Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Android Market - run by Google - or, optionally, from other sources.
Google continues to make small improvements to its Chrome browser for the Android platform and today it was updated to version 27. The latest stable release changes the search omnibox to show the search terms rather than the search URL, and makes it easier to jump to other searches in the search history. The app now also allows for full-screen browsing. Last, Google says the browser loads pages 5% faster. Google said that a new version of Chrome will soon be available to Apple's iPhone and iPad, and will bring with it voice search tools built into the browser. Google also updated the Google Play Magazines application and gave it a brand new user interface for the magazine library. Both Chrome and Play Magazines for Android are free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today announced the availability of a new version of its Drive app for Android devices. Google Drive has been updated with a number of user interface tweaks to make it easier and faster to access files and documents. Documents are now laid out in cards that offer large previews of the content within the document. Users can swipe from card to card and document to document, viewing previews as they go. The app now also lets users download and store copies of files to their Android device. Another new feature of Google Drive lets Android device users snap photos of documents, which are then converted into PDFs and automatically uploaded to Drive for safe keeping. Google says that Drive's optical character recognition feature will allow the text of those documents to be searchable. Last, Google Drive for Android updates the editing tools for spreadsheets, making it less cumbersome to make changes from mobile devices. The new version of Google Drive for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Cricket today announced plans to offer two new Samsung Android phones this summer: the Admire 2 and the Galaxy Discover (already offered in a GSM variant by Net10.)
- The Admire 2 is a new, mid-range Android phone with 4G LTE, 4-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and Samsung's TouchWiz interface and camera features on top of Android 4.1. U.S. Cellular carries it as the Axiom.
- The Galaxy Discover is a basic Android phone with a 3.5-inch display, 3-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and stock Android 4.0 interface.
Coolpad today revealed the Quattro II 4G, an Android smartphone slated to land at C Spire Wireless in the next few weeks. It features a 4.5-inch qND display, dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM, and 5-megapixel camera. It will run on LTE 4G and is capable of VoLTE calls. It offers 4GB of storage and included supports microSD cards for expanded storage. It ships with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
CAT today announced the availability of the B15, a rugged Android smartphone. The device, which debuted earlier this year, runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and has a 4-inch WVGA display that works with wet fingers. It also includes a 5-megapixel camera, a MediaTek dual-core 1GHz processor, GPS, Wi-Fi, and support for microSD cards. The device is fully ruggedized and can withstand up to 30 minutes in three feet of water as well as multiple drops to concrete from six feet. CAT says it is "impervious" to dust and dirt. The B15 is being built and distributed for CAT by Bullitt Mobile. It costs $349 and can be used on the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile USA.
Opera today announced that its WebKit-based Android browser has graduated from beta status and is now available to all from the Google Play Store. The browser had been in testing for the last several months so Opera could fine-tune the WebKit rendering engine. Previously, Opera used its own Presto rendering engine. Opera's customizations include a revised Speed Dial screen, simplified tab management, and deep browsing history support. The browser also offers server-side compressions should users wish to conserve mobile data usage. The browser is free to download and runs on devices with Android 2.3 and up.
Boost Mobile today announced a new mobile wallet application for its Android smartphones. Boost Mobile Wallet is a mobile banking service targeted at the underbanked that lets Boost Mobile customers send money to people in 135 countries, pay bills, top-up prepaid wireless accounts, transfer funds between accounts, as well as deposit checks directly from the phone. The app is accompanied by a re-loadable prepaid Visa debit card that can be used for transactions at retailers around the country. The application itself is free to download from the Google Play Store. The wallet app can be used to make payments directly at select retailers in Los Angeles, San Diego, and portions of New Jersey. Boost expects to roll the payment service out nationwide beginning this summer.
Kyocera today announced the Hydro Edge and Hydro XTRM, building on the success of the original Hydro. Like the original, the new models are affordable Android phones that are fully water-proof. The new models are slightly higher-end, however, both sporting a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus processor, 4-inch glass display, 5-megapixel auto-focus camera, and Android 4.1. Both models also feature the unique Smart Sonic Receiver tissue-conduction speaker technology found in the Torque. Both have 1 GB of RAM, 4 GB of built-in storage, and a memory card slot.
- Hydro Edge: Coming to Sprint and Boost this summer, this CDMA model also sports HD Voice and a back-side-illuminated camera sensor. Its processor clocks in at 1 GHz.
