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.
YotaPhone plans to launch its unique dual-screen YotaPhone 2 in the U.S. this spring via crowd-funding site Indiegogo, according to spokesperson Matthew Kelly. The YotaPhone 2 is a high-end Android phone with a large e-paper display on the back that uses no power when displaying static images and graphics, greatly extending battery life when used often instead of the traditional front display. It is compatible with both T-Mobile and AT&T networks, including LTE. It will sell for approximately $600. As usual for Indiegogo, the company will offer incentives to early backers. Those incentives have not been nailed down, but may include a bumper case or even a discount on the phone. After a successful Indiegogo launch, the company plans to expand availability to third-party retailers such as best Buy. YotaPhone is hard at work on its software upgrade to Android 5.0 (Lollipop), which should be available by the time units start shipping in the U.S., or shortly thereafter. The software update will also include an overhauled 2.0 version of the API for third-party app support of the e-paper screen. The company will also launch a white version of the YotaPhone 2, which has a white back and sides, but keeps the black face. The white color is expected by late summer.
Google today announced the rollout of Play Services 7.0. Play Services is the backbone developers use to create and power applications for Android. The latest version of Play Services adds a handful of new tools for developers to take advantage of when writing apps. First is a Location Settings Dialog box that will appear when users need to activate location services. Typically when apps require location details apps prompt users to go to the settings menu to turn location on. With the Location Settings Dialog box, a pop-up menu will appear instead, allowing users to flick on GPS without diving into the settings menu. A Places API allows developers to call up details from Google’s database of places and businesses within Maps, making it easier for users to see the names of nearby venues and points of interest. Play Services 7.0 breaks up the Google Fit API into six different APIs that allow developers to fine-tune how Google Fit handles workouts and other sensor data capturing in the background. Targeting gamers, the Nearby Connections API lets games connect smartphones and tablets as second-screen controls to the game running on your TV. The new developer tools also makes me changes to advertising behaviors. Google is rolling Play Services 7.0 beginning today. It should reach most phones running Android 2.3 and up in the next one to two weeks. After it has been distributed, Google will give developers a new SDK to access all the new tools inside Play Services 7.0.
BlackBerry today announced the Leap, a new smartphone with standard slab touch screen form factor. It's much like the Z10 that launched BlackBerry 10, but with a larger 5-inch, 720p HD display. It includes LTE, an 8-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front camera, memory card slot, and a 2,800 mAh sealed battery. It's powered by an older Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor, running at 1.5 GHz. It will include the Amazon Appstore for compatible Android apps. It's running BlackBerry 10.3.1 and will cost $275. It will come to Europe, initially.
Alcatel OneTouch today announced the Hero 2+, a phablet running Cyanogen, which is a modified version of Android. The Hero 2+ is a refreshed version of last year's Hero 2. The The Cyanogen 11 operating system is based on Android 4.4.4 KitKat. It includes Cyanogen's Privacy Guard software, which lets users protect their information, as well as encrypt and remotely lock/wipe their device. Cyanogen has supplied its own set of themes and wallpapers to the user interface in addition to camera software and other tools. The phone has a 6-inch full HD display with a built-in stylus. It is powered by a 2.0GHz octa-core Cortex A7 processor from MediaTek paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The main camera captures 13 megapixels and the user-facing camera captures 5 megapixels. Both can film full HD video. Alcatel plans to sell the phone directly to consumers across North America through its e-commerce web site. The phone will be sold unlocked for $299. Alcatel expects it to go on sale during the second quarter.
