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Google Plans to Add Bluetooth, GPS to Android Wear

Today, 11:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is working on several updates to Android Wear that will introduce more features to the platform for wearables. Director of Engineering for Android Wear, David Singleton, told CNET that the first update to arrive will add certain Bluetooth functions to Android Wear. "We'll have an update coming that allows you to pair a Bluetooth headset with your watch. And that means you can play music stored on your watch directly on your Bluetooth headset," said Singleton. Google also plans to add support for GPS, meaning properly equipped devices will be able to track location data directly without an accompanying smartphone. These updates are expected to arrive later this year. The company is also working to make Android Wear compatible with a wide range of sensors. Google envisions Android Wear devices interacting with a broad scope of other devices in order to develop richer and more useful data for owners. According to Google, thousands of Android applications have already been updated with support for Android Wear, and Google created a separate section of the Play Store for compatible apps. Several Android Wear devices are currently available and LG, Asus, and others are expected to debut more Android Wear devices this week.


OneDrive for Android Adds Business Account Support

Aug 28, 2014, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its OneDrive cloud storage application for the Android platform. The primary new feature of the app is support for OneDrive Business accounts, which allows device owners to sign in with either or both of their personal or work-assigned accounts. Android device owners can access their personal and business files separately and easily save files to either account. Other new features include support for pin code lock, improvements to camera backup, and the ability to open OneDrive files with the storage access framework. OneDrive for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


LG Debuts Round Android Wear Watch

Aug 27, 2014, 9:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the G Watch R, a round smartwatch based on Google's Android Wear platform. LG already offers a square-shaped device called the G Watch. In designing the G Watch R, LG said it carefully weighed how consumers view watches as accessories and often require them to be stylish as well as functional. The G Watch R is made of stainless steel and features a 22mm calf-skin strap. According to LG, the G Watch R is the first wearable to feature a plastic OLED display, which measures 1.3 inches across the diagonal with 320 x 320 pixels. It is highly visible, even in direct sunlight. The G Watch R is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of built-in storage. It boasts an IP67 rating against water/dust intrusion, and can withstand up to 30 minutes in one meter of water. The device features a heart rate monitor, 9-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, and barometer. It has a 410mAh battery, but LG didn't offer information on expected battery life. The G Watch R can run all apps compatible with Android Wear, and includes a number of LG-designed fitness apps. The LG G Watch R will go on sale in select markets early in the fourth quarter. Pricing and exact availability will be announced on a market-by-market basis.

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T-Mobile Dials Music Freedom Up to 13

Aug 27, 2014, 8:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 27, 2014, 8:10 AM

T-Mobile today expanded the availability of its Music Freedom program to include six new music services. Music Freedom already allows T-Mobile customers to stream music from iHeartRadio, iTunesRadio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Samsung Milk, Slacker, and Spotify for free. The music streamed across T-Mobile's LTE network doesn't count against customers' data buckets. Beginning today, customers will be able to stream music from AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, Radio Paradise, Rdio, and Songza, too. Further, T-Mobile said Google's Play Music service, chosen by T-Mobile customers through a poll, will be available later this year. T-Mobile claims its customers have streamed 7,000 terabytes of music across its network since Music Freedom began in June.


California Signs Smartphone Kill Switch Into Law

Aug 26, 2014, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that will mandate all smartphones to come with a kill switch by July 2015. The law's goal is to curb smartphone thefts. Lawmakers believe that allowing smartphones owners to render their device unusable after it is stolen will reduce the appeal to thieves, who won't be able to use or sell them. Minnesota enacted a similar law earlier this year, and the CTIA Wireless Association said all carriers will support kill switches by July 2015, too. Apple already added a kill switch functionality to iOS, and Google and Microsoft are working on similar tools for Android and Windows Phone.


