Google confirmed this week that some Android Wear devices will see the 2.0 update in the coming days. Specifically, the Fossil Q Founder, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, and Tag Heuer Connected should all begin to receive Android Wear 2.0 today, with the majority of devices updated by April 4. Google first announced Android Wear in May 2016, but didn't ship the wearable platform until early February. Google hasn't said if or when other existing Android-based smartwatches will see the update. A small handful of new smartwatches are shipping with the refreshed platform, including the LG G Watch Style an G Watch Sport.
Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones will cost $750 and $850, respectively. The phones share almost all features other than size and both ship with 64 GB of internal storage. All carriers are bundling in the new Gear VR with controller at no added cost ($129 value), and will upgrade the bundle to include a 256 GB memory card and Harmon Kardon headphones for $99. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be available for preorder starting March 30 and should reach stores April 21.
- AT&T: AT&T is offering a buy-one, get-one deal with the S8 and S8+. Monthly prices range from $28 to $36, depending on the length of the installment plan. Further, AT&T is selling the Gear S3 for $50 with an S8/S8+ purchase, provided the customer signs a two-year agreement. Last, AT&T is offering either the Galaxy Tab E or Gear S2 for 99 cents with a service agreement.
- T-Mobile: The S8 will cost $30 month on a T-Mobile installment plan, and the S8+ will cost $30 per month, too, with a $130 down payment. T-Mobile says MetroPCS customers will have access to the Galaxy S8 when it reaches stores April 21.
- Sprint: Sprint plans to lease the phones. The S8 will cost $31.25 per month for 18 months while the S8+ will cost $35.42 per month for 18 months. Customers will be able to upgrade to a newer Samsung phone after making 12 payments. People who preorder the phones from Sprint will be entered into a sweepstakes that includes prizes such as television sets. Sprint says Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile will offer the phone on April 21.
- Verizon Wireless: Verizon is offering the S8/S8+ for as low as $15 per month with an eligible (flagship-level) trade-in. Without a trade-in, the S8 will cost $30 per month and the S8+ will cost $35 per month for 24 months.
Samsung and Qualcomm today said the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be the first handsets to ship with Gigabit LTE capabilities. The high-speed data connection is possible thanks in part to the Snapdragon 835 processor and accompanying X16 LTE modem. Together with Qualcomm's TruSignal adaptive antenna tuning technology, 4x4 MIMO, carrier aggregation and 256 QAM, the S8 and S8+ will feature the fastest-possible cellular data speeds. AT&T and T-Mobile said the S8 will be able to take advantage of these higher speeds on their pre-5G networks later this year. Sprint, also indicated that its variant of the phone will support HPUE for better 2.5 GHz LTE performance.
Samsung today announced DeX, a desktop accessory for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ that allows them to function as computers when attached to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. DeX is similar in concept to Microsoft's Continuum product. For the S8 and S8+, the DeX includes HDMI, USB, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and cooling functions. The software relies on features baked into Nougat to help scale the Android user interface for desktop screens. It supports full multitasking with moveable windows and runs most standard Android apps. Phone apps, text messaging, and other essential mobile communications will all function normally. DeX and the S8/S8+ support Microsoft Office, with Adobe Lightroom and PhotoShop Express coming soon. A special Samsung browser provides a full desktop internet experience. Pricing and availability of the DeX are to be announced at a later date.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones feature Bixby, a voice-based user interface developed by Samsung. It's more advanced than a simple voice assistant, as it voice-enables every function of an app. At its core, anything you can do with touch on the phone you can do with voice through Bixby. That means opening apps, but then also selecting menu items or other on-screen controls within those apps. Bixby is also able to take advantage of the camera for what Samsung calls Bixby Vision. It can translate languages, read business cards, recognize landmarks, and read QR codes. Samsung said it developed Bixby in order to minimize friction between the user and the phone in terms of how voice commands are issued and understood. Samsung calls Bixby a user interface that relies on artificial intelligence. Samsung adapted Bixby's ability to listen and understand commands based on how people speak, rather than force people to issue specific commands. Bixby embraces something it calls "completeness" — meaning if an app is Bixby enabled, Bixby will be able to interact with nearly every task that app is capable of completing. Bixby is contextual, which means it will work seamlessly in voice mode or touch screen mode without forcing people to start over or lose their place within a command sequence. Last, Bixby will include cognitive tolerance, or the ability to "understand commands with incomplete information and execute the commanded task to the best of its knowledge." The Galaxy S8 and S8+ each include a dedicated Bixby button. Owners can press the Bixby button and issue the command they want without first unlocking the phone. Samsung says a small subset of apps on the Galaxy S8 are Bixby-enabeld at launch, though it expects to add more over time. The company will release an SDK so third-party developers can add Bixby functionality to their own apps.
