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Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.

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Hands On with the HTC U12+

Today, 3:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC's 2018 flagship is the U12+, a phone that aims directly at competing devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S9+, LG G7, and iPhone X. The U12+ sees HTC adopting the 2:1 screen aspect ratio, dialing back the bezels, and carrying over the luscious liquid design from last year's phone. With top specs under the hood, the U12+ is a compelling Android phone. We spent some time with it in person.

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Google Reveals Enterprise Features in Android P

Yesterday, 3:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today provided more information about business features baked into Android P. To start, Android P makes it easier for businesses to set up, manage, and keep separate work and personal profiles. For example, work apps now have a dedicated tab in the app launcher, allowing employees to easily access their work apps and data. Android P also makes it easy for shared devices to host multiple employee profiles. For example, a work tablet can support two or more employees’ work accounts. Users need only sign out at the end of their shift, hand the device over, and the other can sign in and instantly access all their data. The tool also makes it possible for people with a single device to easily turn off their work profile so they can focus on home life. The revised kiosk mode makes it possible to lock Android devices into running only a few dedicated apps. For example, a restaurant could create a kiosk that supports a mobile ordering app and a payment app while keeping internal device settings, such as network connectivity, safe from accidental or intentional changes. The kiosk can be customized however businesses wish. Last, Android P includes a number of new security functions. For example, IT admins can require different PINs for personal and work propfiles, and force security timeouts for either. Additional policies make it easier for businesses to ensure that work data is not shared from the work profile to the employee’s personal profile. Android P is currently in developer beta. It is expected to arrive in full later this year. Google is encouraging its business customers to take the new enterprise features for a spin.

LG's K30 Lands On Amazon As a Prime Exclusive for $140

Yesterday, 10:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 11:15 AM

Amazon has added the LG K30 to its list of Amazon Prime Exclusives for the low price of $140. The K30 is a rebadged variant of the K10, which LG announced earlier this year. The K30 has a U-shaped metal frame and a 5.3-inch 720p display and a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor. While T-Mobile's version has a 13-megapixel camera, Amazon's has an 8 megapixel camera. The front camera is 5 megapixel. Photo tools include bokeh/portraits and a Low Light Noise mode that works with HDR to reduce grain and provide more contrast in low-light shots. Other features include a 2,880mAh battery and fingerprint reader; LTE with support for Band 71 (600 MHz), GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, and FM radio; and a microUSB port. It comes in black, ships with Android 7 Nougat, and is sold unlocked.

Instagram Lets You Mute Your Friends

Yesterday, 9:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out a new tool called mute, what is describes as a new way for people to control what they see in their Instagram feed. "The new feature lets you hide posts in [your] feed from certain accounts, without unfollowing them. With this change, you can make your feed even more personalized to what matters to you," explained Instagram. People can opt to mute posts, or posts and stories. Muted accounts are still visible via the profile page, and will still push notifications about comments or tagged posts. Instagram says muted account holders will not be notified that they've been muted, and users can unmute accounts at any time. The new feature is being added to the Android and iOS version of Instagram, which is free to download.

Twitter Changing Up Emoji to Improve Experience On Android Phones

Yesterday, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter is dropping support for native emojis from platform vendors such as Google and Samsung in its Android app and replacing them with Twemoji. At issue is compatibility with old devices. Phones running Android 7.x and below often have trouble displaying updated emoji and instead show generic characters instead of the intended graphic. Twitter is adopting Twemoji for its Android app, targeting devices running Android 4.x KitKat through 7.x Nougat. Android devices running Android 8 Oreo should not experience a change, as Oreo includes native support for the latest emoji. Twitter confirmed to Emojipedia that it has been testing the switch to Twemoji with select users since March and is now rolling it out for all users of the official Twitter app. The change also brings the Android app inline with what users see on Twitter.com.

Google Photos Adds Stars and Hearts to Mark Your Faves

Yesterday, 7:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is making Google Photos a little bit more personal. The company this week made it possible to mark your own photos with stars in order to signify them as favorites. Google Photos will collect all your starred photos in once place so you can easily browse through your favorite pix. Further, Google Photos now lets others offer feedback on shared photos. Moving forward, users can mark shared images with hearts to let the sender know they enjoyed the picture. The hearts tool works on individual photos as well as shared folders. The latest version of Google Photos is rolling out to Android and iOS devices over the days ahead.

