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 executive Vic Gundotra today announced his departure from the company after working there for more than eight years. Gundotra played a major role in developing some of Google's mobile applications and helped conceive and build Google+, Google's social network. In a blog post on Google+, Gundotra said, "I'm forever in debt to the Google+ team. This is a group of people who built social at Google against the skepticism of so many. They are invincible dreamers." Gundotra also publicly thanked Google CEO Larry Page. Gundotra said he is moving on to new things, but didn't reveal them. Gundotra's successor at the head of Google+ has not yet been named. Google didn't announce any changes to the staffing in its Android and Chrome units, which are led by Sundar Pichai.
Opera Software today made its Coast browser available to the Apple iPhone. The browser, which is based on the WebKit standard, has been available to the iPad since last year. Coast offers an alternative browsing experience with a simplified home screen, visual search that provides animated text suggestions, and tools that make it simple to access recently visited sites, and share menu information. The browser includes a wide number of wallpapers, iCloud syncing of home screen tiles, and a Stuff We Like section for viewing popular content from across the web. Opera is also offering an updated version of Coast for the iPad, which includes improved security and stability, improved search functions, faster launch times and animations, and support for more types of icons. Opera first announced its intent to switch to WebKit in February 2013, and has slowly been bringing WebKit-based browsers to the market since. Apple uses WebKit in its own Safari browser, and Google uses WebKit in its Chrome browser. Opera still offers its older Opera browser to Android smartphones and Opera Mini to the iPhone.
Microsoft today released a beta application that will let Windows Phone 8.1 devices remotely access and control Windows computers. Windows Phone 8.1 itself has not been widely distributed to new and existing hardware, but it is available for free to registered developers. Anyone can register for the developer preview edition of Windows Phone 8.1 and install it on their Windows Phone 8 device. With the WP8.1 preview and the Microsoft Remote Desktop app installed, users can connect to a remote PC and access and interact with their Windows machines. The app includes support for Windows 8 touchscreen gestures, and can be used to open files, run apps, and more. According to Microsoft the app is secure, so it can be used by businesses, and connections can be managed by a simple dashboard. The app also supports high-definition video streaming and sound streaming from the PC to the smartphone through the network. Microsoft Remote Desktop is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. Microsoft has offered a similar tool to Android and iOS devices since last year.
OnePlus, a company based in China, today announced the One, a low-cost smartphone that goes toe-to-toe with the world's best devices. The OnePlus One runs CyanogenMod, which is based on Android 4.4 KitKat but includes stronger security and some features not found in stock Android, such as Voice Wakeup and custom on-screen gestures. The OnePlus One is one of the first mass-market devices to ship with CyanogenMod on board. The phone includes a 5.5-inch full HD display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and has exchangeable rear covers that come in a variety of difference materials, such as cashew and bamboo. The One is powered by a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM. It packs a 13-megapixel Exmor camera sensor from Sony, with an f/2.0 aperture and six lens elements. It can record 4K video as well as slow motion in 720p HD. The One also has a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The device offers worldwide HSPA/LTE support and includes Bluetooth 4.1, dual-band Wi-Fi, GPS/GLONASS, and a range of sensors. The One has a 3,100mAh battery, USB 3.0 with QuickCharge 2.0, but does not support microSD cards. OnePlus said the One will go on sale in select markets, including the U.S., during the second quarter. It is priced at $299 for a 16GB model and $349 for the 64GB model (similar price points to the LG-made Google Nexus 5). OnePlus is offering the One for $1 to those who (literally) smash their old device, but the company requires in invite in order to purchase the One.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS today announced the availability of the LG L90 and L70 (pictured), devices that fall into LG's L Series III lineup. Both phones were revealed by LG earlier this year. The L90 and L70 run Android 4.4 KitKat with LG's user interface enhancements. The hardware puts LG's minimalistic design esthetic to use. Shared features include support for Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi.
- L90:The L90 is being sold by T-Mobile and supports the carrier's HSPA+ 4G network, but not LTE. It has a 4.7-inch qHD display, quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, 2,540mAh battery, and an 8-megapixel/1.3-megapixel camera configuration. It will be available beginning April 30 for $0 down with 24 equal monthly device payments of $9.50, or the full retail price of $228.
- L70: The L70 will be sold by MetroPCS. It steps the display down to 4.5 inches and 800 x 400 resolution, a dual-core 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, a 2,100mAh battery, and a 5-megapixel/VGA camera configuration. The L70 is available beginning today for $49 after a $100 instant rebate. For a limited time, MetroPCS will offer an additional $49 rebate to customers who pay for two months of service in advance. The L70 supports HSPA+, but not LTE.