The S8 is Samsung's flagship phone for 2017, and it combines absolutely every idea Samsung has ever come up with for a high-end phone, plus a couple of new ones. From the extra-tall curved display to the iris scanner, to a new voice assistant, Samsung is throwing down the gauntlet. It aims to be a sexy, no-compromise monster. How well does it deliver? We find out in our hands-on. Read on.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy S8 and S8+, its flagship smartphones for 2017. The phones marry aluminum frames to curved glass panels as they adopt what Samsung calls its Infinity Display. The Infinity Display moves from the industry standard 16:9 aspect ratio to a taller 18.5:9 ratio with 2,960 by 1,440 pixels. The devices share nearly all features other than size and battery capacity. Where the S8 has a 5.8-inch display and 3,000mAh battery, the S8+ boasts a massive 6.2-inch screen and 3,500mAh battery. The phones see Samsung drop the physical home button that has long adorned the front of its handsets in favor of on-screen controls and a virtual home button that's unmarked in the area below the screen. This allowed Samsung to reduce bezels along the top, sides, and bottom edges, meaning the front is 83% display. Samsung says the displays are mobile HDR certified and offer more room for multitasking. Core features include Snapdragon 835 processors with 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and support for memory cards. The phones are rated IP68 for protection against water and dust. They include rear-mounted fingerprint readers, front-mounted iris scanners, as well as wireless and rapid charging. The main camera has a 12-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization and an aperture of f/1.7. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and also an aperture of f/1.7 with autofocus and face detection. Ports include USB-C and 3.5mm headphone jack. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ run Android 7 Nougat with Samsung's new Bixby voice-enabled user interface, as well as improved Samsung Health, Samsung Connect, and Samsung Knox apps. The U.S. version will come in black, silver, or purple. The phone is expected to go on sale next month. Pricing will be set by carriers.
Apple today made iOS 10.3.2 Beta One available to developers. The beta arrives just one day after the public release of iOS 10.3. Apple has not provided any details about what's contained in iOS 10.3.2, but it is likely a bug-fixing update. Apple also made fresh betas of macOS Sierra 10.12.5, watchOS 3.2.2, and tvOS 10.2.1 available to developers. Apple hasn't indicated if or when these new in-progress operating systems will be released to public beta testers.
Google today improved Google Assistant on Android devices and its Google Home product. The assistant can now talk with a wider range of internet-of-things devices for the home, allowing people to take control over more things around their house through voice commands. Specifically, Google Assistant can connect to Best Buy Insignia, LIFX, TP-Link, and Wink products. People can say "Ok Google, turn on the fan," and Google Assistant will do that via the Best Buy Insignia WiFi Smart Plug. People can also control LIFX and TP-Link lighting, as well as adjust their Wink-connected thermostat. Taking advantage of these tools requires turning them on in the Google Home App on a smartphone. Google Assistant is available to most Android 6 Marshmallow and Android 7 Nougat phones.
