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.
Huawei today announced the Mate 8, a flagship phablet that runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The Mate 8 features a 6-inch full HD display and Huawei's new processor, the Kirin 950. The 950 is an octa-core chip with four Cortex ARM A72 cores at 2.3GHz and four A53 cores at 1.8GHz. The Kirin 950 is aided by Huawei's i5 coprocessor for low-power tasks, such as managing always-on sensors. Huawei didn't provide details about the Mate 8's camera, but the phone offers some intelligent tools like voice controls, a firewall, a defragmenter, and mobile payment capabilities. The Mate 8 runs Huawei's EMUI 4.0 skin. Huawei said the phone will be revealed in full at CES in January and made available in China during the first quarter of 2016.
BlackBerry confirmed that Eric Johnson, the executive in charge of sales for business and government customers, has departed the company. BlackBerry's core business is providing device management software to exactly these types of customers. BlackBerry did not elaborate on the terms of Johnson's departure, but he filled a vital role in the company. BlackBerry has spent years attempting to rebuild its business. BlackBerry's handset division may have recently released the Android-based Priv smartphone, but sales of handsets have dwindled to fewer than one million devices per quarter. The bulk of BlackBerry's revenue comes from its BES product suite.
Verizon Wireless today made it possible for subscribers to send one another the gift of data access. Verizon customers can send 1GB of LTE 4G data to family/friends for $10. Gifted data will be billed directly to the sender's account. The data can be purchased through the Verizon Messages app or Verizon's web site. Verizon said an update to the Verizon Messages app for Android, being pushed out today, adds the data-gifting feature.
Google hopes the prospect of charitable giving will spur more people to use Android Pay for purchases during the holiday season. The company today said it will donate $1 for every Android Pay transaction between now and Dec. 31 to special needs education projects. Google is committing to offer up to $1 million, and will donate $2 for every Android Pay transaction made on Black Friday, Nov. 27. Android Pay is available to most NFC-equipped smartphones (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) and is accepted at more than one million retail locations around the country.
Xiaomi today announced the Redmi Note 3, a big-screened smartphone that includes several firsts. The Redmi Note 3 is the first phone from Xiaomi made from metal, and also the first to offer a fingerprint sensor for securing the handset. Xiaomi says the fingerprint sensor can read prints in 0.3 seconds. The Redmi Note 3 has a 5.5-inch full HD screen and is powered by a MediaTek Helio X10 processor. The main camera features a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with dozens of beauty modes for selfies. The Redmi Note 3 packs a 4,000mAh battery, WiFi, Bluetooth, and dual SIM slots. It will be sold in two variants, 2GB RAM with 16GB of storage ($140) and 3GB of RAM with 32GB of storage ($172). The phone runs Xiaomi's MIUI 7 operating system, which is based on Android. Xiaomi did not announce plans to bring the handset to the U.S.
ZTE today said it is making the ZMax 2 smartphone available to consumers unlocked. The phone was originally sold via TracFone earlier this year, but is now online directly from ZTE. The full price of the phone is $179.99, but ZTE is running a limited sale price of $129.99. The ZMax 2 has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen; quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage; 8-megapixel main camera with full HD vide capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi, and LTE radios. The phone packs a 3,000 mAh battery. The ZMax 2 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is compatible with the networks operated by AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid businesses, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS, respectively.
JPMorgan Chase account holders can now use their cards with Samsung Pay. Samsung has added support for Visa-backed Chase credit/debit cards to its mobile payment service. Chase was one of several prominent banks missing from the service at launch. Samsung Pay is more widely available than Apple Pay and Android Pay because it uses both NFC and MST technology to interact with retail payment terminals. NFC is more limited in scale, while MST is practically everywhere. Samsung Pay is available to the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5.
