Boost Mobile today announced the Alcatel OneTouch Conquest and Elevate, two low-cost Android handsets. Shared features between the two handsets include support for LTE, 5-megapixel rear cameras, 2-megapixel front cameras, and the Google Now launcher.
- Conquest: The Conquest (pictured) features an IP67 rating for protection against water and dust. The larger of these two smartphones boasts a 5-inch 720p HD screen with Dragontrail Glass and 1.2GHz quad-core processor. The Conquest runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and costs $129.99.
- Elevate: The Elevate has a 4.5-inch FWVGA display and quad-core 1.1GHz processor. It relies on a 2,000mAh battery to get it through the day. The Elevate runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and costs $99.99.
Google today added 20 new languages to its Google Translate application for Android and iOS devices. The app now lets people instantly translate text between Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian. Google Translate initially launched with support for English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and it now speaks a total of 27 languages. With Google Translate, users can point their phone's camera at text in any of these languages and instantly see the translation to the language of their choice. Google also took steps to improve the performance of Google Translate's voice conversation mode. The company is using convolutional neural networks to help translate languages faster when the network connection is poor or even non-existant. This means real-time translations between two spoken languages is faster and smoother. Google said the updated Google Translate apps for Android and iOS are available in the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively, beginning today.
Google updated its search application with the ability to show when businesses are at their busiest. Google Search results will display a graph that depicts the location's average foot traffic throughout the day. Google suggests the feature might be helpful in avoiding long lines for that afternoon latte. The feature is part of the latest version of Google Search for Android, which is free to download from the Play Store.
Google today extended the voice capabilities of its Google Search app by allowing it to interact with third-party messaging apps. People can now issue commands such as "Ok Google, send a WhatsApp message" to initiate and dictate messages in a handful of popular messaging apps. In addition to WhatsApp, Google Search's voice assistant can interact with Viber, WeChat, Telegram, and NextPlus. Google said Android owners will need the latest version of the Google app and the messaging app in question in order for the voice commands to function properly. The feature is available to English speakers, but Google said it plans to add support for more languages and apps in the near future.
HTC has made a system update available to the T-Mobile variant of the One M9, and the phone earns some significant improvements with the new code. To start, it gains the camera enhancents given to the international edition earlier this year, as well as the kill switch required by California law. It also adds battery improvements and new support for Google Wallet. The update is being pushed out over the air.
Google today said some changes are on the way for its Google+ social network. To start, people will no longer be required to create Google+ accounts to access all of Google. People will be able to maintain separate Google+ and Google profiles, though some information will be shared between them. YouTube will be the first product that separates Google+ profiles from Google accounts. Google also said it wants to make finding content in Google+ easier, and new features, such as Google+ Collections, allow people to do that. Collections let users organize posts by topic. Similarly, Google believes removing Google+ Photos from Google+ helps to streamline the core Google+ offering. Moreover, functions such as location sharing will be moved to Google Hangouts. "We think changes like these will lead to a more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+," said Google. "As always, your underlying Google Account won't be searchable or followable, unlike public Google+ profiles. And for people who already created Google+ profiles but don't plan to use Google+ itself, we'll offer better options for managing and removing those public profiles." Google said the changes will roll out slowly over the next few months.
Microsoft recently released a launcher for Android smartphones that delivers a different take on the home screen. The launcher, which replaces the standard Android home screen, uses three panels to display various information. The left-most panel focuses on people, including recent contacts complete with addresses and numbers. The central home panel is where users can put their apps. It also includes a section for recently-used apps so people can jump back into those apps quickly. The last screen is for notes and reminders and can display calendar items as well as personal reminders. Microsoft's Arrow Launcher is available in a closed beta, which means people need to join the Google+ community in order to access the launcher. However, the APK is available directly from Microsoft, as well, for those who want to bypass the community aspect. Arrow Launcher is free to use. Microsoft has created a wide range of apps for Google's Android platform. Arrow is the latest.
