Google I/O, the search company's annual developer conference, is wrapping up after a whirlwind few days in Mountain View, Calif. Google hit attendees with a blitz of announcements centered around artificial intelligence, machine learning, and mobility.
Google this week released the first public beta of Android O, the next version of its core mobile platform. Android O has a handful of interesting new features, including picture-in-picture, notification dots, autofill for app logins, easy text selection, and much more.
Google today detailed how families can use their Google account to stay connected and in sync with one another. Google already allows people to share media via Google Play Music, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Books. Moving forward, families can take advantage of Google Calendar, Keep, and Photos to manage appointments, tasks, and libraries. For example, the shared Google Calendar lets families keep track of group plans and other events, while Google Keep makes it possible to capture and share ideas with other family members. Shared albums in Google Photos requires only a few taps to push those weekend snapshots to everyone, while YouTube TV allows up to six people to maintain their own cloud-based DVR for online television shows. Google says the new family tools are rolling out to Google Calendar, Keep, and Photos in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New, Zealand, Russia, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. starting today. YouTube TV is available in select markets around the U.S. Families, as defined by Google, support up to six members per household.
LeEco today said it will largely erase its corporate presence in the U.S. as it refocuses its efforts here. The company, which exists as the YouTube/Netflix of China, first announced plans enter the U.S. market at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2016. It followed nine moths later with a splashy October 2016 press conference launching phones, TVs, and connected bicycles — all of which were to be sold online directly to consumers. The company expanded too swiftly, ran into cash problems, and scaled back plans earlier this year. "While we’ve made progress in growing our distribution channels, the challenges with raising new capital have made it difficult in the past few months to support all of our business’ priorities," said the company in a statement. Thanks to the cash crunch, LeEco cannot support its U.S. employees and will let up to 70%, or about 325, go. "Our goal is to continue to gain momentum. In the past few months, we have gained a large foothold in Chinese-speaking households in the U.S. by offering tailor-made products and content for this community. We believe this provides us an opportunity to build on our strengths and grow from there." LeEco didn't explicitly say which products it will continue to offer U.S. consumers, nor how swiftly its U.S.-based employees will be let go. Just yesterday, the company's founder stepped down from his CEO role at one of LeEco's major business units.
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Facebook today announced two new features for live video that should make it more interactive and social. First, there's Live Chat With Friends. This allows people to invite their friends to a private chat thread that accompanies a public live broadcast. For example, users can begin watching a live video from their favorite artist and invite their Facebook buddies to talk about it in real time. Facebook says people will be able to follow public conversations as well as private chats during live video at the same time, and private chats will continue after the live broadcast ends. The feature is being tested in several countries right now and should become more widely available over the summer months. The second new feature is called Live With. This feature lets people broadcast live video with a guest. "To invite a friend to join you in your live video, simply select a guest from the Live Viewers section, or tap a comment from the viewer you want to invite," explained Facebook in a blog post. "Your viewer can then choose whether or not to join your broadcast. You can go live with a guest in both portrait mode and landscape mode." Facebook thinks this will be a great way for high-profile users (read: celebrities) to interact with regular people and fans. The Live With feature is now available to all users, profiles, and pages.
Instagram today made it easier to find story content in its mobile app based on location or interests/topics. A new story ring now appears at the top of the explore section. Stories that have location stickers applied to them will be added to the ring so people can view myriad stories shared from around the world. Similarly, people can now mark their stories with hashtags, making them searchable to others. Instagram says these stories may be shared with a much larger audience via the explore tab, but users can opt to share their location or hashtagged stories only with followers (rather than everyone). The new searching tools will appear in Instagram 10.22 for Android and iOS, which is rolling out this week.
Snapchat today unveiled a new feature that makes it possible for many people to contribute to the same story. Snapchat calls the new tool custom stories. One person creates the story and then invites others to add their own snaps. The creator can limit the story so only those invited to contribute are allowed to see it. Further, the creator can geofence the story so only people in a specific location can see the story. Snapchat says stories will disappear after 24 hours if no one contributes to them. Snapchat's new collaborative stories are rolling out to Android and iOS devices in a fresh update to the mobile app.
