Google's Project Fi just scored its first non-Nexus / Pixel handset. The company added the Motorola Moto X4 to the selection of devices compatible with Project Fi, which is Google's low-cost MVNO. The Moto X4, announced earlier this year, joins the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, and Pixel XL in Project Fi's lineup. Perhaps more importantly, the Moto X4 will run the Android One variant of Android. This represents the first time an Android One device is being made available in the U.S. Android One is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for inexpensive devices. The idea is to provide a core Android experience that performs well no matter the hardware's possible limitations. It includes Google Assistant, Google Duo, Google Play Protect, and the latest updates to Android Oreo. In fact, Google committed to updating the Android One Moto X4 to (previously unannounced) Android P. The Moto X4 for Project Fi sports a stylish design with a metal frame and curved glass, plus a 16-megapixel selfie camera and dual rear cameras, with one wide-angle lens. It also has a 5.2-inch screen, Snapdragon 630 processor, memory card slot, water resistance, 3.5mm audio jack, and USB-C connector. It supports Motorola's TurboPower rapid charging. The Android One Moto x4 is priced at $399, and comes in black and blue. It is available pre-order on the Project Fi web site starting today. Google said it will accept trade-ins of older Nexus phones for those wishing to upgrade.
Google today revealed a refresh of Snapseed, its advanced photo-editing application. Snapseed 2.18 for Android and iOS features a brand new user interface that Google says speeds up the editing process. For example, Snapseed has moved the Looks tool, which consists of user-created filters, to the main screen for quicker access. Moreover, Snapseed gains 11 new preset filters that people can apply to their photos. The iOS version of Snapseed earns access to the Perspective tool, which lets editors adjust skewed lines of horizons or buildings. Snapseed 2.18 is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
HTC will cease trading shares of its stock in anticipation of a significant announcement to be made tomorrow. The news was first revealed by the Taiwan Stock Exchange, which said "shares of HTC Corporation ... will be halted starting from Sept. 21, 2017 pending the release of material information." HTC confirmed the halt in share trading, but did not provide a reason behind the action. Earlier this month, Bloomberg suggested that Google might acquire HTC, or a portion thereof. It is possible that HTC plans to announce a takeover by Google during the announcement, which is being made town-hall style at its Taipei headquarters. The company's response to the Taiwan Stock Exchange alert read, "HTC does not comment on market rumor or speculation." HTC, once a dominant maker of Android handsets, has been fading for years in the face of competition from Samsung, LG, Huawei, ZTE, and others. The company's financial health has been in question many times due to weak sales. HTC never stopped making compelling smartphones, such as the One series, the U11, and Pixel devices for Google. Google may want to bring HTC's handset division under its wing for future Pixel smartphones.
LG today said it will begin shipping its V30 flagship handset to customers in South Korea this week. The phone will arrive in North America, Europe, and other markets "in the days and weeks to come." LG didn't provide an exact launch window for the U.S., and LG's U.S. carrier partners have yet to announce pricing plans for the high-end phone. The V30 is the latest to adopt LG's 18:9 FullVision display with a plastic OLED panel and Gorilla Glass 5 covering the quad HD+, 6-inch screen. The phone boasts a twin-camera design with wide-angle and standard view lenses, high-resolution audio capture, wireless charging, and support for Google Daydream VR. The V30 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and it runs Android 7 Nougat.
Apple today updated its Apple Music application for the Android platform in order to ensure the experience is similar to that of the revised iOS version. Android device owners have access to the same iOS 11 Apple Music discovery feature that allows people to create public profiles and share playlists. The new music app also introduces support for voice search, which lets people say "OK Google" to find artists, albums, and songs. Apple Music gains a fresh widget that highlights music that was recently played, and a new tap-and-hold shortcut to quickly play Beats 1 Radio or start a new search. Apple Music is free to download from the Google Play Store, but the service requires a $10 monthly subscription.
