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.
Microsoft recently updated its OneDrive application for the Android platform with improved support for video content. OneDrive users can now stream videos stored online without leaving the OneDrive app. Other features added to the service include better tools for organizing and viewing photo albums, and the ability to open "share links" directly in the app. OneDrive for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google has updated Google Maps and now lets users access more personal information regarding their locations with a quick search. Google Maps culls more data from users' Gmail accounts and will automatically make event details available to Maps. Google says users who make a flight or dinner reservation, for example, will be able to find those locations on a map by using the "my events" tool. Maps already searches through users' calendar to automatically add event locations to Maps. The new search tool makes the events easier to find. Google Maps for Android is free to download from the Play Store.
U.S. Cellular today launched the LG Logos, a modified version of the LG Spirit that was announced earlier this year. The Logos runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with LG's user experience. It includes a 1.2 GHz quad-core processors with 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. The Logos boasts LG's rear-positioned button array and a slight curve to design, which LG says helps the device fit better in the hand. Other specs include a 4.7-inch HD display, 5-megapixel main camera (different from the Spirit's 8-megapixel shooter), 1-megapixel user-facing camera, and 2,100mAh battery. The U.S. Logos is on sale beginning today for $99. It can be paired with once of U.S. Cellular's Simple Connect Prepaid plans, which start at $45 for 1 GB of LTE 4G data.
Microsoft today said it has acquired digital pen technology from N-Trig. Microsoft has worked with the Israeli company for years, as N-Trig created the Surface Pen stylus for Microsoft's Surface tablets. "Digital pens have a ways to go to be as good as pen and paper on some dimensions, and we'll get there. But more importantly, adding the ability to capture and share the work you do with a digital pen opens up possibilities that traditional pen and paper just can't match," said Microsoft in a blog post. In the past, N-Trig created the DuoSense Pen for using with Android and Windows Phone smartphones. Terms of the technology deal with Microsoft were not disclosed.
Google has updated the main search application for Android devices and expanded its ability to use voice commands with other installed applications. For example, users can say things like, "Ok Google, Shazam this song," or "Ok Google, listen to NPR" and it will do exactly that. Google provided a guide on the new things the voice-enabled search app can handle and many of the functions are quite useful. Travelers can simply ask Google the status of their flight followed by what there is to do in their destination city. The search app can also control base functions of the phone, such as turn on/off the flashlight, or WiFi and Bluetooth radios. Power users can take advantage of the tool to search through their email for specific messages, or to find attachments/photos. The latest version of Google Search is free to download from the Play Store. Some apps will also need updates of their own to make these functions work. Google said these updated apps will appear in the Play Store over the next few days.
Meerkat today released a beta version of its live streaming app for Android devices. The company announced the pending arrival of the beta several weeks ago. Meerkat, which is already available for iOS, allows Twitter users to stream live video to their followers. Twitter's own Periscope app, also iOS only, does the same thing. Meerkat is free.
Sprint today announced a new partnership with Boingo that will give its customers free access to Boingo's WiFi hotspots in 35 U.S. airports. Sprint subscribers should be able to connect their WiFi-equipped handsets to Boingo's airport WiFi networks automatically and securely with no log-in required. Sprint says the WiFi connection is secure enough for business customers to use for accessing corporate VPNs. Sprint didn't say which airports are covered. Sprint today also announced the Sprint WiFi Connect, a consumer router that prioritizes Sprint's WiFi Calling service over any other traffic on that particular hotspot. Sprint says the Sprint WiFi Connect includes Smart Connect technology that dynamically manages 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands for optimal WiFi data performance. Sprint's WiFi Connect is available free of charge to qualified customers. WiFi Calling is available to most of Sprint's Android handsets as well as the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5, and 5s.
Google has pushed out an update to its Messenger application for Android devices and in so doing added a few new features. Messenger now has its own desktop widget for viewing conversations from Android home screen panels. The app adds support for animated GIFs to spice up conversations, as well as a handful of new quick replies for speedier responses. The update also resolves some performance issues. Messenger is Google's newest SMS/MMS application for Android devices. It is free to download from the Play Store.
Google has expanded the reach of the Chrome Dev channel to its Android mobile operating system. The Chrome Dev channel is not meant for general use by consumers; rather, it is intended for web developers seeking to test their sites against future versions of the Chrome browser. Consumers interested in testing pre-release versions of Chrome should stick to the Chrome Beta program, which lets people try new features before they are released to everyone. The Chrome Dev channel is already available to the Windows, Mac, Linux, and ChromeOS platforms. Google warns that Chrome Dev is "rocky at times" and installs in addition to the current public version of Chrome. Google pushes updates to the Chrome Dev channel at least once a week to resolve bugs and performance issues. At the end of the day, Google hopes bringing the Chrome Dev channel to Android will eventually result in a better mobile web experience for all users.