Intel today revealed its roadmap for 2015, which includes three new Atom mobile processors called the x3, x5, and x7, in addition to a new LTE modem. The Atom x3 is a system-on-a-chip complete with a modem and is meant for volume devices. There will be versions supporting 3G and LTE 4G. The 64-bit processor is ideal for smartphones, phablets, and tablets, says Intel. It can support Android and Windows, and camera configurations as large as 13 megapixels / 5 megapixels. The x3 will be available in dual- and quad-core variants with Mali graphics chips. The Atom x5 and x7 are meant for more powerful machines and are capable of running both Android and the full desktop version of Windows. These SoCs use Intel's 14nm processes and support 64-bit computing. They can handle up to Cat 6 LTE and Intel Gen 8 graphics. The x7 offers improved 3D performance for gaming, too. Intel expects to see the Atom x3, x5, and x7 reach consumer devices during the first half of the year. Last, Intel announced the XMM 7360 LTE modem. It supports carrier aggregation and LTE downlink speeds up to 450Mbps. It supports 29 different cellular bands, LTE Broadcast, VoLTE, and dual-SIM devices. It uses envelope tracking to improve power efficiency. The XMM 7360 can be prepackaged with Intel's WiFi, GPS/GLONASS, and NFC connectivity options. Intel expects to see devices with the XMM 7360 reach consumers during the second half of the year.
Google's Sundar Pichai today said that it doesn't see Android Pay and Google Wallet competing with Samsung's recently announced Samsung Pay. Android Pay is an API that will be used by developers across the entire Android ecosystem. Samsung Pay is a complete solution to make mobile payments possible on Samsung's handsets. Google expects to work with Samsung to see how Android Pay and Samsung Pay can work together. There was some concern over friction between Google and Samsung.
Jolla today announced Sailfish OS 2.0, which brings a handful of improvements to the smartphone platform. To start, the OS is more compatible with Android applications thanks to a stronger technical core. Further, the platform now supports Intel processors, including Intel's new x3 chip. Jolla improved the platform's multitasking capabilities, tweaked the user interface, added privacy and personalization features, and simplified interacting with notifications thanks to swiping gestures. Jolla said the improved OS is meant to provide a more premium experience. Along with the updated operating system, Jolla said is inviting companies to join the Sailfish Alliance to help build out a larger ecosystem to support the operating system. Jolla is a Finnish company formed by ex-Nokia employees. Sailfish was born from Nokia's discarded Maemo and Moblin Linux platforms.
Sony today announced the M4 Aqua, a mid-range handset for the active users. The M4 uses Sony's OmniBalance design language and mixes metals, plastics, and tempered glass. The phone is waterproof despite having an open headset jack and microUSB port. Some features include a 13-megapixel main camera with f/2.0 aperture and Sony's Superior Auto mode. The user-facing camera rates 5 megapixels. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, which has eight cores and 64-bit computing. Sony says the battery is good for two days of use. The M4 Aqua runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. The deice will reach more than 100 carriers in 80 countries beginning this spring. Pricing will be about $335. U.S. carriers have not yet voiced support for this handset
Google has appointed Bradley Horowitz as head of Google’s Photos and Streams products. Google is splitting the Photos product from the main Google+ social network, which is being recognized by Google under the new "Streams" name. The news follows a recent Fortune interview with Google's Sundar Pichai, who implied that the photos product would eventually stand on its own. "It's important to me that these changes are properly understood to be positive improvements to both our products and how they reach users," said Hotowitz in a blog post. At the moment, the products are still together. Google didn't say when an official split will take place. Google has long been improving the Photos app on Android devices, which the default photo gallery tool on Android smartphones.
MediaTek today announced CrossMount, a new standard that lets devices such as phones, tablets, PCs, and TVs make specific hardware and/or software components available to other nearby devices via Wi-Fi. One example is your smartphone making its sound output available to your TV, so you could use your smartphone and earbuds as wireless headphones for your TV. The smartphone could also make its camera available to a smart TV, for video conferencing. CrossMount is based on UPnP technology, and works over Wi-Fi Direct, or over a Wi-Fi network. MediaTek is forming an alliance to drive industry-wide support for the standard. The company is aiming to have Android-based devices supporting CrossMount on the market by the end of the year.
