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printed September 28, 2016
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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.

by:  Google


Google Chrome for Android Becomes More Efficient

Yesterday, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Chrome browser for Android devices with new tools to help reduce data usage, download pages for offline use, and discover more personalized content. To start, Data Saver has expanded to video. The Data Saver tool was built into Chrome earlier this year, but until today it only targeted text and images; now, it also compresses video to reduce data over cellular networks. Google says its compression technology allows Android users to save up to 67% on data consumption when viewing MP4 format videos through Chrome. Data Saver can sense slow or limited connections, and will automatically optimize HTTP web sites down to their essentials for faster loading. The new download feature is meant to help people save web sites and other online content for later. A button added to the browser makes it simpler to download web pages, music, pictures, or video. Downloads that fail due to network interruptions will automatically resume once connectivity is restored. Further, a new section in Chrome houses users' downloaded content so it can be retrieved quickly. (Downloads will first be available in Chrome beta.) Last, Chrome will begin to recommend web sites when people open new tabs in Chrome. Google says it will recommend fresh content, the latest news, as well as help people find their saved pages, images, and video. The more people use Chrome, the more personalized the recommendations will be. Google Chrome is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Verizon Prepaid Customers Gain HD Voice

Friday, 11:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said its prepaid subscribers will have access to VoLTE services, including HD Voice and video calls, starting September 25. Prepaid customers will need to add HD Voice to their account before they can make HD calls, but the add-on will be free. Calls are routed over Verizon's LTE data network rather than Verizon's legacy voice network. HD Voice supports six-way conference calls, one- or two-way video calls, and WiFi calling. As always, both the handset making the call and the handset receiving the call need to have the feature enabled and must be connected via LTE for HD Voice to function properly. Verizon said its prepaid customers HD Voice is available to more than two dozen newer iOS and Android smartphones. All WiFi calls made to U.S. phone numbers are free, but calls made to foreign numbers are billed at international long distance rates.


Hands On with Blu's Life One X2

Friday, 10:46 AM   by Rich Brome

Blu has a new Android phone offering desirable specs like a fingerprint reader, 5.2-inch, full-HD screen, 16-megapixel camera, fast charging, and memory card slot, all for under $200 unlocked. We spent a little time with it. Read on for our impressions.

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Sony Reveals Xperia XZ and X Compact Pricing

Sep 22, 2016, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today discussed pricing and availability details for the Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact (pictured) smartphones. The XZ will cost $700 and it goes on sale via Amazon and other online retailers October 2. The X Compact will cost $500 and will reach Amazon and others September 25. The XZ is a flagship handset with 5.2-inch screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, and 23-megapixel camera, while the X Compact is a smaller sub-flagship with a 4.6-inch screen, Snapdragon 650 processor, and 23-megapixel camera. Both devices run Android 6 Marshmallow and are sold unlocked with AT&T/T-Mobile LTE compatibility.


Instagram Makes It Possible to Save Drafts

Sep 21, 2016, 8:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram is pushing a small update to its mobile app that adds the ability for users to save drafts. People will need to add effects, filters, a caption, or their location to a photo before being given the option to save it for later. Draft posts will be accessible in the library folder upon reopening the app. The new version of Instagram will be made available to Android and iOS devices over the next few days. The app is free to download.


Google Releases Allo Messaging App for Android and iOS

Sep 21, 2016, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 21, 2016, 7:09 AM

Google today made Allo, the messaging app it first revealed back in May, available to Android and iOS devices. Allo expands the ability for expression by tapping into the new Google Assistant, all while keeping conversations secure. The app supports emoji and stickers, and a tool called "whisper shout" that lets people shrink or expand the size of text to convey volume or impact. Allo supports drawing tools for marking up or annotating photos. It uses machine learning to guess or suggest responses that could be appropriate for the conversation — all without requiring users to type. Google says the app can do things such as help make dinner plans, find answers to basic searches, and share YouTube videos. Users need only type "@google" to bring the assistant into group chats. The app permits people to converse directly with the Google Assistant to, in effect, perform searches, such as sports scores and headlines. Incognito mode encrypts messages from end-to-end for privacy and offers private notifications and expiring chats. Further, when incognito conversation threads are deleted they are gone forever. Google says Allo can send simple SMS messages to people who don't use Allo, and can also send previews of Allo-stylized messages with a link to the app for download. Google Allo is free to download from the Google Play Store and from the iTunes App Store.


