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 today highlighted some forthcoming announcements that should have Android fans excited. To start, the company says a number of its handset partners are bringing new Android Oreo Go devices to market, and that the phones will be available for purchase soon. Android Oreo Go is a lightweight version of Android that can run on inexpensive devices with 1G of RAM or less. Google has built light versions of Gmail, YouTube, Search, and other apps so people with Android Go devices can still access information and entertainment on the go. Further, Google's hardware partners have new Android One phones in the works. Android One is a pure version of the platform that includes a streamlined user interface, regular security updates, major system upgrades, and solid performance. Google said it also has news regarding Google Assistant, Google Lens, and its RCS efforts for mobile messaging. Specific announcements are expected as soon as Sunday, February 25.
Cat Phones today unveiled the S61, an update to the S60. The S61 is a fully rugged Android smartphone that is waterproof, dirtproof, and able to handle temperature extremes, drops, vibration, and salt water. The S61 provides a major upgrade to the FLIR Lepton thermal imaging camera, which now offers higher resolution imagery (up to full HD) and a wider range of readable temperatures (-20C to 400C). Owners can even livestream thermal video to Facebook if they wish. A new indoor air quality sensor alerts people to high levels of indoor air pollutants, such as paints or solvents, and will sound an alarm of levels become dangerous. The S61 packs a laser-assisted distance/area measuring tool that has a range of 32 feet. The S61 includes a 5.2-inch full HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, glove sensitivity, and wet-finger tracking. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. A standard 16-megapixel camera adorns the back and an 8-megapixel shooter is on front. Other specs include USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, FM radio, Bluetooth 5.0, and a 4,500mAh battery with Quick Charge 4.0. Cat says the S61 will go on sale during the second quarter. Pricing in the U.S. is expected to be in excess of $1,000.
LG today revealed two new handsets, 2018 updates to its K8 and K10 mid-range series. Both phones carry over the previous generations' pebble-shaped contours and 2.5D arc glass, but make advancements in the materials. The K10, for example, has a U-shaped metal frame while the K8 relies on polycarbonate. Shared features between the new K8 and K10 include improved low-light photography thanks to Low Light Noise reduction that's combined with HDR to eliminate grain and provide more luminosity and contrast. The cameras also gain a new Timer Helper feature that uses the flash as a visual guide during timer countdowns. The Flash Jump Shot feature takes one photo every three seconds and pastes them together into a shareable GIF. Shared specs include LTE, GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, FM radio, microUSB, and Android 7 Nougat.
- K10: The larger of the two phones includes a 5.3-inch 720p display and a 1.5 GHz octa-core processor. It will ship with 2 or 3 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of storage, depending on the variant. The phone features a 13-megapixel main camera and either a 5- or 8-megapixel wide-angle front camera. The selfie camera can capture bokeh-style shots. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery and fingerprint reader.
- K8: The K8 steps down to a 5-inch 720p display and a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The rear camera has an 8-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. It has a 2,500mAh battery.
Google today announced the Android Enterprise Recommended program and an initial batch of handsets that meet the qualifications. Google says the Android Enterprise Recommended program “establishes best practices and common requirements for devices and services, backed by a thorough testing process conducted by Google.” In order to qualify, devices have to meet a number of specifications concerning their hardware, deployment, security updates, and user help programs. For example, devices approved must run at least Android 7 Nougat, and receive security updates no later than 90 days from their release from Google. Further, device makers must commit to offering security patches to unlocked devices for a minimum of three years. Some of the initial devices that meet the requirements — and are thus recommended for business users — include the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; the BlackBerry KEYone and Motion; the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro; the LG V30 and G6; the Motorola X4 and Z2 ; the Nokia 8; and the Sony Xperia XZ1, XZ Premium, XA2, and XA2 Ultra. Google says it will update the requirements with each new Android platform release to “raise the bar to ensure we are delivering the best experience for our enterprise customers.”
