Phone Scoop

printed November 24, 2014
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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.

by:  Google


Verizon Debuts LG Transpyre

Yesterday, 2:06 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Yesterday, 2:07 PM

Verizon today added the LG Transpyre to its prepaid lineup. This basic Android phone is essentially the same phone as the LG Tribute offered by Virgin Mobile, except with more memory and a better front camera. The phone has a 4.5-inch display, 5-megapixel main camera, and 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor. Other features include 4G LTE, a memory card slot, and a removable battery. Verizon is currently offering the Transpyre for $100 with a no-contract prepaid plan.


AT&T to Sell Sonim's Rugged XP6

Friday, 9:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced the immediate availability of the Sonim XP6. The XP6 is a highly rugged Android smartphone that includes buttons and controls like a feature phone. It is certified to mil-spec 810G for protection against drops, vibration, temperature extremes, and humidity. The IP68 rating means it is protected again water and dust intrusion, as well. The XP6 is compatible with AT&T's enhanced PTT service, and has an extremely loud speaker at 103dB. The phone has a 2.64-inch display with 320 x 424 pixels. It runs Android 4.4 KitKat. Specs include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage; 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture; an extra large 4,820mAh battery; and Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, and WiFi radios. AT&T is selling the Sonim XP6 through its business sales channels. The Sonim XP6 is available for $0 down at $17.50 per month on AT&T Next 24; $21.88 on AT&T Next 18; $26.25 on AT&T Next 12; $149.99 with a standard two-year contract; or $524.99 with no commitment. Business and government customers can buy the XP6 for $100 with a two-year contract as long as they also sign up for EPTT service.


Office for Android Gains Dropbox Integration

Friday, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated its Office apps for Android smartphones and added compatibility with Dropbox. The company announced Dropbox integration for its Office products earlier this month. Android users can now access Dropbox from Office apps to get to their files and folders; edit Office files directly from Dropbox and sync them across devices; and share new or edited files from the Office apps using Dropbox sharing tools. Interested users will need both an Office and a Dropbox account in order to access these tools. Microsoft Office and Dropbox are free to download from the Play Store.


Twitter Now Lets Users Share Tweets via Direct Message

Thursday, 3:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today revealed a new feature that allows people to send individual tweets to others through direct messages. The feature is being added to both the Android and iOS applications, as well as to Twitter.com. Before today, the only way to share tweets privately was via email or other methods outside of Twitter. Twitter hopes the sharing tool will prevent people from leaving Twitter for other apps. Twitter recently made it possible to send URLs through its direct message tool, as well. It had initially turned off this feature to protect against spam. Twitter also opened its archives for anyone to search. All public tweets stretching back to 2006 can now be discovered.


Motorola Intros Fob for Finding Lost Keys or Phones

Wednesday, 1:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today announced the Keylink, a Bluetooth device meant to help the absent minded find their missing keys or phone. The Keylink can be attached to a key ring and is paired with devices via Motorola's Connect application. Once set up, your keys and phone will be able to find one another should either go missing. For lost phones, Keylink owners need only press a button to make their phone ring. Similarly, for lost keys Keylink owners need only open the Connect app to make the Keylink ring. According to Motorola, the Keylink has a range of about 100 feet, and the replaceable battery lasts about a year. The Motorola Connect app is free to both Android and iOS devices. The Keylink is available from Motorola and T-Mobile beginning today for $25.


Microsoft's Lawsuit Against Samsung May Proceed

Nov 18, 2014, 4:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has lost its bid to delay a trial with Microsoft, which is seeking interest payments of $6.9 million on patent licenses. Samsung and Microsoft forged an agreement in 2011 in which Samsung agreed to pay royalties for patents Microsoft holds that are used in the Android operating system. Samsung delayed making its royalty payments after Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Nokia's handset business. According to Samsung, Microsoft's move made it a direct competitor, which it feared could lead to collusion charges. Samsung asked an international court in Hong Kong to hold arbitration hearings, which it wanted to complete before dealing with Microsoft in the U.S. A U.S. District Court Judge disagreed, however, and said Microsoft's case can move forward during the arbitration process.