Microsoft has released a new tool aimed at helping people switch from an Android smartphone to a Windows smartphone. AppComparison, an app for Android handsets, scans the device for apps and then finds the corresponding Windows apps. If the app can't find exact matches, it suggests the Windows Phone equivalent. For example, since Google Drive is not available to Windows Phones, the AppComparison tool points people to Microsoft's OneDrive app instead. The idea is to show Android owners which of their favorite apps are available to Windows handsets. The app also shows off some of the most popular Windows Phone apps in the Microsoft Store. Microsoft's AppComparison tool is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Opera Software today released a new version of Opera Max, its data compression tool, making it compatible with music apps. Max is already able to compress video from YouTube and Netflix when streamed over cellular networks, and can now also compress music streamed from YouTube Music, Pandora, Slacker Radio, Gaana, and Saavn. People who download Opera Max will be able to cut down on their data usage up to 50% when streaming music (and other apps) over cellular. Opera said it is using streaming audio optimization technology from Rocket Optimizer, which converts streams into the more efficient AAC+ codec without losing quality. Opera hopes to add more music services over time. Opera Max for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Jolla today said the company is restructuring its finances and laying off the bulk of its employees. Jolla was launched by former Nokia employees and created Sailfish OS and several phones and tablets. The idea was to offer an alternative to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Sailfish was built from Nokia's old Moblin and Maemo Linux platforms. Jolla Chairman and Co-Founder Antti Saarnio says Sailfish OS is commercially mature and ready to be licensed to other hardware makers. Jolla has burned through most of its cash, however, and needs to take time to regroup. The company will let go of the majority of its employees while restructuring its debt, although it insists the layoffs are temporary. "In Finland we have very good laws for corporate restructuring. These enable the continuation of businesses through debt restructuring, which gives a company more time to take care of its financial liabilities," said Saarnio. "I believe that through this program Jolla can turn its business to be profitable in the future. Sailfish OS is a very valuable asset and worth fighting for." Saarnio claims Jolla has several large and small OEMs considering Sailfish OS for their own hardware. He did not suggest how long it might take for Jolla to get its finances back in order, nor when it might re-hire its employees.
The Priv is BlackBerry's new flagship phone, but it's also much more than that. As the company's first phone to use Google's Android instead of a BlackBerry OS, it represents a major new strategic direction. It also comes as the company is considering whether or not to continue making phones at all, so its success is crucial. The Priv has a premium design with a slide-out keyboard, curved-edge screen, and high-end camera. How is it in person? Read on to find out.
AT&T today started issuing refunds to customers that pre-ordered LG's latest smartwatch, the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition. LG later elaborated that it has postponed launch plans for the device indefinitely. The Watch Urbane 2nd Edition was to be the first watch to support the new built-in cellular connectivity features in the newest version of Android Wear. The watch included 4G LTE and was to be available first with AT&T and Verizon, as well as in Korea. A statement from LG reads "the decision was made to cancel the rollout of the Urbane 2nd Edition LTE due to the complicated nature of the issue. Whether the device will be available in the future will be decided at a later time. For now, our top priority is to ensure that only products that meet our very specific quality standards are available for purchase."
Google today announced changes to its Google Fit app that it believes make the service a better health and fitness companion. Google Fit now provides real-time stats for runs, walks, or rides, and can better record speed, pace, route, elevation, and more. Together with an Android smartwatch, Fit can track push-ups, sit-ups, and squats, all of which will be added to the daily activity tracker. Google Fit also gains more health insight thanks to new compatibility with nutrition and sleep apps, such as MyFitnessPal, and hardware such as the Xiaomi Mi Band and the Sony Smartband 2. Google said the new version of Google Fit will is rolling out over the next few days.
Skype has pushed out an update to its Android application with improvements to media and sharing behaviors. Skype now allows people to save videos received in messages to their camera roll. A long press on contacts or conversations in the "recents" tab now activates a toolbar for managing conversations. Search has been improved, as well, making it easier to find conversations or content within conversations. Last, Skype for Android eases the process of sending and/or forwarding photos and Mojis to groups. Skype 6.11 for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
LG has indicated it plans to offer a mobile payment service called LG Pay. The company has signed agreements with the largest credit card issuers in South Korea, Shinhan Card and KB Bookman Card. LG said LG Pay will work with all its phones, but it did not describe what technology it will use to power the system. Apple Pay and Android Pay use NFC, while Samsung Pay relies on NFC and MST for interacting with retail terminals. LG will launch LG Pay in Korea first, but the timeframe is unclear.
