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.
Twitter today revealed adjustments to the Direct Message function of its service that will expand the ability for people to talk to one another in private. Moving forward, any user will be able to DM their followers. Users can opt to receive private messages from any Twitter user, regardless of who follows who, if they wish. Twitter now has broader support for group messaging, as well. Twitter said forthcoming updates to the Android and iOS apps will enable this feature, as well as make it easier to DM others with a dedicated button in user profiles. Twitter is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively. The changes reflect the competitive and critical nature of mobile messaging.
Google today announced a significant slew of new features will be available to Android Wear devices thanks to a forthcoming update. Most significantly, Android Wear will support always-on apps. This means users can choose to leave any app running on the screen without fear of the screen going dark if they lower their arm. The platform will also add support for WiFi, which will permit smartwatches to be more connected without nearby smartphones. As long as the phone has a data connection wherever it is and the watch is connected to WiFi, users will still be able to receive their notifications and messages. The platform also adds support for gestures. For example, users will be able to flick their wrist to scroll through the content in apps. Android Wear also makes it easier to use apps with a new app launcher that's available from the home screen. Last, users will be able to scribble emoji directly on their watch screen when replying to messages. (The Apple Watch has a similar feature.) Google said the update will reach most Android Wear devices over the next few weeks.
AT&T today announced it will begin selling the LG G Flex 2 on April 24. The handset will be available at a variety of price points. The full retail cost of the phone is $708.99 and the two-year contract price is $299.99. Customers interested in monthly payments can snag the G Flex 2 for $23.64 per month with an AT&T Next 24 plan, $29.55 per month on a Next 18 plan, or $35.45 on a Next 12 plan. The G Flex 2 is a second-generation curved phone. It has a 5.5-inch full HD screen that is semi-flexible. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 810 processor and has a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. It runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. Sprint has been selling the G Flex 2 since March.
OnePlus today made its One smartphone available to anyone who wants it. The company launched the device a year ago, but required hard-to-get invitations. The invitations are no longer needed, and now anyone can purchase the phone. The OnePlus One runs Oxygen OS, a modified version of Android 4.4 KitKat. The device has a 5.5-inch screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 13-megapixel main camera with 4K video capture, 5-megapixel front camera, and 3 GB of RAM. OnePlus sells the phone unlocked for $299 (16 GB model). OnePlus also noted that it plans to reveal the OnePlus 2 during the third quarter of the year. At launch, the 2 will require invites in order to "mitigate risk," said OnePlus. The OnePlus One is available directly from the OnePlus web site.
Sony today announced the Xperia Z4, a modest update to is 2014 flagship, the Z3. The Z4 features a glass and metal design that is water and dust proof. The phone is slimmer than its predecessor and measures 6.9mm thick. The Z4 features a 5.2-inch full HD Triluminos display and runs an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of memory, 32 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128 GB. The main camera uses Sony's 20.7-megapixel Exmor RS sensor, while the front camera is improved to a 5.1-megapixel Exmor sensor with shake correction. The main camera can record video up to 4K, while the front camera can record 1080p HD. The Z4 offers a range of connectivity options, including dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, and support for select LTE 4G networks. The device runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and will feature Sony's apps and user interface overlay. Sony said it will begin to sell the Xperia Z4 in Japan around the middle of the year, but didn't say for how much nor if the phone's availability will be expanded to other markets. Sony's Z3 saw limited release in the U.S. last year, as Sony has struggled to gain any share of the U.S. market.
Amazon recently discontinued the ability test Android applications before purchasing. Launched in March 2011, TestDrive let Android device owners test for-pay apps before actually paying for them. According to Amazon, many apps have since changed to the "free to play" business model, which allows people to download and use most apps for free. Often, these apps only charge for additional features or services. This led to a significant decline in the number of people using TestDrive. Amazon shut down the TestDrive program, effective April 15.