- Hydro XTRM: On sale with U.S. Cellular starting today, this model steps up with 4G LTE, a 1.2 Ghz processor, a front camera, shock (drop) resistance to military standards, and a large 2,000 mAh battery.
Yahoo today made available a completely revised version of its Flickr application for Google's Android platform. The new app carries over changes made to the iOS Flickr app late last year. The new user interface provides a better view of photos and the photos are available in higher resolutions. Users can take photos from within the application itself and edit or geotag them. The new Flickr app promotes sharing to other social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and makes it easier to explore photos, including those taken near the user. It also adds full support for Flickr Groups and filters for customizing photos. In addition to the new app, Yahoo announced that all Flickr users now have access to 1 terabyte of online storage for free.
Google today made available a new version of Google+ to devices running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The focus of today's update is to improve the app's photo features. According to Google, the app is now better at automatically uploading photos from Android smartphones to Google+ for safekeeping. Once uploaded, new tools automatically sort the images to "select the top shots" in each series, as well as auto-enhance the photos to make "subtle improvements" to the people and places the user captures. Last, the app adds the ability to create animations and panoramas from the photos in the user's collection. Google+ for Android 4.2 devices is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today sought to provide more information about its new Google Hangouts tool and the evolution of its messaging and voice products. Hangouts was announced last week, and encompasses instant messaging (old Google Talk) and video chats on the web, and Android and iOS devices. According to Google, the current version of Hangouts does not support outbound calls from Gmail (via desktop browsers), but it does support inbound calls to Google Voice numbers. Google Hangouts will soon support inbound and outbound calls via desktop-based Hangouts. Google suggests that people who rely on this Gmail feature continue to use the older Google Talks tool (those who update to the new Hangouts will lose the functionality temporarily). Further, Google said "Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice" and that more seamless integration between Google Voice and Google Hangouts is on the way.
Jolla today announced its first device, a smartphone called the Jolla. Jolla is based in Finland and took over the remnants of Nokia's Meego operating system. It has been working to create a new, gesture-based operating system based on Meego called Sailfish. The smartphone announced today is the fruit of its labors. The Jolla device features a 4.5-inch HD display, a dual-core processor, support for LTE 4G networks, an 8-megapixel autofocus camera, and will include a user-replaceable battery. The Jolla also features exchangeable shells, which allow owners to customize the appearance of their device. Last, the Jolla's Sailfish operating system will be able to run Android applications. Jolla said the device, which costs 399 Euros, will ship by the end of the year.
Yahoo today announced that it has agreed to purchase Tumblr for $1.1 billion in cash. Tumblr is a blogging platform that, by Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer's own admission, "couldn’t be more different" than Yahoo. Despite the differences, Meyer believes the two companies will be complementary to one another in the long run. Yahoo made a distinct promise "not to screw up" Tumblr. It will be operated as a separate company, and its leadership team will remain intact. Tumblr CEO David Karp said, "Our team isn't changing. Our roadmap isn't changing. And our mission – to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve – certainly isn't changing." Tumblr is accessible from the web, and also via dedicated smartphone applications for the Android, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms. The Tumblr apps can be used to view the blog, as well as create posts, upload photos, make comments, and more.
Google employee Dori Storbeck, Community Manager for Hangouts and Chat, confirmed on her Google+ page that the new Google Hangouts application will soon support SMS messages, as well as IM. In addition to text messages, Google Hangouts will also eventually be able to make outbound calls. Storbeck didn't provide a timeframe on when these features might become available, other than to say "soon." Google Hangouts replaces Google Talk for most Android users and can be used for IM, voice, and video chats.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group announced that a future version of Android will support Bluetooth Smart Ready and Bluetooth Smart devices. To-date, Android has not included a built-in Bluetooth stack, which means device makers have been on their own to add Bluetooth. By adding support for Bluetooth Smart Ready (Bluetooth 4.0 on a dual-mode chip) and Bluetooth Smart, Android will be capable of interacting with nearly all Bluetooth devices (keyboards, mice, speakers, etc.). Developers and accessory makers will be able to use the core Android SDK and included APIs to access the Android devices' Bluetooth radio, rather than use multiple APIs and work-arounds as they do today. According to Bluetooth SIG, this new version of Android will arrive in the coming months.
