Google continues to make small improvements to its Chrome browser for the Android platform and today it was updated to version 27. The latest stable release changes the search omnibox to show the search terms rather than the search URL, and makes it easier to jump to other searches in the search history. The app now also allows for full-screen browsing. Last, Google says the browser loads pages 5% faster. Google said that a new version of Chrome will soon be available to Apple's iPhone and iPad, and will bring with it voice search tools built into the browser. Google also updated the Google Play Magazines application and gave it a brand new user interface for the magazine library. Both Chrome and Play Magazines for Android are free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today announced the availability of a new version of its Drive app for Android devices. Google Drive has been updated with a number of user interface tweaks to make it easier and faster to access files and documents. Documents are now laid out in cards that offer large previews of the content within the document. Users can swipe from card to card and document to document, viewing previews as they go. The app now also lets users download and store copies of files to their Android device. Another new feature of Google Drive lets Android device users snap photos of documents, which are then converted into PDFs and automatically uploaded to Drive for safe keeping. Google says that Drive's optical character recognition feature will allow the text of those documents to be searchable. Last, Google Drive for Android updates the editing tools for spreadsheets, making it less cumbersome to make changes from mobile devices. The new version of Google Drive for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Nokia today revealed that its LiveSight augmented reality technology is now being in both its HERE Maps and in a new version of Foursquare for Windows Phone. LiveSight is already available in Nokia City Lens, and uses object recognition to provide additional information and details about what the device owner is looking at through the camera. Within HERE Maps, LiveSight acts similar to Google's Street View feature, which gives people an on-the-ground view of locations and points of interest on any given map. It is also able to tag places such as restaurants, shops, and other locations. The same technology has been added to the Foursquare application for Windows Phone, though it is only accessible from Nokia's Lumia devices. The Foursquare app takes advantage of LiveSight to help users seek out and find venues with the help of image recognition.
Powermat today announced that it has merged with PowerKiss. Powermat, based in the U.S., makes and markets wireless charging accessories. It backs the standard supported by the Power Matters Alliance. Before today, PowerKiss, which is based in Finland, backed a competing standard. Now that the two companies are one, they are together throwing their weight behind the PMA wireless charging standard. The PMA is mounting a challenge to competing standards Qi and the Alliance for Wireless Power. Earlier this year, the PMA won support from AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, Kyocera, LG, Samsung, Starbucks, and ZTE. Further, AT&T mandated that its handset partners incorporate the PMA wireless charging standard into their devices by 2014. Verizon Wireless supports the Qi standard. The consumer electronics industry has yet to settle on a single standard.
Opera today announced that its WebKit-based Android browser has graduated from beta status and is now available to all from the Google Play Store. The browser had been in testing for the last several months so Opera could fine-tune the WebKit rendering engine. Previously, Opera used its own Presto rendering engine. Opera's customizations include a revised Speed Dial screen, simplified tab management, and deep browsing history support. The browser also offers server-side compressions should users wish to conserve mobile data usage. The browser is free to download and runs on devices with Android 2.3 and up.
Boost Mobile today announced a new mobile wallet application for its Android smartphones. Boost Mobile Wallet is a mobile banking service targeted at the underbanked that lets Boost Mobile customers send money to people in 135 countries, pay bills, top-up prepaid wireless accounts, transfer funds between accounts, as well as deposit checks directly from the phone. The app is accompanied by a re-loadable prepaid Visa debit card that can be used for transactions at retailers around the country. The application itself is free to download from the Google Play Store. The wallet app can be used to make payments directly at select retailers in Los Angeles, San Diego, and portions of New Jersey. Boost expects to roll the payment service out nationwide beginning this summer.
Yahoo today made available a completely revised version of its Flickr application for Google's Android platform. The new app carries over changes made to the iOS Flickr app late last year. The new user interface provides a better view of photos and the photos are available in higher resolutions. Users can take photos from within the application itself and edit or geotag them. The new Flickr app promotes sharing to other social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and makes it easier to explore photos, including those taken near the user. It also adds full support for Flickr Groups and filters for customizing photos. In addition to the new app, Yahoo announced that all Flickr users now have access to 1 terabyte of online storage for free.
