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.
HTC today warned owners of its handsets that it likely won't meet its self-imposed 90-day deadline to deliver Lollipop to existing handsets. Several years ago, HTC promised customers it would update its handsets to the latest version of Android within 90 days of that vesion's general release. According to HTC, however, things aren't going so smoothly with Android 5.0 Lollipop. "We've been working hard in the labs with Google and our carrier partners ever since the code release and are making great progress so far, but if you've been following the progress of this rollout you will know that Google has had to address several issues with this release," said HTC in a blog post. "We've been diligently working to fix some of them on our end and incorporating Google's fixes as quickly as possible, but despite everyone's best efforts some carrier versions of the HTC One (M8) and HTC One (M7) will not meet our 90 day goal, which is February 1st." HTC concluded by saying it would prefer to deliver the update correctly rather than quickly. It said it will continue to provide updates as more information about Lollipop rollouts become available.
Google Now will soon show cards from third-party apps. Google is prepared to update its learning search tool and allow about 30 select apps to deliver information and other results to Android devices. Some of those with early access include Airbnb, eBay, and Lyft, according to the Wall Street Journal. As long as Android device users have signed into Google Now and have the third-party apps installed, they'll be able to surface relevant content in the form of cards within Google Now. Users will have to give the third-party apps permission to access Now in order for them to work. According to Google, more than 40 new Cards will become available within the Google Now application. The updated Google Now service is rolling out to Android users beginning later today. Google didn't say if or when it will open up Now to more third-party apps.
Vine today revealed a new version of its video-sharing service aimed at kids. The app, called Vine Kids, is separate from the main Vine app, but pulls curated, kid-friendly content from the main service. Kids can swipe left or right to see the next Vine video and tap the screen to get sound. The app uses animated characters to help kids use the app. Vine lets people record short videos that are played back in a loop, but Vine Kids only permits playback. Vine Kids is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Vine, which is owned by Twitter, didn't say if or when Vine Kids would be available for Android devices.
Nokia recently updated its Z Launcher for Android devices. The application replaces the home screen on smartphones and adjusts what it displays throughout the day based on the user's behavior. The update adds preliminary support for icon packs, which will allow for more customization. The launcher also gains an easy way to uninstall or hide apps with a long press, and improved handwriting recognition with the scribble tool. Nokia made adjustments to the user interface and the carousel widgets. The update also fixes bugs and resolves other issues. Nokia's Z Launcher for Android is still in beta, but is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Microsoft has agreed to invest an unknown dollar figure in Cyanogen, which offers a version of Android devoid of Google's strictures. Cyanogen recently raised $70 million in funding, of which Microsoft is playing a minority role say sources cited by the Wall Street Journal. Neither Microsoft nor Cyanogen commented on Microsoft's involvement with the Android software maker, but Cyanogen has big goals. Last week, Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster said, "We're going to take Android away from Google." Cyanogen is working with handset makers to have its version of Android preinstalled on devices rather than Google's. It has succeeded with Micromax in India and is working to win over others. Google may offer Android to OEMs for free, but the search giant places strict requirements for handset makers to access the Play Store and other Google services. Cyanogen claims 50 million people have installed its variant of Android on devices, most of whom are enthusiast users who root their device and sideload the operating system.
Facebook today announced a new feature for its iOS application called Places. Using location data, Facebook will begin to post information about nearby places -- restaurants, museums, etc. --- to the top of users' newsfeeds. The tips will appear as cards, which will contain information about the place's location, hours, and web site as well as photos and/or ratings shared by the user's friends. It mimics some of the behaviors of Foursquare. Places relies on cellular, GPS, and WiFi radios to determine location, but Facebook is also testing location placement with Bluetooth-based beacon technology. The feature is optional and users can turn it off any time. Places for Facebook is baked into the iOS application, which is available today. Facebook didn't say when it might add the feature to its Android app.
Microsoft today released an Outlook email application for Android and iOS devices, including smartphones and tablets. The app is based on the code from Acompli, a company Microsoft acquired last year. With Outlook for Android and iOS, users can manage their work and personal email. It supports Office 365, Exchange, Outlook.com, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, and other email services. Users can personalize their experience with customizable swipes and actions. The Outlook email app also offers native calendar integration to make scheduling and managing a calendar easy. Outlook for Android and iOS is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively. The Android version of Outlook is being offered as a preview for the time being. In other Microsoft news, the company stripped the preview tag from its Office for Android suite of apps. Android tablet owners can now download Word, Excel, and PowerPoint from the Play Store and access a basic set of document creation and editing features with their Microsoft account. Advanced features require an Office 365 subscription.
