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printed October 27, 2016
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Google Pixel Hits Verizon Stores Today, But Pixel XL 128 GB Sold Out

Oct 20, 2016, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are available at its stores today. The Pixel 32 GB ($650) and 128 GB ($750), and the Pixel XL 32 GB ($770) are in stores in black, white, and blue. The Pixel XL 128 GB ($870) is sold out and not available. Monthly pricing over two years breaks down to $27.08, $31.24, $32.08, and $36.24, respectively, for the Pixel 32 GB, Pixel 128 GB, Pixel XL 32 GB, and Pixel XL 128 GB. Verizon will offer up to $300 for select trade-ins, including the HTC One M9, iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, LG G4 or V10, Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ or Note 5. Customers who buy either Pixel device may also preorder the Daydream View virtual reality headset.

BlackBerry Updates Hub+ and Other Android Apps

Oct 20, 2016, 9:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today announced an update to its Hub+ subscription service for Android devices. Hub+ users will now be able add Facebook Messenger to Hub+ and manage Messenger communications directly in the Hub. Hub+ also makes it easier to save inline images and improves support for admin-defined signatures for business users. Beyond Hub+, BlackBerry updated the BlackBerry Android Keyboard, BlackBerry Launcher, and Password Keeper apps. The Keyboard gains new ways to switch languages and global gesture support. The Launcher now includes a dynamic calendar icon that will show the current date. BlackBerry's Password Keeper adds secure lists and support for fingerprint sensors, and makes organizational changes to the settings panel. In addition to the new features, all the apps gain performance improvements. BlackBerry's own Priv and DTEK50 handsets will see speed enhancements in the camera app. BlackBerry's Hub+ and other Android apps are available from the Google Play Store. Hub+ requires a monthly subscription.

Gboard for iPhone Adds 3D Touch Support

Oct 20, 2016, 7:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Gboard keyboard app for the iPhone with new 3D Touch-based features. A hard press on the keyboard puts it in cursor mode, allowing users to more easily and accurately move the cursor around the screen for editing. The refreshed app also gains new themes and contacts search. Last, Gboard now includes all the iOS 10 emoji. Gboard is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Google Keep Lets Users Pin Notes

Oct 20, 2016, 7:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Keep app for Android handsets, giving it the power to pin notes. A pin icon is now visible within the app and tapping it will pin kept notes to a new section of the app for quick retrieval. Google Keep is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Releases Android 7.1 Developer Preview

Oct 19, 2016, 4:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today followed through on its recent promise to make a preview version of Android 7.1 Nougat available to developers. Registered developers can download the refreshed operating system to their Nexus 6P or 5X devices, as well as snag the latest developer tools from Google, including Android Studio and associated SDKs. The most forward-facing new feature for end users is support for GIFs and animations within the keyboard. The Android keyboard can interact with third-party apps to create and apply stickers, videos, and other expressive content. Android 7.1 also adopts a 3D Touch-style interactive tool that will let people access up to five secondary actions or settings that can be reached directly from the launcher. The preview can be downloaded over the air. Google expects to release another developer preview in November with the final build scheduled for December.

Google Makes Tracking Flight Pricing Easier

Oct 17, 2016, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved its Google Flights tool with new ways to track not only flight times, but flight pricing. Moving forward, Google Flights will alert users about potential price increases. For example, as people search for flights Google will clearly display when it expects prices to change and what the price differential might be. Moreover, users can elect to receive alerts when prices are about to change, either up or down, as well as track any potential changes in departure/arrival times. Google Flights will also provide tips based on routes, with recommendations concerning alternate airports and best travel dates for flying between two cities. Google improved the usability of its Google Hotels search function, too, which can reveal when specific hotels are offering rate discounts and more. Google Flights and Google Hotels are available for free via the browser. Google says both should now be easier to use from mobile devices.

T-Mobile Shares Pricing Details for LG V20

Oct 17, 2016, 7:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today offered customers more information about its planned launch of the LG V20 handset. Customers may preorder the phone starting today. T-Mobile is asking for a down payment of $50, followed by 24 monthly payments of $30 per month. The full retail price of the handset from T-Mobile is $770. Customers that take advantage of T-Mobile's Jump! On Demand program can get the V20 for $0 up front and $34 a month over 18 months. T-Mobile is offering several promotions alongside its launch of the V20. To start, customers can receive a minimum $200 in credit toward the V20 when they trade in any working LTE smartphone. T-Mobile is also giving away a pair of Bang & Olufsen H3 headphones ($149 value) to those who buy the V20. The headphone offer must be redeemed online. The V20 is a follow-up to last year's V10. Its defining feature is a small second screen on the front for notifications and app shortcuts. The device is semi-rugged and includes a 5.7-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 16-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel secondary camera (wide-angle), and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The T-Mobile variant is the first to support LTE in Band 66. The phone will also be among the first to ship with Android 7 Nougat and a new search tool from Google called In Apps. The device goes on sale October 28.