Google today updated its mobile search application for iOS devices and made it easier for people to find similar articles or content. Moving forward, a pull-up tab will appear at the bottom of web pages with suggestions for related content. Once opened, iOS device users can scroll sideways through a carousel of content similar to the article they just read. For example, say someone searches for chili recipes and reads one of the initial results. The other recipe results will be fed into the pull-up tab, making it easier to jump to alternate recipes without returning to the search results screen. This feature is limited to English in the U.S. for now, but Google says it will expand to more languages and countries over time. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Essential Products today indicated that its smartphone, the PH-1, will eventually receive the latest system update from Google. "Get your milk ready — #AndroidOreo is coming soon to Essential Phone. Watch for updates in the next couple months," said the company through its Twitter account. So far, Android 8 Oreo is only available to the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P handsets. Sony's Xperia XZ1 will ship with Oreo in several weeks. Motorola has committed to updating a slew of its mid-range and high-end phones to Oreo over the next few months. Other flagship makers, including Samsung and LG, have been less clear on when their high-end phones will see Oreo.
Google today made it possible for people to discover what ebooks are available from their local library directly in search results. Readers in the U.S. who search for books will be shown various ways to find, purchase, or borrow the book in question. For some, that means reading them via digital platforms, such as those from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play Books. Beginning today, the info card for books will now also reveal whether or not the book can be borrowed in electronic format from the searcher's public library. The tool is available in the mobile Google Search app on Android handsets.
Google today said its G Suite customers will soon be able to take advantage of active hyperlinks in Gmail and Inbox that simplify the process of sending emails or making calls. Both mobile apps will convert text, such as phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses, into interactive links. That means people who click a street address link in Gmail will be taken to Google Maps. Similarly, people who click an email address will automatically be asked if they want to compose an email using the address, and people who click a phone number will initiate a call request. Google says the interact hyperlink feature for contact information will reach all G Suite Gmail and Inbox users on Android, iOS, and the web in the next few days.
Google will delete Android device backups that are left inactive for two months with little or no warning. The discovery was made by a Reddit user who left a Nexus 6P backup in his Google Drive Backup folder for more than two months, only to later find it had been deleted by Google automatically. Google Support documentation appears to confirm the behavior. "Your backup will remain as long as you use your device. If you don't use your device for 2 weeks, you may see an expiration date below your backup. Example: 'Expires in 54 days.'" The maximum limit for device backups appears to be 60 days, or two months. The short expiration date on device backups is odd, given how freely Google offers online storage to its users. Google has not addressed the discovery directly.
Motorola today said it will update a significant number of its smartphones to Android 8 Oreo. Those devices on deck for the latest version of Android include the 2016 Moto Z, Z Droid, Z Force Droid, Z Play, and Z Play Droid, as well as the 2017 Moto Z2 Play, Z2 Force Edition, X4, G5, G5 Plus, G5S, and G5S Plus. It appears that Motorola's E and C series devices will not be updated to Oreo. Motorola said that in addition to the core Oreo code and Google Play Protect, the updates should improve handset speed, battery life, multitasking, text selection, notifications, and autofill behaviors. The updates will arrive on a per handset basis beginning later this fall.
Google today kicked off a teaser campaign for a phone-based announcement that will take place on October 4. The company launched a web site with the address of madeby.google.com, and it specifically asks people what they want from their phones. A similar-themed billboard appeared in Boston in recent days, more or less confirming that the company will announce its 2017 smartphones on October 4. At the same time, a new handset from LG was recently approved by the FCC that could be a new Pixel model. Though the FCC documentation reveals no details about the handset itself, the FCC does potentially give away the name. The LG phone approved by the FCC this week carries the FCC ID of ZNFG011C, which is similar to that of the HTC-made NM8G011A. In this naming convention it is important to note that the first three digits are the manufacturer codes (ZNF for LG, NM8 for HTC) while the latter five digits (G011A and G011C) are the model numbers. The HTC G011A, approved by the FCC in August, is believed to be a Pixel-branded device for Google similar to the HTC U11. The newly-approved LG G011C could be a variant of the LG G6 or V30, or a completely new handset. Google has relied on both HTC and LG to make Nexus- and Pixel-branded handsets in the past.
