Phone Scoop

printed July 30, 2016
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Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.

by:  Google


Republic Wireless Improves Android Lineup

Thursday, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless today said it has added nine modern smartphones to its lineup of Android devices. The new phones include the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge ($799), S7 ($699), J3 ($179), and S6 ($549); the Nexus 6P ($499) and 5X ($349); and the Motorola Moto X Pure Edition ($349), G4 ($199), and G4 Plus ($299). Republic customers can pay full price for the handsets, or elect to pay via monthly installments that range broadly from $11 to $48, based on the cost of the phone. Consumers who already own one of these unlocked handsets can pick up a Republic Wireless SIM card starting August 11. Republic's service plans start at $15 per month, which includes unlimited calling, texting, and WiFi data. Plans that include cellular data cost $20 per month for 1 GB, $30 for 2 GB, and $45 for 4 GB.


Google Partners Create Add-Ons for Docs and Sheets

Thursday, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has worked with several partners to develop Android add-ons for its Docs and Sheets productivity apps. The add-ons extend the functionality of Docs and Sheets, allowing people to accomplish more from their mobile phones. For example, an add-on from DocuSign lets people add a signature to a document and save that document to Google Drive. Another add-on from Scanbot makes it possible to scan documents with the camera and, using the add-on's built-in object character recognition, insert the content into Docs as editable text. Google says eight such add-ons are available from various partners in the Google Play Store.


AT&T's Galaxy S7, S7 Edge Gain Security Patch

Thursday, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. In addition to the security update, the phones gain access to AT&T's WiFi Calling service. The update for the S7 and S7 Edge can be downloaded and installed over the air.


Here Maps Rebranded to Here WeGo

Thursday, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Here has renamed and refreshed its core mobile mapping service for Android and iOS devices. Here Maps is now called Here WeGo. The company said it believed the original name was too generic. Along with the name change, the apps gain a significant revision. Here WeGo now prioritizes the search function for finding specific addresses or places. Users will be able to compare multiple different routes more easily, including car, public transit, cycling, and pedestrian options. Here WeGo also now displays options from car-sharing firm Car2Go, as well as regular taxi services with approximate fare rates and wait times. Last, Here WeGo improved bicycle route details with elevation profiles. Here WeGo is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Google Debuts Family Library for Play Store Purchases

Wednesday, 10:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced the Google Play Family Library, which allows a single account holder to share purchases with up to six family members. Google says eligible app, game, movie, TV show, and book purchases from the Play Store can be shared across Android and iOS devices, as well as the web with no additional sign-up fee. Account holders will have control over what content is shared and what is not. Users can make their credit card available to other family members for purchases, too, and control/manage those purchases. The Google Play Family Library is free to use, but does not include access to Google Music. The fee for the Google Music family plan remains $15 per month. Google says the Family Library is going live in the U.S. and a handful of other countries beginning today.


Twitter Adopts Night Mode In Android App

Tuesday, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today announced a new night mode tool for its Android app that should make viewing in the dark less stressful on the eyes. The refreshed app includes a slider tool in the settings menu that when activated changes the background from white to a deep blue. Twitter for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Twitter didn't immediately say if it will make this same feature available to iOS devices.


BlackBerry DTEK50 Is A Secured, Rebadged Alcatel Idol 4

Tuesday, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 10:22 AM

BlackBerry today announced the DTEK50 smartphone, a slab-style handset that runs Android and features BlackBerry's signature communications and security software. BlackBerry says the DTEK50 features FIPS-2 hardware encryption, rapid security patching, secure boot process, and a hardened Android OS core. It includes Android for Work and Google Play for Work, as well as support for BlackBerry's full enterprise mobility management suite. Other features include BBM, BlackBerry Hub, the BlackBerry intelligent keyboard, and a customizable action key. The hardware is a rebadged version of the Alcatel Idol 4, which was announced earlier this year. The DTEK50 has a 5.2-inch full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 617 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel camera main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, NFC, Cat 6 LTE, memory card slot, and Quick Charge 2.0. The phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The DTEK50 is available for preorder in the U.S. and other countries starting today for $299. BlackBerry said it will reveal shipping dates on a regional basis over the coming weeks.


