Unwired Planet landed its first courtroom victory in the U.K. this week after a judge agreed that Samsung and Huawei are violating patents owned by the company. Unwired Planet has 16 employees and 2,000 patents it purchased from Ericsson in 2013. The company filed a similar suit against Google, but Google settled the charges. The judge overseeing the Samsung/Huawei case deemed the patents "essential" to 4G communications, however, which means they must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. Unwired Planet said the ruling "goes a considerable way towards validating [our] portfolio." Samsung maintains that it is not violating the patents. Huawei didn't immediately comment on the decision. Tech companies often use patent-based litigation to win fees from competitors. Unwired Planet is a patent-holding company and doesn't make or sell telecommunications equipment or mobile phones.
Google hopes the prospect of charitable giving will spur more people to use Android Pay for purchases during the holiday season. The company today said it will donate $1 for every Android Pay transaction between now and Dec. 31 to special needs education projects. Google is committing to offer up to $1 million, and will donate $2 for every Android Pay transaction made on Black Friday, Nov. 27. Android Pay is available to most NFC-equipped smartphones (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) and is accepted at more than one million retail locations around the country.
Microsoft has released a new tool aimed at helping people switch from an Android smartphone to a Windows smartphone. AppComparison, an app for Android handsets, scans the device for apps and then finds the corresponding Windows apps. If the app can't find exact matches, it suggests the Windows Phone equivalent. For example, since Google Drive is not available to Windows Phones, the AppComparison tool points people to Microsoft's OneDrive app instead. The idea is to show Android owners which of their favorite apps are available to Windows handsets. The app also shows off some of the most popular Windows Phone apps in the Microsoft Store. Microsoft's AppComparison tool is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Opera Software today released a new version of Opera Max, its data compression tool, making it compatible with music apps. Max is already able to compress video from YouTube and Netflix when streamed over cellular networks, and can now also compress music streamed from YouTube Music, Pandora, Slacker Radio, Gaana, and Saavn. People who download Opera Max will be able to cut down on their data usage up to 50% when streaming music (and other apps) over cellular. Opera said it is using streaming audio optimization technology from Rocket Optimizer, which converts streams into the more efficient AAC+ codec without losing quality. Opera hopes to add more music services over time. Opera Max for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
The Priv is BlackBerry's new flagship phone, but it's also much more than that. As the company's first phone to use Google's Android instead of a BlackBerry OS, it represents a major new strategic direction. It also comes as the company is considering whether or not to continue making phones at all, so its success is crucial. The Priv has a premium design with a slide-out keyboard, curved-edge screen, and high-end camera. How is it in person? Read on to find out.
Google today made an organizational change with respect to its cloud-based products. Moving forward, Google for Work, Cloud Platform, and Google Apps will all fall under the purview of Diane Greene where they can be managed together. "This new business will bring together product, engineering, marketing and sales and allow us to operate in a much more integrated, coordinated fashion," said Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a blog post. As part of the re-organization, Google has agreed to acquire a company called bebop, which offers an enterprise app development platform. Greene is the founder of bebop and will join Google once the acquisition closes. Google believes the new structure will help its cloud businesses run more efficiently. Earlier this year, Google became one of many companies under Alphabet, an umbrella organization which is headed by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin.
Google today announced changes to its Google Fit app that it believes make the service a better health and fitness companion. Google Fit now provides real-time stats for runs, walks, or rides, and can better record speed, pace, route, elevation, and more. Together with an Android smartwatch, Fit can track push-ups, sit-ups, and squats, all of which will be added to the daily activity tracker. Google Fit also gains more health insight thanks to new compatibility with nutrition and sleep apps, such as MyFitnessPal, and hardware such as the Xiaomi Mi Band and the Sony Smartband 2. Google said the new version of Google Fit will is rolling out over the next few days.
Skype has pushed out an update to its Android application with improvements to media and sharing behaviors. Skype now allows people to save videos received in messages to their camera roll. A long press on contacts or conversations in the "recents" tab now activates a toolbar for managing conversations. Search has been improved, as well, making it easier to find conversations or content within conversations. Last, Skype for Android eases the process of sending and/or forwarding photos and Mojis to groups. Skype 6.11 for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today released a new version of the Android Wear SDK for developers. The SDK boosts the API level from 22 to level 23, which introduces the new runtime permissions required in Android 6.0 Marshmallow and up. Google revised how Android handles permissions in order to give end users more control over what features apps may access. Google has been aggressively pursuing developers to make sure their apps are compatible with the new permissions model. The SDK adds support for sound to Android Wear apps, which means smartwatches equipped with speakers will be able to offer sound effects. The SDK also includes support for the x86 architecture, which is vital for the Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch, which uses an Intel, rather than ARM, processor. The SDK includes a new emulator for developers, as well. All new watches need to run the most current version of Android Wear (v1.4, based on Marshmallow). Google said it will soon mandate that existing Android Wear watches be updated to comply with API level 23, but it has not yet decided when. The revised Android Wear SDK is free for developers to download.