Honda has committed to supporting Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay platforms in the forthcoming 2016 Honda Accord sedan. With the two platforms on board, owners of Android and iOS handsets will be able to connect their devices to the Accord's in-dash unit for safer interactions with their apps. A number of other carmakers have committed to supporting the smartphone platforms, including GM's Buick,Cadillac, and Chevy brands, and Volkswagen.
Google released a revised version of YouTube and the updated app focuses on improving usability. The user interface now focuses around three tabs: Home, Subscriptions, and Account. The first lets people explore and discover videos with recommendations based on viewing history, the second features all the videos from favorited channels, and the third helps people manage their own content and history within the app. In addition to the tabs, YouTube has new editing features, such trimming clips, adding tints and music, and uploading straight from the camera. The new YouTube app is available for Android devices and the web, and will reach iOS devices soon.
Google today said it has updated the voicemail transcription feature of Google Voice to improve accuracy. Google employed technology called a long short-term memory deep recurrent neural network to reduce transcript errors by 49%. Google was able to make the improvements by studying the incorrect voicemail transcriptions shared by select Google Voice users. Google said all Google Voice and Project Fi users should automatically see improved accuracy in transcriptions moving forward. No action need be taken on the part of users.
Google today offered its Spotlight Stories app to the iPhone and iPad. Google Spotlight Stories began life on the Motorola Moto X as a 360-degree animated story. The app includes 2D/3D animations that take advantage of the iPhone's sensors to allow users to interact with them. At the moment, the stories are view-only; people can't create their own. Google Spotlight Stories only contains a few stories at the moment, but the selection is expected to grow over time. It is free to download from the iTunes App Store. The app has been available to Android devices since May.
Google recently updated its Android YouTube app with the ability to show vertical videos in full screen mode. Such content now fills the entire screen, rather than run with black bars on either side. YouTube is free to download from the Play Store.
Google is rolling out a new feature to Android and desktop users of Google Maps that allows people to see all the places they've visited. The feature, called Timeline, makes it possible to revisit locations within Maps to recall where you've been. Google will also serve up any images stored in Google Photos tagged at the locations people visit as they travel through their past. Timeline is only visible to the account holder and can be deleted at any time. Users can wipe out their location history for a single day or an entire year if they wish. The improvement to Maps also lets people add more personal designations to points on the map, such as "Mom and Dad's House" rather than the specific street address. Timeline is being rolled out to Android users gradually. Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today said it has acquired Pixate, a service that lets developers create mobile app user interface prototypes for Android and iOS devices. Pixate was formed in Palo Alto in 2012 with the goal of helping developers more easily design apps. Pixate's team will be managed by Matias Duarte, head of design at Google. Pixate said its main product, Pixate Studio, is now free for developers to download. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Google has announced plans to shutter the Google+ Photos app and online service on August 1. Google+ Photos was a part of Google+, the search company's social network. Google+ Photos is being replaced by Google Photos, which Google launched earlier this year. Google said all Google+ Photos users' images and videos will be preserved, even if users don't port them to the new Google Photos service. Google Photos includes more features than Google+ Photos did, and offers unlimited storage for image libraries. People who've already updated to the newer Google Photos app and service don't need to take any action. Google Photos is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store for Android and iOS devices, respectively.
Microsoft recently updated its Hyperlapse time-lapse application for Windows Phone and Android devices. The Windows Phone version of Hyperlapse is now compatible with all Lumia handsets. It had previously not worked with older devices running the Qualcomm S4 processor (Lumia 520, 620, 720, 920, 925, and 1020). Microsoft also updated the Android version of Hyperlapse. At launch in May, Hyperlapse for Android was released as a limited, closed beta. It is now available to all Android users for free. Hyperlapse can be used to stabilize shaky footage or to create fast-moving time-lapse videos. The app supports multiple playback speeds (between 1x and 32x) and can import existing video files from the phone's camera roll. Hyperlapse app is available from the Windows Store and the Google Play Store.