Alcatel's 3V to Go On Sale in the US for $150

Yesterday, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced that its Alcatel 3V phone, first revealed earlier this year, will be available for sale in the weeks ahead. The Alcatel 3V has a 6-inch, 18:9 display and includes a quad-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The rear camera has a 12-megapixel main sensor and 2-megapixel secondary sensor for bokeh-style photos. The phone includes Social Mode photo tool, such as quick editing, and side-by-side comparing in the 2:1 screen. Instant Collage lets people combine their best pix into a single image, and Photo Booth acts like an old-school photo booth by creating four images in a strip. The 3V includes a fingerprint reader and runs Android 8 Oreo. The Alcatel 3V is unlocked to GSM networks and will be available in the U.S. in black for $149.99 on Amazon next week, with availability at Best Buy and Walmart stores to follow in the coming weeks.

Latest Version of Google Maps for iOS Lets You Customize Your Car

Monday, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

iPhone owners can now have some fun with Google Maps by selecting a new navigation icon. Maps historically relies on a blue navigation arrow to indicate the user's location and direction of travel. Tapping the arrow will bring up a menu that allows people to select a car, pickup, or SUV to customize the experience. Earlier this year, Google let Android users opt for a Mario-style car for driving directions. Google says the latest version of Google Maps for iOS, with optional car graphics, is free to download from the iTuns App Store.

HMD Global Raises $100M to Expand Nokia Phone Business

Monday, 8:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global today said it has raised $100 million in funding in order to help the company grow. HMD Global is the sole licensee of the Nokia brand and makes and sells Nokia-branded phones that run Google's Android operating system. The company brought its first phones to market in early 2017 and has seen modest success in overseas markets. The company claims to have sold more than 70 million phones in over 80 countries at some 250,000 retail outlets. This year, HMD Global plans to "aggressively expand its portfolio of Nokia smartphones" while also finding more places in which it can sell those phones. "It is our ambition to deliver great smartphones that delight our fans while staying true to our Finnish roots and the hallmarks that the Nokia brand has always been known for," said Florian Seiche, CEO of HMD Global. "We aim to be among the top smartphone players globally and our success to date gives us the confidence to further continue on a growth path in 2018 and beyond." The company has released 11 phones to date. HMD Global was created by former Nokia employees. Its phones are manufactured in China. The most recent Nokia phone made available to U.S. buyers is the Nokia 6 (2018), which can be purchased from Amazon.

LG Adds High-End Features to the Q Series' New Q7

Monday, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the Q7, the 2018 version of its mid-range Q Series Android phones. The Q7 picks up where last year's Q6 left off, with updated specs and features. There are three models, the Q7, the Q7+, and the Q7α. The series carries over the 2.5D curved 5.5-inch FullVision Display with full HD+ resolution. The phones have a metal frame and metal rear panel. Updates to the series includes IP68 protection from water and dust and mil-spec 810G compliance, rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, HiFi Quad DAC, DTS:X 3D Surround Sound, face recognition, portrait shooting, and the QLens for image-based visual search. The devices run either a 1.5 GHz or 1.8 GHz octa-core processor.

  • Q7+: The premium model in the Q7 range has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. It includes a 16-megapixel rear camera with PDAF and either an 8- or 5-megapixel front camera.
  • Q7: The middle model in the Q7 range has 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It includes a 13-megapixel rear camera with PDAF and either an 8- or 5-megapixel front camera.
  • Q7α: The bottom of the Q7 range has 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It includes a 13-megapixel rear camera with PDAF and a 5-megapixel front camera.
Other shared specs between the three phones include a 3,000mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, WiFi, and USB Type-C. All three ship with Android 8 Oreo. LG says the Q7 range will go on sale in Europe beginning in June with other key regions, including the Americas, to follow later.

Instagram Now Lets You Share Feed Posts to Stories

May 17, 2018, 11:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible to share feed posts directly to stories. The latest version of the app includes tools that make it easy to share a post published in your feed to your own story as a sticker where your friends and followers can see and interact with it. Posts shared to stories will display the original poster's username and a link so viewers can see the original post and learn more about the original poster. Instagram says users can only share posts from public accounts, and users who don't want their posts shared in others' stories can opt out. The new Instagram is available for Android devices today and will reach iOS devices in the coming days.