Google today said it plans to roll out a refreshed version of its account management tool, Dashboard, in an attempt to make it simpler for people to control their data. Specifically, Google has made Dashboard much more touch friendly, which allows people to access and use it more easily from mobile devices, such as smartphones. Dashboard lets people quickly view their Google account activity, such as emails, documents, photos, and settings. Google says the redesigned Dashboard includes a better overview screen and simplifies the process for downloading data. Dashboard includes a range of individual tools, such as My Activity, which tracks everything, as well as My Account, which helps people manage their personal data and select what's available publicly. The new Google Dashboard will reach all users in the days and weeks ahead.
Microsoft today updated its Outlook email application for Android devices and gave the app the ability to support add-ins. Microsoft says add-ins let Outlook users do more with their email thanks to powers enabled by third-party applications. For example, adds-ins will negate the need to leave Outlook to perform certain tasks, such as translate text, insert GIFs, or save items for safekeeping. Some of the launch partners include Evernote, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Translator, Nimble, OnePlaceMail, Outlook Customer Manager, Smartsheet, and Trello. More are on the way. Microsoft says add-ins are available when reading or composing and replying to emails. Microsoft Outlook for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Add-ins were added to Outlook for iOS earlier this year. Microsoft said it will be bringing add-ins to Gmail customers on iOS and Android soon.
Zelle today said its mobile peer-to-peer payment application will reach the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store on Tuesday, September 12. The service has been in testing since June. Zelle is supported by more than 30 of the nation's largest banks for sending funds from one person to another. It competes with established P2P payment services Venmo and Square Cash. The difference is speed. These older services typically require a day or two for funds to actually transfer between accounts. Zelle claims it can move cash in mere minutes using only the recipient's email address or mobile phone number, allowing for near instant withdrawals. Zelle's service has already been added to mobile banking apps from the likes of Bank of America, Capital One, Citi, Citizens Bank, Fifth Third Bank, First National Bank, JP Morgan Chase, KeyBank, M&T, PNC Bank, TD Bank, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and more than a dozen others. This means users of these banks who send cash to friends via their mobile banking app are likely already using Zelle's service, which is running in the background. What's different here is that Zelle is rolling out a separate app under its own brand to stand apart from the banks it works with. The service can be tied to bank accounts and/or debit cards, but not credit cards. It is strictly meant to send real money from one person to another. Zelle was created by early warning services.
Google wants to ensure those in wheelchairs have access to the accessibility information they need before visiting places around the world. The search giant is asking its Local Guides, those who contribute information about places on Google Makes, to make an effort to answer questions about wheelchair accessibility. "If each of our tens of millions of Local Guides answers three of these questions every day for two weeks, we can gather nearly two billion answers to help people who rely on this information every day," explained Google. Local Guides use Google Maps on their mobile devices to add photos of locations as well as answer simple yes/no questions. Google hopes Local Guides will provide the missing information about wheelchair access a bit more aggressively in order to fill out its database. Participation in Local Guides is free and voluntary.