Google News to More Clearly Mark 'Fact-Check' Articles

Oct 14, 2016, 7:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says it will work harder to call attention to fact-check articles within Google News. Google believes fact-check style articles have become an important type of journalism, especially in the context of the presidential election. Moving forward, a "Fact Check" tag will clearly highlight which stories examine claims made by politicians, celebrities, and other pundits. Such articles will be clearly labeled in Google News online and in the Google News Android and iOS mobile apps. Further, Google is offering publishers more tools to help them tag their articles as fact-check style pieces so they can be found more easily within Google News. Google News is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Facebook Brings Video Casting to Mobile Devices

Oct 13, 2016, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 13, 2016, 3:26 PM

Facebook today made it possible to cast video straight from the News Feed to television sets. iPhone owners and web users can push News Feed video to their Apple TV or Google Chromecast starting today. Android devices will be able to push News Feed view to a Chromecast device in the near future, though Facebook didn't say exactly when. Mobile device owners will be able to browse through their Facebook News Feed while casting videos from their phone to their TV and queue up more videos if they wish. The feature supports Facebook Live Video, too, and will show live reactions and comments on the TV just as it does in the mobile app. Casting is controlled via a small "TV" icon that appears in the upper corner of the app. Facebook for iOS and Android is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Google Photos Gets a Boost from AI

Oct 13, 2016, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today is rolling out an update to Google Photos that introduces some new AI-assisted tools. First, Photos will reach deep into users' libraries to pair old photos of people with the newest photos of those same people so you can reconnect with those older memories. Second, Photos plans to automatically assemble highlights from selections of recent photos of users' children or friends. These two tools make use of facial recognition technology. Third, Photos will begin to scan users' videos and automatically create short, shareable highlight videos from those larger pieces. Last, Photos will find sideways or other improperly-oriented photos and suggest they be righted. The new features are available to Google Photos for Android, iOS, and the web.

Verizon Says Its Pixel Will Receive System Updates At the Same Time as Other Pixels

Oct 12, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 12, 2016, 1:31 PM

Verizon Wireless will not stymie system updates for the Google Pixel phones, according to Ars Technica. Earlier this month, Google said Verizon would be responsible for pushing system updates to its variants of the Pixel and Pixel XL. Typically, carriers are slow to push system updates. Verizon wants users to know that it will not delay updates for the Pixel. "First and foremost, all operating system and security updates to the Pixel devices will happen in partnership with Google. In other words, when Google releases an update, Verizon phones will receive the same update at the same time (much like iOS updates)," said the carrier. "Verizon will not stand in the way of any major updates and users will get all updates at the same time as Google." Verizon went on to note that its model will be carrier unlocked and will come with only three preloaded apps: My Account, Go90, and Verizon Messages — all three of which can be deleted. Google confirmed Verizon's statement, noting "OS updates and monthly security patches will be updated on all Pixel devices (Verizon and non-Verizon versions) simultaneously."

Google's Sprayscape Is VR At Its Wackiest

Oct 12, 2016, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced Sprayscape, a virtual reality app for Android smartphones. The app blends the camera and virtual reality. Users tap the capture button and then "spray" what's around them by moving the camera around within an imaginary 360-degree sphere. The app, which was developed by Google's Android Experiments team, relies on the phone's internal gyroscope to create the images. Once people have captured an image they can then share it via social networks and even view the results in Google Cardboard. Sprayscape is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Pandora Plus Reaches Mobile Devices Today

Oct 12, 2016, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pandora today made its Pandora Plus service available to mobile devices. The service, which launched last month, was initially only available on the web. For $5 per month, Pandora Plus offers ad-free listening with the ability to skip and replay songs, as well as listen offline. Pandora's ad-supported listeners can skip more songs or replay a song, too, if they agree to view a short video ad. Customers who already subscribe to Pandora One will be transitioned automatically to Pandora Plus. Pandora competes with Apple Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, and now Amazon Unlimited Music, which launched earlier today.

