Flickr today introduced completely new versions of its mobile app for Android and iOS devices. The revised photo app places a higher priority on capturing, sharing, and interacting with photos. The photo stream has been redesigned and is easier to navigate. The built-in camera has Instagram-like filters and all photos now have the ability to favorite, share, or comment on them. The app supports video capture and editing, and allows users to upload clips up to 30 seconds in length. It includes more robust editing functions, such as crop, rotate, and tools to fix contrast, exposure, and color. The app makes it a cinch to see metadata so users can examine the details of each photo. Flickr for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Google updated the YouTube application for Android devices recently and made a number of improvements. YouTube now lets users reply to comments, delete their own comments, and see if comments were shared publicly or privately. The app also improves video quality for devices running Android 4.2 and up, lets users share and like playlists, and moves playlists to the left-hand guide drawer. YouTube for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today announced the availability of Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android, a tool that allows Android devices to remotely access Windows and Mac computers. In order to gain remote PC access, users will need to download and install software on their PC as well as the Chrome Remote Desktop app on their Android device. Once configured, users should be able to access PC-based files from their Android device. The service is free to set up and use. Google said an iOS version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app us due later this year.
Google today released a separate version of the stock camera application that ships with many Android smartphones. The app, which can receive improvements outside of full OS updates, has a slightly revised user interface with larger buttons. Google Camera offers a handful of new features, such as Lens Blur mode, which adds depth-of-field effects to make subjects pop. Google Camera also includes Photo Spheres, panorama mode, and a 100% viewfinder so users see everything that will appear in their photos. Google Camera is available to devices running Android 4.4. KitKat and up.
The CTIA Wireless Association today said a number of handset makers and wireless network operators have agreed to a basic framework that will eventually provide consumers with better anti-theft tools for their smartphones. The Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is meant to deter theft while also giving phone makers and carriers room to innovate. All the companies agreed to implement a baseline anti-theft tool preloaded on (or downloadable to) all wireless smartphones manufactured after July 2015. This tool will let consumers: remotely wipe their data; render the smartphone inoperable to unauthorized users; prevent reactivation without owner's consent; and reverse the inoperability of the device as well as restore the data to the device in the event it is found by the owner. Consumers will also be free to use whatever third-party anti-theft tools they wish in addition to those provided by the phone maker. All signatories will make the baseline anti-theft tool available with all its core features. The initial batch of companies signing the commitment include: Apple; Asurion; AT&T; Google; HTC America; Huawei; Motorola; Microsoft; Nokia; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile; U.S. Cellular; and Verizon Wireless. Some of those who haven't signed include Kyocera, LG, Sony, ZTE. A number of lawmakers lauded the commitment, which arrives several months after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler mandated that wireless companies come up with such a solution or face regulatory intervention.
Google today added a feature to the desktop browser-based version of Gmail that simplifies the process of sharing photos stored on Android smartphones. The new Insert Photo button is able to tap into images that have been automatically uploaded and/or backed up to Google+. The photos are listed in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent shot. Google believes this will make it even easier to share photos taken with smartphones. In order for the feature to work, users have to use the automatic backup tool that's part of Google+ Photos on their phone. The tool also makes it possible to share entire albums, and even crop or resize images before sending. Once enabled, Gmail users on the web will be able to share their smartphone photos from their computer.
Isis recently issued an update to its Android mobile wallet application and added several new features. Isis now works better with location data and can help the owner find offers and stores near them that accept Isis. The app also works more closely with the credit card issuer, which can notify users of special offers available only to them. The app has a new icon, as well. Isis Mobile Wallet is free to download from the Google Play Store, but requires a major credit card from select issuers to use for tap-and-go payments at participating retailers. Isis is a joint venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
Google today said it is taking a new measure to protect Android devices and their owners against bad apps. Google already uses a program called Verify Apps to scan them before they are installed on handsets. Beginning today, Google will continually scan devices to make sure all apps are behaving in a safe manner, even after they've been installed. Google said most people will never see a warning or any other indication that this additional layer of protection exists; however, Google noted that it expects warnings to show up on some phones here and there. Owners of Android-based devices do not need to take any steps to receive this protection from Google.