BlackBerry today announced the BlackBerry Experience Suite, a package of software that will help businesses manage their Android, iOS, and Windows smartphones and tablets. The suite will take form in three distinct services: Productivity, Communications and Collaboration, and Security. "We want to empower all mobile professionals in order to supercharge their productivity and allow them to work across all their devices in an effortless and secure way," said BlackBerry. BlackBerry plans to sell these three products separately or together to corporations. BlackBerry plans to ship the BlackBerry Experience Suite later this year.
BlackBerry today announced updates to the Android and iOS versions of BBM. Both versions gain access to two new services: no ads and custom PINs. People who'd like to use BBM with no ads can do so for $0.99 per month. People who'd like to generate their own, personal PIN code can do so for $1.99 per month. Android and iOS users will also be able to share photos within BBM group chats. The Android version of BBM adds support for Android Wear, so smartwatch wearers can receive BBM notifications on their wrists. The iOS version of BBM gains support for TouchID, which will allow users to secure their BBM chats with their fingerprint. BBM is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, two Android smartphones that marry high-quality design with leading specs. The devices are made with a mix of metal and glass materials, with the GS6 Edge offering a curved display on two sides. According to Samsung, the display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and comes in several jewel tones with names like black sapphire, white pearl, blue topaz, and gold platinum. Aside from the display, all specs are shared between the two phones. The GS6 and GS6 Edge measure 6.8mm and 7.0mm thick, respectively. The Super AMOLED display measures 5.1 inches across the diagonal and includes 2560 x 1440 pixels (quad HD). Samsung says it has enhanced brightness for better outdoor viewability. The 16-megapixel main camera boasts optical image stabilization, auto HDR, and a Quick Launch feature that starts the camera app in less than a second. The user-facing camera rates 5-megpaixels; both have an aperture of f/1.9 for better low-light performance. Samsung is relying on its own technology to power the GS6 and GS6 Edge. It ships with an octa-core processor with a quad-core bank of processors clocked at 2.1GHz and a second quad-core bank clocked at 1.5GHz. The processor is paired with 3GB of LPDDR4 memory and UFS 2.0 flash for faster storage performance. The phone includes a 2,600mAh battery that supports both the WPC and PMA wireless charging standards, in addition to quick charging. Samsung says it has upgraded its KNOX security platform to better protect the device, added a Find My Device tool and remote wipe/remote reactivate tools, and improved the fingerprint scanner. The security tools will help when Samsung launches Samsung Pay, a mobile payment service planned for the second half of the year. The device will be preloaded with several Microsoft applications, including OneDrive (115GB of free storage) and OneNote. Other specs include Category 6 LTE, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, ultra power-savings mode and Android 5.0 Lollipop. The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge will be available globally starting April 10 with 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB internal storage options.
Alcatel's new flagship Android smartphones impress with their features, build quality, and cost. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of these mid-market killers.
HTC today announced the Grip fitness band in conjunction with Under Armour. The Grip is part of HTC's growing Re series of connected devices. The Grip is a rubber band with a curved white OLED display and GPS for tracking outdoor fitness activity. It links to Under Armour's UA Record app to log and analyze detailed workout data. The Grip also connects to phones to display notifications and control music. It includes a canned text message reply function, configurable from the phone app. The Grip works with both Android and iOS. It is available in three sizes and is rated IP57 for water resistance. It will be available in the U.S. this spring. HTC also announced the Vive, a high-end VR headset. As it must be tethered to a PC, it's HTC's first truly non-mobile product. HTC has partnered with Valve for content for the Vive.
Huawei today announced the Huawei Watch, an Android Wear watch with a round face and thin bezel. It does not have the black bar at one edge like the Moto 360. The AMOLED display measures 1.4 inches, with 400 x 400 pixels for 286 ppi density. The Watch includes 4 GB of memory for storing music. On the fitness side, it includes a heart rate monitor and six-axis motion sensor. It is forged from stainless steel and will be available in gold, silver and black. It will be sold in the U.S., although timing was not announced.
