Google today said it has worked with several partners to develop Android add-ons for its Docs and Sheets productivity apps. The add-ons extend the functionality of Docs and Sheets, allowing people to accomplish more from their mobile phones. For example, an add-on from DocuSign lets people add a signature to a document and save that document to Google Drive. Another add-on from Scanbot makes it possible to scan documents with the camera and, using the add-on's built-in object character recognition, insert the content into Docs as editable text. Google says eight such add-ons are available from various partners in the Google Play Store.
AT&T is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. In addition to the security update, the phones gain access to AT&T's WiFi Calling service. The update for the S7 and S7 Edge can be downloaded and installed over the air.
Here has renamed and refreshed its core mobile mapping service for Android and iOS devices. Here Maps is now called Here WeGo. The company said it believed the original name was too generic. Along with the name change, the apps gain a significant revision. Here WeGo now prioritizes the search function for finding specific addresses or places. Users will be able to compare multiple different routes more easily, including car, public transit, cycling, and pedestrian options. Here WeGo also now displays options from car-sharing firm Car2Go, as well as regular taxi services with approximate fare rates and wait times. Last, Here WeGo improved bicycle route details with elevation profiles. Here WeGo is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Nextbit today shared two bits of news concerning its Robin smartphone. First, the company is now selling an ember color variant. The ember model is being sold directly from Nextbit.com. Nexbit says only a limited number are available. The ember models costs $299. Second, the company is updating the Robin's software to include video backups. The new video-saving feature works the same as with photos; the file is moved off the device and into the cloud, but a thumbnail of the video remains on the device so the file can be retrieved when wanted. The video backup function is available first to beta testers. Nexbit said the planned August software update for all users will include the latest security patches from Google. Nexbit didn't say when the video backup feature will go live for everyone.
Google today introduced the Google Play Family Library, which allows a single account holder to share purchases with up to six family members. Google says eligible app, game, movie, TV show, and book purchases from the Play Store can be shared across Android and iOS devices, as well as the web with no additional sign-up fee. Account holders will have control over what content is shared and what is not. Users can make their credit card available to other family members for purchases, too, and control/manage those purchases. The Google Play Family Library is free to use, but does not include access to Google Music. The fee for the Google Music family plan remains $15 per month. Google says the Family Library is going live in the U.S. and a handful of other countries beginning today.
Twitter today announced a new night mode tool for its Android app that should make viewing in the dark less stressful on the eyes. The refreshed app includes a slider tool in the settings menu that when activated changes the background from white to a deep blue. Twitter for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Twitter didn't immediately say if it will make this same feature available to iOS devices.
BlackBerry today announced the DTEK50 smartphone, a slab-style handset that runs Android and features BlackBerry's signature communications and security software. BlackBerry says the DTEK50 features FIPS-2 hardware encryption, rapid security patching, secure boot process, and a hardened Android OS core. It includes Android for Work and Google Play for Work, as well as support for BlackBerry's full enterprise mobility management suite. Other features include BBM, BlackBerry Hub, the BlackBerry intelligent keyboard, and a customizable action key. The hardware is a rebadged version of the Alcatel Idol 4, which was announced earlier this year. The DTEK50 has a 5.2-inch full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 617 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel camera main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, NFC, Cat 6 LTE, memory card slot, and Quick Charge 2.0. The phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The DTEK50 is available for preorder in the U.S. and other countries starting today for $299. BlackBerry said it will reveal shipping dates on a regional basis over the coming weeks.
People who use Opera Mini on Android devices now have the ability to download videos directly from the browser. Opera Software updated Mini with a tool for saving videos to a phone for offline playback. Opera says the downloader works on "some top video and social media web sites ... without their own built-in media players," such as Facebook, Instagram, and IMDb. Some regions and web sites may restrict video downloads. The download option appears once users tap the play button and allows people to choose where the video is stored (internal storage or memory card). The downloader doesn't require a separate app or web link. Opera Mini for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today said it is updating the Google Phone app on Nexus and Android One devices with a new spam-blocking tool. With the new app aboard, Nexus devices will warn owners about potential spam callers, as well as give them the ability to block or report suspected spam callers. Google says Nexus and Android One device owners will need to enable Caller ID in order to enjoy the new spam protection. The Google Phone app is free to Nexus and Android One devices and will be updated automatically by Google over the days ahead. Google's new app arrives just days after the FCC asked phone carriers to step up efforts to block robocalls.
