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.
Google has made it possible for Google Search to work even when the device goes offline. The latest build of Search for Android can store Google searches if a phone loses its network connection. Users can queue up as many searches as they want while the phone is offline. Google will then perform the searches as soon as the phone reconnects, saving the results within the app for easy retrieval. Google says the tool relies on streamlined behaviors to conserve power and data, so it shouldn't impact peoples' smartphones in a negative way. Google Search for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today improved its Google+ community space with several new tools. First, Google+ now lets users hide "low-quality" comments. When turned on, a filter will weed out comments that don't benefit or adhere to the post or conversation at hand. Second, Google+ makes improvements to the photo experience. Google says less white space built around the app means images will fill more of the screen on smartphones. Moreover, a zooming tool lets people explore photos close up. Last, Google+ brings back the Events tool, which lets users schedule and attend online events. Google says the revised Google+ will reach Android and iOS devices in the days ahead.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS both plan to sell the LG Aristo starting later this month. The handset is an entry-level device running Android 7 Nougat. Specs include a 5-inch HD display, 1.4 GHz quad-core processor, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, and 16 GB of storage. Other features include a fingerprint reader, microUSB, headphone jack, speakerphone, and WiFi Calling/VoLTE. The LG Aristo will reach T-Mobile stores on Jan. 25. It will cost $144, or $6 per month on a payment plan. The Aristo will hit MetroPCS stores on Jan. 23 at a cost of $59 after instant rebate.
ZTE today shared more information about its Project CSX handset, called Hawkeye. ZTE created a public campaign for Project CSX in 2016, which saw hundreds of entries. The final design, a self-adhesive handset that can track eye movement, was selected last fall. The device is a large Android slab that boasts a 5.5-inch full HD display. The phone will be powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The phone features two cameras on the rear, one with a 12-megapixel sensor and one with a 13-megapixel sensor with optical zoom. The user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. A 3,000mAh battery will provide power, and the USB-C port will allow for rapid charging via Quick Charge 2.0. Other features include a fingerprint reader, Dolby sound, NFC, and support for memory cards. ZTE says the Hawkeye includes LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, and 66 for AT&T/T-Mobile. The Hawkeye, currently available for preorder on Kickstarter, costs $199 and will ship with Android 7 Nougat when it goes on sale in the fall. Right now, the fundraising campaign has generated a bit more than $31,000 out of $500,000.
HTC's Mo Versi today announced via Twitter that the late-2015 One A9 smartphone will be updated to Android 7 Nougat. HTC is pushing the system update to the unlocked variant of the phone first. The revised operating system will be delivered via an over-the-air update. HTC didn't say when carrier-branded versions of the One A9 will receive Nougat.
Snapchat is prepared to make its mobile app much easier to use with the addition of a universal search tool. The tool, reports TechCrunch, will always be accessible at the top of the screen and will let people quickly find friends, groups, publishers, and stories. The search bar uses a new visual style and offers suggestions for Quick Chats that allow users to find friends' message threads and/or stories in a blink. Other new tools include the ability to quickly jump to your own profile as well as add to the general Our Story slideshow that's accessible/viewable to all users. Snapchat is testing the new search tool with a limited number of Android users, but expects to roll it out to all Android and iOS users soon.
Google today made it easier to hail rides from more car services within Google Maps. The new ride services mode now shows a map with a carousel of car providers that are nearby. Users can select their preferred service (Uber, Lyft) and see what options and promotions are available. Moreover, Maps will let people book, complete, and pay for an Uber ride without ever leaving the Google Maps app thanks to new integration with Uber's API. Uber users can sign into their account or create a new one within Google Maps and then book rides, track drivers, and connect via message — even if Uber is not installed on the device in question. The app also allows people to examine menus, hours, and other details about destinations while en route. Google says the new ride tools will be available over the next few days via Google Maps for Android and iOS.
LeEco has struck a distribution deal with Target and is now selling its Pro3 (pictured) and S3 handsets via Target's web site. The two phones are available online for $400 and $250, respectively, and are sold unlocked. They support GSM/LTE networks such as those operated by AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. LeEco is trying to expand from its home market of China into the U.S. Its handsets went on sale via LeEco's own web site late last year. The new distribution agreement with Target, even though limited to Target's web site, means LeEco's phones will seen by more U.S. consumers over time. Both the Pro3 and S3 feature solid hardware and specifications, and run highly customized versions of Android.
