Google was unable to convince a San Jose judge to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit filed against the search giant over preinstalled apps. The judge expressed concern over some the the plaintiffs' claims, which allege Android handset makers are forced to use Google's apps in lieu of competitive apps/services. For example, Google is the default search engine on Android handsets instead of Microsoft's Bing. The judge will dismiss some of the arguments, but wants to see more evidence from the plaintiffs before making a final decision on the antitrust complaint. Google did not comment on the decision.
Microsoft recently updated its Xim app and added compatibility with a wide range of media streaming devices. Microsoft first released Xim in October. It's a cross-platform app that allows people to easily share photos without requiring them to physically hand their phone to someone else. People use Xim to create a connection directly between devices for sharing photos from sources such as the camera roll, Instagram, and Facebook Today's update allows people to share photos not only with other phones, but with streaming media devices, including Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox One, and Amazon Fire TV. Xim users need only connect to the WiFi network associated with the streaming media device for it to show up in the list of sharing options within the Xim app. Xims are impermanent, sort of like Snapchat, and expire after a short period of time. The updated Xim app is available from the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, and Windows Phone Store.
Google is hoping to convince a San Jose judge to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. over its app-bundling practices on Android smartphones. Two plaintiffs allege Google restricts the use of competing apps, made by companies such as Microsoft, in favor of its own apps and services on Android handsets. For example, Google is the default search engine on Android handsets, rather than Microsoft's Bing. Google believes the suit should be dismissed because consumers are free to use whichever apps they want. The plaintiffs disagree, stating most people don't know how to change the default apps, and many of those who do won't go through the trouble of doing it. The plaintiffs argued Google apps "are widely used on Android by requiring default placement and other mechanisms for disadvantaging competing apps." Reuters reports that if the lawsuit is allowed to move forward, lawyers will gain access to internal emails and contracts between Google and its handset partners. The initial hearing is set to take place later today.
Google today provided updates to its Maps and Inbox apps for the Android platform. Inbox works better on tablets, adds compatibility with Android Wear (view messages and notifications, reply via voice), and improves suggestions while users type. Google Maps now lets users filter search results by cuisine type, see their Google contacts when searching for addresses, and lets business owners claim and manage their listing pages. Both apps also include bug fixes. Inbox and Google Maps are free to download from the Google Play Store.
Yahoo today pushed out updates to its Weather app for both the Android and iOS platforms. According to Yahoo, the revised app brings with it more live weather graphics, such as fog, rain, heat, snow, lightning, and frost, to the Android app. Yahoo says "instead of reading about the stormy conditions, you'll actually see lightning flash across your screen." The iPhone app has been more fully optimized for the screen sizes and resolutions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Yahoo Weather is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Google recently updated the Google Drive app for both the Android and iOS platforms. The Android version gains support for Google Now-style voice search to help find files. Both versions gain support for a wider range of imported file formats. The iOS version can now upload files to Drive from more apps across iPhones and iPads. Google Drive is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Google and Verizon Communications today entered into a multi-year patent cross-licensing agreement. The companies said the agreement covers a "broad range of products and technologies" and will help them "reduce the risk of future patent litigation." Both companies expressed interest in making similar patent-protection agreements with other high-tech businesses. Verizon Communications is the parent company of Verizon Wireless.
Google recently made some significant improvements to its Google Wallet app for the iPhone. To start, the app adds a bill-splitting feature. According to Google, users can add the people with whom they want to split a bill, choose how to divide it, and send each person a request for their share of the total. Wallet for iOS also adds support for Touch ID, which will allow users to open the app and make purchases using their fingerprints. The app now supports the native screen resolutions for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and lets users see their loyalty cards even when offline. Google Wallet for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google today pushed out updates to its Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps for Android devices and added a few new features along the way. According to Google, Docs now offers more control over line spacing; Sheets adds scrollbars for simpler navigation; and Slides permits users to insert, move, resize, and rotate text boxes/shapes. Further, all three apps are more compatible with their Microsoft Office counterparts. Google's productivity apps are free to download from the Google Play Store.
