Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.
Samsung today added the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 to its list of unlocked smartphones. The two inexpensive handsets will be available to purchase directly from Samsung's web site as well as select retailers starting July 28. The J7 (pictured) is the larger, costlier of the two with a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and $220 price tag. It also has a 3,300mAh battery, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel front camera with flash. The smaller J3 has a 5-inch 720p HD display and a $150 price point. The J3 also has a 2,600mAh battery, 5-megapixel main camera, and 2-megapixel front camera. Both phones support expandable memory cards, support U.S. 3G/4G networks, and run Android 7 Nougat. They have been available from several U.S. carriers (AT&T/Cricket, T-Mobile/MetroPCS) for several months.
Google today made Android O Developer Preview 4 available to application developers and said this is the final preview before Google releases Android O to consumers later this year. This build contains the final user interface system behaviors, the latest bug fixes and optimizations, and the final set of APIs. Google says along with the penultimate version of Android O, it is offering developers the stable version of the Android 26.0.0 Support Library along with incremental updates to the SDK, Android Emulator, and other developer tools. Among the new tools is a way for developers to test their applications for Android O preparedness. Those who have enrolled their devices in the Android Beta Program should receive Developer Preview 4 over the air in the next few days. Google has already made the system images available for those who prefer to manually install updates. This new preview can be installed on the Nexus 6p and 5x, Pixel, Pixel XL, and Pixel C, and the Nexus Player. Some of the core features of Android O include picture-in-picture, notification dots, widget picker, new emoji, and revamped settings tools. Google said the final version is expected to arrive later this summer. Google still has not revealed what dessert the "O" will be.
OnePlus today said the high-end variant of its OnePlus 5 smartphone is now more widely available to U.S. buyers. Specifically, the OnePlus 5 Midnight Black with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage will now ship as soon as consumers place order. OnePlus initially launched this variant in limited supplies. This high-end model costs $539. The OnePlus 5 has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, Snapdragon 835 processor, dual cameras, 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging, and broad support for worldwide LTE bands. It ships with OxygenOS, which is based on Android 7 Nougat.
Andy Rubin today provided an update concerning the expected arrival of his new company's Essential PH-1 smartphone. "We’ve been hard at work getting everything ready and the good news is that we’re now going through certification and testing with multiple U.S. and international carriers," said Rubin in an email to supporters. "You might be getting impatient to get your hands on your new Essential Phone (and I’m also impatient to get it to you!) but rest assured that you will have a device in your hands in a few weeks." Rubin said his team is "sweating the details and working long hours to get this device shipped." Rubin had previously committed to shipping the phone by the end of June. It now appears the device will arrive in August. The Essential PH-1 has a unique, magnet-based system for accepting modular attachments, such as a 360-degree camera, on the back panel. It includes a 5.7-inch quad HD screen with curved corners, Snapdragon 835 processor, and dual rear cameras. It will run a near-stock version of Android 7 Nougat and ship completely devoid of brand names or logos. Essential will sell the PH-1 directly to consumers, though Sprint also plans to carry the phone. It costs $699.
Amazon is making Alexa, its artificial intelligence, available to the Android mobile shopping application beginning this week. Any Android device with the Amazon app aboard will have access to Alexa, allowing people to search for and buy goods simply by asking Alexa. Amazon brought this functionality to the iOS Amazon shopping app earlier this year. Amazon says Android users can search for paper towels or reorder batteries and Alexa will do those things within the confines of the Amazon app. The app also lets people listen to music and play Kindle books, ask basic questions, add skills, access Smart Home features, and check the news, weather, and traffic via voice requests. The app works with Android users' Amazon accounts and subscriptions to services such as Amazon Prime. Android device owned can access Alexa by tapping a microphone built into the app. Separate Alexa-powered devices, such as the Amazon Echo, are not required. The Amazon mobile shopping app for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Play Protect, a security tool Google announced earlier this year, has made its way to many of today's Android smartphones. Play Protect is a set of features that Google created to keep Android phones safe from malware and other malicious applications. For example, Play Protect scans apps before they are published to the Play Store to ensure they are secure. The tool then continuously scans the apps installed on individual Android devices for potential security problems. The service will alert users to risky apps. Google Play Protect encompasses the Find My Device tool, as well, which allows people to remotely locate, lock, or erase their device. Last, Play Protect secures the Chrome browser on many Android handsets and will warn and/or protect against dangerous web sites. Google Play Protect is available to devices running Play Services 11, and should already have been installed automatically on the majority of Android smartphones. It is accessible via the Google account settings.