Google Maps Replaces Directional Arrow with a Beam

Sep 20, 2016, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a minor change to Google Maps for Android that swaps out the direction arrow with a blue beam. Maps users will no longer see an arrow pointing in the direction of travel and will instead see a blue beam that indicates which way they are going. Google says the beam will also signal how accurate the phone's compass is: narrow beams indicate high accuracy, while wide beams suggest the compass needs calibration. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store.


HTC's Desire Series Goes Upscale with Desire 10 Pro and Desire 10 Lifestyle

Sep 20, 2016, 2:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today announced the Desire 10 series, a re-imagining of its mid-range handsets. Both the Desire 10 pro and Desire 10 lifestyle feature metal designs with matte finishes and gold highlights. Other shared features include 5.5-inch screens with Gorilla Glass, memory card support, and microUSB. The phones run Android 6 Marshmallow and include the latest version of HTC Sense for customizing the user interface.

  • Desire 10 pro: The more upscale of the two phones has a full HD screen and is powered by an octa-core MediaTek Helio P10 processor with 3 or 4 GB of RAM and 32 or64 GB of storage. The main camera includes a 20-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.2 and laser-assisted focus, while the front camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.2 and a selfie panorama mode. It has a 3,000mAh battery.
  • Desire 10 lifestyle: The lifestyle drops the display resolution to 720p and trades the MediaTek processor for a quad-core Snapdragon 400 with 2 or 3 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of storage. The main camera includes a 13-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.2 and laser-assisted focus, while the selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.8. It has a 2,700mAh battery and BoomSound stereo speakers.
The Desire 10 pro will hit the market in November, while the Desire 10 lifestyle will arrive in late September. Pricing was not shared. HTC said the devices will initially be made available to markets outside the U.S. and didn't say if or when the devices might be sold to U.S. consumers.

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Google Play Books Turns On Recommendations Engine

Sep 19, 2016, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today launched a new "Discover" tool within its Google Play Books app and service. Google says the tool is meant to help people find new books based on their interests and what's popular around the web. For example, the Discover section will reveal what books are being made into movies, or what lands on NPR's recommendations list. The tool looks for news, reviews, lists, and videos about books and delivers these recommendations to readers in a way that's easy to browse. Google will also look at recommendations based on users' reading history and preferences, and will also point people toward the latest book reviews and editorial showcases that center on specific authors and/or subjects. The new version of Google Play Books is headed to Android devices today and will reach iOS devices in the near future.


Google Says It's Now Easier to Share from Photos

Sep 19, 2016, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved the sharing options within its Google Photos service. Google Photos now circumvents the dialog box that requires people to choose which apps to use for sharing photos. "You pick the photos, tap 'share' and select the people you want to share with, instead of the apps — and we take care of the rest," explained Google in a blog post. People (recipients) who use Google Photos will receive a notification that new photos have been shared with them. People who don't use Google Photos will receive either an SMS or email with a link to Google Photos so they can view the images online or on their mobile device. Google said it is also working harder to automatically create movies and other photo compilations for Photos users. Google said it will suggest videos from summer vacations, events such as weddings, and more. These updates are rolling out today across Android, iOS, and the web. Google says more changes are headed to Photos in the near future.