Even though the summer travel season has largely ended, Google this week expanded Google Trips, Google Flights, and Google Destinations to a more international audience thanks to new languages and availability. For example, Google Destinations is now available in 14 new languages, including Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Filipino, Hungarian, Indonesian, Japanese, Lithuanian, Malaysian, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovakian, and Slovenian. Google Flights is now searchable in 26 additional countries and languages across much of Europe. Last, Google Trips is now available on Android and iOS in six new languages, including French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese. Google hopes the expanded availability of these travel tools will help people plan their international trips. The mobile apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Google today made its monthly security patches available to select Android devices. September's patches plug a significant number of security holes that threaten most Android devices. Google found dozens of vulnerabilities, including a number of which classified as critical, or able to remotely execute code. Some of problems are related to specific hardware and the associated software drivers that control them, such as components from MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Broadcom. Other vulnerabilities impact the kernel, system, and media framework directly. Google is pushing two separate patches to cover these problems, one dated September 1 and the second dated September 5. Google said the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus Player, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P devices will receive the September security patches as part of the upgrade to Android 8 Oreo. Google has already posted factory images for download from its web site. Google's handsets will receive both patches in a single download. As far as Google is aware, none of these security holes have been exploited by hackers or other entities. Google has already given the patches to its device-maker partners. Phone manufacturers are responsible for updating their own smartphones with the patches.
YouTube today rolled out several improvements to its live streaming functionality on mobile devices. To start, YouTube has made it possible to engage in real-time interactions with viewers during live streams thanks to a new ultra-low latency mode. Switching to the ultra-low latency setting drops latency down to just a couple of seconds, which is short enough to let people answer fan questions or respond to viewer input in near real-time. Google says the mode is easy to operate and doesn't require any coding. Separately, YouTube for iOS now lets people stream content from within select apps directly to YouTube. In other words, users can push their app experience and/or screen to YouTube Live in real-time. This particular feature relies on Apple's ReplayKit, which third-party apps will need to support in order to enable live streaming. Google says a small selection of apps already do, including Procreate, Asphalt 8, and Vainglory. Moreover, iPhone owners will be able to use their smartphone's microphone and selfie camera to add their own commentary to the live app stream. Last, YouTube Live adopts new tools to make live chat moderation easier. For example, inline moderation lets broadcasters easily pause chat feeds, while a "hold" tool gives moderators a chance to review potentially inappropriate messages before they go live. All these updates are headed to YouTube Live over the days ahead.
Google this week updated some of its Play Store policies that will improve the availability of apps for older Android-based smartwatches. Specifically, Google has made multi-APK apps available to Android Wear 1.0 devices. Previously, multi-APK apps were only available to devices running Android Wear 2.0. Multi-APK apps include two downloads, one for the phone and another just for the watch. Android Wear 2.0 hardware can download just the watch app, freeing up space on their smartphone, and now so can Android Wear 1.0 hardware. Older Android smartwatches that have their own network connections will be able to run these standalone apps on their watch without having to install and run the app from their handset. This should eventually leader to a greater variety of more powerful apps available to older Android wearables. Google also plans to make changes in the way Android Wear apps are called out in the Play Store. Beginning in January, apps that support Wear notification enhancements but do not have a separate Wear app, and Wear apps that are bundled with mobile apps instead of using multi-APK, will no longer be eligible to be listed in the top charts in the Play Store for Android Wear. Google hopes this will lead to higher quality and more flexible apps for Android Wear devices.
Google today updated its GBoard mobile keyboard application for Android devices and added a handful of new, interactive features. Chiefly, the app gains support for stickers, which you can now slap into messages. Users will need to download sticker packs from the Play Store, which are then accessed by tapping the emoji key on the keyboard. Google says it worked with a handful of content partners, including Mickey Mouse, NBAmoji, Google Allo selfie stickers, Disney Princesses, Hello Kitty, Garfield, Power Rangers, and Star Wars, to ensure that free stickers are available. GBoard also adds support for Bitmoji, which needs to be installed separately in order to be accessed via GBoard. Gboard is free to download from the Google Play Store.