Google has updated its Inbox app for Android devices and improved how the snoozing function works. Now, when users choose to snooze a message, they'll be given the option to let the message return at exactly the right time if it contains dated information. For example, the message will reappear if Google sees that the message contains concert tickets or hotel reservations. Inbox can now scan for and manage package tracking updates, restaurant and event reservations, calendar invites, flight confirmations, hotel reservations, and rental car reservations. A one-tap option will snooze such emails until just before the event takes place. Inbox, an alternative to Gmail, is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Microsoft today released updates to its OneNote application for the Android and iOS platforms. The Android version of OneNote gains the ability to move or copy pages from one section or notebook to another section or notebook. Microsoft said it will add the ability to view OneNote documents on Android Wear-based devices in the near future. The iOS version of OneNote has been merged from separate iPhone and iPad apps into a single app for both devices. New features include a widget for the today screen, the ability to quickly find recent notes, and page previews. OneNote for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Google has begun testing a way to let people make purchases directly from search results. The feature, called Purchases on Google, will tap into users' saved purchasing credentials to pay for goods and services found on the web. Moreover, Google will sift through search results based on moderators, such as "best" and others to make product recommendations. Because the service supports deep linking, users who select a search result will be taken directly to the product purchasing web page. In addition to online merchants, Google will support local stores via the phone's GPS data. Purchases on Google will be tied into Android Pay when the service launches later this year. Google did not say how broadly Purchases on Google is being tested, nor who will be able to use it.
H5OS is a new mobile operating system that intends to challenge Google's Android. H5OS was developed by Acadine Technologies, a Hong Kong-based startup founded by former Mozilla President Li Gong. The operating system is based on HTML5, a standardized web programming language that can support light-weight apps. Acadine Technologies was formed in May and has raised $100 million in seed funding from Chinese supporters. Acadine's Gong doesn't expect H5OS to reach the market until 2016, but he believes it can supplant Android in certain device segments. "Our web-based mobile software is lighter and consumes less power and memory compared to Google's Android," said Gong in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "It requires lower hardware specifications to deliver the same user experience so it can bring down the smartphone cost. Another advantage is that H5OS is a truly open mobile ecosystem without default services like Google Maps and Google Search. We can work with any content and service providers, offering more customization options to device makers." Android is the global leader in mobile operating systems and Apple's iOS is a distant second. Windows Phone and BlackBerry hardly register, and other competitors, such as Jolla's Sailfish OS and Canonical's Ubuntu, have struggled to gain any significant traction. Gong believes H5OS can succeed in the ultra-low-cost smartphone and feature phone segments.
ZTE today announced Passport 1.0, a warranty program for its handsets. Under the terms of Passport 1.0, new devices will enjoy a 2-year warranty for parts and workmanship, 30-day buyer's remorse returns, compatibility with U.S. carriers, and the latest system updates from Google. Passport 1.0 will first be available with the Axon, which goes on sale later this month. ZTE hopes Passport 1.0 will give U.S. consumers more confidence in the brand and coax them into purchasing ZTE's handsets.
Google today revealed Eddystone, a new, open language for Bluetooth beacon technology. Google hopes Eddystone will be used by app developers, hardware makers, and service providers to unify how beacons are used. Beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy to locate devices like smartphones as they move within range. For example, Apple uses them in its retail stores to send location-based information (promotions, etc.) to the iPhones of shoppers who wander in. Google claims Eddystone is robust and scalable and perfect for the Android ecosystem and beyond. Eddystone ties in with Google's Nearby and Places APIs, which means app developers have plenty of tools to enrich their apps with location-based data and features. Eddystone is available on GitHub under the open-source Apache v2.0 license, for everyone to use and help improve.
Google Photos will continue to upload images to Google's online storage service even if smartphone owners delete the app from their Android device. The issue stems from the automatic backup feature, which is controlled in the system settings as well as the app's settings. If the app is removed, but the system settings are left to upload images in the background, the phone will continue to do so. Users who wish their device to cease backing up their photos need to make sure the service is shut off in the Google Settings menu after the app is removed. Google said it is working on an easier resolution to the issue.