Amazon Launches Apple, Spotify Music Competitor

Oct 12, 2016, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today announced Amazon Music Unlimited a streaming music service that offers on-demand access to tens of millions of songs. Amazon is offering Music Unlimited at several different price points. The standard price is $10 per month for non-Prime members and includes unlimited playback across all the user's devices. People who subscribe to Amazon Prime can get this plan for $8 per month. Alternately, those who own an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Amazon Tap can subscribe to the Echo plan, which provides unlimited streaming to just one of these devices for $4 per month. Last, Amazon Unlimited Music will also offer a family plan (soon) that allows up to six family members to use the service across their devices for a single fee of $15 per month. Amazon's new music service includes ad-free listening, and will permit local downloads for offline playback. People who own an Amazon Echo or other Alexa-powered device can ask for songs by name, artist, album, decade, and more. It differs from the Amazon Prime Music service in that it includes more songs and doesn't match or sync with user-owned libraries. Amazon Unlimited Music competes with Apple Music, Google Play Music, and Spotify.

Google Provides More Details About Android 7.1 for Non-Pixel Phones

Oct 11, 2016, 2:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today talked about several new features headed to Nougat within Android 7.1. While the recently-announced Pixel handsets will ship with their own version of Android 7.1 (including Google Assistant), this iterative update will eventually be made available to Nexus and other phones. The most obvious new feature for end users is new support for GIFs and animations within the keyboard. Google says the Android keyboard will be able to interact with third-party apps to create and apply stickers, videos, and other expressive content. Android 7.1 also adopts a 3D Touch-style interactive tool that will let people access up to five secondary actions/settings that can be reached directly from the launcher. Another tool called storage manager intent allows users to quickly access apps' memory settings to clear out unwanted or old files. Android 7.1 gives developers several new functions, as well, including the ability to adopt the Pixels' round app icons, and glean more data from active wallpapers. Google says it will release a developer preview off Android 7.1 in the near future to the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, and Pixel C. The updated platform bumps up the API level to 25 and developers will have to adjust their apps accordingly. Google expects to release Android 7.1 to a wide range of devices, including more Nexus handsets, in the months ahead.

Google's Project Fi Gains Family Discounts

Oct 11, 2016, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 11, 2016, 11:49 AM

Google today made it less costly for users of its Project Fi wireless service to add multiple lines to their accounts. The first line still carries a $20 access charge, with data costing a flat $10 per GB. Moving forward, additional lines carry a $15 access charge (rather than $20) and they can be lumped into the shared data plan with the first line. Google charges per megabyte each month, so people who don't use their entire data allotment receive a refund at the end of the month. Project Fi doesn't throttle speeds for those who use more than their allotment, but those people will be billed for their additional usage. Project Fi, which relies on the wireless services of Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and open WiFi hotspots, is available to the Pixel and Pixel XL, as well as the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X. Google is now offering discounts on the latter two when people choose to buy and activate them via Project Fi. Project Fi’s group plan is available starting today.

Verizon - Not Google - to Manage Pixel System Updates

Oct 6, 2016, 4:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said that Verizon will be in control of system-level updates for the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. This means the Verizon-branded Pixels may not receive significant system updates alongside the unlocked versions sold by Google itself. "Monthly security updates will come from Google (for all models), and system updates will be managed by Verizon for Verizon models, and Google for unlocked models bought from Google Store," said Google in a statement provided to 9to5Google. Google typically exercises control over its own branded devices and distributes system updates when it wants to. In fact, this is the primary benefit of purchasing a Google Pixel/Nexus handset rather than a carrier model. Consumers who buy the Verizon-branded Pixel will be losing this benefit. Verizon also intends to install third-party apps — often called bloatware — on its version of the Pixel, though Verizon contends that users will be able to delete unwanted apps. Moreover, the Verizon variant will ship with a locked bootloader, which prevents owners from side loading their own system builds. The Pixel and Pixel XL are available unlocked from Google, and Google is offering financing for those who don't want to pay the full retail price up front.