AT&T today said it will sell the LG Watch Urbane smartwatch in the near future. AT&T didn't say if it will sell the Watch Urbane LTE. The Watch Urbane runs Android Wear. Pricing and exact availability are still to be announced.
Sprint recently announced the Best Buy One Plan, a plan that includes a smartphone and service for a single monthly price. According to Sprint, Best Buy shoppers (who have good credit) can lease an iPhone 6 16GB with unlimited talk, text, and data for no money down for $65 per month. The lease program lasts two years. Best Buy customers may also lease an Android smartphone with unlimited talk, text, and data for $75 per month. Prices don't include taxes and fees, and final price will vary depending on the phone leased. Customers interested in leasing for a period of only one year can do so for an extra $10 per month. Customers who activate a new line of service before March 28 will also receive a $200 Best Buy gift card. The Best Buy One Plan is only available at Best Buy stores.
Silent Circle today said it has purchased the Blackphone assets from partner Geeksphone. Silent Circle and Geeksphone together launched the Blackphone, a secure smartphone based on a forked version of Google's Android platform, last year. Geeksphone, based in Spain, created the hardware and Silent Circle, based in Switzerland, provided the secure communications services. Today, Silent Circle bought out SGP Technologies, which was the joint venture formed between the two companies. Silent Circle now fully owns the Blackphone and its associated services. Silent Circle said the move will result in operating efficiencies and an integrated product roadmap. The company also said it intends to introduce new devices, software, and services at the upcoming Mobile World Congress trade show. More information will be available in the days ahead.
LG today announced a variant of its Watch Urbane smartwatch that adds support for LTE and NFC. Because Google's Android Wear platform doesn't yet support LTE and NFC, the Watch Urbane LTE runs LG's proprietary wearables platform. LG said its own platform offers most of the same features found on the Android Wear version of the Watch Urbane. With LTE, the Watch Urbane can make and receive phone calls, send and receive messages, enable carry out push-to-talk conversations, and perform other network-centric tasks without requiring a nearby smartphone. The Watch Urbane LTE has a 1.3-inch 320 x 320 P-OLED display, Qualcomm 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage, and a bevy of sensors for tracking motion and other metrics. LG significantly increased the size of the battery from 410mAh to 700mAh to accommodate the LTE radio's power requirements. LG claims the watch can last for days in standby mode. The Watch Urbane LTE is protected from water and dust thanks to its IP67 rating. LG didn't disclose pricing or availability.
Google pushed out an update to its calendar app for Android devices today and added several features requested by users. For example, the calendar now offers a seven-day view and pinch-to-zoom. Users can now add Google Drive files directly to events and control whether or not birthdays are shown from Google+. The calendar can also show week numbers and import .ics files from within Gmail and other apps. Google Calendar for Android devices is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today updated its Android for Work initiative to better woo corporate users. Android for Work is a set of tools that allow businesses to better manage employee devices. For example, work profiles isolate work data (including email, calendar, contacts) from personal data. Companies can protect the work data, but can't touch the personal data. This works natively in Android 5.0 Lollipop. In devices running Ice Cream Sandwich through KitKat, the Android for Work application houses corporate communications in a separate container that acts like a profile where it can be managed securely. Google Play for Work allows businesses to deploy and manage corporate apps securely, and can prevent unauthorized app downloads. Last, Android for Work includes Google's Docs productivity suite, with additional support for Microsoft Exchange and Notes. Google hopes these tools will convince more businesses to adopt Android.