BlackBerry today pushed out BBM 2.6 to the Android and iOS platforms, as well as its own BlackBerry platform. All three versions of the app gain new features, including support for stickers within group chats and a 60-second option for time chats. The Android version of BBM tackles Android 5.0 Lollipop and adds landscape mode. BBM for iOS 8 adds compatibility with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus screens. BBM for BlackBerry OS now lets users share multiple pictures and attachments at the same time. BBM 2.6 is free to download from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store, and BlackBerry World.
Google recently updated its Google Fit and Google Translate applications for Android devices. Google Fit gains several new and compelling features, including support for more than 100 new activities, experimental step detection (for walking when the watch isn't connected to a phone), and improved compatibility with Android Wear. The app also sees some bug fixes and performance improvements. Google Translate is now compatible with 90 languages from around the world. The recent update added 10 new ones, including Chichewa, Malagasy, Sesotho, Malayalam, Myanmar, Sinhala, Sudanese, Kazakh, Tajik, and Uzbek. Both apps are free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today updated Google Search for iOS devices. Google refreshed the application with its Material Design language, which has been optimized for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus with bigger photos. As far as new features go, iOS users will be able to see their most recently visited pages more easily, start new searches with a single tap thanks to the new search button, and explore nearby places and points of interest thanks to Google Maps integration. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google recently updated its Chromecast application for Android devices and refreshed it with Material Design. Beyond the new look Chromecast now supports guest mode, which Google says makes it easier for others to cast content from their Android device to Chromecast. Chromecast owners will need to active guest mode via the settings tools first. Once they do, any nearby Android device can cast directly to Chromecast without first joining the associated WiFi network. Chromecast is a thumb-sized media player that connects to HDTVs. The app is free, but the player itself costs $35.
Microsoft today expanded the availability of its MSN-branded apps beyond Windows Phone, adding them to the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. The apps, which have evolved on the Windows Phone platform this year, include MSN Food & Drink, MSN Health & Fitness, MSN Money, MSN News, and MSN Sports. These five are available to both Android and iOS today. The MSN Weather app is available to Android today, too, and will be available to iOS soon. Of note, Microsoft said its MSN Health & Fitness app makes use of Apple's HealthKit tools, which will allow iPhone owners to track steps and other fitness goals. Microsoft has targeted Android and iOS aggressively this year with its own applications and services, including MS Office, its core productivity suite, and other utilities such as OneNote and OneDrive. All the apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Sprint today said it plans to install the Uber application on most of its Android smartphones moving forward. Uber is a ride-seeking app that lets people discover and request rides. Sprint and Uber are offering new customers $20 toward their first ride when they create a new Uber account. Uber requires payment via credit card, but customers can use the app to keep track of their driver as he/she approaches, as well as see estimated costs for their ride. Sprint customers who don't have Uber preinstalled on their device are still eligible to receive the discount. Uber is available from the Google Play Store, the iTunes App Store, and the Windows Phone Store.
Google today updated its Android Wear app for smartphones and wearables, adding a significant number of new watch faces. Google said Android Wear device owners can now download watch faces directly from the Play Store. In conjunction with the new faces, Google updated the accompanying phone app to make browsing, downloading, and switching watch faces easier. Google said the Android Wear app updates, both for phones and smart watches, are rolling out to devices slowly over the next few weeks. Last, Google today made the Watch Face API available to developers. The API gives developers far more creative control over watch faces they can design.
Nokia today made its HERE Maps product more visible to Android device owners by adding it to the Google Play Store. Nokia has offered HERE Maps to Android devices in beta form since October, but only from its own web site. Until now, people interested the app needed to sideload HERE Maps. Moving forward, HERE Maps is free to download from the Play Store, though it is still in beta form. HERE Maps allows users to download entire countries or regions, which makes the maps available even when the device is offline. HERE Maps for Android devices include free, voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. Users can plan routes via car, public transport, or foot. Nokia says maps are available for about 200 countries with turn-by-turn directions available in about 100. Transit maps are available in 750 metro areas across 40 different countries, with more being added all the time. Nokia today also said it has updated its here.com web site, which should perform better on mobile devices. Last, Nokia expects to bring the modern version of HERE Maps to iOS in early 2015.