Microsoft today said Windows 10 devices will be able to run Android applications. According to Microsoft, developers will be able to reuse Java and C++ code to run Android apps in an Android subsystem on Windows 10 devices. Further, Microsoft said Windows 10 will support iOS and Objective C, so developers can port iOS apps to Windows 10 easily thanks to new tools in Visual Studio. Adding support for Android apps and making it possible for developers to port iOS apps to the Windows 10 platform will help Microsoft close the app gap it faces with competing platforms. BlackBerry has a similar idea in place on its BlackBerry 10 devices, which can run Android apps. Windows 10 isn't expected to arrive until later this year.
T-Mobile today said the Alcatel OneTouch Pop Astro is available online and in stores for $149. T-Mobile customers can pay full price for the phone, or break the price down to 24 monthly payments of $6.24. The phone has a 4.5-inch qHD display and it is powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core MediaTek processor with 1 GB of RAM and 4 GB of storage. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a VGA sensor. The phone has a 2,000mAh battery and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. Alcatel says the Pop Astro supports VoLTE and T-Mobile's WiFi calling feature. The Pop Astro runs Android 4.4 KitKat.
Delivering on a promise it made several weeks ago, Google today expanded the number of third-party apps able to create cards within the Google Now search function. Apps can now surface just-in-time information in Google Now across a range of topics. For example, ABC News and Feedly cards can offer breaking news alerts; Eat24 can ping users to impending food deliveries; and fitness apps such as Adidas and Jawbone can deliver fitness goal details and nudge those not moving enough throughout the day. Android smartphone owners will need to update to the latest version of the Search app to gain the expanded compatibility with third-party apps.
Google today announced Play Services 7.3, an update to the core functions of the Android platform. Play Services 7.3 will bring new features to Android devices thanks to an expanded range of tools being made available to developers. First, the update adds the recently-announced Android Wear features to third-party apps. A new Wear API for developers will eventually let people connect more than a single Android Wear device to their smartphone. The API makes it possible for developers to improve two-way data shared between Wear devices and smartphones, as well. Play Services makes changes to the Google Fit API, too. For example, apps will now be able to collect sensor data like current location and speed, store that activity data in Google Fit's open platform, and aggregate it into a single, digestible view for consumers. Fit also gains the ability to collect granular nutrition data, such as users' fat, protein, and cholesterol intake in order to help people adjust their diets to match their fitness goals. Google updated the Location API in a way that will improve battery life even when GPS functions are being used. Last, Google tweaked the way apps access Play Services APIs, which should make apps run better even when certain API calls aren't available. Google released the Play Services 7.3 SDK to developers today, but didn't say when it will begin pushing the update to end-user devices.
Verizon Wireless today said owners of the Samsung Galaxy S4 can expect to see their devices updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop in the next few days. The over-the-air update is free to install.
Facebook today said users of its Messenger application will soon be able to make free video calls to one another. The feature can be initiated with a single button and works over LTE 4G or WiFi. Video calls can be connected between Android and iOS devices with no problem. Facebook's Messenger app is already able to connect voice calls. The addition of video calls makes Messenger a more complete competitor with the likes of Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts. Video calls will be available to the Android and iOS versions of Messenger in the days ahead. The feature is launching in select countries, including Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Laos, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, the U.K., the U.S., and Uruguay. Facebook said the feature will reach other regions and locales over the coming months.
Instagram today updated its Android and iOS apps with several new filters and support for emoji hashtags. The new filters are called Lark, Reyes, and Juno and join five filters Instagram added in December. According to Instagram, Lark desaturates reds and enhances blues and greens to improve landscapes. Reyes goes for vintage style photos, and Juno adds green tinting that Instagram says improves photos of people. The photo-sharing social network also said its app now supports emoji hashtags for adding more means of self expression. Instagram said its Android and iOS apps should be available from the Play Store and iTunes App Store in the days ahead.
Google has expanded the number of tools Android smartphone owners can access from their desktop web browser. It recently made it possible to find a lost Android phone by asking Google to "find my phone" in Google Search. Now, users can use the same method to send directions to their phone, set alarms on their phone, and send notes to their phone. Users need only type "set an alarm" or "send a note" in the search box and follow the steps thereafter. A drop-down menu lets people pick their Android device, and the tools for adjusting alarms or creating notes are simple.