Blu Products today announced the Vivo X, a flagship handset that costs less than $300. The phone is among the first from Blu to jump to the 18:9 aspect ratio for its 6-inch 1440 by 720p display. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3. A MediaTek Helio P25 processor powers the phone with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. The Vivo X features two sets of dual cameras. A 13-megapixel main camera adorns the rear of the phone with LED flash, f/2.0 aperture, PDAF, and full HD video capture. The secondary camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Together, they can produce bokeh-style images. On the front, the Vivo X features a 20-megapixel standard-angle camera with user-facing LED flash, f/2.0 aperture, and face unlock, and an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera. Other features include a 4,010mAh battery with rapid charging, fingerprint reader, MaxxAudio speakers, dual SIM card support, Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi, GPS, and support for GSM networks in the U.S. It runs Android 7 Nougat. Blu is selling the Vivo X unlocked from its own web site as well as Amazon for $249.
Facebook today improved the video call tool in Facebook Messenger by making it a snap to add more people to the conversation. As it works today, creating group video calls requires people to initiate the call as such from the onset. With the new update, people who have an in-progress call with one person can simply add others without interrupting the existing call. A new button makes it easy to find and add other Messenger contacts. Facebook says this new feature is rolling out to its Facebook Messenger app for Android and iOS devices worldwide.
Qualcomm today announced the Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence Engine, a package of hardware and software components meant to help developers bring AI-assisted apps and services to Qualcomm-powered handsets. The AI Engine is supported on the Snapdragon 845, 835, 820, and 660 mobile platforms, though it shines brightest on the 845, which has its own AI processing built in. The AI Engine relies on three core hardware components: the Hexagon Vector Processor, the Adreno GPU, and the Kryo CPU. On the software side, Qualcomm's AI Engine runs on the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine, software that was created so developers can target the exact core they want powering their apps. The NPE supports Tensorflow, Caffe and Caffe2, and the Open Neural Network Exchange for developers. The AI Engine supports the Android Neural Networks API, which is baked into Android 8 Oreo, and gives developers access to Snapdragon hardware directly through the Android operating system. Last, the AI Engine banks on the Hexagon Neural Network Library so developers can run AI algorithms directly on the Hexagon Vector Processor. This powers machine learning and accelerates AI operations. Qualcomm says the sum of all these parts is real-time responsiveness, improved privacy, and enhanced reliability on the supported Snapdragon mobile platforms. Phone companies including Xiaomi, OnePlus, Vivo, Oppo, Motorola, Asus, ZTE, Nubia, Smartisan, and Blackshark were among the first to commit to using the AI Engine on future handsets. Qualcomm will be demonstrating the technology at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress trade show.
Snapchat is pushing an update to its mobile app that adds several new features, including support for Giphy stickers and Tabs. With Giphy on board, Snapchat users can add GIF stickers to their snaps by tapping the sticker button. The GIF stickers can be placed anywhere on the photo or video, as well as resized and pinned in place. The Tabs tool is meant to help people keep tabs on their preferred stories. The Tabs section is built into the Friends and Discover pages. It lets people sift through the active stories and group chats shared by their friends. Giphy support is available in the latest version of Snapchat for Android and iOS, while the Tabs tool is rolling in phases over the next few weeks.
Google today released Google Pay, the revised payment application and service that replaces Android Pay. Google Pay encompasses most features of Google Wallet and Android Pay in a single app, allowing people to use Google Pay to make payments online and via mobile devices. Google Pay is already accepted on some apps and web sites, including Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, HungryHouse, and Instacart. Google expects Google Pay to become more widely available online quickly, as developers don't have to do much to alter their existing Google Wallet- and Android Pay-backed services for full Google Pay integration. Google Pay for Android features information about nearby stores, recent purchases, and access to rewards. A new tab helps users collect and organize their loyalty and membership cards. Google Pay supports mass transit payments in Kiev, London, and Portland, with more cities coming soon. The Google Wallet app is being rebranded to Google Pay Send and will soon allow people in the U.S. and U.K. to send/request money to/from their peers. Google Pay is available from the Google Play Store.