AT&T and Verizon Say They'll Sell the Red Hydrogen One Phone

May 17, 2018, 9:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and Verizon Wireless today voiced support for the Red Hydrogen One phone, which they'll sell later this summer. The Hydrogen One was first announced in summer of 2017. It is a pricey Android phone with a 5.7-inch "holographic" display touting glasses-free 3D. While the display supports traditional stereo 3D, it also supports a new 3D-like "holographic" technology created by Red called Hydrogen 4-View (H4V). The phone body sports Red's industrial design and comes in either aluminum or titanium. The Hydrogen One will support snap-on modules for shooting both high-resolution video and H4V content. It will also integrate with other Red products, serving as a touchscreen controller and monitor for Red cameras. The phone also has USB-C and a microSD memory card slot. When first announced, Red listed the Hydrogen One's price as $1,195. Neither AT&T nor Verizon said what they'll charge for the phone. The Hydrogen One was expected to go on sale in early 2018, but it has been delayed several times. An exact for-sale date was not provided.

LG Kicks Off Sales of G7 ThinQ Phone, But US Pricing Remains Elusive

May 17, 2018, 8:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said it has commenced sales of its flagship G7 ThinQ phone in its home market of South Korea. The G7 ThinQ, announced earlier this month, is a premium metal-and-glass phone with a super bright 6.1-inch screen, Snapdragon 845 processor, AI-assisted dual rear cameras, BoomBox speaker, and Android 8 Oreo. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have committed to selling the LG G7 ThinQ beginning later this month. So far, however, U.S. pricing for the phone has been kept a secret. LG says carriers will announce pricing closer to the actual for-sale date. Pre-orders for the G7 ThinQ in the U.S. are expected to begin on or around May 24, with a ship date of June 1.

Google's Redesigned Google News App Reaches iPhones

May 16, 2018, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's overhauled version of Google News is now available to iPhones and iPads via the iTunes App Store. The new version of the app uses machine learning to personalize the experience for each user. The app contains four main tabs along the bottom that take users to their recommended stories, top headlines, favorite sources, and subscriptions. In addition to offering personalized recommendations, the new Google News offers links to multiple accounts of the same story to offer perspective and help further comprehension. Google News is free to download from the App Store. Google hasn't said when the app will reach Android devices.

HTC Working On Blockchain-Based Android Phone

May 15, 2018, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today pulled back the curtains on Exodus, a forthcoming phone based on blockchain. "Our vision is to expand the blockchain ecosystem by creating the world’s first phone dedicated to decentralized applications and security," said the company. "With the release of the HTC Exodus we can now make this a reality." HTC explained that Exodus will work with multiple protocols with the intent of interoperability between blockchains. Each phone will serve as a node to help with decentralization. HTC believes it can double or triple the number of nodes of Dfinity, Ethereum, and Bitcoin, for example. The goal here will be to provide a way to facilitate cryptocurrency trading. The phone will feature a secure enclave, provide a trusted hardware stack with APIs that connect to wallets, and provide owners with their own identity and data on the phone, rather than one stored in the cloud. HTC also hopes to increase the user base for DApps on mobile devices. The effort is being led by Phil Chen, HTC's decentralized chief officer. HTC didn't say when the device might reach the market.

DirecTV Now Gains Cloud DVR, Improved Mobile Apps

May 15, 2018, 2:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today updated its DirecTV Now mobile video service, adding several new features along the way. To start, the Android and iOS apps have been redesigned a bit. AT&T says users' most-watched channels and programs will now be highlighted when they first open the app. The number of on-demand titles is improving. Depending on the subscription level, DirecTV Now customers can gain access to more than 25,000 on-demand programs. The streaming video service is adding optional support for a third stream. Under the current plan, DirecTV Now only permits two concurrent streams. For $5 more per month, subscribers can make use of a third stream, meaning three people can watch on separate devices at the same time. The new DirecTV Now debuts a cloud DVR (in beta) that provides up to 20 hours of free recording that can be saved for up to 30 days. The DVR supports features such as fast-forward and rewind. AT&T expects to offer more cloud DVR options later this year. Last, DirecTV Now will allow people to watch their local channels when on the road. This means people who prefer their home market's news programs on NBC, ABC, and FOX can do so no matter where they are. AT&T's DirecTV now starts at $35 per month.

WhatsApp Improves Group Chat Tools

May 15, 2018, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

WhatsApp today added a handful of features to its group chat function that should improve the experience. For example, a new group description provides a short blurb that explains the purpose, topic, and guidelines behind each group. Admins have a fresh set of controls that allow them to restrict who can change the group's subject, icon, and description. Admins can also remove admin permissions from other participants, though group creators can no longer be removed from a group they created. A new function called group catch up lets people who've been away from a group for a while catch up on the conversation. Participants can more easily search for others in the group. Last, WhatsApp allows people to prevent themselves from being repeatedly re-added to groups they've chosen to leave. The new features are rolling out to WhatsApp for Android and iOS today. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook.

