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.
Facebook today gave Messenger users access to new holiday-themed stickers and photo tools. A minor update to Messenger for both Android and iOS devices adds new sticker packs, snow globe chat heads, and a New Year's Eve selfie frame. Facebook is also offering a lightweight app from Creative Labs called Stickered. It lets people add stickers to photos for light-hearted mashups. Stickers for Messenger would reach the Play Store today and the iTunes App Store in the days ahead. Facebook said the update to Messenger also makes some improvement tweaks, including faster performance. Facebook Messenger is free to download from the Play Store and App Store.
Google was unable to convince a San Jose judge to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit filed against the search giant over preinstalled apps. The judge expressed concern over some the the plaintiffs' claims, which allege Android handset makers are forced to use Google's apps in lieu of competitive apps/services. For example, Google is the default search engine on Android handsets instead of Microsoft's Bing. The judge will dismiss some of the arguments, but wants to see more evidence from the plaintiffs before making a final decision on the antitrust complaint. Google did not comment on the decision.
Google is hoping to convince a San Jose judge to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. over its app-bundling practices on Android smartphones. Two plaintiffs allege Google restricts the use of competing apps, made by companies such as Microsoft, in favor of its own apps and services on Android handsets. For example, Google is the default search engine on Android handsets, rather than Microsoft's Bing. Google believes the suit should be dismissed because consumers are free to use whichever apps they want. The plaintiffs disagree, stating most people don't know how to change the default apps, and many of those who do won't go through the trouble of doing it. The plaintiffs argued Google apps "are widely used on Android by requiring default placement and other mechanisms for disadvantaging competing apps." Reuters reports that if the lawsuit is allowed to move forward, lawyers will gain access to internal emails and contracts between Google and its handset partners. The initial hearing is set to take place later today.
Google today provided updates to its Maps and Inbox apps for the Android platform. Inbox works better on tablets, adds compatibility with Android Wear (view messages and notifications, reply via voice), and improves suggestions while users type. Google Maps now lets users filter search results by cuisine type, see their Google contacts when searching for addresses, and lets business owners claim and manage their listing pages. Both apps also include bug fixes. Inbox and Google Maps are free to download from the Google Play Store.
Yahoo today pushed out updates to its Weather app for both the Android and iOS platforms. According to Yahoo, the revised app brings with it more live weather graphics, such as fog, rain, heat, snow, lightning, and frost, to the Android app. Yahoo says "instead of reading about the stormy conditions, you'll actually see lightning flash across your screen." The iPhone app has been more fully optimized for the screen sizes and resolutions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Yahoo Weather is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Google recently updated the Google Drive app for both the Android and iOS platforms. The Android version gains support for Google Now-style voice search to help find files. Both versions gain support for a wider range of imported file formats. The iOS version can now upload files to Drive from more apps across iPhones and iPads. Google Drive is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Instagram today pushed out an update to the Android and iOS versions of its mobile photography application. The app adds five filters, the first new ones to appear in several years. The filters are named Aden, Crema, Ludwig, Perpetua, and Slumber. Beyond the filters themselves, Instagram now allows users to manage the filters. Users can rearrange the order in which the filters appear, as well as hide filters they don't like. Instagram for Android and iOS is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Apple Pay has garnered more support from banks and retailers around the country, according to the New York Times. SunTrust, Barclaycard, and USAA have already agreed to support Apple Pay with their cards, and 10 more banks, including TD Bank North America and Commerce Bank, are adding support for Apple Pay beginning today. With the new financial institutions on board, a significantly larger percentage of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners can use Apple Pay to make mobile payments at participating retailers. More retailers are interested in Apple Pay, too. Staples will begin accepting Apple Pay at its 1,400 stores beginning today, and Amway Center, where the Orlando Magic basketball team plays, will begin accepting Apple Pay at concessions stands during games. Apple Pay uses an NFC radio embedded in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to power tap-and-go payments at more than 220,000 retail outlets around the U.S. iPhone owners use their fingerprint to approve purchases, which are secured thanks to unique codes assigned to each transaction. Apple Pay launched Oct. 20. Competing services, such as Softcard, are available to select Android and Windows Phones sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
Google today pushed out updates to its Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps for Android devices and added a few new features along the way. According to Google, Docs now offers more control over line spacing; Sheets adds scrollbars for simpler navigation; and Slides permits users to insert, move, resize, and rotate text boxes/shapes. Further, all three apps are more compatible with their Microsoft Office counterparts. Google's productivity apps are free to download from the Google Play Store.