Google today updated its main Search application for the iPhone and added a widget for the home screen. Technically, iOS doesn't support true home screen widgets other than those in the notification panel. In order to make it work, a 3D Touch of the Search app brings up a "Trending on Google" widget directly on the screen with breaking news, trends, and hot topics. A quick press of any of the cards takes users to the content in question. The widget doesn't support users' customized Google cards, which are still located in the main Google app. People interested in using the widget will need to turn it on manually in the app's settings. Google added other 3D Touch actions, as well. A hard press on the Google app icon opens a set of quick search actions from the home screen, but it now also lets people start a new search from within the Google app itself. A hard press of the G button on the bottom of the screen opens a new search immediately, and a hard press on search results can provide a preview of the content before opening it fully. The Google Search app also now works more seamlessly with Google's GBoard keyboard for the iPhone. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Galaxy Note7 fans in the U.S. will not be able to buy a refurbished model, reports Reuters. Samsung "will not be offering refurbished Galaxy Note7 devices for rent or sale in the U.S.," according to a statement provided by the company. On Monday, Samsung announced plans to sell reconditioned Note7s in select markets, though it has yet to say where. Phones that cannot be reconditioned will be broken down into their individual components so Samsung can scavenge them for use in other devices.
T-Mobile today said baseball fans will be able to watch every regular season Major League Baseball game on their smartphones for free. T-Mobile has again partnered with MLB and is providing customers with access to a free year of MLB.TV Premium, which includes MLB.com At Bat Premium. T-Mobile customers can stream every out-of-market regular season game to their Apple or Google smartphone and tablet via the MLB.TV app. At Bat Premium is a mobile sports app for watching home and away broadcasts, and it also includes player stats, highlights, and other information. T-Mobile One customers don't need to worry about streaming on their plan thanks to unlimited data. T-Mobile says games will be streamed in standard definition by default, but can be viewed in HD if customers wish. The free year-long subscription will available for just 24 hours on April 4. T-Mobile customers will need to redeem the free subscription via the T-Mobile Tuesdays application and then sign up for MLB.TV Premium no later than April 11. T-Mobile made a similar offering to customers last year.
Facebook today expanded the way people are able to share photos and videos by bringing new camera tools to its mobile application. First, the camera is more accessible from within Facebook. A tap will turn it on. The camera includes dozens of effects like masks, frames, and interactive filters that people can apply to their pictures or movies. Reactive effects, specifically for videos, let people interact with on-screen animations in real time. Facebook is partnering with several movie studios and visual artists to ensure that the selection of effects changes over time. Second, Facebook is bringing stories, pioneered by Snapchat and later adopted by Facebook's own Instagram, to the main app. Stories will appear above the news feed and disappear automatically after 24 hours. Stories do not show up directly on users' timelines unless they want them to. Third, the app includes more sharing tools. Stories, as well as regular photos and videos, can be shared directly with others for one-time viewing. Photos and videos sent via the new Direct tool can be seen once, though the recipient will be able to respond. These new features are available to the Android and iPhone versions of Facebook mobile this week. The apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Apple today made iOS 10.3 available to the public after several months of beta testing. The most significant feature of iOS 10.3 is a tool called Find My AirPods, which helps people locate lost earbuds via an audio alert. The system update also adopts the Apple File System (APFS), refreshes the Apple ID profile behaviors, tweaks animations, and provides more details concerning iCloud storage use. Other features include wider HomeKit compatibility with connected lightswitches, alerts concerning out-of-date apps, more CarPlay actions, and refined SiriKit behaviors for voice-based payments and other activities. People who own an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch can download and install iOS 10.3 for free. Apple also released final, public builds of watchOS 3.2, tvOS 10.2, OS X Sierra 10.12.4, and Xcode 8.3.
Facebook today made it possible for people to share their real-time location with others using Messenger. The optional tool is available to both Android and iOS devices. Live Location can be shared for up to 60 minutes and turned on or off at any time. The location data will pinpoint people on a map and provide estimated time of arrival when en route to specific points. It can be used to share static locations, such as an address or place of interest. The tool also includes a clock that clearly counts down how much longer location data will be shared. Facebook has been testing the feature for a while and says it can be useful when coordinating meet-ups with family and friends. Facebook Messenger is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store. Google recently added a similar feature to Google Maps.