Prisma Adds Filters to Video

Oct 6, 2016, 2:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Prisma's Android and iOS apps today gained the ability to apply filters to short videos. Prisma 2.6 allows users to shoot up to 15 seconds of video through the Prisma app and then dress it up with a number of filters. Prisma says the filters are applied locally, which means a network connection is not required in order to create interesting and artistic videos. Prisma hooks into other social networks for easy sharing. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

T-Mobile to Sell LG V20 Starting October 28

Oct 6, 2016, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it plans to sell LG's V20 smartphone beginning October 28. T-Mobile didn't say how much the phone will cost, only that pricing details will be shared closer to launch. T-Mobile customers who buy the V20 will be able to score a pair of Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H3 headphones. The V20 is a follow-up to last year's V10. Its defining feature is a small second screen on the front for notifications and app shortcuts. The device is semi-rugged and includes a 5.7-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 16-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel secondary camera (wide-angle), and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The phone features Qualcomm's X12 LTE model for CAT12 at speeds up to 600Mbps. The T-Mobile model, in particular, is the first to support LTE in Band 66. The phone will be among the first to ship with Android 7 Nougat and a new search tool from Google called In Apps.

Samsung to Buy AI Startup

Oct 5, 2016, 6:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has agreed to purchase Viv, an artificial intelligence startup run by the team that originally developed Apple's Siri. Siri's creators left Apple to form Viv, which is based in San Jose. Samsung plans to add Viv's artificial intelligence technology to its own Galaxy smartphones and other consumer electronics products. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Samsung did not explain if Viv will have its own personality, or if it will be baked into Samsung's S Voice app, which is already on its phones. Samsung wants to ensure its devices can compete with the voice-activated personal assistants available on products from Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

Lenovo's Tango Phone Goes On Sale In November

Oct 5, 2016, 11:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo confirmed this week that the Phab 2 Pro will go on sale in November. It was originally expected to go on sale in September. Clay Bavor, head of VR at Google, shared the news with CNET. The phone, announced earlier this year, is the first Project Tango handset. The Phab 2 Pro is a premium smartphone with an aluminum design, a 6.4-inch quad HD display, and a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone has four cameras: an 8-megapixel selfie camera, a 16-megapixel main camera, a depth camera, and a motion-tracking camera. The latter two are core to helping create virtual/augmented reality content. The phone includes Dolby Atmos sound and is able to capture audio with Dolby 5.1 for more immersive sound. The Phab 2 Pro includes a 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android and will cost $499 when it reaches stores.

Google Assistant to Live In (Your) Google Home

Oct 4, 2016, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its Amazon Echo competitor, Google Home, available for preorder. Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant. The device resembles a Bluetooth speaker, and in fact contains a speaker for playing music. The Assistant, which is also baked into the new Pixel smartphones from Google, is able to help people with a wide number of queries and tasks. For example, people can ask Google Home to play tunes from third-party music services like Spotify, YouTube Music, Pandora, and others; to perform language translations or math conversions; check commuting times or the weather; and much more. Further, it interacts with Google-owned Nest products for controlling in-home thermostats and security cameras. The Google Home can be preordered from Google's web site. The Home costs $129. People can customize their Google Home with swappable bases for $20 each. Google Home ships in November.

Verizon to Be Exclusive Carrier Selling Google Pixel Phone

Oct 4, 2016, 12:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 4, 2016, 12:42 PM

Google today named Verizon Wireless as its exclusive carrier partner for the new Pixel smartphones. Verizon is accepting preorders for the Pixel and Pixel XL starting today. The Pixel 32 GB costs $650, the Pixel 128 GB costs $750, the Pixel XL 32 GB costs $770, and the Pixel XL 128 GB costs $870. Verizon is selling the black and white variants of the phone. Monthly pricing is available, too, which breaks down the cost over 24 months. Separately, Google is selling the Pixel and Pixel XL unlocked online. The unlocked model is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile.

Google's Chromecast Ultra Supports HDR and 4K Video

Oct 4, 2016, 12:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 4, 2016, 12:44 PM

Google today revealed the Chromecast Ultra, a new version of its home video HDMI dongle. Like last year's Chromecast, the Cromecast Ultra plugs directly into the HDMI port of television sets and allows people to cast content from their smartphones and tablets to their TVs. The Cromecast Ultra supports HDR, 4K video, Dolby Vision, and ethernet. The Chromecast Ultra goes on sale in November for $69. Interested consumers can add their name to the waitlist via the Google Store.