Google recently rolled out updates to its productivity suite of applications. Google Drive for Android now allows users to share files/photos directly from the notification panel once the file is finished uploading. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for Android and iOS were also given new powers, such as the ability to accept, reject, or comment on suggestions in Docs. Docs also makes reviewing and acting on comments/suggestions easier from mobile devices, and includes the ability to track changes across document versions. The Docs app for iOS now allows users to edit tables. The Sheets app lets people move, resize, and delete charts, as well as reorder objects. Last, the Slides app is more compatible with PowerPoint files from Microsoft, and they should load quicker and scroll faster. Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Google said the updates will arrive over the next few days.
Cyanogen today said it has partnered with Microsoft to bring the latter's productivity apps to Cyanogen's operating system. Microsoft will create native integrations on Cyanogen OS. Cyanogen expects to include Microsoft's Bing, Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, and Microsoft Office apps in a future version of the operating system. Cyanogen is looking to separate its version of Android, based on AOSP, away from Google's version of Android. Cyanogen needs a partnership like this one to make sure Cyanogen OS users have a full set of on-board productivity tools. Cyanogen didn't say how soon the integration might be completed. Microsoft has made an aggressive push to get its apps onto as many mobile platforms as possible. It already offers free versions of Office, Outlook, OneDrive, and others to the Android and iOS platforms.
Google recently rolled out a quick new way to locate misplaced Android smartphones. A simple Google search for "Find My Phone" from a PC can find a lost phone, force it to ring at full volume, and even position it on a map. The tool requires device owners to sign in to their Google account in the browser and they must also have the latest version of the Google app installed on their phone. For people with multiple Android devices, a drop-down menu lets you specify which device you'd like to find. Users who want to lock or wipe their phone will need to have Android Device Manager activated on their handset. "Find My Phone" is free to use.
Meerkat is preparing to launch on the Android platform and hopes people will be willing to test a beta version of the app before its general release. The company posted a sign-up web site so those interested can register for the beta. Meerkat didn't say when the beta app will actually become available. Meerkat, which is already available for iOS, allows Twitter users to stream live video to followers. Twitter's own Periscope app, also iOs only, does the same thing.
Google today made available a new keyboard for Android devices that allows people to handwrite text in 82 languages rather than type on the keys. According to Google, the main features allow for printed and script handwriting recognition, voice input, and emoji support. Users can write text with their finger or with a stylus, and the app works on tablets and smartphones alike. Google Handwriting Input is free to download from the Play Store. It supports devices running Ice Cream Sandwich and up.
AT&T today began updating its versions of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy S5 Active to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Both updates are available for over-the-air download and are rolling out over the next few days. Lollipop includes Google's Material Design language, battery-saving features, Smart Lock, and more. The update is free.
Verizon Wireless said its version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will begin to receive Android 5.0 Lollipop today. The over-the-air update will roll out to all users gradually. According to Verizon, seven of its handsets now run Lollipop, including the Motorola Moto X (2nd gen); Galaxy Note 4, S5, and Note 3; LG G2 and G3; and the HTC One M8.
BlackBerry today said its Leap smartphone is now available in the U.K., with other countries to follow shortly. The Leap is similar to the Z10 and has a 5-inch, 720p HD display and an older Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor clocked at 1.5GHz. Other features include LTE 4G, an 8-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front camera, memory card slot, and a 2,800mAh battery. The device runs BlackBerry 10.3.1 and includes the Amazon Appstore for compatible Android apps. According to BlackBerry, the phone will reach Germany, France, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India, and the U.S. within the next few weeks. The U.S. price will be approximately $275.
