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printed December 3, 2016
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Motorola: Wearables Don't Have Enough Appeal

Thursday, 5:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola does not plan to launch new smartwatches alongside the debut of Android Wear 2.0 early next year, reports The Verge. Shakil Barkat, Motorola's head of global product development, indicated the company will not release new hardware once Google's revised wearable platform hits the street. Motorola doesn't "see enough pull in the market to put [a new smartwatch] out at this time," said Barkat, though Motorola may revisit smartwatches down the road. "Wearables do not have broad enough appeal for us to continue to build on it year after year." Motorola's last wearable was the Moto 360 smartwatch, which debuted in September 2015. Since then, the company has focused chiefly on its mobile phones. Motorola hasn't written off wearables completely. "We believe the wrist still has value and there will be a point where they provide value to consumers more than they do today," noted Barkat. Huawei, too, has said it won't make more Android-based smartwatches, and Samsung swore off Android Wear in favor of its own Tizen platform some time ago. Google delayed the launch of Android Wear 2.0 from September to early in 2017.

BlackBerry Pushing Updates to Priv, DTEK50, DTEK60

Thursday, 12:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry's trio of Android smartphones can now download a series of system and software updates that add features and bolster performance. BlackBerry Hub+, for example, now allows users to hide specific accounts or stop them from syncing, as well as create custom views for emails from specific contacts. The BlackBerry Keyboard app has been improved with easier switching between languages, expanded Chinese language input, and support for fingerprint authentication (DTEK60 only). The BlackBerry Launcher has a new dark theme, and BlackBerry Password Keeper introduces a built-in browser, autofill tweaks, and support for non-Latin characters. Google says Priv, DTEK50, and DTEK60 owners should receive notifications once the updates are available to their handset.

Nokia Pins Smartphone Comeback on HMD Global

Thursday, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it plans to return to the smartphone business during the first half of 2017 through its partnership with HMD Global. HMD Global recently completed a series of transactions between HMD, FIH Mobile Limited, and Microsoft that will allow it to make phones bearing the Nokia brand. The partnership between HMD and Nokia was first announced in May. HMD Global is a Finland-based business and will design smartphones that will then be manufactured exclusively by Foxconn. Foxconn is one of the world's largest device makers and manufactures the iPhone for Apple. HMD Global will pay Nokia licensing and royalty fees for smartphone and tablet sales. HMD Global boasts experienced Nokia veterans among its leadership team, but Nokia itself has no investment nor ownership stake in HMD. HMD Global and Nokia are relying on the know-how of the former Nokia execs at HMD's helm and the strength of the Nokia brand to return to the market. Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft in 2014, which was then wholly based in Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Moving forward, Nokia-branded handsets will run Google's Android platform. "We've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown around the world for the return of the Nokia brand to smartphones," said Brad Rodrigues, interim president of Nokia Technologies.

Sony Pushing Nougat to Xperia XZ and X Performance

Thursday, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today said it has begin distributing the Android 7 Nougat operating system to its Xperia XZ and Xperia X Performance smartphones. The platform includes multi-window support, longer battery life, more messaging options, manual camera controls, and a revised home screen experience that includes Google Now. Sony said it is rolling the update out slowly. Owners of older Sony Xperia phones will be happy to learn that the company plans to make Android 7.0, Nougat available for the Xperia Z3+, Z4 Tablet, Z5, Z5 Compact, Z5 Premium, X, XA, XA Ultra, and X Compact. Sony didn't say when these devices will receive the update.

Motorola May Create Project Tango Mod for Moto Z

Wednesday, 4:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Moto Z series of handsets might be given the power of Project Tango through a modular accessory, according to Motorola CEO Aymar de Lencquesaing. Speaking to journalists today Lencquesaing said, "The tablet folks did a phablet and worked with Google, the Tango team, to come out with a Tango phablet." That device is the Lenovo Phab2 Pro. "Going forward, we'll have to address as a group how do we reconcile the products that are at the fringe? We're likely to have a Tango module to basically enable the Z to have Tango functionality." Project Tango as realized on the Phab2 Pro uses a series of cameras to measure the environment and then map over it with augmented reality content. Lencquesaing did not say if a module for the Z is already in the works, nor when such a module might be released.

