Google today announced that it has changed how Gmail handles image attachments within emails. Until today, Gmail asked users to verify that the sender was trusted before downloading remote images. Now, Google serves all images from its own, secure servers. The change means that images embedded in Gmail posts will automatically be visible in emails viewed on desktop machines, as well as Android and iOS devices. Google said the functionality will roll out over the coming days.
Google recently updated Maps for iOS devices. The most significant new feature included in Google Maps 2.5.0 is the ability to sign in to automatically see flight, hotel, and restaurant reservations from Gmail. The update also introduces several bug fixes. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google today pushed out a minor update to its Gmail application for Android devices. Gmail now supports all file attachment types. The update also adds controls for vacation auto-responders, and gives KitKat devices the ability to print directly from Gmail. Last, Gmail for Android has been optimized to run better on devices with less memory. Gmail is free to download from the Play Store.
Google today released an application that lets Android device owners manage the security of their other Android devices. The Android Device Manager application takes advantage of the web-based tool that Google released earlier this year and brings it to mobile devices. The app lets users locate any Android devices associated with their Google account, reset the device screen lock PIN, as well as erase those devices remotely. In order to function properly, users need to enable the device managing feature in each phone or tablet's individual settings. Android Device Manager is free to download and use.
Google recently updated the Play Books application for Android devices. The newest version of the app makes it possible to upload e-pub or PDF books from the on-device library to the cloud-based library, regardless of where the digital books came from. The app also makes adjustments to performance so books open more quickly, improves the look and feel of notes, adds lower brightness settings, makes it easier to dismiss book recommendations, and makes it possible to read any book in landscape view. Google Play Books is free to download from the Play Store.
Twitter made updates to both its Android and iOS mobile apps available today. The most significant new feature added to Twitter is the ability to send pictures via direct message to other users. Both apps have a refreshed look and feel, and users can access the Home, Activity, and Discover tabs by swiping through their timelines. Users can also choose to view replies, retweets, and favorites from only people they follow, and can choose to receive push notifications from select people. Twitter for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Google today made a Play Edition variant of the Sony Z Ultra available for sale in the Play Store. The Z Ultra has all the same specs as the standard version, but like the Play Edition HTC One and Play Edition Samsung Galaxy S4, it runs stock Android 4.4 KitKat. Google is selling the Play Edition Z Ultra for $649. It comes unlocked and is compatible with the LTE networks of both AT&T and T-Mobile.
Google today announced that 10 applications have added support for its Chromecast media device. Now, smartphone or tablet owners can push content from Vevo, Red Bull.TV, Songza, PostTV, Viki, Revision 3, and BeyondPod to their television. Chromecast also now supports local media playback through the Plex, Avia, or RealPlayer Cloud apps. Chromecast works with Android and iOS devices, which push content through a local Wi-Fi network.
Eight U.S. tech companies have sent a joint letter to President Obama and Congress asking for changes in the way governments collect personal data through the web. Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, and AOL all believe that the bulk collection methods used today have gone too far. Referencing details that were exposed by Edward Snowden earlier this year, the companies said, "This summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual–rights that are enshrined in our Constitution." The companies want governments to target individuals rather than everyone, and suggest that consumers and businesses alike will not use technology they don't trust. "Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it," said Brad Smith, general counsel for Microsoft. Microsoft recently said that it would increase the encryption it uses in an attempt to prevent government snooping. In the letter, the companies suggest five principles of reform, including the use of an independent way to oversee national security and more freedom to offer details about government record requests publicly.
Google has pushed out minor updates to a handful of its Android applications in recent days. Google Voice Search has learned new languages. It can now understand and respond in French, German, and Japanese in addition to English. Google said support for more languages is on the way. Google also updated the Play Music app. Play Music now lets users store cached music on SD cards for devices running Android 4.4 KitKat. Play Music also added ability to shuffle all songs from an artist and made it simpler to share links of songs, artists, and albums to various social networks. Both apps are free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today began distributing Android 4.4.1 to the Nexus 5. The update primarily improves performance of the phone's camera with speed enhancements, better focusing, and HDR+ mode.
Google will soon push out an update to the Nexus 5 that will provide a wide range of fixes to the phone's camera performance. Google admitted last month that an update was on the way, but more concrete details have emerged. The update will arrive within Android 4.4.1 and will be released very soon, according to The Verge. David Burke, Google's Director of Engineering for Android, said the update focuses on improving the speed of the camera across the board. The autofocus function now dials much faster, and the camera is faster to launch. Google made other adjustments that improve contrast, low-light performance, exposure, and white balance. It also added a progress bar to the HDR mode. Burke indicated that Android 4.4.1 represents the first of several forthcoming updates to the native Android camera software. It hopes to make the user interface and controls more intuitive down the line. For now, Google wanted to improve performance. Google didn't say exactly when Android 4.4.1 will arrive, but implied that the release is imminent.