Nuance says its Swype+Dragon application for Android and iOS has reached end of development. "Nuance will no longer be updating the Swype+Dragon keyboard for Android. We’re sorry to leave the direct-to-consumer keyboard business, but this change is necessary to allow us to concentrate on developing our AI solutions for sale directly to businesses," confirmed Nuance to XDA Developers. Swype was an early leader in the swiping-keyboard space. It started as an independent app, but was later acquired by Nuance. Nuance continued to develop the app and eventually integrated the swiping keyboard with its own Dragon voice dictation technology. The space is competitive, however, and Google's own GBoard application has garnered quick adoption on many Android devices. Swype+Dragon is still available from the Play Store for the time being, but it will no longer receive updates.
Google has made a light and quick version of Gmail available to select handsets. Gmail Go is a slimmed-down version of Gmail that works better on devices with limited resources or spotty network connections. The app consumes less space on devices and requires less storage for email messages. It includes many of Gmail's signature features, including 15 GB of online storage, notifications, focused inbox, spam protection, and support for multiple accounts (IMAP/POP). Gmail Go is free to download from the Google Play Store, though Google hasn't specified which devices are able to use it. The majority fo Google's "Go" apps are reserved for entry-level devices in emerging markets. Gmail Go is not compatible with many of today's high-end phones.
Google today updated Google Maps for iOS devices with new real-time tools to make finding information on the go even quicker. iPhone owners can now swipe up when using Google Maps to open three tabs: explore, driving, and transit. These tabs contain information about nearby restaurants, real-time traffic conditions, and train/bus schedules. These features have been available to Google Maps for Android since last year. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Microsoft's garage team has released a new application that lets Android and iOS users easily transfer photos from their phone to their Windows 10 PC. Photos Companion works in coordination with the Microsoft Photos app on Windows 10 PCs. As long as the iPhone or Android device is on the same network as the PC, users can transfer photos and videos directly from the phone to the computer over WiFi. The app makes use of a QR code in Microsoft Photos on the PC that users scan with the Photos Companion app to initiate the transfer. Photos Companion is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Samsung has pulled the Android 8 Oreo update for the Galaxy S8 after users reported random reboots. "Following a limited number of cases where Galaxy S8 and S8+ devices have rebooted unexpectedly with the Android 8.0 Oreo, we have temporarily stopped the rollout of the update," said Samsung in a statement provided to SamMobile. "We are investigating the issue internally to ensure that the impact to the affected devices is minimized and the rollout of the update can resume as quickly as possible." Samsung has been rolling out Android 8 slowly over the last few weeks, mostly in European markets. The update had not yet reached the S8 and S8+ in the U.S. Samsung did not say when it expects the make the update available again.
Facebook's messaging application for children, announced late last year, is now available for Android devices via the Google Play Store. Messenger Kids is a mobile app that gives kids under the age of 13 the power to communicate via text and video with approved family members and friends. The app works on smartphones and tablets, but is controlled through the parent's Facebook account. Messenger Kids was first made available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and later Amazon devices. The app is free to download and use.
Subscribers to Google's YouTube TV service now have access to more content in more places for more dollars per month. The live TV and video service is adding a number of Turner-owned stations to its lineup, including Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CNN, HLN, TBS, TNT, truTV, and Turner Classic Movies. Sports content from NBA TV and MLB Network will follow soon. The service launched with content from 50 channels. There are still glaring omission, particularly with respect to content for children, such as Nickelodeon. Google didn't say what the full new channel lineup is. YouTube TV has expanded is geographical reach to the top 100 markets around the country. Some of the most recent additions include Burlington, Champaign, Charleston, Columbia, Dayton, El Paso, Harlingen, Honolulu, Lexington, Mobile, Petersburg, Plattsburgh, Richmond, Scranton, Springfield, Syracuse, Wichita, and Wilkes-Barre. These content and market expansions come at a cost. Google plans to raise the price from $35 per month to $40 per month beginning March 15. Customers who sign up before then will be grandfathered in at the lower price. YouTube TV is available on Android and iOS phones and tablets, as well as the Apple TV and Roku players. Subscribers have access to live television, six sub-accounts, and unlimited DVR recordings.