Vector Watch today said it has been acquired by wearable market leader FitBit. Vector, based in Romania, made several smartwatches that rely on e-paper displays and boast 30-day battery life. Vector has a proprietary platform for its watches, rather than rely on the more widely-used Android Wear operating system. FitBit has acquired both the hardware and software businesses from Vector Watch. "We believe this is an important milestone as a moment when we will start building other new and amazing products, features and experiences, incorporating our unique technology and knowhow with Fitbit’s experience and global community," said Vector Watch in a blog post. Vector promised that the transition will go smoothly. Its watches will maintain all existing features and functions, but no new product features will be added to the platform. FitBit, which already has a wide array of fitness-focused wearables, bought smartwatch maker Pebble in December 2016. FitBit didn't provide its own comment on the Vector acquisition, but clearly it intends to use Pebble's and Vector's hardware/software assets to improve its own offerings in the wearable space. Terms of the transition were not disclosed.
HMD Global this week announced the Nokia 6, the first smartphone to fall under the company's plan to resurrect the Nokia brand. HMD Global is a Finland-based business with the sole license to design smartphones using the Nokia brand. Foxconn is HMD Global's exclusive manufacturer. The Nokia 6 is milled from a single block of aluminum and then anodized 2 times over 10 hours to ensure a smooth finish. The device has a 5.5-inch full HD screen with 2.5D Gorilla Glass. The Nokia 6 is powered by a Snapdragon 430 processor with 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and Qualcomm's X6 LTE modem. HMD says the main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor at f/2.0 with automatic scene detection and phase-detection autofocus, while the selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. Dual amplifiers provide plenty of audio power and Dolby Atmos software helps shape the sound. The Nokia 6 will ship with Android 7 Nougat. Pricing is going to be set around $245. The device will ship during the early months of 2017. HMD Global did not say what LTE bands the phone supports, but it will only be sold in a China.
New Balance partnered with Intel and Strava to create the runner-focused RunIQ. This smartwatch runs Android Wear and includes core features such as GPS and a heart rate monitor. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions.
Google this week said the Nexus 6 smartphone from Motorola should receive the Android 7.1.1 update in the days ahead. The updated system software installs the new app shortcuts, round app icons, the image-enabled keyboard with new emoji, and various bug fixes. The Nexus 6 does not get some of the best features available to the new Pixel phones, such as Google Assistant. Knowledgable users can manually install 7.1.1 using the factory images available from Google's web site, but the update will be distributed over the air soon.
Casio trotted out its second-generation Android Wear smartwatch this week. The WSD-F20 is a major improvement over last year's model thanks to the addition of GPS and Android Wear 2.0. Here is a quick look.
The Kodak Ektra smartphone, which was announced last October for European markets, will be sold in the U.S. starting this spring. Bullitt Group, the company that manufactures the device, says it will be available for pre-order in April at a cost of $549. The Ektra has a 21-megapixel Sony IMX230 sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and dual LED flash. It includes optical image stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, and can capture 4K video. The front-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor. The phone includes a 5-inch full HD screen, MediaTek Helio X20 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. The Ektra runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and has an advanced camera application with features such as bokeh, HDR, panorama, and manual mode.
Garmin this week announced its inReach series of satellite communicators. These standalone handheld devices can also be paired with any Android, iOS or Windows 10 smartphone to provide satellite-based text messaging and GPS mapping on your phone even where there is no cellular coverage. The devices use Iridium's global satellite network for messaging, letting the devices send and receive text messages with any cell phone number, email address or another inReach device. Users can set up the devices to provide regular location updates to a mapping portal, so friends and family can follow the progress of an expedition. An SOS function can let first responders and family know when you're in trouble and exactly where to find you. The base model inReach SE+ will sell for $400, while the inReach Explorer+ adds TOPO maps, compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer for an extra $50. Both models will be available later this quarter.