Nokia today said it has agreed to acquire Alcatel-Lucent for $16.6 billion. The combined companies would be a giant in the telecom equipment space with more than 100,000 employees. The terms of the deal will see Nokia acquire all of Alcatel-Lucent's stock, as traded in both France and the U.S. The companies' boards of directors have approved the deal, though shareholders have yet to vote on the acquisition. The deal will also require regulatory approval. The companies expect the deal to close during the first half of 2016. Once combined, the companies will streamline redundant operations, but believe the 40,000 research and development at its disposal employees will be able to make the company a world leader in the connected IP space. Nokia-Alcatel-Lucent will specifically target the development of 5G wireless networks. The largest competitors remaining are Ericsson and Huawei, though ZTE, Samsung, and others make telecommunications equipment, too. In addition to announcing the Alcatel-Lucent deal, Nokia said it has begun a review of strategic options for its HERE Maps business. Nokia acquired Navteq's mapping business in 2007 and turned it into a competitive global company. Nokia's HERE Maps are available to the Android, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms, as well as online, and provide robust driving, walking, and transit directions. Nokia said its review of HERE Maps may or may not result in a transaction.
Apple recently made iOS 8.4 available to developers in beta form and the new system software revealed a handful of changes to the music player. First and foremost, the music application has been refreshed a bit to more closely match the visual experience offered by Apple's iTunes desktop application. New tabs along the bottom of the screen let users quickly switch between tracks, playlists, and iTunes Radio. The app also makes it easier to adjust playlists and song queues on the fly, and the refreshed music playback user interface puts a higher priority on album artwork. In iOS 8.4 beta Apple has finally pulled audiobooks out of the music application and added them to the iBook application. iBooks itself has a refreshed player and makes sorting between audiobooks and iBook purchases simple. Google's Android platform can play audiobooks in the Play Music app, most simple MP3 apps, and third-party reader apps, such as Audible. Apple only recently released iOS 8.3 to the general public. There's no telling when 8.4 will go live for all users.
Opera Software today announced a wholly refreshed version of Opera Mini for Android devices. Opera gave the browser a new user interface based on Material Design, which lends the browser a more native look and feel to Android devices. Beyond the revised UX, Opera Mini for Android has a simplified menu, an overhauled Speed Dial feature (for favorites), and a private browsing mode. Users can customize the browser's layout, and the UI scales better on larger phones and tablets. Opera updated the Discover newsfeed to make news discovery easier and made the data counter more visible. Opera Mini is a proxy-based browser, which means Opera compresses web pages on its servers before delivering them over wireless networks. This is meant to help cut down data consumption. Opera believes the new browser will help it grow its user base from 130 million users today to 275 million by 2017. Opera's browser competes with Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox, and myriad other browsers.
Verizon Wireless has begun updating its variant of the LG G3 to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Asside from the standard list of new features, the G3 gains a new version of LG Health. The update is rolling out over the air in phases and is free to download.
Sprint today announced a new service called Direct 2 You, wherein a Sprint technician will bring the store experience to customers who purchase a new phone. According to Sprint, some customers prefer to shop from home, but are uncomfortable setting up their new device on their own. With Direct 2 You, customers can make purchases from afar and still receive the same benefits as buying in stores, such as setting up the phone, transferring content from the old phone to the new one, and tutorials to ensure the customer understands how to use their new device. Sprint said customers can choose to receive their Direct 2 You service at home, job site, or other location. The company is launching the service in its home market of Kansas City today, with plans to expand to Chicago and Miami on April 20, and the rest of the country by the end of the year. At launch 30 techs will be working in the field, but Sprint is preparing an army of about 5,000 technicians to perform the service. Techs will also be able to teach customers how to learn a new operating system if they're switching from an Android device to the iPhone or vice versa. Sprint said eligible upgrade customers will receive a message from Sprint with an offer to try Direct 2 You when it's time for them to update devices. Customers can then choose to respond and set up a Direct 2 You appointment. Sprint's Direct 2 You service will be offered free of charge.
Cricket Wireless announced the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime is available to customers today for $179.99. The phone has a 5-inch qHD display, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, and a 2,600mAh battery. The phone runs Android 4.4 KitKat and is compatible with Cricket's LTE 4G network. Service plans start at $35. Cricket Wireless is owned and operated by AT&T.