Twitter recently introduced a feature called Highlights, which are push notifications calling attention to the day's best tweets. According to Twitter, it looks at what accounts users follow and which conversations are most popular among them, as well as topics and events trending in the user's area to create the highlighted tweets. The feature is opt-in and will deliver notifications twice per day. Tapping the notification opens the Twitter app and takes users directly to the Highlights page, where Tweets can be scanned by swiping left and right. When users reach the last highlighted tweet, the app will then take them to their home timeline. Twitter recently did away with the Discover and Activity tabs, and Highlights appears to have taken their place. Initially, the feature is only available in English to Android users.
Google today expanded the capabilities of its Keep note-taking application thanks to improved integration with Android Wear. Owners of Android Wear smartwatches can use voice prompts to open Keep, browse existing notes in Keep, or dictate new notes in Keep. Users can swipe up and down on the screen to see notes, tap to open notes, or tap the plus sign to create a new note. The Android Wear app supports recurring reminders, too. Google says the update to Keep on the Android Wear platform dovetails nicely with a recent update Google made to the smartphone version of the app. Keep on Android handsets supports labels and to-do lists to help users stay on top of their ideas and tasks. Google Keep is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Turing Robotic Industries today announced the Turing Phone, a handset that focuses on providing secure communications while wrapped in a futuristic design. Turing says the device is molded from Liquidmorphium, what it describes as "an amorphous alloy of zirconium, copper, aluminum, nickel, and silver that provides greater tensile strength than either titanium or steel." The materials protect the phone from screen breaks or other damage that might be caused by shocks. Turing claims Liquidmorphium can be produced with a near 100% yield and practically no waste, making it environmentally friendly. Other unique aspects of the design include a fingerprint sensor for user authentication on the side of the phone, and a magnetic charger that negates the need for ports. As far as communications go, the Turing Phone relies on decentralized authentication technology which lets it independently verify the identity of other Turing devices. Turing claims the end-to-end authentication "creates a protected communications network that is entirely insulated from cyber-threats and privacy intrusions." In other words, Turing phone owners can take solace in knowing their calls and messages are completely secure. The phone runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Turing's user interface. The device features a 5.5-inch full HD display and it is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 64 or 128 GB of storage. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The device has a 3,000mAh battery and support a range of LTE networks around the world. The Turing Phone will launch in the U.S. and U.K. on August 10, with pre-orders starting July 9. The phone, sold unlocked, will cost $740 for 64 GB and $870 for 128 GB. Turing said carrier partnerships are still under development.
Microsoft today updated its Outlook for Android app and says the email program has graduated from preview status. Today's update marks the app's full release. According to Microsoft, it has updated Outlook for Android 17 times since the preview first launched in January. During that time it has: improved the look and feel of the app; added support for IMAP; improved the People (contacts) section; added a Directory Search tool; introduced a three-day view in the calendar; and bestowed the app with a handful of gestures for navigating between emails and folders. Microsoft says Outlook for Android is on even footing with its Outlook for iOS application, which it made available earlier this year. Outlook for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Facebook wants to make it easier for people to see who's calling and, if necessary, block those callers. The company today said it is testing a new app called Hello. The app sorts through Facebook data and will display info about incoming calls even if the number is not saved in the contact app. The caller ID information will be limited to that which is public on Facebook, or already shared directly with the call recipient. The app supports search functions for businesses and people, and can be used to connect calls directly from the search results. Last, Hello makes it easier for people to block unwanted calls. Users can block specific numbers as well as those commonly blocked by others. Blocedk calls go straight to voicemail and the details will still show up in the call history. Facebook said Hello is in testing and available to Android devices beginning today.
Google has updated the Android Wear app for smartphones ahead of the Android Wear system update for smartwatches. The smartphone Android Wear app has a brand new design that more closely matches Google's Material Design concepts. It also introduces new info cards for gleaning information about on-board watch apps. The phone app's settings tools, used to control nearby smartwatches, have been revamped entirely. One new features lets users sync only select (rather than all) calendars to the phone. Last, the app adds a Cloud Sync function, which will help the smartwatch provide notifications even when not connected to a nearby phone. This feature requires devices with the new Android Wear operating system, which is expected to arrive in a few weeks. Google's Android Wear smartphone application is free to download from the Google Play Store.