HTC's Unlocked 10 Snags Android 7 Update

Nov 25, 2016, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC said the unlocked variant of its HTC 10 smartphone should receive Android 7 Nougat beginning today. The update is being pushed out over-the-air to the U.S. version of the HTC 10, which was sold directly by HTC online. Beyond Nougat, the update also installs the latest Android security patches from Google and provides other system enhancements. The update measures 1.1 GB and should be downloaded via WiFi.

Google Releases Final Preview of Android 7.1

Nov 22, 2016, 1:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made an update to the Android 7.1 Developer Preview available to developers. Registered developers can download the refreshed operating system to their Nexus 6P or 5X smartphones, as well as the Nexus 9 and Pixel C tablets. System images for side loading are already available online, and the over-the-air downloads will appear within the next week. The most obvious new feature for end users is support for GIFs and animations within the keyboard. The Android keyboard can interact with third-party apps to create and apply stickers, videos, and other expressive content. Android 7.1 also adopts a 3D Touch-style interactive tool that will let people access up to five secondary actions or settings that can be reached directly from the launcher. Google calls this second preview "release ready" and says developers should rely on it to test their apps. Google expects to roll out Android 7.1.1 to the full lineup of supported devices, as well as Pixel and Pixel XL handsets, in December.

Google Play Services to Drop Support for Gingerbread

Nov 21, 2016, 4:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 21, 2016, 4:09 PM

Google today said the next iteration of Google Play Services will sever backward compatibility with devices running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Today, Google Play Services — the core code behind app compatibility across Android platforms — is 10.0.0 and supports API level 9. The move to Google Play Services 10.2.0, expected in early 2017, will jump from API level 9 to API level 14. This means Play Services 10.2.0 will support Android 4.0.1 Ice Cream Sandwich and up, leaving Android 2.3 Gingerbread devices behind. "The Gingerbread platform is almost six years old. Many Android developers have already discontinued support for Gingerbread in their apps," explained Google in a blog post. "This helps them build better apps that make use of the newer capabilities of the Android platform. For us, the situation is the same. By making this change, we will be able to provide a more robust collection of tools for Android developers with greater speed." At last check, only 1.3% of all devices accessing the Google Play Store were still running Gingerbread. The majority of devices are running Android 4.4 KitKat (25.2%), Android 5.x Lollipop (34.1%), or Android 6.x Marshmallow (24%). The change in API level support will not impact that many devices. Google says developers can either move forward and target API level 14 at a minimum, or offer multiple APKs via the Play Store to support both older and newer devices. This latter method will not include support for newer APIs, however, and may occasionally lead to broken or non-functioning apps. Google Play Services is updated automatically across Android devices once every couple of months.

Motorola Bringing Nougat and Daydream to Z and Z Force

Nov 21, 2016, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola said it will roll out Android 7.0 Nougat to the Moto Z and Moto Z Force starting this week. Both handsets will be updated from Android 6.1 to Android 7.0. Moreover, the update will make the Moto Z and Moto Z Force compatible with Daydream, Google's new virtual reality platform. According to Motorola, the Z and Z Force are the first non-Google handsets certified as Daydream ready. Daydream requires high-resolution screens, quick refresh rates, and fine-tuned sensors for accurate head tracking. Daydream also requires the Daydream VR headset and controller, which are sold separately at Verizon, Best Buy, and Google stores. The Nougat update will start reaching the Moto Z and Moto Z Force globally this week. More information on country- and carrier-specific upgrades is available from Motorola's web site. Motorola did not say if or when the Z Play might receive Android 7.

Instagram Intros Live Video and Disappearing Photos

Nov 21, 2016, 10:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today announced two new features for its mobile app that expand how people can share photos and videos. First, the social network is marking the debut of live video within Instagram Stories. Users can now broadcast live video to their followers through the Stories section of the app. Followers may opt to receive notifications when people share live video, and live video will be visibly earmarked as such. People will be able to leave comments throughout the video's duration, but live video is not stored or saved in users' feeds. Instagram says live video will be added to the Explore tab, too, allowing people to browse through live video that's being shared from around the world. In a move to combat Snapchat, Instagram is now allowing users to send disappearing photos and videos through its Direct Message function. Ephemeral media can be sent to individuals as well as groups, and creators will know when their photo/video has been seen and/or screen-captured. Once the content is viewed by the recipient, it disappears from the recipient's inbox and cannot be replayed. Instagram says disappearing photos and videos can only be sent to people who follow you. Disappearing content shared with groups will allow members to all see comments and responses. Instagram says the live video tool is rolling out globally over the next few weeks, while the disappearing photo/video feature is reaching all users today. Instagram is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