ZTE today said owners of the Axon 7 smartphone can take Android 8 Oreo for a beta test spin. People interested in testing the new system software will need to register with ZTE's Z-Community. The Axon 7 launched with Android 6 Marshmallow and has already been updated to Android 7 Nougat. ZTE says, based on customer requests, the build of Android 8 Oreo for the Axon 7 will be close to stock. The platform brings improved battery life to the Axon 7, as well as shorter boot times, picture-in-picture mode, notification dots, Google Play Protect, Android instant apps, and autofill for online forms. Android 8 Oreo should be available to Axon 7 owners starting February 14. ZTE did not say how long the OS will be tested by the public before Oreo is offered to all Axon 7 owners. The phone was originally sold unlocked for $400. It features a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 20-megapixel camera, and a 3,140mAh battery.
HMD Global has begun to distribute Android 8.1 Oreo to the Nokia 8 smartphone, according to executive Juho Sarvikas. HMD Global makes and markets Android handsets under the Nokia brand. The Nokia 8 is HMD Global's flagship device. It has a 5.3-inch screen, aluminum build, 13-megapixel cameras with Zeiss optics, and a Snapdragon 835 processor. The company released Android 8 to its Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 handsets earlier this year. It indicated that Android 8.1 will arrive for both these devices in the near future.
VideoLAN this week updated its open-source VLC media player with a significant number of new features. VLC version 3.0 adds support for Chromecast, which lets people push video from their handset to any device that can receive casted content. Other additions include support for 360-degree video and 3D sound playback, HDMI passthrough, HDR quality video, a handful of new codes, and much more. VLC 3.0 is available for a variety of mobile and desktop platforms, including Android and iOS. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
In the interest of security, Google plans to call out web sites that don't adopt https. Later this year, version 68 of the Chrome web browser will proactively label web sites that don't make use of https encryption. The company has been casually marking such web sites, but will start to call them all out this summer. The goal is to encourage web developers to add https to their web sites, which will improve security for everyone. According to Google, over 68% of Chrome traffic on both Android and Windows is now protected, while over 78% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac is now protected. Fully 81 of the top 100 sites on the web use https by default. Google said it will adjust Chrome's user interface so users understand which sites are insecure and why they are insecure. Google says it has simplified its set-up guides to help web developers secure their sites with https.
Turing Robotic Industries, a company that promised to create a sleek, secure smartphone nearly three years ago, has moved into insolvency. TRI was located in Finland and formed by some ex-Nokia employees. It gathered most of its funding from Chinese investors. The idea was to create a high-end Android phone made of "liquidmorphium" that would deliver secure communications similar to the Blackphone. After making promises — and failing to meet them — for over a year, the company did ship a Sailfish-based handset during the late summer of 2016. It later announced the Appassionato handset (pictured) with features such as a 5.5-inch screen, Android 7, and a Snapdragon 821, but the phone never made it to market. TRI CEO Syl Chao took to the company's Facebook page to ensure those who live near its facility in Salo, Finland, to not worry about its bankruptcy. "We will be posting the latest developments concerning the future of TRI in the coming weeks," wrote Chao. TRI owes more than $2 million to investors, to say nothing of the money owed to customers who preordered (and never received) its handsets.