Google Targeting November for Daydream VR Launch

Oct 4, 2016, 11:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 4, 2016, 12:47 PM

Google today detailed the launch plans for its Daydream virtual reality platform. The company said the Daydream Viewer will be available in November for $79, which includes both the headset and controller together. The Viewer comes in several colors. The Google Pixel and Pixel XL handsets will be the first to support Daydream and its associated content. Google has signed up several content partners for launch, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World. Other Daydream content partners include MLB, NBA, Hulu, HBO, Netflix, as well as game developers Lego, and others. Daydream will be available to preorder October 20.

Google's Pixel and Pixel XL Phones First to Include Google Assistant

Oct 4, 2016, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 4, 2016, 11:42 AM

Google today announced the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. These handsets supplant Google's Nexus line of smartphones and include Pixel-specific user interface elements and Google Assistant. The Pixel user interface rounds off many of the app icons and replaces the Google search bar with a smaller search button. The Google Assistant is a powerful, artificial intelligence-powered tool for managing personal information, requests, searches, and actions. Google expects its Assistant to help people on both mobile devices and in the home. As for the hardware, the two phones share all specs aside from the display and battery. The Pixel has a 5.0-inch full HD display with 2,770mAh battery, and the XL steps up to a 5.5-inch quad HD screen with a 3,450mAh battery. The batteries support rapid charging that can provide 7 hours of use in 15 minutes of charging. Both are powdered buy the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4 GB of RAM and either 32 GB or 128 GB of storage. The main camera has a 12.3-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization and an aperture of f/2.0, while the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The Pixel will shoot HDR+ photos by default, and Google says the phone is able to handle HDR photos at quick speeds. Google will give Pixel owners unlimited, full-resolution storage of their photos and videos (including 4K). Other specs include NFC, USB Type-C, Bluetooth 4.2, and support for U.S. LTE networks. The Pixel and Pixel XL will come in black, silver, and blue. Pricing starts at $649. Verizon will sell the Pixels in the U.S., and Google also planes to sell the phone unlocked online.

WhatsApp Adds Fun Camera Tools to Messaging App

Oct 4, 2016, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook-owned WhatsApp this week rolled out new features to its messaging application. Specifically, users can now write or draw on photos and videos, as well as add emoji to posts to give them character. The editing tools pop up automatically every time users choose to share an image or video. WhatsApp also now supports the user-facing flash on compatible phones. When people take a selfie through WhatsApp, the app can fire off the flash to improve exposure. Other new features include a zooming tool within the video camera and easy switching between the rear and front cameras with a double tap on the screen. WhatsApp says these new functions will reach Android devices in an update this week, with the iPhone following soon. WhatsApp is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Rebrands 'Google Apps' for Businesses to 'G Suite' and Now Lets You Restore Trashed Files

Sep 30, 2016, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has renamed and reorganized a number of its service offerings for business customers. Moving forward, Google Apps for Work will be known as G Suite. G Suite includes Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Hangouts, and other services on PCs, smartphones, and tablets. The idea is to help workplaces communicate and collaborate more effectively on documents and other tasks. Google envisions information flowing freely between people, devices, apps, teams, and organizations. At the same time, Google improved its Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps for Android devices. Users can now retrieve deleted files more easily by finding them in the trash. Users will be given the opportunity to restore deleted files if necessary. The latest versions of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for Android devices are all free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Threads Voice Commands Deeper Into Google Maps

Sep 29, 2016, 2:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

People can now use their voice to take full command of Google Maps when in the car. Google updated Maps today and added more support for "Ok, Google"-based voice commands. People will need the latest version of Google Maps and Google Search, and will need to enable the "Ok, Google" keyword detection in both apps. Once activated, Android phones will clearly show which screens in Google Maps accept voice commands with a white microphone. Users can then issue commands such as "Ok, Google, find gas stations" and the app will search for and reveal nearby fuel stops. Beyond simple navigation and search functions, Maps users will also be able to control app functions directly, such as showing/hiding traffic, muting voice guidance, checking alternate routes, and more. Google hopes expanding voice commands in the app will allow people to use Maps while keeping their eyes on the road. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Calendar Gains Smart Scheduling

Sep 29, 2016, 1:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Calendar for Android and iOS devices with a new smart scheduling tool. Users can now tap a "find a time" button and Calendar will automatically suggest meeting times and available rooms based on preferences. The tool takes into account all attendees' availability, as well as meeting locations. It will suggest times with the fewest conflicts, help to reschedule conflicts, as well as include several backup suggestions. As always, the person scheduling the meeting has control over the time and location finally selected. The new smart scheduling tool is free to use in Google Calendar. The updated apps are available for download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Google says this feature will reach the web version of Google Calendar by the end of the year.

