Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.
Vine today announced new support for higher-resolution video. Since launch, the video-sharing service has uploaded videos with a maximum resolution of 480p. An update to its mobile application will record and upload videos in 720p HD. The update will hit the iOS version of Vine in the coming days, with the Android version to follow at some point down the road. Vine is owned by Twitter and lets people record 6-second videos that are then played back in loops. Earlier this week, Twitter released an app called Periscope, which lets people broadcast live video from their smartphones.
Google this week pushed out an update to its Keep application for Android devices. The note-taking app adds labels, which users can take advantage of to organize their notes or make them easier to search. The app also adds scheduled reminders (daily, weekly, monthly) for recurring tasks or events. Google Keep is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Twitter today released a new application for the iPhone called Periscope. The app lets people broadcast live video to their Twitter followers. When Periscope users choose to publish live video, their followers are notified and can view the stream, comment on the video, and send feedback in the form of hearts. Periscope saves broadcasts for up to 24 hours for replay, and permits people to share live video privately if they wish. Periscope will suggest who to follow based on the user's Twitter network, as the app allows people to follow/unfollow other Periscope users at will. Users can easily act on or ignore incoming notifications when others in their network begin streaming live video. The feedback mechanism, which uses hearts, tells Periscope streamers how much love their video receives. Periscope is battling a third-party app called Meerkat, which similarly offers live video feeds via Twitter. Periscope is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Twitter didn't indicate if it will release a version for Android devices.
TomTom today released a new version of its navigation service for Android devices. TomTom Go Mobile boasts up-to-date maps for more than 100 countries with support for offline viewing, live traffic updates, safety camera locations, points of interest, and seamless syncing with contacts. The app depicts buildings and landmarks in 3D and provides alerts ahead of known speed traps. TomTom Go Mobile offers a limited amount of free turn-by-turn navigation per month (about 60 miles). Users can upgrade to unlimited navigation for $20 for one year or $45 for three years. TomTom has removed its old navigation app from the Play Store. Consumers who've already installed the old app will be able to upgrade to the new app with a year of unlimited navigation for just $0.99. The old app will be fully discontinued Oct. 1. TomTom Go Mobile is free to download from the Play Store. It competes with Google Maps and Nokia HERE Maps, which offer unlimited navigation for free.
Instagram today announced a new app called Layout, which helps people create photo collages on their smartphones. The app portends to make it easier to assemble collages through custom layouts, easy access to photos containing people, and a handful of tools such as pinch-to-zoom and other effects. Layouts also features a photo booth function that lets users take pictures on the spot and create instant collages in the moment. Layout is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Instagram said a version will be made available to Android devices in the coming months. Instagram is owned by Facebook.
Samsung plans to preinstall a wide range of Microsoft's productivity apps on its Android devices moving through the first half of the year. Samsung already announced the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will have Microsoft's OneNote, OneDrive, and Skype apps on board. Today, Samsung said will will put Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, and Skype on some of its Android tablets. The GS6 and GS6 Edge will also have access to 100GB of OneDrive storage for a period of two years. Microsoft and Samsung believe the expanded partnership will provide potential business customers with improved productivity options via Office 365, and better security through Samsung's KNOX program. The companies did not specify if Microsoft's productivity apps will be preinstalled on more smartphones, but Microsoft Office apps are already free for most Android devices to download from the Google Play Store.
Icon Q today announced the Q5.5, the company's first smartphone. The device is being sold unlocked and free of contracts for $199. The Q5.5 features a 5.5-inch 720p screen, 1.4GHz octa-core MediaTek processor with 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage with support for memory cards. The device runs Android 4.4 KitKat and includes a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The phone offers Bluetooth and WiFi, and supports GSM networks with HSPA (850MHz, 1900MHz, 2100MHz), meaning it will work on the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. Icon Q, which makes tablets and other devices, is pitching the Q5.5 as an ideal travel phone since it supports two SIM cards. The device is available directly from Icon Q.
Google today made Android Auto, its platform for connecting to car-based infotainment systems, available as an app in the Play Store. With the app and compatible car, Android smartphone owners will be able to access navigation, calls and messaging, Google Search, and their music through the car's screen rather than their phone. Android Auto competes with Apple's CarPlay and the open MirrorLink standard. It is available in select head units from Pioneer and will soon be available in select cars. The app is free to download, but requires Android 5.0 and up. Google also created a section in the Play Store highlighting third-party apps that are compatible with Android Auto.