Google confirmed that the company is developing a fix for the Nexus 5's camera. "The team is aware of the issues and is working on a software update that will be available shortly," said Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano in a statement provided to CNET. The Nexus 5's camera performance leaves a lot to be desired. In addition to the Nexus 5 camera fix, Scigliano also confirmed that Google is working to add support for RAW imaging to the Android platform. "Android's latest camera HAL (hardware abstraction layer) and framework supports RAW and burst-mode photography. We will expose a developer API in a future release to expose more of the HAL functionality," said Scigliano. Google has laid the groundwork to permit RAW imaging, but has yet to provide developers with the tools they need to access it. Nokia recently added RAW imaging support to the Lumia 1520, and will soon add it to the Lumia 1020. RAW imaging provides photographers with an uncompressed digital negative that gives them more control over the end product.
Google announced that the Play Edition versions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 should receive the Android 4.4 KitKat system update in the coming days. The Play Edition versions don't have HTC's Sense nor Samsung's TouchWiz user interfaces, respectively. Instead, they run a stock version of Android, like Nexus devices.
Delivering on its promise, Google pushed out an update to the iOS version of Google+ that enables full-resolution backups of pictures and videos. The revised app also makes changes to the notification tray and lets users share their location, as well as see the location of their friends on a map. These features hit the Android version of Google+ last month. Google+ for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google has pushed out a new version of Google Wallet that lets people add credit or debit cards simply by taking a picture of their card. The app is able to record the account number and expiration date during the setup process. Google also recently announced a Google Wallet Card, a physical debit card backed by MasterCard that can be used to access Google Wallet funds. The Google Wallet Card works in conjunction with Google Wallet accounts and can be used to make purchases and even withdraw cash. According to Google, the Wallet Card is available for free and it does not charge any annual fees to use it. The newest version of the Google Wallet app adds compatibility with the Google Wallet Card, and provides notifications to help keep users on top of their spending.
Motorola has made its Moto Assist and Moto Connect apps available to more of its devices by publishing them in the Google Play Store. Previously, they were only available on select devices, notably the Moto X, as preinstalled apps. Moto Assist is a tool that lets device owners set certain times when they shouldn't be bothered, such as when sleeping, in meetings, or driving. Moto Connect is a utility that let's people see incoming text messages and calls in their computer's Chrome browser. Both apps are compatible with the Moto X, Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx, and Droid Mini. Motorola also recently made the Moto X Camera and Touchless Control apps available in the Play Store.
Google recently updated Google Drive for Android devices and added several new features. Chief among the new tools is the ability to find-and-replace text, as well as insert and manage tables. The update also lets users rename files before they are uploaded, view files in two-column layout on tablets, and sort by quota used. Google Drive is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today released a brand new application for Android smartphones and tablets called Google Play Newsstand. The app is meant to replace Google Currents, a social newsreader that Google is retiring. According to Google, Newsstand is what Android device owners will use to consume digital newspapers and magazines, as well as online blogs and news sites. There are more than 1,900 publications available through Newsstand, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Time, Rolling Stone, Wired, Vanity Fair, and others. Google Currents users' content and subscriptions will all transfer over to Newsstand when the app is installed and opened for the first time. Content can be synced for offline reading, and articles will include imagery as well as embedded sound/video. Google Play Newsstand will be available beginning in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Australia this week, with other regions to follow.
Google today pushed out a modest refresh of its search application for the Windows Phone platform. According to Google, the app now displays voice commands faster, supports account sign-in, improves Google image viewing, and fixes bugs. Google Search for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Ting, an MVNO that runs on Sprint's network, recently announced that it will support the Google Nexus 5 smartphone. According to Ting, customers will need to acquire their own Nexus 5 handset and a Ting SIM card. They'll then be able to activate the Nexus 5 on Ting's network. Sprint, too, supports the Nexus 5. The Nexus 5 can be ordered directly from Google, though most models are currently backordered by at least a couple of weeks.
Google today made its Play Music application available to iOS devices for the first time. Google had promised to deliver the app back in June, but delayed the release for unknown reasons. The application lets iOS device users access and listen to their Google Play library from their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. iOS device owners who subscribe to Google's All Access service will be able to stream an unlimited number of songs, create custom radio stations from songs/artists, stream radio with no skip limits, get artist recommendations, and listen to curated playlists. Google Play Music's online service lets people upload up to 20,000 songs from their personal collection and then play them back on the web or through Android and now iOS devices. Music can be downloaded locally for offline playback. Google Play Music for iOS does not let iPhone owners purchase individual tracks or albums, though All Access subscribers can add tracks/albums to their online library for playback. Google Play Music can also be used with Google's Chromecast media streaming device for television sets. The app itself is free to download and use. All Access costs $10 per month.