WhatsApp is rolling out voice calling to its iPhone application beginning today. The feature launched on the Android platform last month. With the feature on board the iOS app, WhatsApp users will be able to chat with and make voice calls to their WhatsApp contacts. WhatsApp calls use your the iPhone data connection rather than voice minutes. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which has already added calling features to Facebook Messenger. WhatsApp voice calling isn't available to the iPad tablet. The update is rolling out over the next few weeks.
BlackBerry today said it has agreed to acquire a company called WatchDox. WatchDox helps companies securely manage file syncing and sharing services across their business. BlackBerry says the acquisition will help it provide best-in-class security, and give its enterprise customers a higher degree of control over their data. BlackBerry also announced BBM Connect Games for the Android platform. With the latest version of BBM installed, Android device owners will be able to play games with their BBM contacts through the messaging service. According to BlackBerry, BBM Connect Games lets users interact, post achievements, and share game currency with others. The company launched three games alongside the updated BBM app to get Android users into the action. The games are free to download and are available in the BBM Shop.
Android users can now tap into push notifications from their favorite web sites. Google updated its Chrome browser this week with support for personalized notifications that come directly from the web. Google says some early adopter web sites (eBay, Pinterest, Vice News, and others) will begin offering the notifications to web surfers in the next few weeks. The notifications will behave just like those in native apps and can offer information such as breaking news or alerts to updated content. Google says web designers should be able to add the notifications to their own sites easily. The new version of Chrome also makes it simpler and faster to drop web sites onto the Android home screen thanks to new prompts that come directly from the web site itself. Google had been testing these features in a beta version of Chrome since last month. This latest release of Chrome is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Twitter today revealed adjustments to the Direct Message function of its service that will expand the ability for people to talk to one another in private. Moving forward, any user will be able to DM their followers. Users can opt to receive private messages from any Twitter user, regardless of who follows who, if they wish. Twitter now has broader support for group messaging, as well. Twitter said forthcoming updates to the Android and iOS apps will enable this feature, as well as make it easier to DM others with a dedicated button in user profiles. Twitter is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively. The changes reflect the competitive and critical nature of mobile messaging.
Google today announced a significant slew of new features will be available to Android Wear devices thanks to a forthcoming update. Most significantly, Android Wear will support always-on apps. This means users can choose to leave any app running on the screen without fear of the screen going dark if they lower their arm. The platform will also add support for WiFi, which will permit smartwatches to be more connected without nearby smartphones. As long as the phone has a data connection wherever it is and the watch is connected to WiFi, users will still be able to receive their notifications and messages. The platform also adds support for gestures. For example, users will be able to flick their wrist to scroll through the content in apps. Android Wear also makes it easier to use apps with a new app launcher that's available from the home screen. Last, users will be able to scribble emoji directly on their watch screen when replying to messages. (The Apple Watch has a similar feature.) Google said the update will reach most Android Wear devices over the next few weeks.
AT&T today announced it will begin selling the LG G Flex 2 on April 24. The handset will be available at a variety of price points. The full retail cost of the phone is $708.99 and the two-year contract price is $299.99. Customers interested in monthly payments can snag the G Flex 2 for $23.64 per month with an AT&T Next 24 plan, $29.55 per month on a Next 18 plan, or $35.45 on a Next 12 plan. The G Flex 2 is a second-generation curved phone. It has a 5.5-inch full HD screen that is semi-flexible. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 810 processor and has a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. It runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. Sprint has been selling the G Flex 2 since March.
OnePlus today made its One smartphone available to anyone who wants it. The company launched the device a year ago, but required hard-to-get invitations. The invitations are no longer needed, and now anyone can purchase the phone. The OnePlus One runs Oxygen OS, a modified version of Android 4.4 KitKat. The device has a 5.5-inch screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 13-megapixel main camera with 4K video capture, 5-megapixel front camera, and 3 GB of RAM. OnePlus sells the phone unlocked for $299 (16 GB model). OnePlus also noted that it plans to reveal the OnePlus 2 during the third quarter of the year. At launch, the 2 will require invites in order to "mitigate risk," said OnePlus. The OnePlus One is available directly from the OnePlus web site.