YouTube Brings Blocking Tool to Kids App

Nov 17, 2016, 2:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its YouTube Kids application and gave parents a little bit more control over the content that's available to their youngsters. The latest version of the app lets parents block videos or channels when they are signed into the app. Google says videos and channels that are blocked in YouTube Kids will remain blocked across all devices as long as the parent is signed into their account on each device. Parents can choose to unblock videos one at a time, or all at once. Video and channel blocking is available to YouTube Kids in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and a handful of South America, African, and Asian countries.

Google Overhauls Its News Reader App, Brings It to the Web

Nov 16, 2016, 2:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a wholly refreshed version of Google Play Newsstand that reimagines the newsreader and expands its availability beyond smartphones and tablets. To start, Google is relying on machine learning to make more personalized recommendations for readers. The launch screen now carries a better mix of major headlines, national news, local news, and personal interests. The app takes a big step forward with multimedia and now includes autoplay videos, podcast controls, and high-resolution imagery. Google says it is taking advantage of its own AMP program to improve the speed of articles within the app. Users can always turn on the Data Saver mode to cut back on multimedia when using a metered connection. Last, Newsstand is now available on the web. Google says no matter which platform or device people use, all of their personalized content and sources are available at a whim. Google plans to roll out these changes on Android, iOS, and the web over the next couple of days.

Google's Allo Wants to Add Emojis for You

Nov 16, 2016, 9:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out an update to its Allo messaging app that may pepper your messages with more emoji. The Smart Smiley tool will suggest relevant emojis and stickers as people type to help spice up their missives. Google says suggestions will change based on the context of the message. Google is also making a new sticker pack available to users of Allo that includes characters from the forthcoming "Fantastic Beasts" movie. Last, Google is giving Allo users the ability to swap between several new themes to give conversations a bit more style. The new version of Allo for Android and iOS is being made available over the net ew days. Smart Smiley will initially be available only in English, but will eventually come to more languages over time. Allo is an AI-assisted messaging app, but it cannot be used to replace SMS.

Google Translate Taps Into Neural Machine Translation

Nov 16, 2016, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 16, 2016, 7:16 AM

Google said this week that Google Translate is now using what it calls Neural Machine Translation for eight distinct languages in order to improve accuracy. Neural Machine Translation looks at entire sentences at a time, rather than shorter phrases or individual words. This, says Google, allows it to discern the broader context and deliver more relevant results. Neural Machine Translation also rearranges words for proper syntax and should offer more natural translations that are closer to what native speakers would say. Google is deploying Neural Machine Translation for English and French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Turkish. These eigtht languages cover one-third of the planet's speakers and 35% of all Google Translate queries. Google will expand Neural Machine Translation to all 103 languages it translates over time. The new technology is available in the Google Translate app and via Google Translate on the web.

Google Photos Gains Print-Scanning Tool, New Editing Functions

Nov 15, 2016, 1:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new way for people to save old photos and improve the ones they already have stored in Google Photos. First, PhotoScan is a brand new app that people can use to take pictures of physical prints for storing digitally in the cloud. The app is able to automatically find edges, correct orientation, and eliminate glare. Scanned photos are automatically stored in users' Google Photos account. The app is free to download for Android and iOS devices. Google Photos also now offers even more ways to edit pictures. First, a new tool can automatically adjust photo elements such as exposure and color for the optimum in balance. Second, Photos gains 12 new filters for making artistic edits to images. The filters use machine learning to apply specific changes to each image, rather than make blanket adjustments that may or may not work. Last, a new light-management tool lets people fine-tune highlights, shadows, and warmth. The new Google Photos is available to Android and iOS devices, as well as the web, beginning today.