Twitter will update its mobile applications this week with the ability to embed video clips in posts and to send direct messages to several people at once. Users will be able to record videos from within the Twitter app directly and even piece together multiple segments -- similar to how the Twitter-owned Vine application works. Users can also share 30-second videos from their mobile device camera roll (iOS only, for now). The videos won't playback automatically; instead people will need to click on them to watch. Group direct messages will allow groups of up to 20 people to hold private conversations. Users will be able to invite anyone who follows them to the conversation, even if other participants don't follow that person and vice versa. The features are meant to help Twitter compete better against Facebook, which has boosted its use of video, and myriad messaging apps that are popular on smartphones. The new features will hit the iOS Android applications in the days ahead. Twitter is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Chase has removed its mobile banking application from the Windows Phone Store. The company recently notified users that its app would be pulled and eventually shut down. Today the company followed through. Chase customers who've already downloaded the app to their Windows Phone will be able to use Chase Mobile until March 22, after which it will no longer be supported for account access. Chase based its decision on the lack of users. Chase still offers mobile banking apps to the Android and iOS platforms. JPMorgan Chase is the largest bank in the U.S.
Motorola today began pushing Android 5.0 Lollipop to the second-generation Moto G in the U.S. The update is being delivered in phases over the next few weeks. Motorola hasn't indicated if the first-generation Moto G will receive the update, too. Motorola has already delivered Lollipop to the second-generation Moto X.
Twitter has added a feature to its Android and iOS mobile apps, as well as Twitter.com and TweetDeck, that will let users translate foreign-language tweets. Microsoft's Bing Translator is providing the machine-based translations. In order to see translated Tweets, users need to turn the feature on in their online account settings. Once enabled, a globe icon will appear with foreign-language tweets. Users can click the globe and see both the translation and the original text. Twitter said Bing Translator can work with 40 different languages, though it warned the system is not perfect. Tweet Translator is available immediately.
BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen penned a blog post concerning net neutrality. Chen does not think the FCC should reclassify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. He believes the FCC can come up with other ways to ensure an open, competitive market. Perhaps more interesting, however, are Chen's thoughts on "application neutrality." Chen believes application developers and content providers should be required to make their apps and services available to all mobile devices, including BlackBerries. "Not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality," wrote Chen. "Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple's iMessage messaging service. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system." Both the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store are home to more than one million apps each. The number of apps available to BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices is much, much less.
Twitter has packaged a new feature into its iOS application that aims to catch people up on what they might have missed on Twitter while away. Twitter said it will surface some of the best tweets based on engagement and other factors. The recaps will be under a header "While You Were Away" so users will know they're not current tweets. Twitter said people who use Twitter a lot won't see the recaps that often, but occasional users will see it more often. Twitter's updated iOS app is available for download from the iTunes App Store. Twitter said the feature will reach Android devices and Twitter.com soon.
Dropbox has released an app for the Windows Phone platform for the first time. The app gives Windows Phone owners 2GB of free cloud storage for saving documents, files, and photos. Users can easily share their files by sending a link to others. Dropbox competes with Microsoft's own OneDrive. Users can pay to upgrade their storage to higher amounts, but the base app is free. Dropbox is already available to Android, iOS, and desktop platforms.
Twitter today expanded the availability of its Digits sign-in service to the web. Digits, which was made available to Android and iOS apps last fall, lets people use a mobile apps' phone-based login to access the web site associated with the app rather than requiring people to use an email address and password, or social networking credentials. When people log in on the web for the first time, they'll receive a confirmation code via SMS on their phones, which they type into the web window. After that, users won't need to log in again. According to Twitter, developers can add Digits to their web sites (or mobile apps) with just a few lines of code. Digits is not associated with Twitter's main product, but Twitter believes it is a more user-friendly way for smartphone users to sign into apps and now web sites.