Google today rolled out a fresh version of Maps for Android, iOS, and the web with a cleaner user interface. Google says it eliminated unnecessary UI elements, such a road outlines, while simplifying the typography for street names, points of interest, and more. Google Maps now treats areas of interest differently with orange shading. Users can readily spot and click on areas of interest to see things to do in that area. Last, the refreshed Google Maps relies on a new color scheme that Google says is easier to use to differentiate between man-made and natural map features. The new version of Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Deezer today made its music-streaming service available to anyone who wants it in the U.S. The service was previously limited to Cricket Wireless customers and those who owned Sonos home stereo equipment. Deezer's offering is similar to Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Music in that it provides access to millions of tracks, radio stations, and podcasts to mobile devices. Songs can be streamed or downloaded for offline playback. Deezer is available to Android, iOS, and Windows devices. The app itself is free to download, but the Premium+ experience requires a $10 monthly fee.
AT&T is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variant of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smartphone. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. The security update for the Note 5 can be downloaded and installed over the air.
Microsoft has updated its Groove Music application for Android and iOS devices for the first time since September 2015. Microsoft says the refreshed application offers a number of performance and feature improvements. For example, playback should be more reliable, albums and songs should download faster, and a wider variety of screen sizes and resolutions are supported. The app gains a tool for exploring new releases and popular songs from top artists, as well as new sorting options for viewing music collections. Last, the sign-in process is quicker when using a Microsoft account. Microsoft warns that app will need to rebuild users' libraries from scratch to improve sync. This may take a few moments when the app is first launched. Groove Music is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Google today made the fifth and final preview of Android 7 Nougat available to app 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 Nougat Developer Preview is available to the Nexus 6, 5X, 6P, 9, and Pixel C devices, as well as the Sony Xperia Z3. Google says the preview contains the latest bug fixes and optimizations across the system and in preinstalled apps. In addition to the operating system images for Nexus and other preview devices, the fifth developer preview contains an emulator for final app testing and the final Android 7 APIs. Google says it will release Android N later this summer.
Google updated its Hangouts app for Android devices this week with a handful of new features. First and foremost, the app now allows Android owners to record and share video messages — a feature that's been in the iOS version of Hangouts for two years. Second, the app does away with merged SMS and Hangouts conversations. Moving forward, SMS messages and Hangouts will appear in separate threads even when they come from the same contact. Google says merger convos often led to confusion and thus weren't widely used. Third, Hangouts makes it possible to invite anyone to join a group chat by sharing a unique link. Via the group's options page, select the "enable joining by link" function to make it work. Last, Hangouts are more discoverable via on-device search for the group name or participant name. Google Hangouts for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Verizon Wireless is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge smartphones. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. The patch plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. These security updates can be downloaded and installed over the air. Verizon patched its versions of the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 edge+ earlier this week.
Google today said the Unicode Technical Committee, the organization that oversees the development of emoji, has agreed to add some of the professional women emoji Google proposed earlier this year. Specifically, Unicode will add 11 (of the 13 suggested) professional female emoji in all skin colors. Google says together these will amount to more then 100 new emoji depicting women in a wider variety of roles at work. Unicode also agreed to add male and female versions to 33 existing emoji. Google says the new emoji will be included in future versions of Android and other platforms, such as iOS. In June, Unicode accepted 72 new emoji in the Unicode 9.0 standard. It's unclear how quickly Unicode will adopt these new emoji from Google.
Google has updated its Google Keyboard application for Android devices to version 5.1. The improved keyboard now allows users to move the cursor by sliding their finger across the space bar. Other new actions include the ability to delete entire words by sliding left from the delete key, and remove learned or dictionary words by long pressing suggestions. New settings options make it possible to add key borders or symbol hints. Phablet owners will be happy to learn the keyboard now has a one-handed mode for typing on large phones. Last, the keyboard adds gesture typing for a number of new languages, including Afrikaans, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Estonian, Galician, Georgian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Macedonian, Malay, Persian, Slovak, Swahili, Tagalog, Ukrainian, Uzbek, and Vietnamese. Google Keyboard 5.1 is free to download from the Google Play Store.
T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are sending out the July 1 Android security patch to their variants of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ smartphones. Google made the security patch available last week. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. These security updates can be downloaded and installed over the air.
