Google today revealed the dessert-themed name for Android N, and it is Nougat. Google did not specify the number designation for Android Nougat. The previous version, Android 6, is known as Marshmallow. Android Nougat is available in beta form to select devices and will be released in full later this summer.
Google recently updated the Google Fit application for Android and expanded its functionality to include a wider range of activities. The app gains more goal options and support for multiple goals, such as daily, weekly, and monthly goals for specific activities. The dashboard has been refreshed to display all the daily stats at once, and includes info on trends in your weight after logging new measurements. Last, Google Fit now allows people to (anonymously) compare their activity against other Fit users in the same area. For example, Fit might tell users that they are more active than 87% of the people in their town on a particular day. Google Fit is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google Keep gained a useful tool in a recent update — the app can now categorize notes by topic. Keep will assign categories to topics such as web sites, recipes, or favorite places, and those topics will be searchable via keyword. The updated version of Google Keep is available to Android and iOS devices, as well as the web. Keep is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Verizon Wireless this week retired its content filtering service. The tool was initially made available to account holders in order to prevent devices from accessing certain types of content via the web and the Google Play Store. According to a support page on Verizon's web site, any type of content that was previously blocked is now available to devices. Moreover, devices blocked from accessing the Play Store can now browse through and purchase/download apps. Content Filtering was chiefly used by parents and business account holders. Verizon recommends users reboot the devices on their account in order to ensure proper functionality. Account holders still interested in content filtering services can do so directly on the device, as well as through paid third-party tools. "The growing popularity of apps and decline in web browser usage has created a need for new and different tools and protections," said Verizon to Fierce Wireless. "There are numerous alternatives for security, protection and filtering services in the marketplace to help manage content through the device operating system, through applications downloaded to the device and through Web browsers." Verizon's Content Filtering service went offline June 27.
LG recently announced VPInput, an app for PCs and select LG handsets that makes Bluetooth pairing a breeze. More than simply connecting the devices, VPInput lets LG smartphone owners control their device using the PC's mouse and keyboard. LG is pitching the app as "a convenient solution when you’re at your desk but want to check your phone without interrupting your workflow." For example, VPInput can be used to copy text from a Word document on a PC and then paste it into a document on a smartphone, or take a screenshot on a phone and display it on the PC screen. Further, function keys on the PC can be used as shortcuts to launch certain apps or tools that are on the smartphone. VPInput is free to download from the Google Play Store, but is only compatible with the LG V10, G4, and G5 smartphones.
Skype today announced version 7.05 for Android devices, which adds proper support for Arabic and Hebrew. Both languages are written right-to-left, not left-to-right like English or Spanish. Microsoft says Skype 7.05 offers a native right-to-left experience in the app for the first time. Rather than simply mirror its UI for Arabic and Hebrew, Skype recreated every transition animation and optimized its navigation tools to function normally with the two right-to-left languages. Skype 7.05 is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google has updated its Project Fi app in order to take advantage of cellular coverage offered by U.S. Cellular. Earlier this month, Google said it planned to supplement Project Fi's coverage with U.S. Cellular. The freshly updated app allows Fi subscribers to capitalize on that expansion. Project Fi already relies on Sprint and T-Mobile for cellular connectivity, and automatically connects to the strongest signal. U.S. Cellular provides LTE service in 23 states, mostly in the Midwest, which improves Project Fi's overall footprint. Google claims its dynamic network-switching technique provides customers with a cellular connection 99% of the time they are using their phones. Project Fi also relies on WiFi. The Project Fi app is free to download from the Google Play Store, but the service is only available to select Nexus smartphones.
Google today made its Expeditions virtual reality application available to all Android devices. Expeditions lets people setup and participate in virtual tours of popular tourist spots, locations, and landmarks. At launch, the tool was limited to educational purposes. Today's expansion allows anyone and everyone to take virtual trips to more than 200 destinations with curated imagery and commentary. Google Expeditions is intended to work with the Google Cardboard VR viewer.
Google today offered developers access to the Google Cast SDK version 3.0 for Android and iOS. Google first discussed changes to its casting platform at the I/O developer conference in May. Google Cast allows people to push content from smartphones, tablets, and laptops to other devices, such as television sets or media players. The revised Google Cast SDK is easier to use, more reliable, and quicker, says Google. Developers can make use of the SDK to add casting features to their own apps. The SDK is free for developers to access and use. Google believes the simplified SDK will convince more app writers to make content cast-able.