Google Play Music for Android devices can now cast to Sonos devices. This means users of Google's music service can connect to their Sonos music system and play tracks from their Google Music library through Sonos without using the dedicated Sonos app. Further, Sonos is adding support for Play Music to its own app. Either way, Sonos says users can blend their Play Music and Sonos libraries and control them from anywhere in their house through the new apps. Google Play Music lets users store up to 20,000 songs in an online library, as well as stream more than 22 million tracks.
Motorola today named Rick Osterloh as the company's President and COO. He replaces former CEO Dennis Woodside, who left the company after Google announced plans to sell Motorola to Lenovo. Osterloh will run Motorola's day-to-day operations until the sale with Lenovo closes. It's unclear what Osterloh's role will be after Lenovo acquires Motorola's phone business. Osterloh reports directly to Google's board of directors.
Cover today announced that it has been acquired by Twitter. Cover released a lock screen replacement app last year for Android devices. Cover believes in helping users get more out of their smartphones through contextual awareness and its app provided dynamic content that changed depending on the user's whereabouts, schedule, and so on. Cover said though it is joining Twitter, the Cover Android app will continue to be available from the Google Play Store. Details of the transaction were not provided.
Ever wondered if a third-party camera app could take better pictures than your stock camera app? Well, we did and decided to put the stock Google camera app in the Nexus 5 in a head-to-head competition with Camera FV-5 and Camera ZOOM FX. Here are our findings.
Samsung recently updated its ChatOn messaging application for Android devices and added several new features. One of the most prominent new powers is the ability to recall sent messages, even if the message has already been read. The app now supports file transfers up to 1GB (limited to 5 transfers per day); lets users attach location data to messages via Glympse; and includes SMS support for one-on-one message threads. The app also has an improved user interface for both single and group conversations. ChatOn for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Facebook recently updated Messenger for Android devices and carried over features recently given to the iPhone. Messenger for Android now supports groups. Users can create groups, name them, tag them with photos, and save them. Second, users can now forward messages from one user/conversation to another. Third, Facebook Messenger for Android allows users to place shortcuts to group conversations directly on the home screen panels. Facebook also said the app contains several bug fixes and performance improvements. Facebook Messenger for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Microsoft and Dell have inked a patent-licensing agreement in which Dell has agreed to pay Microsoft royalties for sales of devices based on Google's Android and Chrome operating systems. Android uses some patents that are owned by Microsoft, and most major handset makers have already signed similar licensing agreements with Microsoft. Motorola is the last major hold out because it believes its thousands of mobile patents negate the need to license Microsoft's. Terms of the agreement between Dell and Microsoft were not disclosed.
Sony Mobile's U.S. chief, Ravi Nookala, said the company will not use Google's Android Wear platform for wearables such as smartwatches and will instead use its own platform. Speaking to CNET, Nookala said the company has invested time and money into developing its own Android-based wearable operating system "and we will continue in that direction." Sony released its second-generation smartwatch last year and recently unveiled the SmartBand fitness wearable.
Google today revealed a new collaborative tool for its Chromecast product called Photowall. Photowall lets people share images on the TV using their Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. Anyone can take a picture and send it to a Photowall to instantly see it on the screen. In order for Photowall to work, Chromecast owners need to download and install a plug-in for their Chromecast, as well as download the associated mobile app. Further, Google says when the Photowall is complete, Chromecast will automatically generate a YouTube video of the Photowall so it can be shared with everyone who took part. Photowall and its app are free to use.
A Texas jury fined Google heavily in a patent case against SimpleAir. Google was found guilty of infringing a SimpleAir patent in January. The patent in question pertains to push notification technology found in the Google Cloud Messaging and Android Cloud to Device Messaging services, which are encompassed within Android smartphones and tablets. The notifications cover apps such as Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter. Google was found guilty on all five claims made by SimpleAir. The penalty phase of the trial concluded this week. Google hoped to pay only $6 million, while SimpleAir sought $125 million. A jury awarded SimpleAir $85 million.