Dropbox recently pushed out an update to its iOS Mailbox email app that brings the two services closer together. Mailbox now takes advantage of Dropbox to store and sync preferences between different devices. Mailbox also gains an auto-swipe feature that will learn from user interactions to automate actions such as deleting and archiving emails and email threads. Dropbox offers cloud-based storage for mobile devices, as well as a photo uploading/sharing service. It debuted Mailbox for Android devices for the first time earlier this month. Mailbox 2.0 for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
HTC today published a dashboard that should help consumers understand where the Sense 6.0 software update is for their One (M7) and when it might it arrive. For example, HTC has already completed updating most versions of the One (M7) to Android 4.4 KitKat, and is currently in the process of "integrating" Sense 6.0 into the operating system. After the software is integrated, it will need to be certified by the carrier before it can be delivered to customers. This dashboard is for devices specific to the U.S., including carrier variants, and unlocked/Google Play Edition variants. It is meant to provide general information and not exact dates.
Google today announced the pending availability of Hangouts for Android version 2.1. This update to Google's messaging application will resolve a long-standing complaint with the app, which until now has kept two separate conversation threads (one for SMS, one for IM) for the same contact. According to Google, the app will clearly mark which type of message is being viewed, and will allow users to choose between sending an SMS or IM. The application will create separate contact lists: One for those with whom you Hang often, and another for phone-based contacts. Hangouts adds a new homescreen widget, too, which provides a view of recent conversations, and also fixes bugs and resolves performance issues. Hangouts for Android 2.1 is free to download from the Google Play Store. The new version will be available some time this week.
Motorola Solutions has signed a patent-licensing agreement with Microsoft that will allow it to use Microsoft's intellectual property in its Android and Chrome devices. Neither Microsoft nor Motorola Solutions identified the patents at issue, nor the cost of the licensing agreement. It is important to note that Motorola Solutions is not Motorola Mobility. Motorola Solutions makes enterprise-grade mobile products for businesses, some of which run Android and/or Chrome. Just last week, Motorola Solutions agreed to sell its enterprise business to Zebra Technologies for $3.45 billion. Motorola Mobility is currently owned by Google and makes Android smartphones. Motorola Mobility is on deck to be divested by Google to Lenovo in the months ahead. Motorola Mobility has staunchly refused to sign a licensing agreement with Microsoft, as it believes its own patents cover the disputed technologies.
Dominos Pizza today announced that customers can pay for their pies using Google Wallet. Dominos added support for Google Wallet to its own mobile ordering application. Android device owners can use the app to order a pizza as well as pay for it with Google Wallet rather than a credit or debit card. Dominos is not, however, accepting Wallet-based tap-and-go payments at its stores. The Dominos Pizza app is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Facebook today made Paper version 1.1 available to the iPhone. Paper re-encapsulates Facebook content and presents it in a more appealing digital magazine. Today's update adds a number of new features including: birthdays and other events, photo commenting, group updates, new story buttons, more article covers, and accessibility options. Paper is only available to the iPhone at the moment, though Facebook said an Android version is in the works. Paper 1.1 for iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Facebook today announced a new feature that will let people share their location with their friends. The tool, called Nearby Friends, is opt-in and needs to be turned on by users. It can be turned off at any time. Users will be able to share their location with all their friends, just close friends, or with specific lists of people. In order to see friends who are nearby, other users will need to have it on and share their location, too. The feature lets people share their exact location for a defined period of time, which is then visible on a map in order to make the person easy to find. Facebook suggests Nearby Friends be used by people to meet up when near one another. Nearby Friends will be added to the Android and iOS apps in the coming weeks.
Verizon Wireless today announced the LG Lucid 3, a low-cost Android smartphone. The Lucid 3 includes a 4.7-inch qHD display and a 1.2GHz quad-core processor. It features a 5-megapixel camera with full HD video capture and a VGA user-facing camera for self portraits. The phone runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and comes with a wide selection of LG apps, such as Knock Code, QSlide and QuickMemo. Other features include Isis Mobile Wallet, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE 4G, and a removable 2,440mAh battery. The LG Lucid 3 is free with a new two-year agreement, $12.50 per month with Verizon Edge, or $300 at full retail. It is available beginning today.