Google today updated its Motion Stills application for Android devices with augmented reality stickers. The feature lets Motion Stills users place virtual 3D objects in their viewfinders when filming videos and/or GIFs. People need only touch a spot in the viewfinder and Motion Stills will stick a 3D object in that spot, adding it to the scene. Google says it uses the device's internal accelerometer and gyroscope, along with the tracked ground plane, to align objects and allow them to move. Google is able to do this regardless of the device's orientation without calibration and keep things parallel to the ground. Recorded GIFs and videos with stickers can be shared via most social networks. Motion Stills for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today made the February security patch available to its Nexus and Pixel devices. First and foremost, the patch closes a number of security holes in the code that left all the handsets vulnerable to certain types of attacks. Google plugged up issues in the kernel, framework, system, and in select Qualcomm components. The update also provides a number of feature updates specifically for Pixel 2 devices. For example, it boosts Bluetooth call quality, WiFi uplink performance, and battery performance. It also improves the camera, Android Auto, app compatibility, mobile data, and audio switching, and provides stability fixes. Last, as already mentioned, the February patch turns on the Pixel Visual Core in the Pixel 2 and 2 XL for better photography. The update is now live and rolling out to devices.
Huawei today starting taking orders for its Mate 10 Pro flagship smartphone. The handset is available for purchase online from a number of retailers, including Amazon, BestBuy, Microsoft, Newegg, and B&H. Those who preorder the Mate 10 Pro between now and February 17 will receive a $150 gift card from the associated retailer. The device itself costs $799 and comes in black, blue, gray, or copper. The Mate 10 Pro has a 6-inch 2:1 display, Kirin 970 processor with 6 GB of RAM, dual Leica cameras with portrait and monochrome modes, fingerprint reader, and Android 8 Oreo. The company had hoped to sell the device through U.S. carriers, but pressure from the government put the kibosh on carrier distribution deals. It is sold unlocked and is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. The Mate 10 Pro will ship starting February 18.
Instagram today expanded the feature set of its mobile app with a new text-focused way to create posts. The Type mode in stories let's people post just text with no underlying photo or video. The tool supports changeable background colors and fonts, and allows users to highlight words or phrases. Like other content added to the stories section, typed posts within stories will disappear after 24 hours. Type mode is available in the latest version of Instagram's app for Android and iOS devices. The change coincides with new advertising behaviors. Instagram today also gave brands more options to cram advertisements into the app. Specifically, brands can now create multi-part stories that require multiple taps to skip past when scrolling through stories. Users can expect to see the expanded advertising format appear in Instagram stories in the coming weeks.
OnePlus today begain pushing OxygenOS 5.0.2, which includes Android 8 Oreo, to the OnePlus 5T handset. As expected, the Oreo update contains notification dots, picture-in-picture, and autofill tools in Chrome. This update for the 5T also packs security patches, general bug fixes, and a new design for the Quick Settings screen. OnePlus says OxygenOS 5.0.2 also updates the file manager, weather, and gallery apps, and boosts the launcher to version 2.2. According to OnePlus, some users will see the update as soon as today though the bulk of users will see it over the next few days. The 5T is OnePlus’ flagship handset.
HMD Global is delivering an Oreo treat to owners of the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 smartphones. The company said it has begun pushing Android 8 to both handsets. Android 8 Oreo includes notification dots, picture-in-picture, quicker boot times, autofill passwords, Google Play Protect scans, and the January 2018 security patch. HMD Global said the update will roll out in phases over the next few weeks. HMD Global makes and markets phones under the Nokia brand.
Essential Products said via its Twitter account that it will not update the Essential Phone to Android 8.0 Oreo. Instead, it intends to update the handset directly to Android 8.1. The company said it "discovered several stability issues" in Android 8.0 that gave it cause for concern. It will instead focus its efforts on Android 8.1. It expects to release the Android 8.1 beta early next month and will go from there. Essential hopes customers won't mind waiting an extra few weeks for the system update.
