iOS was created by Apple, and is used exclusively on Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Instagram today improved the private messaging features of its Android and iOS apps through an update. To start, messages between individuals and groups are now threaded, rather than separate. Threaded conversations contain all the shared content in a single stream. The new Instagram makes it easier to forward posts to other users, so public photos can be sent back and forth. The direct message function now also includes a camera for quick selfies, and huge emoji for "when there are just no words," according to Instagram. Privacy is not changed; private feeds will remain private, and those photos cannot be shared with non-subscribers. The new Instagram makes it easier to share with groups, as well include hashtags and location data. The updated app is available to Android and iOS devices today; it's free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Amazon today said Prime customers can now download videos for offline playback. The feature, part of Amazon Prime Instant Video, is compatible with Fire tablets, the Fire Phone, Android phones and tablets, and iOS devices, such as the iPhone. Amazon is offering an unknown percentage of its video library for offline playback, including televisions shows, classic movies, and newer cinematic releases. Not all videos are available for download/offline playback; compatible videos will be marked as such. Prime subscribers can download the video file via WiFi and will have between 15 to 30 days to watch the video (varies by title) before the viewing period ends. Offline viewing is only available to residents of the U.S.
Google today released an Android Wear application for iOS devices that makes the iPhone compatible with Google-based smartwatches. The Android Wear app works with the iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, 6, and 6 Plus as long as the phones are running iOS 8.2 and up. Android Wear allows iPhone owners to check their information at a glance, such as calls, messages, and notifications; set and follow fitness goals, such as tracking steps or heart rate; and also receive timely information about flights, traffic, calendar appointments, and more. Android Wear for iOS supports "OK, Google" voice-based queries, as well. Google says the LG Watch Urbane is the first Android Wear smartwatch to support iPhone compatibility, and that all future devices, including those from Huawei (pictured above), Asus, and Motorola, will also support iOS. Many of these manufacturers are expected to debut new smartwatches this week at the IFA trade show in Berlin.
Vine has updated its Android and iOS apps with a new feature allowing users to easily attach music to their videos. A function called Snap to Beat makes it easy to create what Vine refers to as perfect loops, or soundtracks that loop seamlessly with no breaks. Vine offers a selection of songs that can be attached to videos and it will then automatically trim it to the perfect length for each individual video. The soundtrack function also lets people edit music loops on their own for added control, as well as a handful of sound effects for dramatic impact. The music feature isn't just for adorning videos with songs. Users can discover music through a "featured tracks" tool, as well as easily find out the names of songs playing in other peoples' vine videos. Vine is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Instagram marked a major change today by adding support for portrait and landscape photos to its Android and iOS apps. Since its launch, Instagram has required all photos to be square. Some users circumvented the requirement by using third-party apps to make their landscape and portrait images comply with the square shape. Moving forward, photos pulled from the camera roll can be posted in their full size and aspect ratio or zoomed/cropped into a square. The default shape for capturing images within Instagram will still be square. The app, owned by Facebook, is free to download from the Google Play Store and Android App Store.
Google today fully launched its stand-alone YouTube Gaming site. The site features dedicated search algorithms so results focus on games. It includes landing pages for individual game franchises, and allows users to upload their gameplay, similar to Twitch. The service also supports clip highlights and lets users broadcast content easily. The YouTube Gaming web site is live, as is the dedicated mobile app for Android devices. The iOS app has yet to show up in the iTunes App Store. YouTube Gaming is free to access and use.
Microsoft today made its Cortana voice-activated personal assistant available to Android users via the Google Play Store beta channel. The app had previously only been available through a closed beta, but is now accessible through an open beta program. Cortana for Android can be used to track flights and other calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, and monitor packages. Cortana can also supplant Google Now on Android handsets if users so wish. Cortana beta testers can set Cortana to launch with a long press of the home button, which makes it easier to use Cortana on Android phones. Cortana testers will still be able to interact with and launch Google Now on their handsets via other actions. Cortana for Android is free to download from Microsoft's beta site in the Google Play Store. Microsoft is still working to bring Cortana to iOS devices.