BlackBerry today made available updates to the BlackBerry Messenger application for both the Android and iOS platforms. The Android version of BBM gains support for BBM contact categories, Group List sorting and filtering, more PIN-sharing options, and the ability to search for BBM users through social networks. The iOS version of BBM gains support for iPads and iPods running iOS6/7, improved right-to-left language support, PIN-sharing options, and social network searching. It also resolves a bug that left some users unable to see BBM contact names. BlackBerry Messenger is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
The Federal Communications Commission today made available a smartphone application that is meant to test wireless network speeds. According to the FCC, the app runs periodically in the background when the phone is not in use and tests both cellular and Wi-Fi download speeds, upload speeds, latency, and packet loss. Users can see how their broadband service performs and track it over time. Testing is limited to 100MB per month, and it grabs data such as cell ID, signal strength, and GPS locations. The FCC says testing is entirely anonymous and none of the data generated can be tracked back to individuals. The data is fed back to the FCC so it can aggregate the results and generate a clearer picture of just how well the wireless networks are performing across the country. The application is limited to Android phones for now and is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Facebook today announced that the new version of Facebook Messenger it released a few weeks ago is now available to most Android devices. Some of the new features in the app include the ability to see who's using the dedicated Messenger app through presence, and delivered/read receipts that are updated immediately. Facebook Messenger can also be used to message contacts who don't use Facebook via standard SMS, provided the user has the phone number. Further, the application has a brand new look and feel that makes it easier to see who's available for chatting, as well as access on-going conversations. In addition to wider availability on Android handsets, Facebook has made this same update available to iOS devices. Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google today provided an update to its Google Search application for Android devices. The update adds a number of new cards to the Google Now tool within Google Search. For example, the Web Site Update card can pull in the most recent posts from the owner's favorite site, and the News card will grab news articles on the user's favorite subject. Another card offers suggestions on what to watch on TV. The update also adds real-time traffic incidents, allows users to set repeat reminders, adds scores for rugby matches, and alerts owners to package delivery details. Google Search is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today made an update available to its Google+ application for Android devices. The update gives Android 4.3 Jelly Bean devices the ability to turn photos and videos into custom movies with the Auto Awesome feature. The app includes strobe effects for photos, and lets users erase moving objects with new Auto Awesome tools. Google also made changes to the design of the notification tray, and added a widget that lets users see their friends' location. Last, Google+ can now translate posts and comments inline. Google+ for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
The Tizen Association recently announced that 36 companies have joined the organization in support of the Linux-based operating system. Tizen's main supporters are Samsung and Intel, which have been working together on the platform for several years. It is meant to serve as an alternative to Google's Android platform, and can be used in a wide range of hardware and form factors. Some of the new Tizen Association members are Access, eBay, HERE (Nokia), McAfee, Panasonic, Sharp, The Weather Channel, and Tune-In Radio. Earlier this year, Samsung said the first Tizen devices would launch during the third quarter of the year. To-date, no Tizen-based smartphones or tablets have been made available for sale.
T-Mobile today announced that the Google Nexus 5 smartphone will be available online beginning November 14 and in stores starting on November 20. T-Mobile is asking for a down payment of $41.99 followed by 24 monthly payments of $17. The total for these payments equals $449. By way of comparison, Google sells the T-Mobile-compatible Nexus 5 unlocked directly for $349/$399, depending on the storage option. T-Mobile is only offering the 16GB model.
Google Voice users can now receive MMS messages from T-Mobile phone numbers. Incoming MMS messages will be pushed to Google Voice users' Gmail accounts, which will then generate a regular text message to the Google Voice number to notify the user about the multimedia content. Google Voice users cannot send MMS messages, however, nor can they receive MMS messages from AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Google said broader MMS support is coming to Google Voice early next year.
Google today offered an update to the Google Drive application for iOS devices. Among the app's new features are support for multiple accounts, single sign-in support for other Google apps, and Cloud Print/AirPrint support. The app has also been redesigned with iOS 7 in mind. Google Drive is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Following today's release of the Text-to-Speech Engine in the Play Store, Google made the new Android 4.4 KitKat keyboard and Hangouts with SMS apps available in the Play Store, too. The latest version of the Google keyboard gets rid of the blue Holo trail, simplifies the mini-keyboard, changes emoji insertion points, and adds the ability to drag a finger through the space bar to insert spaces rather than lift the finger from the screen. The keyboard also makes adjustments for different screen sizes. The new version of Hangouts adds the ability to send/receive text messages within the Hangouts app. The Hangouts app now powers IM, SMS, and MMS conversations. It supports animated GIFs, location sharing, and mood status. Both apps are free to download from the Play Store.