Samsung plans to bring back the Galaxy Note7, despite the massive recall that spelled the phone's demise last year. The company will sell refurbished versions of the phone, though Samsung is still determining where via talks with regulatory authorities and carriers. Samsung didn't detail exactly how the phone has been refurbished. It was pulled from store shelves shortly after launch due to faulty batteries. Presumably any refurbished units would, at a minimum, include brand new batteries. Note7 units that aren't refurbished for sale will be broken down into individual components so Samsung can recover chips, camera modules, and rare metals found within the phone. Samsung did not say when it expects to resurrect the Note7.
Microsoft today made it possible for Android device owners to access and use Cortana above the lock screen on their smartphones. Microsoft has been testing the feature since earlier this year and is now rolling it out to all users. People can swipe on the lock screen to see Cortana's basic information screen as well as ask Cortana questions, set reminders, and view their calendar appointments. These features are all usable without requiring people to unlock their devices. Microsoft also improved Cortana home on Android, which now includes more glanceable information about daily schedules, commute times, reminders, as well as shortcuts to creating reminders and calendar items. Last, Microsoft is making Cortana available to Android and iOS devices in Australia. The new version of Cortana with lock screen access for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
T-Mobile today improved its monthly insurance program by offering AppleCare at no additional cost. Customers who subscribe to T-Mobile's Premium Device Protection and Jump! with Premium Device Protection insurance plans will have access to T-Mobile's insurance benefits as well as those offered by AppleCare. T-Mobile's plans cover loss, theft, accidental damage, hardware coverage, and security. AppleCare is available for the newest iPhones and iPads, including the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and iPad 9.7. AppleCare includes 24/7 technical support from Apple and low fees for certain repairs at Apple Stores and certified Apple repair facilities. For example, screen replacement deductibles cost just $29, while battery replacement service is free. T-Mobile's Premium Device Protection and Jump! with Premium Device Protection insurance plans cost $12 per month.
Amazon recently added the Alcatel A30 to its roster of Prime Exclusives. This entry-level Android handset includes a 5-inch HD screen and a 1.1 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with time-lapse recording while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Alcatel says the phone's 2,460mAh battery provides all-day life. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is sold in both CDMA and GSM variants, with LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile. Amazon is selling the phone for $60 with lock screen ads or for $100 without ads. It goes on sale April 19.
Google today outlined a number of changes to its various messaging services, including a dramatic shift for Hangouts. Starting May 22, Google Hangouts will no longer support SMS for text messaging between phones. Hangouts will continue to work as a messaging client, it just cannot be used to send SMS messages. Earlier this year Google said it plans to refocus Hangouts on enterprise communications. Google is now pushing the Android Messages app as its primary SMS client. The company is working with carriers to add RCS to the Android Messages, and Google expects to see the app become the default SMS tool on Android phones over time. RCS in Android Messages will support features like read receipts, group chat, hi-res photo sharing, and more. Google plans to notify Hangouts users about the change in the coming weeks and will recommend they download Android Messages. The shift to Android Messages will not impact Hangouts users' message history. More importantly, Google says Google Voice and Project Fi customers will continue to be able to use Hangouts for SMS for the foreseeable future. In other Google messaging news, Google said it plans to get rid of Google Talk within Gmail and replace it with Google Hangouts. It began doing this several years ago, but will finalize the transition in June. The legacy Google Talk Android app, which was replaced in 2013, will cease working when the transition takes place. All Google Talk users should expect to use Google Hangouts moving forward. Google is also retiring a number of Gmail Labs, including Authentication Icon, Google Voice Player, Picasa previews, Pictures in chat, Quick Links, Quote Selected Text, Smartlabels, and Yelp previews. Last, Google is removing some Google+ functionality from Gmail, specifically the ability to email Google+ profiles and the use of Google+ Circles. These changes will take place after April 24.