U.S. Cellular today announced that its variant of the Samsung Galaxy S5 will be available for preorder beginning March 21. The device will reach stores April 11. It will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract. U.S. Cellular is offering $50 in Google Play Store credit to those who preorder the phone. The Gear 2 and Gear Fit wearable devices will also go on sale April 11.
Google has updated the standalone Google Keyboard application for Android devices with the goal of improving users' typing accuracy. The new software can be set to mine typing data from all the Google services on board the device (Gmail, Maps, Chrome. Hangouts, etc.). It will analyze that data and make automatic additions to the Personalized Suggestions. The data is stored locally on the phone or tablet, and not Google's servers. The feature can also be turned off. Google Keyboard is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today announced a change to its main Google Search app for Android devices. The Google Now aspect of Google Search, which listens to and acts on voice commands, has added the ability to respond to voice commands concerning the camera or the video camera. Users can say, "OK Google," followed by "take a photo" or "take a video." The Google Search app will then automatically launch the appropriate app and take the corresponding action. Google Search is available to download from the Google Play Store for free.
Sony today announced what it says is the first "wearable boarding pass." Sony has partnered with an airline called Vueling, which made an app for Sony's SmartWatch 2 wearable device. According to Sony, the app can be used to display 2D barcodes for boarding, and also offers flight information and other travel details that can be gleaned from the SmartWatch 2. The app will be available through the Google Play Store at the end of the month.
Sony today announced that the Android 4.4 KitKat system update is now available to the Xperia Z1, Z1 Compact, and Z Ultra. In addition to the base software from Google, Sony added a number of its own tweaks to the operating system. For example, Sony added its own Status Bar and Quick Settings tools, as well as user interface elements borrowed from the PlayStation 4. The update includes the latest versions of Sony's own software and apps, such as Small Apps, Smart Social Camera, Messaging, as well as Walkman, Movies, and the Sony Entertainment Network. Last, the update includes Sony's recently-announced Xperia Themes, which are downloadable user interface packs that let Xperia device owners customize the look and feel of their handset with more than 280 possible tweaks. As always, the exact timing of the KitKat update's arrival will vary by country and carrier. Sony said it is prepared to roll out Android 4.4 KitKat to the Xperia Z, ZL, Tablet Z, and ZR from the middle of the second quarter.
LG and Motorola today both followed Google's revelation of Android Wear with news of their involvement with the project. LG showed off the G Watch, its take on a smartwatch running Google's Android Wear platform. LG said its device will be the first Android Wear product to launch, and it is expected to arrive during the second quarter of the year. Motorola announced the Moto 360 (pictured), a circular timepiece that pays homage to the past while also looking forward to the future. Neither LG nor Motorola provided specifics about their devices, other than to say they will incorporate Google Now voice commands and rich notifications that are part of the Android Wear OS. Both companies said more details about the watches will be revealed over time.
Google today formally introduced its effort to port Android to wearables. The company announced Android Wear, a version of the Android operating system that will start with watches and eventually move on to other form factors. Google's immediate vision for wearables - and watches in particular - include some basic functions. Google believes smart wearables should provide useful information when the wearer needs it, such as posts, social network updates, and messaging notifications. Google thinks wearables should be able to answer questions, such as "OK Google." Google's Android-based wearables will include Google Now, its voice-based assistant, for performing searches and issuing commands. Android Wear will give people a better way to monitor their health and fitness, such as help with exercise goals and provide fitness summaries. Last, Google sees wearables as the key to a multiscreen world. Android Wear will let users access and control other devices - music players, phones, TVs - through Google Now. Developers interested in Project Android Wear can sign up to participate in a preview. Developers will be able to customize their app notifications for watches powered by Android Wear, for example. Google said that more resources, including APIs, will be available to developers soon. Google also noted that it is working with Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung to create Android Wear-based watches, which should arrive later this year.