Softcard today indicated that the Windows Phone version of the Softcard mobile payment application will be discontinued. "The Softcard for Windows Phone app will be terminated. A specific termination date will be provided soon," said Softcard in a statement on a new FAQ web site published today. Softcard was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Supported devices, including a handful of Windows Phones sold by AT&T and Verizon, can use Softcard to make tap-and-go mobile payments at participating retailers. Google purchased Softcard's assets from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon earlier this week to bolster its own Google Wallet application. The three carriers have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android handsets moving forward. Wallet competed with Softcard. Softcard didn't indicate how soon the Windows Phone app will be deactivated. Without it, Windows Phone handsets won't have the same mobile payment options available to Android and iOS devices.
Google today more than doubled the amount of storage available to users of its Play Music service. Beginning today, users can upload as many as 50,000 songs from their personal library (previous limit was 20,000). Once uploaded, the songs can be accessed from any Android device, as well as from the iPhone, iPad, and from web browsers. The upgraded storage and basic service are free. Consumers can pay $10 per month for access to Google's entire library of music.
Motorola today introduced a second-generation Moto E with improved specs. Like its predecessor, the new Moto E is an entry-level handset. It runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and includes some of Motorola's customizations, such as the Quick Capture gesture to launch the camera and Glance Screen for notifications. The most significant new feature is the added support for LTE 4G networks. The battery cover is not removable, but the Moto E does feature a customizable band around the edges that can be removed and swapped with bands of other colors. The screen has been stretched from 4.3 inches to 4.5 inches, though it keeps the 960 x 540 resolution. The E is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor. Internal storage has been improved from 4GB to 8GB. The phone has a 5-megapixel camera, and a VGA user-facing camera. Motorola claims the 2,390mAh battery should provide more than a full day of usable life. The second-generation Moto E, which comes in black or white, is available starting today for $149.
Broadcom today announced a new platform for Android Wear smartwatches that promises to deliver major gains in battery life. The Broadcom wearable system-on-a-chip includes a quad-core Cortex A7 application processor and 2G/3G modem support. It can be paired with Broadcom's Bluetooth 4.2 and WiFi combo chip, as well as a GPS SoC with integrated sensor hub, NFC with secure element, and wireless charging. It also includes support for cameras. Broadcom says the platform offers 40% power savings compared to its previous generation platform, and its smaller footprint gives smartwatch makers more flexibility with their designs. The Android Wear smartwatch platform is already sampling.
Microsoft today released an API for its cloud-based OneDrive storage service. The API will allow third-party app developers to add OneDrive access and features, such as file retrieval and uploads, to their own applications. The API is compatible with Windows, Android, and iOS devices, in addition to desktop web browsers. Microsoft said it will use the API internally with its own apps to "ensures that everyone is building on the platform with the same set of tools." When Microsoft adds new features to the API, developers will have immediate access to them. Microsoft has spent the last year expanding the availability of its core apps and services across platforms. This is the latest step in its more open strategy.
Pebble today announced the Pebble Time, a new smartwatch that works with Android and iOS smartphones. The Pebble Time jumps from a monochrome display to a color display, but it still delivers seven days of battery life. The e-ink display is always on with no fear of battery drain. In addition to the color screen, the Pebble Time is 20% thinner than previous models, has a built-in microphone for voice dictation, and has a revised user interface. Pebble calls the new user interface Timeline, which can be used to glance at the past, the present, or the future thanks to dedicated buttons for jumping through the Timeline. The device is water resistant, can be used to count steps (with third-party fitness app), and has exchangeable bands. The screen is made from Gorilla Glass and it has a stainless steel bezel. The Pebble Time is being offered in red, black, and white. At the moment, the Pebble Time is a Kickstarter project. Pebble is reserving watches for those who donate to the campaign. The cheapest donation is $159 and the next tier is $179. Pebble has already met its funding goal. The Time is expected to ship in May.
Sony today announced the Xperia E4g, an LTE-equipped version of the E4, which it revealed earlier this month. Like the E4, the E4g features a 5-inch qHD display, but the MediaTek engine has been swapped out for a quad-core 1.5GHz processor with 1GB of RAM. The E4g includes a 5-megapixel camera with Sony's shooting modes and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera, too. Sony says the 2,300mAh battery is good for two days of usage when in Stamina Mode and the E4g has 8GB of built-in storage. The Xperia E4g runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat and will ship in select markets later this month. U.S. carriers have not yet said they'll sell the phone. It comes in black or white.
