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printed July 31, 2014
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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


Verizon Scores the LG G Vista, a Budget Phablet

Today, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today began selling the LG G Vista, an inexpensive Android smartphone that offers a big-screen experience. The G Vista has a 5.7-inch display with qHD (960 x 540) resolution. It is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The design of the phone strongly resembles that of the LG G3. For example, the volume and lock screen buttons are placed on the back of the device. The G Vista is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. It includes an 8-megapixel main camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 1.3-megapixel selfie camera. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, NFC and Isis for mobile payments, and a 3,200mAh battery. The G Vista carries over many of LG's proprietary apps and functions, such as KnockON and KnockCode, QSlide apps, QuickMemo, and Dual Window for multitasking. The LG G Vista runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and costs $100 with a new contract or $20 per month with Verizon Edge. It is available beginning today.


Kyocera Brigadier for Verizon Has Sapphire Screen

Today, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today added the Kyocera Brigadier to its lineup. The Brigadier has the distinction of being one of the first phones to ship in the U.S. with a Sapphire display. Sapphire is more resistant than glass to breakage and scratching. The 4.5-inch HD display works with gloves, and offers wet finger tracking so it can be used when wet. The Brigadier is a rugged smartphone that can survive drops, vibration, and exposure to water and dust. It can sit in up to 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The device is powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The Brigadier features an 8-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.0, dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC and Isis for mobile payments, Qi wireless charging, EcoMode, and a 3,100mAh battery. The Kyocera Brigadier runs Android 4.4 KitKat. It costs $100 with a two-year contract or $20 per month with Verizon Edge. It is available starting today.


Google Makes More Android APIs Available to Developers

Yesterday, 9:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently released a new tool for developers who are writing apps for the Android platform. Google made the Google Play Developer Publishing API available to all developers, which will allow them to upload APKs to beta testing, staged rollouts, and production, as well as add publishing operations to their app processes. According to Google, the API should make it easier for developers to manage their in-app offerings and localize their in-app store's text and graphics. Google believes the API will help free up time developers might otherwise have spent managing their app releases so they can focus on their core mission instead. The Google Play Developer Publishing API is available from Google's developer portal.


T-Mobile Adds Samsung Galaxy Avant to Roster

Yesterday, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced the Samsung Galaxy Avant, which is a low-cost Android smartphone. The device features a 4.5-inch qHD screen, quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 1.5GB of RAM, 5-megapixel camera, and 16GB of storage with support for microSD cards up to 64GB. Other features include an FM radio, S Voice, NFC, Easy Mode, and Wi-Fi calling. The Samsung Galaxy Avant is available starting today for $216 or $0 down followed by 24 payments of $9 each.


Virgin Mobile Debuts Custom Plans

Yesterday, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 8:11 AM

Virgin Mobile USA today announced a new plan that gives customers more flexibility in managing their account. Virgin Mobile Custom is based on the ItsOn platform, which was used by Zact Mobile, a Sprint-based MVNO. ItsOn is what gives customers the power to change the features of their plans any time they want or need to. Virgin Mobile Custom allows families to activate up to five lines on a single account starting at $6.98 per line. The Base plan includes 20 texts and 20 voice minutes per month. Customers can choose to add unlimited texting for $10 or unlimited voice for $18. The Unlimited talk and text plan costs $35 per month. Customers can also choose select add-ons, such as unlimited access to Facebook or music streaming, which can be added on a recurring or non-recurring basis. These plans can be adjusted at any time during the month, even daily, directly from the customer's device. Customers can add or subtract the amount of voice, text or data they use with real-time price adjustments so customers know exactly what they'll be spending. Virgin Mobile Custom will be available on three devices at launch, including the ZTE Emblem, the LG Pulse, and the LG Unify

  • ZTE Emblem: The ZTE Emblem is similar to the Savvy, which is being sold by TracFone. It has a 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz processor, and it runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. It costs $80
  • LG Pulse: The LG Pulse is a U.S. variant of the L70, which was announced earlier this year. It has a 4.5-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz processor, LG's QSlide and QuickMemo apps, and it runs Android 4.4 KitKat. It costs $100.
  • LG Unify: The LG Unify is a variant of the Optimus F3, which is already being sold by Virgin Mobile. It has a 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and LG's VuTalk and Q-Translator apps. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and costs $130.
The account holder can download the free Custom Control App from the Apple App store or Google Play Store to manage the devices and features of their various lines. Virgin Mobile Custom plans will be available beginning September 1.