Google today said its mobile search tool is now able to show content that may be buried within apps. Google began indexing the content of mobile apps two years ago, and has more than 100 billion deep links into apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Until now, Google says it was only able to show content from apps if the content was mirrored online. Moving forward, search results will be able to reveal in-app content as well as online content. Moreover, Google will let people stream mobile apps so they can view that content even if the app is not installed on their phone. Streaming apps requires WiFi, but will otherwise run the app as if it were installed, allowing people to fully make use of the in-app content such as booking hotels. Google will also supply links so people can install the streamed app if they so choose. Google says app streaming is based on a new technology that it is experimenting with. Google is first streaming app content from a limited set of app partners, but it hopes to expand the functionality over time.
Oppo today began offering customers an alternative to its ColorOS. The company has created a new operating system based on Android 5.1 Lollipop that it calls Project Spectrum. Project Spectrum offers the advantages of speed and quick system updates from Google, while maintaining some of Oppo's core user interface features, such as screen-off gestures and Oppo's PureImage and MaxxAudio apps. Oppo said owners of the Find 7 and Find 7a handsets can download and install Project Spectrum directly. Further, installing Project Spectrum will not affect users' warranties. Oppo expects to make the alternate OS available to the R5 and R5s soon. Oppo said it believes Project Spectrum will appeal to customers in western markets that favor a more Google-like experience on their handsets. Oppo's ColorOS is an Android fork, which means that it relies on the Android base code, but doesn't include Google services. Oppo will release a version of Project Spectrum based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow early next year.
Google today revised its Google+ social network to focus on the two areas that garner the most interest among users: communities and collections. The changes are reflected across the web, Android, and iOS apps, which have been stripped down to simpler formats that make it easier to discover and participate in shared interests. Google said almost every aspect of Google+ has been re-imagined so it is quicker and more intuitive to use for posting photos, videos, and links, as well as discussing topics. Google says users will need to opt-in to the revised Google+ on the web. The changes will reach the Android and iOS apps in the near future. Google hopes early adopters will share their feedback about the new Google+ so Google may continue to refine it.
Google today gave developers more leeway in pricing their Play Store apps. Google notes that app purchasing behavior varies widely by market and pricing plays a big role in purchasing decisions. To that end, Google has lowered the minimum price developers can charge for apps in 17 countries, including Brazil, Chile, Hungary, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, and others. For example, the minimum app price in South Africa was R10.00 and is now R3.99. Google believes the change will help developers sell more apps. Developers can lower their app prices immediately through the Google Play Developer Console.
Google is rolling out an update to Google Photos for Android today that lets people free up on-device storage by deleting local files. A new option in the settings menu called "Free Up Space" lets users set the app to automatically delete local photos that have been backed up to the cloud. The feature is opt-in, and asks for permission before deleting local photos. The Google Photos app now supports deleting photos from memory cards, as well. Google is rolling out a complimentary change to the web-based version of Google Photos that lets people adjust the quality of stored photos after they've been backed up online. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google offers "unlimited" storage for high-quality photos, or limited storage for full-resolution photos.
Pandora today said it has agreed to purchase "several key assets" from Rdio for $75 million. Both Pandora and Rdio offer online and mobile music services. Pandora will be picking up Rdio's technology, intellectual property, and select members of Rdio's staff. The transaction does not including Rdio's operating business. The deal is contingent on Rdio declaring bankruptcy in California, and for a bankruptcy court there to approve the Pandora-backed transaction. If approved, Rdio will begin to wind down its branded music service in all markets ahead of the acquisition's closing. Pandora said it expects to use Rdio's assets to offer an "expanded service" by late 2016. Pandora and Rdio compete in a busy market led by Spotify, Google, Apple, Amazon, and others. Apple recently expanded its monthly music service to Android devices, while Google recently expanded its music service through a dedicated YouTube app.