The FCC this week made it easier for carriers to add LTE to their 800 MHz spectrum holdings. Rules concerning the 800 MHz band (CDMA Band Class 0, LTE Band 5) have been in place since 1981 and limit how much power carriers can use to transmit wireless signals across those airwaves. The effect has stymied wide-scale LTE deployments in the 800 MHz band. By relaxing the outdated regulations, the FCC is essentially making it possible for companies that have 800 MHz spectrum to repurpose it for LTE. Specifically, the Commission plans to allow 800 MHz licensees to transmit the same amount of power across the spectrum band, putting it in line with how other, similar spectrum bands are treated. The FCC will demand that carriers take care to prevent interference with public safety's use of 800 MHz spectrum, but the Commission will also eliminate what it calls unnecessary rules and burdens related to application filings and other red tape. Verizon Wireless, which will benefit most from the change, lauded the decision. "The FCC's unanimous adoption today of Cellular Service Reform rules is a big win for wireless consumers," said the company. "Today's order enables Verizon to accelerate the conversion of 850 MHz spectrum from 3G and put it to use for 4G LTE. The upside for consumers is big: Verizon Wireless will be able to provide 4G LTE coverage on cellular spectrum to 20%-30% more of the US geography and also increase peak 4G LTE speeds by as much as 40%." The change also benefits AT&T, though to a lesser degree.
T-Mobile today said it is rolling out new network-based tools to help identify and block potential scam calls. Beginning on April 5, T-Mobile will begin to analyze every call that reaches the T-Mobile network against a global database of known scammers. T-Mobile claims it can perform this analysis in a matter of milliseconds. If the number matches that of a scammer, T-Mobile will identify the call as a potential scam when it rings the subscriber's phone. Subscribers can then choose to ignore the call. This feature, which will eventually be available to all T-Mobile customers, is called Scam ID. It is being rolled out to T-Mobile One subscribers automatically, but any T-Mobile postpaid customers can enroll by texting T-Mobile. T-Mobile is also offering the ability for customers to block scam calls entirely. Subscribing to the Scam Block tool will prevent suspected scam calls from ringing T-Mobile phones. T-Mobile says its database of known and suspected scammers is updated constantly and can prevent IRS, medicaid, and other fraudulent calls from reaching customers. Both Scam ID and Scam Block are free. T-Mobile says it will offer these tools to its MetroPCS prepaid customers later in April.
Motorola today said the Moto G5 Plus will be available to U.S. buyers starting March 31. The company is selling two variants of the phone. The first has 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage and costs $229, while the second has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage and costs $299. The phone will be sold by Motorola itself as well as Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Costco, Flash Wireless, Frys, NewEgg, Republic Wireless, Target, Ting, and Walmart. Amazon Prime members can score a small discount on the phone, with the 2 GB model costing $185 and the 4 GB model costing $240. The Moto G5 Plus comes in gold or silver. It includes a 5.2-inch full HD display, Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel user-facing camera, and wide support for U.S. LTE networks. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat.
T-Mobile recently rolled out its own variant of the LG K20 and the phone has somewhat better specifications when compared to the Verizon variant of the same handset. The T-Mobile K20 includes the same 5.3-inch 720p display and 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, but improves RAM to 2 GB of RAM and storage to 32 GB. The phone boasts a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel front camera with selfie flash. It can record video up to 1080p HD. Other features include a 2,700mAh removable battery, microSD memory card slot, and Android 7 Nougat. The LG K20 Plus is already for sale from T-Mobile for $200. The K20 Plus is also known as the K10 (2017).
Verizon Wireless today added the low-cost LG K20 V to its lineup of Android smartphones. The K20 V features a metal frame and rear-mounted fingerprint reader for security. The phone has a 5.3-inch 720p display and it is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone boasts a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel front camera. It can record video up to 720p HD. Other features include a 2,800mAh removable battery, microSD memory card slot, and Android 7 Nougat. The phone is available in stores and online today. The full retail price is $168, but Verizon is asking for just $99 with a two-year activation.
