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printed August 29, 2015
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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


BlackBerry CEO Says Smartphone Biz Is On a Timer

Yesterday, 12:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

John S. Chen, CEO of BlackBerry, admitted that its recent handsets have not sold as well as he hoped. "By any definition it is not a runaway success," said Chen to Re/Code of BlackBerry's smartphone business. Chen put some of the blame on the lack of apps. The Blackberry World app store "[is] not competitive to Google Play or the iTunes store," said Chen. "We're working hard at that." BlackBerry handsets are able to run Android apps, but even that doesn't help. Recent reports have suggested the company is preparing a BlackBerry handset with Android on board, but Chen said, "It is a little more complex [than that], which is why it is not done." BlackBerry has already made significant cuts to its hardware business this year and plans to release just one or two handsets per year. Even so, the company may consider exiting smartphones altogether. "If I can't make money on the phone, I will be out of that telephone handset business. There is a timeline; I won't tell you when."


Vine Adds Music to Video Loops

Yesterday, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine has updated its Android and iOS apps with a new feature allowing users to easily attach music to their videos. A function called Snap to Beat makes it easy to create what Vine refers to as perfect loops, or soundtracks that loop seamlessly with no breaks. Vine offers a selection of songs that can be attached to videos and it will then automatically trim it to the perfect length for each individual video. The soundtrack function also lets people edit music loops on their own for added control, as well as a handful of sound effects for dramatic impact. The music feature isn't just for adorning videos with songs. Users can discover music through a "featured tracks" tool, as well as easily find out the names of songs playing in other peoples' vine videos. Vine is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Turing Phone to Ship December 18

Thursday, 4:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Turing Robotic Industries today said its Turing Phone will ship to customers starting Dec. 18, more than four months later than the original Aug. 10 ship date. The company began accepting preorders on July 31 and expects people to pay for the phone in full Sept. 24, long before it ships. Turing named Foxconn as its official manufacturer. Turing also announced two special editions of the handset, called the Dark Wyvern and Dark Wyvern Glaedr, which will be available as upgrades. The standard Turing Phone costs $610 for 16 GB, $740 for 64 GB, and $870 for 128 GB. The special editions cost $999 and $1,299, respectively. The Turing phone is molded from Liquidmorphium that the company claims provides greater tensile strength than either titanium or steel. The handset has a fingerprint sensor built into the side edge for security and uses a magnetic charger to negate the need for ports. Turing says the Android-based handset offers completely secure phone calls and messaging. The device features a 5.5-inch full HD display and it is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The device has a 3,000mAh battery and supports a range of LTE networks around the world.


Apple Strikes Deal with PayAnywhere to Expand Apple Pay

Thursday, 12:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced that Apple Pay is now compatible with PayAnywhere, a type of credit card reader that's in use at about 300,000 locations around the U.S. Apple will sell the newest version of the PayAnywhere terminal to merchants through its own stores. The deal expands the availability of Apple Pay significantly. Apple said it hopes to see Apple Pay accepted at more than 1.5 million locations before year's end. In order to boost interest in the terminal, PayAnywhere is offering new customers $5,000 in free Apple Pay transactions. Apple Pay makes use of NFC to power tap-and-go payments at supporting terminals. Google and Samsung are on the cusp of releasing Android Pay and Samsung Pay, respectively, which will offer similar capabilities to Android handsets.


Instagram Permitting Landscape and Portrait Photos

Thursday, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram marked a major change today by adding support for portrait and landscape photos to its Android and iOS apps. Since its launch, Instagram has required all photos to be square. Some users circumvented the requirement by using third-party apps to make their landscape and portrait images comply with the square shape. Moving forward, photos pulled from the camera roll can be posted in their full size and aspect ratio or zoomed/cropped into a square. The default shape for capturing images within Instagram will still be square. The app, owned by Facebook, is free to download from the Google Play Store and Android App Store.


