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. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Android Market - run by Google - or, optionally, from other sources.
BlackBerry today announced the availability of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10.2 software. The mobile device management suite for companies adds a handful of new features, including expanded support for Android and iOS devices. Companies that use BES 10.2 will be able to control app and system updates pushed to Android and iOS devices, as well as sandbox and secure work data separately from personnel data on devices owned by employees. BES 10.2 gives end users self-service options in order to help reduce calls to IT, and lets businesses manage more devices (up to 100,000) for less money. BES 10.2 can be downloaded directly from BlackBerry.
Zact Mobile today announced the addition of the ZTE Awe to its roster of smartphones. The Awe, which is also sold by Virgin Mobile USA, is an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean device that features a 4-inch WVGA display, 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. Zact Mobile is selling the phone for $89, and its customizable prepaid service plans start as low as $3.49 per month.
Oppo today announced that it will offer its N1 Android-based smartphone to U.S. consumers beginning December 10. Oppo, which is a Chinese hardware maker, is selling the N1 with a choice of operating systems. Consumers can pick Oppo's ColorOS Android skin, CyanogenMod, or both. The phone will allow users to switch from ColorOS to CyanogenMod if they wish with no hacking required. The other stand-out feature of the N1 is a swiveling 13-megapixel camera that can be aimed either at the user or away from the user. Other features include a 5.9-inch 1080p HD display, a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor with 2GB of RAM, and either 16GB or 32GB of storage. The N1 also includes a touch panel on the back for one-handed use. The phone will cost $599, and will be sold unlocked and without a contract.
Motorola today made the Moto G Android smartphone available for sale through its web site. Consumers can buy the device directly from Motorola. The Moto G costs $179 for the 8GB model and $199 for the 16GB model. The Moto G was announced earlier this month. It has a 4.5-inch 720p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, and 5-megapixel camera. The Moto G ships with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, but it will be updated to Android 4.4 KitKat early next year. Motorola is selling the unlocked GSM model only. Wireless network operators will sell the CDMA variant in January.
Google confirmed that the company is developing a fix for the Nexus 5's camera. "The team is aware of the issues and is working on a software update that will be available shortly," said Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano in a statement provided to CNET. The Nexus 5's camera performance leaves a lot to be desired. In addition to the Nexus 5 camera fix, Scigliano also confirmed that Google is working to add support for RAW imaging to the Android platform. "Android's latest camera HAL (hardware abstraction layer) and framework supports RAW and burst-mode photography. We will expose a developer API in a future release to expose more of the HAL functionality," said Scigliano. Google has laid the groundwork to permit RAW imaging, but has yet to provide developers with the tools they need to access it. Nokia recently added RAW imaging support to the Lumia 1520, and will soon add it to the Lumia 1020. RAW imaging provides photographers with an uncompressed digital negative that gives them more control over the end product.
Samsung recently updated its ChatOn messaging application for Android devices and gave it the ability to send SMS/MMS messages as well as instant messages. ChatOn is a cross-platform messaging app that uses data networks to send messages back and forth rather than SMS. This new feature allows users to set ChatOn as their text/picture messaging inbox. The app combines IM and SMS/MMS threads so all the messages sent and received from a single contact are in the same place. For the moment, this feature is only available in Germany and Brazil. Samsung has not said if it will expand the feature to more regions or more platforms.
Google announced that the Play Edition versions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 should receive the Android 4.4 KitKat system update in the coming days. The Play Edition versions don't have HTC's Sense nor Samsung's TouchWiz user interfaces, respectively. Instead, they run a stock version of Android, like Nexus devices.
Samsung today announced the Grand 2, a large-screened Android smartphone with middle-of-the-market specs. The Grand 2 has a 5.25-inch 720p HD LCD display, a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, and 1.5GB of RAM. Other hardware features include an 8-megapixel camera with flash and a 1.9-megapixel user-facing camera; Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0; a 2,600mAh battery; support for microSD cards up to 64GB; and support for HSPA+ networks. The Grand 2 runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface and apps such as ChatOn, Samsung Hub, S Health, Group Play, S Travel, S Translator, Samsung Link, and Story Album. The Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 will be offered in white, and black, and pink in select markets. Samsung did not announce specific plans to bring the Grand 2 to the U.S.
Motorola recently announced that the Android 4.4 KitKat system update is now being delivered to the AT&T version of the Moto X. KitKat was made available to the Verizon and T-Mobile versions of the Moto X earlier this week.