Google today said its mobile search app is better able to grasp the meaning of requests thanks to new language-recognition techniques. Google is now breaking down queries into smaller pieces to understand the semantics behind individual phrases so it can assess the intent behind the larger question. Google says breaking down the requests in this way lets it "traverse the Knowledge Graph much more reliably to find the right facts and compose a useful answer." Google says it is able to build on this to answer ever more complex requests. Voice search already understands superlatives (tallest, shortest), but now recognizes how dates play a role in determining answers and how things relate to one another in time. For example, it is able to put these together to answer questions such as "Who was the U.S. President when the Angels won the World Series?" Google said the improved voice search will reach the Android and iOS mobile search apps in updates over the next few days. Google Search is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google is offering iOS users a way to beta test a new version of Chrome thanks to Apple's TestFlight service. The iTunes App Store doesn't support true beta testing, and iOS devices cannot install apps from any source other than the App Store. TestFlight, which Apple purchased last year, helps bridge the gap. iPhone and iPad owners interested in beta testing Chrome need to download, install, and register for TestFlight. Once registered, the appropriate Chrome beta download link will be shared through TestFlight. TestFlight typically limits beta testers to just 2,000, but it's not clear if Google will be held to that same limit. The latest Chrome beta adds support for 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, as well as support for more Bluetooth keyboard shortcuts that help with managing tabs and initiating search. It is free to participate in the beta program.
Google said it intends to offer warnings to users of its Gmail service when they receive emails that arrive through non-encrypted connections. A recent report published by Google and several research partners demonstrates that email on a whole is safer than it was two years ago, but some risks remain. Gmail identified several security issues that warrant attention. For example, some areas of the internet are preventing messages from being encrypted by fiddling with SSL connection requests. Another threat lurks on malicious DNS servers that are publishing fake routing information to email servers on the hunt for Gmail. Google says this angle of attack could allow people to alter the content of messages before they are delivered to the intended recipient. It is with these issues in mind that Google has decided to warn Gmail users of potentially unsecured messages. Google said the warnings will begin to appear in inboxes over the next few months.
T-Mobile introduced Binge On earlier this week, a program that lets customers stream unlimited video over T-Mobile's LTE network without impacting their data plans. The service works with 24 different video providers, with one major exception: YouTube. Google's YouTube accounts for one out of every five bits traveling through wireless networks. T-Mobile, speaking to the Wall Street Journal, said Binge On doesn't support YouTube for technical reasons. T-Mobile's proprietary software for detecting and downgrading video to 480p needs to be able to detect that it is receiving actual video content, rather than audio or static image content. The majority of YouTube traffic uses https, which T-Mobile is able to identify. However, some YouTube content relies on the UDP protocol, and T-Mobile's software can't always detect it accurately. Without the ability to determine the exact nature of the content, T-Mobile may unintentionally charge customers against their data plans. "YouTube is a little difficult," said Grant Castle, vice president of engineering at T-Mobile. Castle said T-Mobile and YouTube have held preliminary talks, but more work is required to suss out a solution. Binge On will be available to new T-Mobile customers starting Nov. 15, and all customers Nov. 19.
Motorola's David Schuster today said the 2015 Moto X Pure Edition will receive the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update in the next few weeks. The company is already pushing Marshmallow to the Moto X Style and 2014 Moto X in select markets. Android 6.0 includes Google Now On Tap contextual search; Doze and App Standby for improved battery life; revised volume and Do Not Disturb controls; System UI Tuner and Memory Manager; Expandable Storage, RAM manager, and automatic app backups; as well as improved text selection. Motorola said it will share more information close to the update's release.
Google is prepared to update the Play Books app in order to make it more compatible with comic books. The revised app chiefly makes changes to navigation, including a new landscape layout that scrolls up and down. Google also intends to curate a selection of comic books to make them more accessible in the Play Store. Google will offer comic book recommendations to readers, as well as tools for maintaining a digital collection of comic books in the order they were published. Google says the new Play Books app for Android will appear in the days ahead. Google plans a similar update for its iOS app down the road. Support for comic books will be available to readers in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa.
YouTube's stand-alone music app is now available for download. The app includes a home tab for recommended artists, as well as user-configurable stations based on individual tastes. The search tool provides unlimited access to videos, tracks, artists, and albums, as well as associated remixes, covers, lyric videos, and concert footage. The basic service is free, but Google says YouTube Music is best enjoyed with YouTube Red, its $10-per-month, ad-free offering. YouTube Red gives YouTube Music users access to offline music, as well as the option to watch videos or listen in audio-only mode. Videos can play in the background when using other apps, and even when the screen is off. YouTube Music is available for free from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store starting today. Google is offering the subscription experience to everyone as a 14-day trial.