Opera Adds Video Downloader to Mini for Android

Tuesday, 7:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

People who use Opera Mini on Android devices now have the ability to download videos directly from the browser. Opera Software updated Mini with a tool for saving videos to a phone for offline playback. Opera says the downloader works on "some top video and social media web sites ... without their own built-in media players," such as Facebook, Instagram, and IMDb. Some regions and web sites may restrict video downloads. The download option appears once users tap the play button and allows people to choose where the video is stored (internal storage or memory card). The downloader doesn't require a separate app or web link. Opera Mini for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Nexus Phones Earn Spam Blocker from Google

Monday, 4:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is updating the Google Phone app on Nexus and Android One devices with a new spam-blocking tool. With the new app aboard, Nexus devices will warn owners about potential spam callers, as well as give them the ability to block or report suspected spam callers. Google says Nexus and Android One device owners will need to enable Caller ID in order to enjoy the new spam protection. The Google Phone app is free to Nexus and Android One devices and will be updated automatically by Google over the days ahead. Google's new app arrives just days after the FCC asked phone carriers to step up efforts to block robocalls.


Google Cleans Up Maps UI

Jul 25, 2016, 3:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out a fresh version of Maps for Android, iOS, and the web with a cleaner user interface. Google says it eliminated unnecessary UI elements, such a road outlines, while simplifying the typography for street names, points of interest, and more. Google Maps now treats areas of interest differently with orange shading. Users can readily spot and click on areas of interest to see things to do in that area. Last, the refreshed Google Maps relies on a new color scheme that Google says is easier to use to differentiate between man-made and natural map features. The new version of Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Ford to Add Android Auto, CarPlay to All 2017 Models

Jul 25, 2016, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ford today said it will push its Sync 3 connectivity platform, with support for Android Auto and CarPlay, across its entire lineup of 2017 vehicles. Sync 3 relies on new hardware and software that Ford says is faster and better able to connect to smartphones thanks to more conversational voice recognition. Android Auto and CarPlay allow smartphone users to access core functions, such as maps, music, messages, and the phone by using voice commands. Ford says the Escape, Fusion, Mustang and Explorer are already available as 2017 model-year vehicles. Others, including the F-150, Focus, and Edge, will arrive later this year.


Consumer Cellular Adds Alcatel Pop 3 and Others to Lineup

Jul 21, 2016, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumer Cellular recently added four phones to its roster of inexpensive devices, including the Alcatel Pop 3. The Pop 3 (pictured) has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 8 GB of storage, 5-megapixel camera, and FM radio. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and costs $100. Consumer Cellular also added the Samsung Galaxy J3 for $125, the ZTE Avid 828 (Avid Plus) for $70, and the Consumer Cellular 101 flip phone for $30.


Verizon Kicks Off Preorders for Moto Z Droid and Z Force Droid

Jul 21, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 21, 2016, 8:19 AM

Verizon Wireless today began accepting preorders for the Motorola Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid, which will reach stores on July 28. The Moto Z costs $624 ($26 per month) and the Z Force costs $720 ($30 per month). Verizon customers may trade in their current flagship smartphone for up to $300 to put toward either Moto Z handset, or older phones for up to $200. Verizon Wireless also shared pricing details on the Moto Mods modular accessories that attach to the back of the Moto Z and Z Force: the JBL SoundBoost speaker costs $80, the Moto Insta-Share Projector costs $300, the Tumi power pack costs $60, the Kate Spade New York power pack costs $90, and Incipio's rear plates cost $15 each. The Moto Mods attach to the Moto Z and Z Force via magnets and enhance the capabilities of the phone. Verizon said that, for a limited time, customers who purchase one Mod with their Moto Z will receive 20% off any additional Mods they buy. The Moto Z and Z Force are Android smartphones. Each has a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, USB-C with QuickCharge, and fingerprint reader.


Skype to Drop Support for Older Windows Phone Versions

Jul 20, 2016, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 20, 2016, 9:14 AM

Microsoft today said its Skype service will no longer be updated for Windows Phone 7 - 8.1 and older versions of Android and iOS. The company said it wants to "focus on the platforms of the future" which means it "must end support for some devices and operating systems." Skype will continue to support Windows 10 for Mobile, Windows 7, 8, XP, and Vista, Yosemite on Mac, iOS 8, and Android 4.03. Versions of Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android older than those named here will no longer be supported with updates. Skype says its service won't cease immediately on older platforms, but as the company continues to move Skype to the cloud, some features may become broken over time.