Yahoo today updated the Yahoo Weather app for Android and iOS devices with several improvements. Yahoo claims the app is much more accurate at providing local weather, and can even zoom in to provide details about microclimates. The app also adds new weather alerts that will arrive 15 minutes ahead of rain, snow, or other severe weather is expected to occur. Yahoo Weather is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
WhatsApp has extended its WhatsApp Web functionality to iOS devices. It previously only supported Android, BlackBerry, and Windows handsets. With WhatsApp Web, users are able to send messages from their desktop browser in addition to their mobile device. Setting it up requires users to scan a QR code from within the WhatsApp application on their handset. They are then able to unlock the browser-based desktop client, where they'll be able to message their WhatsApp contacts. In addition to expanding WhatsApp Web to iOS, WhatsApp also updated its Windows Phone app. The app adds quite a handful of new features. For example, users can mark chats read or unread, as well as set custom notifications, vibrate alerts, and ringtones for individual conversations. Contact Cards are now easier to integrate into WhatsApp's contacts database for quicker replies. The app adds a significant number of new emoji and the ability to adjust the emojis' colors. Last, the app makes it possible to set limits on the app's mobile data usage. WhatsApp is free to download from the Windows Store.
Google recently said a forthcoming update to its News and Weather application for Android and iOS will add support for seven new languages. The additions include Bahasa Indonesia, Bengali, Bulgarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Thai, and bump the total number of languages supported to 35. Google News and Weather offers breaking news stories culled from online as well as up-to-date weather details. The app is free from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google today announced the OnHub, a WiFi router meant for use in the home. Google and hardware partner TP-LINK hid the antennas inside and gave the router a more useful set of lights so people will be more apt to put it out in the open, where it will work better. Google says the device automatically selects the best frequencies for optimal performance and an accompanying app (Android and iOS) lets owners manage it remotely. The app can provide details about bandwidth usage, run network checks, and suggest fixes to problems. It also lets people more easily control the router's password. The OnHub will update the firmware automatically to keep it secure and add new features. It supports Bluetooth Smart Ready, Weave, and 802.15.4 for potential connected-home uses. Google said it expects to release more OnHub-branded products later this year with Asus. The OnHub WiFi router is available for preorder today. It costs $199 and will ship in the coming weeks.
Google has given Hangouts a web site all its own. Users of Google's cross-device messaging service can now visit Hangouts.Google.com for a dedicated chat window. The app still resides in Gmail, but those looking for a richer experience can go to the Hangouts web site, which displays conversations in bigger windows and lets users customize the wallpaper and other aspects of its appearance. Hangouts is available to Android and iOS devices as a mobile messaging app. Conversations are synced between the desktop and mobile devices automatically. Hangouts is free to use.
Apple today pushed out iOS 8.4.1, an update meant to help smooth out performance issues with Apple Music. Apple says the software resolves an issue that could prevent turning on iCloud Music Library, as well as an issue that hid added music because Apple Music was set to show offline music only. The update gives users a new way to add songs to playlists, and squashes bugs plaguing album art and the Connect social aspecs of the service. Apple Music is still in the trial phase for most people. It offers unlimited streaming in addition to Beats 1 radio on iOS devices for $10 per month. iOS 8.4.1 is free to download and install over the air.
BlackBerry today expanded BBM's money-sending feature by adding support for PayPal. Users need only connect their PayPal account to their BBM account to send and receive money. Both the sender and the recipient will need to have PayPal accounts in order to transfers to go through. The feature is being offered as a beta service to the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of the BBM app in Canada. BlackBerry expects to expand the feature to other regions in the coming weeks.
Google today pushed out a significant update to its Hangouts messaging application for Android devices that puts it inline with the iOS app. Google overhauled Hangouts' visual appearance with material design, and improved how the app feels thanks to more fluid transitions, and better touch response. Major actions, such as composing new messages, have been simplified with redesigned buttons. Google streamlined the contact list and made it quicker to attach emoji, GIFs, location details, and multiple photos to messages. Google says it cleaned up lots of bugs, too, to improve the app's reliability and speed, which has the side benefit of reducing battery consumption. Google also updated the behavior of the Hangouts Dialer with an outbound caller ID. It added support for Google Voice functions, such as support for group MMS messages. The new Hangouts interacts better with Android Wear, which lets people send messages from their wearable via voice commands. Last, the app regains the ability to set custom status/away messages. The new Hangouts app starts rolling out to Android users today, and is available in the Play Store.