Google Delays Android Wear 2.0 Until 2017

Sep 29, 2016, 12:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview 3 and also shared some details on the timing for the platform's public launch. The biggest addition to the preview operating system is the availability of the Google Play Store on Android Wear devices. With Android 2.0, smartwatch owners will be able to browse for apps via keyword and voice search directly from their wrist. Moreover, users will be able to install watch apps directly to their wearable via WiFi or cellular connections. Google says it added the Play Store to Android Wear to appease developers' wishes for improved app discovery. The new preview includes a handful of other tools for developers, as well. For example, developers can require user permission to set up watch complications, and a new API will allow watch owners to interact with a greater number of notifications on their watch. Android Wear now generates automatic responses to messages locally, rather than on a nearby smartphone. Last, Google said it is still receiving lots of feedback from developers about the features and functionality of Android Wear 2.0. As such, it has decided to continue the preview program into early 2017, at which point the first watches will receive Android Wear 2.0. Google had originally said the refreshed wearable platform will launch in 2016.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft Team Up to Quell AI Fears

Sep 29, 2016, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A handful of big tech companies have formed a partnership with the goal of keeping people informed about the development of artificial intelligence. Many people already use technology that is aided by AI, and that number will only continue to grow. The group includes Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft, each of which has its own AI tech (such as Alexa, Watson, and Cortana). The primary aim of the Partnership on AI will be to educate the public about the uses of artificial intelligence and calm any fears that AI will take over our lives. The secondary goal will be to ensure that all companies developing AI are using best practices formed by non-business experts such as philosophers and ethicists. Founding members of the coalition are expected to contribute financial and research resources that will be shared among all members. The group has mandated that the board be equally split between corporate members and non-corporate members. "AI technologies hold tremendous potential to improve many aspects of life, ranging from healthcare, education, and manufacturing to home automation and transportation," said the Partnership in a statement. "Through rigorous research, the development of best practices, and an open and transparent dialogue, [we] hope to maximize this potential and ensure it benefits as many people as possible."

BlackBerry to Kill Off Smartphone-Making Business

Sep 28, 2016, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it will no longer make and sell its own smartphones. Instead, it will rely on original device manufacturers to design and make devices that will carry BlackBerry branding and software. The company employed this strategy earlier this year with the DTEK50, which was a rebranded Alcatel Idol 4. BlackBerry uses Google's Android platform as a base and hardens it with respect to bugs and security. It then packages this with its BlackBerry Suite of apps and services. "We are reaching an inflection point with our strategy," said CEO John Chen. "Our financial foundation is strong, and our pivot to software is taking hold. Under this strategy, we are focusing on software development, including security and applications. The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners." BlackBerry calls this its Mobility Solutions strategy. The company has already forged a licensing agreement with a telecom joint venture in Indonesia. BlackBerry announced the news along with its fiscal 2017 second quarter earnings report. The company generated $352 million in revenue, of which $156 million came from its software business.

Google Search for iOS Lets Users Secure Incognito Search

Sep 27, 2016, 2:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today pushed out an update to its Google Search app for iOS devices and included several new features. Most importantly, Search for iOS now allows people to use incognito mode. Searches performed when in incognito mode are not saved in users' search history. Moreover, people can secure incognito mode with Touch ID, meaning only the device owner will be able to enter the secure search mode. Google says it added a 3D Touch shortcut to incognito mode, as well, making it easily accessible from the home screen. The other significant new feature in Search for iOS is the ability to watch YouTube videos directly in search results without opening the YouTube app. Google says the refreshed app also adds iOS 10 refinements and stability fixes. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Google Creates YouTube Go with Slow Networks In Mind

Sep 27, 2016, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released YouTube Go, a version of the mobile video app that has been optimized for slow and inconsistent wireless networks. The idea, says Google, is to allow people to get the most from YouTube even under poor network conditions. Google created the app with several key tenets in mind. First, it should help people find "relatable" videos on the launch screen, which means content that is popular with people/friends who are nearby. Second, the app was built for offline use. People can preview videos so they can get a better sense of what they're about to watch before viewing. Users can then opt to download compressed versions for easier offline viewing. Third, the app adds tools allowing users to select the resolution of streamed or saved videos in order to provide control over data consumption. Last, YouTube Go includes sharing tools for sending videos to others without using data, even when offline. YouTube Go is being made available in India first, with other regions to follow. People may sign up to gain early access to the app.