Tag Heuer today announced plans to create a Swiss-designed smartwatch using Google's Android Wear platform. Tag Heuer said it will collaborate with Intel to bring the device to market. The luxury watchmaker expects its device to compete with the Apple Watch, which is seen as a premium device thanks to the $17,000 gold Watch Edition. Tag Heuer and Intel expect to make their smartwatch available later this year.
Google today added support for Android Wear to its Android Device Manager tool. With it, people will be able to locate their misplaced Android smartphone by asking their watch to find it. Smartwatch wearers can use a voice search or the menu system to locate a lost phone, which will ring at full volume when prompted. Android Device Manager is similar to Apple's "Find My iPhone" tool in that it helps people find their missing devices. Google said support for Android Wear is rolling out over the next few weeks.
Vine has updated is app for iOS devices with some features that make the app faster. Vine created a new video file size that's much smaller and can be downloaded quicker. This allows Vine to preload users' home feed, activity notifications, and Vines in the Explore section before the app is opened so users can enjoy the app even when offline. Vine is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Vine said similar changes will reach its Android app soon.
Google has pushed out an update to its Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps for Android devices in a bid to make them more useful. The latest version of Google's productivity suite makes it easier to view and edit documents on mobile devices. Notably, documents have less "chrome" and other tools surrounding the main text, which makes them easier to read. If users need to edit the documents, they can easily recall the editing tools by tapping the blue pencil icon. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are free to download from the Google Play Store.
AT&T today announced a slew of improvements to its enhanced PTT service. Most notably, AT&T has released an API that will let developers add PTT communications directly to their business's dispatch operations. Other new features included in EPTT are: Talk Group Scanning, so managers can prioritize group chats; Broadcast Calling, so businesses can make announcements to 500 people at once; Sonim Channel Select, which lets owners of the Sonim XP6 and XP7 easily change talk groups; and FIPS certification for secured government use. AT&T's EPTT suite is available to businesses and is compatible with most Android handsets.
Nokia recently announced a moderate improvement to HERE Transit Maps for Android and iOS devices. Nokia focused its efforts on adding more timetables and routes to public transportation schedules. In North America, Nokia HERE Transit Maps now includes directions for Fredericton (New Brunswick, Canada), as well as 19 cities in the U.S. including Orlando, Detroit, and Raleigh. Nokia also made improvements to the suburbs around New York, including Sussex County in New Jersey. A smattering of other cities around the globe have updated transit schedules, too, including Rennes and Marseille in France; Granada, Huesca, and Ávila in Spain; Trento, Brescia, Mantua, and Verona in Italy; and many others. Android and iOS device owners don't need to update their apps in order to access the improved transit directions. Nokia HERE Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Microsoft today made a number of announcements regarding Windows 10, including details about its arrival. Microsoft will make Windows 10 available to smartphones, tablets, and PCs "this summer." Previously, Microsoft had only committed to "later this year." In addition to the timetable, Microsoft announced a commitment from Lenovo that will the see the company bring Windows 10 phones to market (in China) by the middle of the year. Further, Microsoft is helping Xiaomi create a downloadable technical preview of Windows 10 that owners of the Xiaomi Mi Note 4 will be able to install on their Android phones and test. Microsoft and Qualcomm today introduced the DragonBoard 410C. It is a developer board for Windows 10 with integrated WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Snapdragon 410 chipset. (Qualcomm recently released an Android version of the developer board, too.) At launch, Windows 10 will be available in 190 countries and 111 languages. More details will emerge at Microsoft's Build conference, scheduled for late April.
Facebook today introduced a way for people to send money to one another through its Messenger application. Users will need to add a Visa or MasterCard debit to their Facebook account, after which they'll be able to send money to friends or family. According to Facebook, payments are processed immediately on the sending side, but may take a day or two to process on the receiving side depending on individual bank policies. Sending money is free of transaction charges. Facebook says users can set up PINs to protect the service, and Apple device owners will be able to use TouchID to secure it. Sending money is possible from the Android, iOS, and web versions of Messenger.