Samsung Kicks Off Beta Testing for Samsung Pay

Thursday, 10:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung is inviting a select number of people to beta test Samsung Pay in the U.S. In order to trial the mobile payment platform, consumers need to have a Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note 5 smartphone. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular are supporting Samsung Pay at launch, Verizon Wireless is not. The beta requires users to have an active Samsung account and a MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust, or U.S. Bank. Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST for tap-and-go transactions. Apple Pay and Android Pay, in comparison, use only NFC. Consumers can request an invite to test Samsung Pay from Samsung.com.


Amazon Scales Back Fire Phone Hardware Team

Thursday, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has reduced the headcount at its Labs126 hardware division, according to the Wall Street Journal. The hardware division is responsible for products such as the Fire Phone and Kindle line of tablets. The unit employs about 3,000 people and the number of staff reductions isn't clear, though the Journal's sources suggest dozens have been let go. The Fire Phone, released last year, was Amazon's first smartphone. It ran a forked version of Android called FireOS and provided direct access to Amazon's book, music, and video content. Based on the job cuts, it does not appear as though there will be a follow up to the smartphone. Amazon did not comment on the Journal's story.


Amazon Underground Heralds 'Actually Free Apps'

Wednesday, 1:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today made available a new app that gives Android device owners access to totally free apps worth tens of thousands of dollars. Amazon Underground, which must be side-loaded directly from Amazon's web site, provides users with free versions of games and other apps that typically include fees of some sort. According to Amazon, it has cut a deal with the app developers wherein it pays them directly on a per-minute-of-use basis. This means users won't be hit up for in-app purchases or other hidden costs. Some of the free titles include OfficeSuite Professional 8, Goat Simulator, Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions, and Angry Birds Slingshot Stella. Amazon said the program is intended for the long haul and will be updated over time with new features and titles. Android Underground is free to download from Amazon.com.


YouTube Gaming Hits the Start Button

Wednesday, 12:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today fully launched its stand-alone YouTube Gaming site. The site features dedicated search algorithms so results focus on games. It includes landing pages for individual game franchises, and allows users to upload their gameplay, similar to Twitch. The service also supports clip highlights and lets users broadcast content easily. The YouTube Gaming web site is live, as is the dedicated mobile app for Android devices. The iOS app has yet to show up in the iTunes App Store. YouTube Gaming is free to access and use.


Microsoft Releases Cortana for Android in Beta Form

Aug 24, 2015, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made its Cortana voice-activated personal assistant available to Android users via the Google Play Store beta channel. The app had previously only been available through a closed beta, but is now accessible through an open beta program. Cortana for Android can be used to track flights and other calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, and monitor packages. Cortana can also supplant Google Now on Android handsets if users so wish. Cortana beta testers can set Cortana to launch with a long press of the home button, which makes it easier to use Cortana on Android phones. Cortana testers will still be able to interact with and launch Google Now on their handsets via other actions. Cortana for Android is free to download from Microsoft's beta site in the Google Play Store. Microsoft is still working to bring Cortana to iOS devices.


Google to Trim Android Bloatware a Bit

Aug 24, 2015, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Android device owners will soon see fewer Google-branded apps on their smartphones. The company has altered its requirements and phone makers will no longer be forced to stick Google+, Play Games, Newsstand, and Play Books on their smartphones, according to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal. The change comes in response to an investigation the European Commission is conducting into Google's potential monopolistic business practices. Google has long required handset makers to include a series of core apps, such as Gmail, Google Maps, Calendar, and the Play Store. The list of these required apps has grown over the years. Unwanted apps — especially those that cannot be deleted — are often referred to as bloatware. The EU saw the presence of these unwanted and unremovable apps as unfair competition to third-party apps that do the same (or similar) thing. Google has not commented on the matter in any official way. The news was first reported by Android Central.