AT&T customers who install the new Google Hangouts application on their Android devices cannot use one of the main features: video chats. When they attempt to start a video chat, a message appears prompting them to connect to a Wi-Fi network; the feature won't work on AT&T's cellular network. When reached for comment, AT&T explained that AT&T customers are free to download any third-party video chat app they wish and they'll work fine. Apps that come preloaded, however, must be enabled by the developer for use over AT&T's cellular network. AT&T did not address Google Hangouts directly, but it implied that 1. Google Hangouts qualifies as a "preloaded" app because it replaces the Google Talk app on Android handsets, and 2. Google did not follow the proper protocols required by AT&T in order for the app to function over its cellular network. Google Hangouts for iOS, which qualifies as a third-party download on the iPhone, functions properly over AT&T's cellular network. Google Hangouts for Android works fine on the cellular networks of other carriers. Google has not yet offered a clarification on the matter.
Google today announced a new version of its Google Maps app for both Android and iOS. The software now dynamically reroutes turn-by-turn driving directions if traffic conditions worsen on the road ahead. The service also shows and lets you see details of alerts for specific traffic-related incidents that might affect a trip. It will be available "this summer".
Google today announced a new version of Google+ Hangouts that pivots the service to compete more directly with Facebook Messenger. The app enables group conversations merging text, photos, emoticons, and video chat. The service includes a dedicated app for both iOS and Android, plus a web version is also available.
Google today announced that it will start directly selling a special version of Samsung's Galaxy S 4 flagship phone that is unlocked and ships with stock Android 4.2, essentially expanding the Nexus family of "pure Google" devices. The device sports LTE compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. It is bootloader-unlocked and will receive Android updates before most other phones, like Nexus devices. It ships June 26th for $649.
Google today launched a new streaming music service with a discovery engine for finding new music, to compete with Rdio and Spotify. Google Play Music All Access lets you start with any song and automatically build a custom streaming radio station of similar songs. Unwanted songs can be dismissed and re-ordered. The service is integrated into Google Play Music as Listen Now. The service works on Android phones and tablets, and the web, and integrates your own music library with the streaming catalog. The service launches today in the U.S. for $9.99/month, with a 30-day free trial. Users who sign up before June 30th can lock in a special $7.99 monthly rate.
Google today announced its gaming service to compete with Apple's Game Center for iOS. The new Google Play Game Services enables games to save game progress to the cloud, and easily enables multi-player gaming. The service also includes achievements and leaderboards both globally and among friends in Google+ Circles. Cloud save, achievements and leaderboards work cross-platform, across Android, iOS, and the web.
Google today announced an update to its Google Cloud Messaging service, the behind-the-scenes system that allows apps to communicate with web services, and for those services to push notifications to Android devices even when the app is not running. The new service syncs notifications across devices, so that when a user dismisses a notification on their Android phone, it's dismissed on their Android tablet as well. The upgraded service is also now two-way, allowing apps to send data "upstream" from the app to a web service. As part of Google Play Services, the new features launch today and do not require a new version of Android.
Google today announced new Google Play Services for location-based services that Android developers can integrate into their apps. A new Geofencing API allows apps to be notified and take action when the user enters or leaves specified areas. An Activity Recognition API automatically recognizes certain activities such as walking, running, and driving, and gives that information to relevant apps. Finally, a new Fused Location API allows apps to determine the phone's geographic location in ways that are faster, more accurate and use much less battery life. As these APIs are Google Play Services, they are updated independently of the Android OS version.
ZTE today announced the Grand X2, an Android smartphone that uses Intel's 2.0GHz Z2580 Atom processor with 1GB of RAM. The Grand X2 features a 4.5-inch 720p HD IPS LCD screen that ZTE says measures 0.7mm thick, helping to keep the profile of the device thin. The Grand X2's camera captures 8-megapixel images and can shoot bursts of up to 24 pictures per second, It also includes a flash and face and scene recognition. The user-facing camera is 1 megapixel. The Grand X2 includes 8GB of on-board storage and supports microSD cards up to 32GB. The battery weighs in at 2,000mAh. The Grand X2 runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and is expected to go on sale in select markets during the third quarter.