Alcatel OneTouch today announced that it will soon sell the 4.7-inch version of its Idol 3 flagship in the U.S. and Canada. The Idol 3 4.7 shares virtually all features with the larger 5.5-inch model, which has been available since May. As the name implies, the screen measures 4.7 inches across the diagonal and it has 720p HD resolution. The phone is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The Idol 3 4.7 has stereo JBL speakers with Clarify processing, and each speaker has its own dedicated 1.2W amplifier for full sound. The phone is reversible, meaning it can be held in any orientation and the user interface will rotate accordingly. The main camera uses a Sony sensor that rates 13 megapixels. It includes a variety of modes and video-capture options. The user-facing camera captures 5-megapixel images. Wireless radios include LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile, Bluetooth 4.1, FM radio, GPS, and WiFi. The Idol 3 4.7 supports microSD cards up to 128GB. The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7 will be available unlocked from Alcatel's web site and Amazon.com on Friday, Aug. 14. The retail price is $179.99.
Apple has made available iOS 9 Public Beta 3. This test version of iOS is meant for people interested in trialling the operating system ahead of its scheduled fall release. iOS 9 adds a wide range of new features, and also streamlines the performance of Apple's mobile platform. This third public beta mostly adds stability improvements. The public beta is not meant for primary devices, and Apple recommends it be used only on secondary iPhones and iPads. Apple also released a fifth iOS 9 beta for developers. Both betas can be downloaded and installed over the air.
Google has pushed out an update to the iOS version of Google Maps and added several key features. The primary addition is night mode, which darkens the screen for navigating when driving at night. Night mode only functions/appears when navigating at nighttime. Google Maps users can now also label places to see them on the map and in search suggestions, and edit photo captions. Google Maps is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Microsoft today said its Windows Bridge for iOS application is moving to open source. Windows Bridge is the tool developers need to port iOS apps to the Windows platform. It can be used to create Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 desktops apps for now, but will support the mobile versions of these two operating systems later this year. Microsoft said it wants to rely on the open source community to put Windows Bridge through its paces and contribute code and/or bug fixes as needed. Windows Bridge for iOS is being released as a technical preview and will see a full release in the fall. Microsoft is expected to offer Windows Bridge for Android in the fall as a beta app. Microsoft hopes developers will bring their Android and iOS apps to the Windows Platform, which may help address the app gap.
Microsoft has made available a handful of apps for wearables running Google's Android Wear and Apple's WatchOS. First, Microsoft has ported Outlook to the Apple Watch. The app lets Apple Watch owners browse and read emails and perform actions such as archiving, deleting, and flagging messages. It includes pre-written responses and supports dictation for longer messages. It accompanies the Outlook email app for iOS. Second, Microsoft made its Translator app available to both the Apple Watch and Android Wear. The app lets wearable owners get instant translations in 50 languages by speaking to their watch. It supports search history and caches recently-used phrases. Third, Microsoft updated its OneDrive and OneNote apps for Android Wear. OneDrive will now display a photo on the watch face alongside notifications for up-to-date files. OneNote makes it easy to dictate new notes by saying "OK Google, take a note." The app also displays the most recently viewed notes on the watch face. Outlook, Translator, OneDrive, and OneNote are all free to download from iTunes and the Google Play Store.
Twitter updated its iOS application today and the chief new feature is landscape support for the iPhone 6 Plus. Owners of Apple's larger iPhone will now be able to use the app when holding their phone in either portrait or landscape orientation. Twitter is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Nokia today formally announced the sale of its HERE Maps business unit to a consortium of three German auto makers. Audi, BMW, and Daimler have agreed to buy HERE Maps for $3 billion. Nokia has been shopping the business unit since April, soon after it announced plans to acquire Alcatel-Lucent. The three car makers will act as investors in HERE, as well as customers of the mapping business and suppliers of data. Nokia said HERE-branded mobile apps will continue to be available to Android, iOS, and Windows devices. Nokia expects to complete the sale during the first half of 2016. Once finalized, Nokia will have two business units: its telecommunications equipment unit and its technology unit.
Yahoo! today launched Livetext, its new messaging app to compete with services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. The app lets you have a text conversation with one other person at a time, accompanied by a silent, 2-way live video stream. The app is designed for situations where audio might be inappropriate for one or both parties, but you want to share what you're seeing and/or facial reactions. Tapping your own video stream thumbnail switches between your front and back camera. It does not support group messaging. The app first appeared quietly in the Hong Kong iOS App Store, but today is being launched in the U.S. It will be available tomorrow for both Android and iOS.