Google Releases First Android Auto APIs

Nov 18, 2014, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made available the first APIs for developers to use in creating Android Auto apps. Initially, developers can target two behaviors with their apps: audio and messaging. Developers will be able to extend the functionality of their music, podcasting, or news apps so the audio can be played back through the car's speakers. Similarly, messaging apps that receive incoming notifications can read new messages aloud in the car, as well as send voice-dictated replies. Google says it is already working with developers of popular music and messaging apps to extend their functionality to Android Auto. In order to use Android Auto apps in a car, the car has to support Android Auto within the infotainment center. So far, only a handful of car manufacturers have said they'll bring Android Auto-compatible vehicles to market. Android Auto will let car owners more easily and safely access phone-based content through their car's dashboard.


Nokia Releases Android Launcher, Debuts Tablet

Nov 18, 2014, 8:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today announced wide availability of the Z Launcher for Android devices. Nokia first debuted the Z Launcher earlier this year, but as a limited alpha. It is now available in beta form directly from the Google Play Store. The Z Launcher is a learning launcher that adjusts what it shows the phone owner on the home screen throughout the day depending on their pattern of behavior. For example, in the morning Z Launcher will present apps such as email and the calendar, while in the evening it will present apps such as Facebook and Spotify. Nokia says Z Launcher improves its predictions over time. Further, Z Launcher includes a gesture search tool that lets users initiate searches from the home screen by tracing letters on the glass. Launchers are alternative home screen treatments for Android smartphones. In addition to the launcher, Nokia announced the N1 tablet, which includes a 7.9-inch screen and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. Other specs include a 64-bit Intel Atom processor, 8- and 5-megapixel cameras, stereo speakers, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. The N1 tablet will cost $249, and is headed to China first. Nokia, which sold its handset division to Microsoft earlier this year, is not manufacturing the N1 itself. Rather, it is licensing the brand and the design to an unnamed manufacturer in order for it to be built.


Google Begins Rollout of Play Services 6.5

Nov 17, 2014, 7:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has begun to push Google Play Services 6.5 to all devices running Android 2.3 Gingerbread and higher. Play Services 6.5 adds several new tools for developers, and targets Google Maps, Google Drive, Google Wallet, and Google Fit. In Maps, the API now offers a map toolbar so app users can launch Google Maps to get turn-by-turn directions. Developers can also add mini maps to their apps when using Lite Mode. In Google Drive, developers can add both public and private custom file properties to improve searching. File syncing has been improved, too, as users can now schedule uploads based on network type, as well as cancel pending uploads. File syncing is also more power efficient. Google is adding a "Donate with Google" button to its Google Wallet API to make for easier donating within apps. The Google Fit API makes it easier for developers to add timed workouts, which in turn makes it easier to support pauses or multiple activity workout in a single session. Last, Google is making it possible for developers to use only a portion of the Android API library in order to help keep their apps leaner. Google will publish a new SDK once Play Services 6.5 has been installed on most Android devices.


Google Keep Updated with Shareable Tasks

Nov 17, 2014, 3:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today detailed a recent update to the Google Keep application, which is used for saving notes, web pages, and other snippets of information. The newest version of Keep makes to-do lists and other items shareable, which lets people work on them together. Google also made it easier to search through Keep for old items. Users can search by color, whether they're shared, have a reminder, are lists, or have an image or audio attachment. Google Keep is free to download from the Play Store. It is compatible with devices running Android 4.0 and up.


VSCO Cam Adds Support for HTC's Camera APIs

Nov 13, 2014, 5:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 13, 2014, 10:24 PM

VSCO Cam, a popular third-party camera application for Android and iOS devices, updated both of its mobile apps today. The camera gains a number of new features through the update, such as the ability to sync images across devices, side-by-side filter comparisons, and a web uploader tool. The app also gains a new user interface and claims to take better pictures. The Android version of VSCO Cam is notable in that it makes use of APIs from HTC so it can support separate focus and exposure points. VSCO Cam is available in the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


MetroPCS Adds LG F60 to Prepaid Lineup

Nov 13, 2014, 12:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS recently began selling the LG F60 handset through its web site. The F60 was announced last month. It features a 4.5-inch WVGA display and 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM. The device has a 5-megapixel main camera with Gesture Shot and Touch & Shot, and a 1.3-megapixel user-facing camera. The device includes Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and LTE, and relies on a 2,100mAh battery for power. The F60 runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and includes LG's Knock Code. MetroPCS is selling it for $100 after a mail-in rebate. The full retail price is $160.