Google today made available a new version of Google+ to devices running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The focus of today's update is to improve the app's photo features. According to Google, the app is now better at automatically uploading photos from Android smartphones to Google+ for safekeeping. Once uploaded, new tools automatically sort the images to "select the top shots" in each series, as well as auto-enhance the photos to make "subtle improvements" to the people and places the user captures. Last, the app adds the ability to create animations and panoramas from the photos in the user's collection. Google+ for Android 4.2 devices is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today sought to provide more information about its new Google Hangouts tool and the evolution of its messaging and voice products. Hangouts was announced last week, and encompasses instant messaging (old Google Talk) and video chats on the web, and Android and iOS devices. According to Google, the current version of Hangouts does not support outbound calls from Gmail (via desktop browsers), but it does support inbound calls to Google Voice numbers. Google Hangouts will soon support inbound and outbound calls via desktop-based Hangouts. Google suggests that people who rely on this Gmail feature continue to use the older Google Talks tool (those who update to the new Hangouts will lose the functionality temporarily). Further, Google said "Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice" and that more seamless integration between Google Voice and Google Hangouts is on the way.
Google employee Dori Storbeck, Community Manager for Hangouts and Chat, confirmed on her Google+ page that the new Google Hangouts application will soon support SMS messages, as well as IM. In addition to text messages, Google Hangouts will also eventually be able to make outbound calls. Storbeck didn't provide a timeframe on when these features might become available, other than to say "soon." Google Hangouts replaces Google Talk for most Android users and can be used for IM, voice, and video chats.
AT&T customers who install the new Google Hangouts application on their Android devices cannot use one of the main features: video chats. When they attempt to start a video chat, a message appears prompting them to connect to a Wi-Fi network; the feature won't work on AT&T's cellular network. When reached for comment, AT&T explained that AT&T customers are free to download any third-party video chat app they wish and they'll work fine. Apps that come preloaded, however, must be enabled by the developer for use over AT&T's cellular network. AT&T did not address Google Hangouts directly, but it implied that 1. Google Hangouts qualifies as a "preloaded" app because it replaces the Google Talk app on Android handsets, and 2. Google did not follow the proper protocols required by AT&T in order for the app to function over its cellular network. Google Hangouts for iOS, which qualifies as a third-party download on the iPhone, functions properly over AT&T's cellular network. Google Hangouts for Android works fine on the cellular networks of other carriers. Google has not yet offered a clarification on the matter.
Google has sent a letter to Microsoft requesting that it remove from the Windows Phone Store a YouTube application written by Microsoft for its Windows Phone 8 platform. According to Google, the app violates its terms of service by allowing users to download videos from the app, it also disables advertising within videos. Google asked Microsoft to remove the app, and kill the functionality of the app on existing devices, by May 22. Microsoft has yet to publicly respond to Google's request.
Google today announced that it has integrated Google Wallet with Gmail, allowing Wallet users to securely email money directly to anyone else who has an email address. Money can be sent for free from checking accounts, and for low fees from credit or debit cards. The feature is slowly being made available to all Gmail users over the age of 18. Though the feature is primarily aimed at desktop users, money can be emailed from the smartphone and tablet mobile browser version of Google Wallet.
Google today announced a new version of its Google Maps app for both Android and iOS. The software now dynamically reroutes turn-by-turn driving directions if traffic conditions worsen on the road ahead. The service also shows and lets you see details of alerts for specific traffic-related incidents that might affect a trip. It will be available "this summer".
Google today announced updates to Google Now. The app now lets you set reminders based on time or location, and estimates commute times using public transit.
Google today announced a new version of Google+ Hangouts that pivots the service to compete more directly with Facebook Messenger. The app enables group conversations merging text, photos, emoticons, and video chat. The service includes a dedicated app for both iOS and Android, plus a web version is also available.
Google today announced that it will start directly selling a special version of Samsung's Galaxy S 4 flagship phone that is unlocked and ships with stock Android 4.2, essentially expanding the Nexus family of "pure Google" devices. The device sports LTE compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. It is bootloader-unlocked and will receive Android updates before most other phones, like Nexus devices. It ships June 26th for $649.
Google today launched a new streaming music service with a discovery engine for finding new music, to compete with Rdio and Spotify. Google Play Music All Access lets you start with any song and automatically build a custom streaming radio station of similar songs. Unwanted songs can be dismissed and re-ordered. The service is integrated into Google Play Music as Listen Now. The service works on Android phones and tablets, and the web, and integrates your own music library with the streaming catalog. The service launches today in the U.S. for $9.99/month, with a 30-day free trial. Users who sign up before June 30th can lock in a special $7.99 monthly rate.
Google today announced its gaming service to compete with Apple's Game Center for iOS. The new Google Play Game Services enables games to save game progress to the cloud, and easily enables multi-player gaming. The service also includes achievements and leaderboards both globally and among friends in Google+ Circles. Cloud save, achievements and leaderboards work cross-platform, across Android, iOS, and the web.