Facebook today announced several new features for Messenger that should make the messaging application even more interactive. First, the app adds the ability to react to messages in one-on-one or group chats. Pressing and holding any message brings up the love, smile, wow, sad, angry, yes, and no emojis, which can then be applied to the highlighted message. These same reactions are already available for news feed items. Participants in the conversation will be alerted when their messages receive a reaction, such as notifications on the lock screen. Messenger also gains the ability to mention specific people in a group chat by using an @reply construction. Using the @ symbol and then a participant's Facebook name calls them out specifically within a conversation. Like the reactions, @replies added to messages will generate notifications for those mentioned in the thread. The new tools are reaching Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS in the days ahead.
Instagram today said it has rolled out two-factor authentication for all users around the world. The extra layer of security is optional, but can be used to safeguard accounts. With 2FA turned on, account holders will need to enter a code (in addition to their username and password) each time they log in from a new device. The code is typically sent to a known or trusted device via text message. Instagram is also taking steps to protect users from potentially sensitive content. Moving forward, photos and videos that may have sensitive content will be covered by a screen. Instagram says these photos and videos don't necessarily violate its guidelines, but others have reported them as offensive or sensitive. A simple tap allows people to bypass the screen and view the photo/video. Instagram is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Verizon today announced a revamp of its Hum line of connected car devices. Moving forward, consumers can choose one of three new options to keep their car in touch with Verizon's network. The HumX is the top-tier product and includes an OBD-II device as well as a Bluetooth speaker. The ODB-II unit provides WiFi hotspot connectivity for up to 10 devices, and also hooks into the car's diagnostics to monitor support functions. It can deliver roadside assistance and connect people to emergency services when needed. The Bluetooth speaker supports HD voice calls. The existing Hum product is being rebranded as the Hum+ and will continue to be available for monitoring auto health and diagnostics, driving history, speed alerts, location, and more. Last, Verizon is rolling out a free Android and iOS mobile app that provides an introductory level of Hum service. The app includes safety score calculations based on driver behaviors (cornering, braking, accelerating), in addition to voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. The Hum mobile app is free, but the Hum+ and HumX require hardware and monthly service fees. All three launch March 23.
Google today said it plans to give phone makers and network operators more options for pushing security updates to smartphones. In an annual report published today, Google says some 735 million devices received at least one security update during 2016. However, some 50% of devices in use haven't received a security update in the past 12 months. "We’re working to increase device security updates by streamlining our security update program to make it easier for manufacturers to deploy security patches and releasing A/B updates to make it easier for users to apply those patches," explained Google in its report. Google continues to work with security firms and researchers to find and fix bugs. The company typically releases security updates once per month. Google didn't say exactly how it plans to address security updates with its partners moving forward, only that it would.
Google updated a handful of its apps and services today, including Duo, Allo, and Photos. Moving forward, Duo users on Android and iOS will be able to make voice-only calls when they wish. Google says Duo's voice calls work well on most connection speeds and won't consume much data. Audio calls via Duo are being made available in Brazil today, with other regions to follow in the next few days. Google updated its Allo messaging app with support for attachments in group chats. Users will be able to share several file types (.pdf, .docs, .apk, .zip, and mp3) with groups through the messaging app. Last, Google says Photos is now better at backing up photos. Photos will first send low-resolution backups to Photos when the network connection is slow or spotty. Photos will then replace the low-resolution shots with high-quality images once good connectivity is available. Moreover, people will be able to share the low-resolution previews with others immediately. These new features are rolling out to Duo, Allo, and Photos over the next few days.