Yahoo Says Weather App More Accurate, Better At Alerts

Aug 20, 2015, 1:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today updated the Yahoo Weather app for Android and iOS devices with several improvements. Yahoo claims the app is much more accurate at providing local weather, and can even zoom in to provide details about microclimates. The app also adds new weather alerts that will arrive 15 minutes ahead of rain, snow, or other severe weather is expected to occur. Yahoo Weather is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Google Brings Interactive Watch Faces and Translate to Android Wear

Aug 20, 2015, 11:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 20, 2015, 11:51 AM

Google today announced an update to its Android Wear platform that makes it possible to interact directly with watch faces. The revised watch face code lets watch faces change their design to reveal new information, such as notifications, or launch a specific app. Google teamed up with a handful of developers, including Bit, Under Armour, and Together, which created the first set of interactive watch faces. Under Armour's watch face, for example, will let users see their step count, calories burned, and distance moved. The updated platform also includes Google Translate. Users can speak to their watch and see words translated into 44 different languages. Wearers can flip the smartwatch to show a friend, who responds in his or her own language. When the watch is flipped back toward the wearer, the response is translated back to the original language. The Android Wear update is being pushed out to Android Wear devices over the next few weeks. At the same time, Google released the necessary API for developers to use to create the new, active watch screens. It will be up to developers to add interactive functions to their watch faces.


Bing for Android Can Better Search Through Other Apps

Aug 20, 2015, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 20, 2015, 9:12 AM

Microsoft today updated its Bing Search app for Android devices and gave it the ability to perform searches from within other applications. The feature, called Bing snapshots, scouts things mentioned on any given page and provides relevant information about them in snapshots. Users need only long-press the home button when surfing the web or browsing Facebook and Bing will automatically search the current screen for details for display. It works similar to Google's forthcoming Google Now On Tap feature in that it is contextually aware. In addition to the updated app, Microsoft is making a new Bing API available to developers so they can integrate the search functionality into their own apps. Bing for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


WhatsApp Web Reaches iOS; Windows Phone App Updated

Aug 20, 2015, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

WhatsApp has extended its WhatsApp Web functionality to iOS devices. It previously only supported Android, BlackBerry, and Windows handsets. With WhatsApp Web, users are able to send messages from their desktop browser in addition to their mobile device. Setting it up requires users to scan a QR code from within the WhatsApp application on their handset. They are then able to unlock the browser-based desktop client, where they'll be able to message their WhatsApp contacts. In addition to expanding WhatsApp Web to iOS, WhatsApp also updated its Windows Phone app. The app adds quite a handful of new features. For example, users can mark chats read or unread, as well as set custom notifications, vibrate alerts, and ringtones for individual conversations. Contact Cards are now easier to integrate into WhatsApp's contacts database for quicker replies. The app adds a significant number of new emoji and the ability to adjust the emojis' colors. Last, the app makes it possible to set limits on the app's mobile data usage. WhatsApp is free to download from the Windows Store.


Update to Google Photos Adds Album Editing Features

Aug 19, 2015, 4:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today pushed out a modest update to the Google Photos app for Android devices and it brings with it several new functions. To start, Google Photos can now recognize animations created by the Google Camera app (think GIFs). Thanks to the update, users can now: log into Google Photos from Google Plus pages; reorder photos within individual albums; trim video clips to be included in movies; and enjoy the new timeline user interface for movie editing. The Google Plus compatibility is especially helpful to those who manage Google Plus pages. Google Photos for Android is free to download from the Play Store.


Google's News App Learns to Speak Thai and Others

Aug 19, 2015, 1:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently said a forthcoming update to its News and Weather application for Android and iOS will add support for seven new languages. The additions include Bahasa Indonesia, Bengali, Bulgarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Thai, and bump the total number of languages supported to 35. Google News and Weather offers breaking news stories culled from online as well as up-to-date weather details. The app is free from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Blackphone 2 to Arrive In September

Aug 19, 2015, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Silent Circle has begun accepting preorders for the Blackphone 2, its second-generation secure handset. The device has been upgraded with a larger 5.5-inch full HD screen, faster 1.7GHz octa-core processor, a more generous allotment of RAM at 3GB, and 32GB of internal storage. The phone has a 13-megapixel camera, QuickCharge battery, and supports microSD memory cards. The phone runs a forked version of Android called Silent OS and offers encrypted messaging and email services, as well as secure phone calls. Silent Circle did not list the sale price. The original Blackphone cost $629.