Google Expands Voice Calling to Hangouts

Jul 25, 2014, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently made it possible to connect Google Voice phone calls through Hangouts on the web. When using Google Voice in a desktop browser, the phone tool now lists Hangouts as an option when making calls. Googler Alex Wiesen explained that it works even if the user isn't using Hangouts in Gmail, and it doesn't require a Google+ account. The change does not apply to either the Android or iOS mobile apps. Google Voice has been neglected of late and its future as a Google service is in question. This recent change marks another transitional step for the service, and expands the functionality of Google Hangouts.


Verizon Testing Unwanted App Removal on LG G3

Jul 25, 2014, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless is trialling a new policy on the LG G3 that allows owners to remove bloatware. Like many smartphones, the G3 ships with preloaded applications selected by Verizon. Device owners have no say in which apps are preloaded and may find them useless or uninteresting. Typically, preloaded apps cannot be removed from smartphones. That changes with the LG G3. According to Verizon, preloaded "applications can be completely and entirely uninstalled by the customer via the standard uninstall process." Customers need to use the built-in Android app manager to delete any unwanted apps. Deleting apps frees phones of clutter and clears valuable storage space. Verizon didn't say if it will expand the trial to other devices.

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Gmail for iOS Adds Drive File Sharing

Jul 24, 2014, 1:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out an update for its Gmail app for iOS devices. The update carries over a feature given to the Android app earlier this month: the ability to share files from Google Drive. iPhone and iPad owners can now insert documents from their Drive account into emails as they compose them on their device. The app makes it easy to save email attachments from Gmail to Drive, too. Gmail for iOS allows users to change their Gmail account picture, and those with multiple Gmail accounts can choose which signed-in accounts they want visible in the app. Gmail is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Chrome Beta for Android Adds Material Design

Jul 24, 2014, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today delivered a new beta version of its Chrome browser to the Android platform. The chief new feature of the updated app is broader support for Google account sign-in. According to Google, users who sign into the Chrome browser on their Android device will automatically be signed into all their other Google services, as well. The sign-in feature supports multiple accounts, and can sync the settings and bookmarks of those accounts, too. Chrome beta for Android also adds in some elements of Material Design, the new design language Google is using to define Android Release L, which is due later this year.


Google Adding Explore Function to Maps App

Jul 24, 2014, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes Android and iOS Maps users will take advantage of a new tool for exploring their surroundings. Google is adding a new button to Maps called Explore, which will tell people what's nearby. According to Google, the tool can be set to show what's as close as a 5-minute walk and what's as far as a 20-minute drive and everything in between. The Explore function doesn't just provide a list of nearby places, it is also contextually aware. For example, it will consider information such as the time of day and the weather so it doesn't send users to shops that are closed or to parks during a thunderstorm. The updated Maps app is being pushed out this week. It is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Skype for Android Makes Finding Friends Easier

Jul 23, 2014, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced version 5.0 for the Android platform and added one big feature: the ability to cross-integrate contacts between Skype and the phone. Skype 5.0 can scan the local phone address book for other registered Skype users and will then automatically add them to the Skype app's people list. Skype will also be able to sync the Skype address book with other Microsoft services to make sure it finds and adds all possible Skype users. Android users will be able to turn this feature off if they wish, or pick and choose which contacts are added to Skype. Users' actual phone number will not be shared as part of their public profile. Skype said similar features will soon appear in its apps for other platforms, such as iOS and Windows Phone.