Google Debuts 'Trips' Travel App for Android and iOS

Sep 19, 2016, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released a new application for Android and iOS devices that's meant to help people plan vacations and other trips. The app provides information about cities and points of interest, as well as all the details associated with traveling to and from those locations. The idea is to give people a single app where they can manage everything to do with their trips. For example, plane, train, bus, and hotel reservations are automatically added from Gmail so they are in a single place on the phone. The app will offer suggestions for day plans complete with maps, routes, and food/drink options along the way. The app can also provide suggestions for nearby attractions while travelers are on the go, or suggest places that might require a small amount of travel to find. Last, the app stores all data offline so it can be accessed when the phone has no internet connection. Google Trips is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Sprint to Sell MediaTek-Equipped Variant of LG X Power

Sep 16, 2016, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and Boost Mobile today revealed plans to sell the LG X power smartphone. The X power, announced by LG earlier this year, features a 4,100mAh battery that delivers up to two days of battery life. The version sold by Sprint and Boost Mobile differs from other versions of the phone in that it relies on a 1.8 GHz octa-core Helio P10 MediaTek processor, rather than a Snapdragon chip from Qualcomm. The 64-bit MediaTek processor is accompanied by 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The X power also includes a 5.3-inch 720p screen and runs Android 6 Marshmallow. Other specs include an 8-megapixel main camera with flash and 5-megapixel front camera with selfie light. The phone accepts memory cards up to 128 GB. The phone reaches Boost Mobile stores today for $130 and will hit Sprint stores September 23 for $150.


Pandora Plus Gives Listeners More Control

Sep 15, 2016, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pandora today announced Pandora Plus, a revised version of its $5-per-month music streaming service. Pandora Plus offers ad-free listening with the ability to skip and replay songs, as well as listen offline. Pandora accomplishes offline listening by caching a selection of songs from users' top stations on the device. When users lose signal and can't stream over the network, Pandora Plus will switch to the cached station for uninterrupted listening. Moreover, Pandora is revising its ad-supported service to give people more functionality. For example, free listeners can skip more songs or replay a song if they agree to view a short video ad. Pandora Plus launches online today. The company said it will update its iOS and Android apps in the coming months. Customers who already subscribe to Pandora One will be transitioned to Pandora Plus. Last, Pandora said its fully interactive on-demand option is expected to launch later this year. Pandora competes with Apple Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, and other streaming services on phones, tablets, and PCs.


Kyocera DuraForce Pro Coming to Sprint

Sep 14, 2016, 1:15 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC has approved a new Kyocera smartphone with LTE bands unique to Sprint, and a model number indicating it's a variant of the recently-announced DuraForce Pro. The DuraForce Pro is a rugged, washable Android phone with dual rear cameras, a fingerprint reader, NFC, fast charging, and wireless charging. It went on sale with AT&T this week, and another FCC approval indicates it will come to Verizon as well. Past Kyocera models have rarely been offered on more than one or two carriers.


Microsoft Adds More Sunrise Features to Outlook Calendar

Sep 13, 2016, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Outlook email and calendar app for Android and iOS devices. The refreshed communications and scheduling tool offers a number of new features aimed at the calendar. For example, Outlook now offers design elements borrowed from Sunrise (a calendar app acquired by Microsoft.) The Outlook calendar will show things like coffee cup and bike emoji when people schedule coffee meetings or bike rides. Moreover, Outlook will autocomplete addresses when filling in meeting locations, as well as allow users to tap the time/date on the calendar to create events with those details filled in automatically. Meeting participants will be notified automatically if the organizer adjusts meeting start/end times, and users can create Skype for Business meetings directly from their phone. Last, Outlook will allow people to discover and subscribe to interesting calendars, such as sporting events, holidays, and more. Microsoft's Outlook email and calendar app for iOS and Android is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.


Blu Debuts Vivo 5R Handset, for Sale from Amazon and Best Buy

Sep 13, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu announced the Vivo 5R, what it calls a refresh of the Vivo 5. The 5R features a metal-and-glass design, with aluminum body panels, 2.5D curved glass, and a fingerprint reader on back. The display measures 5.5 inches across the diagonal and offers full HD resolution. The Vivo 5R is powered by a MediaTek 6753 processor, which has eight cores clocked at 1.3 GHz, and is accompanied by a Mali T-720 GPU. The phone includes 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and supports memory cards up to 64 GB. Blu gave the phone a 13-megapixel main camera with LED flash and phase-detection autofocus, and an 8-megapixel front camera with LED selfie flash. The phone includes a 3,150mAh battery with rapid charging, and it supports LTE bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17 for moderate compatibility with AT&T, Cricket, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS. The Blu Vivo 5R runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and goes on sale September 21 for $199. It is sold unlocked.