Google today released a new version of the Android Wear SDK for developers. The SDK boosts the API level from 22 to level 23, which introduces the new runtime permissions required in Android 6.0 Marshmallow and up. Google revised how Android handles permissions in order to give end users more control over what features apps may access. Google has been aggressively pursuing developers to make sure their apps are compatible with the new permissions model. The SDK adds support for sound to Android Wear apps, which means smartwatches equipped with speakers will be able to offer sound effects. The SDK also includes support for the x86 architecture, which is vital for the Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch, which uses an Intel, rather than ARM, processor. The SDK includes a new emulator for developers, as well. All new watches need to run the most current version of Android Wear (v1.4, based on Marshmallow). Google said it will soon mandate that existing Android Wear watches be updated to comply with API level 23, but it has not yet decided when. The revised Android Wear SDK is free for developers to download.
Motorola today revealed a limited collection of Moto X Pure designs created by Jonathan Adler. Adler made three distinct Moto X handsets that will be available for preorder starting Nov. 24. The Moto X Pure Jonathan Adler edition will go on sale Dec. 3 for $474.99 for the 32GB model. That price is a $25 premium over the standard price via Moto Maker. Motorola didn't say how limited the supply of these unique handsets will be. The Moto X Pure runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and includes a 5.7-inch quad HD screen and 21-megapixel camera.
Oppo today began offering customers an alternative to its ColorOS. The company has created a new operating system based on Android 5.1 Lollipop that it calls Project Spectrum. Project Spectrum offers the advantages of speed and quick system updates from Google, while maintaining some of Oppo's core user interface features, such as screen-off gestures and Oppo's PureImage and MaxxAudio apps. Oppo said owners of the Find 7 and Find 7a handsets can download and install Project Spectrum directly. Further, installing Project Spectrum will not affect users' warranties. Oppo expects to make the alternate OS available to the R5 and R5s soon. Oppo said it believes Project Spectrum will appeal to customers in western markets that favor a more Google-like experience on their handsets. Oppo's ColorOS is an Android fork, which means that it relies on the Android base code, but doesn't include Google services. Oppo will release a version of Project Spectrum based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow early next year.
Google today revised its Google+ social network to focus on the two areas that garner the most interest among users: communities and collections. The changes are reflected across the web, Android, and iOS apps, which have been stripped down to simpler formats that make it easier to discover and participate in shared interests. Google said almost every aspect of Google+ has been re-imagined so it is quicker and more intuitive to use for posting photos, videos, and links, as well as discussing topics. Google says users will need to opt-in to the revised Google+ on the web. The changes will reach the Android and iOS apps in the near future. Google hopes early adopters will share their feedback about the new Google+ so Google may continue to refine it.
Google is rolling out an update to Google Photos for Android today that lets people free up on-device storage by deleting local files. A new option in the settings menu called "Free Up Space" lets users set the app to automatically delete local photos that have been backed up to the cloud. The feature is opt-in, and asks for permission before deleting local photos. The Google Photos app now supports deleting photos from memory cards, as well. Google is rolling out a complimentary change to the web-based version of Google Photos that lets people adjust the quality of stored photos after they've been backed up online. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google offers "unlimited" storage for high-quality photos, or limited storage for full-resolution photos.