Google today revealed an update to the Hangouts App for Android devices and added a number of new capabilities to its mobile messaging service. Hangouts now makes it easier for people to discover one another thanks to a number searching function. Conversations will display a "last seen" marker to make users' availability more apparent. The app gains new filters for video chats, including sepia, black and white, and vignette. Google added 16 sticker packs to the app, and made it easier to share location data and discover nearby points of interest for potential real-life meet-ups. Google Hangouts is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today began pushing Android 5.0.1 Lollipop to the HTC One M7 and M8 Google Play Editions. The update may take up to two weeks to reach most handsets over the air, but users may also download and manually install the updates if they wish. Manually installing the updates requires some coding know-how and is not recommended for casual users. Google is already pushing Lollipop to the Sony Xperia Z Ultra Google Play Edition. Android 5.0 offers a brand new design, revamped notifications, and many other new features. Google Play Edition handsets are sold directly by Google and use stock Android rather than the phone maker's user interface skin.
A company called Wire today launched a new messaging app by the same name. Wire was founded by the pioneers behind Skype, which was purchased by Microsoft in 2011. Wire claims to improve the messaging experience by combining a wide array of media formats into a single app. Wire supports one-to-one and group conversations. The conversations can contain pictures, links, SoundCloud music, and YouTube videos -- all of which are displayed inline with Wire's seamless interface. The app doubles as a phone and can connect HD voice calls between Wire users. Wire is available for free from the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, and OS X App store (for Mac computers) and syncs across platforms and devices instantly.
Sony today said it has begun distributing Android 5.0 Lollipop to the Xperia Z Ultra Google Play Edition handset. The Z Ultra GPe is sold by Google and comes with a stock build of Android, free of any UI customizations from Sony. Android 5.0 gives the Z Ultra GPe a refreshed look, new notification features, faster performance, and support for multiple accounts. Sony is pushing the system update out slowly over the days ahead. Sony also committed to updating the entire Xperia Z Series to Android 5.0 beginning in early 2015.
Vine recently updated its Android and iOS mobile apps with push notifications. Moving forward, users can opt to receive alerts when their favorite Vine accounts post new content. Vine is a short-video sharing service. It lets people upload and share six-second videos. Vine is owned by Twitter. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google recently made available a new online tool people can use to control which devices have access to their Google Account. The Devices and Activity dashboard shows users all the devices that have accessed their account during the previous 28 days. Users can see the name of the device along with when and where it last accessed their Google data. Google said it will provide obvious signs if it suspects suspicious activity, and it is easy for users to block any of the devices on the list from accessing their account. The Devices and Activity dashboard is free to use.
T-Mobile's Music Unlimited service today doubled the number of music streaming apps available, jumping from 13 to 27 in total. The new services include Google Play Music, Xbox Music, SoundCloud, RadioTunes, Digitally Imported, Fit Radio, Fresco Radio, Jazzradio, Live365, Mad Genius Radio, radioPup, radio.com, Rockradio, and Saavn. With Music Unlimited, T-Mobile customers can stream an unlimited amount of music over their data connection without it counting against their monthly data allotment. T-Mobile claims its customers are streaming 66 million songs -- or 200 terabytes of music -- per day. Music Unlimited already supports Rhapsody, Pandora, AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Samsung Milk Music, Radio Paradise, Rdio, Slacker, Songza, and Spotify. T-Mobile does not charge extra for Music Unlimited.
Google disclosed this week that it has settled a lawsuit filed against it by Rockstar regarding mobile device patents. Rockstar is a patent-holding consortium led by Apple. It outbid Google to acquire thousands of old Nortel patents back in 2011 and filed the lawsuit against Google and others in 2013. Terms of the settlement were not revealed.