BlackBerry Expands Hub+ to More Android Phones

Sep 8, 2016, 12:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today made its BlackBerry Hub+ suite of enterprise applications available to a wider range of devices. At the same time, it added five more apps to the suite. BlackBerry released Hub+ last month as a free trial for Android Marshmallow devices, but it was limited to the Hub, Calendar, and Password Keeper apps. Today, Hub+ becomes available to devices running Android 5 Lollipop and low-res Android 6 phones. Moreover, Hub+ now includes BlackBerry's Contacts, Tasks, Device Search, Notes, and Launcher apps. Hub+ is being offered to Android users for a free 30-day trial period and for 99 cents a month thereafter. For those not interested in the monthly fee, an ad-supported version of BlackBerry Hub, Calendar, Password Keeper, and Launcher will remain available. The Hub+ is the same software BlackBerry's own Priv and DTEK50 smartphones use for communications. The Hub+ provides a central place to manage email, text, IM, and social media messages. BlackBerry said it is still working to bring Hub+ to iOS.


Twitter Brings Read Receipts, Link Previews to DMs

Sep 8, 2016, 11:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 8, 2016, 11:57 AM

Twitter today said it is enriching Direct Messages with more real-time tools. Moving forward, Direct Messages will be more dynamic than before thanks to read receipts, typing indicators, and web link previews. People will be able to see when others have read their messages thanks to a new checkmark that appears once messages have been viewed. A separate indicator will say when all recipients of a group DM have seen the message. Moreover, users will be able to see when recipients are typing replies in one-on-one and group conversations. Last, links sent via DM will generate a preview of the web page. The expanded features transform DMs into a nearly full-fledged messaging service. The new Twitter DM tools are rolling out to users gradually on Android and iOS.


Google Adds Lyft and Gett to Google Maps

Sep 8, 2016, 10:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today boosted the number of ride-hailing services available within Google Maps to a total of nine. Moving forward, Lyft and Gett will display ride options in the U.S. alongside Uber and others, allowing users to find the cheapest, quickest, or most appealing option to get from one place to another. Google Maps will display estimated ride arrival times, travel times, and fares, as well as any additional services that may be offered by each individual ride provider. The new ride-hailing options are available to Maps for Android and iOS.


Apple Scores Nintendo Game for iPhone

Sep 7, 2016, 12:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nintendo today said its famed Mario character will come to the iPhone for the first time. Nintendo plans to bring a game called Super Mario Run to iOS devices. The side-scroller features hopping and jumping movements based on tapping and swiping the screen. Super Mario Run will also feature "battle mode" for multi-player action. The game will be sold at a single price with no in-app purchases for unlimited playing. Availability is slated for before the holidays. Nintendo has long resisted making the leap from its own consoles to today's mobile platforms, iOS and Android.

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Android Pay Rings Up Chase In the US

Sep 7, 2016, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said Chase has agreed to support Android Pay on Android smartphones and other devices. Starting immediately, Chase customers can add their eligible Chase Visa debit/credit card to Android Pay and make tap-and-go payments wherever Android Pay is accepted. Chase is one of the largest U.S. banks. Google also added a number of new financial institutions in the U.K. Further, Google says it has been working with its merchant partners to improve the Android Pay experience at retail terminals, as well as the benefits available to consumers. For example, Walgreens recently integrated its Balance Rewards loyalty program into Android Pay, and Google plans to add Dunkin' Donuts and Chili's to Android Pay in the coming months. Android Pay is working with Uber's Payment Rewards program to provide discounted rides for U.S. consumers. Last, Google recently made Android Pay available as an option for online retailers in its Chrome browser. Android Pay is free to download from the Google Play Store.