Honor 10 Boasts Aurora Glass, a Notch, an AI Camera, and Ultrasonic Fingerprint Reader

May 15, 2018, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Honor, Huawei's budget brand, today announced the Honor 10 at an event in London. The phone serves as an affordable option to the P20 Pro and offers similar features. The device has what Honor calls Aurora Glass, a 15-layer nano optical coating on the 3D rear panel meant to provide brilliant color. The primary colors are phantom blue and phantom green, each of which dazzles in any light. This is similar to the rear panel of the P20 Pro. The Honor 10 has a 5.84-inch Full View display (19:9 aspect ratio at full HD+) with a notch. The phone is the first from Honor to include an under-the-glass fingerprint reader. Honor says its UItrasonic Fingerprint Sensor is hidden under the display in order to keep the design clean. The phone is powered by Huawei's flagship Kirin 970 processor with 4 GB of RAM and either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. The Kirin 970 means the Honor 10 includes Huawei's neural processing unit for AI-assisted scene detection in the camera. The rear of the phone features two cameras: a 24-megapixel main sensor and a 16-megapixel secondary sensor. Honor says the phone can recognize some 500 scenarios that fall under 22 categories in real-time. Moreover, the phone debuts Semantic Image Segmentation, which lets the Honor 10 identify multiple objects in a single image. The user-facing camera has a 24-megapixel sensor with 3D face recognition, studio lighting effects, portrait capture, and group selfies. The phone has a 3,400mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android 8 Oreo with Huawei's EMUI 8.1 skin on top. The device will be available for preorder in select European countries beginning today for about $475. Honor did not say if it intends to sell the Honor 10 in the U.S.

Facebook Makes It Easier to Report Abusive Messenger Conversations

May 15, 2018, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has rolled out a change to Messenger that simplifies the process of reporting abusive conversations. Before today, the process involved using Facebook or Messenger on the web. Moving forward, the reporting tool can be accessed from within the Android and iOS Messenger mobile apps. Facebook says people need one tap the name of the person or group they'd like to report, scroll to the "Something's Wrong" option, and select from sub-categories, such as hate speech or harassment. As always, people can ignore or block those they are reporting. After completing a report, Facebook will confirm the report was received. Facebook encourages people to use these reporting tools in order to help keep the community safe.

Commerce Department May Relax ZTE's Punishment as Trump Defends Stance

May 14, 2018, 4:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, said his department is open to changing its ban impacting ZTE. The agency has forbid U.S. companies from selling hardware or software to ZTE for a period of seven years after the company was caught lying about an earlier settlement agreement. "ZTE did do some inappropriate things. They’ve admitted to that," said Ross speaking at a National Press Club event. "The question is: Are there alternative remedies to the one that we had originally put forward? And that’s the area we will be exploring very, very promptly." Ross didn't suggest how the Commerce Department might walk back its ban, which has effectively strangled ZTE's smartphone business. At the same time, President Donald Trump found himself defending his wish to help the company get back on its feet. "ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies," said Trump via Twitter. ZTE's main U.S. supplier is Qualcomm, which sells the company processors and cellular modems. ZTE also licenses the Android operating system from Google. "This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi [Jinping]." noted Trump. ZTE's 75,000 workers have been mostly idle since the ban was announced. Trump tweeted over the weekend that he wanted to help them get back to work. The Commerce Department insists its ban is just punishment for illegal behavior and not related to the on-going trade talks between the U.S. and China.

Google Adds 'Take a Break' Timer to YouTube

May 11, 2018, 3:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is pushing an update to YouTube today that gives people the opportunity to schedule breaks. The reminder can be set to automatically pause video after you've watched for 15, 30, 60, 90, or 180 minutes. Video will remain paused until the reminder is dismissed. The feature is buried in the settings menu and must be turned on manually. The take a break reminder reaches YouTube just days after Google added similar tools to Android itself. Android P will include wellness features that remind people to put their phones down. The new YouTube app with take a break is available to Android devices.

Xiaomi Dips Its Toe In US Market with Smart Home Products

May 11, 2018, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi today said it will sell a handful of products in the U.S. in what marks an important step for the company. The three products in question, the Mi Bedside Lamp, Mi LED Smart Bulb, and Mi Smart Plug, are all powered by Google's smart home platform. All three can be controlled through voice commands via the Google Assistant on Google Home products. The move should give the company more visibility with U.S. consumers. In 2017, the company sold an Android TV product, and later a 360-degree camera, through Amazon. These are the first products with more direct support for Google and its core platform. Xiaomi expects the three smart home products to reach stores later this month. In March, Xiaomi said it intends to launch phones in the U.S. market as soon as this year, though it has made similar statement in the past.