Flickr today introduced completely new versions of its mobile app for Android and iOS devices. The revised photo app places a higher priority on capturing, sharing, and interacting with photos. The photo stream has been redesigned and is easier to navigate. The built-in camera has Instagram-like filters and all photos now have the ability to favorite, share, or comment on them. The app supports video capture and editing, and allows users to upload clips up to 30 seconds in length. It includes more robust editing functions, such as crop, rotate, and tools to fix contrast, exposure, and color. The app makes it a cinch to see metadata so users can examine the details of each photo. Flickr for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Google updated the YouTube application for Android devices recently and made a number of improvements. YouTube now lets users reply to comments, delete their own comments, and see if comments were shared publicly or privately. The app also improves video quality for devices running Android 4.2 and up, lets users share and like playlists, and moves playlists to the left-hand guide drawer. YouTube for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
AT&T is making Android 4.4.2 KitKat available to the LG G Flex starting today. The update includes new status and navigation bars, and improves battery life and processor performance. The update is free to download via Wi-Fi.
Google today announced the availability of Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android, a tool that allows Android devices to remotely access Windows and Mac computers. In order to gain remote PC access, users will need to download and install software on their PC as well as the Chrome Remote Desktop app on their Android device. Once configured, users should be able to access PC-based files from their Android device. The service is free to set up and use. Google said an iOS version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app us due later this year.
Google today released a separate version of the stock camera application that ships with many Android smartphones. The app, which can receive improvements outside of full OS updates, has a slightly revised user interface with larger buttons. Google Camera offers a handful of new features, such as Lens Blur mode, which adds depth-of-field effects to make subjects pop. Google Camera also includes Photo Spheres, panorama mode, and a 100% viewfinder so users see everything that will appear in their photos. Google Camera is available to devices running Android 4.4. KitKat and up.
AT&T today announced the availability of the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system for the Samsung Galaxy S4. The update is being rolled out gradually, but owners can manually download using the system settings. The update is free.
Google today added a feature to the desktop browser-based version of Gmail that simplifies the process of sharing photos stored on Android smartphones. The new Insert Photo button is able to tap into images that have been automatically uploaded and/or backed up to Google+. The photos are listed in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent shot. Google believes this will make it even easier to share photos taken with smartphones. In order for the feature to work, users have to use the automatic backup tool that's part of Google+ Photos on their phone. The tool also makes it possible to share entire albums, and even crop or resize images before sending. Once enabled, Gmail users on the web will be able to share their smartphone photos from their computer.
Verizon Wireless has added two refreshed LG handsets to its lineup of inexpensive phones. The LG Optimus Zone 2 and Extravert 2 are both sequels that improve specs and features. They are limited to Verizon's 3G network, as neither supports LTE 4G.
- Zone 2: This entry-level smartphone (pictured) runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and includes a 3.5-inch screen with 480 x 320 pixels, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 3-megapixel camera, 1,700mAh battery, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0. Some of LG's software and apps are aboard, including QuickMemo and Guest Mode. The full retail price is $200, but Verizon is offering the device for just $50.
- Extravert 2: This updated feature phone is a sideways slider that includes a touch screen on the front and a full QWERTY keyboard underneath. It has a 3.2-inch display with 400 x 240 pixels and LG's touch-based user interface for feature phones. Other features include a 2-megapixel camera with video capture, Bluetooth 3.0, media apps, Verizon content, and the Opera Mini web browser. The Extravert 2 costs $200 with no contract, $80 with a two-year agreement, or $8.33 per month with Verizon Edge.
Isis recently issued an update to its Android mobile wallet application and added several new features. Isis now works better with location data and can help the owner find offers and stores near them that accept Isis. The app also works more closely with the credit card issuer, which can notify users of special offers available only to them. The app has a new icon, as well. Isis Mobile Wallet is free to download from the Google Play Store, but requires a major credit card from select issuers to use for tap-and-go payments at participating retailers. Isis is a joint venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
Google today said it is taking a new measure to protect Android devices and their owners against bad apps. Google already uses a program called Verify Apps to scan them before they are installed on handsets. Beginning today, Google will continually scan devices to make sure all apps are behaving in a safe manner, even after they've been installed. Google said most people will never see a warning or any other indication that this additional layer of protection exists; however, Google noted that it expects warnings to show up on some phones here and there. Owners of Android-based devices do not need to take any steps to receive this protection from Google.
Real Networks today announced a new service it hopes will help revive the market for ringback tones. Listen is an Android application that lets users replace the ring tone their callers hear with either music or status updates. Listen allows users to choose different tracks/messages for everyone in their contact list. Listen offers auto-set functionality for holidays or special occasions, and includes the latest music selections. Real Networks goes so far as to call Listen a productivity took, suggesting it be used by the subscriber to explain to callers why they can't answer the phone and even offer times when it would be good to call back. At launch, Listen is only available to T-Mobile subscribers.