Google today made its Motion Stills GIF-making application available to Android handsets for the first time. The app, first released last year, has until now been reserved for the iPhone. It was initially meant to help iPhone owners make shareable GIFs of their Live Photos. The Android version of Motion Stills takes a different approach. Google says the app includes its own recording experience to instantly capture and transform video into short clips that are easy to watch and share. People can capture 3-second clips with a simple tap and turn them into looping GIFs. Motion Stills for Android also includes a tool called Fast Forward, which accelerates longer recordings into shorter time-lapse bursts. Fast Forward can compress up to 1 minute of video and speed it up between 1x and 8x. Users can also string together a bunch of Motion Stills to create short movies. The app automatically stabilizes recordings, and the improved algorithm helps prevent pocket shots. Google says its new recording process can smooth out each frame immediately and produce shake-free GIFs near instantly. People can share the Motion Stills via text, email, and social networks. Motion Stills for Android is free to download from the Play Store.
HMD Global today said Arto Nummela, CEO and member of its Global Board of Directors, will leave the company effective immediately. Florian Seiche, who has co-lead the company as president since its founding, has been appointed acting CEO in Nummela's place. Sam Chin, Chairman of the Board, said, "Arto Nummela has played a key role in the creation of the HMD Global operation, building the team and launching our first products. On behalf of the whole Board, I thank Arto for his contribution and wish him well in his future endeavors." HMD Global is the sole licensee of the Nokia brand. Earlier this year, it debuted three Android-based smartphones under the Nokia brand. The company is widely expected to introduce a Nokia-branded Android flagship device in the weeks ahead. HMD Global did not provide a reason for Nummela's sudden departure. Earlier this week, HDM Global debuted the Nokia 130, an entry-level feature phone running Series 30+.
Google today made it possible for anyone to access and enjoy its 360-degree Expeditions. Until now, Google Expeditions has been limited to educational environments. Expeditions relies on Google Cardboard or Google Daydream viewers to interact with 360-degree and/or virtual environments. Google released a solo version of Expeditions today, which means everyone can tour more than 600 locations around the world, such as the Empire State Building, Taj Mahal, Thimphu Bhutan, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Great Barrier Reef, and much more. The Expeditions include self-guided tours, as well as "guide mode" for educators who may want to preview the content from a different perspective. Expeditions is available for Android devices and can be downloaded from the Play Store for free. Google says an iOS version of Expeditions will be available soon.
Google today said its personalized feed will begin to appear in the Google mobile app for Android and iOS devices. The feed, which Google has been testing on Android since late last year, displays information cards below the search bar based on each user's individual search history. Google will also toss in information concerning trending topics both local and global. The more people take advantage of the feed, the more in-tuned it will become to individual tastes and interests. The new feed supplants Google Now, which delivered articles and information cards. The cards generated by Google Now will still appear, but fall under a new "updates" tab in the Google app. A new "follow" button has been added to search results so people can follow topics or interests (sports teams, artists, movies, TV shows, celebrities) more directly from their daily interactions with Google. News stories will be presented from a variety of viewpoints and Google says simple fact checking tools will be available to help combat inaccurate sources. Moreover, people will be able to dive deeper into their favorite topics via dedicated search tools. On the flip side, Google suggests that it will be easy to unfollow topics presented by the feed so they don't reappear. The Google app with the new fees is being updated for Android and iOS in the U.S. today, and will roll out globally over the next few weeks.