Verizon to Carrry Motorola’s Latest Phones On Prepaid and Postpaid

May 10, 2018, 4:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 10, 2018, 4:26 PM

Verizon Wireless today said it will sell the Moto G6 Play, Moto E5 Play (pictured), and Moto G6 phones from Motorola. The G6 Play and E5 Play will be offered by Verizon Prepaid. The E5 Play is available starting today for $95, and the G6 Play will follow soon. The Moto G6 will be sold by Verizon’s standard postpaid service beginning May 24. Pricing for the G6 Play and G6 were not announced. Motorola revealed all three phones last month. The E5 Play is an entry level phone, while the G6 Play and G6 are mid-range devices. All three run Android 8 Oreo.

Instagram Debuts Emoji Slider Sticker for Fun Polling

May 10, 2018, 11:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out what it calls the emoji slider sticker. The idea behind this internative sticker is to let people provide more nuanced responses to poll questions. The sliding scale means people can customize their response more acutely. The sticker is available in the sticker selection screen and can be added after you’ve begun a post with a photo or video. People can select from the most popular emoji for the animations. “When you see an emoji slider in a story, just drag the emoji to the left or right and watch it animate as you make your decision. Release the emoji to set your response, and you’ll see the current average of how others have responded so far,” explained Instagram. The new emoji slider stickers are available in the latest version of Instagram for both Android and iOS.

Volvo, Kenwood Rev Up Android Auto with New Integrations

May 9, 2018, 5:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Support for Google's Android Auto expanded this week thanks to new efforts taken by Volvo and Kenwood. Volvo plans to adopt Android Auto within its infotainment center. This means people will be able to use Android Auto in select Volvo cars without a nearby Android phone. Volvo demonstrated this in its new XC40 sport utility vehicle. Google said Volvo is already working to bring support for Google Assistant and the Play Store to its in-dash system. Further, Kenwood has adopted support for wireless Android Auto in its 2018 range of head units. This means people who own Android phones will be able to connect their phone to Kenwood's latest receivers without requiring a cable. In addition to these new partnerships, Google has improved the way Android Auto behaves in cars. New visual templates ensure that media apps are easier to understand and interact with from the driver's seat. Google says a new search tool lets media apps send their results directly to the dashboard when connected via Android Auto, which allows drivers to discover tracks through their dashboard rather than their phone. Last, Android Auto gains support for group messaging and RCS. Using the Google Assistant, drivers can communicate with a group of friends while keeping their hands on the wheel. Google says these new changes are available to carmakers and app developers and will reach end users over time.

More Phones Should Be Able to Update to Android P Faster

May 9, 2018, 2:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today provided more visibility into its work on Project Treble, which is meant to accelerate the rate at which phones are updated to new versions of Android. Google has been working with Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung to improve how phones handle major updates. Google explained that is has been collaborating closely with these silicon makers because that's "where the journey of making an Android device always begins." Phones can't be updated if the core silicon doesn't support the new build, which means processor makers need to update the software for their chips as a first step in the process. "This software, commonly referred to as the Board Support Package, contains not only the chip-specific vendor implementation, but also all of the Android Open Source Project and pieces of the framework that are missing, (e.g., carrier-specific telephony functionality)," explained Google. Project Treble makes it possible for newer AOSP frameworks to run on older chips because it reduces the need for older components to support each Android release. "Silicon manufacturers have to do all this work just once, rather than every time there is a new release of Android," said Google. Another issue is the timing between the release of Android, the phones, and the chips inside the phones. Google says it is common for phones to ship with older versions of Android because the possibility of bugs can interfere with retail availability. "For OEMs who target the holiday season, it is often safer to launch on an older Board Support Package with a year-old or even older Android version" that is known to be stable and compatible with the silicon. Google says this is "at the heart of the slow uptake of the latest Android release, even on flagship devices." To solve this moving forward, Google and its silicon partners have created Board Support Packages that are ready for Android P in advance of the platform's release. Google says Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung will be able to introduce Android P for their silicon much faster than before, which will in turn lead to quicker system updates for end users. This is why Google is able to bring the Android P developer platform to phones other than its own Pixel devices.