Google today added 20 new languages to its Google Translate application for Android and iOS devices. The app now lets people instantly translate text between Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian. Google Translate initially launched with support for English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and it now speaks a total of 27 languages. With Google Translate, users can point their phone's camera at text in any of these languages and instantly see the translation to the language of their choice. Google also took steps to improve the performance of Google Translate's voice conversation mode. The company is using convolutional neural networks to help translate languages faster when the network connection is poor or even non-existant. This means real-time translations between two spoken languages is faster and smoother. Google said the updated Google Translate apps for Android and iOS are available in the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively, beginning today.
Verizon and HBO today announced the immediate availability of HBO Now to Verizon's internet and TV customers. Subscribers to Verizon's FiOS broadband and television services can trial HBO Now for free for 30 days, after which it will cost $15 per month. HBO said it plans to bring its content to Verizon Wireless' forthcoming mobile video platform later this year. HBO Now offers the bulk of HBO's programming, including movies, series, and sports. It first launched via Apple TV earlier this year.
Honda has committed to supporting Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay platforms in the forthcoming 2016 Honda Accord sedan. With the two platforms on board, owners of Android and iOS handsets will be able to connect their devices to the Accord's in-dash unit for safer interactions with their apps. A number of other carmakers have committed to supporting the smartphone platforms, including GM's Buick,Cadillac, and Chevy brands, and Volkswagen.
Google released a revised version of YouTube and the updated app focuses on improving usability. The user interface now focuses around three tabs: Home, Subscriptions, and Account. The first lets people explore and discover videos with recommendations based on viewing history, the second features all the videos from favorited channels, and the third helps people manage their own content and history within the app. In addition to the tabs, YouTube has new editing features, such trimming clips, adding tints and music, and uploading straight from the camera. The new YouTube app is available for Android devices and the web, and will reach iOS devices soon.
Google today offered its Spotlight Stories app to the iPhone and iPad. Google Spotlight Stories began life on the Motorola Moto X as a 360-degree animated story. The app includes 2D/3D animations that take advantage of the iPhone's sensors to allow users to interact with them. At the moment, the stories are view-only; people can't create their own. Google Spotlight Stories only contains a few stories at the moment, but the selection is expected to grow over time. It is free to download from the iTunes App Store. The app has been available to Android devices since May.
Apple has made a second public beta of iOS 9 available to consumers. This test version of iOS is meant for people interested in trialling the operating system ahead of its scheduled fall release. iOS 9 adds a wide range of new features, and also streamlines the performance of Apple's mobile platform. Apple recently released a fourth iOS 9 beta for developers, and today's public beta builds on that foundation. In addition to stability improvements, the new public beta heralds the return of Home Sharing for music, which had been pulled in the iOS 8.4 release. The public beta is not meant for primary devices, and Apple recommends it be used only on secondary iPhones and iPads. It can be downloaded and installed over the air.
BlackBerry today said it has agreed to acquire AtHoc for an undisclosed sum. AtHoc provides secure crisis communications for businesses so they can push critical data in real-time during business- or life-threatening events. The AtHoc service can send alerts to any device, including iOS, Android, Windows, and Macs, as well as radios, IP phones, digital displays, and even sirens or speakers. Homeland Security and the Department of Defense are among AtHoc's customers. BlackBerry said it will integrate AtHoc's offering into its own portfolio of enterprise communications services. The deal gives AtHoc global reach to expand its business and helps round out BlackBerry's business offerings. BlackBerry said it expects to complete the deal during its fiscal third quarter.
Apple today released a fourth beta version of iOS 9 for developers. Apple typically tests major iOS versions for several months ahead of their general debut. Today's beta is for developers, and is not a new version of the consumer beta offered separately by Apple. The final version of iOS 9 isn't expect to arrive until September.
Google today said it has acquired Pixate, a service that lets developers create mobile app user interface prototypes for Android and iOS devices. Pixate was formed in Palo Alto in 2012 with the goal of helping developers more easily design apps. Pixate's team will be managed by Matias Duarte, head of design at Google. Pixate said its main product, Pixate Studio, is now free for developers to download. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
A consortium of three German automotive makers has agreed to purchase HERE Maps from Nokia for about $2.71 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sources familiar with Nokia's plans say Audi, BMW, and Daimler (Mercedes) have fielded a winning bid for the mapping division, which Nokia put up for sale earlier this year. By divesting the business unit, Nokia's chief remaining business will be providing telecommunications equipment to network operators. The car companies will run HERE Maps together, and plan to invite other car marks to invest in a stake if they wish. The three German car makers beat out Uber and private investors, which were also interested in HERE. Nokia bought mapping company Navteq in 2007 and rebranded its product HERE Maps. HERE Maps is a free app available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Nokia did not confirm the Journal's story.