BlackBerry today made BBM 2.0 available to the Windows Phone platform. The updated app is now more in line with the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of BBM thanks to several new features. For example BBM for Windows Phone now includes timed messages (which expire after they're seen/read) and message retraction (for recalling unread messages). BBM for Windows Phone also added a wide number of stickers for enlivening conversations. BBM 2.0 for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Skype today announced a minor update to its Qik app for the Android and Windows Phone platforms. With the update installed, users will be able to save their Qik videos from the app to their device's camera roll if they wish. Videos can also be sent or deleted. Skype Qik is similar to Snapchat in that it allows users to send semi-ephemeral videos to one another. The videos are limited to 42 seconds in length and expire after two weeks. Qik also lets users pre-record five-second Qik Fliks, which Qik describes as canned video responses to use when there's no time to record a new video. The Skype Qik update is available to Android and Windows Phone devices today, and will be available to the iPhone in the near future.
BlackBerry today pushed out BBM 2.6 to the Android and iOS platforms, as well as its own BlackBerry platform. All three versions of the app gain new features, including support for stickers within group chats and a 60-second option for time chats. The Android version of BBM tackles Android 5.0 Lollipop and adds landscape mode. BBM for iOS 8 adds compatibility with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus screens. BBM for BlackBerry OS now lets users share multiple pictures and attachments at the same time. BBM 2.6 is free to download from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store, and BlackBerry World.
Google recently updated its Google Fit and Google Translate applications for Android devices. Google Fit gains several new and compelling features, including support for more than 100 new activities, experimental step detection (for walking when the watch isn't connected to a phone), and improved compatibility with Android Wear. The app also sees some bug fixes and performance improvements. Google Translate is now compatible with 90 languages from around the world. The recent update added 10 new ones, including Chichewa, Malagasy, Sesotho, Malayalam, Myanmar, Sinhala, Sudanese, Kazakh, Tajik, and Uzbek. Both apps are free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google recently updated its Chromecast application for Android devices and refreshed it with Material Design. Beyond the new look Chromecast now supports guest mode, which Google says makes it easier for others to cast content from their Android device to Chromecast. Chromecast owners will need to active guest mode via the settings tools first. Once they do, any nearby Android device can cast directly to Chromecast without first joining the associated WiFi network. Chromecast is a thumb-sized media player that connects to HDTVs. The app is free, but the player itself costs $35.
Microsoft today expanded the availability of its MSN-branded apps beyond Windows Phone, adding them to the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. The apps, which have evolved on the Windows Phone platform this year, include MSN Food & Drink, MSN Health & Fitness, MSN Money, MSN News, and MSN Sports. These five are available to both Android and iOS today. The MSN Weather app is available to Android today, too, and will be available to iOS soon. Of note, Microsoft said its MSN Health & Fitness app makes use of Apple's HealthKit tools, which will allow iPhone owners to track steps and other fitness goals. Microsoft has targeted Android and iOS aggressively this year with its own applications and services, including MS Office, its core productivity suite, and other utilities such as OneNote and OneDrive. All the apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Sprint today said it plans to install the Uber application on most of its Android smartphones moving forward. Uber is a ride-seeking app that lets people discover and request rides. Sprint and Uber are offering new customers $20 toward their first ride when they create a new Uber account. Uber requires payment via credit card, but customers can use the app to keep track of their driver as he/she approaches, as well as see estimated costs for their ride. Sprint customers who don't have Uber preinstalled on their device are still eligible to receive the discount. Uber is available from the Google Play Store, the iTunes App Store, and the Windows Phone Store.
Google today updated its Android Wear app for smartphones and wearables, adding a significant number of new watch faces. Google said Android Wear device owners can now download watch faces directly from the Play Store. In conjunction with the new faces, Google updated the accompanying phone app to make browsing, downloading, and switching watch faces easier. Google said the Android Wear app updates, both for phones and smart watches, are rolling out to devices slowly over the next few weeks. Last, Google today made the Watch Face API available to developers. The API gives developers far more creative control over watch faces they can design.