Google Play Music for Android devices can now cast to Sonos devices. This means users of Google's music service can connect to their Sonos music system and play tracks from their Google Music library through Sonos without using the dedicated Sonos app. Further, Sonos is adding support for Play Music to its own app. Either way, Sonos says users can blend their Play Music and Sonos libraries and control them from anywhere in their house through the new apps. Google Play Music lets users store up to 20,000 songs in an online library, as well as stream more than 22 million tracks.
Facebook today confirmed plans to remove Facebook Messenger functionality from within the Android and iOS mobile apps for smartphones. Facebook hopes users will instead use its stand-alone, dedicated Facebook Messenger application. Messaging will remain within the Windows Phone Facebook app, and tablet versions of the Facebook app. Further, Facebook told The Verge that low-end smartphones with memory constraints may still be able to run Facebook with Messaging intact. Facebook said this change will happen across all countries in the near future, but didn't spell out exactly when. Facebook believes the stand-alone app provides a better messaging experience.
Dropbox today revealed a number of new mobile products at an event in San Francisco. First, the company announced that its Mailbox application for iOS devices will be available to Android devices beginning later today. Mailbox, which integrates Dropbox online storage, is being offered to desktop machines, too. Further, the company introduced a new photo-organizing service and app called Carousel. The application automatically uploads, stores, and organizes photos based on time/location to make for easier sharing. Albums can be viewed on mobile devices, but the files are all stored on Dropbox's servers. Carousel supports private messages and makes it possible to share entire albums as well as save photos that others have shared. Carousel is available for Android and iOS starting today.
Sony today announced the availability of its Lifelog application, which runs on its Android smartphones and interacts with Sony's wearable devices, such as the SmartBand. Together, Lifelog and the SmartBand can track the wearer's daily activity and over time be used to spot trends and patterns to behavior and sleep. Lifelog and the SmartBand are optimized for the Xperia Z2, which has yet to launch in the U.S., but they also work with the Xperia Z Ultra, Xperia Z1, and Xperia Z1 Compact handsets from Sony. Sony said though the initial feature list of the app is rather short, it will be updating Lifelog over the next few weeks with more functionality.
Cover today announced that it has been acquired by Twitter. Cover released a lock screen replacement app last year for Android devices. Cover believes in helping users get more out of their smartphones through contextual awareness and its app provided dynamic content that changed depending on the user's whereabouts, schedule, and so on. Cover said though it is joining Twitter, the Cover Android app will continue to be available from the Google Play Store. Details of the transaction were not provided.
Verizon Wireless recently made the previously unannounced Samsung ATIV SE available for preorders on its web site. The SE is a high-end Windows Phone that features a 5-inch full HD display protected by Gorilla Glass and offers three columns for Live Tiles on the home screen. The phone clearly draws its design inspiration from Samsung's Galaxy-branded Android devices. The SE is powered by a quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The device supports microSD cards up to 64GB for additional storage. The SE includes a 13-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. The phone supports Verizon's LTE network in the U.S., but can also roam onto HSPA networks in more than 200 countries around the world. Other radios include Wi-Fi (with support for mobile hotspot), Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, and NFC. The SE includes several Samsung apps and services, such as its WatchOn television remote control, Samsung Link for sharing content across devices, a photo editing app, and ATIV Beam, which can be used to send files to other smartphones via NFC pairing. The ATIV SE runs Windows Phone 8 and includes the usual set of apps from Microsoft, such as Office and XBox Live. Verizon is selling the Samsung ATIV SE for $199.99 with a contract or $599.99 without a contract. Verizon is accepting preorders, and currently says the phone will ship by April 12.
Vine today announced a significant update to its service for both Android and iOS devices. Users of Vine can now record and send messages directly to other users privately. According to Vine, messages can be sent to one or several people both in your network and out. Users can choose to receive messages only from those they follow, or from anyone. The Vine inbox separates in-network and out-of-network messages to make them easier to tell apart. The app now also lets users customize their profile with different colors. Vine for Android and iOS is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Samsung recently updated its ChatOn messaging application for Android devices and added several new features. One of the most prominent new powers is the ability to recall sent messages, even if the message has already been read. The app now supports file transfers up to 1GB (limited to 5 transfers per day); lets users attach location data to messages via Glympse; and includes SMS support for one-on-one message threads. The app also has an improved user interface for both single and group conversations. ChatOn for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Facebook recently updated Messenger for Android devices and carried over features recently given to the iPhone. Messenger for Android now supports groups. Users can create groups, name them, tag them with photos, and save them. Second, users can now forward messages from one user/conversation to another. Third, Facebook Messenger for Android allows users to place shortcuts to group conversations directly on the home screen panels. Facebook also said the app contains several bug fixes and performance improvements. Facebook Messenger for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Microsoft today announced new tools that will make it easier for developers to create web apps that work on Windows, Windows Phone, Android, and Apple devices. The tools rely on a wide range of new functions that are part of Internet Explorer 11. Microsoft believes developers should be able to create web apps that work across all platforms, and this will benefit users of the Windows Phone 8.1 platform once it becomes available.