Google Debuts New Slides, Sheets, Docs Apps for iOS

Aug 25, 2014, 1:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today refreshed its productivity suite for iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad. To start, Google is making a stand-alone Slides app available for the first time. Slides allows iOS device owners to create and edit slide presentations on their device, including those originally made by Microsoft's PowerPoint app. The Docs and Sheets apps have been updated with performance enhancements. All three apps can be used to create documents, spreadsheets, or presentations even when offline. Google Slides, Docs, and Sheets, part of Google's Drive productivity suite, are all free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Huawei: No Tizen and No More Windows Phone for Us

Aug 25, 2014, 11:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei recently said it has no plans to release a Tizen-based smartphone, and also said it will no longer make smartphones using Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. "Some telecom carriers are pushing us to design Tizen phones but I say 'no' to them. In the past we had a team to do research on Tizen but I canceled it," said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, to The Wall Street Journal. "We feel Tizen has no chance to be successful. Even for Windows Phone it's difficult to be successful." Tizen is a Linux-based platform created by Samsung and Intel. Samsung, Tizen's primary backer, has delayed plans to realize a Tizen phone indefinitely as it builds up the app ecosystem. Huawei remains a member of the Tizen Association, but its new stance on the platform further clouds Tizen's potential. As for Windows Phone, Huawei complained of losing money on the platform for two years. "We have tried using the Windows Phone OS. But it has been difficult to persuade consumers to buy a Windows phone," said Yu. "It wasn't profitable for us. So for now we've decided to put any releases of new Windows phones on hold. We have worries about Android being the only option, but we have no choice. And we have a good collaboration with Google." Google's Android platform holds about 85% of the global smartphone market, with Apple's iOS holding 11% and Windows Phone holding 2.5%. BlackBerry's share of the market is less than 1%.


Google Grabs Gecko Design for Project X

Aug 22, 2014, 3:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today confirmed it has acquired Gecko Design, a mechanical engineering and design firm. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Jacques Gagne, president of Gecko Design, said he and Gecko's four employees will join Project X within Google. Project X is the internal unit responsible for Google's hardware projects, such as Google Glass, Project Ara, and Loon, its high-altitude balloons. Gecko Design previously worked on the One Laptop Per Child device, as well as gear for Fitbit.


Google Search Speaks More than One Language at a Time

Aug 22, 2014, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has improved the multilingual capabilities of its voice search feature. The latest version of Google Search allows users to speak up to five different languages without requiring that they change the settings each time. User need only tell Google Search the five languages they expect to use once, and voice search will be able to recognize them automatically when spoken. Android device owners can perform voice searches with more than 50 languages at present, and Google expects to add more over time. According to Google, users need to stick to one language per sentence in order for voice search to recognize and translate the language. Google Search for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Yahoo Adds More Magazines to Mobile App for Android

Aug 21, 2014, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today made more content available to the Yahoo app for Android in the shape of digital magazines. The app now includes Yahoo Food, Tech, Travel, Movies, Beauty, and Health. The digital magazines use a visual storytelling style that Yahoo believes is more immersive. The app lets Android device owners access a wide range of content across Yahoo's properties. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Offers Photo Sphere App to iPhone

Aug 19, 2014, 12:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today published a version of its Photo Sphere app for iOS. The app allows iPhone owners to stand in one spot and capture a 360-degree view of whatever is around them. Photo Spheres can be published to Google Maps or shared with various social networks. Before today, Photo Sphere was only available to Android smartphones (similar apps are already available to iPhones from other companies). Photo Sphere is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


HTC One Trades Android for Windows Phone

Aug 19, 2014, 9:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 19, 2014, 9:32 AM

HTC today announced the One for Windows Phone, a variant of the One (M8) that swaps Google's mobile platform for Microsoft's. The One for Windows Phone runs the latest operating system from Microsoft and carries over a few HTC apps, such as Blinkfeed, the HTC duo-camera, SenseTV, Video Highlights, and BoomSound. The One for Windows Phone adopts some of the M8's motion gestures, such as double-tap to wake, but also loses a few. Apart from the operating system, the hardware is identical to the One (M8) with Android. It has the same 5-inch 1080p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, Ultra-pixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera, and premium aluminum design. The HTC One for Windows Phone is exclusive to Verizon Wireless. It is available online from VerizonWireless.com beginning today and reaches Verizon stores August 20 for $99 with a new contract or $30 with Verizon Edge.