Google has recently delivered updates to a handful of its Android and iOS mobile apps. For example, Google Search and Google Drive for Android gained bug fixes and performance improvements; Gmail earned better support for Yahoo and Microsoft email services, including two-step authentication; Sheets and Slides garnered new ways to change layouts; and Maps now lets people send places they search for on Google Maps desktop to their mobile phone. On iOS, Google Drive was updated with bug fixes; Hangouts was given a new user interface for attachments and the ability to support multiple photos; Google Music added the recently-announced free radio features and the ability to create mood-based stations; and Play Movies & TV earned better thumbnails, with images that appear above the timeline to make seeking titles easier. All the apps are free to download from either the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.
Google today detailed some behind-the-scenes updates it is making to Gmail that should reduce the amount of spam people see in their inbox. Google said the spam filter now uses an artificial neural network to detect and block spam that could be well-disguised as wanted mail. Machine learning should make it easier to manage emailed newsletters automatically. The spam filter is better at spotting email impersonation, which is often used in phishing scams. Last, Google made available several tools to help legitimate bulk email senders assure that their emails aren't caught by spam filters. Gmail users don't need to do anything to benefit from the improved spam filters.
Google today provided developers with a new version of the Android M preview. Google says the update has the latest platform code and near-final APIs for developers to use in testing their apps on Android M. Google said it refined the Nexus system images and improved the emulator. The system images include Play Services 7.6. Some of the improvements cover WiFi and Bluetooth location performance, USB connection behaviors, and contacts/identity permissions. The new version of Android M is free for developers to download. The final build for consumers is not expected to arrive until the fall months.
Microsoft has rolled out updates to the Android and iOS Xbox Music apps that adds the ability to stream music stored in OneDrive. The free feature doesn't require a subscription, so people can upload songs to OneDrive and stream them to their Android or iOS device. The feature is already available to Windows Phone. Users will need to pay for an Xbox Music Pass to stream songs they don't own, but any music stored in OneDrive can be downloaded for offline playback. The update doesn't introduce the new Groove Music branding. Xbox Music is free to download from the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.
BlackBerry today made BES 12.2 available to its business customers. The improved mobile device management platform adds a handful of features, especially those aimed at platforms other than BlackBerry. For example, BES 12.2 adds support for Samsung KNOX Workplace and Google's Android for Work, both of which are now integrated with BlackBerry Secure Connect Plus. BES 12.2 also adds support for the Apple Device Enrollment Program, which makes it easier for IT admins to add iPhones to BES. BlackBerry is focusing efforts on its software services businesses. The company recently reduced the number of employees designing smartphones.
Google added several new functions to its Maps for iOS application through a recent update. The upgraded version of Maps offers redesigned and improved transit directions meant to aid the experience in cities. It includes more route choices and more accurate real-time arrival information. The app now shares better, too, thanks to integration with Facebook and Facebook Messenger. Last, Maps for iOS adds an image gallery for a quick visual understanding of new places. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Sony today announced a new partnership with Twitch that will let select Xperia smartphones broadcast gameplay directly to Twitch. Twitch has allowed Android devices to view gameplay before, Sony's Xperia Z3+, Xperia Z4, and Xperia Z4v smartphones, and the Xperia Z4 Tablet can now push Android games to Twitch live. Twitch is an online community for gamers that lets people broadcast, record, and view gameplay from various platforms, such as Sony's PlayStation consoles. Amazon bought Twitch, which has 100 million monthly users, earlier this year. Google announced a similar product, called YouTube Gaming, in June. Google's game-broadcasting service has yet to go live. Twitch for Android is available from the Play Store.
Beginning today, most smartphones sold in the U.S. will include anti-theft security tools. July 1 marks the day by which phone makers and network operators agreed to implement free theft deterrents on smartphones. According to the CTIA, most of the industry has responded by placing remote lock/wipe capabilities on consumer devices. The addition of an activation lock on the Apple iPhone, for example, has dramatically reduced iPhone thefts in major cities. The activation lock prevents a stolen device from being activated by another person, thus making it useless to thieves. Remote wipe features allow people to erase the personal data from their handset if lost/stolen to protect their identity. The major participants in today's action include Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and ZTE. "Today's fulfillment of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is another example of the wireless industry proactively working together with policymakers and law enforcement to help protect consumers' smartphones in the event they are ever lost or stolen. We will continue to work with all interested parties to continue to deploy new technologies and tools to improve device theft-deterrence tools. We remind consumers to take a few minutes to use PINs, passwords, apps and other device features to protect their mobile devices and personal information." The industry was coerced into acting "voluntarily" when the FCC threatened to make such protective measures mandatory.