Google today made available the first APIs for developers to use in creating Android Auto apps. Initially, developers can target two behaviors with their apps: audio and messaging. Developers will be able to extend the functionality of their music, podcasting, or news apps so the audio can be played back through the car's speakers. Similarly, messaging apps that receive incoming notifications can read new messages aloud in the car, as well as send voice-dictated replies. Google says it is already working with developers of popular music and messaging apps to extend their functionality to Android Auto. In order to use Android Auto apps in a car, the car has to support Android Auto within the infotainment center. So far, only a handful of car manufacturers have said they'll bring Android Auto-compatible vehicles to market. Android Auto will let car owners more easily and safely access phone-based content through their car's dashboard.
Nokia today announced wide availability of the Z Launcher for Android devices. Nokia first debuted the Z Launcher earlier this year, but as a limited alpha. It is now available in beta form directly from the Google Play Store. The Z Launcher is a learning launcher that adjusts what it shows the phone owner on the home screen throughout the day depending on their pattern of behavior. For example, in the morning Z Launcher will present apps such as email and the calendar, while in the evening it will present apps such as Facebook and Spotify. Nokia says Z Launcher improves its predictions over time. Further, Z Launcher includes a gesture search tool that lets users initiate searches from the home screen by tracing letters on the glass. Launchers are alternative home screen treatments for Android smartphones. In addition to the launcher, Nokia announced the N1 tablet, which includes a 7.9-inch screen and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. Other specs include a 64-bit Intel Atom processor, 8- and 5-megapixel cameras, stereo speakers, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. The N1 tablet will cost $249, and is headed to China first. Nokia, which sold its handset division to Microsoft earlier this year, is not manufacturing the N1 itself. Rather, it is licensing the brand and the design to an unnamed manufacturer in order for it to be built.
Google today said it has begun to push Google Play Services 6.5 to all devices running Android 2.3 Gingerbread and higher. Play Services 6.5 adds several new tools for developers, and targets Google Maps, Google Drive, Google Wallet, and Google Fit. In Maps, the API now offers a map toolbar so app users can launch Google Maps to get turn-by-turn directions. Developers can also add mini maps to their apps when using Lite Mode. In Google Drive, developers can add both public and private custom file properties to improve searching. File syncing has been improved, too, as users can now schedule uploads based on network type, as well as cancel pending uploads. File syncing is also more power efficient. Google is adding a "Donate with Google" button to its Google Wallet API to make for easier donating within apps. The Google Fit API makes it easier for developers to add timed workouts, which in turn makes it easier to support pauses or multiple activity workout in a single session. Last, Google is making it possible for developers to use only a portion of the Android API library in order to help keep their apps leaner. Google will publish a new SDK once Play Services 6.5 has been installed on most Android devices.
Google today detailed a recent update to the Google Keep application, which is used for saving notes, web pages, and other snippets of information. The newest version of Keep makes to-do lists and other items shareable, which lets people work on them together. Google also made it easier to search through Keep for old items. Users can search by color, whether they're shared, have a reminder, are lists, or have an image or audio attachment. Google Keep is free to download from the Play Store. It is compatible with devices running Android 4.0 and up.
VSCO Cam, a popular third-party camera application for Android and iOS devices, updated both of its mobile apps today. The camera gains a number of new features through the update, such as the ability to sync images across devices, side-by-side filter comparisons, and a web uploader tool. The app also gains a new user interface and claims to take better pictures. The Android version of VSCO Cam is notable in that it makes use of APIs from HTC so it can support separate focus and exposure points. VSCO Cam is available in the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Google today alerted developers that it will cease to offer the Google Wallet for Digital Goods API in March 2015. The API has for several years let online goods purveyors accept Google Wallet for payment. Google originally provided the API to make it easier for people to buy and sell digital goods online. Google said the online payments landscape has changed enough since the API's release that it no feels the need to offer it. Google is asking developers to strip their apps of Google Wallet and find alternate sources of payment processing. Users of Google Wallet will be able to make payments via Wallet until March 2. Developers have until then to find other providers and cease calling on the API. The functionality of Google Wallet should not change for most people.