Photos that appear on Twitter should begin to look better over the coming weeks. The company says it has changed the algorithms it uses to automatically crop images and the results are much improved. Before this week, the company used a face-detection method to determine which portion of the image to show in users' feeds. Twitter eventually came to realize not all images contain faces, and even when they did the face-detection method sometimes focused on the wrong face or region of the photo. Moving forward, the company is employing a new method in determining how to crop photos. It is focusing on salient image regions, which are areas of high-contrast that contain objects such as people or animals that human eyes often seek first when viewing pictures. Scanning image saliency is often slow, so Twitter created several new techniques, called knowledge distillation and pruning, to speed up the process. The result, says Twitter, is a system that can scan photos for saliency in real-time as users post them. Photos with better cropping will appear on Twitter.com, as well as on the Android and iOS Twitter apps.
Google has improved the reach of its Files Go app, a utility that's meant to help people manage the limited storage space of mobile devices. First, the app is now compatible with SD cards. Users can filter through and locate files stored on SD cards with a simple tap in the file finder. Second, Files Go now runs on tablets. The app functions the same way on Android slates as it does on Android smartphones, making it possible to share files from one device to the other simply and quickly. Third, and last, Files Go users can now customize which apps open specific files. A new "open with" flow gives people more control over the way files interact with other applications. Google believes these new features will improve the experience of managing device-side storage. Files Go is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today updated the Android Wear SDK for developers and revealed several new features that are headed to its smartwatch platform later this year. Primarily, Android Wear will add a notification indicator to all watch faces. The indicator will appear as a small dot at the bottom of the watch face. The dot indicator will be displayed by default if/when there are unread notifications in any app on the watch. Developers can use the Android Wear SDK 2.2.0 and revised emulator to ensure the dot works with the design of their app. Google says developers can disable the notification dot for their watch face or app if it doesn't fit with their design. Those who choose to use it can configure the color of the dot and ring to suit their needs. Android Wear SDK 2.2.0 makes improvements to permission handling with a revised ComplicationDrawable mechanism, and developers will have more control over how complications are refreshed on the watch face. For example, developers can choose to refresh their face every minute, rather than every second, which should help with battery life and rendering images within the complication. Google says these and other features will be available to end users in Android Wear 2.9 later this year. For now, developers can download the refreshed SDK and make use of the added tools as they update their smartwatch apps.
Google this week made Chrome 64 available to Android devices and added several new tools to the mobile browser. Primarily, Chrome 64 prevents web sites with aggressive advertisements from opening new windows or tabs without the user's permission. Google says the refreshed browser also gains stability and performance improvements. Chrome 64 will reach all users over the next few weeks. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today said it is bringing the smart reply feature from its Gmail app to the Android Messages app. The tool automatically generates several responses to incoming messages, which users can select and send with a single tap. The feature will first reach Android Messages on Project Fi smartphones. That includes Nexus and Pixel handsets running Android 8.x Oreo. Google didn't say if or when smart replies would reach Android Messages on other devices. The update is free to download from the Google Play Store.
FitBit today extended the life cycle of the Pebble smartwatch by six months. In December 2016, when FitBit acquired certain assets from Pebble, it said it would support Pebble smartwatches through the end of 2017. Today, the company said it would give Pebble smartwatch owners another six months, keeping most services up and running through June 30, 2018. After June 20, the Pebble app store, the Pebble forum, voice recognition features, SMS and email replies, and timeline pins from third-party apps will all cease to work. Other hardware functions will remain intact. Pebble said the Pebble mobile app will remain functional with Android 8.1 Oreo and 11.x, respectively, but warned that future updates to Android and iOS may break any remaining Pebble Watch functions. Despite the reprieve, FitBit is asking Pebble Watch owners and developers alike to move on and adopt the FitBit Ionic smartwatch. FitBit is offering owners of the Pebble Watch a $50 discount off the purchase of an Ionic watch.