Snapchat today improved its Android and iOS mobile apps with new tools. First, the app can now record up to six 10-second clips over the course of one minute. Users can then select the segment they like best for sharing. People need only keep holding their finger down on the capture button in order to record multiple shots. Second, a new tool called Tint Brush lets people re-color small areas of their photos. The tool makes it simple to select an object or item in the photo and then apply a new color. Snapchat does the rest. The multi-snap recording tool is available initially to the iPhone app, but Snapchat plans to bring it to the Android app soon. The Tint Brush tool reaches both Android and iOS apps today. Snapchat is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Adobe today updated its Lightroom Mobile application for Android and iOS devices. Adobe says it overhauled the Android version from the ground up to give it a more native Android feel. Every screen has a new design that Adobe claims is faster and more efficient to use. The iOS version of Lightroom Mobile received several new features in this update. First, Lightroom for iOS now includes a selective brush tool to selectively pain enhancements into any part of an image. iOS devices that support 3D Touch can use the pressure-sentive screen to apply varied effects through the selective brush. The same functionality is available to the iPad Pro when used with the Apple Pencil. Lightroom Mobile for iOS also gains the ability to selectively erase both linear and radial gradients, and the refreshed details tab allows people to control sharpness and noise reduction over the entire image. Last, Adobe says the iPad version of Lightroom Mobile now takes better advantage of the tablet's screen real estate to make more controls accessible. Lightroom Mobile is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Google has updated its Play Music app for Android devices and made it possible to play songs directly from search results. Now, when users search for a song, album, or artist, the top three results include a "play" button that lets them jump immediately to those songs. Google's own auto-generated search suggestions now appear further down the screen. Playing any of the results pushes the music player controls to the bottom of the screen. Google added this functionality to the Play Music web site earlier this year. In another change, Google Play Music has expanded the availability of the New Release Radio playlist tool (initially an exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+) to all Android devices. Google Play Music is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Cricket Wireless recently added the HTC Desire 555 to its lineup of affordable Android smartphones. The 555 is a variant of the Desire 530. The phone is made from a polycarbonate chassis with a soft-touch finish, and comes with HTC's signature BoomSound audio. The 555 has a 5-inch 720p HD display and it is powered by a quad-core 1.1 GHz processor. According to Cricket, other specs of the Desire 555 include an 8-megapixel main camera with flash and 720p HD video capture, a 5-megapixel front camera, Bluetooth, WiFi, LTE, HD voice, and 16 GB of storage. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and includes HTC software features, such as BlinkFeed and Themes. The HTC Desire 555 costs $120 when activated on a Cricket Wireless prepaid service plan.
ZTE today announced the Blade Spark, an inexpensive Android handset for AT&T Prepaid. The Blade Spark boasts a 5.5-inch 720p HD display with Gorilla Glass 3, and it is powered by a Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. Standout features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader and Dolby Audio. The phone also offers a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and full HD video capture, and a 5-megapixel front camera with a dedicated shortcut for selfies. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, expandable storage, and a 3,140mAh battery. The ZTE Blade Spark ships with Android 7.1 Nougat. It is available online for $99. AT&T Prepaid was recently rebranded from GoPhone.
Sprint today said that the BlackBerry KEYone smartphone will go on sale July 14. It will initially be available online and via telesales. The phone won't reach stores until later this month. Sprint is charging $528 for the handset, or $22 per month on a payment plan. The KEYone, made by TCL, the parent company of Alcatel, combines a 4.5-inch touch screen with a physical QWERTY keyboard. Other features include a Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megapixel camera, 3,505mAh battery, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry's DTEK security suite.
Huawei's latest Honor-branded handset is the Honor 9. This all-glass Android smartphone picks up where last year's Honor 8 left off. It makes some design changes, such as relocating the fingerprint reader from the rear to the front, while carrying over the dual-lens camera that Huawei has become fond of as well as the reasonable footprint of last year's phone. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of the Huawei Honor 9.