Huawei's newest phone - announced this morning - is an affordable, mass-market Android phone that Huawei is selling unlocked in the U.S. It's compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile, including 4G LTE. It has a 5-inch HD display, but its specs are otherwise fairly low-end. Its name comes from a unique button shortcut that not only launches the camera, but takes a photo, too. How does it stack up for the $180 Huawei is asking? Read on.
Google today said Android device owners can make mobile payments at Dunkin Donuts stores and for Seamless delivery orders. These join others, such as Papa Johns, Dominos, and Panda Express, in accepting Google Wallet for tap-and-go transactions. In addition to mobile payments, the Dunkin Donuts Android application now accepts Google Wallet for recharging the mobile Dunkin Donuts Card. Last, Dunkin Donuts, Seamless, and Papa Johns all now support in-app ordering with Google Wallet. Google said users will need to download the latest versions of these mobile apps to fully integrate them with Google Wallet. The apps are free from the Google Play Store.
Huawei today announced the SnapTo, an unlocked Android smartphone for sale in the U.S. The phone runs Android 4.4 KitKat and is compatible with the LTE networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. Basic features include a 5-inch 720p HD display, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 2,200mAh battery. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and can capture 720p HD video. It has a feature called Ultra Snapshot, which will automatically take a picture if the down volume button is pressed twice, even when the phone is locked. The front camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. Huawei said the device is available for pre-order starting today and general availability begins next week. It will be available online from Amazon.com. GetHuawei.com, BestBuy.com, Brandsmart USA, Frys.com and Fry's Electronic retail stores, NewEgg.com and other retailers. The SnapTo costs $179.99.
Google has begun pushing the Android 5.1 Lollipop update to several Play Edition smartphones, including the HTC One M8 and the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. Android 5.1 makes a number of improvements to the devices' performance, and also adds several new features. Google tweaked the Quick Settings menu, added support for HD voice, improved security by blocking non-authorized device resets, and changed how users adjust notifications and alerts. Play Edition handsets, which are available directly from Google, are unlocked and run a native version of Android. They are entirely devoid of manufacturer and carrier user interface overlays. The Android 5.1 Lollipop update is free to install.
Twitter has canned the Discover and Activity tabs in its mobile applications in favor of a new way to sift through trending content. Moving forward, when people use the search bar they'll also see trending stories as well as descriptions of those stories. Twitter believes this will make it easier to find popular content that's getting a lot of traction on the social network. The change applies to the Android and iOS mobile applications. Twitter said it is experimenting with this feature on the web, but hasn't yet implemented the change online. Twitter recently updated both its Android and iOS apps, and the changes are reflected in those apps beginning today.
Google today said the number of individual watch faces for Android Wear smartwatches number more than 1,000. In order to make them easier to find and install, Google is calling them out in a special section in the Google Play Store. Google also said it has put together a curated selection of watch bands to help customers further personalize their Android Wear devices. Most Android Wear devices use the standard 22mm strap bands. The options, which vary in color, material, and design, come from E3 Supply, Worn & Wound, and Clockwork Synergy.
Intel made a slew of announcements recently, among them a new camera module for smartphones and new versions of its Atom mobile processor. Intel's RealSense 3D camera is meant to help solve complex problems based on what it can see, but it can also power things like gesture-based controls. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich showed a prototype RealSense camera for smartphones that has a longer range than previous versions of the 3D camera. Intel plans to make the smaller, smartphone-compatible version of RealSense available later this year. The company also talked up its Atom x3 processor. It demonstrated the processor working in a smartphone for the first time, but also has expanded the x3's potential to include the internet of things. Intel plans to make versions of the x3 that can withstand temperature extremes and weather, with support for Android and Linux devices. Intel envisions the x3 playing a starring role in home and business automation projects. Last, Intel said it will release a turnkey program for its Atom x5 processors, which should help device makers get their hardware to market quicker.