AT&T is rolling out the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update to its variant of the BlackBerry Priv smartphone. The update includes core Marshmallow features, such as Doze and Now On Tap, as well as the June security update from Google. BlackBerry made its own security improvements, updated the keyboard and notifications, and refined battery life. The update is free download over the air.
Turing Robotic Industries started taking preorders for its secure Turing Phone back in July 2015 with plans to ship in August. The company later promised to ship by December 2015, but it didn't. In February, Turing made a fundamental change to the device when it swapped the Android-based operating system for Jolla's SailfishOS 2.0. Now, a year after it first took preorders, Turing is shipping the Turing Phone. The phone itself is made of a liquid metal alloy that Turing claims is tougher than titanium and steel. The phone has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon processor with 3 GB of RAM, 13-megapixel camera, and s support for some U.S. LTE bands. The phone comes in five different models, the Turing Cardinal, Pharaoh, Beowulf, Dark Wyvern, and DW Glaedr. More so than the hardware, the Turing Phone is about providing secure communications, including encrypted messaging, email, and calls. Though it runs SailfishOS, the device will have access to the Google Play Store and Google Apps. Pricing starts at $610 for the standard model.
Google today updated Hangouts and Photos for iOS devices, giving each a handful of fresh tools. Hangouts gains the ability to kick users out of group conversations, as well as attach videos up to 2 minutes in length. The app also introduces a fix for static GIFs and square image cropping in media attachments. Google Photos now has better support for burst photos and a new cropping tool. Google improved Photos' performance, too, with quicker app startup and reduced battery and cellular usage. Google Hangouts and Google Photos for iOS are free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google today made Android Wear 2.0 Preview 2 available to developers. This second preview of Google's revamped wearable platform tackles lots of bugs based on developer feedback since the first preview was released in May, but also adds some interesting new functions. Perhaps most importantly, the second preview gives developers access to wrist gestures. Though wrist gestures were first added to Android Wear last year, they have until now been reserved only for core apps and user interface elements run by Google. Moving forward, developers will be able to add wrist gestures to their own apps, which Google says can help improve one-handed use. The second preview also bumps the Android Platform API version number to 24 in order to match Android 7.0 Nougat, and makes enhancements to wearable drawers. For example, users will be able to peek into the contents of drawers as they navigate past. Google warns that Android Wear 2.0 Preview 2 is still a work in progress and is not intended for daily use. Google is expected to make Android Wear 2.0 available to Android smartwatches later this year.
Google today said Project Fi subscribers now have access to faster wireless speeds when traveling around the world. Google partnered with mobile network operator Three to increase the number of countries in which Fi is available to 135, as well as improve mobile data speeds by a factor of 10 to 20. Project Fi customers were perviously only able to roam at 2G speeds when abroad, but now have access to faster 3G/4G service. Google does not charge Fi subscribers any extra access fees when traveling; the data rates are the same at $10 per 1 GB whether at home or abroad. Google said new Project Fi customers can buy a Nexus 6P for $349 ($150 off) for the next week. Project Fi requires a Nexus smartphone. The service uses a mix of WiFi and cellular service from Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular to maintain a strong, fast connection.
Google today provided some information about its July security patch for Android devices. Notably, the patch will be separated into two moving forward. As per normal, the standard patch plugs a number of security holes that threaten all Android devices. Google found 22 vulnerabilities, of which it classified two as critical, or able to remotely execute code. Google is pushing a patch dated July 1 to cover these vulnerabilities. As always, it is pushing the patch directly to Nexus-branded devices and has already provided factory images for download. BlackBerry was among the first OEMs to commit to offering the patch to its own hardware. Google, however, detailed a second set of patches dated July 5 that cover hardware vulnerabilities on Nexus devices. For example, the July 5 patch fixes issues with Qualcomm, MediaTek, Nvidia, and other hardware drivers specific to Nexus phones, seven of which were classified as critical. Google said that, as far as it is aware, none of these holes have been exploited for nefarious purposes. Google has already given the patch to its OEM partners. It will be up to them to offer the patch to their own devices.