Microsoft has released an overhauled build of its Outlook mobile email application for both the Android and iOS platforms. The update targets several specific functions of the app to smooth over performance. For example, the new app makes it much simpler to switch between email accounts or folders within email accounts thanks to a redesigned nav bar. The help and settings tools are surfaced higher up within the app so they can be reached more easily. Microsoft also targeted threaded conversations. The app now shows more of the conversation at once, with clearer borders between messages. Outlook will automatically open the first unread message in a thread, while still allowing people to open other messages in the conversation. Replying to everyone in a thread should be easier, too, thanks to a quick reply function built into the app. Last, Microsoft plans to add a universal search bar to Outlook that can be used to find names, addresses, emails, and more. While the first two features are reaching Android and iOS this week, the search tool will be added at a later date. Outlook is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
LG today announced the Q series, a new range of handsets that offer high-end features at more affordable price points. The first devices in the Q series are the Q6+, Q6, and Q6α, which take cues from the G6. All three devices feature a 5.5-inch, 18:9 display with full HD+ resolution (2,160 by 1,080 pixels) and minimized bezels. The phones are protected by 7000 series aluminum frames with rounded corners that match the curvature of the display, much like that of the G6. The Q6 and variants offer many the G6's software features, such as Android 7.1 Nougat, the square camera, and Google Assistant, while adding facial recognition for unlocking the phone. The main camera has a standard-angle 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 100-degree, wide-angle 5-megapixel sensor. The Q6 handsets are powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor and include a 3,000mAh battery, microUSB, Bluetooth, WiFi, and NFC. The Q6+ has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, the Q6 has 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and the Q6α has 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. These variants allow LG to set different price points for the phones. LG said the Q6 series will go on sale in Asia shortly, followed by Europe, Latin America, and North America.
Twitter today gave users more power over notifications. Significantly, users can now mute the replies of a wider array of accounts. The improved tools are available in the service's settings, where advanced filters provide granular control over whose notifications are muted. For example, people can mute accounts that are new, accounts that don't follow you, accounts you don't follow, accounts with a default profile photo, accounts without a confirmed email address, and accounts without a confirmed phone number. These should help people cut down on bothersome notifications that may reach mobile devices. The filters are available from the web, as well as from the Android and iOS Twitter apps.
Red — a company known for its high-end professional video cameras — today announced its entry into the phone space with the Hydrogen One, a high-end Android phone with a 5.7-inch "holographic" display that promises glasses-free 3D. While the display supports traditional stereo 3D, it also supports a new 3D-like "holographic" technology created by Red called Hydrogen 4-View (H4V). The phone body sports Red's distinctive industrial design and comes in either aluminum or titanium. The Hydrogen One will support snap-on modules for shooting both high-resolution video and H4V content. It will also integrate with other Red products, serving as a touchscreen controller and monitor for Red cameras. The phone also has USB-C and a microSD memory card slot. It will ship in early 2018 and can be pre-ordered now in a limted-time offer for $1,195, or $1,595 for the titanium version.
Google today added a tool to Google Maps that makes it easier for people to add details concerning accessibility. The Google Maps app for Android allows people to add this data via the "Your Contributions" section by tapping "uncover missing info." Sorting options under that heading include accessibility, where people can add details such as whether or not locations have wheelchair-accessible entrances, wheelchair-accessible elevators, wheelchair-accessible seating, and wheelchair-accessible parking. Once this data is entered into location details, Maps users on both desktop and mobile devices will be able to discover it in the description data about places. Google said contributors have already supplied accessibility information about some 7 million locations around the world. It hopes this new too will expand that data resource dramatically.
HMD Global today announced a new partnership that will see Zeiss return to Nokia-branded handsets. HMD Global is the world's exclusive licensee of the Nokia brand. Earlier this year HMD Global released a trio of Android-based handsets. This rekindled relationship with Zeiss will see the two companies work together to improve HMD Global's imaging capabilities with Zeiss-branded optics on Nokia phones. HMD Global didn't say when it might bring Zeiss-equipped phones to market.
Google today provided details about its July 2017 security patches for Android devices. The patches plug a significant number of security holes that threaten all Android devices. Google found a significant number of vulnerabilities, of which it classified a dozen as critical, or able to remotely execute code. Many of the problems are related to specific hardware and the associated software drivers that control them, for example, a Broadcom WiFi driver, an HTC sound driver, and an Nvidia video driver. Google is pushing two separate patches to cover these vulnerabilities, one dated July 1 and the second dated July 5. Google is distributing the patches directly to its own Nexus- and Pixel-branded devices first. Google has already posted factory images for download directly from its web site. Over the air downloads will appear soon. Google's handsets will receive both patches in a single download. Google said to its knowledge none of these security holes have been exploited. Google has already given the patches to its OEM partners. Android handset makers are responsible for updating their own hardware with the patches.