LG today fully revealed the V30, a phone it has been teasing in bits and pieces over the last few weeks. This flagship-class handset has a metal frame and glass front and rear panels. The V30 does away with the secondary display that adorned the front of the V10 and V20. In its place, LG created what it calls the Floating Bar, a semi-transparent strip that gives V30 owners access to frequently used functions, such as contacts and settings. The phone is among the first to use a plastic OLED FullVision display, though it is protected by Gorilla Glass 5. The 6-inch panel has 2,880 by 1,440 pixels, or a 2:1 (18:9) aspect ratio, and nearly non-existent side bezels. LG reduced the phone's upper and lower bezels by 20% and 50%, respectively, when compared to the V20. The phone makes use of an f/1.6 aperture camera at 16 megapixels, a first according to LG. The f/1.6 lens allows 25% more light to reach the sensor when compared to an f/1.8 lens. Further, LG is adopting what it calls a Crystal Clear Lens that's made of glass, rather than plastic. The glass permits more light to travel through it, while also allowing for better color reproduction. Like the V20 and G6, the V30 has a dual camera array with one wide-angle lens and one standard-angle lens with optical image stabilization, laser autofocus, and electronic image stabilization. The secondary lens has a 13-megapixel resolution at f/1.9 and 120-degree field of view. The phone has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor at its core with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage (the V30+ jumps to 128 GB of storage). Other specs include a 3,400mAh battery with wireless charging and an IP68 rating for protection from water and dust. The Always On Display is more customizable than before and includes shortcuts to Quick Tools, the music player, and even photos. Additional software features baked into LG UX 6.0 include Face Recognition that LG says unlocks the phone instantly even when the display is off. Voice Recognition now uses a combination of the user's voice and self-generated keywords to unlock the phone without any button presses. The V30's camera gains access to Graphy, a tool for applying professional-looking styles to photos and V30 owners will be able to create GIFs or movies by pasting together photos and/or video files. Last, LG said the V30 adopts a 32-bit advanced hi-fi quad DAC from ESS Technology, which reproduces music as close to the original source as possible. It includes high-resolution audio streaming thanks to technology from MQA Ltd. On the recording front, the V30's HD Audio Recorder can use the handset's audio receiver as a microphone. LG says this lets the phone record a wider dynamic range of sound, "from a whisper to a thunderstorm," without distortion. The LG V30 will go on sale in Korea starting September 21 with other markets, including North America, to follow soon thereafter. Pricing was not immediately disclosed.
Google today said the Google Assistant will soon be available across a wider variety of devices. Google Assistant, the voice-powered helper, is already available on Android smartphones and smartwatches, and the Google Home speaker. The Assistant is coming to a handful of third-party speakers from the likes of Anker, Mobvoi (pictured), and Panasonic. Just like Google Home, people who own any of these new speakers will be able to say "Hey, Google" to initiate any query. Google said each manufacturer will announce pricing and availability of their hardware separately. Google Assistant is also heading to smart appliances. For example, Google has partnered with LG which is adding Assistant to its washers, dryers, and vacuums. Google says Assistant will come to even more devices in the near future.
Samsung today announced the Gear IconX 2018 wireless earbuds. These Bluetooth headphones are separate buds that come in a charging case. The new model resembles the previous generation but makes dramatic improvements to battery life. Where the originals had just 1.5 hours of playback time per charge, the IconX 2018 offers up to 4 hours of talk time and 5 hours of music streaming. The charging case can replenish the earbuds once, and supports rapid charging to deliver an hour of play time after just 10 minutes. The earbuds include personal coaching (via mobile app) that can help track and guide owners through workouts. The buds can store about 500 songs thanks to 4 GB of storage. Users control volume and other actions via capacitive buttons placed on the outside of each bud. The IconX supports Samsung's Bixby voice assistant (or Google Assistant and/or Alexa) based on user preferences. The IconX will go on sale later this year. Pricing wasn't disclosed. They come in gray, black, and pink.