Verizon Wireless today announced major changes to its service plans and how customers manage them. The new Verizon Plan goes hand-in-hand with a completely new My Verizon app for mobile devices. For example, the app makes it easy for customers to see how much data they've used each month through a tool called The Feed, and add more data to their plan if needed. The app provides a simplified bill that's easier to see, understand, and pay each month. Verizon hopes the app's built-in support feature will serve as a stand-in for store visits or support calls for managing customer issues. (Customers can still visit or call whenever they wish.) In addition to the app, Verizon has adjusted its service plan pricing and data allotments. In general, the company added 30% more data to each monthly data bucket along with a modest price increase for each plan. The S plan costs $35 per month and includes 2 GB of LTE data, while the M costs $50 for 4 GB, the L costs $70 for 8 GB, the XL costs $90 for 16 GB, and the XXL plan costs $110 for 24 GB. Access charges and device payments are extra. Verizon's new plan includes carryover data that automatically rolls over each month. Unused data can be accessed for one month only. A new Safety Mode feature, available from the app, allows people to switch to unlimited 2G mode (128Kbps) if/when they reach their LTE limit. With Safety Mode enabled, users won't be charged overages for exceeding their LTE data cap. A tool called Data Boost lets people add data when needed at the cost of $15 per 1GB. The Verizon Plan also adds unlimited calling and texting to Canada and Mexico. The trick is that using many of these features costs extra on the S, M and L plans. For example, Safety Mode costs $5 to use each month when activated, as does unlimited calling to Canada/Mexico. Roaming in Canada/Mexico costs $2 per day. Carryover data does not cost anything to access. The XL and XXL plans don't charge extra fees for using these services. Customers can remain on their current Verizon Wireless plan if they so desire. The My Verizon app is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store. The new app and associated features will be available starting July 7.
Google today announced an update to its Now On Tap search tool that adds several compelling new functions. First, a long press of the home button will allow people to scan any QR code or barcode when using the camera. Once scanned, Google will return basic information about the product complete with links to more in-depth searches. Now On Tap can now translate languages on nearly any screen. Now On Tap can detect foreign languages in a wide variety of apps. Users can tap the translation card to translate the languages on the screen to the device's native language. At launch, the feature supports translations to English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. Last, Google added a Discover Mode tool that can be used to deliver a stream of visual content related to whatever is on the screen. Google says this is best used for browsing and exploring, rather than finding specific details. The new Now On Tap tools are available in the Google Search app for devices running Android 6 Marshmallow and up.
Skype recently updated its mobile and desktop apps to improve the file-sharing experience. To start, Skype users can now send files up to 300 MB to friends and family through the app. Further, recipients no longer need to be online to receive shared files; the files will be waiting for them next time they log in. (Microsoft suggests people who need to share files larger than 300 MB use OneDrive.) Last, Skype users can now retrieve shared files multiple times. For example, people can download a Word document to their smartphone for editing on the go, and then download it again from the desktop when they get back to the office. Previously, files could only be downloaded to a single device. Skype is free to mobile devices from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Commuters who ride select Long Island Railroad or Metro-North routes can use the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's new eTix app to purchase, activate, and use train tickets. The MTA says mobile ticketing is available to those who ride LIRR's Port Washington branch or Metro-North's Hudson Line, with support for all branches/lines due by the end of August. The app, available to Android and iOS smartphones, allows commuters to purchase single ride, round-trip, 10-trip, or weekly tickets. Commuters will need to activate individual tickets when boarding trains and make sure their phone is available for conductors to validate each ticket. The MTA says all tickets purchased through the eTix app will cost the same as those purchased via MTA ticketing machines, with no extra fees or charges. Refunds for tickets are available, but limited. eTix supports multiple tickets for families/groups, employer discounts, and receipts for business travel. Notably, eTix program tickets are not compatible with the NYC Transit (subway/bus) nor the NICE (bus) systems. The MTA's eTix app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google gave Google Maps users the ability to plan multi-stop trips. The latest version of Google Maps allows people to add multiple destinations to a single excursion. Users can reorder the stops whenever needed, as well as search for specific locations, such as gas stations or restaurants, to add to the route. Google says once users plot their multi-stop route, navigation functions as it always has. This feature is coming to Google Maps for Android first, with Android Maps for iOS to follow soon. Google gave Android users another tool in Maps that can help surface travel memories. Google says Maps users who have Location History turned on can view their travel timeline and select any date from recent trips to see the photos they took on that day. Google Maps is free to download from the Play Store.
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.