Google today pushed out a minor update to its Messenger application for Android phones. The primary new feature included in the update is support for GIFs, which can be used to liven up conversations. The app also has a new home screen widget and general performance improvements. Google Messenger, which provides SMS and MMS messaging, is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Microsoft is preparing to make its Cortana personal assistant software available as a stand-alone application to the Android and iOS platforms later this year, reports Reuters. Microsoft is already developing an improved version of Cortana for its forthcoming Windows 10 desktop, tablet, and phone operating system, expected this fall. Microsoft is culling research from an artificial intelligence project called Einstein to improve Cortana's predictive and conversational abilities. "This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame," said Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research, in an interview with Reuters. Microsoft believes Cortana's abilities can surpass those of its rivals, Google Now on Android phones and Siri on iPhones. "We're defining the competitive landscape of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done," said Horvitz. Microsoft envisions Cortana becoming more capable with respect to helping users by anticipating their needs. Google and Apple have taken similar steps with Google Now and Siri, respectively. Google Now is adept at providing just-in-time reminders and details in the form of cards, but Siri is more limited to responding to direct requests. Horvitz did not confirm Microsoft's intent to bring Cortana to Android and iOS, but Reuters says people familiar with Microsoft's plans are certain it will appear after Windows 10's debut later this year. Microsoft has made an aggressive push over the last year to port key applications to the Android and iOS platforms, such as Microsoft Office. Bringing Cortana to Android and iOS would fit in with the pattern of Microsoft's behavior.
Google today kicked out a minor update to its Chrome browser for Android devices. Chief among the new features is the ability to pull down to refresh most web sites. The update also includes improved site permission management, bug fixes, and performance tweaks for devices running Android 5.0 Lollipop. Chrome is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Nokia today made its HERE Maps application available to the Apple iPhone via the iTunes App Store. Nokia has offered the same HERE Maps to Android devices since December. Nokia had made a version of HERE Maps available to the iPhone back in 2013, but pulled the app due to its poor performance. The new HERE Maps app for iOS allows users to download entire countries or regions, which makes the maps available even when the device is offline. This can help save data charges when roaming. HERE Maps for iOS devices include free, voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. Users can plan routes via car, public transport, or foot. Nokia says maps for iOS are available for about 190 countries with turn-by-turn directions available in about 100. Transit maps are available in 950 metro areas across 50 different countries, with more being added all the time. Nokia HERE Maps is free to download.
Sprint today said owners of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 can expect to update their devices to Android 5.0 Lollipop over the next few days. The update adds Material Design, support for Android TV, improved multitasking, actionable lock screen notifications, and improves battery efficiency. The update is free and can be downloaded and installed over the air.
Sony today indicated it will close up its PlayStation Mobile content store later this year. The platform was meant to provide the PlayStation Vita gaming handheld and select Android smartphones with access to older PlayStation games. The service never caught on with consumers. Sony will cease distributing content through the storefront on July 15. Existing users will be able to make in-app purchases and re-download their content through Sept. 10, after which the PlayStation Mobile app itself will no longer be available. Consumers who want to continue to access their content after Sept. 10 will need to authenticate their devices with Sony. Once users deactivate their device, they will no longer have access to their content.
Google today made the Android 5.1 SDK available to developers. The updated SDK includes tools developers need in order to use the new features of Android 5.1. Some of the features are support for dual SIM cards and a new Android Protect function that device owners can use to render their lost or stolen devices useless to thieves. Google said the Nexus 4, 5, 6, 7 (2012, 2013), Nexus 9, Nexus 10, and Nexus Player should all be updated to Android 5.1 in the next few weeks. Google suggests developers download the SDK and begin making their apps compatible with the latest version of the mobile operating system.
Opera today announced that its desktop and mobile browsers can now sync bookmarks across platforms. Bookmark syncing is available in the Opera desktop browser, as well as Opera Mini for iOS and Opera for Android. Users of PCs, smartphones, and tablets can choose to sync their browsers across various devices, though the feature requires users to create and sign in to an Opera account. Opera's browsers are free to download form the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Cricket Wireless today announced plans to sell the second-generation Motorola Moto E starting on March 13. The phone features LTE 4G, a 4.5-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, quad-core 1.2GHz processor and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. The phone costs $129.99 and does not require a contract. Service plans start at $35 per month. Cricket is offering a free month of service to customers who switch from T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Sprint, and Boost.
Google today announced a new version of Android that promises to clean up some bugs. Android 5.1 Lollipop improves stability and makes other minor improvements. In addition to the cleaned-up code, Android 5.1 also adds several features. For example, Device Protection prevents a lost or stolen device from accessing mobile networks without the original owner's Google password - even if the device has been reset to factory settings. The update also adds native support for multiple SIM cards, and improves HD voice performance on the Nexus 6 through T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Last, Android 5.1 makes it easier to manage Bluetooth and WiFi settings (especially device connections) from the Quick Settings menus. Google expects to roll out Android 5.1 to select devices over the next few days.