Google today unveiled a new version of YouTube for both mobile devices and the desktop. To start, the mobile app has a new, clean design. Google changed the header from red to white, moved the navigation tabs to the bottom of the app, and added new library and account tabs to ease content discovery. The app gains new gestures, such as a feature that lets users jump forward and backward between videos with a swipe of their hand. YouTube for mobile adds the ability to tweak playback speeds, so people can speed up or slow down videos to suit their preferences. Moreover, Google is experimenting with new ways to display videos. People will begin to see the YouTube player change shape to match the video format being viewed, such as square, vertical, or horizontal, as well see a row of suggested videos when watching in full screen. Google says it is playing with new ways to browse for videos in the space below the video player, though these features aren't yet available. Google updated the YouTube logo for the first time since it bought the property back in 2006. Google believes the changed icon will work better across various screen types and sizes. Many of these changes are reaching the desktop version of YouTube, which gains Google's Material Design and a dark theme for more cinematic viewing.
Google today introduced ARCore, a software developer kit that will bring augmented reality to existing and future Android smartphones without the special hardware required by Project Tango. Google says it built ARCore on the foundation set by Project Tango, but has tweaked it in a way the will allow most devices to run AR apps and content. The platform works with Java/OpenGL, as well as the Unity and Unreal engines and focuses on three things: motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. Google says motion tracking will put the phone's camera to use to observe points in a room and determine the position of virtual objects as the user pans the phone around. ARCore's environmental understanding detects horizontal surfaces to ensure that objects placed on a floor or a table are positioned accurately. The light estimation feature will match the lighting of the AR object with the observed scene through the camera to give the objects a more natural and realistic look. The SDK for ARCore is being offered to developers as a preview and works today starting with the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8 (running Android 7 Nougat and up.) Google hopes to see ARCore running on 100 million devices from companies such as Samsung, Huawei, LG, and Asus by the time the preview ends. ARCore does not replace Project Tango, which is a more advanced version of augmented reality that requires specialized hardware. Project Tango handsets can also run ARCore content.
Google today expanded the availability of Google Maps' parking tools. To start, the existing "how difficult is it to park" feature is accessible to 25 new cities outside the U.S. People planning trips need only tap the parking icon to see how easy or hard it might be to find a spot. The new cities include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cologne, Dusseldorf, London, Madrid, Milan, Montreal, Moscow, Paris, Prague, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Sao Paulo, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Toronto, Valencia, Vancouver, and others. Google Maps for Android gains a new feature that Google says will help U.S.-based users locate a place to put their car. A new "find parking" icon on the directions card will bring up a list of parking garages and lots near the final destination. Users can then tap the garage or lot and navigate directly to it. Maps will even serve up walking directions to get people from the parking lot to their intended destination. The expanded reach of the basic parking difficulty tool is being made available worldwide to users of Maps for Android and iOS today, while the find parking tool is reaching U.S. users of Maps for Android. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store or iTunes App Store.
LG today said its forthcoming V30 flagship handset will be its most advanced device yet when it comes to audio reproduction and recording. To start, the phone adopts a 32-bit advanced hi-fi quad DAC from ESS Technology. It builds on LG's original hi-fi quad DAC, which reproduces music as close to the original source as possible. The ESS Sabre ES9218P audio processor introduces digital filters and sound presets. According to LG, the digital filters improve the pre- and post-ringing of the impulse response in such a way that they can be easily customized by end users. This works hand in hand with the new pre-programmed presets (enhanced, detailed, live, and bass), allowing even inexpensive headphones to reproduce high-quality music. Moreover, the hi-fi quad DAC manages the left and right audio signals separately, dynamically adjusting balance to ensure listeners remain centered. The new DAC cuts the distortion rate down to 0.0002%, meaning it reproduces the cleanest and most accurate signal possible. Last, the V30 introduces high-resolution audio streaming thanks to technology from MQA Ltd. LG says its advanced hi-fi quad DAC and MQA tech will work together to bring the best sound to music streamed from sources such as Spotify and Google Play Music. On the recording front, the V30's HD Audio Recorder can use the handset's audio receiver as a microphone (Receiver-as-a-Mic or RAM). LG says this lets the phone record a wider dynamic range of sound, "from a whisper to a thunderstorm," without distortion. LG is expected to announce the V30 on August 31 during the IFA trade show in Berlin.