Skype Says App Headed to Amazon's Fire Phone

Jul 22, 2014, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today said it is preparing a version of its mobile communications application for Amazon's Fire Phone. The Fire Phone runs FireOS, a forked version of Android. The Skype app will launch alongside the phone when it goes on sale. Skype said it designed the app with the Fire Phone's user interface in mind, including a widget for the Fire carousel, and it will offer an experience that feels natural to Fire Phone owners. Skype said its 3D icon and notification badge make use of the Fire Phone's Dynamic Perspective technology, which provides a 3D-like experience through the use of four user-facing cameras. AT&T will begin selling the Fire Phone later this month.


Amazon Makes Mobile Wallet App Available

Jul 22, 2014, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon recently released a mobile wallet application for Android-based smartphones. The app, which Amazon has labeled a beta, lets people store gift cards, loyalty cards, and membership cards, which can be scanned or typed directly into the app. Amazon touts the app as a way to reduce clutter in wallets and purses. The wallet can reveal bar codes for scanning at a number of different merchants to make gift card-based payments. The wallet app does not connect to a bank account or credit card, however, and cannot be used to make tap-and-go payments via NFC. The app is free to download from the Amazon Appstore and the Google Play Store. Amazon did not immediately say if a similar app will be available to its own Fire Phone.


Xiaomi Reveals Mi4 Flagship Smartphone

Jul 22, 2014, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi today announced the Mi4, an Android-powered smartphone that offers high-end specs for a low price point. The Mi4 uses a blend of steel, glass and plastic in its design and has a 5-inch full HD display with narrow bezels. The Mi4 includes a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM, and it comes in 16GB/64GB variants. The main camera captures 13 megapixels with an aperture of f/1.8 and 4K video. The user-facing camera captures 8 megapixels and also has an aperture of f/1.8. The Mi4 includes a 3,080mAh battery and swappable rear covers for personalization. The Mi4 is one of the first Xiaomi phones to support worldwide LTE bands, and it includes an IR blaster for controlling home theater equipment. The Mi4 costs approximately $320 for the 16GB version.


Facebook Rolling Out 'Save' Feature

Jul 21, 2014, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced a new feature that will allow users to save content for later viewing. The tool can be used to earmark links, places, movies, TV, and music. Facebook Save is headed to the web, as well as Android and iOS apps. Users will be able to save content on one platform and view it on another. Saved items will only be visible to the account holder unless they choose to share it with others. Facebook said it will periodically remind users about their saved content if it sits unread. Facebook Save is being rolled out slowly to all users over the next few days.


GoTenna Links Phones When Network Disappears

Jul 18, 2014, 9:40 AM   by Rich Brome

A new phone accessory allows users to create their own long-range wireless network between two or more phones. The goTenna is a six-inch wand that pairs with a phone via Bluetooth LE. goTennas connect to each other at 151-154 MHz, a frequency low enough to reach up to 50 miles with the 2-watt radio in the goTenna (but more typically, 3-10 miles.) Communication is limited to text messaging and location sharing, via the included app, which is available for both iOS and Android. Messages can be sent an individual, a group, or broadcast to all goTenna users in range. All messages are encrypted. The device is intended for people traveling in remote areas where mobile networks may be unavailable, such as hikers or camping families. The device is dust-tight, water-resistant, and has an integrated nylon strap. It is also useful for large events where the mobile network may become overloaded, such as concerts, festivals, and sports matches. The devices will retail for $300/pair in the fall, but can currently be pre-ordered for half-off, or $150/pair.


Microsoft Downsizes, Kills off Nokia X

Jul 17, 2014, 7:49 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced a sweeping company-wide re-organization that includes major changes to the mobile device business acquired from Nokia. Of Microsoft's 18,000 layoffs today, 12,500 are within the former Nokia units. Microsoft will combine the smartphone and feature phone units, with the feature phone operations continuing "for maximum efficiency with a smaller team." Nokia's Android-based Nokia X lineup will be abandoned. Select future models will be reworked to run Windows Phone to address new low price points for Lumia. Existing Nokia X phones will be supported, but the software will not appear in any new phones. The company will focus primarily on Windows-Phone-powered Lumia phones, and tablets. In an open email to employees, Stephen Elop explained that "the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia. Whereas the hardware business of phones within Nokia was an end unto itself, within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy."