BlackBerry, Samsung Announce Security Tie-Up

Nov 13, 2014, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry and Samsung today agreed to sell one another's security software. The joint effort is meant to help Samsung sell more phones and to help BlackBerry win more BES customers. Samsung's Knox security platform is embedded on many of its devices. It can be used to separate work and personal information, as well as secure that data on the device. BlackBerry's BES services allows businesses to remotely manage Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone smartphones. The companies think this partnership will appeal to businesses that want to use Samsung handsets for the Knox platform, but manage them via BES. BlackBerry's enterprise chief John Sims said the deal "isn't about one company displacing the other. This is about one and one makes three." BlackBerry's presence in the smartphone market has been reduced to practically nil in the face of stiff competition from Apple, Samsung, and others, while Samsung has long been making overtures to potential business customers.


Google Now Improved with More Voice Prompts

Nov 12, 2014, 3:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today revealed details about a new version of the Google Search app for Android devices. The latest rendition of Search makes use of Material Design and adds new Now cards for keeping track of reminders, travel, sports scores, and your commute. Google Now will recognize the "OK, Google" voice prompt within third-party applications. It can also be used to open and search through those third-party apps. Google has made it possible for the Nexus 6 and Galaxy Note 4 smartphones to enable the "OK, Google" prompt even when the device is locked and asleep (similar to the Motorola Moto X). Last, Google added a fun feature that allows users to flip a virtual coin when they need help choosing between two selections. Google Search is free to download from the Play Store.


Google Says Lollipop Is On Its Way to Nexus Devices

Nov 12, 2014, 3:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has begun the Android 5.0 Lollipop rollout to Nexus devices. The company said hardware such as the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, and Nexus 7 will have the new operating system soon. Look for it in your system settings. Android 5.0 Lollipop introduces an entirely new design for the operating system, as well as hundreds of new features.


YouTube Launches Music Service for Android and iOS

Nov 12, 2014, 2:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube today announced a new way to consume music on Android and iOS devices, as well as the web. YouTube made it easier to find music videos by surfacing them to the top of the search discovery tool. The new YouTube offers smartphone, tablet, and web users the ability to find and play full albums and video playlists on YouTube. YouTube created new pages that display an artist's entire discography and all the videos associated with their music. The corresponding app updates should arrive for Android and iOS soon. These features are being made available to all users for free. YouTube also announced a premium service called Music Key, which offers ad-free playback, as well as the ability to listen to music videos in the background. Music Key costs $10 per month, but YouTube is discounting it for a limited time to just $8 per month. The subscription fee includes access to Google Play Music, which has more than 30 million songs and hundreds of curated playlists and radio stations. Music Key is being offered as a limited beta to start, though YouTube said its availability will expand over time.


Motorola Pushing Lollipop to Moto X and Moto G

Nov 12, 2014, 12:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said that owners of the second-generation Moto X and Moto G handsets can update their phones to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Motorola has made Lollipop available to the Moto X Pure Edition, Moto G GSM (U.S.), and Moto G GSM (Global) retail versions sold in the U.S. Motorola said the roll out will be done in phases and may take several days to reach all devices. Lollipop features a brand new design and numerous new features, such as support for multiple accounts, a new Photo gallery app, and better security. The update is free.


United's MileagePlus Cards Now Support Softcard

Nov 12, 2014, 12:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

United Airlines today announced that owners of its MileagePlus credit cards can now add them to their Softcard account and make mobile payments. The cards are backed by Chase bank, which is one of the handful of financial institutions supporting Softcard. In order to entice cardholders to sign up, United is offering 2,500 miles to customers who activate their MileagePlus card on Softcard by February 28, 2015. Further, United will add 500 more miles every month (up to total of 4,000 miles) to the MileagePlus accounts of cardholders who use Softcard at least once per month for mobile purchases. Softcard is backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless and is compatible with many Android smartphones and select Windows Phones.