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Sprint Formally Debuts Sharp Aquos Crystal

Aug 19, 2014, 9:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 19, 2014, 1:41 PM

Sprint today announced the Sharp Aquos Crystal, a mid-range handset that it will sell later this year. The Sharp Aquos features a nearly bezel-less design, with narrow edges running along the top and sides of the phone. The screen measures 5 inches and offers 720p HD resolution. The device offers a handful of software features developed by Sharp, including Clip Now, which takes screen shots with a swipe and makes them easily sharable via link. Speaktoit Assistant is a natural language assistant that can perform a number of tasks, such as answer questions, open apps, place calls, and send texts. The device comes with Harman Kardon Clari-Fi and LiveStage audio technologies for improved music reproduction, and Direct Wave Receiver technology, which uses the display panel to create sound for phone calls. The device runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and includes the usual suite of Google services, in addition to OfficeSuite for editing Microsoft documents. Other hardware features include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The Aquos supports microSD cards up to 128GB. The camera captures 8-megapixel still images and 1080p HD video. It also has a 1.2-megapixel camera for selfies. The Aquos will cost $240 at full retail, or $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $10 with Sprint. Sprint subsidiaries Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will also sell the device at the price of $150. Virgin and Boost do not require contracts.


Vringo Loses Patent Appeal

Aug 15, 2014, 12:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A U.S. court today handed Vringo a defeat in its patent claims against Google and other companies. Earlier, Vringo won a guilty verdict against Google over how search results are filtered. Google appealed and today's decision effectively overturns the earlier verdict. The court declared both Vringo's patents invalid and tossed the case. Vringo said it is evaluating its options. There's no word from Google yet about its exoneration. Vringo purchased the rights to a wide swath of mobile technology patents from Nokia in 2012 and has sued several companies, including Google and ZTE, in order to protect its intellectual property.


Samsung to Buy SmartThings

Aug 15, 2014, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung said it has agreed to purchase a startup called SmartThings. SmartThings, which is based in Washington, develops technology for the Internet of Things. It sells a home controller device for $99, but has also created an online service to help developers design and create their own internet-enabled and smartphone-controlled gadgets. The company claims 8,000 apps and 1,000 devices use its platform. SmartThings will move its operations to Palo Alto, Calif., where Samsung has a developer facility, but SmartThings' CEO Alex Hawkinson said the company will be run independently. The move is largely seen as a way for Samsung to counter steps made by Google and Apple to expand the functionality of their smartphones and tablets to control household items. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.


HTC to Offer Zoe, Other Apps to All Android Phones

Aug 13, 2014, 7:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC is prepared to make a version of its Zoe application available in the Google Play Store. The app is intended for all Android devices, which will be able to shoot their own Zoes and share the creative video-making process with others. HTC's Zoe is a camera feature specific to a select few of its smartphones, such as the HTC One (both M7 and M8). The new app will allow Samsung, LG, and other Android devices to shoot video clips and pair them with themes and pictures to create 30-second masterpieces. The critical element of the new app is the ability to share Zoes online and contribute to them. For example, HTC envisions multiple people using Zoe to capture an event, such as a wedding, and then adding their own clips to a longer community video that provides for a more compete representation of the event. Zoe will reach the Play Store later this week. HTC is not stopping at Zoe, according to Re/Code. HTC plans to make other apps available to all Android devices. The company has already broken out some of its proprietary apps, such as the gallery and calendar, so they may be updated more frequently outside of full OS upgrades. HTC has assembled a team of 260 people, collectively called HTC Creative Labs, to work on its apps both for HTC and non-HTC phones. HTC didn't say which apps might arrive next.