LG Announces the V20 With Android 7, Second Screen, and Dual Cameras

Sep 6, 2016, 8:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 6, 2016, 8:29 PM

LG today announced the V20 at an event in San Francisco. The handset is a follow-up device to last year's V10. The defining feature of the V series is the Second Screen, a small, always-on display that sits atop the main display on front. The Second Screen can be used to serve notifications as well as access app shortcuts and other content. LG picked aluminum to form the frame and a silicon-based material for the back panel. LG says this silicone polycarbonate is found in helmets and reduces shock. It helped the device earn a mil-spec rating of 810G for protection against drops. The V20 features a 5.7-inch quad HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and memory card slot. The phone includes several cameras, including a 16-megapixel rear camera with f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization. The phone also packs a secondary 8-megapixel rear camera with 135-degree wide-angle field of view and an f/2.4 aperture. The selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with f/1.9 aperture. Other camera features include 4K video capture, high-fidelity sound capture, Steady Record 2.0 electronic image stabilization to minimize video shaking, and hybrid autofocus, which is a combination of laser-assisted and phase-detection autofocus. LG claims the V20 is the first phone to ship with a 32-bit, Hi-Fi quad DAC to reduce distortion and ambient noise, as well as support lossless music formats. The phone features Qualcomm's X12 LTE model for CAT12 at speeds up to 600Mbps (network dependent) in addition to Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, GPS, and USB Type-C. The 3,200mAh battery is removable and supports Quick Charge 3.0. The V20 includes a fingerprint scanner for biometric security. The phone will be the first to ship with Android 7 Nougat and a new search tool from Google called In Apps. The In Apps tool will be accessible from the Second Screen so app search is always under your thumb. The V20 introduces LG's fifth-generation user interface, which LG says is an upgrade from the UI seen on the G5 earlier this year. The LG V20 will be available in Korea starting this month followed by other regions over time.


Instagram to Delete Users' Photo Maps

Sep 6, 2016, 5:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram is discontinuing its Photo Map feature, which allowed people to see their photos on a map. The change was confirmed to Mashable via email. "Photo Map was not widely used, so we've decided to remove the feature and focus on other priorities," said the company. Instagram began disabling the feature for users last week. Separately, Instagram recently updated its iOS app with a new exposure tool that is available when shooting stories. The tool helps users correct for low-light scenes. Instagram didn't say if or when the feature would be added to the Android version of its mobile app.


Google Adds Android Pay to Chrome

Sep 6, 2016, 2:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Chrome browser for Android devices with several performance improvements. Fire and foremost, Android users can rely on Android Pay to make purchases online when browsing. Specifically, Google added support for the PaymentRequest web standard, which allows online retailers to add Android Pay as a payment option to their mobile web sites. Google says the latest version of Chrome for Android is 15% faster than before. Further, the browser has made gains in power management and now consumes less battery power. Chrome is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Facebook Brings Instant Video to Messenger

Sep 1, 2016, 10:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today added the ability to stream video live within its Messenger application. The feature is different from a two-way video chat, which has been part of Messenger since 2015. With Instant Videos, users tap a button and automatically begin streaming live video in one direction. The recipient can see the video without taking action, but needs to tap the video in order to hear sound. Instant Videos are available within chat threads and can be initiated with a single tap. Both the sender and the recipient need the latest Android/iOS Messenger app from Facebook in order for Instant Video to work. Moreover, both people need to be viewing the conversation thread at the same time for the video to connect. Facebook said the updated Android and iOS Messenger app will reach the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store soon.


ZTE to Sell Nubia Z11 Unlocked In US

Sep 1, 2016, 9:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE's sub-brand, Nubia, plans to bring its Z11 flagship handset to the U.S. in September. The Z11's defining feature is the unibody aluminum chassis and bezel-less design. The 5.5-inch full HD display is borderless and has 2.5D glass to help make the seams more flush along the edge. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The main camera has 16-megapixel sensor with optical/electronic image stabilization and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The device has a 3,000mAh battery and supports Quick Charge 3.0. It packs a USB Type-C port, a fingerprint reader, and a memory card slot. The Nubia Z11 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The price is about $490.