Google today said it has updated the satellite images in Google Maps and Google Earth with much higher-resolution pictures. The company put to use imagery captured by the Landsat 8 satellite, which launched in 2013, to improve the clarity, color, and resolution. Google says it also improved its processing techniques, using millions of images to create the clearest-possible mosaics through the same Earth Engine APIs that scientists use. Google parsed more than 700 trillion pixels culled from nearly a petabyte of Landsat imagery. Google says the new, sharper imagery is now available across all its mapping products.
Google plans to add live video streaming to its YouTube mobile apps. Google says live streaming will be incorporated into the application's core and won't require a separate app or download. A "capture" button in the corner will initiate live recording. Users will be able to select a thumbnail image and even chat while streaming. Google says videos that are streamed live will have all the features available to videos that are uploaded regularly, such as search, recommendations, and playlists. Videos captured live will be automatically saved to YouTube for safekeeping. Google is bringing live video streaming to a handful of video content creators first with plans to expand availability to more people over time. The feature is a response to competing live-streaming apps from Periscope and Facebook.
Google revised its Nexus support page and provided more information on how long Nexus-branded phones will receive future software updates. Google says Nexus devices will get Android version updates (Lollipop, Marshmallow, etc.) for at least two years from when the device became available on the Google Store. The Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, for example, will receive Android system updates at least through September 2017, while the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 will receive updates through October 2016. Security patches will be pushed out for three years from the original availability date or for 18 months after the device is removed from the Google Play Store (whichever is longer). Major Android update arrive generally once per year, while security patches are pushed through one per month. Android version N is expected to arrive later this summer.
Ultimate Ears' high-end Bluetooth speakers now allow Android and iPhone owners to use voice prompts to control their music. Ultimate Ears is rolling out a firmware update for the UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom that adds Google Now and Siri support. The update must be installed via the Ultimate Ears mobile app. Once added, smartphone users can ask Google Now or Siri to play their favorite songs, albums, or playlists. According to Ultimate Ears, its speakers are simply acting as a microphone. Voice commands are based on those already supported by Google Now or Siri, which means people can address Google Now and Siri via the UE Boom 2 and Megaboom using any language those services support. Similarly, people can interact with any music apps Google Now and Siri support, such as Google Play Music, Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music. A quick press of the Bluetooth button on the speaker itself puts the speaker in listening mode, allowing people to use voice commands to change songs. Ultimate Ears says its mobile app does not need to be running on the associated phone in order to use the feature. The Ultimate Ears mobile app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. The UE Boom 2 costs $180 and the UE Megaboom costs $250.
Google has made it easier for people to setup and use two-step verification to protect their accounts. Google already allowed users to tap a Security Key or enter a verification code sent to their phone. Now, users can also approve a new security prompt that pops up on the screen. According to Google, users can select any of these three methods for two-step verification via their Google account settings online. Android users will need the latest version of Google Play Services on their device, and iOS users will need the Google Search app. As the name implies, two-step verification adds a second layer of security to account logins.
Google plans to change the results shown when people search for symptom-based information. Moving forward Google will show a list of related conditions to symptoms like stuffy nose, cough, or headache. The results will provide a description of the symptom itself, list possible self-treatment options, and alert when symptoms warrant a doctor visit. "Our goal is to help you to navigate and explore health conditions related to your symptoms, and quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional," explained Google in a blog post. Google created a list of symptoms based on medical conditions that are often included in search results. The list was checked by medical professionals at the Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic in order to associate individual symptoms with potential ailments. Google warns that its search results are for informational purposes only and should not replace in-person consultations with physicians or other healthcare providers. The changed symptom-based search results will appear on mobile devices in the coming days.
Verizon Wireless has begun distributing a security update to its version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. The phone is receiving the June security patch from Google, which resolves a number of vulnerabilities. Google published details of the June security patch earlier this month. It plugs 21 holes, of which a handful could have led to remote code execution. Verizon says the update also optimizes device performance and takes care of a few other bugs. The update will appear automatically, but may also be initiated manually from the phone. The update can be downloaded via WiFi or LTE. Verizon recently pushed the same update to the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.
