iOS was created by Apple, and is used exclusively on Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Microsoft today released a beta application that will let Windows Phone 8.1 devices remotely access and control Windows computers. Windows Phone 8.1 itself has not been widely distributed to new and existing hardware, but it is available for free to registered developers. Anyone can register for the developer preview edition of Windows Phone 8.1 and install it on their Windows Phone 8 device. With the WP8.1 preview and the Microsoft Remote Desktop app installed, users can connect to a remote PC and access and interact with their Windows machines. The app includes support for Windows 8 touchscreen gestures, and can be used to open files, run apps, and more. According to Microsoft the app is secure, so it can be used by businesses, and connections can be managed by a simple dashboard. The app also supports high-definition video streaming and sound streaming from the PC to the smartphone through the network. Microsoft Remote Desktop is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. Microsoft has offered a similar tool to Android and iOS devices since last year.
Apple today made iOS 7.1.1 available for download. The minor system update, which applies to the iPhone and iPad, resolves a handful of ongoing issues. It further improves performance of the TouchID function of the iPhone 5s, tweaks keyboard responsiveness, and tackles a bug related to Bluetooth keyboards when VoiceOver is activated. The update marks the first maintenance update to iOS 7.1, which was released last month, and is free to download and install.
Dropbox recently pushed out an update to its iOS Mailbox email app that brings the two services closer together. Mailbox now takes advantage of Dropbox to store and sync preferences between different devices. Mailbox also gains an auto-swipe feature that will learn from user interactions to automate actions such as deleting and archiving emails and email threads. Dropbox offers cloud-based storage for mobile devices, as well as a photo uploading/sharing service. It debuted Mailbox for Android devices for the first time earlier this month. Mailbox 2.0 for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Facebook today announced a new feature that will let people share their location with their friends. The tool, called Nearby Friends, is opt-in and needs to be turned on by users. It can be turned off at any time. Users will be able to share their location with all their friends, just close friends, or with specific lists of people. In order to see friends who are nearby, other users will need to have it on and share their location, too. The feature lets people share their exact location for a defined period of time, which is then visible on a map in order to make the person easy to find. Facebook suggests Nearby Friends be used by people to meet up when near one another. Nearby Friends will be added to the Android and iOS apps in the coming weeks.
Flickr today introduced completely new versions of its mobile app for Android and iOS devices. The revised photo app places a higher priority on capturing, sharing, and interacting with photos. The photo stream has been redesigned and is easier to navigate. The built-in camera has Instagram-like filters and all photos now have the ability to favorite, share, or comment on them. The app supports video capture and editing, and allows users to upload clips up to 30 seconds in length. It includes more robust editing functions, such as crop, rotate, and tools to fix contrast, exposure, and color. The app makes it a cinch to see metadata so users can examine the details of each photo. Flickr for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Google today announced the availability of Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android, a tool that allows Android devices to remotely access Windows and Mac computers. In order to gain remote PC access, users will need to download and install software on their PC as well as the Chrome Remote Desktop app on their Android device. Once configured, users should be able to access PC-based files from their Android device. The service is free to set up and use. Google said an iOS version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app us due later this year.
Facebook today confirmed plans to remove Facebook Messenger functionality from within the Android and iOS mobile apps for smartphones. Facebook hopes users will instead use its stand-alone, dedicated Facebook Messenger application. Messaging will remain within the Windows Phone Facebook app, and tablet versions of the Facebook app. Further, Facebook told The Verge that low-end smartphones with memory constraints may still be able to run Facebook with Messaging intact. Facebook said this change will happen across all countries in the near future, but didn't spell out exactly when. Facebook believes the stand-alone app provides a better messaging experience.
Dropbox today revealed a number of new mobile products at an event in San Francisco. First, the company announced that its Mailbox application for iOS devices will be available to Android devices beginning later today. Mailbox, which integrates Dropbox online storage, is being offered to desktop machines, too. Further, the company introduced a new photo-organizing service and app called Carousel. The application automatically uploads, stores, and organizes photos based on time/location to make for easier sharing. Albums can be viewed on mobile devices, but the files are all stored on Dropbox's servers. Carousel supports private messages and makes it possible to share entire albums as well as save photos that others have shared. Carousel is available for Android and iOS starting today.