FreedomPop Launches Free International Calling

Nov 12, 2014, 9:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today made a free international calling plan available to all Android and iOS smartphones. Smartphone owners need only download the FreedomPop Free Talk and Text app and they'll have access to 100 free voice minutes good for calling 52 countries, including Mexico, the U.K., Canada, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Argentina, and India. The service will be able to reach as many as 170 countries by the end of the year. People who want more voice minutes can purchase them starting at $5 per month. FreedomPop is also offering customers the ability to obtain an international number to help reduce the cost of calls for friends and relatives who live abroad. For example, a U.S.-based customer could get a local number for Paris, France, which friends and family in France would be able to call at local rates. The international number costs $5 per month. FreedomPop is an MVNO that resells access to Sprint's network, though the Free Talk and Text app works over any internet connection, be it Wi-Fi or another carrier's LTE data network.


Instagram's Android and iOS Apps Can Now Edit Captions

Nov 10, 2014, 2:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today announced updates to both its Android and iOS applications. The apps add a couple of new features, the foremost of which is the ability to edit the captions attached to photos. Previously, captions couldn't be edited once they were posted. Instagram users will also notice changes to the Explore function, which Instagram says now lets users seek out new people to follow via their photos or via their name. Instagram for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


LG to Start Pushing Lollipop to the G3

Nov 9, 2014, 7:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said it will soon begin distributing Android 5.0 Lollipop to its G3 smartphone. LG will deliver Lollipop to G3 owners in Poland first, followed by "other key markets in the near future." The company claims it is the first handset maker to offer Android 5.0 to its existing device base. LG also said it will soon publish a schedule detailing the Lollipop upgrade for other LG phones. The G3 is available from the major U.S. carriers, but neither they nor LG made any specific announcements regarding Lollipop's arrival on the G3 in the U.S. LG happened to manufacture both the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 5 smartphones, which should be among the first to receive Lollipop. The Nexus phones will be updated directly by Google.


Microsoft Outs New Office Apps for iPhone, iPad, Androids

Nov 6, 2014, 9:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced a major expansion of its core Office productivity suite across mobile devices. Microsoft is replacing the limited Office app for the iPhone with three brand new apps, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The apps allow iPhone users to create and edit Office content on their iPhones for free. Microsoft updated the iPad version of these three apps so there is continuity across them on the iOS platform. Further, Microsoft announced a new preview version of Office for Android tablets. This means most people will be able to work with Office documents on their mobile devices at no cost. Previously, Microsoft required a subscription to its Office 365 product. Moving forward, subscribers to Office 365 will have a more robust feature set, including advanced editing and collaboration tools, unlimited OneDrive storage, and Dropbox integration. Last, Microsoft said it is working on a touch-enabled version of Office for Windows 10. The new iPhone and iPad Office apps are free to download immediately. Android tablet owners can sign up for the Office preview beginning today.


Google Maps Earns Material Design and Gains New Tools

Nov 5, 2014, 2:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today revealed a major redesign of its mobile maps app for both the Android and iOS platforms. The app adopts Google's Material Design, which is the basis of Android 5.0 Lollipop's look and feel. This means bright colors and flatter, bolder icons. In addition to the new design, Google Maps has new hooks for making restaurant reservations through Open Table or booking Uber rides, complete with rates and arrival times. Google also created new info cards for locations that are richer in detail and imagery. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


LG and Google Sign Patent Cross-Licensing Agreement

Nov 4, 2014, 7:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG and Google today announced the two companies have signed a multi-year patent cross-licensing agreement. The patents cover a wide range of existing technologies and also extends to patents filed over the next 10 years. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. "LG values its relationship with Google, and this agreement underscores both companies' commitment to developing new products and technologies that enhance consumers' lives," said LG in a statement. LG uses Google's Android platform for its smartphones, tablets, and wearables. It also manufactured both the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 smartphones for Google.


Microsoft and Dropbox Announce Collaboration

Nov 4, 2014, 11:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 4, 2014, 11:13 AM

Microsoft and Dropbox today announced a new partnership that will make it easier for smartphone and tablet owners to remain productive. They have agreed to integrate Office 365 and Dropbox for mobile and online document creation and storage. Android and iOS users will be able to access Dropbox from Office apps to get to their files and folders; edit Office files directly from Dropbox and sync them across devices; and share new or edited files from the Office apps using Dropbox sharing tools. Microsoft said it will update Office for Android and iOS with these new features over the coming weeks. Online sharing between Office and Dropbox won't arrive until early 2015. Interested users will need both an Office and a Dropbox account in order to access these tools. Dropbox will also make its application available on the Windows Phone and Windows tablet platforms in the coming months.