HTC Desire 610 Coming to AT&T

Jul 15, 2014, 9:40 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jul 16, 2014, 6:18 PM

AT&T tonight announced that it will offer HTC's Desire 610 on July 25 for $200 without a contract. The 610 is an affordable Android phone with a 4.7-inch display, 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 8-megapixel main camera, front camera, 4G LTE, and a memory card slot. It sports a clean design inspired by the HTC One, but in high-quality plastic. Like the One, it features BoomSound dual front speakers and Zoe video functions. AT&T also offers Next pricing for the Desire 610, which runs as low as $8.34/month. At full price, it's available for both post-paid and GoPhone pre-paid service plans.


Google Maps for iOS Gains Local Guide

Jul 11, 2014, 1:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 11, 2014, 1:39 PM

Google updated Maps for iOS devices today and added a number of new features. To start, search results now appear with descriptions directly on the map, and search results can be easily switched between list and map views. The details of search results are presented on cards similar to those used by Google Now on Android devices. The locations of reservations and appointments culled from Gmail are visible and labeled on maps, and the new explore tool provides users with recommendations based on location and time of day. Google Maps is free to download for the iPhone and iPad.


BBM Arrives as Beta for Windows Phone

Jul 10, 2014, 3:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today followed up on its promise from earlier this year and released a beta version of BlackBerry Messenger for the Windows Phone platform. The app covers the BBM basics, which means it can be used to chat with individuals or groups, as well as share pictures, voice notes, contacts, and location. The app also supports group chats, in which users can discuss shared calendars, files, and photos. BlackBerry said the beta is limited for now ahead of a wider release. The company will work to add features, including stickers, BBM Voice, BBM Channels, and Glympse in future releases. BBM is already available for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry devices.


Google Pushing Play Games 2.0 and Associated Dev Tools

Jul 10, 2014, 1:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Play Games 2.0 available to Android handsets via the Google Play Store. The updated gaming center provides an entirely new profile interface and has otherwise been redesigned. The app offers users far more personalization tools, as well as the ability to interact with gamers using iOS devices. In addition to the Play Games update, Google published a new set of SDKs and APIs for developers so they can take advantage of the changes to Play Games 2.0. Google improved the Google Play Games C++ SDK with more cross-platform support, while the Play Games iOS SDK was updated with support for Quests and Saved Games. Play Games 2.0 will eventually reach most Android devices. Developers can access the new SDKs from the Android developer portal.


Google Camera Adds Android Wear Shutter Button

Jul 10, 2014, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google pushed out a small update to its Android camera application this week that makes it compatible with Android Wear devices. Specifically, owners of the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live will be able to remotely trigger their smartphone's camera from their smartwatch. The functionality includes a countdown timer, but not a viewfinder. Google Camera is free to download from the Play Store.


Silent Circle Debuts Secure Global Calling Plan

Jul 10, 2014, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Silent Circle today announced a new calling plan to accompany the Blackphone, its secure Android-based smartphone, that allows owners to make calls to non-Blackphone users. Silent Circle's "Out-Circle" plans cost $13 per month for 100 minutes, $20 for 250 minutes, $25 for 500 minutes, or $40 for 1,000 minutes. The minutes can be used to make secure calls to mobile devices or landlines in any of 79 different countries with no additional roaming fees. Rather than use standard voice networks for calls, Silent Circle's Out-Circle plan uses a high-quality VoIP service, which allows Silent Circle to encrypt and protect the calls. The calls can be passed over Wi-Fi networks or cellular data networks. The Blackphone, which Silent Circle developed together with Geeksphone, runs a modified version of Android called PrivatOS. It provides secure calling and messaging features. The phone comes with software for secure video calling, anonymous web search, secure file exchange, and secure conference calling. Special software controls the Wi-Fi radio to expose the phone only to trusted networks and devices. The Blackphone is sold fully unlocked and priced at $629.