HTC One (M8) to Add MirrorLink Support for Cars

Aug 11, 2014, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC and the Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that a forthcoming software update will make the One (M8) MirrorLink compatible. MirrorLink is a connectivity tool for pairing smartphones and cars. It works across smartphone platforms and car manufacturers, and, according to the CCC, is the only vendor-neutral standard available. With MirrorLink aboard, the One (M8) will be able to connect to select in-car infotainment systems,m allowing drivers to more safely access their phone's content when behind the wheel. It's unclear how many cars currently support MirrorLink, but the CCC hopes with HTC's support more will choose to support it. Apple and Google both recently announced their own connectivity solutions for cars, which are expected to appear in iOS 8 and Android Release L, respectively. HTC said it will add MirrorLink support to mode devices down the road.


HTC One Owners Can Now Share Duo Cam Shots Via Gallery App

Aug 7, 2014, 7:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today updated its gallery application and made it easier for owners of the HTC One (M8) to share the unique photos captured by the Duo Camera. The M8 has two cameras, which allows it to add perspective information to photos after the fact. The updated app introduces the Duo Effects Gallery, which is a web viewer that can be used to share the interactive images created by UFocus, Foregrounder, and Dimension Plus. Previously, these photos were only viewable on the M8 itself. Now M8 users can send a link to these files to anyone. The updated gallery application is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Scoops Up Directr Video App, Adds It to YouTube

Aug 7, 2014, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently acquired a small video app called Directr. The app helps users shoot better videos by offering templates they can use to build different shots before piecing them all together into a single, polished video. Two versions of the app are available, one for personal use and another intended for businesses. The app is free, but users need to pay $0.99 to download finished videos. The business app cost several hundred dollars per year and could produce higher-quality videos worthy of testimonials and/or advertisements. Google said Directr’s employees will join YouTube's video advertisement team. Google will eventually make all versions of the app free to use. Google did not disclose terms of the deal.


Google Makes More Android APIs Available to Developers

Jul 30, 2014, 9:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently released a new tool for developers who are writing apps for the Android platform. Google made the Google Play Developer Publishing API available to all developers, which will allow them to upload APKs to beta testing, staged rollouts, and production, as well as add publishing operations to their app processes. According to Google, the API should make it easier for developers to manage their in-app offerings and localize their in-app store's text and graphics. Google believes the API will help free up time developers might otherwise have spent managing their app releases so they can focus on their core mission instead. The Google Play Developer Publishing API is available from Google's developer portal.


Virgin Mobile Debuts Custom Plans

Jul 30, 2014, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 30, 2014, 8:11 AM

Virgin Mobile USA today announced a new plan that gives customers more flexibility in managing their account. Virgin Mobile Custom is based on the ItsOn platform, which was used by Zact Mobile, a Sprint-based MVNO. ItsOn is what gives customers the power to change the features of their plans any time they want or need to. Virgin Mobile Custom allows families to activate up to five lines on a single account starting at $6.98 per line. The Base plan includes 20 texts and 20 voice minutes per month. Customers can choose to add unlimited texting for $10 or unlimited voice for $18. The Unlimited talk and text plan costs $35 per month. Customers can also choose select add-ons, such as unlimited access to Facebook or music streaming, which can be added on a recurring or non-recurring basis. These plans can be adjusted at any time during the month, even daily, directly from the customer's device. Customers can add or subtract the amount of voice, text or data they use with real-time price adjustments so customers know exactly what they'll be spending. Virgin Mobile Custom will be available on three devices at launch, including the ZTE Emblem, the LG Pulse, and the LG Unify

  • ZTE Emblem: The ZTE Emblem is similar to the Savvy, which is being sold by TracFone. It has a 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz processor, and it runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. It costs $80
  • LG Pulse: The LG Pulse is a U.S. variant of the L70, which was announced earlier this year. It has a 4.5-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz processor, LG's QSlide and QuickMemo apps, and it runs Android 4.4 KitKat. It costs $100.
  • LG Unify: The LG Unify is a variant of the Optimus F3, which is already being sold by Virgin Mobile. It has a 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and LG's VuTalk and Q-Translator apps. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and costs $130.
The account holder can download the free Custom Control App from the Apple App store or Google Play Store to manage the devices and features of their various lines. Virgin Mobile Custom plans will be available beginning September 1.