Google today pushed out updates to its suite of mobile productivity apps for both the Android and iOS platforms. The Android version of Docs, Sheets, and Slides gains offline printing, easier file creation, and improved context menus for accessibility, in addition to bug fixes. More specifically, Docs gets line spacing controls, Sheets gets scrollbars for easier navigation, and Slides gets shape manipulation. The iOS version of Docs, Sheets, and Slides gains support for Touch ID for protecting documents. More specifically, Docs gains live spellcheck, Sheets lets users hide/show rows and columns, and Slides allows users to group objects together. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
WhatsApp today made it possible for people to send messages from their Chrome browser in addition to their mobile device. The Chrome-based service is compatible with Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone devices, but not iOS due to "platform limitations." In order to launch the web-based functionality, users need to scan a QR code from within the WhatsApp application on their handset. They are then able to unlock the Chrome-based desktop client, where they'll be able to message their WhatsApp contacts.
FreedomPop today announced the launch of a WiFi-only wireless service plan that costs just $5 per month. The plan includes unlimited voice minutes (via VoIP), messaging, and data use across 10 million WiFi hotspots around the country. FreedomPop is an MVNO that resells access to Sprint's network. In order to make this new service work, FreedomPop partnered with an unknown number of WiFi aggregators so its WiFi network will be available in public places such as Burger King, McDonalds, Panera, and Starbucks in addition to shopping centers and other outdoor public spaces that offer WiFi. FreedomPop began selling a WiFi-only phablet last year that is compatible with this WiFi service, but the company hopes consumers will connect old phones or tablets to its $5 WiFi plan, too. The service requires an Android device for now. FreedomPop created an Android app that automatically locates and connects to available WiFi hotspots. The new WiFi-only service is available starting today.
Google today delivered a new version of Chrome to iOS devices. The latest rendition of Google's browser for iPhones and iPads carries over Material Design from the Android version and builds in better support for iOS8 and the larger screen sizes of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Chrome for iOS now also includes support for handoff from Chrome to users' default desktop browser. Chrome is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Facebook plans to add voice-to-text transcription to its Facebook Messenger application, said David Marcus, Facebook's vice president of messaging products. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Marcus said the company is already testing the system using machine-to-machine learning, though he declined to say when the feature might be added to the app. Facebook expects the feature to be popular across Asia and other regions where typing various languages on mobile devices is more of a chore. Apple, Google, and Microsoft already provide their own voice-to-text services, which are built into the iOS, Android, and Windows Phone operating systems, respectively. Marcus didn't say how Facebook's transcription service will differ from what's already available to consumers. Marcus said 500 million people use Messenger monthly and it hopes to grow that number to 1 billion. Marcus indicated Facebook is exploring ways to monetize Messenger, but the company wants to avoid advertising. Facebook also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, which have 700 million and 300 million monthly users, respectively. Facebook said it will monetize Messenger before WhatsApp. Facebook has an "ambitious" roadmap for Messenger, and will add other features over the course of the year.
AT&T today released a minor system update for the HTC One (M8). The software, which can be downloaded and installed over the air, updates the phone to Android 4.4.4 KitKat and makes a handful of improvements. For example, the software enables HD Voice, adds copy-and-paste the camera, and adds AT&T's usage manager application. The update improves security, Bluetooth, and battery performance, and updates the AT&T Ready2Go and Visual Voicemail services. The software update is free. AT&T recommends users download the update via WiFi.
Virgin Mobile today announced the pending availability of the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime smartphone. The device, which was approved by the FCC in late December and is the same as Boost Mobile's Galaxy Prevail 2, features a 4.5-inch screen, Snapdragon 410 processor, 5-megapixel camera, and Android 4.4 KitKat. The Core Prime will go on sale Jan. 17 -- the same day as Virgin's new no-contract shared data plans -- for $129.88.
Google recently updated its Maps application for both the Android and iOS platforms. The new version of Maps allows people to filter search results by cuisine, see current weather information for cities around the world, drop pins within navigation routes, and add transit directions directly to the calendar. Maps also gains some bug fixes. Google Maps is free to download from the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.
Google today announced updates to its Android and iOS Translate apps that make having real-time conversations between two different languages much easier. First, Google Translate now lets users instantly translate text using the camera. When the camera is pointed at signs or text in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish, it will instantly overlay the words in English (and vice versa). Previously, users had to take a picture to get text translation. Now translation occurs in real time. Further, Google has improved the performance of its real-time conversation mode, which allows two people to speak directly to one another using different languages. The app can recognize when two different languages are being spoken and translate them back and forth during a face-to-face conversation. Google said the new versions of Google Translate for Android and iOS should arrive in the next few days. Google pointed out that this is the first time it has offered some of the advanced features -- camera and spoken translation -- to the iOS app. Google Translate is free.