Sony's Xperia X Compact a Tiny Powerhouse

Sep 1, 2016, 6:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today revealed the Xperia X Compact, a smaller but still powerful Android handset. The X Compact is similar to the XZ in many respects, particularly the camera and design. The X Compact uses Sony's "loop" design, which relies on a seamless polycarbonate frame, glass display, and polycarbonate rear plate. The screen measures 4.6 inches with 720p HD resolution and Sony's TriLuminos processing for clarity. The X Compact is powered by a Snapdragon 650 processor with Adreno 510 GPU, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. The main camera has a 23-megapixel Exmor RS sensor with Sony's triple image-sensing, predictive hybrid autofocus, and electronic image stabilization to capture sharp images. It delivers 5x digital zoom. The video camera's SteadyShot feature measures 5-axises of movement and captures full HD video. The 5-megapixel selfie camera has an aperture of f/2.0 and a wide-angle 22mm lens. Other specs include CAT6 LTE; 2,700mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 and Qnovo adaptive charging; high-resolution stereo audio capture and playback. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and will come in mist blue, black, and white. The Sony Xperia X Compact will be sold unlocked online beginning September 25. Pricing was not disclosed.

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Instagram Gains Zoom Powers

Aug 31, 2016, 1:32 PM   by Rich Brome

Instagram today announced an update to its app that allows users to zoom in on photos and videos using a standard pinch gesture. The update is available today for iOS, and "in the coming weeks" for Android.


Moto Z Play Droid Does Moto Mods for Less

Aug 31, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today announced the Z Play Droid, a more affordable Android smartphone that is compatible with the company's Moto Mods system of modular attachments. The Z Play Droid is almost indistinguishable from the Z Force Droid: it has a thick profile with a metal frame and glass front panel. The device scales back specs in order to reduce the price. The Z Play Droid has a 5.5-inch full HD screen. It is powered by a Snapdragon 625 processor with eight cores clocked at 2 GHz. The processor is joined by 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The Z Play Droid includes a 16-megapixel main camera with laser autofocus and an aperture of f/2.0, while a wide-angle, 5-megapixel selfie camera with LED flash is around front. Like the Z Droid and Z Force Droid, the Z Play Droid has a fingerprint reader, water-repellant coating, and USB-C port. The Z Play, however, adds a 3.5mm headset jack. The Z Play is the first of the new Droids to be compatible with the new Hasselblad True Zoom camera module, which offers 10x optical zoom. The Moto Z Play Droid will be available in the U.S. beginning September 8 at Motorola.com and at Verizon for $17 per month on a Verizon device payment plan. The full retail price is $408.

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Asus Tells Us About the ZenWatch 3

Aug 31, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus today announced the ZenWatch 3, its third-generation Android Wear-based smartwatch. The ZenWatch 3 is the first round wearable from Asus and features a rose gold accent surrounding the watch face. The smartwatch is made from stainless steel and comes in gunmetal, silver, and rose gold. The chassis measures 9.95mm thick and Asus says it is strong enough to withstand the rigors of daily use. The watch will be sold with leather or plastic bands. There are three buttons around the exterior edge for controlling the watch, one of which can be customized to launch user-defined actions. Asus says the ZenWatch 3 will have more than 50 watch faces preloaded, many of which support complications, such as the weather, step counts, or notifications. A separate app will allow owners to design their own watch faces. A new health-focused app is better at counting steps and can remind people to move after long periods of inactivity. Last, Asus claims the ZenWatch 3 offers two days of battery life and can take advantage of rapid charging to reach a 60% charge in just 15 minutes. More details are yet to be announced.

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Qualcomm Reveals More About Snapdragon 821

Aug 31, 2016, 6:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today provided a more complete picture of the Snapdragon 821, a revision to its top-of-the-line processor. The company already explained how the 821 boosts the performance of the SoC with higher clock speeds and other refinements. Today, Qualcomm revealed that the processor includes support for the Snapdragon VR SDK, which will let developers target Google's Daydream VR platform on devices with the 821. The processor adds native support for dual-phase autofocus for faster camera performance under a variety of lighting conditions, as well as extended-range laser auto-focus for locking in focus quickly over greater distances. The 821 will also support Android 7 Nougat with additional security measures. Qualcomm says the Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe will be the first premium smartphone to ship with the Snapdragon 821.