BlackBerry today announced that it will make versions of its BlackBerry Messenger application for both the Android and iOS platforms. The application and service will be available to the iPhone and Android devices later this summer. Basic messaging and groups support will arrive first, and other features, including BlackBerry Voice, BlackBerry Video, and screen sharing. Additionally, BlackBerry expects that iOS and Android users will also be able to use the just-announced BBM Channels later this year. BlackBerry Messenger has to-date been a BlackBerry exclusive app and service.
A new service provider called Zact today announced its unique plan offerings. The company offers a large range of sizes for voice, text messaging, and data buckets that can be mixed and matched in any way. Any custom plan can be shared among any number of devices for $5 per device. Plans can be managed and changed at any time via an app on the Android phone. The company uses the Sprint 4G LTE network and offers two phones: the LG Viper for $399 and LG Optimus Elite for $199. A "Never Overpay Guarantee" automatically bills you only for the cheapest plan that fits your usage, even if you picked a more expensive plan for that month. Example rates include $24.22 for 1 GB of data, $64.31 for 3 GB of data, $5.28 for 1,000 text messages, and $9.43 for 500 voice minutes. The company also offers app-specific unlimited data, such as $5/month for Facebook, $1/month for Candy Crush Saga, or $5/month for maps and navigation. The company also offers parental controls that work directly via the Zact app. Parents can set limits and curfews, and even approve contacts. Phones will start shipping in June.
Sony today revealed the Xperia ZR, its latest semi-rugged and waterproof smartphone that's capable of filming HD video in water up to 1.5 meters deep. The ZR features a 13-megapixel camera with Sony's Exmor RS for Mobile chip, which can capture HDR stills and HDR video. The ZR has a 4.6-inch 720p HD display with Sony's Bravia Engine 2. The phone is powered by a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor with 2GB RAM. Other features of the ZR include Sony's Stamina Mode for power management, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, Walkman with 3D Surround Sound, noise suppression, 8 GB of internal storage, support for microSD cards up to 32GB, and support for various HSPA+ and LTE bands. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Sony Xperia ZR will be available in select markets beginning in the third quarter.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal in San Jose ordered Google to disclose to Apple the search terms it is using to discover documents requested as part of Apple's lawsuit against Samsung. Apple had requested the terms earlier this week and Google balked, suggesting that the information could give Apple an advantage in the future. "The court cannot help but note the irony that Google, a pioneer in searching the Internet, is arguing that it would be unduly burdened by producing a list of how it searched its own files," said Judge Grewal. Google has two days to disclose the search terms to Apple. Apple believes that Google's Android operating system provides the "underlying functionality" in a number of Samsung smartphones that Apple alleges are infringing on its patents.
Flipboard today announced a new version of its Android application that carries over some features given to the iOS app earlier this year. Chief among the new features is integration with Etsy, which means when users perform searches, the app will use the results to create a digital magazine on the fly. The new app also lets users collect content that's interesting to them from various sources, such as articles, videos, and photos, and create their own, unique magazine in which to view them. The individually created magazines can then be shared with others. Other features include a new content guide, more interactive commenting, more personalized recommended reading, easier navigation within specific sources, and integration with Facebook Open Graph search. In addition to the new Android app, Flipboard released a web-based editing tool that allows Flipboard users to manage their digital magazines online rather than on their device. Flipboard for Android is a free download from the Google Play Store.
Google today pushed out an update to its Google Translate product for Android devices. The most significant new feature in the app is support for 16 more languages, including Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, and Swedish. Android device owners can use the Google Translate app to take pictures of text in these languages, which are then sent to Google and returned with the appropriate word or phrase. The app also lets users save useful phrases of their own that can be instantly translated into other languages if need be. The phrase book can be synced across Google devices, including desktops and tablets. Google Translate for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today provided an update for the Android version of Google Earth. Google Earth 7.1 adds several new features, chief among them the ability to view locations at ground level through Street View. Other new features include improved search capabilities and directions that let users see 3D views of transit, walking, biking, and driving directions. It also has an improved interface and left-hand panel to make browsing through various layers easier. Google Earth 7.1 for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Samsung today released details about an unannounced Android smartphone for Straight Talk called the Galaxy Centura. The Centura is a bar-style phone that runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and has a 3.5-inch 480 x 320 display. It is powered by an 800MHz processor and includes a 3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, 4GB of internal memory, and support for microSD cards up to 32GB. It is for sale on Straight Talk's web site for $99.