Deezer Opens Up Service to Everyone In the US

Jul 19, 2016, 1:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Deezer today made its music-streaming service available to anyone who wants it in the U.S. The service was previously limited to Cricket Wireless customers and those who owned Sonos home stereo equipment. Deezer's offering is similar to Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Music in that it provides access to millions of tracks, radio stations, and podcasts to mobile devices. Songs can be streamed or downloaded for offline playback. Deezer is available to Android, iOS, and Windows devices. The app itself is free to download, but the Premium+ experience requires a $10 monthly fee.


Cricket to Carry Alcatel Idol 4 with Virtual Reality Goggles

Jul 19, 2016, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 19, 2016, 10:10 AM

Cricket Wireless today announced plans to sell the Alcatel Idol 4 beginning next month. The Idol 4 is the smaller brother of the Idol 4S. The Idol 4 has the same basic appearance as the Idol 4S, with a metal frame and glass back, and features such as JBL stereo speakers and a reversible user interface. The Idol 4 has a 5.2-inch full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 617 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel camera main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, NFC, Cat 6 LTE, memory card slot, Android 6.0, and fast charging. Cricket says the Idol 4 will reach its stores on August 4 for $199 when activated on a service plan. The package includes Alcatel's virtual reality goggles. Alcatel is selling the larger Idol 4S directly to consumers through its web site for $349.


AT&T's Galaxy Note 5 Wins A Security Patch

Jul 19, 2016, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variant of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smartphone. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. The security update for the Note 5 can be downloaded and installed over the air.


Groove Music for Android and iOS Snags Update

Jul 19, 2016, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated its Groove Music application for Android and iOS devices for the first time since September 2015. Microsoft says the refreshed application offers a number of performance and feature improvements. For example, playback should be more reliable, albums and songs should download faster, and a wider variety of screen sizes and resolutions are supported. The app gains a tool for exploring new releases and popular songs from top artists, as well as new sorting options for viewing music collections. Last, the sign-in process is quicker when using a Microsoft account. Microsoft warns that app will need to rebuild users' libraries from scratch to improve sync. This may take a few moments when the app is first launched. Groove Music is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.


Hands On with the ZTE Z Max Pro for MetroPCS

Jul 18, 2016, 3:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE showed off the Z Max Pro today, a huge Android handset for MetroPCS. This phablet packs a reasonable set of specs for less than $100, including a 6-inch full HD screen and 13-megapixel camera. Here are our initial impressions of the Z Max Pro from ZTE.

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ZTE Debuts ZMAX Pro for MetroPCS

Jul 18, 2016, 2:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 18, 2016, 2:58 PM

ZTE today unveiled the ZMAX Pro, an inexpensive phablet bound for MetroPCS. The device boasts a 6-inch, full HD display with a Snapdragon 617 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. The phone offers a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera for snapping selfies. The ZMAX Pro packs a 3,400mAh battery with USB-C, Quick Charge, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The phone has a plastic frame, but uses design language similar to that of the Axon 7 flagship to give it a more premium appearance. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The device is available for preorder today. It ships August 1 for $99 (after in-store rebate).


Google Releases Final Developer Preview of Android 7 Nougat

Jul 18, 2016, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the fifth and final preview of Android 7 Nougat available to app developers and beta testers. Google says devices that are enrolled in the beta program should be able to update to the newest preview right away. The Nougat Developer Preview is available to the Nexus 6, 5X, 6P, 9, and Pixel C devices, as well as the Sony Xperia Z3. Google says the preview contains the latest bug fixes and optimizations across the system and in preinstalled apps. In addition to the operating system images for Nexus and other preview devices, the fifth developer preview contains an emulator for final app testing and the final Android 7 APIs. Google says it will release Android N later this summer.


LG's K10 Hits AT&T Stores July 22

Jul 18, 2016, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it plans to launch the low-cost LG K10 on July 22. The K10, announced earlier this year, features rear-mounted volume controls and home screen button. It has a 5.3-inch HD screen with 2.5D arc glass, a 1.27 GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel selfie camera with flash. The K10 has 16 GB of storage and ships with a 2,300mAh battery. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The K10 will cost $6 per month for 30 months on an on AT&T Next plan. The full retail price is $179.99.