Gmail for Android Makes Sharing Drive Files a Breeze

Jul 9, 2014, 2:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today revealed a new feature headed to the Gmail app for Android devices. The latest version of Gmail will allow Google Drive users to insert files stored in Drive directly into Gmail messages. The app will prompt users to change their Drive settings when sharing files, and will also offer autocomplete suggestions for contacts when composing messages. Google said the Gmail app will be updated with the new feature over the next few days. Sharing Drive files will work on both Android smartphones and Android tablets.


Google Brings Screen Mirroring to Chromecast

Jul 9, 2014, 11:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Chromecast HDTV plugin device can now mirror the screens of nearby Android smartphones and tablets. With screen mirroring, anything that appears on the phone or tablet's screen will appear on the TV. The feature can be used to share photos or view/interact with apps on the big screen. According to Google, screen mirroring is available as a beta to Nexus devices and select phones from Samsung, HTC, and LG. Mirroring requires the Chromecast app version 1.7, which should reach the Play Store in the coming days. The Chromecast is a HDMI dongle that plugs directly into TV sets. Users can cast content, such as music and movies, from select apps to the Chromecast via Wi-Fi.


Sprint to Sell ZTE's Hotspot Projector

Jul 9, 2014, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 9, 2014, 9:06 AM

Sprint today announced it is bringing ZTE's smart projector to its network as the Sprint LivePro. ZTE announced the LivePro at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, which combines a digital projector and LTE mobile hotspot into one device. The LivePro runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and has its own 4-inch display. It is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM and runs the complete suite of Google services, such as Gmail, Maps, Drive, and YouTube. The projector can access Sprint's 3G/4G networks, including Sprint Spark, and can serve as a Wi-Fi mobile hotspot for up to eight other devices. The projector has USB and HDMI ports, and supports Miracast for mirroring the screens of nearby smartphones or tablets. The LivePro can display content up to 1080p HD at distances between 10 inches and 10 feet, for a maximum screen size of 120 inches. The bulb is rated at 100 lumens and provides 20,000 hours of of life. The LivePro has a 5,000mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices if need be. The Sprint LivePro will be available via most Sprint sales channels beginning July 11 for about $450, or $18.75 per month for 24 months with Sprint Easy Pay. Data plans start at $$35 per month for 3GB of combined 3G/4G data while on the Sprint network.


Sony Now Selling Xperia Z1 Compact in US

Jul 9, 2014, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 9, 2014, 7:31 AM

Sony recently added the Xperia Z1 Compact to its U.S. web store. Sony is selling the phone unlocked for the full retail price of $549. It is compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile's HSPA+/LTE networks. The Z1 Compact, which was introduced in January, has many features found on the Z1S flagship device, including a 20.7-megapixel Exmor camera sensor with G Lens, IP58 rating for protection from water immersion, and Sony applications and services, such as Video and Music Unlimited. The Z1 Compact has a 4.3-inch 720p HD TriLuminos display with Sony's mobile Bravia Engine, and a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM. The Xperia Z1 Compact runs Android 4.4 KitKat.


Isis Mobile Payment Venture to Change Branding

Jul 7, 2014, 2:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 7, 2014, 3:29 PM

Isis, the mobile payment venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, has decided to rebrand its service. Isis is making the change after the rise of ISIS, a militant group based in the Middle East, has gained worldwide notoriety. "However coincidental, we have no interest in sharing a name with a group whose name has become synonymous with violence and our hearts go out to those who are suffering," said Isis. "As a company, we have made the decision to rebrand." Isis said it is still weighing what the new brand name will be. Whatever the name is, the change won't affect the company's product or services. Isis said it will share new details as soon as they are available. Isis launched in November last year. It is available on many Android smartphones and enables tap-and-go mobile payments at select retailers nationwide.