AT&T today made Android 5.0 Lollipop available to its variants of the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. Lollipop adds priority mode for managing notifications, battery saving tools, and Smart Lock for protecting devices with nearby Bluetooth accessories, among many other features. Both HTC and Samsung have also revised their Sense and Touchwiz user interface overlays for the One and GS4, respectively. AT&T suggests users download the system updates via WiFi. The updates are free to install.
Instagram today said several new editing options will soon be available in its Android and iOS applications. According to Instagram, the Color tool lets people add colors/tints to highlights in their photos. The app will have yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, cyan, blue, and green hues for giving photos some extra punch. The Fade tool lets users soften colors a bit to adjust the tone. The updated Android app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store today. Instagram said the updated iOS app will be available in a few days.
LG is slowly revealing aspects of its forthcoming flagship smartphone bit by bit. The G4, expected to arrive at an event later this month, will have LG's newest user interface called LG UX 4.0. The UI has a new design based on Android 5.0 Lollipop. According to LG, UX 4.0 "provides more optimized and intuitive convenience to each individual at every user level." One new feature is called Quick Shot, which lets users to take pictures by double-tapping the phone's rear key even while the display is off. The camera itself gains new functions, too, including a manual mode that gives users full control over the camera's settings and behaviors. LG updated its calendar app with a drag-and-drop scheduler and improved its Smart Bulletin tool with the ability to collect data across more apps. The UX also introduces LG's version of Google Now, called Smart Notice. LG says Smart Notice provides personalized notifications for weather, travel, and more by analyzing users' daily routines and habits. LG also posted a teaser video on its YouTube channel regarding the G4's camera. The camera will have an aperture of f/1.8, which means it can let in a little bit more light than most competing smartphone cameras. The Samsung Galaxy S6, for example, has an aperture of f/1.9 and the HTC One M9 has an aperture of f/2.2. Earlier this month LG revealed a new 5.5-inch quad HD display for the G4. Together, these hints provide a decent picture of what the LG G4 will offer. The LG G4 launch event is scheduled for April 28.
Two consumers have withdrawn a lawsuit filed against Google in which they claimed the OS-maker artificially inflated smartphone prices by requiring phone manufacturers to include its apps. The class action lawsuit was filed in May 2014. The plaintiffs asserted that phone OEMs were forced to favor Google apps and were restricted from using apps from competitors. The judge overseeing the case said the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate how this illegally raised prices. Google contends that phone makers don't have to use its apps at all. "Since Android's introduction, greater competition in smartphones has given consumers more choices at lower prices," said Google in an email to Reuters. Amazon's Fire Phone is a good example of a device that runs Android without Google's apps on board. Amazon supplanted Google's services with its own. Google is still facing a similar lawsuit in Europe.
OnePlus has released a full version of its Oxygen operating system for its One smartphone. OnePlus released an alpha version of the operating system in January, but the new release is stable enough for all users. The OnePlus One handset shipped last year with CyanogenMod based on Android 4.4 KitKat. OnePlus said it spent its first year in business concentrating on hardware and the second year concentrating on software. OxygenOS is based on AOSP Android 5.0.2 Lollipop and includes many features with which Android users should be familiar. Some of the custom functions include gestures for waking the phone and controlling music, customizable lock screen behaviors, the ability to switch between hardware and software control keys, and a customizable Quick Settings panel. OnePlus said it plans to add features to the OS over time. OxygenOS is free to download, but is only compatible with the OnePlus One smartphone. The OnePlus One is a high-end, low-cost smartphone. Consumers can buy it online directly from OnePlus starting at $299. It is sold unlocked and without a carrier contract.
Microsoft today released versions of its Office Lens application for Android and iOS devices. Office Lens uses the device's camera to capture receipts, business cards, menus, whiteboards, sticky notes, and other documents and save them to OneNote. The tool is able to adjust automatically for crooked or angled images, and can recognize text thanks to optical character recognition. Users can convert images of paper documents into Word, PowerPoint, or PDF files; automatically populate their contact lists with scans of business cards; as well as search, save, export, or share the images. Microsoft is making Office Lens available to Android and iOS devices as a preview. The app is free.