Google has updated a slew of its mobile apps this week, adding new features to Google Calendar, Sheets, and Now On Tap for Android devices. To start, Google Calendar made it easy to see when you're free when scheduling a new event. Google Sheets makes it possible to automatically save spreadsheets locally for offline editing. Last, the beta version of Now On Tap gain adds a second row of icons that provide access to a number of Google actions, such as set a reminder, create calendar events, or navigate to/from work. Google Calendar and Google Sheets are free to download from the Google Play Store. Now On Tap version 6 is available to beta testers running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
Walmart today launched its mobile payment service, Walmart Pay, at 120 of its retail stores in Alabama. The service, announced late last year, works with Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Walmart initially expected to deploy the technology around the country by mid-year, but Alabama is the first statewide deployment so far. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own. CurrentC, another mobile payment app developed by the Merchant Customer Exchange, was recently cancelled. Apple and Google have both outlined plans to expand their mobile payment services to the web in the months ahead.
Google today made it easier to view photo albums online and on Android handsets with a new slideshow tool. Photos users need only open an album, click a picture, and select "slideshow" from the dropdown menu to initiate a slideshow of all the photos in that particular album. Slideshows will playback automatically in the browser or on Android devices. Further, users can cast slideshows from a PC or Android phone to a nearby TV. Google Photos for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Facebook today showed off a new version of its Messenger application, which the company says is easier to use. Messenger now displays the most recent messages at the top of the screen, with a section showing the user's favorites below. Facebook says the favorites section will include the friends with whom people converse the most. Facebook has changed up the Active Now section to provide a clearer view of who's online and available for chats, and added reminders for events such as birthdays. Messenger also recently added an emoji-based soccer game, and an expanded set of emoji. Messenger is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Opera updated several of its mobile browsers today, bringing its ad blocking tool to Android, iOS, and Windows handsets. First, Opera refreshed its main Opera browser for Android. In addition to the ad blocker, Opera for Android also gains support for web push notifications and multi-window support. Further, the browser's core was upgraded to Chromium 50. Opera for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Opera also updated Opera Mini for iOS and Opera Mini for Windows phones (8.1 and 10). Both platforms gain access to Opera's ad blocker. For all devices, the ad blocker is not on by default; users will need to activate it in the settings. Opera Mini for iOS and Windows is available from the iTunes App Store and Windows Store, respectively.
Google today made Android N Developer Preview 4 available to developers and beta testers. Google says devices that are enrolled in the beta program should be able to update to the newest preview right away. The N Developer Preview is available to the Nexus 6, 5X, 6P, 9, and Pixel C devices, as well as the Sony Xperia Z3. In addition to releasing the preview, Google also finalized the APIs for Android N. This means developers have the complete set of tools they need in order to create apps compatible with Android N. Developers will need to download the final SDK for Android N in order to access the finished APIs. Google says it will release Android N later this summer.
Facebook today said Facebook Messenger users will once again be able to send SMS messages — as long as they're running Android. Essentially, Android users can set Messenger as the default SMS app, which will route all SMS messages and conversations through Messenger rather than any other SMS apps that may be installed on the device. Messenger used to support SMS, but Facebook removed the feature back in 2012. Facebook says Messenger doesn't send, upload, or store conversations on its servers. Moreover, it uses the standard SMS protocol and not cellular data to send SMS messages. Sending SMS via Messenger includes text, pictures, videos, and audio snippets, but content such as stickers, emoji, GIFs, and voice/video calls will require the use of Messenger's data functions. Facebook Messenger is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Motorola and LG have said their first-generation Android Wear smartwatches won't be updated to the newest version of the wearable platform from Google. Both companies recently shared the news via their official Twitter accounts. The two wearables were first announced in 2014 and were among the first wave of smartwatches to run Android Wear. Motorola and LG did update the wearables to Android Wear 1.2 in 2015, but it appears that's as far as they will go. Moreover, LG says it has discontinued the LG G Watch in favor of newer models. Android Wear 2.0 adds a number of features and requires fresh hardware for WiFi and cellular connectivity. Android Wear 2.0 is available to developers, but won't be released to the general public until later this year.
Verizon Wireless has begun distributing a security update for its versions of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. Both phones will receive the June security patch from Google, which resolves a number of vulnerabilities. Google published details of the June security patch earlier this month. It plugs 21 holes, of which a handful could have led to remote code execution. Verizon says the update also optimizes device performance and takes care of a few other bugs. The update will appear automatically, but may also be initiated manually directly from the phone. The update can be downloaded via WiFi or LTE.