Latest Skype Update for Android Adds Custom Tones

Aug 18, 2015, 4:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Skype 5.10 available to Android handsets and added several new features. To start, Skype users can now customize incoming call sounds for individual contacts. The app also lets users share photos from chats with other Skype friends through a new forwarding function. The update includes some fixes and adjustments as well, such as changing the color of group chat avatars so conversations are easier to differentiate. Skype 5.10 is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Shows Off $200 OnHub Home WiFi Router

Aug 18, 2015, 12:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced the OnHub, a WiFi router meant for use in the home. Google and hardware partner TP-LINK hid the antennas inside and gave the router a more useful set of lights so people will be more apt to put it out in the open, where it will work better. Google says the device automatically selects the best frequencies for optimal performance and an accompanying app (Android and iOS) lets owners manage it remotely. The app can provide details about bandwidth usage, run network checks, and suggest fixes to problems. It also lets people more easily control the router's password. The OnHub will update the firmware automatically to keep it secure and add new features. It supports Bluetooth Smart Ready, Weave, and 802.15.4 for potential connected-home uses. Google said it expects to release more OnHub-branded products later this year with Asus. The OnHub WiFi router is available for preorder today. It costs $199 and will ship in the coming weeks.


Opera Max Adds Support for YouTube

Aug 18, 2015, 10:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera updated its Opera Max data-savings tool for Android with support for several video services. Users can now view videos hosted on YouTube and Netflix and manage how much mobile data they consume. Opera claims Max can pare down YouTube without degrading video quality or increasing buffering times. Opera Max also gains VPN controls and a handful of adjustments to the user interface. Opera Max for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Pulls Hangouts Out of Gmail

Aug 18, 2015, 10:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has given Hangouts a web site all its own. Users of Google's cross-device messaging service can now visit Hangouts.Google.com for a dedicated chat window. The app still resides in Gmail, but those looking for a richer experience can go to the Hangouts web site, which displays conversations in bigger windows and lets users customize the wallpaper and other aspects of its appearance. Hangouts is available to Android and iOS devices as a mobile messaging app. Conversations are synced between the desktop and mobile devices automatically. Hangouts is free to use.


ZTE Brings Warp Elite to Boost Mobile

Aug 18, 2015, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 18, 2015, 9:14 AM

ZTE today announced the Warp Elite, a big-screened Android handset for Boost Mobile. ZTE calls the Warp Elite an update to the Warp Sync, which is also sold by Boost Mobile. The Warp Elite features a 5.5-inch screen protected by Gorilla Glass 3 with 720p HD resolution. The phone is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and support for Qualcomm's QuickCharge 1.0 technology. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The phone is compatible with Boost's LTE network and supports HD Voice. It also includes Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi, and the battery has a capacity of 3,000mAh. The ZTE Warp Elite runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is available beginning today for $179.99.


Android 'M' Is for Marshmallow, Final Preview Build Released

Aug 17, 2015, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today officially named the next version of its mobile operating system Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The company had strongly implied that Marshmallow would be the final name in a teaser video released last week. In addition to revealing the new operating system's name, Google made the Android 6.0 SDK available to developers, which contains an updated set of APIs. This final version takes advantage of newer, more power efficient fingerprint APIs and finalizes the permissions user interface. Last, Google is pushing out what it says is the final preview version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow to developers and testers. Google is expected to make Android 6.0 Marshmallow available to the general public in September or October.


Cricket Launches the LG G Stylo and HTC Desire 626s

Aug 17, 2015, 7:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today said the LG G Stylo and HTC Desire 626s are available at its stores and on its web site. The G Stylo costs $199.99 and the Desire 626s costs $149.99. Service plans for these Android handsets are as low as $35.