Google Music Gains Machine Learning for Improved Recommendations

Nov 14, 2016, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Google Music service for Android, iOS, and the web with the hope that it will provide better, more personalized music recommendations. Moving forward, Google Music will match users' existing libraries and playlists with outside cues, such as location, weather, and activity, to make smarter suggestions. The new machine learning features within Play Music are able to read contextual tools to understand when people are relaxing at home, exploring new cities, or working out at the gym. (People must choose to opt in to receive the more personal recommendations.) In order to highlight these new recommendations, Google revamped the app's home screen experience where new music recos will be ready and waiting every time people open the app. Last, Google Music will automatically add some recommended music to the phone while it charges so people will have access to some tunes even when offline. The new Google Play Music is rolling out to Android and iOS devices over the next few days. It is already available via the web.

Google Releases Dedicated YouTube VR App for Daydream

Nov 10, 2016, 9:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made available YouTube VR, a separate app for Daydream View owners to find and consume virtual reality video content. Google says the content available within the app was all shot in 360-degrees to create immersive videoscapes and environments for exploration. YouTube VR includes voice search, channels for subscribing, playlists, and other tools carried over from the standard YouTube app. YouTube VR requires the Daydream View VR goggles and a Daydream-compatible handset, such as the Google Pixel.

Google Hits Refresh on Docs, Sheets, Slides for Android

Nov 10, 2016, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated all three of its Android productivity apps with a focus on notifications. For example, people will now see notifications within their Google Drive Android app whenever someone mentions them in a comment or shares a document with them directly. Further, users will see notifications in their Docs, Sheets, and Slides Android apps, too, when using them. These notifications should be more helpful than the generic system notifications Google has offered for some time, as the new notifications are specific to each of the three apps. The latest Google Drive app is required, in addition to the newer versions of Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets. Google says Sheets now allows people to resize rows and columns down to the pixel width for a more exact fit. Moreover, Sheets users can create and edit data validation within sheets, as they can on the web. Last, Sheets users can change the color of the sheet tabs in Sheets to help differentiate between different pages in a larger spreadsheet document. The latest versions of Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides are free to download from the Google Play Store.

Adobe Bolsters Mobile Photo Editing Apps with Raw Support

Nov 9, 2016, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Adobe today made its mobile photo editing apps far more powerful. Fresh updates to Lightroom for Android, Photoshop Express for iOS, and Lightroom on the web give mobile device users a richer array of tools for manipulating photos on the go. In particular, Lightroom for Android adds support for raw images thanks to the new Raw Technology Preview function. Android device owners will now be able to import raw photos from their camera to their device for editing. Photoshop Express for iOS adds features called Intelligent Layout and Style Transfer for automatically creating collages. Photoshop Express for iOS also gains the ability to select and import images from online Google Photos accounts. Last, Lightroom on the web makes it easier to share photos to various social networks as well as download original-quality images. Lightroom for Android and Photoshop Express for iOS are free to download and use from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively. Lightroom on the web is free to use via desktop browsers online.

Google's Pixel and Nexus Phones Catch Security, Dream VR Updates

Nov 7, 2016, 1:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today delivered minor system updates to its Pixel and Nexus devices. The factory images made available from Google for the Pixel and Nexus handsets bring back the "check for update" button within the system settings. More importantly, the system update builds in the November security patch from Google. According to the latest Security Bulletin, the November patch resolves two critical issues and a large number of serious issues that could lead to remote code execution. Knowledgeable Pixel and Nexus owners can install the factory images manually; the over-the-air downloads have yet to appear. Separately, Google pushed the initial build of its Daydream VR services to Pixel and Nexus devices. Daydream VR services works directly with Google's new Daydream View and existing Google Cardboard virtual reality goggles. The updates are free to download.

Google Calendar for iOS Adds More Ways to View Schedule

Nov 7, 2016, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google pushed out an update to its iOS Calendar app today with a handful of new tools. To start, the app now includes month view and week view in landscape modes, which make the app more flexibile. The Calendar also adds support for Apple's Spotlight Search, allowing Google Calendar users to search for events, reminders, and goals across accounts. Last, Calendar for iOS adds support for alternate calendars, such as non-Gregorian and others. Google Calendar for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Google Brings Android Auto to Every Car via New Android App

Nov 7, 2016, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new app for smartphones that gives everyone the opportunity to use Android Auto in their car. Android Auto has been available to select cars with in-dash screens for about two years. Google says about 200 new cars from some 50 manufacturers support Android Auto in the dashboard. Millions of older cars, however, don't include navigation screens or support the platform. Android Auto for Android handsets includes a driver-friendly user interface that provides access to core functions — navigation, music, communications — directly on the phone. Google says the new app will launch automatically when paired to cars via Bluetooth, but can also be turned on manually. The app includes support for "OK Google" voice commands to launch phone calls, dictate messages, and search for addresses. Google plans to improve voice actions in the weeks ahead. Android Auto is compatible with Android devices running Android 5.0 and up. It will be made available to devices in 30 countries in the days ahead.