Google today announced the final release of Android 8.0, and also named this version "Oreo". Members of the Android Beta program will receive an update to the final version today. Nexus and Pixel users will receive the update "rolling out in phases over the next several weeks". Google has been working with all of its partners to enable updates for other phones. In the coming weeks and months, other manufacturers will roll out the update to many recent phones. By the end of the year, phones from Essential, Huawei, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sharp and Sony will have Android 8.0 Oreo. The update includes some minor new features, such as picture-in-picture and improved auto-fill, plus many important improvements for developers and overall performance.
Google today announced that "Oreo" will be the full name of Android version 8. Google has made a tradition of giving each major version of the OS an official nickname, in alphabetical order. The previous three versions were named Lollipop, Marshmallow, and Nougat. Before that was KitKat, the last time a trademarked brand name was used. Android 8.0 "Oreo" was announced earlier this year and has been available in beta since May. It's expected to be available to the public soon.
Google today said it is rolling out short video previews in search results. The videos will be lined up in a carousel located high in the results list. Users can slide the carousel back and forth to choose which videos to watch. For now, the short previews will only play when you're on a WiFi network. Users can choose to enable video previews on mobile networks if they wish, or opt out of video previews all together. Google believes giving video results higher priority in search will help people find certain types of information faster, particularly "how-to" and similar queries. Video previews are slowly hitting the Google app for Android and Chrome on Android starting today, with a wider rollout planned for next week.
Google updated its Google Home speaker with the ability to connect to Bluetooth devices. The search giant first announced the feature at its I/O developer conference earlier this year and has just now enabled the functionality. Using the Google Home app on mobile devices, Home owners can connect to the speaker via Bluetooth for streaming music or other media files. Until now, Home could only stream music through Google Cast connections (over WiFi). Google also enabled free Spotify accounts through Google Home this week. People who use the free version of Spotify can set the music provider as their default streaming service when listening via Google Home. Previously, Google Home only supported the paid Spotify Premium streaming service.
Google plans to reveal the name of Android 8 on August 21. The company has timed the revelation with the total solar eclipse that will occur in North America on that day. Google has so far only indicated that Android 8 will start with the letter "O" and guesses range far and wide as to what the name will be. Google typically names major Android versions after desserts, such as Nougat, Marshmallow, and Lollipop. Some believe the new version of Android will be called Oreo, while others think it will be Orangina or Oatmeal. Google released a penultimate version of Android O through its developer channel earlier this summer and is expected to release the final version of the operating system when the name is revealed next week. As per the norm, Google-branded Nexus and Pixel devices will be the first to receive the new operating system. Google will make the announcement at 2:40pm Eastern Time.
Google today said its YouTube TV streaming video service is expanding to 14 new markets this week, with another 17 to follow in the weeks ahead. The new markets going live today include: Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Columbus, Jacksonville-Brunswick, Las Vegas, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Seattle-Tacoma, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota, and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce. These markets, together with the 10 markets already active, bring YouTube TV service to about half of Americans. YouTube said it struck a deal with Sinclair so it can air ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC affiliates in nine of the 14 new markets. The 17 markets on deck for YouTube TV in the near future include: Austin, Birmingham, Cleveland-Akron, Denver, Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, Hartford-New Haven, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Oklahoma City, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and St. Louis. The same deal with Sinclair brings live ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC to 11 of these 17 markets. YouTube TV costs $35 per month, includes up to six personal accounts all with unlimited DVR recordings and access. The number of channels is still limited to about 50.
Google today enabled free voice calls from its Google Home speaker. Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant. Google says Home owners in the U.S. and Canada can initiate free voice calls to anyone in their contacts, as well as any business, by simply asking Google Home to make the call. The calls are completed over the Home's WiFi connection. For now, those who receive a call made via Google Home will see "unknown" or "no caller ID" when it rings their number, though Google hopes to let people display their mobile device number in Home calls by the end of the year. People who subscribe to Google Voice or Project Fi can use their Google number with Home right away.