Kyocera Hydro Shore Washes Up On GoPhone

Jul 15, 2016, 11:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's prepaid brand, GoPhone, plans to sell the Kyocera Hydro Shore through Walmart stores beginning July 16. The Hydro Shore is water and dust proof, and the 5-inch qHD display supports wet finger tracking. It is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and comes with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The device includes a 2,160mAh battery and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. Walmart has priced the Kyocera Hydro Shore for GoPhone at $80. (AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless is selling the Hydro Shore as the Hydro View for $50, or as low as $30 with a new account.)


Hangouts for Android Adds Video Messages, Improves Invites

Jul 15, 2016, 7:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google updated its Hangouts app for Android devices this week with a handful of new features. First and foremost, the app now allows Android owners to record and share video messages — a feature that's been in the iOS version of Hangouts for two years. Second, the app does away with merged SMS and Hangouts conversations. Moving forward, SMS messages and Hangouts will appear in separate threads even when they come from the same contact. Google says merger convos often led to confusion and thus weren't widely used. Third, Hangouts makes it possible to invite anyone to join a group chat by sharing a unique link. Via the group's options page, select the "enable joining by link" function to make it work. Last, Hangouts are more discoverable via on-device search for the group name or participant name. Google Hangouts for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Verizon's Galaxy S7, S7 Edge Earn July Security Patch

Jul 15, 2016, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge smartphones. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. The patch plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. These security updates can be downloaded and installed over the air. Verizon patched its versions of the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 edge+ earlier this week.


Mastercard Adds Retail Mobile Payments to Bank Apps

Jul 15, 2016, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Android owners will soon be able to use their own mobile banking app — rather than Android Pay or Samsung Pay — to make tap-and-go payments in stores. Mastercard has expanded its Masterpass program to mobile devices so consumers can make contactless payments at various retailers. Mastercard first introduced Masterpass in 2014 to power in-app and online payments. Customer credit card data is stored in the cloud and tokenized for security, allowing people to make purchases with one click. Mastercard is extending Masterpass to its banking customers so those banks can add contactless payment capabilities to their own apps. Some of the first banks to support contactless payments include Bank of America, Capital One, Citi, Fifth Third Bank, KeyBank, People‚Äôs United Bank, and Virginia Credit Union. Mastercard says 17 banks in total plan to add mobile payments to their apps in the near future. (One glaring omission at launch is JPMorgan Chase, which has so far shunned Android Pay. Chase is working on its own mobile payment service that has yet to launch.) Contactless, Masterpass payments will be available at more than 5 million retail locations across 77 countries that accept contactless payments via NFC. In the U.S., BJ's Wholesale Club will be among the first to support the bank-based mobile payment tool, with JetBlue, Saks, Lord and Taylor, Subway, and The Cheesecake Factory to follow shortly. It will be up to the individual supporting banks, such as Citi, to add contactless payments to their mobile apps.


Facebook Adds Instant Articles to Messenger for Android

Jul 14, 2016, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today brought Instant Articles to Messenger for the Android platform. Instant Articles load faster on mobile devices, up to 10x quicker than traditional mobile links. Facebook believes adding Instant Articles to Messenger will boost the number of interactions with web content shared through Messenger. Instant Articles are signified by a lightning bolt in the corner. Facebook expects to bring Instant Articles to Messenger for iOS in a few weeks.


Unicode Accepts Some Google-Designed Women Emoji

Jul 14, 2016, 12:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said the Unicode Technical Committee, the organization that oversees the development of emoji, has agreed to add some of the professional women emoji Google proposed earlier this year. Specifically, Unicode will add 11 (of the 13 suggested) professional female emoji in all skin colors. Google says together these will amount to more then 100 new emoji depicting women in a wider variety of roles at work. Unicode also agreed to add male and female versions to 33 existing emoji. Google says the new emoji will be included in future versions of Android and other platforms, such as iOS. In June, Unicode accepted 72 new emoji in the Unicode 9.0 standard. It's unclear how quickly Unicode will adopt these new emoji from Google.


Google Keyboard for Android Gains One-Handed Typing

Jul 14, 2016, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Google Keyboard application for Android devices to version 5.1. The improved keyboard now allows users to move the cursor by sliding their finger across the space bar. Other new actions include the ability to delete entire words by sliding left from the delete key, and remove learned or dictionary words by long pressing suggestions. New settings options make it possible to add key borders or symbol hints. Phablet owners will be happy to learn the keyboard now has a one-handed mode for typing on large phones. Last, the keyboard adds gesture typing for a number of new languages, including Afrikaans, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Estonian, Galician, Georgian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Macedonian, Malay, Persian, Slovak, Swahili, Tagalog, Ukrainian, Uzbek, and Vietnamese. Google Keyboard 5.1 is free to download from the Google Play Store.