Facebook has begun informing people that photos privately synced from mobile phones to the social network will soon be deleted. Facebook allowed people to automatically backup photos from phones to its servers and store them privately for a time. It is these collections that Facebook is targeting, not photos that have been shared publicly in posts. Facebook wants people to use its Moments photo-management app and this change is meant to provide some motivation. Facebook has already moved users' photos to Moments, but people who don't download the Moments app and log in before July 7 will lose access to whatever photos are stored privately on Facebook. Alternately, people who don't want to use Moments may download the images to their computer. Moments is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Lenovo today announced the Phab 2 Pro, a smartphone aimed at helping people capture virtual and augmented reality content. It builds on the foundation set by the first Project Tango tablet, but is a smaller and more refined device. Lenovo designed the Phab 2 Pro in partnership with Google, which heads Project Tango. The device is a premium handset with an aluminum design, a 6.4-inch quad HD display, and a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone has four cameras: an 8-megapixel selfie camera, a 16-megapixel main camera, a depth camera, and a motion-tracking camera. Lenovo says these latter two are core to helping create virtual/augmented reality content. The phone includes Dolby Atmos sound and is able to capture audio with Dolby 5.1 for more immersive sound. The Phab 2 Pro includes a 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android and will be available in September at Best Buy stores for $499.
Google today announced Nearby, a way for Android devices to show people relevant apps, web sites, and other information based on location. It takes the idea of the physical web, which displayed web sites of nearby businesses, a step further. For example, Android owners who walk into a CVS may be prompted to print their photos while in the store, or people visiting The Broad in Los Angeles may be prompted to download the audio tour. Nearby might also suggest users set up Google Cast or Android Wear devices when in range. In order to take advantage of Nearby, people will need to have location and Bluetooth enabled, as it relies on Bluetooth beacons. The suggestions will be delivered via push notifications that can be acted upon or ignored. Google said developers need to add Nearby to their beacons/locations before people will begin to see them.
Google today said it has supplemented Project Fi's cellular coverage with the addition of U.S. Cellular. Project Fi already relies on Sprint and T-Mobile for cellular connectivity, and automatically connects to the strongest signal. U.S. Cellular provides LTE service in 23 states, mostly in the Midwest, which will boost Project Fi's overall footprint. Google claims its dynamic network-switching technique provides customers with a cellular connection 99% of the time they are using their phones. Project Fi subscribers will begin to roam onto U.S. Cellular's network where coverage exists over the coming weeks.
Pebble has tweaked the performance of its health app and introduced a brand new weather app in a system update for Pebble smartwatches. Pebble OS version 3.13 takes steps to improve the accuracy of Pebble Health, which now accounts for movements during sleep and prevents them from being logged as steps. The fitness graphs available in Pebble Health now include clearer messages, and the app adds support for 24-hour military time. Pebble says its new Weather application is powered by The Weather Channel, and the info can be called up on-demand whenever needed. It supplies the current temperature and conditions, the high and low temps for the day, and the following day's forecast. Last, the updated Pebble software adds a fire emoji. Pebble says Android and iPhone owners need to update their smartphone app to version 3.13, which will then install the new firmware on the smartwatch itself. The Pebble app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Snapchat today began rolling out a new version of its mobile application for Android and iOS devices. The latest build of the social-minded app gives an entirely new look to the Stories and Discover sections, allowing users to see what's new before tapping thanks to newly-added photos and headlines. The general idea is to give content created by publishers more visibility within the app. As such, when people complete viewing publisher content in the Discover section, a quick swipe allows them to subscribe for updates that will appear below friends' Stories. Last, tapping the navigation buttons at the bottom of the app allows users to jump between screens more easily. Snapchat is free to download from iTunes and the Google Play Store.
Google today released an app for iPhones called Motion Stills. Google created the app in order to take advantage of Apple's Live Photos, as captured by the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Live Photos can be shared with other Apple devices and through Facebook, but not other social networks. With Motion Stills, Google uses its own video stabilization technology to freeze the background portions of Live Photos while allowing the subject/foreground to move independently. The end result is a looping GIF that can be shared easily via most social media apps. The app also allows iPhone owners to merge looping GIFs into a larger moving picture. Motion Stills is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Twitter today revealed a redesigned mobile app for Android devices. The new user interface, which relies heavily on Google's Material Design, should be simpler to use. The tab bar at the top of the screen has been overhauled so users can move swiftly between home, notifications, and messages. The navigation menu now slides out from the left side, offering access to settings, lists, users profiles, and the Connect tab. Last, the app now makes use of the floating action button to initiate new tweets. The new Twitter for Android is rolling out globally starting today. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google has released a security patch for Android devices to resolve 21 different issues, of which 6 are considered critical. Google said a number of the vulnerabilities could lead to remote code execution via files accessed through Qualcomm media drivers. To date, none of the vulnerabilities have been exploited. The company will make a new build of Android containing the patch available to the Android Open Source Project and to Nexus-branded handsets and tablets over the next few days. Google said it alerted its handset partners about the vulnerabilities on May 2, but it is up to individual phone manufacturers and their carrier partners to provide handset updates.