Nokia today made its HERE Maps product more visible to Android device owners by adding it to the Google Play Store. Nokia has offered HERE Maps to Android devices in beta form since October, but only from its own web site. Until now, people interested the app needed to sideload HERE Maps. Moving forward, HERE Maps is free to download from the Play Store, though it is still in beta form. HERE Maps allows users to download entire countries or regions, which makes the maps available even when the device is offline. HERE Maps for Android devices include free, voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. Users can plan routes via car, public transport, or foot. Nokia says maps are available for about 200 countries with turn-by-turn directions available in about 100. Transit maps are available in 750 metro areas across 40 different countries, with more being added all the time. Nokia today also said it has updated its here.com web site, which should perform better on mobile devices. Last, Nokia expects to bring the modern version of HERE Maps to iOS in early 2015.
Facebook today said moving forward it will be easier for people to explore stories from different sources because it is bringing its Trending view to mobile devices. Uses who check the Trending tab will see conversations organized in up to five different sections. The 'Articles' view shows how news sites are covering any given story. The 'In the Story' view will reveal content from those participating in the story. The 'Friends and Groups' view reveals what the user's friends are saying about the story. The 'Near the Scene' view shows posts from people near the breaking story. Last, the 'Live Feed' view provides a real-time stream of all reactions to the story. Facebook will continue to rank posts by engagement, activity, and timeliness. According to Facebook, the new Trending tool is available on its mobile web site and within the Android app beginning today. Trending tools will come to iOS in the near future.
Google today revealed an update to the Hangouts App for Android devices and added a number of new capabilities to its mobile messaging service. Hangouts now makes it easier for people to discover one another thanks to a number searching function. Conversations will display a "last seen" marker to make users' availability more apparent. The app gains new filters for video chats, including sepia, black and white, and vignette. Google added 16 sticker packs to the app, and made it easier to share location data and discover nearby points of interest for potential real-life meet-ups. Google Hangouts is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Nokia today announced an update to its suite of HERE navigation apps for the Windows Phone platform. HERE Drive+ gains 18 new languages with the update, including Algeria, Iraq, Cyprus, and Libya, making for a total of 118 supported languages. Nokia said HERE Maps, HERE Transit, and HERE City Lens also received updates, though they are limited to performance improvements and bug fixes. Nokia's HERE apps are free to download from the Windows Store. Nokia, and not Microsoft, makes and distributes the HERE apps, which are also available to Android devices.
Silent Circle today announced a forthcoming update to its Blackphone that will add a privacy-focused app store. The storefront will only be available from the Blackphone and will feature apps to help users manage and maintain their personal or professional data. The updated PrivatOS operating system will also add a feature called Silent Spaces, which makes it possible for device owners to create multiple user profiles on a single device. Similar to Kid Mode in Windows Phone, Blackphone users can use Silent Spaces set up segregated user modes to make it safer to pass the device around to different people. Silent Circle said it will distribute the update to PrivatOS beginning in January. Silent Circle is run by security-minded firms. PrivatOS is based on Android, but is more secure. The Blackphone is the only device that operates PrivatOS. It offers encrypted calling, messaging, and email services for secure communications.
Microsoft recently updated its Torque application for Android Wear and carried it over from smartwatches to smartphones. With Torque, Android Wear and Android smartphone owners can shake or twist their device to launch Bing Voice Search. Bing Voice Search requires internet access, but can be controlled through a wide variety of voice commands to check the weather, perform simple math, or search for information. Torque works with most Android smartphones, and works best with the Asus Zen Watch, LG G Watch, and Samsung Gear Live Android wearables. Torque is free.
Google today began pushing Android 5.0.1 Lollipop to the HTC One M7 and M8 Google Play Editions. The update may take up to two weeks to reach most handsets over the air, but users may also download and manually install the updates if they wish. Manually installing the updates requires some coding know-how and is not recommended for casual users. Google is already pushing Lollipop to the Sony Xperia Z Ultra Google Play Edition. Android 5.0 offers a brand new design, revamped notifications, and many other new features. Google Play Edition handsets are sold directly by Google and use stock Android rather than the phone maker's user interface skin.