Nuu Mobile this week announced the X5 smartphone during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The X5 is a flagship-class Android smartphone for those seeking alternatives to traditional postpaid carriers. The device offers a lot of value thanks in part to Nuu's unique mobile service plans. The X5 is a large slab that features a 5.5-inch full HD display. The phone is powered by a MediaTek MT6750T 1.5 GHz octa-core processor with 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128 GB. Nuu selected Sony camera chips for the device, with a 13-megapixel BSI sensor on back and a 5-megapixel wide-angle sensor on front. The X5 supports U.S. LTE bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17 for compatibility with AT&T and T-Mobile. It also packs Bluetooth 4, GPS, NFC, WiFi, and an FM radio. Last, the phone contains a 2,950mAh battery, and it runs Android 7 Nougat out of the box. Nuu Mobile gave the X5 support for two SIM cards in a removable tray, but the handset also includes Nuu's Konnect i1 eSIM technology. The eSIM allows the X5 to roam in other countries at local wireless rates. Introductory pricing for roaming is approximately $2 per day for 500 MB of high-speed data overseas. People who exceed the daily data limit will be throttled, but will have full access to 500 MB again the following day. The eSIM means users don't have to hunt down a local SIM card when traveling; instead, they can simply activate the Konnect i1 service directly on the X5. The Nuu Mobile X5 goes on sale in March. Pricing wasn't announced, but all of Nuu Mobile's handsets cost less than $250.
Verizon Wireless has added the Kyocera DuraForce Pro to its lineup of rugged handsets. The phone is available to Verizon customers starting Jan. 5. It has been for sale from AT&T and Sprint since last year, but the Verizon variant is the only one to include Sapphire Shield, a near unbreakable piece of glass protecting the display. The DuraForce Pro includes a 5-inch full HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel wide-angle secondary camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The phone offers a fingerprint reader, NFC, Snapdragon 617 processor, 3,240mAh battery, memory card slot, dual front speakers, and push-to-talk. It goes without saying that the device is fully ruggedized, washable, and can sit in 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The DuraForce Pro runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It costs $408 at full retail or $17 per month on a payment plan.
Google today said it is expanding the availability of its Google Assistant to Android TV products. People who own supported TVs and set-top boxes will be able to ask Google Assistant myriad questions about content and other queries. For example, Google Assistant can play movies and TV shows, control smart home products, and help with personal data, such as calendars and events. Google says the Assistant on Android TV will come to the Nvidia Shield, and all Android TVs in the U.S. running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or Android 7.0 Nougat. Some examples include Sharp Aquos, Sony Bravia, and Xiaomi Mi Box. Google expects to see Google Assistant reach Android Wear smartwatches, in-car systems, and other devices over the next few months. Last, Google says Assistant is gaining new skills thanks to Actions On Google. For example, Google Assistant will soon be able to answer select questions about Daimler and Hyundai cars. Google Assistant is built into the Google Home product as well as the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones.
Coolpad debuted the Conjr, a budget Android smartphone, at CES this week. The handset includes a 5-inch screen, MediaTek processor, 13-megapixel camera, and Android 6 Marshmallow. Here are our first impressions.
ZTE's forthcoming Android 7.0 update for its Axon 7 phone will add compatibility with Google's Daydream VR solution. The Axon 7's QHD display is well-suited to VR.
ZTE today said it plans to offer its Blade series phones to U.S. consumers for the first time starting with the Blade V8. This large Android handset includes a 5.5-inch full HD display with curved edges and Gorilla Glass 3. The V8 is powered by a Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 128 GB or a second SIM card. The V8 has twin 13-megapixel cameras on the back, which is a feature normally found on pricier handsets. ZTE says the second camera helps with features such as bokeh (background blur). The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. ZTE says the 3,140mAh battery delivers all-day power, but it supports Quick Charge 2.0 for rapid power-ups when needed. Last, the Blade V8 includes a front-mounted fingerprint reader. ZTE is selling the Blade V8 unlocked via Amazon, Newegg, and Best Buy for $230. It's available for preorder starting today.