Google's Fix for "Stagefright" Vulnerability Incomplete

Aug 14, 2015, 2:45 PM   by Rich Brome

A serious flaw has been found in Google's recent fix for the recently-disclosed "Stagefright" security issue in its Android OS. The issue lets malicious video content crash a phone, and can be triggered by automatic downloading of a video MMS. Google is distributing ad updated software patch to partners, and will update Nexus phones next month. The Stagefright issue allows a malicious video to access random software code on the device, thus potentially crashing the phone. It cannot easily be used to target specific code, thanks to a security feature built into Android called ASLR. ASLR randomizes the location of code in memory to keep these kinds of exploits from being able to target any specific system code and perform a specific intended action.


Google Rolls Out Play Services 7.8

Aug 13, 2015, 3:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has finished updating most Android devices to Play Services 7.8. This new version of Play Services adds several functionalities that developers can take advantage of when writing apps. For example, Nearby Messages adds a cross-platform API to let devices communicate with beacons more efficiently based on proximity. It melds Bluetooth, WiFi, and ultrasonic audio to connect devices. Play Services 7.8 adds a Face API, which developers can put to use finding human faces in images and video. It performs better than the Android FaceDetector.Face API. Google said it is much quicker to see eyes, noses, and mouths no matter how the image is oriented. Google sees this API being helpful in games and photo apps. The Barcode API lets apps recognize barcodes automatically in real-time. Google says it can read multiple barcodes at once and supports many types of barcodes. Google improved Google Cloud Messaging, too, which gains expanded notification support localization. Last, Google added high and normal priority notifications to Google Cloud Messaging, which will be a feature in Android Release M, due later this year. Play Services 7.8 is compatible with most Android devices running 2.3 Gingerbread and later. It should already be updated for the majority of users.


Samsung Updates Note Series with Metal and Glass Design

Aug 13, 2015, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 13, 2015, 10:03 AM

Samsung today announced the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+. Both handsets adopt the design language seen on the Galaxy S6/S6 Edge, which were announced earlier this year. They feature metallic frames and dual-Gorilla Glass 4 surfaces. The Note 5 carries forward the stylus with dedicated productivity apps, while the S6 Edge+ is essentially a larger version of the S6 Edge. The S6 Edge+ does not have a stylus, but features dual curved screens with content that is visible on the side panels. The Note 5 an S6 Edge+ specs mirror those of the smaller handsets closely. The Note 5 and S6 Edge+ measure 7.6mm and 6.9mm thick, respectively. The Super AMOLED display measures 5.7 inches across the diagonal and includes 2560 by 1440 pixels (quad HD). The 16-megapixel main camera boasts optical image stabilization, auto HDR, and a Quick Launch feature that starts the camera app in less than a second. The user-facing camera rates 5-megpaixels; both have an aperture of f/1.9 for better low-light performance. The two handsets rely on Samsung's 64-bit Exynos 7420 octa-core processor. It pairs two banks of quad-core processors, one clocked at 2.1GHz and the other clocked at 1.5GHz. The processor is paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 memory and UFS 2.0 flash for faster storage performance. The phone includes a 3,000mAh battery that supports both the WPC and PMA wireless charging standards, in addition to quick charging. Other specs include Category 6 LTE, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, ultra power-savings mode and Android 5.1 Lollipop. The Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ will be available in 32GB and 64GB internal storage options. The Note 5 comes in either black or white, and the S6 Edge+ comes in either black or gold. Preorders for the phones start today and they ship August 21.

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Verizon Says HTC's Desire Phones Arriving Soon

Aug 12, 2015, 11:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 12, 2015, 11:30 AM

Verizon Wireless today said the HTC Desire 526 and Desire 626 will reach its store shelves in the near future. The 526, which has a 4.7-inch qHD display and an 8-megapixel camera, will be available online and in stores starting Aug. 13 for $120 or $5 per month for 24 months. The 626, which has a 5-inch display and 8-megapixel/5-megapixel camera combination, will be available in the coming weeks. Verizon didn't say how much the 626 will cost. Both phones run Android 5.1 Lollipop, have 2,000mAh batteries, and support memory cards. They will be sold through Verizon's postpaid and prepaid businesses.