Google today made it possible for Maps users to share their exact location with friends and family. In Maps, users need only tap the blue dot (signifying their location) and select those with whom they'd like to share. People can share through their Google contacts as well as send links through most messaging apps. The tool permits people to select how long they share their location, which ranges between 15 minutes and 3 days. Alternately, location sharing can be left on indefinitely and/or turned off at any time. Indicators in the app let people know when and with whom they are sharing their location for as long as the tool is active. Recipients of location data will see the shared location as a blue dot on Maps in addition to their own blue dot. The tool also lets people share their real-time location and trip progress while navigating between points. Google says the location-sharing feature works on Android, iPhone, the mobile web, and desktops. Google plans to roll the tool out worldwide over the next few days. Google also recently made it easier for people to remember where they parked their car. A tool in Maps lets users pinpoint their parking spot when they park.
Today at 3pm ET, users of the Huawei Mate 9 will be able to update their phones over the air to support Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. The Mate 9 is the first phone to have built-in access to Alexa On The Go. Currently, other phones can only access Alexa when used with a hardware accessory of some kind. Users must launch the new Huawei Alexa app before they can talk to Alexa. The app synchronizes with the user's Amazon account and the same Alexa configuration used at home with any Echo and Echo Dot devices the user may have. Alexa On The Go can be used to control smart-home devices, get personalized news updates, listen to podcasts, make restaurant reservations, get weather, access personal calendar info, and play hands-free games such as Jeopardy and 20 questions. It also supports placing orders with Amazon.com, Starbucks, pizza chains, and movie theaters. Huawei is working on future updates to the Alexa integration that will enable voice activation (instead of manually launching the Huawei Alexa app), setting timers and alarms on the phone, and music playback. The current rollout applies only to U.S. versions of the Mate 9; it will roll out to other markets that Amazon supports at a later date.
Wells Fargo customers will soon be able to access their accounts at ATMs via their smartphones. Wells Fargo plans to update all 13,000 of its ATMs in the U.S. next week, completing a pilot that's been in the testing phase for more than a year. The ATMs will grant access to accounts and cash through the Wells Fargo mobile app. The smartphone-based app will generate an 8-digit code, which the customer will then need to enter into the ATM. The ATMs will continue to support traditional bank cards. Wells Fargo plans to add support for NFC, negating the need for the 8-digit code, later this year. NFC-enabled ATMs will allow people to access their account by holding their phone against a reader on the ATM, similar to Apple Pay or Android Pay. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have similar pilots in testing, but they have yet to announce deployment plans.
Google today said it has added more stores to the home screen of its News & Weather app for mobile devices. Specifically, the home screen will list an additional 200 stories in a section called More Headlines. Google says the More Headlines section is easy to scroll through on smartphone screens and offers a deeper look at business, tech, entertainment, sports, and other topics. The section loads on demand so the more you scroll down, the more stories it will load. Google News & Weather incorporates Google's AMP articles, which load faster over mobile connections. The More Headlines section will reach the Android and iOS versions of News & Weather over the come days. The app is free to download from the Google App Store and iTunes App Store.
Google today announced the first preview of Android O, the unnamed next version of its core mobile operating system. This early version of Android O brings with it a handful of new features that clearly target developers and device makers more so than end users. The primary consumer-facing function is a picture-in-picture viewer for Android phones (this feature is already available to Android tablets). Developers will be able to take advantage of a new background limiter, which can control how much power apps are allowed to consume when running in the background. Android O takes a new stab a notifications with what it calls notification channels. These will let users manage which types of notifications are allowed from individual apps, including new visual groupings that make it easier to see what's going on. The new Autofill API will let developers of apps such as password managers choose autofill defaults across keyboards. Adaptive icons for the home screen will automatically change based on system preferences so they can adapt to different phones and user interfaces. Android O adds new support for Bluetooth audio codecs, such as Sony's LDAC codec. Other features include: in-app pinning of shortcuts and widgets; support for Wi-Fi Aware; XML fonts; wide-gamut color apps; new WebView APIs; expanded accessibility options; improved support for multiple displays; and changes to the MediaPlayer, including new support for the MPEG2_TS codec for media streaming. Developers can install this first Android O preview on their Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Pixel C, and Nexus Player, but will have to do so manually via their computer. Google says Android O will see at least one more developer preview before the company releases a consumer beta of the operating system. Google didn't suggest when the final version of Android O might be ready, but it typically releases new Android operating systems in the fall.
