Rockmelt today announced that its Rockmelt for Web application is now available to Android devices. The app first reached the iPhone in April. Rockmelt for Web connects people to their social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, RSS, etc.) and offers a tile-based view of a wide range of content pulled in from those sources around the web. Though Rockmelt used to offer a full mobile browser, Rockmelt for Web is a socially-connected reader that collects news, stories, and updates and presents them in a visually appealing way. According to Rockmelt, the app is highly customizable, is free of advertisements, is searchable, and makes sharing content with social networks a breeze. The navigation controls come and go as needed, and "elevator buttons" let users easily return to the spot where they were last reading. Rockmelt for Web is also available as a web app on desktop machines. It is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today announced an improvement to its Google+ social network that will see notifications synced across a user's various devices and platforms. Notifications that are marked read or dismissed on one device will automatically be marked read on all devices. In addition to the notification syncing, Google is updating notifications' appearance, providing a new bell icon to alert users to notifications, as well as a new notifications tray that shows read/unread items separately. According to Google, the updated notifications are going to be rolled out gradually. Android devices will be the first able to access the new notifications thanks to a new Google+ application that is available to day. The new Android Google+ app also adds the ability to delete photos from the Photos view, as well as adding easy ways to check the number of +1s, comments, and reshares. These same changes will next reach the web version of Google+, and eventually iOS devices.
Google today announced that it has acquired Waze, a company that provides real-time data on traffic conditions. According to Google, Waze and its engineering team will remain in Israel for now, but its technology will eventually be added to Google Maps to help improve its live traffic features. A lot of Waze's traffic data is generated by a community of users. Google said that it will work with the community, too, to make sure that the app's data is always current. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Facebook today pushed out an update to its Android application that contained some changes to the behavior of Facebook Home. According to the changelog, Facebook Home now lets users more easily customize the app launcher by dragging apps into the favorites tray. Facebook Home also gets some bug fixes. Facebook Home is an alternate launcher that's available fort Android devices. It replaces the traditional home screen with content pulled in from Facebook. Other than the changes to Facebook Home, Facebook for Android now lets users see more than one photo from a single post at a time, as well as change who can see your posts on the fly. Facebook for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Sprint today announced the availability of the LG Optimus F3, an Android smartphone that brings improved accessibility to those with visual impairments. The F3's defining characteristic is Google TalkBack, an accessibility app that will be enabled out of the box. Google TalkBack makes it easier for the visually impaired to interact with their device via speech-to-text technology. The F3 also includes a Sprint iD pack that has been created specifically to educate owners on accessibility features and services. The Optimus F3 runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and has a 4-inch IPS LCD screen with Gorilla Glass; a 1.2GHz dual-core processor; Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and LTE 4G; and a 5-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture. It comes with a number of LG apps and services, such as VuTalk, QSlide, QuickMemo, and Q Translator. The LG Optimus F3 goes on sale June 14 and costs $29.99 with a new contract after rebate.
Google today made available Google Keyboard, the native keyboard application used by devices running a clean, or stock, version of Android. Google is offering the app separately in the Google Play Store to devices that might be running a manufacturer or carrier user interface skin. The app includes gesture typing, voice typing, word completion, word prediction, and advanced keyboard layouts. Google Keyboard will work any Android smartphone or tablet running 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and up.
Officials from the cities of New York and San Francisco today announced that they plan to meet with leading makers of smartphones later this month to discuss how to curb cell phone thefts. According to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, 1.6 million cell phones are stolen each year from Americans. The city officials will meet with Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft on June 13, when they intend to enlist the companies' help by asking them to devise ways to quickly deactivate stolen devices so they will no longer work. U.S. network operators have already created a registry of stolen cell phones together with the Federal Communications Commission that is used to prevent them from accessing network services. Last month, New York Senator Charles Schumer reintroduced a bill that would make it illegal for people to alter the IMEI or other identifying numbers of devices. All these steps have been taken in an effort to reduce thefts and robberies of cell phones by drying up the secondary market for the stolen goods.
Google today announced that it has reversed an earlier decision to restrict access to the CalDAV API. In March Google said it would only allow its major developer partners to access the API. Since then, Google has received lots of request from developers seeking CalDAV access. Given the volume of requests, Google changed its mind and has decided to make the CalDAV API open to the public. Further, it is also making the CardDAV API open to the public. Both CalDAV and CardDAV are tools that allow people to access calendar and contacts data across the web. Smartphone owners, for example, can choose to sync their calendar and contact data from Google to their device using CalDAV and CardDAV, respectively, as an alternative to Microsoft's ActiveSync. In addition to making the APIs open, Google also updated them, giving both CalDAV and CardDAV OAuth2.0 authentication.