Google has rolled out a program that allows people to test beta versions of Google Maps. The betas will be published via the Google Play Store, similar to how Google distributes other a few other beta apps. Google warns that beta builds of Google Maps may be buggy or unstable. On the up side, beta testers will get to use new Maps features before most others. Google hopes beta testers will provide feedback about new features and any bugs they may discover.
The Unicode Consortium recently unveiled the full set of emoji to be included in Unicode 9.0. The Consortium first proposed Unicode 9.0 a full year ago with 38 characters. That number has since grown to 72. The emoji include a wide range of gestures, animals, and food. Some include the "call me" hand gesture as well as left and right fists (for fist bumps); sharks, bats, and eagles; and bacon, avocados, and carrots. Other notable additions are the facepalm and selfie. While this set of emoji has been approved by the Consortium, Google recently proposed that the organization adopt more women-in-professional-roles emoji. It's not clear if the organization will add those to Unicode 9.0 or a subsequent version of Unocide. With these 72 emoji more or less finalized, it will be up to phone and app makers to deploy them to handsets and applications.
Google today announced an update to its Now On Tap feature for devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Moving forward, users will be able to highlight the exact set of text they'd like to search via Now On Tap. Users can select single words, or sentences, paragraphs, and entire pages for search. Image search is another useful new feature. When viewing any image in any app, users can long press the home button to call up info cards about whatever is in the image. This tool also works when using the camera app. Users can search for whatever is visible in the camera viewfinder. This last feature sort of brings back Google's old Goggles visual search tool. People who have devices with Android 6.0 Marshmallow need only update their Google Search app to make use of these new features.
Google today made improvements to its My Accounts tool that should help people better manage their Google settings as well as their smartphone. Users can now access their account by saying, "Ok Google, show me my Google account" into the Google Search app. This request will open the user's account. This feature is available starting today, but only in English. More languages are coming soon. Google added a new feature that lets people find their phone if it is lost or stolen. Using the My Account web site, people can locate the phone, or lock it, call it, leave a callback number, or even wipe it. The tool works for Android and iOS devices. Google says soon people will be able to find their phones by simply searching the Google app for "I lost my phone." Android device owners can already find their phone by searching for it online or via the Android Device Manager app. Last, Google plans to add a function that allows people to search for their own name and then, if logged in, see a shortcut to My Account. Google says these tools are meant to help people protect their personal information and secure their account/devices.
The Asus Zenfone 3 will come in not one, but three variants. Asus revealed the new lineup at the Computex trade show in Taiwan this week. Shared features include USB Type-C, fingerprint sensors, and Google's Android operating system.
- Zenfone 3: The entry-level model uses a glass design with a metal frame. It sports a 5.5-inch full HD screen, octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 4 GB of RAM, 3,000mAh battery, and 16-megapixel Sony sensor with OIS and EIS. It will cost $249.
- Zenfone 3 Ultra: This mid-range handset has a unibody metal design and steps up the specs a bit. The screen measures 5.7 inches with full HD resolution and it is powered by a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM. The Deluxe carries over the same 3,000mAh battery found on the entry-level model, but takes advantage of Sony's latest 23-megapixel IMX318 sensor in the camera. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 and will cost $479.
- Zenfone 3 Deluxe: The top of the range has a unibody design similar to that of the Ultra, but increases the screen size to 6.8 inches at full HD. The Deluxe relies on a Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM. It carries over the same 23-megapixel Sony sensor from the Ultra model, but the battery capacity was enlarged to 4,600mAh. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 and will cost $499.
Google today updated its Google Search app for the iPhone and added several new features. The most significant improvement is support for Google's accelerated mobile pages, or AMP. Articles that make use of Google's AMP technology load much faster than other articles. They are called out by a lightning bolt and are stamped with the AMP signage. Google says Search on the refreshed iPhone app is much faster, and Search now shows video highlights on Google Now cards for the NBA and NHL. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.