Microsoft today revealed what's in store for the next-generation of its Windows Phone platform, called Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Phone 8.1 adds a number of features that are meant to bring the platform in line with Android and iOS. The first feature revealed by Microsoft is an action center, which mimics the behavior of the notification tray in Android. It provides access to radios, actionable notifications, and other tools. Windows Phone 8.1 adds the ability to personalize the lock screen, which can be interactive and appear in a wide range of styles. Microsoft plans to offer APIs to developers so they can create their own lock screen customization tools. The third new feature is an evolved Start Screen experience. With WP8.1, users can choose a high-density layout that includes three columns for tiles, as well as use custom background images that appear behind all the tiles. Windows Phone also introduces Cortana, a voice-activated search assistant that responds to users' voice commands and questions. Cortana is built on Microsoft's Bing search engine, and can perform searches, schedule appointments, set reminders, and more. Cortana can learn users' most-frequently contacted people, places they prefer to go, and even what music they typically search for. Cortana can be used to set "do not disturb" time, which Microsoft calls Quiet Hours. Like Google Now, Cortana will scan the user's email for things such as flight details, and automatically provide details such as travel times to the airport, flight delays, and more. Microsoft says that Windows Phone 8.1 is also a better choice for business users thanks to new support for secure VPNs, and the ability to read encrypted emails. Devices can be activated by businesses and turned into secure work machines, but can also be stripped of enterprise apps and data if an employee were to leave a company and keep their phone. Windows Phone 8.1 includes significant changes to the Windows Phone Store, such as more personalized recommendations, easier-to-use categories, and quick links. There's a new calendar in WP8.1, which allows users to swipe from day-to-day as well as see "week" views. A feature called Wi-Fi Sense suggests known, good, free Wi-Fi networks that may be available in public spaces - and will automatically connect to them. Microsoft has also added a new keyboard to Windows Phone that allows users to swipe their finger across the keyboard rather than type. Last, Microsoft said Windows Phone includes IE 11 and new synchronization tools that will better share information between the mobile phone and Windows desktops.
BlackBerry today followed through on its promise to deliver a new version of BBM with support for larger files and stickers. BBM now allows users to share photos to multiple people within chats. BBM increased the size of files it allows to be sent between users from 6MB to 16MB, as well as increased the size of the emoticons so they are easier to see within conversation threads. Last, BBM integrates stickers, which had previously only been available in beta. The new version of BBM is available to devices running Android, BlackBerry, and iOS. It is free to download from the platforms' respective app stores.
Microsoft today confirmed plans to release a version of its Outlook Web App for Android handsets. Outlook Web App is an email application that offers all the features and functionality of Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync technology. Microsoft released a version of OWA for iOS devices last year. This forthcoming OWA for Android is different from the Outlook.com web mail client that Microsoft already offers to Android devices. Instead, it is a business-class piece of software that will allow mobile professionals to choose an Android device and still benefit from Microsoft's email service. Microsoft didn't say when the app will be released.
Republic Wireless today announced that Moto Maker will be available to its customers beginning April 1. Moto Maker is an online tool that allows people to customize the appearance of the Moto X Android smartphone. In addition to offering Moto Maker, Republic is running a promotion that will give the first 2,000 people to use Moto Maker a free upgrade to a wooden back panel. The wooden backs are normally a $25 upgrade. The 16GB model costs $349.99 and the 32GB model costs $399.99.
Sprint's variant of the LG G2 should begin receiving the Android 4.4 KitKat update beginning today. In addition to KitKat, the update adds cloud printing. The system update is being distributed in waves and may take several days to reach all users.
BlackBerry today indicated that it plans to focus on catering to C-level executives who want high-end smartphones with full, physical keyboards. The company has three such devices in prototype stages being tested and will introduce them over the next 18 months. Speaking to Reuters, BlackBerry John Chen said the company wants to win back the executives who were once its core customers. Chen also indicated that BlackBerry is weighing whether or not to create of version of Blackberry Messenger - known as BBM - for desktop computers. The idea is to allow business and government customers to carry secure conversations from their PCs to their smartphones and vice versa. BlackBerry has already made BBM available to Android and iOS devices, and is working on a version for Windows Phone, as well.