Delivering on its promise, Google pushed out an update to the iOS version of Google+ that enables full-resolution backups of pictures and videos. The revised app also makes changes to the notification tray and lets users share their location, as well as see the location of their friends on a map. These features hit the Android version of Google+ last month. Google+ for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Verizon Wireless today added both the Galaxy S III Mini and Galaxy S 4 Mini to its Android smartphone lineup. The S III Mini costs $49.99 with a new contract or $10.56 per month with Verizon Edge. The S 4 Mini costs $99.99 with a new contract or $16.81 per month with Verizon Edge. According to Verizon, both phones are compatible with the just-launched Isis mobile payment service.
Sprint recently indicated via its support forums that Samsung Galaxy Note II owners should expect to see their devices updated in the days ahead. The update boosts the system software to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and adds compatibility with the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch. The update also adds Knox compatibility and makes improvements to the Note II's HD Voice performance. The update is being rolled out in stages.
Google recently updated Google Drive for Android devices and added several new features. Chief among the new tools is the ability to find-and-replace text, as well as insert and manage tables. The update also lets users rename files before they are uploaded, view files in two-column layout on tablets, and sort by quota used. Google Drive is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today released a brand new application for Android smartphones and tablets called Google Play Newsstand. The app is meant to replace Google Currents, a social newsreader that Google is retiring. According to Google, Newsstand is what Android device owners will use to consume digital newspapers and magazines, as well as online blogs and news sites. There are more than 1,900 publications available through Newsstand, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Time, Rolling Stone, Wired, Vanity Fair, and others. Google Currents users' content and subscriptions will all transfer over to Newsstand when the app is installed and opened for the first time. Content can be synced for offline reading, and articles will include imagery as well as embedded sound/video. Google Play Newsstand will be available beginning in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Australia this week, with other regions to follow.
HTC recently indicated via its official Twitter account that it plans to update the Verizon version of the One to Android 4.3 by the end of the year and then to Android 4.4 by the end of January. All other versions of the One will receive Android 4.4 by the end of January, too. HTC also indicated that it will update the Droid DNA to Android 4.4 and Sense 5.5 by the end of the first quarter, pending carrier certification.
MediaTek today announced the MT6592, a mobile processor that includes eight cores with each capable of running at speeds up to 2GHz. The MT6592 uses an ARM Cortex A7 engine paired with the ARM Mail GPU. MediaTek says the MT6592 uses heterogenous computing, which allows each core to run at different speeds to balance performance and power consumption. The chip supports Ultra HD video playback, imaging sensors up to 16 megapixels, 1080p HD displays, and other video codecs such as H.265 and VP9. According to MediaTek, the MT6592 is available as a system-on-a-chip with its multi-mode cellular modem, which supports dual-band Wi-Fi, Miracast, Bluetooth, FM tuner, and GPS. MediaTek says MT6592 will appear in devices running Android 4.3 by the end of this year, and devices running Android 4.4 early next year.
Motorola today announced that Verizon Wireless has begun to deliver the Android 4.4 KitKat system update to its variant of the Moto X. KitKat includes a new phone dialer, more gallery options, a broader selection of emoji and changed keyboard behavior, new focus controls for the camera, and a revised launcher, among many other changes. Motorola did not say when other variants of the Moto X would have access to KitKat.
Virgin Mobile today announced the availability of the HTC Desire. The Desire includes features first seen on the HTC One, such as Android 4.2 Jelly Bean with Sense 5.0, BlinkFeed, and HTC Zoes. The Desire has a 4.5-inch qHD display; 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM; 5-megapixel camera with back-side illumination and 1080p HD video capture; dual front speakers with BoomSound; and an embedded 2200mAh battery. It also has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and support for microSD cards up to 64GB. The Desire (known in some markets as the Desire 601) can be purchased today for $279. Virgin Mobile does not require contracts.
Google today made its Play Music application available to iOS devices for the first time. Google had promised to deliver the app back in June, but delayed the release for unknown reasons. The application lets iOS device users access and listen to their Google Play library from their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. iOS device owners who subscribe to Google's All Access service will be able to stream an unlimited number of songs, create custom radio stations from songs/artists, stream radio with no skip limits, get artist recommendations, and listen to curated playlists. Google Play Music's online service lets people upload up to 20,000 songs from their personal collection and then play them back on the web or through Android and now iOS devices. Music can be downloaded locally for offline playback. Google Play Music for iOS does not let iPhone owners purchase individual tracks or albums, though All Access subscribers can add tracks/albums to their online library for playback. Google Play Music can also be used with Google's Chromecast media streaming device for television sets. The app itself is free to download and use. All Access costs $10 per month.