T-Mobile, Verizon Updating Security on Galaxy Note 5, S6 edge+

Jul 14, 2016, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are sending out the July 1 Android security patch to their variants of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ smartphones. Google made the security patch available last week. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. These security updates can be downloaded and installed over the air.


AT&T Pushing Marshmallow to BlackBerry Priv

Jul 14, 2016, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is rolling out the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update to its variant of the BlackBerry Priv smartphone. The update includes core Marshmallow features, such as Doze and Now On Tap, as well as the June security update from Google. BlackBerry made its own security improvements, updated the keyboard and notifications, and refined battery life. The update is free download over the air.


Alcatel Adds Fingerprint Reader to Idol 4S, Selling Bundle for $350

Jul 13, 2016, 4:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced launch details for the Idol 4S phone. The company added a fingerprint sensor to the US variant of the phone, a feature not included when the Idol 4S was first announced in February. Alcatel will begin taking Idol 4S preorders from its own web site on July 15. The package includes the phone, VR goggles, 2.5D tempered screen protector, JBL headphones, and a protective case from Incipio. People who order the Idol 4S between July 15 and August 3 will pay $350 for this bundle. After August 3, the standard sale price of $399 goes into effect. The company is offering financing for those who need it, with payments starting at $37 per month for 12 months. Alcatel is charging significantly more for the Idol 4S than it did for the Idol 3 ($250), but claims the goggles, case, and headphones make up the difference. The phone is sold unlocked and is compatible with most U.S. LTE bands. Of note, the Idol 4S will not support Band 12 at launch, but will shortly thereafter through a software patch from Alcatel. The Alcatel Idol 4S has a glass-and-metal design, 5.5-inch quad HD screen, octa-core Snapdragon 652 processor with 3 GB of RAM, 16-megapixel Sony camera, 3,000mAh battery with Quick Charge, and stereo speakers. The phone runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and Alcatel says the Idol 4S will see Android 7 Nougat in a future update. Alcatel does not have any immediate plans to bring the Idol 4, a smaller version of the 4S, to the U.S. market.


One Year Later, Turing Phone Finally Ships

Jul 13, 2016, 8:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Turing Robotic Industries started taking preorders for its secure Turing Phone back in July 2015 with plans to ship in August. The company later promised to ship by December 2015, but it didn't. In February, Turing made a fundamental change to the device when it swapped the Android-based operating system for Jolla's SailfishOS 2.0. Now, a year after it first took preorders, Turing is shipping the Turing Phone. The phone itself is made of a liquid metal alloy that Turing claims is tougher than titanium and steel. The phone has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon processor with 3 GB of RAM, 13-megapixel camera, and s support for some U.S. LTE bands. The phone comes in five different models, the Turing Cardinal, Pharaoh, Beowulf, Dark Wyvern, and DW Glaedr. More so than the hardware, the Turing Phone is about providing secure communications, including encrypted messaging, email, and calls. Though it runs SailfishOS, the device will have access to the Google Play Store and Google Apps. Pricing starts at $610 for the standard model.


Android Wear 2 Preview Lets Devs Access Gestures

Jul 12, 2016, 12:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Android Wear 2.0 Preview 2 available to developers. This second preview of Google's revamped wearable platform tackles lots of bugs based on developer feedback since the first preview was released in May, but also adds some interesting new functions. Perhaps most importantly, the second preview gives developers access to wrist gestures. Though wrist gestures were first added to Android Wear last year, they have until now been reserved only for core apps and user interface elements run by Google. Moving forward, developers will be able to add wrist gestures to their own apps, which Google says can help improve one-handed use. The second preview also bumps the Android Platform API version number to 24 in order to match Android 7.0 Nougat, and makes enhancements to wearable drawers. For example, users will be able to peek into the contents of drawers as they navigate past. Google warns that Android Wear 2.0 Preview 2 is still a work in progress and is not intended for daily use. Google is expected to make Android Wear 2.0 available to Android smartwatches later this year.