Google Expands Voice Calling to Hangouts

Jul 25, 2014, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently made it possible to connect Google Voice phone calls through Hangouts on the web. When using Google Voice in a desktop browser, the phone tool now lists Hangouts as an option when making calls. Googler Alex Wiesen explained that it works even if the user isn't using Hangouts in Gmail, and it doesn't require a Google+ account. The change does not apply to either the Android or iOS mobile apps. Google Voice has been neglected of late and its future as a Google service is in question. This recent change marks another transitional step for the service, and expands the functionality of Google Hangouts.


Gmail for iOS Adds Drive File Sharing

Jul 24, 2014, 1:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out an update for its Gmail app for iOS devices. The update carries over a feature given to the Android app earlier this month: the ability to share files from Google Drive. iPhone and iPad owners can now insert documents from their Drive account into emails as they compose them on their device. The app makes it easy to save email attachments from Gmail to Drive, too. Gmail for iOS allows users to change their Gmail account picture, and those with multiple Gmail accounts can choose which signed-in accounts they want visible in the app. Gmail is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Chrome Beta for Android Adds Material Design

Jul 24, 2014, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today delivered a new beta version of its Chrome browser to the Android platform. The chief new feature of the updated app is broader support for Google account sign-in. According to Google, users who sign into the Chrome browser on their Android device will automatically be signed into all their other Google services, as well. The sign-in feature supports multiple accounts, and can sync the settings and bookmarks of those accounts, too. Chrome beta for Android also adds in some elements of Material Design, the new design language Google is using to define Android Release L, which is due later this year.


HTC Posts Keyboard, Clock Apps in Play Store

Jul 24, 2014, 9:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC has recently pulled some of the core applications out of its Sense user interface and made them available separately through the Google Play Store. Both the Sense keyboard and Sense clock apps have appeared in the Play Store in recent days, which can now be updated independent from full OS upgrades. Google and Motorola have taken similar steps with some of their apps, such as their camera apps. HTC already offers a handful of other apps via the Play Store, including Gallery, Blinkfeed, Sense TV, and Dot View.


Google Adding Explore Function to Maps App

Jul 24, 2014, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes Android and iOS Maps users will take advantage of a new tool for exploring their surroundings. Google is adding a new button to Maps called Explore, which will tell people what's nearby. According to Google, the tool can be set to show what's as close as a 5-minute walk and what's as far as a 20-minute drive and everything in between. The Explore function doesn't just provide a list of nearby places, it is also contextually aware. For example, it will consider information such as the time of day and the weather so it doesn't send users to shops that are closed or to parks during a thunderstorm. The updated Maps app is being pushed out this week. It is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Motorola Debuts Digital Tattoo for Unlocking Moto X

Jul 22, 2014, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 22, 2014, 3:11 PM

Motorola today announced the availability of a digital tattoo that can be used to unlock the Moto X. The tattoo is actually an adhesive based on VivaLnk’s eSkin technology. It is about the size of a nickel and adheres to the skin for about five days. Users need only tap the Moto X against the digital tattoo, which has a shimmery, metallic design, to unlock their device. According to Motorola, the tattoo is waterproof and can be used during activities such as swimming and jogging. The digital tattoo was created by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group in cooperation with VivaLnk. VivaLnk sells the tattoos in packs of 10 for $10. It was first announced last month.


Amazon Makes Mobile Wallet App Available

Jul 22, 2014, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon recently released a mobile wallet application for Android-based smartphones. The app, which Amazon has labeled a beta, lets people store gift cards, loyalty cards, and membership cards, which can be scanned or typed directly into the app. Amazon touts the app as a way to reduce clutter in wallets and purses. The wallet can reveal bar codes for scanning at a number of different merchants to make gift card-based payments. The wallet app does not connect to a bank account or credit card, however, and cannot be used to make tap-and-go payments via NFC. The app is free to download from the Amazon Appstore and the Google Play Store. Amazon did not immediately say if a similar app will be available to its own Fire Phone.