BlackBerry today made available updates to the BlackBerry Messenger application for both the Android and iOS platforms. The Android version of BBM gains support for BBM contact categories, Group List sorting and filtering, more PIN-sharing options, and the ability to search for BBM users through social networks. The iOS version of BBM gains support for iPads and iPods running iOS6/7, improved right-to-left language support, PIN-sharing options, and social network searching. It also resolves a bug that left some users unable to see BBM contact names. BlackBerry Messenger is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
The Federal Communications Commission today made available a smartphone application that is meant to test wireless network speeds. According to the FCC, the app runs periodically in the background when the phone is not in use and tests both cellular and Wi-Fi download speeds, upload speeds, latency, and packet loss. Users can see how their broadband service performs and track it over time. Testing is limited to 100MB per month, and it grabs data such as cell ID, signal strength, and GPS locations. The FCC says testing is entirely anonymous and none of the data generated can be tracked back to individuals. The data is fed back to the FCC so it can aggregate the results and generate a clearer picture of just how well the wireless networks are performing across the country. The application is limited to Android phones for now and is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Isis, the mobile payment venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, launched across the country today. Isis allows smartphone owners to make tap-and-go payments at select retailers thanks to near-field communications (NFC). Isis is first available to modern Android smartphones that have NFC already on board. Isis plans to support the iPhone with an NFC-equipped sleeve that will be available in the coming months. Consumers can make contactless payments at 1.3 million retail locations around the country, including those operated by 24 of the top 100 merchants. Android device owners will need to download the Isis application (specific to their carrier) and bank with either American Express or Chase. The app will also support customer loyalty programs, but only those run by merchants who've joined Isis. The system uses a pin code for payments, and Isis says that customer banking data is safe. The service can be disabled if the device is lost or stolen. Isis also requires a special, secure SIM card that must be purchased from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless. Isis has been in development for years and underwent extensive trials in Austin and Salt Lake City.
Jolla today indicated through one of its Twitter accounts that its first handset running the Sailfish operating system will go on sale November 27. The Jolla smartphone was previewed earlier this year with the promise that it would be available before the end of the year. The Jolla device features a 4.5-inch qHD display with Gorilla Glass; a dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage; support for LTE 4G networks; an 8-megapixel autofocus main camera and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera; and a user-replaceable battery. The Jolla also features exchangeable shells, which allow owners to customize the appearance of their device. Last, the Jolla's Sailfish operating system will be able to run Android applications, and supports Nokia's HERE Maps. Sailfish is based on Nokia's discarded MeeGo platform and offers a modern, touch-based user interface. Jolla hopes that Sailfish can eventually compete with Android, Windows Phone, and iOS. The device will debut in Jolla's native Finland. The company hasn't yet announced plans to sell the device outside of Finland.
Facebook today announced that the new version of Facebook Messenger it released a few weeks ago is now available to most Android devices. Some of the new features in the app include the ability to see who's using the dedicated Messenger app through presence, and delivered/read receipts that are updated immediately. Facebook Messenger can also be used to message contacts who don't use Facebook via standard SMS, provided the user has the phone number. Further, the application has a brand new look and feel that makes it easier to see who's available for chatting, as well as access on-going conversations. In addition to wider availability on Android handsets, Facebook has made this same update available to iOS devices. Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google today provided an update to its Google Search application for Android devices. The update adds a number of new cards to the Google Now tool within Google Search. For example, the Web Site Update card can pull in the most recent posts from the owner's favorite site, and the News card will grab news articles on the user's favorite subject. Another card offers suggestions on what to watch on TV. The update also adds real-time traffic incidents, allows users to set repeat reminders, adds scores for rugby matches, and alerts owners to package delivery details. Google Search is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today made an update available to its Google+ application for Android devices. The update gives Android 4.3 Jelly Bean devices the ability to turn photos and videos into custom movies with the Auto Awesome feature. The app includes strobe effects for photos, and lets users erase moving objects with new Auto Awesome tools. Google also made changes to the design of the notification tray, and added a widget that lets users see their friends' location. Last, Google+ can now translate posts and comments inline. Google+ for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
T-Mobile today said that it will begin selling the Kyocera Hydro XTRM through its business-to-business channel on November 20. The XTRM is a rugged, waterproof Android smartphone. It has a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, Kyocera's Smart Sonic Receiver technology, a 4.0-inch 800 x 480 impact-resistant touchscreen, and a 5.0-megapixel camera with LED flash. According to Kyocera, the Hydro XTRM is the first device it will sell with T-Mobile. Pricing for the phone was not disclosed.