LG's Stylo 2 Plus Hits MetroPCS' Web Site for $149

Jul 11, 2016, 4:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 11, 2016, 4:51 PM

MetroPCS recently added the LG Stylo 2 Plus to its web site with a list price of $149. The Stylus 2 Plus was announced earlier this year, but the U.S. variant, the Stylo 2 Plus, doesn't include quite the same feature set. For example, the Stylo 2 Plus has a fingerprint sensor and NFC, but does not bump the resolution to 1080p, like the international version. The Stylo 2 Plus has a 5.7-inch display and 1.4 GHz Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The rear camera has a 13-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The phone has a 2,900mAh battery and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The Stylo 2 Plus runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It can be purchased directly from MetroPCS' web site.


Boost and Virgin Mobile Selling the Alcatel Dawn for $70

Jul 8, 2016, 1:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile U.S. today announced the immediate availability of the Alcatel Dawn, a low-cost Android handset. The Dawn features a 4.5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution, 1.1 GHz quad-core processor, and 1 GB of RAM. The phone includes a 5-megapixel main camera, VGA front camera, 8 GB of storage, 1,780mAh battery, support for LTE, and a memory card slot for microSD cards up to 32 GB. The Dawn runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and costs $69.99. Service plans from Boost and Virgin start at $35. The Alcatel Dawn can be purchased online.


HTC to Sell Low-Cost Desire 530 In US This Month

Jul 7, 2016, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 7, 2016, 8:36 PM

HTC today said several U.S. carriers will soon offer its Desire 530 smartphone. The stand-out feature of the Desire 530 (announced earlier this year) is the unique "micro splash" effect applied to the polycarbonate rear shell. Essentially, small paint dots appear to be sprinkled on the plastic. HTC says no two Desire 530s will have the same pattern. Beyond the appearance, the Desire 530 includes a 5-inch HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and Android 6.0. The main camera has an 8-megapixel BSI sensor and includes tools such as burst shot and panorama. The 5-megapixel front camera includes Auto Selfie and Voice Selfie modes for easier picture taking. T-Mobile says the phone will go on sale July 13 for $160. Verizon has yet to announce its pricing and availability. HTC plans to sell an unlocked version of the Desire 530 online for $179 beginning later this month.


Walmart Pay Now Available At All 4,600 Stores Nationwide

Jul 6, 2016, 2:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart today said Walmart Pay, its mobile payment service, is now available at all of its stores across the country — more than 4,600 locations. The service, first announced last year, competes with Android Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay. It works with both Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own. The company says customers rate the experience highly and are using it increasingly.


Google Details July Security Patch

Jul 6, 2016, 2:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today provided some information about its July security patch for Android devices. Notably, the patch will be separated into two moving forward. As per normal, the standard patch plugs a number of security holes that threaten all Android devices. Google found 22 vulnerabilities, of which it classified two as critical, or able to remotely execute code. Google is pushing a patch dated July 1 to cover these vulnerabilities. As always, it is pushing the patch directly to Nexus-branded devices and has already provided factory images for download. BlackBerry was among the first OEMs to commit to offering the patch to its own hardware. Google, however, detailed a second set of patches dated July 5 that cover hardware vulnerabilities on Nexus devices. For example, the July 5 patch fixes issues with Qualcomm, MediaTek, Nvidia, and other hardware drivers specific to Nexus phones, seven of which were classified as critical. Google said that, as far as it is aware, none of these holes have been exploited for nefarious purposes. Google has already given the patch to its OEM partners. It will be up to them to offer the patch to their own devices.


Google's Now On Tap Adds QR Scanning to Camera, Instant Translations

Jul 6, 2016, 11:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced an update to its Now On Tap search tool that adds several compelling new functions. First, a long press of the home button will allow people to scan any QR code or barcode when using the camera. Once scanned, Google will return basic information about the product complete with links to more in-depth searches. Now On Tap can now translate languages on nearly any screen. Now On Tap can detect foreign languages in a wide variety of apps. Users can tap the translation card to translate the languages on the screen to the device's native language. At launch, the feature supports translations to English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. Last, Google added a Discover Mode tool that can be used to deliver a stream of visual content related to whatever is on the screen. Google says this is best used for browsing and exploring, rather than finding specific details. The new Now On Tap tools are available in the Google Search app for devices running Android 6 Marshmallow and up.


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