Vine today announced a significant update to its service for both Android and iOS devices. Users of Vine can now record and send messages directly to other users privately. According to Vine, messages can be sent to one or several people both in your network and out. Users can choose to receive messages only from those they follow, or from anyone. The Vine inbox separates in-network and out-of-network messages to make them easier to tell apart. The app now also lets users customize their profile with different colors. Vine for Android and iOS is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Microsoft today revealed what's in store for the next-generation of its Windows Phone platform, called Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Phone 8.1 adds a number of features that are meant to bring the platform in line with Android and iOS. The first feature revealed by Microsoft is an action center, which mimics the behavior of the notification tray in Android. It provides access to radios, actionable notifications, and other tools. Windows Phone 8.1 adds the ability to personalize the lock screen, which can be interactive and appear in a wide range of styles. Microsoft plans to offer APIs to developers so they can create their own lock screen customization tools. The third new feature is an evolved Start Screen experience. With WP8.1, users can choose a high-density layout that includes three columns for tiles, as well as use custom background images that appear behind all the tiles. Windows Phone also introduces Cortana, a voice-activated search assistant that responds to users' voice commands and questions. Cortana is built on Microsoft's Bing search engine, and can perform searches, schedule appointments, set reminders, and more. Cortana can learn users' most-frequently contacted people, places they prefer to go, and even what music they typically search for. Cortana can be used to set "do not disturb" time, which Microsoft calls Quiet Hours. Like Google Now, Cortana will scan the user's email for things such as flight details, and automatically provide details such as travel times to the airport, flight delays, and more. Microsoft says that Windows Phone 8.1 is also a better choice for business users thanks to new support for secure VPNs, and the ability to read encrypted emails. Devices can be activated by businesses and turned into secure work machines, but can also be stripped of enterprise apps and data if an employee were to leave a company and keep their phone. Windows Phone 8.1 includes significant changes to the Windows Phone Store, such as more personalized recommendations, easier-to-use categories, and quick links. There's a new calendar in WP8.1, which allows users to swipe from day-to-day as well as see "week" views. A feature called Wi-Fi Sense suggests known, good, free Wi-Fi networks that may be available in public spaces - and will automatically connect to them. Microsoft has also added a new keyboard to Windows Phone that allows users to swipe their finger across the keyboard rather than type. Last, Microsoft said Windows Phone includes IE 11 and new synchronization tools that will better share information between the mobile phone and Windows desktops.
BlackBerry today followed through on its promise to deliver a new version of BBM with support for larger files and stickers. BBM now allows users to share photos to multiple people within chats. BBM increased the size of files it allows to be sent between users from 6MB to 16MB, as well as increased the size of the emoticons so they are easier to see within conversation threads. Last, BBM integrates stickers, which had previously only been available in beta. The new version of BBM is available to devices running Android, BlackBerry, and iOS. It is free to download from the platforms' respective app stores.
Microsoft today confirmed plans to release a version of its Outlook Web App for Android handsets. Outlook Web App is an email application that offers all the features and functionality of Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync technology. Microsoft released a version of OWA for iOS devices last year. This forthcoming OWA for Android is different from the Outlook.com web mail client that Microsoft already offers to Android devices. Instead, it is a business-class piece of software that will allow mobile professionals to choose an Android device and still benefit from Microsoft's email service. Microsoft didn't say when the app will be released.
Facebook recently updated Messenger for iOS devices and added several new features to the stand-alone messaging app. First and foremost, Messenger now supports groups. Users can create groups, name them, tag them with photos, and save them. Second, users can now forward messages from one user/conversation to another. Facebook also said the app contains several bug fixes and performance improvements. Facebook Messenger for the iPhone is free to download from iTunes.
BlackBerry today indicated that it plans to focus on catering to C-level executives who want high-end smartphones with full, physical keyboards. The company has three such devices in prototype stages being tested and will introduce them over the next 18 months. Speaking to Reuters, BlackBerry John Chen said the company wants to win back the executives who were once its core customers. Chen also indicated that BlackBerry is weighing whether or not to create of version of Blackberry Messenger - known as BBM - for desktop computers. The idea is to allow business and government customers to carry secure conversations from their PCs to their smartphones and vice versa. BlackBerry has already made BBM available to Android and iOS devices, and is working on a version for Windows Phone, as well.
Twitter today updated its mobile applications with several new features. First, Twitter now lets users attach up to four photos to a single tweet. Second, Twitter now lets users tag up to 10 friends in any given photo. The tags don't count against Twitter's 140-character limit. Users will be notified if they are tagged in a photo, and can adjust the notifications if they so wish. The updated app for iOS devices can be downloaded today. The updated app for Android will be available soon.