Google's Lookout App to Help Visually Impaired Learn About Surroundings

May 9, 2018, 1:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes its new app, called Lookout, will assist the blind and visually impaired as they navigate through their environment. Google says the app is intended to work when the owner's phone is worn around their neck in a lanyard with the camera facing outwards. It operates in four modes: home, work and play, scan, or experimental. Lookout will deliver information via audible cues as people move around. For example, when in home mode the app will offer notifications concerning where the couch, table, or dishwasher is in relation to the person. The work and play mode will provide details about escalators, stairwells, and other in-office navigation points. The app relies on machine learning to identify objects and relay that information to the user. Google says the app will be available to Android devices later this year.

Google Drops New Dev Preview of Wear OS with Better Battery Management

May 9, 2018, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today offered developers a new build of Wear OS for select Android smartwatches. The update chiefly installs the Actions on Google feature that Google announced earlier this month, but it also introduces more power-related enhancements and a dedicated battery saver mode. Google added support for Actions on Wear OS so developers can surface dialog boxes and adopt new ways to display dynamic content. Google Assistant on Wear OS now supports visual cards, follow-on suggestions, and text to speech. The new enhanced battery saver mode will automatically display a power-efficient watch face and turn off services such as the radios, touch screen, and tilt-to-wake. Owners can get the time by pressing the side button, while a long press will wake the watch back to full power mode. Developers can use new tools to ensure their apps don't interrupt enhanced battery saver mode. The new Wear OS offers developers new ways to limit background and foreground services. Health and fitness apps, for example, often need to run in the background while occasionally offering foreground services, such as alarms. The latest Wear OS helps developers find the proper balance. Google nixed one feature from the platform, and that was the behavior that turned off the WiFi radio when Bluetooth was disconnected. Google rolled this feature back after listening to developer feedback from the first Wear OS preview. Google says this developer preview includes updated Android Emulator images and a downloadable system image for the Huawei Watch 2 or Huawei Watch 2 Classic. This preview release is intended for developers only and not for daily or consumer use. It is only available via manual download and flash.

Qualcomm Says Some Snapdragons Are Ready for Android P

May 9, 2018, 10:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm said it has been working with Google to ensure that its latest mobile chips will function properly with Android P. The effort falls under the purview of Project Treble, Google's effort to help device makers update their hardware with new builds of Android on a faster schedule. Qualcomm says it has been able to optimize its software on the Snapdragon 845, 660, and 630 Mobile Platforms. Phones that rely on those processors will fully support Android P when the platform launches later this year.

ZTE Says It has Ceased Most Business Functions After Ban

May 9, 2018, 8:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE has all but shut down in the wake of a government-issued ban that prevents U.S. companies from selling ZTE hardware or software. "As a result of the Denial Order, the major operating activities of the company have ceased," said ZTE in exchange filings. "As of now, the company maintains sufficient cash and strictly adheres to its commercial obligations subject to compliance with laws and regulations." The company has maintained some staff in order to fight the ban. It is talking to the U.S. "in order to facilitate the modification or reversal of the Denial Order by the U.S. government and forge a positive outcome in the development of matters." The company didn't spell out details of its operations shutdown. ZTE enjoyed success in the U.S. over the last few years where it found a niche selling low-priced, big-screened Android phones via prepaid carriers MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless. The company's U.S. partners have been silent on its fate since the ban was first ordered. Speaking on the sidelines of the Google I/O developer conference, one Google executive said the situation "was bad for Android."

Hands On with Android P

May 8, 2018, 6:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google made the first public beta of Android P available today and it packs a ton of new and useful features. Android users will soon be able to take advantage of spiffy swiping gestures, screenshot editing tools, advanced battery life tools, improved do not disturb mode, a more powerful Google Assistant, and more. The beta is free to download for some phones, but it isn't for everyone. Here is a first look at Google's latest version of Android on the Google Pixel 2 XL.

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Google's ARCore to Let Multiple People See the Same AR Content at the Same Time

May 8, 2018, 3:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 8, 2018, 4:42 PM

Google today announced an update to its ARCore platform for augmented reality. The platform gains a handful of new tools to help developers create more immersive and shared AR experiences. First and foremost, ARCore introduces something Google calls Cloud Anchors. With Cloud Anchors, multiple devices can generate a shared, synchronized image of the world. It allows multiple phones to see and interact with the same content in the same place at the same time. It's a way to enable multi-player games, for example, or group room decorating. Sceneform is another new tool that makes it easier for developers to make AR experiences from Java-based applications. Sceneform has an expressive API, renderer, and seamless support for 3D objects. Last, Augmented Images makes it possible to attach augmented reality content to objects in the real world and expand them to view 3D renderings, such as opening a box. This is made possible in pat thanks to new support for vertical plane detection. The new ARCore will be made available to both Android and iOS devices. Developers can grab the new ARCore developer tools from the Android Developer web site.