Amazon Now Offering Unlimited Photo Storage

Nov 4, 2014, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon recently expanded the availability of unlimited online photo storage to all Amazon Prime customers. Before today, this feature was only available to owners of the Fire Phone. With Prime Photos, Android and iOS device owners can automatically upload, store, and access their photos from their smartphone or tablet. Prime Photo users can also access their photos from the web, via Fire TV, or via select smart TVs and gaming consoles. Amazon Prime requires a yearly subscription fee of $99, but also includes reduced shipping charges and access to Prime Music and Prime Video on demand.


Sony's Xperia Z2 Snags Remote Play with System Update

Nov 4, 2014, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced a system update for the Xperia Z2 smartphone and tablet. The upgrade includes Android 4.4.4 KitKat, as well as a number of new features and improvements from Sony. For example, the Z2 gains PS4 Remote Play, which allows Z2 owners to play their PS4 console games on their smartphone when at home. Sony also added support for high-resolution audio and a tool for optimizing the sound for specific Sony headphones. The update adds several new shooting modes to the camera, including Sound Photo, AR Fun, Multi Camera, and Face In. It also updates Stamina Mode to allow for greater efficiency gains from the battery, and the latest version of Sony's Quick Settings tool. Last, the Xperia Z2 gains the ability to automatically unlock when the Sony SmartBand or SmartWatch 3 are in close proximity to the phone. Sony said the update's arrival will vary by market.


Google's Latest Calendar App Simplifies Making Appointments

Nov 3, 2014, 1:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new version of its calendar application for Android devices. The apps brings with it a handful of new features, one of which is automatic event scheduling. The calendar app will, for example, scan Gmail for flight itineraries and other invitations and then automatically create events based on those emails, complete with location details. The new calendar app is smart enough to re-schedule those same events if there are delays or changes. A new feature called Assists helps users by suggesting titles, people, and places as they fill out events. It also adapts to the user's typing preferences over time. Another addition to the calendar is called Schedule View, which will include photos, maps, illustrations, or cityscapes of locations within calendar events. The new Google calendar is compatible with all Android 4.1+ devices and it will be available from the Play Store in the coming weeks. The new calendar app is built into Android 5.0 Lollipop.


Revised Android Gmail App Supports Outlook, Yahoo Mail

Nov 3, 2014, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 3, 2014, 3:02 PM

Google has re-envisioned Gmail for Android 5.0 Lollipop and made it a more robust app thanks to several new tools. The overhauled application adopts Material Design, which is the new design language seen across many Android apps. It also adds some key features. Primarily, Gmail adds in-app support for other email services. Gmail 5.0 lets users of Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, Outlook.com, and other POP3/IMAP4 email services add their accounts directly to the Gmail app. Gmail can also now support separate, employer-based Exchange accounts in addition to the user's Gmail account. The various accounts can be viewed separately or together. Gmail 5.0 also adds a number of new swiping gestures for archiving and replying to messages. Gmail 5.0 is built into devices running Android 5.0 Lollipop. The new Gmail app will be made available to handsets running Android 4.0 and up in the next few days.


Kyocera's DuraForce Brings PTT to AT&T

Nov 3, 2014, 10:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced the pending availability of the Kyocera DuraForce, a ruggedized Android smartphone. Like many of Kyocera's rugged devices, the DuraForce is mil-spec 810G and IP-68 certified. This means it is protected from drops, shock, temperature, dust, and vibration, and it can sit in up to six feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It also uses Kyocera's Smart Sonic Receiver, which makes it easier to hear in noisy environments. The phone features a 4.5-inch 720p HD screen, 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 3,100mAh battery, and 16GB of internal storage. The DuraForce runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and supports AT&T's LTE network and its Enhanced Push-to-Talk (EPTT) service. The no-commitment price of the Kyocera DuraForce is $390. AT&T is offering the DuraForce for $50 with a two-year contract, $19.95 per month with AT&T Next 12, or $16.63 per month with AT&T Next 18. It will be available online November 7 and in stores November 21.


