T will let new and existing customers access Fullscreen for a year for free. Like DirecTV Now, Fullscreen will not impact AT&T Mobility customers' data buckets. FreeView is a highly-curated, on-demand content platform from Audience. Both Fullscreen and FreeView are available within the DirecTV Now app and will launch November 30.
AT&T today announced an over-the-top television service called DirectTV Now. It includes a range of live, streamed television and on-demand content at a variety of price points. The $35 option includes 60+ channels. Customers will need to opt for the $50 plan for 80+ channels, the $60 plan for 100+ channels, or the $70 plan for 120+ channels. Premium movie channels, such as HBO and Cinemax, cost $5 per month extra. (No CBS/Showtime programming for now.) DirecTV Now will be streamed over internet connections, including both wired and wireless, and is available to most connected devices and platforms. The service launches November 30 and will be available to Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick; Android phones and tablets; iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV; Chromecast; Google Cast-enabled LeEco ecotvs and Vizio SmartCast Displays; as well as the web. AT&T said more platforms and devices will be available starting next year. At launch, early adopters will be able to score the 100+ channel option for $35 per month. This is a limited promotion, but those who sign up early will be grandfathered in. Moreover, AT&T is working with several hardware vendors, including Amazon, Apple, and LeEco, by offering between one and three months of service for free with select purchases. Last, AT&T is zero-rating DirecTV Now for its wireless customers, who won't see their data plans hit when streaming DirecTV Now content.
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