Google today revealed a new collaborative tool for its Chromecast product called Photowall. Photowall lets people share images on the TV using their Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. Anyone can take a picture and send it to a Photowall to instantly see it on the screen. In order for Photowall to work, Chromecast owners need to download and install a plug-in for their Chromecast, as well as download the associated mobile app. Further, Google says when the Photowall is complete, Chromecast will automatically generate a YouTube video of the Photowall so it can be shared with everyone who took part. Photowall and its app are free to use.
Pandora said it will make several changes to its fee structure beginning in May. Pandora One monthly customers who already pay $3.99 for ad-free listening can continue to listen at the same price. However, new monthly subscribers will have to pay $4.99 per month, an increase of $1 over today's rates. Customers who chose Pandora's $36 annual fee will be moved to a "discounted loyalty price" of $3.99 per month, which represents a price increase of $12 for the year, or $1 per month. Moving forward, Pandora will no longer offer the annual subscription option. Pandora says these changes are necessary to offset increased costs, such as licensing fees. It claims the changes will affect only 3.3 million of its 250 million registered users. All customers can listen to music with ads for free. Pandora is an internet-based radio station provider that has apps for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone devices.
Google today announced several updates to its Play Games service that will benefit both Android and iOS devices. To start, Google said it is bringing a new service to Play Games called game gifts. With game gifts, players will be able to send virtual, in-game objects to anyone in their gaming circles. Gamers can now send multiplayer invites directly, making it easier for players to find one another. Google is expanding the gaming section in the Play Store with 18 new categories to further refine the searching and browsing experience. Further, Google is expanding multiplayer support to Apple's iOS, which will let Android and iOS device owners play one another in real-time. Google said developers can access a new version of the Play Games Unity Plug-in to enable cross-platform multiplayer support, as well as an updated Play Games C++ SDK to help with achievements and leaderboards. Google said it is improving statistics via the Google Play Developer Console, which gives developers a dashboard to let them visualize engagement with their apps on a daily basis. Game developers can find more information about these new tools via Google's developer portal.
Google today rearranged what it charges for its Google Drive cloud storage service. Beginning immediately, monthly storage plans cost $1.99 for 100GB, $9.99 for 1TB, and $99.99 for 10TB. Google still offers the base 15GB of storage space for free. Google Drive works across Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos. Google said that customers who already pay for storage will be moved to a better plan at no additional cost. Google Drive can be accessed online from Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, as well as PCs.
Google updated both the Android and iOS versions of its Google Wallet app today with one shared new feature. Google Wallet will now provide shipping and package tracking for items purchased using Google Wallet. This feature is already available through Google Now, but has percolated down to the mobile Wallet app. The updates also includes minor bug fixes and performance tweaks. Google Wallet is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Apple recently updated its Remote application, which lets iOS devices interact with and control the Apple TV. The new version of the app adds the ability to access iTunes Radio on the Apple TV, as well as browse through purchased movies and TV shows directly on the device before playing them back on the Apple TV. Apple Remote 4.2 is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Instagram pushed out a minor update to its app for iPhones recently. The only change to the app is improved lux control, which now has a slider rather than a toggle. The slider lets users fine-tune the brightness of their photos. Instagram is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Apple today made iOS 7.1 available to iPhones, iPads, and iPods Touch. The operating system update resolves a significant bug that soft reset iOS devices when being used. iOS 7.1 also adds support for CarPlay, Apple's recently-announced in-car software. The update tweaks the behavior of a wide range of functions, such as the ability to control Siri manually by pressing and holding the home button. Siri gains more natural-sounding voices for Chinese, UK English, Australian English, and Japanese. iTunes Radio was improved with new placement of the search bar, and the ability to buy albums directly from the Now Playing screen. The Calendar app gains the ability to display events in the month view, as well as view country-specific holidays. Accessibility has been improved with a bold font option, and the Reduce Motion function now applies to more apps, including weather and messages. iOS 7.1 also adds new HDR camera tools, improves iCloud Keychain support, automatically clears FaceTime calls, improves Touch ID on the iPhone 5s, improves performance of the iPhone 4, and provides other UI teaks. iOS 7.1 is free to download from Apple.