Google today announced an update to its Google Cloud Messaging service, the behind-the-scenes system that allows apps to communicate with web services, and for those services to push notifications to Android devices even when the app is not running. The new service syncs notifications across devices, so that when a user dismisses a notification on their Android phone, it's dismissed on their Android tablet as well. The upgraded service is also now two-way, allowing apps to send data "upstream" from the app to a web service. As part of Google Play Services, the new features launch today and do not require a new version of Android.
Google today announced new Google Play Services for location-based services that Android developers can integrate into their apps. A new Geofencing API allows apps to be notified and take action when the user enters or leaves specified areas. An Activity Recognition API automatically recognizes certain activities such as walking, running, and driving, and gives that information to relevant apps. Finally, a new Fused Location API allows apps to determine the phone's geographic location in ways that are faster, more accurate and use much less battery life. As these APIs are Google Play Services, they are updated independently of the Android OS version.
Google has discontinued its SMS-based search product. SMS Search was a way to perform a Google Search from any cell phone by sending the query to a Google shortcode. Google would then return the results via SMS. In a short message posted to the Google Search forum, Google said the product was dropped in order to streamline its offerings and help it focus on other, more important products.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal in San Jose ordered Google to disclose to Apple the search terms it is using to discover documents requested as part of Apple's lawsuit against Samsung. Apple had requested the terms earlier this week and Google balked, suggesting that the information could give Apple an advantage in the future. "The court cannot help but note the irony that Google, a pioneer in searching the Internet, is arguing that it would be unduly burdened by producing a list of how it searched its own files," said Judge Grewal. Google has two days to disclose the search terms to Apple. Apple believes that Google's Android operating system provides the "underlying functionality" in a number of Samsung smartphones that Apple alleges are infringing on its patents.
Flipboard today announced a new version of its Android application that carries over some features given to the iOS app earlier this year. Chief among the new features is integration with Etsy, which means when users perform searches, the app will use the results to create a digital magazine on the fly. The new app also lets users collect content that's interesting to them from various sources, such as articles, videos, and photos, and create their own, unique magazine in which to view them. The individually created magazines can then be shared with others. Other features include a new content guide, more interactive commenting, more personalized recommended reading, easier navigation within specific sources, and integration with Facebook Open Graph search. In addition to the new Android app, Flipboard released a web-based editing tool that allows Flipboard users to manage their digital magazines online rather than on their device. Flipboard for Android is a free download from the Google Play Store.
Google today pushed out an update to its Google Translate product for Android devices. The most significant new feature in the app is support for 16 more languages, including Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, and Swedish. Android device owners can use the Google Translate app to take pictures of text in these languages, which are then sent to Google and returned with the appropriate word or phrase. The app also lets users save useful phrases of their own that can be instantly translated into other languages if need be. The phrase book can be synced across Google devices, including desktops and tablets. Google Translate for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today provided an update for the Android version of Google Earth. Google Earth 7.1 adds several new features, chief among them the ability to view locations at ground level through Street View. Other new features include improved search capabilities and directions that let users see 3D views of transit, walking, biking, and driving directions. It also has an improved interface and left-hand panel to make browsing through various layers easier. Google Earth 7.1 for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Apple has asked the judge overseeing one of its patent-related lawsuits against Samsung to provide it with access to the Android source code from Google. According to Apple, Android "provides much of the accused functionality" in Samsung's infringing products. Apple believes it should have access to that data in order to separate which company's software provides which functions in Samsung's smartphones. Google says that Apple made a strategic decision to leave Google out of this particular lawsuit. As a third party, Google isn't entitled to the same protections that Samsung is. Google thinks providing this info to Apple would provide for future discovery and other details that it wouldn't normally receive. The judge has yet to make a decision on the matter.
Google's Chrome development team is offering iOS application developers a new tool that lets them stick Chrome into their iPhone apps. The idea is to allow developers to control how web content is displayed within their own application. In many apps, clicking a web link forces iOS users out of the app they are using and into Safari. By using the new OpenInChromeController class with x-callback, clicking such links will instead open a Chrome window within the app, which also lets users go back to the main app by hitting the back button. In order for this feature to work, the Chrome browser must be installed on the iPhone in question.
Google provided a small update to the iOS Gmail application today that makes it work better with other Google-developed applications. Specifically, Gmail users who click Chrome, Google Maps, and YouTube links within Gmail will be taken directly to those on-board applications rather than the mobile web. Users can also choose to turn this feature on or off to suit their preferences. The new Gmail app also allows users to sign out of one Gmail account at a time rather than all accounts at once (Gmail for iOS supports up to five individual email accounts). Gmail for iOS is a free download from iTunes.