Google announced Google Play Services 4.3, which began rolling out worldwide today. The updated version of Play Services gives developers more tools to use for interacting with the Android operating system, as well as incorporating select features into their apps. This latest version of Play Services builds in the Analytics API and Google Tag Manager, which were previously available outside of the core Play Services suite. Google Analytics lets developers get detailed statistics on how their app is being used by Android device owners. Google Tag Manager lets developers change characteristics of their app on-the-fly without requiring an update from Google Play. Play Services 4.3 also incorporates the changes to Google Play Games, which were announced earlier today, as well as the Google Drive for Android API and the Address API. The Google Drive API lets developers add functions from Google Drive, such as pinning, folders, and change notifications, into their own apps. The Address API lets developers request access to addresses to do things such as fill out a delivery address form. Google Play Services 4.3 is already being distributed to Android devices around the world. Developers will need to snag the latest tools from Google's developer support site.
Google today announced several updates to its Play Games service that will benefit both Android and iOS devices. To start, Google said it is bringing a new service to Play Games called game gifts. With game gifts, players will be able to send virtual, in-game objects to anyone in their gaming circles. Gamers can now send multiplayer invites directly, making it easier for players to find one another. Google is expanding the gaming section in the Play Store with 18 new categories to further refine the searching and browsing experience. Further, Google is expanding multiplayer support to Apple's iOS, which will let Android and iOS device owners play one another in real-time. Google said developers can access a new version of the Play Games Unity Plug-in to enable cross-platform multiplayer support, as well as an updated Play Games C++ SDK to help with achievements and leaderboards. Google said it is improving statistics via the Google Play Developer Console, which gives developers a dashboard to let them visualize engagement with their apps on a daily basis. Game developers can find more information about these new tools via Google's developer portal.
Google recently rolled out an update to the Google Play Store and added several useful features. Chief among the new powers is the ability to require a password for each and every purchase, including those made within applications. Previously, the app could only be set to require the password after a 30-minute window expired. This new setting can help prevent unauthorized purchases. (Google was recently sued by a mother who's child rang up $65 in in-app purchases.) The improved Play Store also makes it easier to reach the settings and help menus; renamed the "Auto-Add Widget" function to "Add Icon to Home Screen"; and made it possible to update the Play Store app itself. The newest version of the Google Play Store is 4.6.16. Google is pushing the improved software out to devices now.
Google recently indicated that devices running Android 4.3 and older will not be allowed to make tap-and-go payments via Google Wallet. The change goes into effect April 14. Moving forward, Android devices will need to run Android 4.4 KitKat and up to make NFC-based mobile payments. Additionally, Google said mobile payments will no longer be possible from the Samsung Galaxy Note III, HTC Evo 4G LTE, and the Google Nexus 7 (2012). Google did not provide a reason for making the change.
Google today rearranged what it charges for its Google Drive cloud storage service. Beginning immediately, monthly storage plans cost $1.99 for 100GB, $9.99 for 1TB, and $99.99 for 10TB. Google still offers the base 15GB of storage space for free. Google Drive works across Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos. Google said that customers who already pay for storage will be moved to a better plan at no additional cost. Google Drive can be accessed online from Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, as well as PCs.
Google updated both the Android and iOS versions of its Google Wallet app today with one shared new feature. Google Wallet will now provide shipping and package tracking for items purchased using Google Wallet. This feature is already available through Google Now, but has percolated down to the mobile Wallet app. The updates also includes minor bug fixes and performance tweaks. Google Wallet is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Instagram today made a new version of its photo-sharing application available to Android devices. Instagram said that it worked hard to reduce the size of the app and the resources it needs to run, which means it is faster and more nimble on a wider range of devices. Instagram says users' profile screens should load twice as fast, for example. Instagram also said that it simplified visuals and design elements to make them more intuitive to use - while still retaining all the power and features that have always been part of the app. Instagram 5.1 is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Sony today announced Xperia Themes, which are downloads that allow owners of Sony's Xperia smartphones to customize the look and feel of their device. Xperia Themes go far beyond adding new wallpapers. Users can adjust the appearance of icons, fonts, lines and boxes, and UI elements such as switches, sliders, buttons, and even the on-screen Android control buttons. According to Sony, the themes let people customize their device in a way that previously required third-party launchers. It should be easy for most people to use. There are about a dozen themes available starting today, but Sony said that many more are on the way. Xperia Themes are available to all Xperia devices running Android 4.3 and higher. They can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.