Google today announced an update to its Gmail app for the iPhone and iPad. The most significant feature of the update is support for background email fetching. This means the emails will be downloaded in the background as they arrive and available for immediate viewing upon opening the app. Previously, new emails were not fetched from the servers until users opened Gmail. Gmail for iOS now also supports single sign-in with other Google apps, such as Maps, Chrome, and YouTube. Gmail for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store, but it requires iOS 7.
Pebble recently released a new beta of its Android application. The beta is a pre-release version of Pebble 2.0, which adds the app store and other advanced features to Pebble smartwatches. Beta 11 fixes a large number of bugs, such as sideloading apps, and improves stability. Pebble 2.0 is already available for iOS devices, and Pebble says the final version will be ready for Android users soon.
Microsoft today made its OneDrive cloud storage service available to BlackBerry 10 devices. The app, which is free to download from the BlackBerry World store, provides users with 7GB of free online storage. Customers can choose to pay for more storage if they wish. The service, which was recently rebranded from SkyDrive, is already available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices.
Facebook today pushed out a minor update to its Paper application for iOS devices. The update adds several new features, including the ability to share Facebook articles via email or text message. The app now also lets users turn off sound effects, adds support for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, and fixes several bugs. Paper 1.0.2 for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Paper presents the Facebook newsfeed in a more appealing way (similar to Flipboard) than the stock app.
BlackBerry today said that several new features are in store for a future version of its BlackBerry Messenger - or BBM - product. According to BlackBerry, it cultivated this list of features based on user feedback. For example, the next release of BBM will allow users to share photos to multiple people within chats. BBM will increase the size of files it allows to be sent between users from 6MB to 16MB. The next version of BBM will also increase the size of the emoticons so they are easier to see within conversation threads. BlackBerry didn't say if these changes will reach all platforms (BlackBerry, Android, iOS) at the same time, or if they will be staggered.
Google has released Google Hangouts 2.0 for the Apple iPhone and iPad. The app has been optimized for iOS 7 and given a visual refresh. Google added several new features, including the ability to record and send 10-second video messages, send animated stickers to contacts, send a map of current location to contacts, and see picture-in-picture video chats. The app also integrates better with iOS's contacts application, and makes it easier to start video chats from within an existing conversation. Google Hangouts for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Galveston, Texas has become the first major U.S. city to use phone-based payments completely in place of parking meters. Many cities offer mobile as one option to pay for parking, but still have meters or kiosks as backup. Such cities include Boston, Chicago. Miami, Seattle, and San Francisco. But in Galveston's new deployment, there are no meters nor kiosks. Visitors are encouraged to use the PayByPhone app or mobile web site, or they can call a toll-free number to pay. Those that don't have a cell phone or credit card can pay with cash at a number of the local merchants along the seawall. The app - available for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry - registers payment using license plate numbers, eliminating the need for a receipt left in the window. The service can text users when their parking time is about to expire, and let them easily extend it, avoiding a ticket. The city pockets significantly more from parking fees by avoiding the ongoing costs of meters or kiosks. The service supports new EMV requirements of credit card companies by using CreditCall to process payments.
Julie Larson-Green, who has led Microsoft's Devices and Studios unit since last year, is moving to a new position as Chief Experience Officer of Microsoft's Applications and Services group. There she will manage the look and feel of key Microsoft apps and services as exsperienced on Microsoft devices. The move is being made, in part, because Microsoft is set to close its acquisition of Nokia's handset business. Once the deal closes, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will be put in charge of Microsoft's Devices and Studios unit, which includes Windows Phone hardware, in addition to XBox, Microsoft Surface, and game development. Elop was a Microsoft executive before being hired by Nokia to turn the company's mobile phone business around. Elop was responsible for ditching Nokia's Symbian platform in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform.
Huawei today announced the TalkBand B1, a smartphone accessory that doubles as a fitness tracker and a Bluetooth headset. The device has a 1.4-inch flexible OLED screen and relies on NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to connect to smart devices. It is compatible with Android 2.3 and up, and iOS 5.0 and up. It includes a removable earpiece that's good for up to seven hours of talk time. The TalkBand wirelessly tracks the wearer's activity time, such as steps taken, miles covered, and calories burned. It also records sleep duration and quality, and it has its own alarm. The TablkBand B1 has a 90mAh battery that lasts about six days for tracking activity and sleep. Huawei didn't say when the TablkBand B1 will be available, nor how much it will cost.