BBM Adds PayPal-Based Money Transfers

Aug 12, 2015, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today expanded BBM's money-sending feature by adding support for PayPal. Users need only connect their PayPal account to their BBM account to send and receive money. Both the sender and the recipient will need to have PayPal accounts in order to transfers to go through. The feature is being offered as a beta service to the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of the BBM app in Canada. BlackBerry expects to expand the feature to other regions in the coming weeks.


MCX Set to Test CurrentC Mobile Payment Service

Aug 12, 2015, 9:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

CurrentC, the mobile payment service backed by Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, will commence significant testing in the next few weeks. The tests will be offered to consumers in a handful of stores in the Columbus, Ohio, area. "We are currently in a beta with several of our merchants and employees, and we will now extend that beta to the public in the next few weeks," said MCX CEO Brian Mooney. CurrentC, under development by the Merchant Customer Exchange for several years, generates a scannable code on smartphone screens to initiate mobile payments. It is a rival to services such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. MCX has about 40 merchant partners that operate 110,000 retail locations. MCX signees Best Buy and Rite-Aid recently said their stores will also support the competing Apple Pay service. MCX doesn't expect CurrentC to launch fully until next year. Consumers have been slow to adopt mobile payments. Android Pay and Samsung Pay are set to launch in the weeks and months ahead, and may help spur adoption of the technology.


Rite Aid to Accept Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Android Pay

Aug 11, 2015, 10:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Rite Aid today said it will begin accepting Apple Pay and Google Wallet in its 4,600 U.S. stores. Rite Aid will also accept Android Pay when it launches later this year. Rite Aid had originally voiced support for the Merchant Customer Exchange-developed CurrentC mobile payments service, but CurrentC has yet to launch. Rite Aid did not say if it still plans to support CurrentC if/when it goes live, nor did it say if it will support Samsung's forthcoming Samsung Pay service, expected later this year. Rite Aid customers who have Apple Pay and/or Google Wallet activated on their handsets will be able to make tap-and-go mobile payments beginning August 15. In other Apple Pay news, Apple recently said American Express Corporate cardholders can use their cards with Apple Pay. Further, Apple Pay is now available to Bellco cardholders in Colorado.


Nextbit to Launch Cloud-Focused Phone September 1

Aug 11, 2015, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nextbit today said it plans to fully reveal its first smartphone on Sept. 1. The company has not revealed any details about the handset just yet, other than to say it will make use of Google's Android platform and will hook into Nextbit's cloud services. "The idea is to take Android a step further, and extend beyond the hard specs of the phone to offer features that consumers have been clamoring for over the past few years," said the company. Nextbit is based in San Francisco and run by former Googler Tom Moss. HTC's former head of design, Scott Croyle, is also aboard. The company is backed by Google Ventures and other investment firms. The Nextbit phone will be available for order on the Sept. 1 launch date.


OnePlus Says OnePlus 2 Shipments to US Delayed

Aug 11, 2015, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus took to its forums recently to warn potential U.S. buyers that its new handset will not ship to North America until two to three weeks after the phone ships to Europe. OnePlus blamed the shipping change on production schedules, but said people who have received an invite will still be able to purchase the phone from OnePlus.net beginning today. The OnePlus 2 features a 5.5-inch full HD display, an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage, and a laser-assisted 13-megapixel camera. The handset has swappable rear covers, including some made from bamboo, black apricot, kevlar, and rosewood. The OnePlus 2 runs OnePlus' version of Android 5.1 Lollipop, which it calls Oxygen OS. It costs $389.


Sundar Pichai to Be CEO of Google as Brin and Page Reorganize

Aug 10, 2015, 4:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced sweeping changes to the structure of the company that sees Google Inc. becoming part of a larger company called Alphabet. Moving forward, the large business entity known as Google will be renamed Alphabet. Google will operate as a smaller part of Alphabet with Sundar Pichai — long the head of Google's Android and Chrome businesses — taking charge as CEO of Google. Larry Page will become CEO of Alphabet, an entity that both he and Google co-founder Sergey Brin will manage. "What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main internet products contained in Alphabet instead," explained Page. "What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences and Calico." YouTube is another business that will operate as a separate unit under the over-arching Alphabet brand, as are the X Labs and Google Ventures and Capital. Page said Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly traded company in the stock market. Page and Brin believe giving each business unit some independence and its own identity will add focus and lead to better long-term prospects for each. The changes are effective immediately.