YotaPhone today announced the availability of the YotaPhone 2, a smartphone that has a traditional display on one side and an e-ink display on the other. The YotaPhone 2, which was first revealed in February of this year, is meant to help people access and read content while preserving battery life. The device runs Android 4.4 KitKat on the main screen and a slimmed down UI on the e-ink screen that lets users scan their email, check the weather, read text messages, check the news, and read e-books. The e-ink display measures 4.7 inches and boasts 48 hours of reading time. The YotaPhone 2 is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It includes an 8-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It supports select LTE 4G networks and goes on sale this week in Russia and the U.K. for approximately $870. According to YotaPhone, it may be made available in the U.S. next year.
Sprint today said its Boost Mobile and Sprint customers can now purchase eGift cards directly from their smartphones. Sprint added support for eGift cards to the Boost Mobile Wallet and the Sprint Money Express apps. Both apps already let Boost and Sprint customers manage checks, money transfers, payments, and cash from their device. Now, consumers can buy eGift cards from retailers such as Amazon, Babies 'R' Us, JCPenney, and others. eGift cards are sent to recipients via email with personalized messages from the sender. Boost Mobile Wallet and Sprint Money Express are free to download and use. The new functionality will be added to the app through an over-the-air update. Boost Mobile Wallet works on Android and iOS devices, but Sprint Money Express only works on Android.
Sony today said it has begun distributing Android 5.0 Lollipop to the Xperia Z Ultra Google Play Edition handset. The Z Ultra GPe is sold by Google and comes with a stock build of Android, free of any UI customizations from Sony. Android 5.0 gives the Z Ultra GPe a refreshed look, new notification features, faster performance, and support for multiple accounts. Sony is pushing the system update out slowly over the days ahead. Sony also committed to updating the entire Xperia Z Series to Android 5.0 beginning in early 2015.
Pandora today revealed changes to its Android and iOS applications that will make customizing stations and the listening experience easier. The first new feature is the beta release of Pandora's Station Personalization interface, which includes new transitions and animations that make it clearer to users the stations and playlists to which they are listening. Pandora added the Personalization Icon in the top right of the Now Playing screen. Using this tool opens a new Station Details screen that lets listeners view their station history and song/station ratings. Users will be able to rename stations as well as add variety to them. Pandora is also changing the behavior of its thumbs up/thumbs down tool. For example, users can more easily change the thumb rating of a particular song, as well as discover song details from the ratings screen. Pandora said the updated Android and iOS apps will be available from their respective app stores soon.
Microsoft today announced that it has purchased Acompli, a developer of Android and iOS email applications. Microsoft said it will use Acompli and its team to "deliver the full power of Office to mobile devices" via Outlook. Microsoft plans to create cross-platform email apps that support a number of email services so users can focus more an getting things done than on managing their email app. The Acompli email application is highly rated in both the Android and iOS app stores. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Microsoft has made a significant push across competing mobile platforms in recent months, expanding its Office product suite to Android tablets, for example, and making more features available to Android and iOS devices for free.
Twitter today revealed that it will soon begin to analyze the apps Twitter users install on their phones. The company claims the data will be used "to help build a more personal Twitter experience ... so we can deliver tailored content that you might be interested in." Some of those improvements might include who-to-follow suggestions, or adding unsolicited Tweets and other content to users' timelines. Twitter says it is not collecting any data from those other apps, but it is reporting back to Twitter which apps are installed. Twitter says Android and iOS users can opt out of the app tracking by adjusting their settings. Directions to opt out are available on Twitter's web site.
Vine recently updated its Android and iOS mobile apps with push notifications. Moving forward, users can opt to receive alerts when their favorite Vine accounts post new content. Vine is a short-video sharing service. It lets people upload and share six-second videos. Vine is owned by Twitter. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Skype updated its Android app recently and added several new capabilities. The most significant new feature for Android phones is the ability to multitask and maintain video chats outside of Skype though a picture-in-picture view. Other improvements include faster chat loads, the ability to receive photos from Skype for iPhone, support for formatted text (bold, italic, etc.), and support for Hindi. Skype for Android is free to download from the Play Store.