Microsoft has filed a lawsuit against Kyocera in which it alleges the Japanese smartphone maker is violating seven of its patents. In particular, Microsoft is targeting the Duraforce, Hydro, and Brigadier series devices. Microsoft claims these phones use Microsoft-patented technology pertaining to location services and text messaging. These devices all run Google's Android platform. Microsoft has successfully forced most Android smartphone makers into signing licensing agreements for patents that are part of the Android operating system. "We respect Kyocera but we believe they need to license the patented technology they are using. We're hopeful this case can be resolved amicably," said Microsoft in a statement. Kyocera has yet to respond to the allegations.
Sprint today said it plans to sell the Motorola Moto E from Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint Prepaid this month. The Moto E, which has a larger screen and supports LTE 4G, is available in white from Boost Mobile beginning today for $99.99. The black model is available today from Sprint Prepaid at Best Buy and RadioShack stores. Sprint said Virgin Mobile (via Walmart) will offer the Moto E beginning March 9. The device has a 4.5-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop.
Sprint said it is pushing the Android 5.0 Lollipop update to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. In addition to the new operating system, the update improves Sprint's WiFi calling service. The update is rolling out over the next few days.
Google's forthcoming wireless service will only be available to the Nexus 6 handset at launch, reports the Wall Street Journal. Citing sources familiar with Google's plans, the Journal says Google's wireless service will "weave together" access from T-Mobile and Sprint's cellular services, in addition to WiFi. The service won't be available to older Nexus handsets, such as the LG-made Nexus 5 and Nexus 4. The Nexus 6, made by Google's former Motorola unit, went on sale last year and is available directly from Google online. At the Mobile World Congress trade show this week, Google's Sundar Pichai confirmed plans to offer wireless service on an experimental basis. He likened it to the Nexus device program, about which he said, "Our goal here is to drive a set of innovations which we think the system should adopt." Android 5.0 Lollipop is able to automatically pick the best wireless service (cellular or WiFi) based on a given app's needs. Google did not comment on the Journal's report.
Softcard, the mobile wallet service developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, has informed users the application will go offline March 31. Softcard customers can use the app through that date, but afterward their accounts will automatically be closed. Softcard recommends users who wish to be able to make mobile payments in the future download Google Wallet. Google purchased certain Softcard assets in a deal announced last month. Google Wallet will replace Softcard on Android handsets later this year. Softcard never caught on with consumers due to limited handset, credit card, and retail support. General interest in mobile payments has increased after the launch of Apple Pay on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Samsung recently announced plans for its own mobile wallet service, called Samsung Pay. Samsung Pay will first be available to the Galaxy S6.
Google will no longer provide updates to its Chrome browser for devices running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Google first released Android 4.0 in 2011. Continually developing for it takes resources away from updating/creating apps for newer platforms, says Google. Chrome 42, which Google released recently, is the last major version update Android 4.0 users will see. The browser will continue to function without change.
Verizon Wireless is now pushing Android 5.0 Lollipop to the HTC One M8. In addition to the new operating system, the update enables Band 4 roaming and improves the three-way calling feature. Owners can download and install the update over the air.
Google has completely redesigned Google Contacts, the contact-management tool associated with Gmail. The online app has a brand new look and feel that brings it inline with many of Google's existing services. One of the main improvements is the ability to better manage duplicate contacts. Google said it can now keep information up-to-date by blending users' data with its own Google profile data. Google Contacts now also shows the most recent emails and meetings users may have had with specific contacts so they can review their last few messages. Google is offering the new Google Contacts as a preview online. Google didn't say if or how the new Google Contacts service will affect Android's contact application.
The Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and the HTC One M9 support the MirrorLink standard for connecting to cars. MirrorLink is a platform-agnostic tool that allows smartphones to push apps and content to in-dash consoles. It competes with Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay. With MirrorLink on board, the GS6, GS6 Edge, and One M9 will be able to connect to the infotainment systems of supported cars.