ZTE's crowd-sourced Hawkeye Android smartphone is now available for preorder via Kickstarter. ZTE picked the Hawkeye name for its Project CSX device from more than 500 submissions after spending the last year fielding and voting for thousands of ideas submitted by people around the globe. The winning design, a self-adhesive smartphone that can track eye movement, is expected to ship during the third quarter of 2017. Initial backers can snag the handset for $200.
Asus today announced the ZenFone 3 Zoom, a new "optical zoom" phone that uses two cameras, much like the iPhone 7 Plus. Both the standard and 2.3x zoom cameras are 12-megapixel. It can also do a portrait mode with depth effect, and the main lens has f/1.7 aperture. Other camera features include OIS, laser focusing, RAW support, and a dedicated color sensor for improved white balance. It includes an extra-large 5,000 mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices via the USB-C connector. Specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 5.5-in full-HD display, fingerprint sensor, memory card slot, and 3.5mm audio jack. Its US version will include LTE band 17 to support AT&T's network.
Asus today announced the ZenFone AR, the first phone to support both Project Tango AR and Daydream VR from Google. This large phone sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, an unprecedented 8 GB of RAM, and an advanced vapor cooling system. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. It will also run Android 7.0 Nougat and be available in Q2. The company did not announce which LTE bands the phone will support. The Qualcomm chip is a departure for Asus, which was previously one of the few major manufacturers to use Intel chips.
Casio today announced the WSD-F20, a second-generation smartwatch that is among the first to include Android Wear 2.0 from Google. Like last year's WSD-F10, the F20 is a fully ruggedized wearable that focuses on fitness and other outdoor activities. It meets mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse and is water resistant to 50 meters. The watch includes a dual-display mode that can flip to monochrome to help conserve battery. The biggest improvement over the original is the addition of GPS. Moreover, the WSD-F20 includes a low-power GPS mode that can track the wearer's location on downloadable maps even if the watch is offline. This extends the wearable's ability to track fitness activity in areas where phone coverage is not available. The Android Wear 2.0 platform from Google is a fully redesigned operating system that includes a new user interface, on-device app store, and support for Google Assistant. The WSD-F20 will ship later this year. Pricing is expected to be about $500.
TCL today offered a sneak peak of a new BlackBerry smartphone in a short video. TCL is the parent company behind Alcatel and recently struck an agreement to design and manufacture smartphone hardware for BlackBerry. Though TCL builds the devices, BlackBerry is providing its secure, Android-based platform. The agreement between the two companies builds on work the to did together last year. For example, TCL repurposed the Alcatel Idol 4 into the BlackBerry DTEK50. This new phone, which has no name, nor any stated specs, it a slab-style device with both a touch screen and physical QWERTY keyboard. TCL didn't share any real details about the phone, but it has an aluminum chassis, dual cameras, a fingerprint reader, USB-C, and a non-removable battery. TCL said it will fully announce the device at Mobile World Congress in February.
TCL, the parent corporation of Alcatel, unveiled its new handset strategy moving forward. The company will continue to build its Alcatel-branded smartphones that target the low/value end of the market. These devices will run Android and will generally be sold via carriers and the open market. The company will also work closely with BlackBerry to design BlackBerry-branded handsets for North America and other markets. TCL will make the hardware, but it will rely on BlackBerry's hardened version of Android with government-grade security and business software on board. TCL sees its new partnership with BlackBerry as a way to get its phones into the high-end and enterprise segments of the market. BlackBerry and TCL hope to regain the trust of corporations that have in recent years turned to Apple and Samsung for employee devices. TCL plans to work with BlackBerry's sales team to sell BlackBerry-branded handsets directly to businesses, but it also intends to forge new carrier deals to reach consumers via carrier stores over time. TCL's Steve Cistulli says the BlackBerry DTEK50 and DTEK60, which are rebranded variants of the Alcatel Idol 4 and 4S, are performing well and have helped level off the decline of BlackBerry sales in North America. TCL believes it can reverse that decline over time with a range of unique BlackBerry handsets. The company also revealed its first entirely new BlackBerry smartphone that is scheduled to debut later this year. The phone is a slab with a physical QWERTY keyboard and touch screen. TCL did not announce the phone's name, nor its specs. BlackBerry said it will continue to support BBOS 10, and pointed out that it recently released BBOS 10.3.3 for older phones such as the BlackBerry Classic.