Samsung Looking to Escape Paying $1B to Microsoft

Nov 1, 2014, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung claims that if it honors a 2011 patent-licensing agreement with Microsoft it could be charged with collusion. The argument is the latest from Samsung, which owes Microsoft $1 billion in patent licensing fees, plus another $6.9 million in interest. Several technologies found in the Android operating system are patented by Microsoft. Nearly all Android device makers pay Microsoft to license those patents in their smartphones. Samsung agreed to do the same in 2011, though Microsoft cut it a bit if a break after Samsung agreed to continue to develop devices running Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Part of the agreement entails Samsung sharing sensitive inside information with Microsoft. Samsung now contends that Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's handset business earlier this year puts them into direct competition. It says if it pays the licensing fees, it could be seen as colluding with Microsoft in violation of the law. Microsoft sued Samsung over the unpaid licensing fees earlier this year and believes it has a strong case.


BlackBerry Releases BBM 2.5 for Smartphones

Oct 31, 2014, 9:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said BBM 2.5 is now available for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS devices. The company first revealed details of the updated messaging service earlier this month. Some of the new features include Timed Messages, which allow users to choose how long a message is visible to the recipient. Another feature, called Message Retraction, allows BBM users to delete messages they've sent from the phones of others. According to BlackBerry, this feature works with text messages only and not those that include pictures. Other updates include a streamlined sticker experience, high-def picture transfer, and music discovery through friends' playlists. BBM 2.5 will be available from the Play Store, BlackBerry World, and iTunes App Store later today.


Samsung Debuts the Metal-Clad Galaxy A Series

Oct 31, 2014, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Galaxy A5 and A3, two mid-range smartphones meant to better compete with LG's L series and HTC's Desire devices. The A5 and A3 feature metal unibody construction and will come in a variety of colors. The two phones share most internal components. Both phones are powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 16GB of internal storage and support for microSD cards up to 64GB. Each includes Cat 4 LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC radios along with a handful of internal sensors. The A5 and A3 share 5-megapixel user-facing cameras and some of the selfie modes seen most recently on the Galaxy Note 4, such as wide-angle selfie.

  • A5: The A5 (pictured) is the larger of the two phones. It has a 5-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, 2GB of RAM, and a 2,300mAh battery.
  • A3: The smaller of the two phones has a 4.5-inch qHD display, 8-megapixel main camera, 1GB of RAM, and a 1,900mAh battery.
  • The Galaxy A5 and A3 run Android 4.4 KitKat with Samsung's Touchwiz user interface. They will go on sale in select markets beginning in November. US carriers have not yet announced plans to carry the devices.


    Android Founder Andy Rubin Leaving Google

    Oct 31, 2014, 6:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

    Andy Rubin, who helped launch Google's Android business, is leaving the company. Rubin co-founded the Android operating system, which Google acquired in 2005. Rubin oversaw the initial development of the platform and remained at the head of Google's Android business until 2013, when he took on a role within the company's robotics division. Rubin is leaving Google to create a robotics incubator. Rubin's Android role was handed to Sundar Pichai in 2013, who was recently promoted to the head all Google's products, including Chrome and core experiences like Gmail. Rubin will be replaced by James Kuffner, who is a research scientist at Google. "I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next," Google CEO Larry Page said in a statement. "With Android he created something truly remarkable -- with a billion-plus happy users. Thank you."


    Google Adds Reading Tools to Play Books App

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

    Google today added several features to its Play Book reading application that make it better for consuming nonfiction material. The revised app, for example, allows users to skim or flip through pages, as well as add bookmarks throughout the text. The new skimming view makes it a breeze to jump from section to section, or scan through individual sections. Prior to this update, books needed to be read from front to back, with minimal support for jumping chapters or sections. Play Books also adopts Google's Material Design, which is the new design language of Android 5.0 Lollipop. Google Play Books is free to download from the Play Store.


    Google Drive for Android Given Material Design

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

    Google recently updated the Google Drive application for Android devices. The revised app improves search tools by adding autocomplete as users type in the search box. Drive now allows users to attach email messages to shared files. The app has a brand new PDF viewer, which allows users to search for and select text within PDF documents. Last, Drive was updated with Material Design, the new design language for Android 5.0 Lollipop. Google Drive for Android is free to download from the Play Store.