Yahoo updated its Aviate Android launcher with a new feature called Smart Stream. As described by Yahoo, Smart Stream "assembles relevant information" and adjusts it throughout the day based on where the user is and what they're doing. The information is presented clearly on cards in a way that makes it easy to find nearby restaurants and other points of interest, as well as glance at sports scores and add a soundtrack to your day. Yahoo says Smart Stream becomes smarter and more personal as people use it. Users can fine-tune Smart Stream to surface specific cards through the Focus menu, which lets people set preferences. Smart Stream mimics the behavior of Google's Google Now feature. Aviate is free to download from the Play Store. It is compatible with devices running Android 4.1 and up.
Google has updated the Android and iOS YouTube apps with support for 60 frame-per-second video playback. The higher frame rate is already supported via desktop browsers. YouTube is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google has refreshed its Hangouts app for the iOS platform and given the messaging service a new look and feel. The app now makes use of Google's Material Design and gains a new quick compose button for starting conversations. The app improves how it handles emoji, the camera, and the photo gallery. Hangouts now lets people send more than one photo at a time. Google says it also took care of some bugs and made some performance improvements. Hangouts is free to download from iTunes.
Google has agreed to use data from the U.S. Federal Railroad Association (FRA) to add audio and visual alerts to drivers when they near railroad crossings. The idea is to make sure drivers are aware of railroad crossings when using Google Maps to navigate between points. The FRA also requested that Apple, Garmin, Tom Tom, and MapQuest make similar additions to their mapping and navigation services. In 2013, the most recent year with data, there were 2,096 car-train accidents at railroad crossings nationally that resulted in 288 deaths.
Microsoft recently updated its OneDrive app for Android devices. The revised app adds the ability to cast photos and videos from the app to a Chromecast-enabled TV. OneDrive is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Yahoo today said it has refreshed how it displays mobile search results in a way that will help people find what they're looking for quicker. Yahoo explains that rather than offer lists of links, the new search presents results — including images, videos, news, and other details — prominently in a way that's more useful. For example, Yahoo Search results for restaurants will offer directions, reviews, and the ability to make reservations directly from the results screen. Yahoo said the new Yahoo Search is available when using search.yahoo.com in mobile browsers. Yahoo suggests smartphone users set Yahoo (rather than Google or Bing) as their default search engine for the best results.
Microsoft today made Office Mobile fully available to everyone from the Google Play Store. The company released penultimate versions of the apps in May, but required interested users to join the Office for Android Community on Google+ in order to access them. Microsoft removed that requirement, which means anyone who wants Office can now download the suite of productivity apps. Office Mobile requires Android 4.4 and up, but is not compatible with Android M.
Google today released an update to its Calendar app for iOS devices. To start, the app has a new 7-day view that gives users a glance of their weekly schedule, and now lets people more easily customize their weekly view. The app now lets people insert files from Goole Drive, such as Docs, Sheets, PDFs, or photos, as well. Calendar will make sure all invitees have access to the same set of files. Last, the app gives users the ability to send interactive notifications to other event attendees. Google Calendar for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google today updated its Google Music product to include free, ad-supported radio stations. The streaming radio service is offered at no cost and has a number of pre-set stations and mixes. Google says many of its stations are hand-curated and developed by the team at Songza, which Google purchased last year. Customers who upgrade to the paid version will be able to save their playlists for offline playback, as well as save up to 50,000 songs in their own library. The paid version does not include ads and costs $10 per month. Google said its free radio service will reach the web today and Android and iOS devices through an app update in the coming days. Google's new music model mirrors that of other streaming services that provide ad-supported playback for free and premium features to paying customers.