The European Commission today published the preliminary results of an antitrust investigation against Google's Motorola Mobility unit and found the company went too far. Motorola sought to block Apple from selling certain products in Germany by claiming Apple infringed on its standard essential patents. Apple argued that Motorola was seeking unfair terms for its patents, and eventually European courts agreed with Apple. Motorola's actions, however, sparked an investigation into its patent licensing practices and that is what led the European Commission to today's findings. "I think that companies should spend their time innovating and competing on the merits of the products they offer - not misusing their intellectual property rights to hold up competitors to the detriment of innovation and consumer choice," said European Union competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia. The findings could lead to formal antitrust charges against Motorola, but the European Commission has yet to say what steps it will follow next.
AT&T today announced that it is offering Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean to the original Galaxy Note. Jelly Bean introduces Google Now, actionable notifications, and many under-the-hood improvements to the code. In addition to the standard Jelly Bean features, this update also makes tweaks to the Popup Note and Popup Video tools that are part of Samsung's Touchwiz software. Android 4.1.2 for the Samsung Galaxy Note must be downloaded and installed via Samsung's Kies desktop software.
Yahoo today provided an update to its Yahoo application so that it matches the features recently added to the iOS Yahoo app. Yahoo for Android includes news and other content, and learns from user behavior over time to recommend more appealing stories. It also adds more controls over personalized content, easier sharing with social networks, improved web/image search, and article summaries written by Yahoo. Yahoo for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today added its Google Now service to the Google Search application for the iPhone and iPad. In order to use Google Now, iOS device owners will need to download and install the newest version of Google Search. Users can then sign into their Google account and activate Google Now, which offers personalized information, such as local weather, sports scores, and the time it will take to commute home, in a card-like format on the screen. Google Search with Google Now is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google has made a small but important update to the language in the Google Play Store's terms and conditions that more clearly prohibits apps from pushing updates outside of the Google Play Store. The move comes in response to recent updates pushed by Facebook that circumvented the Play Store's updating mechanisms. Android device owners are still allowed to install applications from sources other than the Play Store, but apps that are officially distributed through the Play Store must use the Play Store to deliver updates. The new language reads, "An app downloaded from Google Play may not modify, replace or update its own APK binary code using any method other than Google Play's update mechanism." The idea is to protect Android device owners from malicious code.
Microsoft has emerged the victor in the first of two patent trials between the Redmond-based company and Google-owned Motorola. Motorola was seeking $4 billion per year in royalty payments from Microsoft over use of its wireless and video technology. Microsoft argued that the patents were worth much less at $1 million per year. U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle agreed with Microsoft. He set the royalty payment at $1.8 million. Microsoft lauded the decision as one that's good for consumers. The second trial between the two companies is scheduled to take place during the summer months, and will determine whether or not Motorola is asking fair and reasonable rates to license its patents.
Sprint today indicated via its user forums that the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update is now ready for the Motorola Photon Q. The system update adds a wide range of new features to the Photon Q, including Google Now, Voice Search improvements, bug fixes, and camera enhancements. The update is being rolled out over the air in stages. Photon Q owners will be notified when their device is ready for the update.
Microsoft has struck another smartphone patent licensing agreement, this time with Chinese handset manufacturer ZTE. Microsoft has similar deals already in place with companies such as Samsung, HTC, LG, Hon Hai, and 20 other companies. Microsoft maintains that its patent portfolio covers certain core technologies that are built into the Android platform. Microsoft is still attempting to get Google's Motorola unit to sign a similar agreement, but has been forced to resort to litigation to do so. Terms of the deal with ZTE were not disclosed.
Nuance Communications today announced that its Swype keyboard for Android smartphones is available in the Google Play Store. Before today, a beta version of the keyboard needed to be downloaded directly from Swype's web site. Swype replaces the stock Android keyboard and lets people trace words across the screen rather than type individual letters. The 1.5 release of Swype can be purchased from the Play Store for 99 cents.
Yahoo today unwrapped a brand new weather application for the Apple iPhone. Yahoo already provides the data used by Apple for the native iPhone weather application, but this new app is separate. Yahoo Weather for iPhone offers a richer user experience thanks to location-specific photography and more granular data about current weather conditions and forecasts. It is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Yahoo also debuted a new version of its Yahoo Mail application for Android tablets and the iPad. The new Yahoo Mail app for tablets carries over many of the design elements brought to the iPhone and Android smartphone versions of Yahoo Mail that were released late last year. The tablet email apps focus on the reading experience by emphasizing the text and content of the message rather than the surrounding app. Yahoo Mail is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.