Google today said an update to its mobile search app should make it quicker and easier to find basic information via tappable shortcuts that are positioned underneath the search box. The shortcuts let people perform instant searches for a variety of items, including entertainment, sports, weather, food, news, and more. The shortcuts appear on the home screen of the Google search app on Android and iOS devices, as well as Google.com in mobile browsers. Google says Android users will have access to more shortcuts, such as flights, currency converters, attractions, hotels, and others. People will be able to customize the shortcuts and results based on their preferences. Google says it will automatically add tappable search shortcuts for big and current events as they come and go. Google Search is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Apple today announced Clips, an app for the iPhone and iPad that lets people piece together photos, videos, and music for sharing on social networks. One of the core features is called Live Titles, which lets people create animated captions by using their voice, rather than typing. Clips includes effects such as comic book filters, speech bubbles, shapes, and animated posters to add personality to videos. Apple is pitching the app as an easy-to-use alternative to iMovie. It doesn't require timelines, tracks, or complicated editing tools. Instead, users need only touch a single button to shoot photos or videos from within the app, or pull content directly from the camera roll. Dozens of music soundtracks are included and they will automatically adjust to match the length of the video clip. Apple says videos created in the Clips app can be shared directly to most social networks, such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo, and others. Clips bakes in support for Apple's own iMessage, as well, and will automatically suggest sharing options based on the people who appear in the videos. Clips will be available for free to most iPhones and iPads in April.
Apple today gave the iPhone SE a modest update thanks to improved storage capacities. Beginning this week, the iPhone SE will be available in 32 GB and 128 GB versions. These replace the 16 GB and 64 GB models. The refreshed 32 GB iPhone SE starts at $399 and will be available online and in stores starting March 24. Other than the storage boost, the iPhone SE's other specs remain unchanged. Apple first released the iPhone SE about this same time last year. It has a 4-inch display and relies on the same design Apple used for the 2012 iPhone 5 and 2013 iPhone 5s.
Apple today debuted (Product) Red versions of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The devices are identical to the iPhones released last year, the only difference is the color. A portion of the proceeds from (Product) Red iPhone sales will contribute to the Global Fund to help fight AIDs. The red-colored iPhones will only be available in 128 GB and 256 GB capacities. The 128 GB (Product) Red iPhone 7 costs $749 and the 128 GB (Product) Red iPhone 7 Plus costs $869. The special edition (Product) Red iPhones will be available online and in stores beginning Friday, March 24.
ARM today announced DynamIQ, a new way to manage multi-core systems that gives them the ability to scale exactly to the tasks or needs at hand. DynamIQ expands on ARM's big.LITTLE technology, which allows for paired sets of high-power and low-power processor cores to tackle specific tasks based on the computing requirements. The big change is that DynamIQ doesn't require paired sets; instead, it can handle one high-power processor with seven low-power processors and other combinations to give device makers more granular control over how the cores handle computing operations. ARM says this is particularly helpful for machine learning and artificial intelligence. The company claims DynamIQ will deliver a 50x boost in on-device AI performance over the next few years when compared to what's available today. The fact that DynamIQ can handle AI tasks directly on mobile devices — rather than in the cloud — means quicker response times and better security for end users. Other benefits of DynamIQ include a redesigned memory subsystem that's faster and more power efficient; refined control over thermal budgets; and faster software switching between processor cores. ARM sees DynamIQ making a big impact on smartphones, but it also intends to bring DynamIQ to robots, cars, and other autonomous devices. ARM plans to debut new processor cores specifically for DynamIQ later this year, but the company didn't say when it expects DynamIQ-enabled devices to reach the market.
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