The Android Wear platform now broadly supports cellular connections for making calls, sending messages, and syncing data, says Google. The LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, which was announced last month, is the first Android Wear device to support cellular networks. LG, Samsung, and others have sold cellular watches in the past, but none ran Android Wear. Google said cellular-equipped Android watches will automatically switch from Bluetooth or WiFi to cellular when needed for connectivity. Google fully expects people will be able to use their Android smartwatches to answer calls, read emails, dictate text messages, and manage their fitness all while on the go. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are offering cellular service to the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE. The watch is available for pre-order starting today.
Google has made available a new tool online for controlling what personal, work, and other data is shared publicly. Users can view, edit, and assign visibility to their phone numbers, email addresses, social network profiles, as well as basic personal identifiers such as age, gender, and locations. Significantly, the aboutme page includes a privacy checker that walks people through all privacy settings and highlights what's visible to everyone. Further, it has a section dedicated managing photos and albums. The dashboard is accessible from mobile and desktop browsers, and gives Google account holders more granular control over what is public versus what is private.
Apple today published a beta version of Apple Music in the Google Play Store. The app offers owners of Android handsets Apple's monthly music service. Apple Music includes personalized recommendations, Beats 1 Radio, playlists, and access to iTunes purchases. New customers can trial the service for free for three months, after which it will cost $9.99 for single users or $14.99 for families. Apple says support for music videos is coming soon. The app is the second from Apple for the Android platform, the first being a tool called Switch to iOS to help Android owners move to an iPhone.
Google today said Maps can now be used without an active internet connection. People can download maps for cities, counties, and even entire countries so routing and basic navigation tools will function when there's a poor connection or no connection at all. Offline maps support simple routing between points, but don't support live traffic. Maps will only download regions via WiFi, and will automatically jump to a live version of Maps when it recognizes that there is an internet connection. Google said offline support is rolling out to Android users first, and will eventually be available to iOS users. Google Maps is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Tag Heuer today announced the Connected, a smartwatch based on Google's Android Wear platform. The Connected has a titanium body, 46mm sapphire glass display, and a range of straps available in seven different colors that draw from the design of the Tag Heuer Carrera analog watch. The Connected features a series of digital watch faces that pay homage to Tag's historic designs. Users can choose to display weather, step counts, and calories, as well as see messages and initiate voice commands. Google says the watch is the result of collaboration between a number of companies, including Tag Heuer, Intel, and Google. The Tag Heuer Connected will carry a price tag of $1,500. It is available online and in stores starting today.
The FCC has denied Consumer Watchdog's request that the agency force web sites to honor Do Not Track requests. The group asked the FCC to initiate a notice of proposed rulemaking that would force internet companies such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pandora to cease collecting user data if they so asked. The agency said it will continue to investigate and respond to emerging threats to privacy, but it doesn't believe collecting user data can be defined as such a threat. Some companies honor Do Not Track requests voluntarily, but Consumer Watchdog hoped to make such behavior required. Many internet companies and online portals sell the data generated by consumer use of their products.
Google recently pushed out a new version of Google Keep for iOS and added a handful of new features in the process. To start, Keep now includes a Today view widget for quickly opening new notes. Notes created in Keep can now be saved to Google Docs, and notes can be more easily shared thanks to the iOS share extension. Google Keep, a simple note-taking and -saving app, is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google today announced the availability of Play Services 8.3, an update to the core APIs that allows developers to do new things with the operating system. Play Services 8.3 updates the Google Sign-In API to provide a more consistent look across Google products. The adjusted SmartLock API makes it possible for users to select from previously-used email addresses on their device when signing into new apps in Marshmallow. Moreover, apps can show a set of sign-in hints thanks to a new dialog box. Another new API improves how apps handle batch location requests and retains data rather than losing it. Play Services 8.3 also reduces the complexity of coding app invites; updates the Player Stats API to left developers know when users are about to churn; and makes syncing with Android Wear devices more power efficient through the use of prioritization. Google Play Services 8.3 is being pushed out to most users and the rollout will be complete soon. Developers can then take advantage of the associated Android SDK to add these new features to their apps and, in turn, Android devices around the world.