    Microsoft Debuts Health Platform and Wearable

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

    Microsoft today announced Microsoft Health, a new platform that's similar in basic approach to Apple's HealthKit and Google's Google Fit programs. Microsoft Health relies on a cloud-based service where consumers and the industry both store health and fitness data. The Microsoft Health application is available today for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices. It collects information from third-party apps and services and saves the data to the cloud, where it can help users manage their health and fitness goals. Microsoft Health doesn't combine data points from apps locally on smartphones, which both HealthKit and Fit do. Instead, the data is analyzed by Microsoft's Intelligence Engine online, which can be used to generate graphs, charts, and other ways to assess the data. For example, Microsoft Health can tell people which exercises burn the most calories, or calculate the quality of users' sleep. Though Microsoft Health works with select third-party devices, such as Jawbone Up, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Band wearable. The band was designed to be worn all day long. It has 10 sensors inside that track steps, calories burned, heart rate, and more. Together with the Microsoft Health app, the Microsoft Band offers guided workouts created by Gold's Gym, Shape, and others. The band also includes notifications for incoming calls, messages, or social networking updates. The Band is available from Microsoft's web site and retail stores beginning today for $199. Last, Microsoft is offering SDKs and APIs to health providers and app developers so they may hook their products into Microsoft Health.


    Lenovo Completes Acquisition of Motorola

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

    Google has completed its sale of Motorola to Lenovo. Google first announced plans to sell Motorola in January. The deal was valued at about $2.9 billion. Google purchased Motorola in 2012 for more than $12 billion, in part for its treasure trove of 17,000 patents. Since then, Google has retooled Motorola's products and released innovative devices such as the Moto X, Moto G, and Moto E in 2013. During the last several months Motorola delivered a range of new handsets, including the second-generation Moto X and Moto G, the Droid Turbo, and the Nexus 6. Motorola's devices all feature stock Android operating systems with unique and helpful additions, such as Active Display and Moto Voice. Lenovo plans to keep the Motorola brand intact and will use it to grow its own presence in the market. According to Motorola chief Risk Osterloh, Motorola will remain headquartered in Chicago and will continue to develop its Moto and Droid lines of hardware with a focus on quick OS upgrades and technology that solves real-world problems. "In Lenovo we have a partner that shares our mission and that brings global scale, a diverse product portfolio and a track record of seizing strategic opportunities and making the most of them," said Osterloh in a blog post. "Together we will go farther, faster. With an impressive portfolio of smartphones, wearables and PCs, our two companies will be uniquely positioned to push the boundaries of choice and value, and bring exciting new experiences to people everywhere."


    MCX Goes On the Defensive, Offers New Details

    Oct 29, 2014, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

    MCX took to its company blog today to "set the record straight" on what its forthcoming CurrentC product will and won't entail. First and foremost, MCX said participation in its payment service is voluntary. "MCX merchants make their own decisions about what solutions they want to bring to their customers; the choice is theirs. When merchants choose to work with MCX, they choose to do so exclusively. Importantly, if a merchant decides to stop working with MCX, there are no fines." In other words, companies that pick CurrentC to power mobile payments in their stores will not be permitted to accept alternate mobile payment services, such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet. MCS will not penalize members that decide to switch allegiances. According to MCX, CurrentC will work with most Android or iOS devices and will offer loyalty programs, coupons, and payments all in a single transaction. It claims to meet the industry standard when it comes to fraud protection, and will allow consumers multiple different payment methods (credit card, merchant card, bank account). MCX claims consumers will be in control of their personal data (including location) and they can share as much or as little as they want with retailers. The company believes its QR code-based system will work well at retail locations, and points to the success Starbucks has had with a similar system. It said it might add other payment options, such as Bluetooth, down the road. MCX came under fire this week after CVS and Rite-Aid, which support CurrentC, ceased accepting Apple Pay and Google Wallet. CurrentC is currently being tested in select markets and won't fully launch until next year.


    Google Shows Off New Play Movies App with Info Cards

    Oct 29, 2014, 1:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

    Google today announced a new version of the Play Movies app for Android devices. The most significant new feature is support for info cards that appear on the user's smartphone or tablet when watching content via Chromecast or Android TV. The info cards will pop up on the mobile device during movie or TV show playback to provide info about the actors involved and other details. The app has also been updated with Material Design, which is the new design language Google is using for Android 5.0 Lollipop. The new Google Play app will roll out over the next few days.


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