Pandora today said it has agreed to purchase "several key assets" from Rdio for $75 million. Both Pandora and Rdio offer online and mobile music services. Pandora will be picking up Rdio's technology, intellectual property, and select members of Rdio's staff. The transaction does not including Rdio's operating business. The deal is contingent on Rdio declaring bankruptcy in California, and for a bankruptcy court there to approve the Pandora-backed transaction. If approved, Rdio will begin to wind down its branded music service in all markets ahead of the acquisition's closing. Pandora said it expects to use Rdio's assets to offer an "expanded service" by late 2016. Pandora and Rdio compete in a busy market led by Spotify, Google, Apple, Amazon, and others. Apple recently expanded its monthly music service to Android devices, while Google recently expanded its music service through a dedicated YouTube app.
Google today said its mobile search app is better able to grasp the meaning of requests thanks to new language-recognition techniques. Google is now breaking down queries into smaller pieces to understand the semantics behind individual phrases so it can assess the intent behind the larger question. Google says breaking down the requests in this way lets it "traverse the Knowledge Graph much more reliably to find the right facts and compose a useful answer." Google says it is able to build on this to answer ever more complex requests. Voice search already understands superlatives (tallest, shortest), but now recognizes how dates play a role in determining answers and how things relate to one another in time. For example, it is able to put these together to answer questions such as "Who was the U.S. President when the Angels won the World Series?" Google said the improved voice search will reach the Android and iOS mobile search apps in updates over the next few days. Google Search is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Microsoft has dialed back efforts to port Android apps to the Windows 10 platform, reports Windows Central. In April, Microsoft announced plans to allow app writers to port iOS, web, Win32, and Android apps to the Windows 10 platform. The Android tool, called Project Astoria, is an emulator and not an actual port. This means Android apps would run in a software container on Windows devices, rather than on the device natively. Windows Central says Project Astoria forums have been silent for several months and Microsoft hasn't responded to Astoria-focused questions for some time, even to those under NDA. Moreover, recent Windows 10 Mobile Technical Previews have stripped out the Android subsystem. When asked for comment, Microsoft said, "We're committed to offering developers many options to bring their apps to the Windows Platform, including bridges available now for web and iOS, and soon Win32. The Astoria bridge is not ready yet, but other tools offer great options for developers." Microsoft didn't expressly say Project Astoria has been cancelled, but the Android port is clearly no longer a priority. The idea behind all these app-porting tools is to get more apps onto Windows-based handsets. One of the major critiques of Windows mobile phones has been the poor app experience when compared to Android and iOS devices.
Motorola's David Schuster today said the 2015 Moto X Pure Edition will receive the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update in the next few weeks. The company is already pushing Marshmallow to the Moto X Style and 2014 Moto X in select markets. Android 6.0 includes Google Now On Tap contextual search; Doze and App Standby for improved battery life; revised volume and Do Not Disturb controls; System UI Tuner and Memory Manager; Expandable Storage, RAM manager, and automatic app backups; as well as improved text selection. Motorola said it will share more information close to the update's release.
Google is prepared to update the Play Books app in order to make it more compatible with comic books. The revised app chiefly makes changes to navigation, including a new landscape layout that scrolls up and down. Google also intends to curate a selection of comic books to make them more accessible in the Play Store. Google will offer comic book recommendations to readers, as well as tools for maintaining a digital collection of comic books in the order they were published. Google says the new Play Books app for Android will appear in the days ahead. Google plans a similar update for its iOS app down the road. Support for comic books will be available to readers in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa.
YouTube's stand-alone music app is now available for download. The app includes a home tab for recommended artists, as well as user-configurable stations based on individual tastes. The search tool provides unlimited access to videos, tracks, artists, and albums, as well as associated remixes, covers, lyric videos, and concert footage. The basic service is free, but Google says YouTube Music is best enjoyed with YouTube Red, its $10-per-month, ad-free offering. YouTube Red gives YouTube Music users access to offline music, as well as the option to watch videos or listen in audio-only mode. Videos can play in the background when using other apps, and even when the screen is off. YouTube Music is available for free from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store starting today. Google is offering the subscription experience to everyone as a 14-day trial.