Google recently updated its YouTube TV app for iOS and gave it the ability to push content to the Apple TV. The Android version of the mobile app can cast video to Chromecast-enabled TVs, but Apple TV users were left without a way to connect the gap between their iPhone and television set. The new version of YouTube TV for iOS adds AirPlay, allowing iPhone owners to view YouTube TV programming on their television set through the Apple TV. YouTube TV for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store, but the availability of the service is limited to just a handful of markets for the time being.
Apple today said it has settled its patent complaints against Nokia and the two have signed a multi-year patent license. The two corporations sued one another in December of last year concerning licensing fees for Nokia's patents. Nokia said Apple refused to pay fair prices, while Apple accused Nokia of antitrust behavior. Nokia had sold its patents to patent-assertion firms that then demanded higher rates. Moving forward, Nokia will provide Apple with network infrastructure products and services, and Apple will resume selling Nokia-owned smart devices (Withings) as the two look at future potential digital health offerings. Apple is set to pay Nokia a significant upfront fee and then on-going payments. Both companies expressed positive sentiments in having the matter behind them. "We are pleased with this resolution of our dispute and we look forward to expanding our business relationship with Nokia," said Apple COO Jeff Williams. Companies often use lawsuits as a negotiation tactic.
Samsung has rolled out a simpler and more direct buy-one, get-one offer for the Galaxy S8 smartphone. Under the terms of Samsung's deal, customers must buy two Galaxy S8 handsets for full price and activate at least one on T-Mobile's network via Samsung.com. Samsung will then issue a rebate for up to $750 to cover the cost of one Galaxy S8 within seven to 10 days after the purchase is made. The rebate is applied as a refund directly to the original payment method, excluding taxes, shipping, or other fees. T-Mobile's buy-one, get-one offer, in comparison, requires new/upgrading customers to sign up for its monthly installment plan for both devices and wait up to eight weeks for a rebate card that can be applied to the second device. Samsung's offer lets customers pay off the second phone almost immediately. Moreover, it can be combined with the free entertainment kit offer, which includes the Gear VR with Controller headset and six free months of Netflix.
LG today announced the X venture, an affordable Android smartphone that can take a beating. The phone has an IP68 rating for protection against water and dust, and a mil-spec 810g rating for durability against drops, bumps, scrapes, and other abuse. The phone features a 5.2-inch full HD screen with glove mode. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. LG says the main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with a standard field of view, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens. The phone packs a massive 4,100mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 for all-day battery life. Other specs include barometer with outdoorsy software, as well as Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, FM radio, and NFC. The phone supports memory cards up to 2 TB and it charges via microUSB. The X venture runs Android 7 Nougat. AT&T plans to sell the LG X venture starting May 26, with support for its ePTT service, for $11 per month for 30 months, or about $330.
Universal Secure Registry, a small firm from Boston, has filed a patent complaint against Apple and Visa over the technology used to create Apple Pay. According to the lawsuit, Kenneth P. Weiss, CEO of Universal Secure Registry, holds 13 patents pertaining to the use of fingerprints and one-time tokens in order to authenticate secure financial transactions. Weiss pitched the technology extensively to Visa in 2010. Visa agreed to a 10-year nondisclosure agreement and even assigned engineers to understand how Universal Secure Registry's process worked. Visa never adopted the technology, but several years later worked with Apple, MasterCard, and American Express to create Apple Pay, which launched in 2014. Apple Pay relies on fingerprints and one-time tokens to facilitate iPhone-based mobile payments. Patent law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan — one that represented Samsung and its fight against Apple over Android patents — suggested Universal Secure Registry take Apple to court over the patented technology. Apple has not yet responded publicly to the lawsuit.