Google today said it is adding a question-and-answer tool to Google Maps and Google Search for Android devices. Users need only search for and open business listings within Maps or Search to see the Q&A feature, which taps into data provided by Google Local Guides and others. Google says existing answers will be visible first, but people can ask (or answer) their own questions. Questions posed by users may be answered by the community at large or the business owner in particular. Google suggests business owners post their own FAQs and/or answers to common questions that might concern hours, accessibility, and so on. Google says the new Q&A feature is rolling out on Maps and Search for Android worldwide.
Google today announced a significant update to its G Suite productivity apps, including Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets. Specifically, the apps gain new powers for collaborating with others. First, users can now save version numbers of documents in order to keep track of their progression from initial draft to final. Users can also preview what the clean version of the document will look like, as well as accept or reject all suggested changes at once. When it comes to mobile devices, Docs, Sheets, and Slides now allow Android and iOS users to suggest changes from their phone or tablet. Google says new templates should help speed up the process of creating documents and spreadsheets, and users can now create their own templates with the proper add-ons. Last, enterprise and education users gain access to a new cloud search tool that integrates across G Suite properties, including Drive, Gmail, Calendar, and others. The new features are rolling out over the next few weeks.
The FCC recently approved a handset made by HTC that could be the next Pixel smartphone from Google. HTC manufactured last year's Pixel and Pixel XL handsets for Google. The FCC confirms that the new model in question, G011A, includes LTE support for all four major U.S. carriers via bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 30, 41, and 66. The phone supports CDMA BC 0/1/10, providing full support for Sprint voice service. The FCC also confirms that the phone will have Bluetooth, GPS, and dual-band WiFi. Some sample screenshots provided by HTC for the phone's FCC e-label provide a few more details about the device. The G011A runs Android 8.0.1. Google-branded handsets, including the Nexus series and Pixel series, will be the first to run Android 8, suggesting the G011A could be a Pixel. According to these same screen shots, the device runs a baseband radio (Qualcomm part MW8998) that would only be paired with the Snapdragon 835 processor (Qualcomm part MSM8998). The wide LTE band support and potential Snapdragon 835 processor earmark the G011A as a flagship handset of some sort. Last, the screenshots from HTC reference something called "Active Edge" that can be used to "squeeze for your Assistant." The Active Edge sounds a lot like the Edge Sense that HTC pioneered on the U11 smartphone from earlier this year. On the G011A, Active Edge may activate the Google Assistant. Neither HTC nor Google has confirmed any aspect of the G011A or 2017 Pixel.
The Asus ZenFone AR for Verizon is the first phone in the U.S. to support Google Tango, the advanced AR (augmented reality) platform for Android. It supports a small variety of apps so far. The most useful so far are online shopping apps that display virtual items for sale (such as furniture, decorations, fixtures, and appliances) in the room you're currently it. We take it for a spin by decorating a dingy subway station. Check out the full video to see Tango in action.
Google today brought its assistant-backed Allo messaging application to the web. Allo on the web requires Google's Chrome browser and can only interact with Allo on Android smartphones for now (iPhone support is coming later.) Google says Allo web access requires the latest version of the mobile Allo app on your handset in order to function. The setup process includes a unique, scannable QR code to link the phone and web accounts. There are some limitations. For example, Google says Allo for web only displays what's in the mobile app, meaning if the phone runs out of battery or the user quits the app, the web client will cease to work or show conversations. Moreover, a significant number of features are not available on the web at all, such as adding/removing group members, notification/privacy settings, and select chat tools including taking photos, deleting conversations, and blocking contacts. These limitations aside, the web version of Allo allows Android device owners to send messages to one another from their web browser. Allo is free to download from the Google Play Store.