Google today announced that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android smartphones later this year. The mobile wallet will come on all devices running Android 4.4 KitKat and higher. At the same time, Google is purchasing intellectual property from Softcard -- the mobile payment service created by the same three carriers -- to help improve Wallet's performance. Softcard said its users will be able to continue to make tap-and-go payments at supporting retailers for the time being. Both Google and Softcard said more information will be made available in the coming weeks. Google is looking to revive its mobile wallet product after seeing Apple's success with Apple Pay, which is only available to the iPhone. Google Wallet has been around since 2011.
Verizon Wireless today announced plans to sell the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime smartphone beginning on Feb. 26. The device, which is also being sold as the Galaxy Prevail LTE, is a mid-range smartphone that has a 4.5-inch screen, Snapdragon 400 processor, and a 5-megapixel camera. The phone will ship with Verizon's Advanced Calling 1.0 feature for VoLTE, and though it ships with Android 4.4 KitKat, it will be upgraded to Android 5.0 Lollipop shortly after release. Verizon is asking $29.99 with a two-year contract or $8 per month via Verizon Edge.
LG today announced four new smartphones that target the middle of the market. The devices will run Android 5.0 Lollipop with LG's user experience, and are named the Magna, Spirit, Leon, and Joy. Shared features include 1.2GHz quad-core processors with 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage. The Magna and Spirit have LG's rear-positioned button array and a slight curve to them, which LG says helps the devices fit better in the hand. The Leon and Joy are normal slab-style handsets. The devices will be sold in a mix of 3G (HSPA+) and 4G (LTE) configurations. The LTE handsets will have metallic rear covers while the 3G ones will have plastic rear covers.
- Magna: The largest of the four handsets has a 5-inch HD display, 8-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel user-facing camera, and 2,540mAh battery
- Spirit: The Spirit has a 4.7-inch HD display, 8-megapixel main camera, 1-megapixel user-facing camera, and 2,100mAh battery.
- Leon: The Leon has a 4.5-inch FWVGA display with an 8- or 5-megapixel main camera, a VGA user-facing camera, and a 1,900mAh battery.
- Joy: The smallest of the quartet has a 4-inch WVGA display, 5-megapixel main camera, VGA user-facing camera, and a 1,900mAh battery. Some variants may ship with an 4GB of storage, 512MB of RAM, and Android 4.4 rather than Android 5.0.
By all accounts, both Apple and Google have bold ambitions in the automotive space. But an Apple or Google Car is many years away. What's available today are CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which take a major new step in integrating your phone with your car. They're remarkably similar, both extending your phone's interface to the touch screen in your dash, but relying mostly on voice interaction for safe use while driving. In the this in-depth hands-on, we take a look at how they work, their striking similarities, and how they differ.
Google is seeking help from its carrier and hardware partners to revitalize its flagging Google Wallet service. According to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, Google is waving more cash in front of network operators to feature the app on their Android smartphones. Google told investors last month that it is prepared to launch a "fully functional payment system" that goes "beyond just tap and pay" at its I/O Developer Conference, scheduled for late May. Google's efforts won't be easy. Google doesn't enjoy the same level of control that Apple does, which manages the hardware and software of the iPhone. Google has to work with the carriers, handset makers, and financial institutions to make it all work. Apple cut carriers out of Apple Pay and only had to work with banks. Google's efforts are being undermined by its own partners. Earlier this week, Samsung purchased LoopPay to help it create its own competitor to Apple Pay; meanwhile, the bulk of Samsung's handsets run Google's Android platform. Moreover, the carriers have their own mobile payment service in place, called Softcard, and actively prevented Google Wallet from accessing the secure portions of their smartphones. According to the Journal, Google is offering carriers a bigger cut of ad dollars for promoting Google Wallet. Further, Google is in talks with carriers to purchase Softcard, which could help resolve some of the issues at play. Google declined to comment on the Journal's story.