LG updated its K-series phones this week, refreshing its more affordable Android lineup with improved specs and features. The K10 — the new K10, that is — adds a fingerprint sensor and spruces up the design. We checked it out.
Google today made a small security update available to Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, and Nexus 5X that plugs some vulnerabilities. In total, some 95 fixes are in store for Google's handsets that also provide Google's Android smartphone partners "with the flexibility to more quickly fix a subset of vulnerabilities that are similar across all Android devices." Two patches are being issued, one for all Android devices in general (given to smartphone makers), and one for the Pixel and Nexus phones directly. As per usual, the vulnerabilities range from moderate to critical, with the most severe able to remotely execute code and/or take over impacted phones. Google says it has fielded no complaints or reports of these vulnerabilities actually being exploited. The over-the-air updates for the Nexus and Pixel phones will arrive in the next day or so.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy A7, A5, and A3, three new handsets that fill in the middle of Samsung's lineup of Android phones. All three phones feature metal frames, glass front and back panels, IP68 protection against water and dust, dedicated camera buttons, and support for Samsung Pay. Each phone ships with Android 6 Marshmallow and supports memory cards up to 256 GB.
- A7: The largest of the new Galaxy A series (pictured), the A7 has a 5.7-inch full HD display with a 1.9 GHz octa-core processor, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. It boasts front and rear 16-megapixel cameras, both of which have an aperture of f/1.9 for better low-light performance. The A7 includes a 3,600mAh battery with rapid charging.
- A5: The A5 lands in the middle of the Galaxy A series with a 5.2-inch full HD display, 1.9 GHz octa-core processor, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. It includes front and rear 16-megapixel cameras. The A5 packs a 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging.
- A3: The A3 is the smallest of the three Galaxy A handsets with a 4.7-inch 720p HD display, and a 1.6 GHz octa-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It includes a 13-megapixel main camera and an 8-megapixel front camera, both at f/1.9. The A3 includes a 2,350mAh battery with rapid charging.
OnePlus today began to distribute OxygenOS 4.0 to the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T smartphones. OxygenOS 4.0 is based on Android 7 Nougat and includes revised notifications and settings menu designs; support for multi-window view; notification direct replies; expanded Shelf customization tools; and more options for the status bar icon. In a forum post, OnePlus thanked beta testers and said their feedback led to improvements in performance across the OS. OxygenOS 4.0 will be made available to a small number of users today, with a broader rollout planned for the next few days.
Samsung recently made a new productivity app called Samsung Focus available to its Android devices. Focus handles basic productivity functions, including email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and memos all in a single application. Focus supports Exchange, IMAP, and POP email services with functions such as push synchronization (email, contacts, calendar events) and support for multiple accounts. People will be able to use their Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, Exchange, Office 365, IBM Notes, and other email services with Focus. Users can easily join conference calls and add tasks/events from emails, and take advantage of unified search across all the functions. Samsung Focus is free to download from the Google Play Store for Samsung smartphones running Android 6.0.1 and up.
Documents spotted on the FCC web site show off an unannounced phone from Blu called the Vivo XL2. According to the FCC, the XL2 includes support for similar radio bands to the Blu Vivo XL. The draft user manual for the XL2 points out features such as a rear camera with flash, user-facing camera, memory card support, and Google's Android operating system. The Vivo XL has a 5.5-inch screen, 3,150mAh battery, and MediaTek processor, but the FCC doesn't carry information about those specs for the XL2. Blu has not yet confirmed any details about the Vivo XL2.
Cyanogen said it plans to cease developing its open-source version of Android and will shutter its services by the end of the month. "As part of the ongoing consolidation of Cyanogen, all services and Cyanogen-supported nightly builds will be discontinued no later than [December 31]," said the company in a blog post. "The open source project and source code will remain available for anyone who wants to build CyanogenMod personally." Devices that run Cyanogen OS, including the OnePlus One, will no longer receive updates from Cyanogen. Cyanogen hoped to offer a better version of Android than Google's build, but it saw little traction in the market.