Jia Yueting, who founded China's LeEco, is cutting back on his responsibilities in order to help the company better focus on products. Specifically, Jia has stepped down as the CEO of Leshi, LeEco's main business unit. He remains the chairman and CEO of LeEco. Leshi is the part of the company that provides internet and video services in China. It is the core of the firm. LeEco later spread to TVs, smartphones, electric cars, and other connected products. These businesses sapped LeEco's finances and caused a cash crunch that eventually saw LeEco scale back its expansion plans. Former Lenovo executive Liang Jun will take Jia's place at the helm of Leshi. At the same time, Leshi's CFO, Yang Linjie, will be replaced by Zhang Wei. Jia gave the change a positive spin, suggesting that he'll be able to provide the proper amount of guidance to the business units he now governs. LeEco sold several phones directly to U.S. consumers online, including Le Pro3.
Google I/O, the search company's annual developer conference, is wrapping up after a whirlwind few days in Mountain View, Calif. Google hit attendees with a blitz of announcements centered around artificial intelligence, machine learning, and mobility. While much of what Google showed off is meant for its developer partners, plenty will reach consumers in the days, weeks, and months ahead — not only on Android devices, but iOS, the web, your car, your wrist, your headset, and more.
Google today distributed a bug-fixing update to the Android O beta. The small patch, weighing it at about 55 MB, is meant to smooth out some performance issues present in the initial build. People enrolled in the Android Beta program should see the fresh update hit their devices shortly. The Android O beta works on the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, and Nexus 5X.
DxO and OnePlus today said they're developing the camera of the OnePlus 5 smartphone together. OnePlus has indicated that the OnePlus 5, which will be the successor to last year's OnePlus 3T flagship, will arrive in the months ahead. OnePlus hasn't shared any real details about the phone, such as the screen size, processor, or camera resolution. OnePlus doesn't have a carrier distribution deal in the U.S., but it does sell its phones directly to consumers online.
Google this week rolled out the Google Payment API, a new set of capabilities that will allow anyone to make in-app or online payments with any debit or credit card associated with their Google account. Google says this option will simplify the process for people to checkout and make purchases online, as it negates the need to fill out cumbersome purchasing forms. Moreover, the API will make it possible for people to send or receive payments via the Google Assistant. Whether the Assistant is accessed through a smartphone or Google Home, users can say, "Ok Google, send $10 for Jane for pizza" and Google will do exactly that. A separate payment tool for developers, called the Card Linked Offers API, smoothes over the process of supporting loyalty cards and programs. It gives developers a new channel for interacting with customers and rolling out targeted offers. From a consumer standpoint, it will be far easier to add loyalty cards to Android Pay once developers update their app with the Card Linked Offers API. Google expects these capabilities to roll out later this year.
Google today announced a new version of its Complications API for developers in order to help them create better experiences for Android Wear. Complications are dynamic data sets that appear on watch faces, such as step counts, notifications, weather alerts, and similar. Specifically, the refreshed API can now auto-size text to fit in bounds defined by watch face makers and it includes a full rendering tool to handle style and layout factors for complications. The API adds more sample code that developers can cut-and-paste into their apps, as well as a new test suite for checking that watch faces can handle all the fields and complications together. The new Complications API is for Android Wear 2.0 and up. Google released the second-generation wearable platform earlier this year. Google also said it is offering developers a new Wear UI library for handling user interfaces. Notably, Google is killing off the card pattern and multi-directional UIs for Android Wear devices. This change will occur over time.
Google this week released the first public beta of Android O, the next version of its core mobile platform. Android O has a handful of interesting new features, including picture-in-picture, notification dots, autofill for app logins, easy text selection, and much more. Android O may not be huge on hallmark additions to the platform, but it shows an excellent level of refinement from Google. We downloaded the Android O beta and took it for a quick spin. Here are our first impressions of this super early build of Android O.
Verizon Wireless will be the first U.S. carrier to offer a Project Tango smartphone to its customers. The forthcoming Asus ZenFone AR will arrive later this summer, according to Google executive Johnny Lee. The ZenFone AR is significantly smaller than the first Project Tango handset, which was the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. The ZenFone AR will also be compatible with Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Asus first announced the ZenFone AR in January. It sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a vapor cooling system. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. The exact availability is not yet known.