Rok Mobile Launches Today, Requires Invite

Jul 4, 2014, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Rok Mobile officially launched today, allowing select invitees to try its music-focused wireless service. Rok Mobile is an MVNO that resells access to Sprint and T-Mobile's 3G and LTE 4G networks. Rok doesn't just provide wireless service, it also bundles in its own streaming music service. Rok charges $50 per month for unlimited voice, messaging, and data in addition to music streaming, downloading, and caching. Rok offers customers access to 20 million tracks and lets people create their own playlists, as well as automatically generate playlists based on crowd-sourced favorites. Interested customers can bring their own device, or purchase an iPhone or Android smartphone from Rok. Rok offers iOS and Android apps to provide access to its music service. Anyone wishing to trial Rok Mobile can request an invitation from its web site.


Google Says Play Services 5.0 Rollout Complete

Jul 2, 2014, 2:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 2, 2014, 2:45 PM

Google today said the majority of Android smartphones and tablets have been upgraded to Play Services 5.0. The newest version of Play Services, which Google first revealed during its I/O developer event in June, is a major leap forward for developers. Play Services 5.0 supports new SDKs and APIs that will allow developers to be even more creative with their applications. For example, it introduces APIs for Android Wear, Google's wearables platform, as well as an updated Google Drive API, which lets developers bake more features of Google Drive directly into their own apps. Some of the other tools include a dynamic security provider API, which can enable rapid security patches; Quests and Saved Games APIs for Google Play Games, which can be used to save gameplay for later sharing; App Index API for deep linking within applications; Google Cast for improved accessibility services within Chromecast; and updated Google Wallet tools that will make it easier for consumers and developers to make use of loyalty programs, as well as split purchases between the Wallet Balance and an associated credit/debit card. Developers can access these tools via the Android Developer portal. Consumers don't need to do anything to update their device to Play Services 5.0. The update is applied automatically.


Amazon Refuses to Settle with FTC Over In-App Charges

Jul 2, 2014, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has made clear to the Federal Trade Commission that it will not settle with the government over claims it didn't adequately prevent customers from making in-app purchases. Consumers complained that children were able to easily make unwanted in-app purchases from Amazon's Appstore. Amazon has operated its own Appstore for Android and Fire OS apps since 2011. The FTC has threatened Amazon with litigation if it fails to sign a consent decree similar to the one signed by Apple earlier this year. Apple settled with the FTC for $32.5 million in order to avoid any courtroom drama. Amazon believes it responded quickly and adequately to the issue at hand and shouldn't be beholden to government action. The company said in a letter to the FTC that it will defend itself in court. The FTC argues that Amazon needs to require passwords for in-app purchases, make warnings more prominent, and make it easier for customers to receive refunds. Amazon has already provided some refunds. The FTC has yet to file formal charges.


Vine Updated with Loop Counts and New Design

Jul 2, 2014, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine has updated its Android and iOS applications and added several new features to the video-sharing social network. The app now displays loop counts, which show how many times individual Vine videos have been played by others. Vine refreshed the design of the app, cleaning up the look and making videos larger. Last, Vine redesigned the Activity screen, which now provides more info about account milestones and makes other notifications easier to discern. Vine is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Google to Pull Quickoffice from App Stores

Jun 30, 2014, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently said it will yank its Quickoffice app from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store in the coming weeks. Google is making the change because it has published stand-alone Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps for creating and editing documents within its Google Drive service. This change applies to both the Android and iOS versions of Quickoffice. Customers who've already downloaded Quickoffice will continue to be able to use the software, but Google will no longer update the app and new customers will no longer be able to download it.


Blackphone Now Shipping to First Customers

Jun 30, 2014, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Silent Circle and Geeksphone today announced they are shipping the Blackphone to the first wave of people who preordered the device. The Blackphone runs a modified version of Android called PrivatOS, which provides secure calling and messaging features. The phone comes with software for secure video calling, anonymous web search, secure file exchange, and secure conference calling. Special software controls the Wi-Fi radio to expose the phone only to trusted networks and devices. The phone itself includes LTE, a 4.7-inch screen, 16 GB of storage, and 2 GB of RAM. Preorders have been sold out for some time, but Silent Circle and Geeksphone said the Blackphone web store will reopen July 14 to accept new orders. The Blackphone is sold fully unlocked and priced at $629.