YouTube today kicked off widespread support for virtual reality video content in the Android YouTube app. Android handset owners can find VR content in YouTube and watch it through the Google Cardboard viewer. The VR content includes 360-degree videos that allow people to pan in all directions. Further, Google says any video on YouTube can be viewed through Google Cardboard for a virtual movie theater effect. Users need only tap the Google Cardboard icon on individual videos to see the VR content or the movie theater effect. YouTube for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Verizon Wireless has improved the Verizon Cloud app for Android devices with new features called Smart Albums and Print Shop. Smart Albums can automatically select the best photos and videos to create albums based on events and locations. The albums can then easily be shared across social networks. Further, a collaboration with RealNetworks lets Verizon Cloud app users automatically generate video montages that are set to music, called RealTime Stories. The app allows users to customize the montages with their own video and music selections, as well. The Smart Albums are free to use, but RealTime Stories will cost $1.99 per month after January 2, 2016 (free trial until then). The Print Shop makes it simple for Cloud App users to print photos stored in the cloud, as well as create albums, canvases, and framed prints from Photobucket. The Verizon Cloud app is meant to help customers back up their phone's content (contracts, photos, videos), transfer that data to new devices; share media with others; sync messages back 90 days; and access files across devices. It is free to download from the Google Play Store. The service comes with 5GB of free storage, but Verizon will sell additional storage starting at 25GB for $2.99 per month. The new features make it a more function media management tool.
Google has added several new features to Maps for iOS devices, including proactive traffic alerts. Now, when navigating, Maps will warn iPhone users about upcoming congestion or other traffic issues so they can make alternate plans. Maps now allows iPhone users to add missing businesses using the sidebar tool, as well. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
BlackBerry laid out its plans to secure the Priv in a blog post today. The company has devised a three-pronged approach to keeping the Priv secure in the face of outside threats. First, BlackBerry will issue the monthly security patches offered by Google. It will do so directly to handsets as well as through carriers and other reseller partners. Second, BlackBerry will force feed hotfixes directly to devices — circumventing carriers — when critical flaws need immediate resolution. Third, BlackBerry will give IT admins the ability to control which devices receive security updates and when those updates are delivered. Blackberry said it is committed to maintaining the security of its first Android handset, which is available for order online.
Google has updated its Drive app for both Android and iOS devices. The Android version of Drive adds notifications for shared files, as well as the ability to request file access and view files from non-Google accounts. The iOS version adds the ability to set custom messages when sharing files, in addition to earning support for audio file playback an reverse chronological file ordering. Google Drive is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Skype today announced a new web button for sharing content directly to Skype. Similar to the way such buttons work for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social networks, the Skype share button will let people send articles, links, images, and videos directly to Skype contacts. Once the button is pressed, users need to sign into their Skype account, select one or more contacts, and send. The button is launching worldwide on MSN.com today. Skype said the tool works on both desktop and mobile web sites, and it hopes developers will add the button to their own pages over time.
Google today said an update to its Inbox email application will make it possible to (almost) automatically respond to emails. A new feature called Smart Reply will suggest up to three responses to emails based on the content within. Users need only select the appropriate automatically-generated response and move on. For emails that require a longer, more measured response, Smart Reply will still offer several suggestions to get you started. Google says the feature is powered by machine learning, which recognizes which emails need responses and suggests the most relevant set of possible replies. Google says Smart Reply will get better the more people use the feature. Inbox is an alternate to Gmail and is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google today pushed out a security update to devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Google said the most urgent issue pertained to "a critical security vulnerability that could enable remote code execution on an affected device through multiple methods such as email, web browsing, and MMS when processing media files." Google says, to its knowledge, none of these weaknesses have been exploited. Google alerted its handset partners about the vulnerability on October 5 and will issue an update to the AOSP variant of Android in the next 48 hours. Devices with Android builds LMY48X and higher will show an Android security patch date of November 1.
Google today decided to dispel speculation that ChromeOS might be phased out. In a blog post, Google reaffirmed its commitment to ChromeOS and said the desktop platform "is here to stay." Google said it has plans to improve ChromeOS in the near future with the addition of a new media player and a refresh based on Material Design. The search giant said dozens of new ChromeBooks are on tap for 2016, and the company will continue to push out security updates to ChromeOS for at least five years. "While we've been working on ways to bring together the best of both operating systems, there's no plan to phase out Chrome OS," said Google. The comments follow a report from the Wall Street Journal that suggested Google might fold ChromeOS into Android as soon as 2017. Google didn't, however, explicitly deny the accuracy of the Journal's report.
Amazon today updated its Amazon Music app for Android devices and added several highly-requested features. Users can now download Prime Music tracks to a memory card for offline playback, rather than store the tracks directly on the handset. Moreover, Amazon added Android Wear support, which lets users browse through tracks and control playback via their wearable. Prime Music artist detail pages have been updated with more information about top songs and albums, and the service now highlights new artists who've joined the Prime catalog as well as what's trending or popular. The Amazon Music app is free to download from the Google Play Store, but the Prime Music benefits require an Amazon Prime account.