The Android Wear platform now broadly supports cellular connections for making calls, sending messages, and syncing data, says Google. The LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, which was announced last month, is the first Android Wear device to support cellular networks. LG, Samsung, and others have sold cellular watches in the past, but none ran Android Wear. Google said cellular-equipped Android watches will automatically switch from Bluetooth or WiFi to cellular when needed for connectivity. Google fully expects people will be able to use their Android smartwatches to answer calls, read emails, dictate text messages, and manage their fitness all while on the go. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are offering cellular service to the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE. The watch is available for pre-order starting today.
Yahoo today added messaging to its Android and iOS apps. The instant messaging tool offers threaded conversations, which can be exchanged between users and blogs. The feature is rolling out to users slowly.
Apple today published a beta version of Apple Music in the Google Play Store. The app offers owners of Android handsets Apple's monthly music service. Apple Music includes personalized recommendations, Beats 1 Radio, playlists, and access to iTunes purchases. New customers can trial the service for free for three months, after which it will cost $9.99 for single users or $14.99 for families. Apple says support for music videos is coming soon. The app is the second from Apple for the Android platform, the first being a tool called Switch to iOS to help Android owners move to an iPhone.
Boost Mobile recently added the ZTE Prestige to its roster of inexpensive Android smartphones. The Prestige has a 5-inch display with 854 by 480 resolution, and is powered by a quad-core 1.1 GHz processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The Prestige features a 5-megapixel main camera with 720p HD video capture and 2-megapixel front camera for selfies. The phone has a 2,300mAh battery and supports Boost Mobile's LTE 4G network. The ZTE Prestige runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is available online for $99. Boost Mobile does not require contracts. Service plans start at $35 per month.
Google today said Maps can now be used without an active internet connection. People can download maps for cities, counties, and even entire countries so routing and basic navigation tools will function when there's a poor connection or no connection at all. Offline maps support simple routing between points, but don't support live traffic. Maps will only download regions via WiFi, and will automatically jump to a live version of Maps when it recognizes that there is an internet connection. Google said offline support is rolling out to Android users first, and will eventually be available to iOS users. Google Maps is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Tag Heuer today announced the Connected, a smartwatch based on Google's Android Wear platform. The Connected has a titanium body, 46mm sapphire glass display, and a range of straps available in seven different colors that draw from the design of the Tag Heuer Carrera analog watch. The Connected features a series of digital watch faces that pay homage to Tag's historic designs. Users can choose to display weather, step counts, and calories, as well as see messages and initiate voice commands. Google says the watch is the result of collaboration between a number of companies, including Tag Heuer, Intel, and Google. The Tag Heuer Connected will carry a price tag of $1,500. It is available online and in stores starting today.
Opera today said a total of 14 smartphone makers are now preinstalling its Opera Max data savings software on their devices. Max can reduce data use on Android smartphones by about 50% by compressing images, video, and other data as it transits the network. This includes apps outside of the browser, such as Instagram and YouTube. The list of phone makers putting Opera Max on their phones includes Acer, Cherry Mobile, Evercoss, Fly, Hisense, Mobiistar, Micromax, Oppo, Prestigio, Samsung, Symphony, Tecno, TWZ, and Xiaomi. Opera Max is intended mostly for people using metered data connections. Opera hopes to see Opera Max on 100 million Android phones by 2017.
Verizon Wireless took to its Twitter account to tease the BlackBerry Priv smartphone. "Priv by BlackBerry. The first-ever BlackBerry powered by Android. Coming soon," said the company. A link in the Tweet leads to a landing page on Verizon's web site where people can register for updates concerning the Priv. The Priv went on sale in the U.S. this week. It is a vertical slider with a 5.4-inch screen, physical QWERTY keyboard, and an 18-megapixel camera. It costs $699.