Google Wallet Now Stores Gift Cards

Jul 18, 2014, 8:47 AM   by Rich Brome

Google this week released a new version of Google Wallet that can capture, store, and manage gift card info. Users can add gift cards via the camera or keyboard, then show a barcode on the screen to redeem the card. Select retailers - including AMC, Best Buy, Nike, Sephora, Toys-R-Us, TGI Friday’s, and Whole Foods - have linked their systems with Google Wallet to allow the app to display remaining balances on the virtual gift cards. The app can also alert the user when they are near one of those locations. The new version of the app also adds Spanish language support and a feature to request money from friends via Gmail.


Voice Assistant Coming in BlackBerry OS 10.3

Jul 16, 2014, 11:46 AM   by Rich Brome

BlackBerry today revealed that the upcoming BlackBerry OS 10.3 will include a voice-activated virtual assistant, much like Siri and Google Now. BlackBerry assistant, as the app is called, will be able to interact with email, calendar, messaging, timers, and the web. In addition to voice, it also accepts input via the keyboard. Tasks it enables by voice include sending meeting invitations, searching email, setting reminders, searching the web, launching apps, changing ringer profiles, and sending messages. The Assistant learns, improving over time.


Google Maps for iOS Gains Local Guide

Jul 11, 2014, 1:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 11, 2014, 1:39 PM

Google updated Maps for iOS devices today and added a number of new features. To start, search results now appear with descriptions directly on the map, and search results can be easily switched between list and map views. The details of search results are presented on cards similar to those used by Google Now on Android devices. The locations of reservations and appointments culled from Gmail are visible and labeled on maps, and the new explore tool provides users with recommendations based on location and time of day. Google Maps is free to download for the iPhone and iPad.


Samsung Rebrands Its App Store to 'Galaxy Apps'

Jul 11, 2014, 6:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 11, 2014, 7:13 AM

Samsung announced a change to its application storefront for smartphones and tablets that it hopes will set its offerings apart from Google's as well as reduce consumer confusion. What was previously called Samsung Apps will now be called Galaxy Apps. Samsung said the Galaxy Apps store will offer hundreds of applications exclusive to Samsung's smartphones. Further, the store will include sections and apps exclusive to specific Galaxy-branded devices. One section will include apps made specifically with Samsung's SDKs. Samsung has already redesigned its online app portal to reflect the new branding. It plans to roll out the redesigned Galaxy Apps store to its smartphones and tablets over the coming weeks.


Google Pushing Play Games 2.0 and Associated Dev Tools

Jul 10, 2014, 1:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Play Games 2.0 available to Android handsets via the Google Play Store. The updated gaming center provides an entirely new profile interface and has otherwise been redesigned. The app offers users far more personalization tools, as well as the ability to interact with gamers using iOS devices. In addition to the Play Games update, Google published a new set of SDKs and APIs for developers so they can take advantage of the changes to Play Games 2.0. Google improved the Google Play Games C++ SDK with more cross-platform support, while the Play Games iOS SDK was updated with support for Quests and Saved Games. Play Games 2.0 will eventually reach most Android devices. Developers can access the new SDKs from the Android developer portal.


Google Camera Adds Android Wear Shutter Button

Jul 10, 2014, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google pushed out a small update to its Android camera application this week that makes it compatible with Android Wear devices. Specifically, owners of the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live will be able to remotely trigger their smartphone's camera from their smartwatch. The functionality includes a countdown timer, but not a viewfinder. Google Camera is free to download from the Play Store.


Gmail for Android Makes Sharing Drive Files a Breeze

Jul 9, 2014, 2:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today revealed a new feature headed to the Gmail app for Android devices. The latest version of Gmail will allow Google Drive users to insert files stored in Drive directly into Gmail messages. The app will prompt users to change their Drive settings when sharing files, and will also offer autocomplete suggestions for contacts when composing messages. Google said the Gmail app will be updated with the new feature over the next few days. Sharing Drive files will work on both Android smartphones and Android tablets.