HTC today confirmed it has made Android 5.0 Lollipop available to both the unlocked and developer editions of the One (M8) handset. In addition to all the new features added by Lollipop, the update makes changes to HTC's Sense 6 user interface. For example, the privacy features of the lock screen and notifications have been updated, the recent apps panel now supports multiple pages, and the search tool adds new functions. HTC said the system update should begin to roll out tonight.
AllCast recently brought its media-sharing app to the iTunes App Store. AllCast lets iOS device owners cast content from their camera roll, Google Drive (Google+, Picasa), or DropBox on their iPhone or iPad to an AppleTV, Chromecast, FireTV, Roku, or Xbox. AllCast also supports music casting, though the files must be stored locally on the iPhone or iPad. AllCast duplicates some of the features of Apple's own AirPlay. AllCast is free to download from the iTunes App Store. AllCast is already available to Android devices.
Google is no longer plugging security holes in older versions of Android, according to the Wall Street Journal. Google quietly implemented the policy change in late 2014. When told of a flaw impacting the internet browser on some older phones, Google told a security researcher, "We generally do not develop the patches ourselves but do notify partners of the issue." The policy affects the standard browser in Android 4.3 Jelly Bean (released mid-2013) and earlier. Google is providing security updates to the browsers in Android 4.4 KitKat and Android 5.0 Lollipop. The Journal points out that approximately two-thirds of the billion Android devices still in active use run Android 4.3 or older, so the policy change leaves an enormous number of handsets unprotected as holes are discovered. One way around the issue is to download and use Google's Chrome browser, which Google updates regularly, or use other third-party browsers such as Opera, Firefox, or Dolphin.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy A7, the largest of the three A Series handsets. The A7 features a 5.5 inch HD Super AMOLED screen and a slim, metallic design. The device will be sold in two multi-core processor configurations, including one based on Samsung's own Exynos platform and another based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon line. The A7 includes a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel wide-angle user-facing camera with tools for capturing better self portraits. The phone ships with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and it supports microSD cards up to 64GB. It carries a typical set of radios, including Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and WiFi, and supports LTE Cat 4. It has a 2,600mAh battery and runs Android 4.4 KitKat with a wide selection of Samsung's custom software. The Samsung Galaxy A7 will ship in white, black, and gold. Pricing and availability were not disclosed.
PayPal has made a version of its mobile application available in the BlackBerry World app store for devices running BlackBerry OS 10.x. With this new app, PayPal is available to Android, BlackBerry, Fire OS, iOS, and Windows smartphones. PayPal for BlackBerry allows owners to send/request money, check balances, see activity, redeem offers, and even check-in to pay at select retailers that accept PayPal. The app works with the Z10 and Q10, as well as newer phones including the BlackBerry Passport and Classic. PayPal for BlackBerry is free to download from BlackBerry World.
HTC today announced the addition of live YouTube streaming to its RE camera. The new feature, available through a software update, will permit users to capture live video and broadcast it directly to YouTube. Users can share the live video link with others via SMS so they can watch the feed remotely. HTC envisions this feature being useful for families who want to share specific events with far-flung members. YouTube will automatically save the streamed video online once the live feed is completed. The video is fed from the RE camera to the smartphone via WiFi Direct, and then to YouTube via the smartphone's data connection. HTC said the updated Android RE camera app will go live in the Play Store on Jan. 9, but won't be available to iOS until later in the first quarter.
Panasonic's Lumix phone is just as much camera as phone, much in the same vein as Samsung's Galaxy Camera series. It pairs an Android phone with a 20-megapixel Lumix camera with a massive sensor and extending multi-element lens for the kind of photo quality you don't find in most camera phones. Panasonic is planning to expand global availability, so we checked it out. Read on for our impressions.
BlackBerry today showed off BBM for Android Wear. With BBM on your wrist, Android Wear owners will be able to read incoming BBM messages, review and accept BBM invites, scan through the BBM inbox, and respond with either canned messages or dictated messages via Google Now. BlackBerry said BBM for Android Wear will be available soon -- and that the company has other cross-platform wearable apps in the pipeline.