Facebook Home Seemingly Abandoned

Jun 27, 2014, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 27, 2014, 2:03 PM

Facebook has disbanded the team that developed Facebook Home, its replacement home screen for Android devices. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the New York Times reports engineers assigned to Facebook Home have been reassigned to other departments within the company. Facebook launched Home in April 2013 along with the HTC First smartphone. Both were considered to be failures within weeks of launch, with poor uptake and negative reviews. Home offered an alternative home screen to Android devices that replaced the user interface with links to status updates, the camera, and other sharing tools. Facebook has not updated Home since January, but the app is still available from the Google Play Store. Earlier this year, Facebook released Paper, an app that repackages the Facebook Newsfeed into a more digestible digital magazine. Facebook did not comment on the Times' story.


Google Makes Android Release L Available to Developers

Jun 26, 2014, 1:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made good on its promise to release a preview of the next-generation Android platform to developers. The L Developer Preview is available for download from Google's developer web site. It is compatible with the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 (2013 Wi-Fi model). The operating system will need to be installed manually. The preview is not meant for general consumers; it is for developers or others with the technical know-how to install the operating system. Google warns that the preview may not be stable, and may not work properly with all third-party applications. Google is expected to make Android Release L available to consumers in the fall. Google is providing developers with an early look at the operating system so they may prepare their applications. Apple does a similar thing with iOS, releasing successive betas between the time the OS is first announced and when it goes live.


GIV Mobile Offering Free Phone to Customers

Jun 26, 2014, 12:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

GIV Mobile today said it is offering potential customers a free Android smartphone when they prepay for two months of service. GIV is an MVNO that operates on T-Mobile's network. Its plans cost $40 and $50, and include unlimited talk and text and up to either 250MB or 2.5GB of 3G/4G data per month, respectively. GIV is giving away the Alcatel OneTouch for free, but also sells older flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the LG G2 at reduced prices. GIV is unique in that it earmarks 8% of customers' bills for donation to various charities. Customers are able to select up to three charities to which their donations can be sent. GIV launched in May 2013.


Google Updates Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides

Jun 25, 2014, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out updates to its core productivity apps associated with Google Drive. The chief new feature is the ability to edit Microsoft Word documents - online or offline - natively with no need for plugins or conversions. Google Docs users will be able to make whatever edits they need to Word documents and send them back as Word files. Google Drive also brings Slides to mobile devices for the first time. Android smartphone and tablet owners can now create, edit, and interact with slide presentations on their mobile devices. Another new feature is called Suggested Edits. Using a new tool called Commenting Access, document owners can give others the ability to add comments or suggestions to documents, but not the power to make actual edits. This leaves the document owner in control. Last, Google has given Drive a performance boost both on mobile devices (Android and iOS) and the web. Google says Drive now takes advantage of background syncing so files load faster, and the cloud-based storage service delivers search results quicker, too. The new versions of Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides will be available in the Play Store and iTunes App Store beginning today.


Google Fit to Combat Apple's HealthKit

Jun 25, 2014, 1:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today showed off Google Fit. Similar to Apple's HealthKit, Google Fit will be a platform through which Android and Google customers can track and manage their healthcare and fitness data across apps. Some of the initial partners supporting Google Fit include Adidas, Basis, Nike, RunKeeper, and Withings. Google will release an SDK in the coming weeks so developers can integrate Google Fit into their Android apps.

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Google Separates Personal and Work Data in Android

Jun 25, 2014, 1:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced Android for Work, a new capability of Android that will allow people to separate their personal and business information and keep them secure. Android for Work is based in part on Samsung's Knox enterprise security platform. It will function without requiring developers to recode their apps. It gives business IT admins the ability to bulk install apps on remote employee devices, as well as manage IT policies and wipe/lock devices as needed. Android for Work is compatible with all versions of Android running Ice Cream Sandwich and up.

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