Apple has asked the judge overseeing one of its patent-related lawsuits against Samsung to provide it with access to the Android source code from Google. According to Apple, Android "provides much of the accused functionality" in Samsung's infringing products. Apple believes it should have access to that data in order to separate which company's software provides which functions in Samsung's smartphones. Google says that Apple made a strategic decision to leave Google out of this particular lawsuit. As a third party, Google isn't entitled to the same protections that Samsung is. Google thinks providing this info to Apple would provide for future discovery and other details that it wouldn't normally receive. The judge has yet to make a decision on the matter.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is in the hot seat with investors and took fire at today's meeting from impatient shareholders who are waiting for the company's fortunes to turn around. Elop announced Nokia's plans to abandon Symbian, which he referred to as a burning platform, in February 2011. Elop decided then that Nokia would use Microsoft's Windows Phone platform for its smartphones moving forward. At the time, he predicted that the turn-around would take two years. That time has come and gone, and Nokia's share of the smartphone market is still grim. "You're a nice guy, and the leadership team is doing its best, but clearly, it's not enough," said shareholder Hannu Virtanen to Elop. "Are you aware that results are what matter? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Please switch to another road." Elop defended his decision, citing recent traction with its Lumia Windows phones, but also admitted that there's no Plan B. "We make adjustments as we go," said Elop. "But it's very clear to us that in today's war of ecosystems, we've made a very clear decision to focus on Windows Phone with our Lumia product line. And it is with that that we will compete with competitors like Samsung and Android." Nokia has planned a press conference for May 14, during which it is expected to announce new Lumia smartphones.
Consumer Cellular today announced the addition of two Android smartphones to its roster of devices, the LG 930 and the Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate. The LG 930 (sold by AT&T as the Nitro HD), features a 4.5-inch HD display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 8-megapixel camera with HD video capture, front camera, DLNA wireless media streaming, and a memory card slot. The Galaxy Exhilarate includes a 4-inch screen, dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 5-megapixel camera with HD video capture, front camera, and a memory card slot. The LG 930 is being sold for $300 and the Galaxy Exhilarate is being sold for $150. Both are available, without contracts, from Consumer Cellular's web site beginning today.
T-Mobile today is making a minor system update available to the Samsung Galaxy S 4. The update boosts the device to Android 4.2.2 and makes improvements to the visual voicemail and Isis applications. It can be downloaded over the air or installed via Kies.
AOL today announced that it has struck a partnership with Verizon Wireless to distribute its content on Verizon's smartphones and tablets. The content will show up in the Verizon Wireless Home web portal and will be bookmarked within the browser on Verizon devices. The AOL portal will feature up-the-minute news headlines, weather, and maps, as well as provide access to video content. The portal will appear on smartphones and tablets running Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone, but not iOS. Customers will be able to customize the type of content that reaches their devices. The AOL content is expected to become available later this summer.
Sprint today announced that it has struck a large content distribution deal with Time Inc. Sprint will offer content from Time's brands through an application soon to be available for Android smartphones via the SprintZone storefront. The app will sync stories, photos, and videos automatically from Time properties, covering topics such as sports, lifestyle, entertainment, and business news. The application will be available to select Sprint smartphones, but Sprint didn't yet specify which ones. The deal also includes an advertising piece that will see Sprint and Time share ad campaigns across both companies' customer bases. Last, Sprint will be able to use Time's brands within its retail stores to showcase the capabilities of the smartphones it sells.
AT&T today announced that it is offering Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean to the original Galaxy Note. Jelly Bean introduces Google Now, actionable notifications, and many under-the-hood improvements to the code. In addition to the standard Jelly Bean features, this update also makes tweaks to the Popup Note and Popup Video tools that are part of Samsung's Touchwiz software. Android 4.1.2 for the Samsung Galaxy Note must be downloaded and installed via Samsung's Kies desktop software.
Verizon Wireless has prepared an operating system upgrade for the Samsung Galaxy Note II. The upgrade boosts the OS to Android 4.1.2 and makes a number of improvements to the device's performance. It adds IPV6 to the mobile hotspot feature, improves Exchange-based email syncing, adds airplane mode notifications, fixes text behavior when in landscape mode, and makes some fixes to the calendar and back-up assistant. The update also removes the Zappos application, which was preloaded on the device. The system update can be downloaded and installed over the air, though Verizon suggests that Note II owners use Wi-Fi. It is being distributed in waves and users will be notified when their device is ready.