Cricket Wireless recently added the Samsung Halo to its collection of inexpensive smartphones. The Halo harkens back to the design language of older Samsung handsets. It features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and it is powered by a 1.6 GHz octa-core processor with 16 GB of storage. The main camera captures 8-megapixel images and full HD video assisted by an LED flash, while the front camera snaps 5-megapixel pictures. Other features include Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, WiFi, and LTE 4G. Cricket said the phone is compatible with most of its data plans and it supports HD Voice. The Samsung Halo runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $180.
LG today announced the X charge, a smartphone that puts a priority on battery life. Similar to last year's X power, the X charge has an enormous battery with a capacity of 4,500mAh. LG claims the battery can push the phone through an "entire weekend" on a single charge. The power cell is embedded within the phone, but it supports rapid charging. Other features include a 5.5-inch 720 display, 1.5 GHz octa-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the wide-angle selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and LED flash. LG says the X charge also includes Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, and LTE 4G. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat with LG's software features, such as Gesture Shot. The LG X charge reaches Xfinity Mobile stores on June 30. The phone costs $180, or $7.50 per month. Xfinity Mobile is owned and operated by Comcast and runs on Verizon's network.
Verizon Wireless began selling the Motorola Moto Z2 Play handset today. The Moto Z2 Play, announced earlier this month, has a 5.5-inch full HD display and supports Moto Mods. The Moto Z2 Play is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 processor with an Adreno 506 GPU, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. The 12-megapixel camera uses phase-detect and laser-assisted autofocus and has an f/1.7 lens. The front camera has a wide-angle 5-megapixel sensor with front-facing flash and f/2.2 lens. The phone relies on USB-C but still packs a 3.5mm headphone jack. The phone has a 3,000mAh battery and Motorola's rapid TurboPower charger. It runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat with Moto Display and Moto Voice. Verizon Wireless is charging $408 for the Moto Z2 Play, or $17 per month on a payment plan. It comes in gray or gold. Moto Mods, such as the battery pack, projector, and speakers, cost extra. Motorola will sell an unlocked version of the phone with more color and storage options later this summer. For now, the Moto Z2 Play is only available from Verizon.
Google today made its new Google Photos app available to Android and iOS devices, as well as on the web. The revised photo management application adds several hallmark features, including suggested sharing and shared libraries. The suggested sharing tool will automatically scan images and offer to share them with family and friends based on the content and location of the photos. The feature is off by default and needs to be manually switched on. The shared libraries tool is meant to help people more easily share and collaborate on collections of images and videos. Google first announced this new version of Google Photos at its I/O developer conference in May. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Cricket Wireless today said it will carry the Alcatel Pulsemix beginning next month. The Pulsemix is a rebranded version of the Alcatel A5 LED / A50. The Pulsemix is unique because it is compatible with several modular, snap-on accessories called Snapbaks. The most interesting Snapbak features an LED-covered panel that can blink a few dozen LEDs with color. Other modular accessories include a snap-on stereo speaker and a snap-on battery pack. These Snapbak modules are sold separately. The Pulsemix has a quad-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM, 5.2-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. Other specs include Bluetooth, FM, GPS, and WiFi radios, and a 2,800mAh battery. It runs Android 7. Cricket is selling the Pulsemix for $80, though it will drop the price to $30 for those who port their number to Cricket. The phone reaches Cricket stores on July 21. Alcatel is selling the unlocked Pulsemix / A50 online via Amazon starting July 10.
Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon Wear 1200 Platform, a new system-on-a-chip that is meant for personal fitness and tracking devices more so than smartwatches. The 1200 consumes just 79 square millimeters of space and relies on a 1.3 GHz ARM Cortex A7 processor core with an integrated Cat-M1, NB1, and eGPRS multi-mode modem. The platform supports VoLTE, multiple global positioning systems, as well as Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11ac WiFi for connectivity. Qualcomm claims the Wear 1200 Platform is 45% smaller than previous designs and accommodates up to 10 days of battery life even when connected to LTE. The Wear 1200 Platform is ideal for targeted kid, pet, elderly, and fitness trackers, according to Qualcomm, thanks to geofencing support and the extended battery life. The SoC can run Linux or RTOS operating systems, but nothing like Android Wear. The Snapdragon Wear 1200 Platform is in production and shipping today.
Google today expanded the availability of Project Fi to its G Suite customers. G Suite users are those associated with businesses and use Google's email, calendar, contacts, and other products through their employer. Until today Project Fi has been available to individual users and families or other small groups, but moving forward G Suite customers can sign up for the monthly wireless service. Google says Project Fi is still limited to just six users per group plan, so it is not a viable option for medium or large enterprises. Google said Project Fi will be available to all G Suite users in the U.S. within the next few weeks. Project Fi relies on WiFi and LTE service from Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular to find the strongest/best signal. Project Fi only charges customers for data they use, rather than a large bucket. Plans start at $30 per month for talk, text, and 1 GB of data. A Pixel or Nexus Android smartphone is required.
Alcatel today announced the A30 Plus, an improved version of the A30 we saw earlier this year. This entry-level Android handset includes a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen (up from 5.0 inches) and a 1.5 GHz quad-core MediaTek processor (up from 1.1 GHz) with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor (up from 8mp) with time-lapse recording while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Alcatel says the phone's larger 3,000mAh battery (up from 2,460mAh) provides all-day life. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is sold with LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile via Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, and 17. Alcatel is selling the phone for $130, but it is also available via Amazon's Prime Exclusive program for $80. The Prime version requires owners to view ads on the lock screen. The Alcatel A30 Plus ships July 10.
Alcatel today followed through on its promise to bring the A5 LED to the U.S., though it has changed the phone's name to simply the Alcatel A50. The phone, first revealed in February, is compatible with a handful of modular accessories, the most significant of which features an LED-covere panel that can blink a few dozen LEDs with color. The LEDs can be used to serve as notifications for incoming calls, messages, or alarms. The included Color Catching 2.0 app lets owners create unique LED patterns and themes. Last, the LEDs can provide a light show when listening to music. Other modular accessories include a snap-on stereo speaker and a snap-on battery pack. These are sold separately. The A50 has a quad-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM, 5.2-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera with Face Beauty software. Other specs include Bluetooth, FM, GPS, and WiFi radios, and a 2,800mAh battery. It runs Android 7. LTE support is limited to Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, and 12, which makes it moderately compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone costs $150, or $190 with the LED rear cover. The phone is being distributed through the Amazon Prime Exclusive program for $100, or $130 with the LED rear cover. The Prime Exclusive program requires owners to view ads on the lock screen. The Alcatel A50 ships July 10.
Alcatel today marked the debut of the Idol 5S, the latest in its flagship series. Like its predecessors, the 5S features an aluminum frame, curved glass front and rear surfaces, powerful stereo speakers, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The phone has a 5.2-inch full HD screen and it is powered by the Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. As for photography, the Idol 5S includes a 12-megapixel main camera with two-tone flash, and f/2.0 aperture. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and f/2.0 aperture. Both cameras can shoot full HD video. The stereo speakers are backed by 3.6W amplifiers and the Idol 5S includes dual microphones to help reduce noise when capturing audio. Other features include Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi; USB-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack; and a 2,620mAh battery. LTE support for U.S. carriers is very good, as it includes Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 66, and 41. Alcatel said the phone will be compatible with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS at launch, with Sprint and Verizon to follow later this summer through a software update. The Alcatel Idol 5S runs Android 7.1 Nougat and includes the Google Assistant. The device costs $280 when purchased from Alcatel, but can be picked up for $200 through Amazon Prime Exclusives. The Amazon price requires users to view ads on the lock screen. The phone ships July 10.
Facebook today dressed up the live video chatting functionality of Messenger with new effects. Family and friends can now apply reaction emoji, a variety of filters, and new masks to enliven real-time video conversations. Further, a new tool simplifies screenshots for capturing the spontaneity of live video chats. The new tools will be added to Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS in an update over the days ahead.