Skype today pushed out significant improvements to its Android, iOS, and Qik mobile applications. The Android version of Skype gains new bubble-style conversations similar to the iPhone, as well as access to an expanded range of animated emoji. The Android app will no longer auto-scroll to the latest message as new ones come in; allows users to change and view avatars for group chats; and forces users to re-enter their password if they actively sign out of the app. The iOS version of Skype now supports more languages, including Croatian, Slovak, Catalan, Vietnamese, Thai, Hindi, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Malay, Turkish, and Estonian. Skype's Qik app for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone now supports multiple effects at once. The Android and iOS Qik apps now let people access these features by touching the magic wand, but the Windows Phone version uses a viewfinder to cycle through the different effects. Skype for Android and iOS, and Qik for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone are free to download from the platforms' respective app stores.
Microsoft delivered a new version of its Outlook email application to the Android and iOS platforms this week. Both versions of the app see plenty of bug fixes and stability improvements. The Android version of the app gains a new agenda widget and the iOS version gains an entirely new calendar event screen. Outlook is free to download and is compatible with a wide range of email services, including Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com (Hotmail, MSN), Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and iCloud.
HTC today announced the One M8s, a handset that looks like the M8 but dials back the specs to help lower the price. The phone has the same unibody metal design and full HD 5-inch screen, but uses a Snapdragon 615 processor and changes up the camera sensors. The 615 has eight, 64-bit cores with four clocked at 1.7GHz and four clocked at 1.0GHz in a big.LITTLE configuration. The phone includes 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and supports memory cards up to 128GB. The duo-camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and an aperture of f/2.0, while the user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The phone, which is being released in Europe, has limited support for LTE (bands 3, 5, 7, 8, 20), but includes Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, and WiFi. The One M8s features HTC's signature Boomsound stereo speakers, packs a handful of sensors, and includes a 2,840mAh battery. The phone ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop, but the older Sense 6.0 user interface overlay from HTC with BlinkFeed. The phone will be available in select markets in gray, silver or gold. Pricing is set at about $410.
Yahoo today pushed out an update to its Android application that brings it inline with the iOS app, which it refreshed in January. The Android Yahoo app is now more visually engaging and makes it easier to access articles, polls, and blogs from Yahoo's digital magazines, such as Yahoo Autos, Yahoo Sports, and others. The app also now keeps Yahoo Weather and Yahoo News Digest above all the other digital sections in the news feed. Yahoo for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Alcatel OneTouch today made its smartwatch available for preorder through its web site. The watch, announced earlier this year, runs a proprietary operating system and is compatible with both Android and iOS devices. The wearable can track workouts and heartrate, notify users to incoming calls/messages, and control music playback. Users can take advantage of a wrist-shaking gesture to launch their smartphone's camera, if they wish. The watch will initially ship with a black band, but other colors will become available later this year. The Alcatel OneTouch Watch costs $149.99. Alcatel didn't specify when the watch will ship.
WhatsApp is rolling out voice calling to its Android application today. The feature, which was delayed from last year, has been in the works for some time. Some users have been testing it since February. Now, it is spreading to all Android smartphone users. With the new feature on board, WhatsApp users will be able to chat with and make voice calls to their WhatsApp contacts. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which has already added calling features to Facebook Messenger. WhatsApp voice calling isn't available to Android tablets. The update is rolling out over the next few days.
Google today said it is giving people more options for organizing their photos and videos online. Moving forward, all the photos and videos users have stored in Google+ will be accessible from Google Drive. This change applies to the Android and iOS apps, as well as the web. Google believes adding photos/videos to drive will help people organize them more easily alongside their other files. Even so, Google+ Photos will continue to operate separately, where people can store, edit, and share their pictures. Google said Drive users should see their photos begin to appear automatically over the next few weeks.