Google recently made a stand-alone version of its Text-to-Speech Engine available in the Google Play Store for Android devices. The engine is used by several apps, such as Google Play Books, to translate text into spoken words. Before Google made the app available separately, it was part of the Android operating system. Google has been systematically pulling apps out of the Android operating system so that they can be updated separately and not through operating system updates. Text-to-Speech is the latest such app. This new version of the app adds support for the Korean language, and can be turned on/off by users in the settings tools. Text-to-Speech is free to download.
Google is testing a new runtime for the Android operating system that it hopes will eventually replace the Dalvik runtime that currently powers Android. Dalvik is a just-in-time (JIT) compiler that helps applications function on Android hardware. It requires apps to be compiled each time they are run. This process includes a lot of overhead and isn't the most efficient way to run apps. The new environment for apps is called Android Runtime, or ART. It is an ahead-of-time (AOT) compiler that translates apps into machine code when they are first installed. The process should be more efficient and will lead to Android's ability to run actual native applications. ART is available in Android 4.4 KitKat on the Nexus 5. Developers can switch their KitKat device to use ART instead of Dalvik. According to Google, it is offering this early access to ART to get early developer and partner feedback on how well ART works. Google did not say if or when ART will actually replace Dalvik on Android devices.
Google recently updated the the Google Search application for Apple's iOS platform and added a handful of new features. Among the app's new powers are the ability to perform voice-based searches with the "OK Google" search prompt. The Google Now functionality of the app now offers improved notifications for events like upcoming calendar appointments or travel changes. It offers new reminders for tasks, as well as entertainment reminders for new albums, movies, and articles containing the user's favorite artists. Google Now includes more cards for organizing tickets and boarding passes. Last, the home page has been simplified and includes new gestures for discarding unwanted content. Google Search requires iOS 6 and up, and the iPhone 4S and up. It is free.
Phone Scoop takes a first look at the Nexus 5 from Google and LG. Here are our initial impressions.
With the arrival of Android 4.4 KitKat, Google has updated Google Play Services. First, Google says that Play Services 4.0 will not support Android 2.2 Froyo. According to Google, 97% of all Android devices run Android 2.3 Gingerbread and up, and dropping support for Froyo is necessary in order to move Play Services forward. Play Services 4.0 adds a new ad SDK for developers. The Maps and Geofencing APIs have been updated to make them more power efficient and more responsive. Developers now have more control over Maps functions that are added to their own apps, and can improve the performance of their geofencing apps and services. Google Play Services 4.0 streamlines the dialog box in apps that use Google+ Sign-In, and adds more tools to Google Wallet. Last, Google has added new advertising tools that allow users to opt out of advertising, as well as to anonymize their identity as it pertains to advertising services.
Google's Nikhyl Singhal took to Google+ recently to explain some changes headed to Google Voice. First, Google is working to add support for Google Voice phone numbers to its Hangouts application and service. Hangouts for Android devices recently gained the ability to send messages via SMS, but they can only be sent via the owner's actual, carrier-assigned phone number and not their Google Voice number. Google hopes to have this resolved by early 2014. Further, Google is working to add support for picture/video messages to Google Voice, something it is not capable of doing today. The company also hopes to add international numbers to Google Voice. It said that some of these changes take time, as they require Google to work with wireless network operators to make them possible. Last, Google is going to cut support for third-party Google Voice apps. Google says such apps are violating its terms of service and pose a security risk. These apps have until May 15, 2014 to transition away from Google Voice.
Rockstar, a patent consortium jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson, and Sony, has filed patent infringement lawsuits against Google, Samsung, Huawei, and HTC. Rockstar alleges that the companies are violating its patents. Google, in particular, stands accused of infringing on seven different patents that pertain to internet search terms and advertising. Specific details about Samsung, HTC, and Huawei's infringements weren't immediately specified. Rockstar is seeking damages from Google, which it says is violating the patents willfully. Rockstar is a group of companies that together purchased thousands of patents from bankrupt Nortel. The firms spent a total of $4.5 billion on the patents. Google and others attempted to buy the same patents won by Rockstar. "Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe," read a portion of the lawsuit.
HTC today said that it plans to update the HTC One to the latest version of Android in the months ahead. "We're all excited about Google's Halloween treat and plan on breaking off a piece of that KitKat bar for the HTC One. In North America, we'll deliver Android 4.4 with Sense 5.5 for the HTC One within 90 days, and the HTC One max and the HTC One mini will follow." Google plans to update the HTC One Google Play Edition to Android 4.4 KitKat in the next few weeks.