Facebook has agreed to purchase WhatsApp, a maker of over-the-top messaging applications for smartphones. The deal is valued at about $16 billion, including $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock. The WhatsApp messaging service is available to the Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms and lets users avoid texting fees by sending messages through data networks instead. Facebook said the acquisition will help it "accelerate growth and user engagement across both companies." WhatsApp counts about 450 million users, 70% of which are active each day. Facebook said that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will be operated separately.
Canonical today announced that two smartphone makers have agreed to manufacture and sell devices running the Ubuntu mobile operating system. The two hardware developers include bq, based in Spain, and Meizu, based in China. Both companies committed to bringing devices to the market this year. Further, Canonical said it has support from several large network operators to sell the Ubuntu smartphones in various markets. No U.S. carriers have yet said they'll sell Ubuntu devices. Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth said in December that it had forged partnerships with hardware makers, but did not name them at the time. Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system that Canonical has been working on for years as an alternative to Android and iOS. The most recent release, version 13.10, was distributed last October. Canonical said more details about the first two smartphones will be revealed during the Mobile World Congress trade show, which starts February 24.
Nokia today announced Treasure Tag, an NFC and Bluetooth powered fob that will alert users when their phone is too far away from their keys and vice versa. The device, which Nokia says is about the size of a matchbook, can be attached to a keychain (or other item the owner wants to keep close by) and then paired with a Lumia smartphone through a dedicated app. First-time users will automatically be prompted to download the app when they first pair their phone to the Treasure Tag with NFC. When the user moves one device too far away from the other, they'll both emit an alarm. Devices or tags that are lost can be located via HERE Maps. Lumia phones can support up to four tags, each of which can be identified with its own on-screen icon. Nokia said separate apps will soon be available for Android and iOS devices, as well. Nokia Treasure Tag costs $30 and will be available globally in April.
Microsoft today launched OneDrive, a renamed and improved version of its SkyDrive cloud storage service. OneDrive is available to most devices, including Windows Phone handsets, Windows machines, and Android and iOS phones and tablets. OneDrive offers 7GB of storage for free, and allows users to score more storage by recommending friends to the service. Microsoft is releasing new versions of the OneDrive app today, and the Android variant gains automatic photo backups. Microsoft said people who use the automatic camera backup feature will earn an additional 3GB of storage. Microsoft also offers higher storage increments to those who need more than 7GB for small monthly payments. OneDrive is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, Google Play Store, and iTunes App Store.
Marriott today updated its mobile application for Android and iOS devices and added one significant new feature: the ability to check out of hotel rooms directly from the phone. As long as users agree to receive push notifications, they'll be alerted the day of check out that they can do so via the app. Marriott guests need to fill in their email address to receive the bill, leave the keys in the room, and can then bypass the lobby check out entirely. The app already lets users check in up to two hours ahead of their arrival. According to Marriott, mobile check out is available at 326 locations in North America starting today, with 22 international hotels to follow next week. Marriott said all 500 of its global properties will offer mobile check out by the end of the year. The Marriott application is available to Android devices via the Google Play Store and iOS devices via the iTunes App Store.
Skype today revealed improvements to its mobile applications that answer common customer complaints. Moving forward, Skype will more reliably sync chat threads across multiple devices, be they smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The service now offers synced read receipts, as well, so users know their messages were delivered and read. The app has also been improved so that it opens faster, resumes quicker, and conserves power better. Individual apps for Windows Phone, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry should become available in their respective app stores over the next few days.
BlackBerry today made an updated version of its BBM messaging product available to Android and iOS devices. The update is significant, and adds hallmark features such as BBM Voice and BBM Channels. BBM Voice lets users make free calls to other BBM users via Wi-Fi or cellular data networks. BBM Channels is a social network of sorts, and lets users subscribe to the channels of those who they find interesting. The update also makes it easier to share photos, videos, and documents; adds support for Dropbox for file sharing; and adds a wide array of new emoticons. BBM 2.0 for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively. BlackBerry is also making a small update available to the BlackBerry version of BBM, which adds Dropbox integration. It is free to download from blackBerry World.
Google today further armed its business customers with more tools to help secure their employees' smartphones. Google made a version of its Google Admin app available to iOS devices. Business IT administrators can now add, edit, suspend, restore, and delete users and/or groups, as well as reset passwords, email members, and view group members. The app doesn't have the selective device wipe feature available for Android devices, but the basic set of tools give companies a greater degree of control over the devices being used by their employees. Google Admin for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.