Sony today announced the Xperia Z4, a modest update to is 2014 flagship, the Z3. The Z4 features a glass and metal design that is water and dust proof. The phone is slimmer than its predecessor and measures 6.9mm thick. The Z4 features a 5.2-inch full HD Triluminos display and runs an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of memory, 32 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128 GB. The main camera uses Sony's 20.7-megapixel Exmor RS sensor, while the front camera is improved to a 5.1-megapixel Exmor sensor with shake correction. The main camera can record video up to 4K, while the front camera can record 1080p HD. The Z4 offers a range of connectivity options, including dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, and support for select LTE 4G networks. The device runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and will feature Sony's apps and user interface overlay. Sony said it will begin to sell the Xperia Z4 in Japan around the middle of the year, but didn't say for how much nor if the phone's availability will be expanded to other markets. Sony's Z3 saw limited release in the U.S. last year, as Sony has struggled to gain any share of the U.S. market.
Amazon recently discontinued the ability test Android applications before purchasing. Launched in March 2011, TestDrive let Android device owners test for-pay apps before actually paying for them. According to Amazon, many apps have since changed to the "free to play" business model, which allows people to download and use most apps for free. Often, these apps only charge for additional features or services. This led to a significant decline in the number of people using TestDrive. Amazon shut down the TestDrive program, effective April 15.
Google recently rolled out updates to its productivity suite of applications. Google Drive for Android now allows users to share files/photos directly from the notification panel once the file is finished uploading. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for Android and iOS were also given new powers, such as the ability to accept, reject, or comment on suggestions in Docs. Docs also makes reviewing and acting on comments/suggestions easier from mobile devices, and includes the ability to track changes across document versions. The Docs app for iOS now allows users to edit tables. The Sheets app lets people move, resize, and delete charts, as well as reorder objects. Last, the Slides app is more compatible with PowerPoint files from Microsoft, and they should load quicker and scroll faster. Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Google said the updates will arrive over the next few days.
Cyanogen today said it has partnered with Microsoft to bring the latter's productivity apps to Cyanogen's operating system. Microsoft will create native integrations on Cyanogen OS. Cyanogen expects to include Microsoft's Bing, Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, and Microsoft Office apps in a future version of the operating system. Cyanogen is looking to separate its version of Android, based on AOSP, away from Google's version of Android. Cyanogen needs a partnership like this one to make sure Cyanogen OS users have a full set of on-board productivity tools. Cyanogen didn't say how soon the integration might be completed. Microsoft has made an aggressive push to get its apps onto as many mobile platforms as possible. It already offers free versions of Office, Outlook, OneDrive, and others to the Android and iOS platforms.
Google recently rolled out a quick new way to locate misplaced Android smartphones. A simple Google search for "Find My Phone" from a PC can find a lost phone, force it to ring at full volume, and even position it on a map. The tool requires device owners to sign in to their Google account in the browser and they must also have the latest version of the Google app installed on their phone. For people with multiple Android devices, a drop-down menu lets you specify which device you'd like to find. Users who want to lock or wipe their phone will need to have Android Device Manager activated on their handset. "Find My Phone" is free to use.
Meerkat is preparing to launch on the Android platform and hopes people will be willing to test a beta version of the app before its general release. The company posted a sign-up web site so those interested can register for the beta. Meerkat didn't say when the beta app will actually become available. Meerkat, which is already available for iOS, allows Twitter users to stream live video to followers. Twitter's own Periscope app, also iOs only, does the same thing.
Google today made available a new keyboard for Android devices that allows people to handwrite text in 82 languages rather than type on the keys. According to Google, the main features allow for printed and script handwriting recognition, voice input, and emoji support. Users can write text with their finger or with a stylus, and the app works on tablets and smartphones alike. Google Handwriting Input is free to download from the Play Store. It supports devices running Ice Cream Sandwich and up.
AT&T today began updating its versions of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy S5 Active to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Both updates are available for over-the-air download and are rolling out over the next few days. Lollipop includes Google's Material Design language, battery-saving features, Smart Lock, and more. The update is free.
Verizon Wireless said its version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will begin to receive Android 5.0 Lollipop today. The over-the-air update will roll out to all users gradually. According to Verizon, seven of its handsets now run Lollipop, including the Motorola Moto X (2nd gen); Galaxy Note 4, S5, and Note 3; LG G2 and G3; and the HTC One M8.
BlackBerry today said its Leap smartphone is now available in the U.K., with other countries to follow shortly. The Leap is similar to the Z10 and has a 5-inch, 720p HD display and an older Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor clocked at 1.5GHz. Other features include LTE 4G, an 8-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front camera, memory card slot, and a 2,800mAh battery. The device runs BlackBerry 10.3.1 and includes the Amazon Appstore for compatible Android apps. According to BlackBerry, the phone will reach Germany, France, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India, and the U.S. within the next few weeks. The U.S. price will be approximately $275.