The Tizen Association recently announced that 36 companies have joined the organization in support of the Linux-based operating system. Tizen's main supporters are Samsung and Intel, which have been working together on the platform for several years. It is meant to serve as an alternative to Google's Android platform, and can be used in a wide range of hardware and form factors. Some of the new Tizen Association members are Access, eBay, HERE (Nokia), McAfee, Panasonic, Sharp, The Weather Channel, and Tune-In Radio. Earlier this year, Samsung said the first Tizen devices would launch during the third quarter of the year. To-date, no Tizen-based smartphones or tablets have been made available for sale.
Motorola has expanded the availability of its Moto Maker tool to customers of Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Moto Maker lets people customize a Moto X smartphone online and have it delivered to their house. The Moto X offers a range of different back panels, accents, and screen-customization options. Motorola says there are more than 2,000 unique variations of the Moto X. Orders will be assembled at Motorola's Ft. Worth plant and shipped to most customers in four days. Moto Maker was an exclusive to AT&T customers for several months. Further, the price of the Moto X has dropped from $199 with a contract to $99 with a contract. Last, Motorola confirmed that the Moto X will be updated to Android 4.4 KitKat in the near future.
The Federal Communications Commission is prepared to demonstrate a new smartphone app that will test the speeds of mobile broadband networks around the country. The app, which has been in development for more than a year, is meant to help the FCC gauge just how competitive today's wireless network operators are in delivering mobile broadband to consumers. The app will eventually be available to Android smartphones. There's no word if it will be made available to other platforms. Individuals can download the app, perform speeds tests, and share the data with the FCC. If all the carriers are offering speeds that match their advertisements, then the FCC will likely determine that Americans are getting the service that they pay for. If one or more carriers underperforms compared to the others, however, the FCC may weigh new regulation to even the playing field. The app is to be demonstrated at the FCC's next open meeting, scheduled for Thursday, November 14. The FCC hasn't said when the mobile speed testing app will actually be available.
MetroPCS today announced the immediate availability of the Kyocera Hydro XTRM. The XTRM is a rugged, waterproof Android smartphone. It has a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, Kyocera's Smart Sonic Receiver technology, a 4.0-inch 800 x 480 impact-resistant touchscreen, and a 5.0-megapixel camera with LED flash. The device also supports LTE 4G. MetroPCS is selling the Hydro XTRM for $169. MetroPCS does not require contracts.
Following today's release of the Text-to-Speech Engine in the Play Store, Google made the new Android 4.4 KitKat keyboard and Hangouts with SMS apps available in the Play Store, too. The latest version of the Google keyboard gets rid of the blue Holo trail, simplifies the mini-keyboard, changes emoji insertion points, and adds the ability to drag a finger through the space bar to insert spaces rather than lift the finger from the screen. The keyboard also makes adjustments for different screen sizes. The new version of Hangouts adds the ability to send/receive text messages within the Hangouts app. The Hangouts app now powers IM, SMS, and MMS conversations. It supports animated GIFs, location sharing, and mood status. Both apps are free to download from the Play Store.
Sony today revealed which devices it plans to update to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and Android 4.4 KitKat in the months ahead. Sony said it will begin updating the Xperia Z, ZL, ZR, Tablet Z, Xperia SP, Z Ultra, and Z1 next month. Exact timing will vary by region, carrier, and device. Many of the same devices are on deck to also receive Android 4.4 KitKat down the road. The Xperia Z, ZL, Tablet Z, Z Ultra, and Z1 will all be updated to the latest version of Android, though Sony didn't provide a timeframe for the KitKat update.