Google today revealed details about a new version of the Google Search app for Android devices. The latest rendition of Search makes use of Material Design and adds new Now cards for keeping track of reminders, travel, sports scores, and your commute. Google Now will recognize the "OK, Google" voice prompt within third-party applications. It can also be used to open and search through those third-party apps. Google has made it possible for the Nexus 6 and Galaxy Note 4 smartphones to enable the "OK, Google" prompt even when the device is locked and asleep (similar to the Motorola Moto X). Last, Google added a fun feature that allows users to flip a virtual coin when they need help choosing between two selections. Google Search is free to download from the Play Store.
Google today said it has begun the Android 5.0 Lollipop rollout to Nexus devices. The company said hardware such as the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, and Nexus 7 will have the new operating system soon. Look for it in your system settings. Android 5.0 Lollipop introduces an entirely new design for the operating system, as well as hundreds of new features.
YouTube today announced a new way to consume music on Android and iOS devices, as well as the web. YouTube made it easier to find music videos by surfacing them to the top of the search discovery tool. The new YouTube offers smartphone, tablet, and web users the ability to find and play full albums and video playlists on YouTube. YouTube created new pages that display an artist's entire discography and all the videos associated with their music. The corresponding app updates should arrive for Android and iOS soon. These features are being made available to all users for free. YouTube also announced a premium service called Music Key, which offers ad-free playback, as well as the ability to listen to music videos in the background. Music Key costs $10 per month, but YouTube is discounting it for a limited time to just $8 per month. The subscription fee includes access to Google Play Music, which has more than 30 million songs and hundreds of curated playlists and radio stations. Music Key is being offered as a limited beta to start, though YouTube said its availability will expand over time.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told industry insiders that he'll likely take a different approach to net neutrality than the one proposed by President Obama, reports the Washington Post. Obama on Monday surprised the industry by weighing in on the net neutrality debate. The President asked for a free and open internet regulated as a utility. Speaking to executives from Google, Yahoo and Etsy on Monday Wheeler said, "What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn’t affect your business. What I've got to figure out is how to split the baby." Wheeler hopes to find a middle ground that will make both consumers and businesses happy. Wheeler's official response to Obama on Monday indicated the agency would consider the President's proposal, but reminded the President that the FCC is an independent agency and not beholden to any executive orders. The Post suggests if Wheeler does in fact take a different route, it could create discord between the White House and the FCC.
Google today said Verizon Wireless customers can now send and receive MMS messages through their Google Voice number. According to Google, MMS is supported by all major carriers in the U.S. and Canada. Further, Google has added native MMS support to Google Voice. This means users who add their Google Voice number to Hangouts can actually attach photos to Google Voice messages rather than send an SMS with a photo link. Google said support for group messaging via MMS will be available soon.
Instagram today announced updates to both its Android and iOS applications. The apps add a couple of new features, the foremost of which is the ability to edit the captions attached to photos. Previously, captions couldn't be edited once they were posted. Instagram users will also notice changes to the Explore function, which Instagram says now lets users seek out new people to follow via their photos or via their name. Instagram for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
LG today said it will soon begin distributing Android 5.0 Lollipop to its G3 smartphone. LG will deliver Lollipop to G3 owners in Poland first, followed by "other key markets in the near future." The company claims it is the first handset maker to offer Android 5.0 to its existing device base. LG also said it will soon publish a schedule detailing the Lollipop upgrade for other LG phones. The G3 is available from the major U.S. carriers, but neither they nor LG made any specific announcements regarding Lollipop's arrival on the G3 in the U.S. LG happened to manufacture both the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 5 smartphones, which should be among the first to receive Lollipop. The Nexus phones will be updated directly by Google.
Google today announced several new features its adding to Google Drive for iOS devices. Drive now supports extensions in iOS 8, which means users can more easily share files to and from Drive. The app can now be locked with Touch ID for security purposes. Last, Drive for iOS now allows users to save videos from Drive to their iPhone's camera role. Google Drive for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store and has even optimized for iOS 8.
Motorola recently began accepting preorders for the Nexus 6 on its U.S. web site. Both the white and blue models are available in 32GB and 64GB variants for $649 and $699, respectively. Motorola is selling the unlocked GSM model at the moment. Google is also selling the Nexus 6, though its supply is currently exhausted. The Nexus 6 will be made available from wireless network operators, including AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, later this month. Shipping times have yet to be announced.