Google recently made the newest version of Gmail available to devices running its own Android platform as well as Apple's iOS platform. The new version of Gmail, announced in May, adds tabs to the inbox to help Gmail users better organize their email. The new version of Gmail also offers more customizable notifications. The changes to the mobile apps reflect those made to the browser-based desktop version.
Google today pushed out a new version of Chrome for iOS that makes several improvements to how the browser functions. The app is now better able to handle natural language search requests and is faster as transcribing them on the fly. The browser can also speak results back to the owner, as well as display the relevant search results on the screen. Last, Chrome for iOS is faster at rendering web pages. The browser is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google today provided an update to the iOS version of Google Drive. Google Drive 1.4.0 adds several new features, chief among them the ability to view, create, reply, and resolve comments within documents. Comments are used to let multiple people collaborate on a single document. The new version of the app also makes it possible to swipe through images stored online. Google Drive 1.4.0 for iOS is free to download from the iTunes Store.
Twitter today made available a version of its Vine video-sharing application for devices running Google's Android platform. Until today, the app and service have been exclusive to Apple's iPhone. Vine lets users create short, 6-second videos that can then be embedded in Tweets, posted on Facebook, or otherwise shared across the web. The videos play automatically and loop continuously. The Android version has one feature that the iPhone does not: the ability to zoom in. However, it ships without some features that the iPhone app has, such as the ability to access the user-facing camera. Twitter said that it will update Vine quickly over the following weeks to bring the Android version into parity with the iPhone version. Vine is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today announced that it will bring its Google Music service to the Apple iPhone in about one month. Google Music was recently updated to include a subscription service. Before now, it has been reserved for Google's Android-based devices. This will be the first time Google Music has come to the iPhone through a Google-made app. The subscription service costs $10 per month and allows users to create and listen to streamed radio stations.
Google's Sundar Pichai, head of the company's Android efforts, today announced that the company will sell a Sense-free version of the HTC One through the Google Play Store. Similar to the stock Android version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 announced earlier this month, the HTC One will be sold unlocked with support for both AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. It will cost $599 and will be available by the end of June. Pichai was speaking at the D11 conference.
Google today announced a sweeping redesign of Gmail's inbox in desktop browsers, as well as the dedicated Android and iOS Gmail applications. The changes center on the addition of tabs to the inbox that are meant to help organize different types of emails into categories, such as updates, deals, messages from friends, and so on. Users can choose which of the five tabs they see in their inbox, and the order in which the tabs appear. Messages can be moved between tabs and certain senders can be prioritized to always be visible in the primary tab. The new mobile apps, which will become available gradually over the next few weeks, default to the primary tab view, but make it easy to view and interact with emails in the other tabs. According to Google, users can switch off the tabs and stick with a classic view of Gmail if they so wish.
Google today made a new version of Google+ available to iOS devices, such as the Apple iPhone. Many of the new features are carried over from the recently-revised Android version of the Google+ app. Google+ 4.4.0 for iOS includes a number of improvements to the photos portion of the service. It offers a new auto-enhance tool for improving uploaded images. Google+ will assemble collections of photo highlights and the app is now better at sharing GIFs and panoramas. It is easier to find content through the use of hashtags, and Google+ now lets users adjust more facets of their profile from within the app. Google+ adds support for strikethrough text and the ability to edit comments. Last, the Hangouts feature is no longer available within the app (Hangouts is available separately). Google+ 4.4.0 for iOS is a free download from the iTunes App Store.
LG today unveiled a variant of the Nexus 4 smartphone that is white. Other than the color, the device is unchanged. It includes a 4.7-inch 1280 x 768 HD LCD screen, 8-megapixel camera, and Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM. The Nexus 4 ships with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, which includes Google Now and Photosphere. It will be made available in Hong Kong first, followed by other markets, including North America, over the next several weeks.
The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Microsoft did not infringe on a patent held by Motorola. The full commission's decision upheld an earlier ruling by an administrative law judge and puts the matter to rest. The case began in 2010 when Motorola accused Microsoft of violating five of its patents. Four of the patents were eventually dropped from the case, leaving just one pertaining to how Microsoft's XBox gaming system used Wi-Fi. Microsoft declared the ruling a "win" for its customers, adding that it "confirms our view that Google had no grounds to block our products."
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.