AT&T today announced that it has partnered with security app provider Lookout in order to protect AT&T Android devices from app-based threats. Lookout's Mobile Security software is expected to be installed on most AT&T Android phones moving forward, starting with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and will also be offered to older devices via software updates. The application will not need any type of set up, it works automatically in the background whenever the phone is turned on. The software will scan downloaded apps for potential threats. Apps that the Lookout software believes are not secure won't install and the device owner will be notified so appropriate steps can be taken. This software and service is free. Lookout and AT&T are also offering Lookout Premium, which adds the ability to backup photos, as well as remotely lock devices and wipe content, for $2.99 per month. Lookout has similar partnerships with Sprint and T-Mobile.
Google recently made a stand-alone version of its Text-to-Speech Engine available in the Google Play Store for Android devices. The engine is used by several apps, such as Google Play Books, to translate text into spoken words. Before Google made the app available separately, it was part of the Android operating system. Google has been systematically pulling apps out of the Android operating system so that they can be updated separately and not through operating system updates. Text-to-Speech is the latest such app. This new version of the app adds support for the Korean language, and can be turned on/off by users in the settings tools. Text-to-Speech is free to download.
Google is testing a new runtime for the Android operating system that it hopes will eventually replace the Dalvik runtime that currently powers Android. Dalvik is a just-in-time (JIT) compiler that helps applications function on Android hardware. It requires apps to be compiled each time they are run. This process includes a lot of overhead and isn't the most efficient way to run apps. The new environment for apps is called Android Runtime, or ART. It is an ahead-of-time (AOT) compiler that translates apps into machine code when they are first installed. The process should be more efficient and will lead to Android's ability to run actual native applications. ART is available in Android 4.4 KitKat on the Nexus 5. Developers can switch their KitKat device to use ART instead of Dalvik. According to Google, it is offering this early access to ART to get early developer and partner feedback on how well ART works. Google did not say if or when ART will actually replace Dalvik on Android devices.
AT&T today announced the availability of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. The Zoom is a camera-first, smartphone-second device that has a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor and boasts 10x optical zoom, Xenon flash, and optical image stabilization. The Zoom has camera software called the Zoom Ring, which Samsung says can be used to launch certain camera functions such as sharing a picture while on a phone call. Beyond the camera, the Zoom runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and has a 4.3-inch qHD display, dual-core 1.5GHz processor, Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, Bluetooth, and LTE. AT&T is offering the GS4 Zoom for $199.99 with a new two-year contract, or $25 per month with its AT&T Next upgrade plans. It will be available beginning November 8. AT&T is also offering a free Galaxy Tab tablet to GS4 Zoom buyers (separate data plan required) or a $100 promotional gift card to customers who trade in old smartphones.
With the arrival of Android 4.4 KitKat, Google has updated Google Play Services. First, Google says that Play Services 4.0 will not support Android 2.2 Froyo. According to Google, 97% of all Android devices run Android 2.3 Gingerbread and up, and dropping support for Froyo is necessary in order to move Play Services forward. Play Services 4.0 adds a new ad SDK for developers. The Maps and Geofencing APIs have been updated to make them more power efficient and more responsive. Developers now have more control over Maps functions that are added to their own apps, and can improve the performance of their geofencing apps and services. Google Play Services 4.0 streamlines the dialog box in apps that use Google+ Sign-In, and adds more tools to Google Wallet. Last, Google has added new advertising tools that allow users to opt out of advertising, as well as to anonymize their identity as it pertains to advertising services.
Google's Nikhyl Singhal took to Google+ recently to explain some changes headed to Google Voice. First, Google is working to add support for Google Voice phone numbers to its Hangouts application and service. Hangouts for Android devices recently gained the ability to send messages via SMS, but they can only be sent via the owner's actual, carrier-assigned phone number and not their Google Voice number. Google hopes to have this resolved by early 2014. Further, Google is working to add support for picture/video messages to Google Voice, something it is not capable of doing today. The company also hopes to add international numbers to Google Voice. It said that some of these changes take time, as they require Google to work with wireless network operators to make them possible. Last, Google is going to cut support for third-party Google Voice apps. Google says such apps are violating its terms of service and pose a security risk. These apps have until May 15, 2014 to transition away from Google Voice.
Motorola's support site revealed that the handset maker plans to update some of its more recent smartphones to Android 4.4 KitKat. Among those to be updated are all variants of the Moto X, as well as the Droid Mini, Ultra, and Maxx. The latter three are sold by Verizon Wireless. Older phones, such as the Droid Bionic, RAZR Maxx, and Droid 4, will remain on Android 4.1.2. Timing for the update will depend on the carrier and the exact model in question.