ChromeOS Gains Support for Linux

May 8, 2018, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 8, 2018, 6:48 PM

Pixelbook owners will soon be able to use Linux on their ChromeOS device. Google today announced that Chromebooks will be able to run Linux apps, which will let developers open a window and use their favorite Linux-based tools without leaving ChromeOS. Linux will run in a virtual machine environment made just for Chromebooks. It launches instantly and integrates directly with apps on the host device. Google says developers will be able to drag Linux windows around the desktop, open files from downloads, and even deploy Android code from the Linux window to their ChromeOS machine. Google expects to offer Linux in ChromeOS as a preview in the next few weeks. It will offer compatibility with more devices over time. "We were looking at ways to expand support for power users and developers, especially on devices like the Pixelbook," remarked Kan Liu, director of product management, Chrome OS. "Users told us they want the ability to run Linux apps and developer apps, whether it's Android Studio or Visual Studio Code, on ChromeOS." Linux will hit the developer channel soon. It is based on the Debian 4.4 kernel and supports any and all Linux apps.

Android P Beta Being Made Available to Non-Pixel Phones

May 8, 2018, 1:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released the first public beta of Android P. For the first time, Google is offering the beta to non-Google branded phones. While it is available to the Google Pixel phones, Android P Beta is also available today on the Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Nokia 7 Plus, Oppo R15 Pro, Vivo X21, OnePlus 6, and Essential PH‑1. People interested in testing Android P will need to register with the Android beta program, which is free to do.

Google Maps Taps AI to Offer More Personal Recommendations

May 8, 2018, 1:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 8, 2018, 1:47 PM

Google today said it is adding Google Assistant to Google Maps in order to make it more accurate and helpful. A new tab called For You provides information about the neighborhoods people live in or care about. It offers suggestions for activities, tools for finding restaurants, and other personalized recommendations via a new feature called Your Match. A third feature helps people plan group outings. A long press on place cards saves them to a shareable message thread where people can view places and vote on where to go. A new focus on small businesses helps people keep tabs on what their local stores are doing, what their hours are, and when sales are available. Last, Google is adding computer vision tools to Maps that taps into the camera to help people find their exact location on the map with proper orientation, and a map overlaid on the photo. Google calls this VPS, or visual positioning system. Google is also tapping into the power o Google Lens to provide information cards based what the camera sees. These features are coming to Google Maps for Android and iOS later this summer.

Google's ML Kit Lets Any App Put Machine Learning to Work

May 8, 2018, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced ML Kit, a new SDK that will allow developers to add machine learning to their own applications. ML Kit gives developers access to five ready-to-use APIs: text recognition, face detection, barcode scanning, image labeling, and landmark recognition. Google believes these base APIs will let developers add a whole new level of smarts to their applications. ML Kit is available for both Android and iOS, and includes both on-device and in-the-cloud offerings. The image labeling API, for example, includes 430 sample images for offline, on-device object recognition, but more than 10,000 in the cloud. Developers will be able to add the offline component to their apps for free, though accessing the APIs via the cloud will carry nominal fees. Google said it worked with Qualcomm and Huawei, both of which have machine learning built into their most recent flagship processors, to generate its ML Kit models. The idea behind ML Kit is to bring machine learning to any device, regardless of the processor inside. "We want machine learning to be a thing," said Brahim Elbouchikhi, Product Manager at Google. Developers will be able to test different models side-by-side without doing any computation their own. Elbouchikhi envisions ML Kit will be most useful in camera apps, fitness apps, meal planning apps, fishing apps, and any other app where object recognition and labeling provides an extra layer of information and detail. "A fishing app [enhanced by ML Kit] can help you figure out what fish you just caught and estiamte the size," remarked Elbouchikhi. Developers can find ML Kit in Google's Firebase console.