Gmail for iOS Updated with Undo Send

Nov 7, 2016, 10:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made a new version of Gmail available to iOS devices and the refreshed email app boasts new features and performance improvements. To start, Gmail for iOS now includes the Undo Send tool from Inbox that gives people a short opportunity to recall emails before they are pushed out. Gmail gains a swipe to archive/delete function, as well, which provides more control over inbox clutter. Google improved search in Gmail, adding instant results, spelling suggestions, and raw speed. The revised appearance includes sleek transitions and quicker performance across the board. Gmail for the iPhone and iPad is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Google, Sprint Deploy RCS on Android Phones

Nov 4, 2016, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Sprint today said some of Sprint's Android phones now have access to RCS-based messaging features. Google added Rich Communication Services, powered by its Jibe cloud platform, to its own Messenger SMS application. Some of the features of RCS include group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, advanced calling features, and read receipts. According to Sprint, select LG handsets and all Nexus handsets will automatically receive the new RCS-based Messenger app later today. Sprint customers who own other Android devices should be able to download the app directly from the Google Play Store. The RCS-enriched Messenger app will be installed on all Sprint phones beginning in 2017. Earlier this year, the GSMA and a large number of global network operators agreed to deploy RCS with Google. Sprint was one of the initial supporters of the GSMA's plans, though so far AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have remained silent on potential adoption of the Google-made RCS app.

Google to Let Developers Offer Subscription Promos

Nov 3, 2016, 2:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out new tools that should help developers promote their apps and encourage more user adoption. Most significantly, the Google Play Store is prepared to permit promotional pricing for subscriptions. Developers will be able to set temporary, lower monthly prices so people can test subscriptions before diving all in. Developers can now offer pre-registration to interested end users who can sign up for information and even automatic downloads before an app or game's release. Google says its Early Access beta-testing program has been very successful since launch, and it is encouraging more developers to use the beta program to test their own apps. Google is doing more to highlight the work of indie developers and now allows larger developers to nominate their smaller peers for the Indie Corner showcase. Last, Google is improving the app-refund process by offering developers a new API to help them spot users who've requested refunds. Google hopes these changes will help improve the Play Store for developers and end users alike.

Google's Daydream VR Headset Ships Nov. 10

Nov 1, 2016, 12:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Daydream virtual reality headset will go on sale November 10. The goggles will cost $79 and will be available at Best Buy and Verizon Wireless stores. Daydream is Google's new virtual reality push. Only a few handsets are initially compatible with Daydream, including the Pixel and Pixel XL, and the Nexus 6P. A number of Google's partners have prepared content for Daydream ahead of launch, such as the Wall Street Journal, Star Chart, YouTube, the New York Times, Google Play Movies, and several gaming companies. People who preordered the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones from Google in October will be given a promotional code for a free Daydream VR headset.

Google Does More to Prevent Play Store Fraud

Oct 31, 2016, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has taken more steps to prevent developers from fraudulently promoting their apps in the Google Play Store. Specifically, the company is pushing new detection and filtering systems so it can spot attempts to manipulate the Play Store as far as app rankings are concerned. For example, if developers or promoters install apps in order to boost the app's standing in Google Play, Google's improved systems should spot the fraud and filter it out. The same goes for fake reviews and/or incentivized ratings schemes. Moreover, developers who break the rules repeatedly in order to falsely promote their apps are more apt to have their apps pulled form the Play Store. Google believes today's changes will protect the integrity of the Play Store and the apps therein.

T-Mobile Offers Unique Discount for Google Pixel Owners

Oct 27, 2016, 8:25 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 27, 2016, 8:56 AM

T-Mobile today announced a unique discount program for customers who buy an unlocked Google Pixel phone and switch to T-Mobile's new "One" unlimited plan. Customers will receive $325 back, spread out over 24 months, amounting to a $13.55 monthly discount for two years. The Pixel has excellent support for T-Mobile's LTE network, including Category 9 LTE and band 12. The offer is available to both new and existing T-Mobile customers.