Google Looking to Improve 3D Gaming on Android

Aug 10, 2015, 11:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new 3D rendering API for Android called Vulkan. The Vulkan API provides developers with more control over how mobile processors render 3D environments like those used in games. Google says the API is similar to OpenGL ES in that it is an open standard for 3D graphics. However, it has been created explicitly to help minimize CPU overhead and conserve resources for the GPU. The API also works better in parallel by allowing multiple threads to perform commands at the same time. Google said it is developing Android CTS tests for Vulkan so developers will be able to test apps across a variety of devices at once. Moving forward, Google says developers can choose either the Vulkan API or the OpenGL ES API for rendering their 3D environments. OpenGL is easier to use, but Vulkan provides a finer degree of control. The end result, hopes Google, will be improved gaming experiences on Android handsets and tablets.


Google Hits Refresh Button on Hangouts for Android

Aug 10, 2015, 10:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today pushed out a significant update to its Hangouts messaging application for Android devices that puts it inline with the iOS app. Google overhauled Hangouts' visual appearance with material design, and improved how the app feels thanks to more fluid transitions, and better touch response. Major actions, such as composing new messages, have been simplified with redesigned buttons. Google streamlined the contact list and made it quicker to attach emoji, GIFs, location details, and multiple photos to messages. Google says it cleaned up lots of bugs, too, to improve the app's reliability and speed, which has the side benefit of reducing battery consumption. Google also updated the behavior of the Hangouts Dialer with an outbound caller ID. It added support for Google Voice functions, such as support for group MMS messages. The new Hangouts interacts better with Android Wear, which lets people send messages from their wearable via voice commands. Last, the app regains the ability to set custom status/away messages. The new Hangouts app starts rolling out to Android users today, and is available in the Play Store.


Cortana for Android Can Override Google Now

Aug 9, 2015, 1:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated the beta version of Cortana for Android and gave it the power to supplant Google Now. Cortana beta testers can now set Cortana — rather than Google Now — to launch with a long press of the home button. The change makes it easier to use Cortana on Android phones, though people will still be able to interact with and launch Google Now on their handsets via other actions. Cortana is Microsoft's personal assistant, which can do many things like Google Now, like set reminders and surface travel details. Microsoft has not yet said when it will release a 1.0 version of Cortana for Android.


Motorola to Issue Stagefright Fix to Most Phones

Aug 9, 2015, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola has said it, too, will push a security patch to resolve the Stagefright vulnerability found on its Android smartphones. Motorola's newest phones, the Moto X Style, Moto X Play, and Moto G (3rd Gen) will have the patches installed in the factory. Motorola is actively building patches for the Moto X, G, and E (1st Gen, 2nd Gen); Moto X Pro; Moto Maxx/Turbo; and Droid Turbo and Droid Ultra/Mini/Maxx. Motorola will begin handing the patch to its carrier partners on August 10, but it will be up to carriers to deliver the final version of the patch to end users via over-the-air software updates. Google, Samsung, Alcatel OneTouch, and LG have all said they plan to issue Stagefright security patches in the near future.


Microsoft Open-Sources iOS App Porting Tool

Aug 6, 2015, 1:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said its Windows Bridge for iOS application is moving to open source. Windows Bridge is the tool developers need to port iOS apps to the Windows platform. It can be used to create Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 desktops apps for now, but will support the mobile versions of these two operating systems later this year. Microsoft said it wants to rely on the open source community to put Windows Bridge through its paces and contribute code and/or bug fixes as needed. Windows Bridge for iOS is being released as a technical preview and will see a full release in the fall. Microsoft is expected to offer Windows Bridge for Android in the fall as a beta app. Microsoft hopes developers will bring their Android and iOS apps to the Windows Platform, which may help address the app gap.


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