Google today announced the availability of Play Services 8.3, an update to the core APIs that allows developers to do new things with the operating system. Play Services 8.3 updates the Google Sign-In API to provide a more consistent look across Google products. The adjusted SmartLock API makes it possible for users to select from previously-used email addresses on their device when signing into new apps in Marshmallow. Moreover, apps can show a set of sign-in hints thanks to a new dialog box. Another new API improves how apps handle batch location requests and retains data rather than losing it. Play Services 8.3 also reduces the complexity of coding app invites; updates the Player Stats API to left developers know when users are about to churn; and makes syncing with Android Wear devices more power efficient through the use of prioritization. Google Play Services 8.3 is being pushed out to most users and the rollout will be complete soon. Developers can then take advantage of the associated Android SDK to add these new features to their apps and, in turn, Android devices around the world.
YouTube today kicked off widespread support for virtual reality video content in the Android YouTube app. Android handset owners can find VR content in YouTube and watch it through the Google Cardboard viewer. The VR content includes 360-degree videos that allow people to pan in all directions. Further, Google says any video on YouTube can be viewed through Google Cardboard for a virtual movie theater effect. Users need only tap the Google Cardboard icon on individual videos to see the VR content or the movie theater effect. YouTube for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Facebook today announced a change to its iOS app that it hopes will help people discover more music. Facebook users will now be able to share Music Stories, which are 30-second snippets from shared songs or albums. Track samples shared from Apple Music, iTunes, and Spotify are streamed directly within the Facebook app, but users can click through to the respective service to stream the entire song or add it to their own library. Facebook said it hopes to add more music services to its Music Story feature over time. Music Story is available in a new version of Facebook for iOS, rolling out today. Facebook didn't say if it is working on a similar feature for the Android Facebook app.
Verizon Wireless has improved the Verizon Cloud app for Android devices with new features called Smart Albums and Print Shop. Smart Albums can automatically select the best photos and videos to create albums based on events and locations. The albums can then easily be shared across social networks. Further, a collaboration with RealNetworks lets Verizon Cloud app users automatically generate video montages that are set to music, called RealTime Stories. The app allows users to customize the montages with their own video and music selections, as well. The Smart Albums are free to use, but RealTime Stories will cost $1.99 per month after January 2, 2016 (free trial until then). The Print Shop makes it simple for Cloud App users to print photos stored in the cloud, as well as create albums, canvases, and framed prints from Photobucket. The Verizon Cloud app is meant to help customers back up their phone's content (contracts, photos, videos), transfer that data to new devices; share media with others; sync messages back 90 days; and access files across devices. It is free to download from the Google Play Store. The service comes with 5GB of free storage, but Verizon will sell additional storage starting at 25GB for $2.99 per month. The new features make it a more function media management tool.
Huawei today announced the Kirin 950 chipset for phones, which is designed to compete with Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-series chipsets in higher-end phones. Huawei claims that the 950 is 25% faster and 44% more power-efficient than the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm's current flagship chip. The chip is made by TSMC using their cutting-edge 16nm FinFET+ process, a first in a phone SoC. This is superior to the 20nm process used by Qualcomm's 810 - particularly in power efficiency - although the imminent 820 will use a 14nm process. The Kirin 950 has eight cores in a big/little configuration, with four ARM Cortex A72 cores running at 2.3 GHz, and four A53 cores running at 1.8 GHz. The chip is designed specifically to optimize Android performance, and includes much-improved optimizations for camera performance and quality. The Kirin 950 includes an LTE Category 6 modem, support for VoLTE, and Huawei's new, more-efficient i5 dedicated sensor hub processor. Previous Kirin chips have been used in many Huawei phones sold around the world, including the recent P8 and Mate S.
BlackBerry laid out its plans to secure the Priv in a blog post today. The company has devised a three-pronged approach to keeping the Priv secure in the face of outside threats. First, BlackBerry will issue the monthly security patches offered by Google. It will do so directly to handsets as well as through carriers and other reseller partners. Second, BlackBerry will force feed hotfixes directly to devices — circumventing carriers — when critical flaws need immediate resolution. Third, BlackBerry will give IT admins the ability to control which devices receive security updates and when those updates are delivered. Blackberry said it is committed to maintaining the security of its first Android handset, which is available for order online.