Google Pixel Hits Verizon Stores Today, But Pixel XL 128 GB Sold Out

Oct 20, 2016, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are available at its stores today. The Pixel 32 GB ($650) and 128 GB ($750), and the Pixel XL 32 GB ($770) are in stores in black, white, and blue. The Pixel XL 128 GB ($870) is sold out and not available. Monthly pricing over two years breaks down to $27.08, $31.24, $32.08, and $36.24, respectively, for the Pixel 32 GB, Pixel 128 GB, Pixel XL 32 GB, and Pixel XL 128 GB. Verizon will offer up to $300 for select trade-ins, including the HTC One M9, iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, LG G4 or V10, Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ or Note 5. Customers who buy either Pixel device may also preorder the Daydream View virtual reality headset.

BlackBerry Updates Hub+ and Other Android Apps

Oct 20, 2016, 9:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today announced an update to its Hub+ subscription service for Android devices. Hub+ users will now be able add Facebook Messenger to Hub+ and manage Messenger communications directly in the Hub. Hub+ also makes it easier to save inline images and improves support for admin-defined signatures for business users. Beyond Hub+, BlackBerry updated the BlackBerry Android Keyboard, BlackBerry Launcher, and Password Keeper apps. The Keyboard gains new ways to switch languages and global gesture support. The Launcher now includes a dynamic calendar icon that will show the current date. BlackBerry's Password Keeper adds secure lists and support for fingerprint sensors, and makes organizational changes to the settings panel. In addition to the new features, all the apps gain performance improvements. BlackBerry's own Priv and DTEK50 handsets will see speed enhancements in the camera app. BlackBerry's Hub+ and other Android apps are available from the Google Play Store. Hub+ requires a monthly subscription.

Gboard for iPhone Adds 3D Touch Support

Oct 20, 2016, 7:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Gboard keyboard app for the iPhone with new 3D Touch-based features. A hard press on the keyboard puts it in cursor mode, allowing users to more easily and accurately move the cursor around the screen for editing. The refreshed app also gains new themes and contacts search. Last, Gboard now includes all the iOS 10 emoji. Gboard is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Google Keep Lets Users Pin Notes

Oct 20, 2016, 7:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Keep app for Android handsets, giving it the power to pin notes. A pin icon is now visible within the app and tapping it will pin kept notes to a new section of the app for quick retrieval. Google Keep is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Releases Android 7.1 Developer Preview

Oct 19, 2016, 4:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today followed through on its recent promise to make a preview version of Android 7.1 Nougat available to developers. Registered developers can download the refreshed operating system to their Nexus 6P or 5X devices, as well as snag the latest developer tools from Google, including Android Studio and associated SDKs. The most forward-facing new feature for end users is support for GIFs and animations within the keyboard. The Android keyboard can interact with third-party apps to create and apply stickers, videos, and other expressive content. Android 7.1 also adopts a 3D Touch-style interactive tool that will let people access up to five secondary actions or settings that can be reached directly from the launcher. The preview can be downloaded over the air. Google expects to release another developer preview in November with the final build scheduled for December.

Google Makes Tracking Flight Pricing Easier

Oct 17, 2016, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved its Google Flights tool with new ways to track not only flight times, but flight pricing. Moving forward, Google Flights will alert users about potential price increases. For example, as people search for flights Google will clearly display when it expects prices to change and what the price differential might be. Moreover, users can elect to receive alerts when prices are about to change, either up or down, as well as track any potential changes in departure/arrival times. Google Flights will also provide tips based on routes, with recommendations concerning alternate airports and best travel dates for flying between two cities. Google improved the usability of its Google Hotels search function, too, which can reveal when specific hotels are offering rate discounts and more. Google Flights and Google Hotels are available for free via the browser. Google says both should now be easier to use from mobile devices.