Google's Sundar Pichai, who heads the company's Android and Chrome teams, told attendees at the SxSWi conference in Austin today that it will soon release a software developer kit for wearable devices. The SDK will make use of Google's Android platform and the company hopes developers will use it for devices such as smartwatches in much the same way as developers have accepted Android for smartphones and tablets. Pichai didn't provide too many specifics, but indicated the company will lay out its "vision" for wearables and release the SDK in about two weeks. Google suggested it wants to offer the SDK long before devices arrive so there's plenty of time for developers to provide feedback. Several reports, including one from CNET, have suggested Google plans to introduce its own smartwatch, made by LG, at its I/O developer conference, slated for June. Google has not yet confirmed such plans.
Samsung today launched a free music streaming service explicitly for owners of its Galaxy-branded smartphones and tablets. The service, called Milk, is powered by Slacker and includes more than 200 curated radio stations, as well as the ability for people to create, listen to, and save their own stations. The service doesn't cost anything, and doesn't include ads. Milk is only available to Samsung phones and tablets, and can be downloaded directly from the Google Play Store.
Opera today made a new version of its mobile browser available for Android devices. Thanks to the inclusion of WebRTC, Opera 20 for Android permits users to conduct live, two-way video chats in the browser without the need for additional software or apps. The browser can be used to control the camera and the sound during chats, allowing users to fine-tune their experience. The update also introduces a new look for Speed Dial; the ability to adjust the browser navigation bar to suit individual tastes; improvements to search functionality; and a number of bug fixes. Opera 20 for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today announced an update to its Gmail app for the iPhone and iPad. The most significant feature of the update is support for background email fetching. This means the emails will be downloaded in the background as they arrive and available for immediate viewing upon opening the app. Previously, new emails were not fetched from the servers until users opened Gmail. Gmail for iOS now also supports single sign-in with other Google apps, such as Maps, Chrome, and YouTube. Gmail for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store, but it requires iOS 7.
Google has released Google Hangouts 2.0 for the Apple iPhone and iPad. The app has been optimized for iOS 7 and given a visual refresh. Google added several new features, including the ability to record and send 10-second video messages, send animated stickers to contacts, send a map of current location to contacts, and see picture-in-picture video chats. The app also integrates better with iOS's contacts application, and makes it easier to start video chats from within an existing conversation. Google Hangouts for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google recently made a version of the Nexus 5's Google Now launcher available to all Nexus and Google Play Edition devices. The Google Now launcher, which debuted as part of the Nexus 5's user interface, includes Google Now as part of the home screen. Google Now was upgrade from a widget to one of the home screen panels. The launcher lets people trigger voice search or voice commands by saying "OK Google" when on their home screen. Further, with a full home screen panel, Google Now has more room to reveal info cards, which provide information about travel plans, scheduling, the weather, real-time traffic, and more. The Google Now launcher is free to download from the Google Play Store, but requires Android 4.4 KitKat and either Nexus or Play Edition devices.
Nokia today announced the Nokia X, Nokia X+, and Nokia XL, its first phones to run the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) platform. The phones run standard Android apps, available through a new Nokia Store, or side-loaded. The phones offer Microsoft services - such as Outlook, Skype, HERE Maps, and OneDrive - instead of Google services. The interface is a blend of Lumia and Asha, including re-sizeable live tiles like Windows Phone, plus FastLane from Asha. The Nokia store supports carrier billing and in-app purchases. Facebook is pre-loaded. The X and X+ include a 4-inch display. The X+ adds a memory card slot. The XL steps up to a 5-inch display and a 2-megapixel front camera. The Nokia X will sell for 89 Euros. The X+ will sell for 99 Euros, in Q2. The XL is coming in early Q2 for 109 Euros. Nokia will sell the X family globally, starting in "growth markets." Nokia also re-affirmed its commitment to Lumia and Windows Phone. The company expects to price all X family phones lower than its Lumia phones. It will also continue offering Asha touch phones, at even lower price points, such as the new Asha 230, which will sell for only 45 Euros.