HMD Global, the company that makes Nokia-branded handsets, today said it will sell the Nokia 6 smartphone in the U.S. via Amazon. The 6 is the best of the three Nokia Android phones currently available, though it still falls in the entry-level segment. The Nokia 6 runs Android 7 Nougat, has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, includes stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos sound, relies on a Snapdragon 430 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and a boasts a 16-megapixel main camera with an 8-megapixel front camera. It packs a 3,000mAh battery, as well as Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi, fingerprint sensor, 3.5mm headphone jack, and microUSB. LTE 4G support for U.S. networks is limited at best. It supports LTE Bands 2, 3, 4, 7, 12/17, 28, 38. It is only partially compatible with AT&T's 4G network because it is missing LTE Bands 29 and 30. The Nokia 6 is more compatible with T-Mobile's LTE 4G network. The matte black and silver color options are expected to go on sale in July for $229, with the blue and copper colors arriving later.
Virgin Mobile today announced plans to become an iPhone-only carrier, but the carrier's Android-based handsets won't vanish overnight. Virgin's reseller partners, including Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, will continue to carry and sell Virgin Mobile's lineup of Android handsets along with the prepaid carrier's Data Love service plans, according to Justin Scott, Virgin Mobile's Director of Communications. These retail partners will not sell the iPhone for the Inner Circle yet, though Virgin anticipates they will later this year. Virgin says its existing customers won't have to worry about any immediate changes. All Virgin subscribers are welcome to keep their current phone and service plan. If they wish, customers can upgrade to the Inner Circle plan once it becomes available, but Virgin won't force them to right away. Virgin will, however, begin to phase out all Android handsets over time. "While we love our partners in the Android ecosystem and care deeply about our Android customers, the Inner Circle is a path to a different future," explained Scott. "Specifically, it's an opportunity to reposition the brand and align it with the other Virgin companies in the United States. We certainly didn't make this decision lightly and based some of it on consumer data. We chose to become the first iPhone-only based mobile carrier in the United States and launch a game-changing offer because it was time for Virgin Mobile to make a bold move." Scott did not provide any sort of timeline for phasing out the company's Android phones.
Snapchat today updated its mobile app and made it possible for users to share their location with one another. The tool appears to have just two modes, on and off. When users choose to share their location, all their friends will see where they are on a map. Alternately, users can remain in "Ghost Mode" to keep their location private. Snapchat says users' Actionmojis will show up on the map only when they open Snapchat. The map supports zooming, so you can see where all your contacts are as they move about cities or regions. Snapchat sees the feature as a way for people to find one another when out and about and share experiences. Snap Map is being added to the Android and iOS mobile Snapchat apps over the days ahead.
The Unicode Consortium this week announced Unicode 10, which includes 56 new emoji characters and four new scripts. Some of the new emoji include facial expressions (raised eyebrow, hand-over-mouth), more men and women (bearded man, woman in head garb), hand symbols, food (dumpling, fortune cookie), clothing items, animals (dinosaurs, bugs), vehicles (flying saucer, sled), and a curling stone. The Consortium says the new scripts cover some of the world's lesser-used languages, including Gondi, Soyombo, Syriac, and Gujarati. The Unicode Consortium often offers a preview of its releases before they are made final, but this week it announced and released the final build of Unicode 10. It will be up to operating systems, platforms, and applications to adopt the new emoji. Some of the new faces are already built into Android 8 O.
ZTE today began pushing Android 7.1.1 to its Axon 7 Mini smartphone. Like the same update that reached the larger Axon 7 earlier this year, today's update for the Axon 7 Mini adds support for T-Mobile WiFi Calling; a wider selection of gender-balanced emoji and GIFs; performance improvements to Google's Daydream VR; and the latest security patches. ZTE says it also fixed bugs and tweaked behaviors throughout the operating system. Android 7.1.1 Nougat heralds split-screen multitasking and better power management. People who own the Axon 7 Mini can download the update manually via the system settings tools on their phone or wait for it to arrive over the air.