Microsoft today expanded the availability of its Office productivity to suite to more Android tablets. Microsoft said all ARM-based Android tablets running KitKat or Lollipop with screens between 7.0 and 10.1 inches can run Office. The company made Word, Excel, and PowerPoint available for free in the Play Store. People interested in the apps can download them without joining a waitlist or registering for access. Microsoft warned the apps are in a preview status and users may encounter bugs. Microsoft hopes early adopters will offer constructive feedback to it can improve the apps for all users. Microsoft already offers Office to Android smartphones, as well as the iPhone and iPad.
Under Armour today announced UA Record, a health and fitness app for Android and iOS devices that allows users to monitor and share their fitness data and goals. Smartphone owners can track motion and GPS activity, view analysis from individual workouts (steps, sleep, weight), as well as see a snapshot of overall progress towards specific goals. UA Record lets people invite up to 20 friends to health and fitness challenges, and even allows people to share videos, photos, workout stories, and nutrition guides. As part of the announcement, Under Armour mentioned that third-party hardware makers can support UA Record through the Under Armour Connected Fitness API/SDK platform. HTC is among the first smartphone vendors to voice support for the platform and it said it has a series of UA Record-compatible products in the pipeline, which will debut later this year. Samsung has worked with Under Armour in the past (notably with the Galaxy S5 Sport), but it has yet to say it will adopt UA's Connected Fitness platform. The Android and iOS apps are free to download from the Play Store and App Store, respectively, beginning today.
Boost Mobile today announced that a new version of the Samsung Galaxy Prevail will reach its stores on Jan. 19. The Galaxy Prevail LTE adds LTE 4G connectivity; improves the screen from 4 inches to 4.5 inches; increases the size of the battery from 1750mAh to 2000mAh; and updates the operating system from Android 4.1 to Android 4.4. Other features include a 5-megapixel main camera and 2-megapixel user-facing camera, 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, and support for Sprint's HD Voice service. The Samsung Galaxy Prevail LTE will cost $130. Boost Mobile does not require contracts and service plans start at $35 per month.
Lamborghini has a second-generation Android phone at CES this year. With a price tag of $6,000, it's safe to say it isn't for most people.
Bullitt made an Android smartphone with Kodak's name on it. That's almost all there is to say about this handset, but we'll squeeze out a few more words for you in this hands-on report.
ReSound is a line of proper hearing aids that connect to your iPhone or Android phone for both audio and control. They connect just like a Bluetooth headset, to enable the user to hear calls, music, and video clearly. An app also offers detailed control over the hearing aid functions. The app lets the user choose from and customize various sound profiles, and also includes a "find my hearing aid" feature to help locate a lost hearing aid. ReSound is already available for iPhone; Android support was just announced this week, starting with the Samsung Galaxy S5. Read on for more detail in our quick hands-on report.
ZTE unveiled a new version of its hotspot projector today with several improvements on board. This device can project a 720p HD image or video up to 120 inches large (across the diagonal) onto a wall or screen. At 200 lumens, it's twice as bright as the first-generation device, and it can connect to smartphones, tablets, and laptops via Bluetooth, HDMI, or USB. The device has its own Android operating system with a 5-inch touch screen and a refined user interface that makes it easier to use. ZTE said it can be used to stream just about any content directly from the web, including Google Play Store purchases, such as movies and television shows. The device is powered by a 2.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, has 2GB of ROM, 16GB of internal storage, and supports microSDXC cards up to 2TB. The battery is good for three hours of projection time, or up to 10 hours as a mobile hotspot. ZTE said the device will be sold by the nation's two largest carriers at some point during the second quarter of the year. Pricing wasn't disclosed.
Volkswagen today took the diplomatic route with respect to enabling smartphone connectivity in its cars. Beginning with select models later this year, Volkswagen's second generation modular infotainment platform will support Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay platforms, in addition to the platform-agnostic MirrorLink spec. The company said Android Auto will support devices from the likes of Samsung, HTC, LG, and Sony, while CarPlay will support Apple's iPhone. The services will allow smartphone owners to access their device content, apps, and services through the infotainment console of their Volkswagen. The Volkswagen Golf will be the first model to support these connectivity platforms.