YotaPhone plans to launch its unique dual-screen YotaPhone 2 in the U.S. this spring via crowd-funding site Indiegogo, according to Matthew Kelly, YotaPhone's Managing Director for Americas. The YotaPhone 2 is a high-end Android phone with a large e-paper display on the back that uses no power when displaying static images and graphics, greatly extending battery life when used often instead of the traditional front display. It is compatible with both T-Mobile and AT&T networks, including LTE. It will sell for approximately $600. As usual for Indiegogo, the company will offer incentives to early backers. Those incentives have not been nailed down, but may include a bumper case or even a discount on the phone. After a successful Indiegogo launch, the company plans to expand availability to third-party retailers such as best Buy. YotaPhone is hard at work on its software upgrade to Android 5.0 (Lollipop), which should be available by the time units start shipping in the U.S., or shortly thereafter. The software update will also include an overhauled 2.0 version of the API for third-party app support of the e-paper screen. The company will also launch a white version of the YotaPhone 2, which has a white back and sides, but keeps the black face. The white color is expected by late summer.
Google today announced the rollout of Play Services 7.0. Play Services is the backbone developers use to create and power applications for Android. The latest version of Play Services adds a handful of new tools for developers to take advantage of when writing apps. First is a Location Settings Dialog box that will appear when users need to activate location services. Typically when apps require location details apps prompt users to go to the settings menu to turn location on. With the Location Settings Dialog box, a pop-up menu will appear instead, allowing users to flick on GPS without diving into the settings menu. A Places API allows developers to call up details from Google’s database of places and businesses within Maps, making it easier for users to see the names of nearby venues and points of interest. Play Services 7.0 breaks up the Google Fit API into six different APIs that allow developers to fine-tune how Google Fit handles workouts and other sensor data capturing in the background. Targeting gamers, the Nearby Connections API lets games connect smartphones and tablets as second-screen controls to the game running on your TV. The new developer tools also makes me changes to advertising behaviors. Google is rolling Play Services 7.0 beginning today. It should reach most phones running Android 2.3 and up in the next one to two weeks. After it has been distributed, Google will give developers a new SDK to access all the new tools inside Play Services 7.0.
BlackBerry today announced the Leap, a new smartphone with standard slab touch screen form factor. It's much like the Z10 that launched BlackBerry 10, but with a larger 5-inch, 720p HD display. It includes LTE, an 8-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front camera, memory card slot, and a 2,800 mAh sealed battery. It's powered by an older Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor, running at 1.5 GHz. It will include the Amazon Appstore for compatible Android apps. It's running BlackBerry 10.3.1 and will cost $275. It will come to Europe, initially.
Alcatel OneTouch today announced the Hero 2+, a phablet running Cyanogen, which is a modified version of Android. The Hero 2+ is a refreshed version of last year's Hero 2. The The Cyanogen 11 operating system is based on Android 4.4.4 KitKat. It includes Cyanogen's Privacy Guard software, which lets users protect their information, as well as encrypt and remotely lock/wipe their device. Cyanogen has supplied its own set of themes and wallpapers to the user interface in addition to camera software and other tools. The phone has a 6-inch full HD display with a built-in stylus. It is powered by a 2.0GHz octa-core Cortex A7 processor from MediaTek paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The main camera captures 13 megapixels and the user-facing camera captures 5 megapixels. Both can film full HD video. Alcatel plans to sell the phone directly to consumers across North America through its e-commerce web site. The phone will be sold unlocked for $299. Alcatel expects it to go on sale during the second quarter.
Intel today revealed its roadmap for 2015, which includes three new Atom mobile processors called the x3, x5, and x7, in addition to a new LTE modem. The Atom x3 is a system-on-a-chip complete with a modem and is meant for volume devices. There will be versions supporting 3G and LTE 4G. The 64-bit processor is ideal for smartphones, phablets, and tablets, says Intel. It can support Android and Windows, and camera configurations as large as 13 megapixels / 5 megapixels. The x3 will be available in dual- and quad-core variants with Mali graphics chips. The Atom x5 and x7 are meant for more powerful machines and are capable of running both Android and the full desktop version of Windows. These SoCs use Intel's 14nm processes and support 64-bit computing. They can handle up to Cat 6 LTE and Intel Gen 8 graphics. The x7 offers improved 3D performance for gaming, too. Intel expects to see the Atom x3, x5, and x7 reach consumer devices during the first half of the year. Last, Intel announced the XMM 7360 LTE modem. It supports carrier aggregation and LTE downlink speeds up to 450Mbps. It supports 29 different cellular bands, LTE Broadcast, VoLTE, and dual-SIM devices. It uses envelope tracking to improve power efficiency. The XMM 7360 can be prepackaged with Intel's WiFi, GPS/GLONASS, and NFC connectivity options. Intel expects to see devices with the XMM 7360 reach consumers during the second half of the year.