Verizon Wireless today announced the LG GizmoPal, a wearable for children meant to provide parents with peace of mind. The wearable can make and receive phone calls, though only to/from a limited set of numbers. Parents can easily mange the GizmoPal through an app (Android and iOS), and use it to track their child's location throughout the day. The GizmoPal costs $80 and can be added to a More Everything plan for $5 per month. It will be available in select stores Nov. 26 and all Verizon sales channels by Dec. 11. It comes in either blue or pink.
Verizon Wireless has made Android 5.0 Lollipop available to its variant of the Moto X (2nd. gen.). Other carriers made Lollipop available to the Moto X earlier this month. Lollipop is a complete refresh of the OS, including a new design and new features.
Verizon today added the LG Transpyre to its prepaid lineup. This basic Android phone is essentially the same phone as the LG Tribute offered by Virgin Mobile, except with more memory and a better front camera. The phone has a 4.5-inch display, 5-megapixel main camera, and 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor. Other features include 4G LTE, a memory card slot, and a removable battery. Verizon is currently offering the Transpyre for $100 with a no-contract prepaid plan.
AT&T today announced the immediate availability of the Sonim XP6. The XP6 is a highly rugged Android smartphone that includes buttons and controls like a feature phone. It is certified to mil-spec 810G for protection against drops, vibration, temperature extremes, and humidity. The IP68 rating means it is protected again water and dust intrusion, as well. The XP6 is compatible with AT&T's enhanced PTT service, and has an extremely loud speaker at 103dB. The phone has a 2.64-inch display with 320 x 424 pixels. It runs Android 4.4 KitKat. Specs include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage; 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture; an extra large 4,820mAh battery; and Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, and WiFi radios. AT&T is selling the Sonim XP6 through its business sales channels. The Sonim XP6 is available for $0 down at $17.50 per month on AT&T Next 24; $21.88 on AT&T Next 18; $26.25 on AT&T Next 12; $149.99 with a standard two-year contract; or $524.99 with no commitment. Business and government customers can buy the XP6 for $100 with a two-year contract as long as they also sign up for EPTT service.
Microsoft recently updated its Office apps for Android smartphones and added compatibility with Dropbox. The company announced Dropbox integration for its Office products earlier this month. Android users can now access Dropbox from Office apps to get to their files and folders; edit Office files directly from Dropbox and sync them across devices; and share new or edited files from the Office apps using Dropbox sharing tools. Interested users will need both an Office and a Dropbox account in order to access these tools. Microsoft Office and Dropbox are free to download from the Play Store.
Twitter today revealed a new feature that allows people to send individual tweets to others through direct messages. The feature is being added to both the Android and iOS applications, as well as to Twitter.com. Before today, the only way to share tweets privately was via email or other methods outside of Twitter. Twitter hopes the sharing tool will prevent people from leaving Twitter for other apps. Twitter recently made it possible to send URLs through its direct message tool, as well. It had initially turned off this feature to protect against spam. Twitter also opened its archives for anyone to search. All public tweets stretching back to 2006 can now be discovered.
Motorola today announced the Keylink, a Bluetooth device meant to help the absent minded find their missing keys or phone. The Keylink can be attached to a key ring and is paired with devices via Motorola's Connect application. Once set up, your keys and phone will be able to find one another should either go missing. For lost phones, Keylink owners need only press a button to make their phone ring. Similarly, for lost keys Keylink owners need only open the Connect app to make the Keylink ring. According to Motorola, the Keylink has a range of about 100 feet, and the replaceable battery lasts about a year. The Motorola Connect app is free to both Android and iOS devices. The Keylink is available from Motorola and T-Mobile beginning today for $25.
Samsung has lost its bid to delay a trial with Microsoft, which is seeking interest payments of $6.9 million on patent licenses. Samsung and Microsoft forged an agreement in 2011 in which Samsung agreed to pay royalties for patents Microsoft holds that are used in the Android operating system. Samsung delayed making its royalty payments after Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Nokia's handset business. According to Samsung, Microsoft's move made it a direct competitor, which it feared could lead to collusion charges. Samsung asked an international court in Hong Kong to hold arbitration hearings, which it wanted to complete before dealing with Microsoft in the U.S. A U.S. District Court Judge disagreed, however, and said Microsoft's case can move forward during the arbitration process.