Google has announced plans to shutter the Google+ Photos app and online service on August 1. Google+ Photos was a part of Google+, the search company's social network. Google+ Photos is being replaced by Google Photos, which Google launched earlier this year. Google said all Google+ Photos users' images and videos will be preserved, even if users don't port them to the new Google Photos service. Google Photos includes more features than Google+ Photos did, and offers unlimited storage for image libraries. People who've already updated to the newer Google Photos app and service don't need to take any action. Google Photos is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store for Android and iOS devices, respectively.
Instagram today made it possible to search the desktop version of its web site. People can search for usernames, hashtags, and keywords when using Instagram.com. The web site is still not as full-featured as the Android and iOS mobile apps. Moreover, users need to be signed in in order for the search tool to appear. Instagram is free to use.
Microsoft today released updates to its OneNote application for the Android and iOS platforms. The Android version of OneNote gains the ability to move or copy pages from one section or notebook to another section or notebook. Microsoft said it will add the ability to view OneNote documents on Android Wear-based devices in the near future. The iOS version of OneNote has been merged from separate iPhone and iPad apps into a single app for both devices. New features include a widget for the today screen, the ability to quickly find recent notes, and page previews. OneNote for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
HBO today said its HBO Now streaming service is finally available to Android handsets and tablets. The service costs $14.99 per month and does not require an associated cable subscription. It launched in April on iOS and includes HBO's entire catalog of television and movie content. HBO Now is also available to Amazon's Fire-branded tablets beginning today, and will reach Amazon's Fire TV soon.
H5OS is a new mobile operating system that intends to challenge Google's Android. H5OS was developed by Acadine Technologies, a Hong Kong-based startup founded by former Mozilla President Li Gong. The operating system is based on HTML5, a standardized web programming language that can support light-weight apps. Acadine Technologies was formed in May and has raised $100 million in seed funding from Chinese supporters. Acadine's Gong doesn't expect H5OS to reach the market until 2016, but he believes it can supplant Android in certain device segments. "Our web-based mobile software is lighter and consumes less power and memory compared to Google's Android," said Gong in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "It requires lower hardware specifications to deliver the same user experience so it can bring down the smartphone cost. Another advantage is that H5OS is a truly open mobile ecosystem without default services like Google Maps and Google Search. We can work with any content and service providers, offering more customization options to device makers." Android is the global leader in mobile operating systems and Apple's iOS is a distant second. Windows Phone and BlackBerry hardly register, and other competitors, such as Jolla's Sailfish OS and Canonical's Ubuntu, have struggled to gain any significant traction. Gong believes H5OS can succeed in the ultra-low-cost smartphone and feature phone segments.
Google has recently delivered updates to a handful of its Android and iOS mobile apps. For example, Google Search and Google Drive for Android gained bug fixes and performance improvements; Gmail earned better support for Yahoo and Microsoft email services, including two-step authentication; Sheets and Slides garnered new ways to change layouts; and Maps now lets people send places they search for on Google Maps desktop to their mobile phone. On iOS, Google Drive was updated with bug fixes; Hangouts was given a new user interface for attachments and the ability to support multiple photos; Google Music added the recently-announced free radio features and the ability to create mood-based stations; and Play Movies & TV earned better thumbnails, with images that appear above the timeline to make seeking titles easier. All the apps are free to download from either the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.
Microsoft has indicated that it plans to discontinue a handful of mobile apps across Windows, Android, and iOS devices. The MSN Food & Drink and MSN Travel apps will be shuttered Sept. 28, and the Health & Fitness app will be closed Nov. 1. The content for the apps will still be available from MSN.com. Microsoft said the apps themselves have not attracted enough users to merit their upkeep. The apps will no longer be accessible after the cut-off dates, and Microsoft suggested users take the time to download and backup any personal information they may have stored in the apps. The app closures folllow significant personnel reductions planned for Microsoft's handset business and several key executive departures. Microsoft plans to focus on fewer phones moving forward, and, it appears, fewer apps, as well.