Google Brings Screen Mirroring to Chromecast

Jul 9, 2014, 11:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Chromecast HDTV plugin device can now mirror the screens of nearby Android smartphones and tablets. With screen mirroring, anything that appears on the phone or tablet's screen will appear on the TV. The feature can be used to share photos or view/interact with apps on the big screen. According to Google, screen mirroring is available as a beta to Nexus devices and select phones from Samsung, HTC, and LG. Mirroring requires the Chromecast app version 1.7, which should reach the Play Store in the coming days. The Chromecast is a HDMI dongle that plugs directly into TV sets. Users can cast content, such as music and movies, from select apps to the Chromecast via Wi-Fi.


Sprint to Sell ZTE's Hotspot Projector

Jul 9, 2014, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 9, 2014, 9:06 AM

Sprint today announced it is bringing ZTE's smart projector to its network as the Sprint LivePro. ZTE announced the LivePro at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, which combines a digital projector and LTE mobile hotspot into one device. The LivePro runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and has its own 4-inch display. It is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM and runs the complete suite of Google services, such as Gmail, Maps, Drive, and YouTube. The projector can access Sprint's 3G/4G networks, including Sprint Spark, and can serve as a Wi-Fi mobile hotspot for up to eight other devices. The projector has USB and HDMI ports, and supports Miracast for mirroring the screens of nearby smartphones or tablets. The LivePro can display content up to 1080p HD at distances between 10 inches and 10 feet, for a maximum screen size of 120 inches. The bulb is rated at 100 lumens and provides 20,000 hours of of life. The LivePro has a 5,000mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices if need be. The Sprint LivePro will be available via most Sprint sales channels beginning July 11 for about $450, or $18.75 per month for 24 months with Sprint Easy Pay. Data plans start at $$35 per month for 3GB of combined 3G/4G data while on the Sprint network.


Gmail Adds 13 Languages to Browser App

Jul 7, 2014, 12:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today added support for 13 more languages to the mobile browser-based version of Gmail for feature phones. Gmail users can now read their email in Afrikaans, Azerbaijani, Chinese, French, Zulu, and others. Gmail is free online.


Google Says Play Services 5.0 Rollout Complete

Jul 2, 2014, 2:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 2, 2014, 2:45 PM

Google today said the majority of Android smartphones and tablets have been upgraded to Play Services 5.0. The newest version of Play Services, which Google first revealed during its I/O developer event in June, is a major leap forward for developers. Play Services 5.0 supports new SDKs and APIs that will allow developers to be even more creative with their applications. For example, it introduces APIs for Android Wear, Google's wearables platform, as well as an updated Google Drive API, which lets developers bake more features of Google Drive directly into their own apps. Some of the other tools include a dynamic security provider API, which can enable rapid security patches; Quests and Saved Games APIs for Google Play Games, which can be used to save gameplay for later sharing; App Index API for deep linking within applications; Google Cast for improved accessibility services within Chromecast; and updated Google Wallet tools that will make it easier for consumers and developers to make use of loyalty programs, as well as split purchases between the Wallet Balance and an associated credit/debit card. Developers can access these tools via the Android Developer portal. Consumers don't need to do anything to update their device to Play Services 5.0. The update is applied automatically.


Microsoft Joins Qualcomm-Backed AllSeen Alliance

Jul 2, 2014, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has joined the AllSeen Alliance, an effort backed by Qualcomm to provide a standard for connecting the Internet of Things. The alliance already has 50 companies on board, including LG, Panasonic, and Sharp. The group's goal is to make it easy for devices to interact with one another by devising a single standard through which they can communicate. Qualcomm's rivals, however, are prepared to form their own group, according to unnamed sources cited by Reuters. The competing consortium may launch as soon as next week, and will seek to create its own standard for connecting the Internet of Things. Apple has already announced HomeKit, its own protocol for connecting smartphones and tablets to devices around the home. Further, Google recently released an SDK for its Nest thermostat, which will eventually allow smartphones, tablets, and other apps to interact with Nest. Multiple standards may make it more difficult for consumers to find devices that work with one another. Reuters didn't say which companies are going to support the competitor to AllSeen.


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