Google Chrome for Android Becomes More Efficient

Sep 27, 2016, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Chrome browser for Android devices with new tools to help reduce data usage, download pages for offline use, and discover more personalized content. To start, Data Saver has expanded to video. The Data Saver tool was built into Chrome earlier this year, but until today it only targeted text and images; now, it also compresses video to reduce data over cellular networks. Google says its compression technology allows Android users to save up to 67% on data consumption when viewing MP4 format videos through Chrome. Data Saver can sense slow or limited connections, and will automatically optimize HTTP web sites down to their essentials for faster loading. The new download feature is meant to help people save web sites and other online content for later. A button added to the browser makes it simpler to download web pages, music, pictures, or video. Downloads that fail due to network interruptions will automatically resume once connectivity is restored. Further, a new section in Chrome houses users' downloaded content so it can be retrieved quickly. (Downloads will first be available in Chrome beta.) Last, Chrome will begin to recommend web sites when people open new tabs in Chrome. Google says it will recommend fresh content, the latest news, as well as help people find their saved pages, images, and video. The more people use Chrome, the more personalized the recommendations will be. Google Chrome is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google's Daydream Developer Tools Exit Beta

Sep 22, 2016, 12:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Google VR SDK 1.0 with support for Daydream available to developers. The VR SDK, which has been in beta since earlier this year, gives developers the tools they need to create virtual reality content for Google's Daydream platform. Google says the SDK "simplifies common VR development tasks so [devs] can focus on building immersive, interactive mobile VR applications for Daydream-ready phones and headsets." The SDK supports integrated asynchronous reprojection, high fidelity spatialized audio, and interactions using the Daydream controller. Moreover, Google said it has partnered with Unity and Unreal so developers can make use of the Unity and Unreal gaming engines as they build their VR apps. The company is now accepting applications for its Daydream Access Program. Developers who rely on the Google VR SDK can ensure their apps will work seamlessly with all Daydream-compatible phones and headsets. Google expects the first Daydream devices to ship this fall.

Google Releases Allo Messaging App for Android and iOS

Sep 21, 2016, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 21, 2016, 7:09 AM

Google today made Allo, the messaging app it first revealed back in May, available to Android and iOS devices. Allo expands the ability for expression by tapping into the new Google Assistant, all while keeping conversations secure. The app supports emoji and stickers, and a tool called "whisper shout" that lets people shrink or expand the size of text to convey volume or impact. Allo supports drawing tools for marking up or annotating photos. It uses machine learning to guess or suggest responses that could be appropriate for the conversation — all without requiring users to type. Google says the app can do things such as help make dinner plans, find answers to basic searches, and share YouTube videos. Users need only type "@google" to bring the assistant into group chats. The app permits people to converse directly with the Google Assistant to, in effect, perform searches, such as sports scores and headlines. Incognito mode encrypts messages from end-to-end for privacy and offers private notifications and expiring chats. Further, when incognito conversation threads are deleted they are gone forever. Google says Allo can send simple SMS messages to people who don't use Allo, and can also send previews of Allo-stylized messages with a link to the app for download. Google Allo is free to download from the Google Play Store and from the iTunes App Store.

Google Maps Replaces Directional Arrow with a Beam

Sep 20, 2016, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a minor change to Google Maps for Android that swaps out the direction arrow with a blue beam. Maps users will no longer see an arrow pointing in the direction of travel and will instead see a blue beam that indicates which way they are going. Google says the beam will also signal how accurate the phone's compass is: narrow beams indicate high accuracy, while wide beams suggest the compass needs calibration. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Comcast Targeting Mid-2017 for Wireless Network Launch

Sep 20, 2016, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts today said the company plans to offer wireless service as soon as the middle of 2017. The service will rely on some 15 million WiFi hotspots Comcast has located around the country, as well as cellular access via Verizon Wireless. The network will operate similar to Google's Project Fi, which prioritizes access via WiFi but relies on cellular when WiFi is not available. The company has had a wholesale agreement in place with Verizon since 2011, and Roberts suggested Comcast will be able to offer competitive pricing. Roberts made the comments at an investor conference this morning, but didn't provide more details about pricing, devices, and exact availability.

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