Google today provided an update on the progress it has made with the Chrome browser over the last year and offered a peek at some features that will arrive later this year. To start, Chrome now supports play/pause, rewind, and fast forward controls for audio and video. The browser handles picture-in-picture playback on Android, and improved audio/video controls on both the lock screen and notification shade. The browser is able to mute web sites and soon will let people customize which sites are allowed to autoplay audio and video content. Google has already begin adding support for high dynamic range video content to Chrome for Windows 10 devices, and will expand HDR video playback to more platforms soon. HDR content of course offers more vibrant colors and darker blacks. Last, Google is prepared for the official release of virtual reality on the web, which it has been testing for the better part of a year. Google said HDR video and VR are coming to Chrome later this year. HDR and HDR+ content can be played back on a handful of smartphones, such as the LG V30 and the Samsung Galaxy Note8.
MetroPCS recently added the LG Aristo 2 to its lineup of inexpensive Android handsets. This device is a minor update to the original Aristo. It improves the memory from 1.5 GB to 2 GB, adds support for LTE band 66, and steps up to dual-band Wi-Fi. It also swaps the original’s silver color for black. Other than these changes, the Aristo 2 carries over all the features of the original Aristo, including a 5-inch HD screen, 1.4 GHz quad-core processor, and 16 GB of internal storage. The phone includes a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat. The LG Aristo 2 is available from MetroPCS for $59 after a mail-in rebate. The original Aristo is still available from MetroPCS for $49.
Instagram today announced several new features heading to its mobile app that will improve the experience of sharing stories. To start, users can now place GIFs on top of any photo or video shared via their stories. Instagram says hundreds of thousands of GIFs are available thanks to new integration with GIPHY. Further, Instagram users will soon be able to upload images and video of any shape or size to their story. As is it today, content shared via stories is limited to the portrait orientation. Support for GIFs is available in Instagram v29 for Android and iOS today. The improved support for new photo/video shapes within stories will arrive in a few weeks. Earlier this month, Instagram made it possible for users to share presence and/or status within the DM feature. People can see when their friends were last active in the app. This feature is turned on by default, meaning those who don’t want to share their activity with others will need to dive into the settings menu to deactivate the function.
Integral has announced what is the world's first 512 GB microSD card for smartphones, tablets, cameras, and other devices. Until this week, the highest-capacity card, 400 GB, was sold by SanDisk. Integral's new offering, called the 512 GB microSDXC V10 UHS-I U1 card, includes Class 10 high-speed video transfers for capturing HD video and writing it directly to the memory card. The card is robust, meaning it is waterproof, and it ships with an SD card reader so it may be used with PCs. Most of today's flagship Android devices support cards up to 2 TB, though no such cards yet exist. Integral said its new 512 GB microSD card will reach stores in February, but it did not reveal pricing. By way of comparison, SanDisk's 400 GB card retails for $250.
Google is giving Android devices a new tool to help users decide whether or not to connect to public WiFi networks. "Public Wi-Fi can be spotty," explained Google in a Tweet. "For the first time, Android Oreo 8.1 lets you take out the guesswork and see the speed of networks before you hit connect." Visible networks will reveal both strength and speed. Signal strength will be indicated by the WiFi icon, with a fuller icon meaning a stronger signal. Speed will be labeled explicitly: slow, OK, fast, or very fast. Google says slow connections are good enough for WiFi calling and messaging while OK connections can handle social networks and streaming music. Fast connections should permit streaming most video, while very fast connections will offer high-quality streaming across the board. Users can turn the tool off if they wish. The update is being made available to devices running Android 8.1, which for now is limited to the Nexus 5x, Nexus 6P, and Pixel series.
HTC said that Sprint will begin pushing the Android 8 Oreo system update to its variant of the HTC U11 starting today. The news was shared by HTC executive Mo Versi on Twitter. Android 8 Oreo includes notification dots, picture-in-picture, and auto-fill. The new code from HTC also includes other bug fixes and tweaks. Though the update is available today, it may take up to a week to reach all users. The unlocked and T-Mobile variants of the U11 were updated to Android 8 late last year, as were most variants of the HTC U11 Life. HTC still plans to distribute Android 8 Oreo to the HTC 10 and U Ultra.