T-Mobile Shares Pricing Details for LG V20

Oct 17, 2016, 7:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today offered customers more information about its planned launch of the LG V20 handset. Customers may preorder the phone starting today. T-Mobile is asking for a down payment of $50, followed by 24 monthly payments of $30 per month. The full retail price of the handset from T-Mobile is $770. Customers that take advantage of T-Mobile's Jump! On Demand program can get the V20 for $0 up front and $34 a month over 18 months. T-Mobile is offering several promotions alongside its launch of the V20. To start, customers can receive a minimum $200 in credit toward the V20 when they trade in any working LTE smartphone. T-Mobile is also giving away a pair of Bang & Olufsen H3 headphones ($149 value) to those who buy the V20. The headphone offer must be redeemed online. The V20 is a follow-up to last year's V10. Its defining feature is a small second screen on the front for notifications and app shortcuts. The device is semi-rugged and includes a 5.7-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 16-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel secondary camera (wide-angle), and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The T-Mobile variant is the first to support LTE in Band 66. The phone will also be among the first to ship with Android 7 Nougat and a new search tool from Google called In Apps. The device goes on sale October 28.

Google News to More Clearly Mark 'Fact-Check' Articles

Oct 14, 2016, 7:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says it will work harder to call attention to fact-check articles within Google News. Google believes fact-check style articles have become an important type of journalism, especially in the context of the presidential election. Moving forward, a "Fact Check" tag will clearly highlight which stories examine claims made by politicians, celebrities, and other pundits. Such articles will be clearly labeled in Google News online and in the Google News Android and iOS mobile apps. Further, Google is offering publishers more tools to help them tag their articles as fact-check style pieces so they can be found more easily within Google News. Google News is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Facebook Brings Video Casting to Mobile Devices

Oct 13, 2016, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 13, 2016, 3:26 PM

Facebook today made it possible to cast video straight from the News Feed to television sets. iPhone owners and web users can push News Feed video to their Apple TV or Google Chromecast starting today. Android devices will be able to push News Feed view to a Chromecast device in the near future, though Facebook didn't say exactly when. Mobile device owners will be able to browse through their Facebook News Feed while casting videos from their phone to their TV and queue up more videos if they wish. The feature supports Facebook Live Video, too, and will show live reactions and comments on the TV just as it does in the mobile app. Casting is controlled via a small "TV" icon that appears in the upper corner of the app. Facebook for iOS and Android is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Google Photos Gets a Boost from AI

Oct 13, 2016, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today is rolling out an update to Google Photos that introduces some new AI-assisted tools. First, Photos will reach deep into users' libraries to pair old photos of people with the newest photos of those same people so you can reconnect with those older memories. Second, Photos plans to automatically assemble highlights from selections of recent photos of users' children or friends. These two tools make use of facial recognition technology. Third, Photos will begin to scan users' videos and automatically create short, shareable highlight videos from those larger pieces. Last, Photos will find sideways or other improperly-oriented photos and suggest they be righted. The new features are available to Google Photos for Android, iOS, and the web.

Verizon Says Its Pixel Will Receive System Updates At the Same Time as Other Pixels

Oct 12, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 12, 2016, 1:31 PM

Verizon Wireless will not stymie system updates for the Google Pixel phones, according to Ars Technica. Earlier this month, Google said Verizon would be responsible for pushing system updates to its variants of the Pixel and Pixel XL. Typically, carriers are slow to push system updates. Verizon wants users to know that it will not delay updates for the Pixel. "First and foremost, all operating system and security updates to the Pixel devices will happen in partnership with Google. In other words, when Google releases an update, Verizon phones will receive the same update at the same time (much like iOS updates)," said the carrier. "Verizon will not stand in the way of any major updates and users will get all updates at the same time as Google." Verizon went on to note that its model will be carrier unlocked and will come with only three preloaded apps: My Account, Go90, and Verizon Messages — all three of which can be deleted. Google confirmed Verizon's statement, noting "OS updates and monthly security patches will be updated on all Pixel devices (Verizon and non-Verizon versions) simultaneously."

Google's Sprayscape Is VR At Its Wackiest

Oct 12, 2016, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced Sprayscape, a virtual reality app for Android smartphones. The app blends the camera and virtual reality. Users tap the capture button and then "spray" what's around them by moving the camera around within an imaginary 360-degree sphere. The app, which was developed by Google's Android Experiments team, relies on the phone's internal gyroscope to create the images. Once people have captured an image they can then share it via social networks and even view the results in Google Cardboard. Sprayscape is free to download from the Google Play Store.

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