Google is prepared to release a version of YouTube designed specifically for kids, according to the Wall Street Journal. The app will stand apart from the main YouTube app and will be free. Sources familiar with Google's plans told the Journal the app will be announced on Monday, when YouTube exec Malik Ducard speaks at the Kidscreen Summit. The app will feature big buttons, limited scrolling, and kid-friendly content from popular TV shows, such as Sesame Street and Thomas the Tank Engine. The Journal points out that Google will have to comply with laws regarding the privacy of children, and it's unclear how Google will generate revenue from the app. The app will initially only be compatible with Android devices. Google declined to comment on the Journal's story.
BlackBerry today said BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 is available for device owners to download. The latest version of BlackBerry's operating system includes the Amazon Appstore for Android apps and brings back keyboard shortcuts to devices with physical keyboards. The OS also improves BlackBerry Blend (desktop messaging client), BlackBerry Assistant (voice commands), BlackBerry Hub (adds instant actions), and the Calendar app (adds Meeting Mode). The update also improves battery life and camera performance. BlackBerry 10.3.1 is available to the BlackBerry Q5, Q10, Z3, Z10, Z30, BlackBerry Porsche Design P'9983, and the Passport.
Google today released versions of its Inbox application that work with Android tablets and the iPad. The app, which can be used instead of Gmail, was previously limited to smartphones. In addition to support for tablets, Google also made Inbox available in the desktop versions of Firefox and Safari. It was previously limited to Chrome on the desktop. Inbox categorizes emails into certain groups, which Google says helps people reach important messages quicker. Inbox is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Microsoft today announced several new features for its Office suite of productivity apps. First and foremost, third-party cloud providers can now integrate their own services into the "locations picker" in the iOS Office apps. This means mobile device users can open, edit, and save their documents to any cloud service. Apple's iCloud is the first to receive this support, so iPhone and iPad users can store their mobile Office documents in iCloud. Microsoft said it plans to bring this feature to the Windows and Android versions of Office soon. Further, Microsoft is making it possible for cloud storage providers to weave Office Online into their own mobile applications. Microsoft's vision here is to let people open, view, and edit their online documents from any browser on any device. Microsoft said Box, Citrix, and Salesforce are already working on this level of integration. Microsoft has dramatically increased the availability of Office to mobile devices in recent months with the hopes that people and businesses will continue to use its productivity suite rather than competing products from Apple and Google.
Sony today said a developer kit for its Smart EyeGlass will be available to developers in March. The Smart Eyeglass Developer Edition SED-E1 includes the glasses, sensors, camera, and associated software for controlling the ensemble. The Smart EyeGlass projects augmented reality images to the eyepieces of the spectacles, which still allow plenty of light to pass through so users can see both the AR content and the world around them. The developer kit will be available first in the U.K., Germany, Japan, and U.S. for about $830. Sony hopes developers put the kit to use in creating apps and experiences. The Smart EyeGlass requires an Android smartphone nearby.
Pebble has updated it smartwatch operating system and Android application in recent days and given its device the ability to interact with Android Wear notifications. Users will need to make sure they have Pebble OS 2.9 installed on their watch and version 2.3.0 of the Pebble Android app installed on their smartphone. Together, these will allow users to reply and act on in-coming notifications, set user-defined responses, and send messages through any Android-based SMS app. Pebble is the first non-Android Wear smartwatch that's able to work with Google's wearable platform. The updated Pebble Android app also resolves an issue with WhatsApp notifications and fixes a handful of other bugs. The updated Pebble OS makes devices compatible with Android handsets running systems as old as Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. It also resolves several bugs. Both the app and the OS are free to download and install.