Huawei said its Honor 8 smartphone will receive Android 7 Nougat and EMUI 5.0 through an update planned for February 2017. According to Huawei, EMUI 5.0 streamlines the user interface and cuts down on the number of steps needed to reach core functions. The update will also reduce the amount of UI chrome, leaving more room on the screen for content. Huawei will allow people to choose a home screen with or without an app drawer, as well as run multiple profiles (personal, work) and easily switch between them. Further, EMUI 5.0 employs machine learning to analyze and adapt to user behavior over time. On the security front, EMUI 5.0 will allow owners to password protect individual apps. Huawei did not say exactly when the update will be made available. The Honor 8 has been for sale in the U.S. since the summer. It is available online and is sold unlocked.
LG has announced a handful of K Series handsets that round out its roster of affordable devices. Shared features between the devices include removable batteries, Bluetooth 4.x, WiFi, support for 3G/4G networks, and support for memory cards.
- K10: The largest of the new devices, the K10 has a 5.3-inch, 720p touch display that's covered by 2.5D curved glass. The phone boasts a metal frame and measures 7.9mm thick. The K10 is powered by a 1.5 GHz octa-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel main camera with a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The K10 includes a fingerprint sensor, NFC, and the battery rates 2,800mAh. The phone will ship with Android 7 Nougat.
- K8: This slightly smaller handset has a 5-inch 720p screen and is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425 processor with 1.5 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel main camera with a 5-megpaixel user-facing camera and advanced camera functions. The K8 includes NFC and the battery rates 2,500mAh. The phone will ship with Android 7 Nougat.
- K4: Like the K8, the K4 has a 5-inch 720p screen. It is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 64 GB. Both the front and rear cameras have 5-megapixel sensors, and the battery has a capacity of 2,500mAh. The K4 ships with Android 6 Marshmallow.
- K3: The smallest and least expensive of the bunch, the K3 has a 4.5-inch FWVGA display. It is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 2-megapixel camera. The K3 has a 2,100mAh battery and ships with Android 6 Marshmallow.
Facebook today launched Live Audio, a way for people to share a live audio feed with followers. Facebook imagines the tool will be used by content creators to share interviews, read books, or broadcast podcasts. Facebook says people will be able to discover live audio within their News Feed, and can interact with live audio via questions and reactions. Android devices will fully support multitasking, meaning users will be able to listen to live audio when using other apps or even when their device is locked. iOS users will need to be content with listening while exploring other parts of the Facebook app. Facebook intends to test Live Audio with several partners (BBC Brasil, LBC, Harper Collins, and others) over the next few weeks with a broader rollout planned for early next year.
Instagram today introduced more ways for people to dress up their Instagram stories. First, stickers are now available for stories. People can easily customize their stories with weather data, time stamps, and location info. Viewers will be able to tap the stickers to learn more about locations tagged in stories. Stickers can be applied anywhere on stories, and can be resized as well. The photo-focused social network is offering up holiday-themed stickers packs for the next few weeks so users can share their holiday spirit. The app also gains a hands-free recording mode to make capturing video easier and the new freedom to add an unlimited amount of text to stories. Last, the iOS app allows Instagram users to save their stories to the camera roll as a single video. Instagram for iOS and for Android is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store, respectively.
AT&T today announced AT&T Call Protect, a free service that automatically blocks and warns about fraudulent calls. AT&T says Call Protect is available to customers who have HD Voice service, and it only works in areas where HD Voice coverage is available. The automatic fraud blocking reduces the chances that people will be plagued by scams by preventing the calls from reaching subscribers' phones. Call Protect also warns people when an incoming call is a suspected scam or comes from a known spammer. Users will be able to whitelist safe numbers if they wish. AT&T customers can gain more features, such as temporary call blocking, via the companion mobile app for Android and iOS devices. The service is available at no extra cost.
Facebook today launched group video chats within Messenger. The tool will allow up to six participants to view one another in a live video call. People can easily initiate calls within existing groups or by creating new groups. Tapping a video button is all that's required to kick off a video group chat. Facebook says people can ring the entire group at once, or just select numbers before inviting others. The feature is rolling out to Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS devices, as well as the web, globally. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Video calls are free over WiFi, but will use data if conducted over cellular networks.