Android P Debuts New UI Gestures, Smarter Actions

May 8, 2018, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 8, 2018, 1:45 PM

Google today revealed more details about its next-generation operating system, Android P. To start, the OS introduces new system navigation that is gesture based. Swiping up, for example, opens a multitasking view combined with app suggestions. This swiping gesture works from within any app on the phone. Scrolling the new home button sideways makes it simple to see recent apps. New controls make adjusting media and ringer volume levels simpler with an on-screen bar that appears next to the hardware buttons. An adaptive battery tool should help reduce CPU app wakeups by 30% to help conserve power. A new adaptive brightness tool should be more effective at controlling screen brightness in another way to help keep the battery from draining. A feature called App Actions helps predict actions within certain apps and provide deep links into apps. A tool called Slices, based on a new API, can surface relevant information in searches based on installed apps. For example, when searching for Lyft, Google Search will tap into the installed app with information on the closest Lyft car, estimated arrival, and more. App Actions and Slices will be made available to developers beginning next month. The last tentpole in Android P concerns wellbeing. The idea is to help people use their phones less to improve their quality of life. For example, Android P will show a dashboard detailing how people use their device, such as notifications, time spent in certain apps, and how many times they unlocked their phone. Developers will be able to take advantage of the dashboard to help people understand how they are using their phone. It can set time limits for apps and even gray out app icons once the limit has been reached. Improvements to Do Not Disturb mode will reduce distractions thanks to a new gesture called Shush. If you turn your phone over on a table, it will silence pings, vibrations, and all distractions. It will still allow whitelisted contacts who can always get through to the phone even when Do Not Disturb is on. Wind Down mode relies on Google Assistant to help people put their phone down. It grays out the screen at a predetermined time to coax people to stop using their phone. The public beta of Android P is available from Google today. It can be installed on Pixel devices. The full release of Android P is expected to arrive later this fall.

Google to Power Google News with Artificial Intelligence

May 8, 2018, 12:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 8, 2018, 1:42 PM

Google today refreshed its Google News product with new features powered by artificial intelligence. News will scan everything on the web and match what it finds with user preferences and favored sources to create new summaries and suggestions. The goal is to help people keep up with the news they care about, understand the full story, and support the news sources they enjoy. The revised app will bring more imagery and video to the fore and rely less on packing text onto the screen. The app was rebuilt with Material Design and has an entirely new look. It also bakes in a tool called newscasts, which offer a preview of stories and subjects in a scrollable format. Google says it is able to compile and personalize these features based on users' behavior over time. Users won't have to train News manually. The full coverage tool ensures people can find all the relevant sources for a single story in order to help provide perspective. Google News adds support for Google Newsstand, while helps people follow publications and periodicals they prefer. News makes subscribing to publishers easy with Subscribe with Google. It allows people to access their paid content anywhere, across platforms and devices. Google worked with 60 publishers to make this possible. Google says the new Google News is available for Android and iOS phones and tablets, and desktops today.

Microsoft to Connect Windows 10 PCs to Your Text Messages

May 7, 2018, 6:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced several new mobile initiatives that pair its own Windows platform with Android and iOS devices. First is a new tool, tentatively called Your Phone, that connects Android and iOS devices with a Windows 10 PC in order to access text messages, photos, and notifications. People will be able to perform actions such as drag-and-drop photos from their phone directly to their PC. Microsoft said this will be available via the Windows Insider Program for testing in the near future. Microsoft has also updated its Microsoft Launcher app for Android devices, specifically with business customers in mind. Launcher will fall under full control of the IT department and will support business applications via Microsoft InTune. Businesses will be able to use the Launcher to control which apps are made available to employees. Last, the new Timeline tool helps people move their work flow from one device to another seamlessly. In other words, employees working in Word on their Android device will be able to pick up where they left off on a Windows 10 PC. Timeline will be available via the Microsoft Launcher on Android phones and through the Microsoft Edge browser on the iPhone and iPad. Microsoft said all these tools and features will be available in the near future.

Google Drops Third Beta of Flutter for Android and iOS UI Development

May 7, 2018, 6:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the third beta release of Flutter available to developers. Flutter is a set of tools that can help developers create user interface designs that work on Android and iOS. Google says Flutter is quick and easy to use, and can be utilized by experienced and novice developers alike. It includes frameworks for windows, widgets, animations, and image libraries. It includes a GPU-accelerated renderer and native ARM code runtime. It supports accessibility features, right-to-left text, localization, and internationalization. On the iPhone X and iOS 11, it support inline video, additional image formats, and background processes. This third beta fully enables Dart 2 with a focus on client development. It helps developers handle coding syntax. A new widget inspector makes it easier for developers to create and preview their UIs. Visual Studio Code is now fully supported, with its own dedicated Flutter extension. Last, Flutter is a toolkit for Material Design, which means developers can match Google's design language via Flutter if they choose. The end result, hopes Google, will be better looking and better functioning mobile apps that developers can create once for both Android and iOS. More information about the new features in Flutter Beta 3 can be found at the Flutter blog on Medium.

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