Google Brings In-App Search to Android Phones

Aug 31, 2016, 5:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week announced a new tool for searching the content on devices. The search mode, called In Apps, allows people to find content that's buried inside apps installed on the phone. For example, users can seek out specific songs, friends, or notes directly from search rather than first opening the associated app. The functionality is accessible from a new "In Apps" tab that appears in the Google search app. At launch, it can parse through Gmail, Spotify, and YouTube. Google plans to add more third-party apps, such as Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Evernote, Glide, Todoist, and Google Keep, to In Apps over time. Last, Google said some phones will be able to take advantage of a special In Apps home screen shortcut. The LG V20, which LG plans to announce Sept. 5, will be the first phone with this dedicated shortcut.


Google Contacts Gains More Editing Powers

Aug 30, 2016, 12:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated the Contacts application for select Android devices and made it easier to edit contact details. Most significantly, Google expanded the app's availability from just Marshmallow to Lollipop. The app is still limited to Nexus, Android One, and Google Play Edition devices. People running Lollipop on these devices can now add and edit contact data points (name, number, email), save them to their Google account, fix duplicates, and call or message from the contact card. Google Contacts is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Boost Mobile Scores the ZTE Warp 7

Aug 30, 2016, 11:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 30, 2016, 12:38 PM

Boost Mobile today announced the ZTE Warp 7, a low-cost, big-screened Android smartphone. The Warp 7 features a 5.5-inch 720p HD display, 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone boasts a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. It packs a 3,080mAh battery and supports expandable memory cards up to 64 GB. The ZTE Warp 7 can roam on GSM networks in Mexico and has an FM radio. The device runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and costs $99. It will reach Boost Mobile stores September 5.

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Alcatel Reveals the Fierce 4 for MetroPCS

Aug 29, 2016, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced the Fierce 4, a large, budget-conscious Android smartphone that will be sold by MetroPCS. The Fierce 4 features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and is powered by a quad-core, 1.1 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone has an 8-megapixel main camera with autofocus and a 5-megapixel front camera with an extra-wide 84-degree field of view for more inclusive selfies. The phone supports memory cards up to 128 GB; runs on Metro's LTE 4G network; includes a 2,500mAh battery; and runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The Alcatel Fierce 4 will be available nationwide at MetroPCS stores beginning today for $69. Alcatel says the Fierce 4 will reach T-Mobile later this fall.


HTC Reveals Nougat Update Plans

Aug 26, 2016, 6:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC revealed via its Twitter account that it plans to update some devices to Android 7.0 Nougat later this year. The unlocked HTC 10 will be first to receive Nougat at some point during the fourth quarter. HTC will follow that with the unlocked One M9 and unlocked One A9, but it didn't specify timing for these two phones. The carrier versions of all three of these devices will also see Nougat down the road, but again HTC didn't provide specifics. The news walks backs HTC's initial promise to provide Nougat to the HTC 10 within 15 days of Google's Nexus-branded devices (which received Nougat on Aug. 22). The company didn't explain why it isn't sticking to its earlier commitment.


Google Drive, Play Music See Updates on Android

Aug 25, 2016, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Google Drive and Google Play Music apps for Android devices, giving new features to both apps. Google Drive now allows people to set home screen shortcuts for their favorite or frequently-used files and folders. The update also makes it easier to control notifications and upgrade or change the storage plan. Google Play Music adds a sleep timer that people can use to control how long their device plays music. The app also features new control buttons and other minor tweaks. Google Drive and Google Play Music for Android are both free to download from the Google Play Store.


Sony Talks Up Plans for Android 7 Nougat

Aug 23, 2016, 12:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today highlighted which devices it plans to update to Android 7 Nougat. Sony will make Nougat available to the: Xperia Z3+ and Z4 Tablet; Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact, and Z5 Premium; and the Xperia X, XA, XA Ultra, and X Performance. Sony said it is working to bring Nougat to these devices as quickly as it can, but reminds owners that availability will vary depending on region, carrier, and other factors. Sony will provide more detailed information as it becomes available.


Opera Brings Its Mobile VPN to Android Devices

Aug 23, 2016, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera Software today launched a free VPN for Android devices that allows smartphone and tablet owners to browse the web more securely and access what might be prohibited content when using managed networks. The VPN removes ad trackers for privacy purposes and supports virtual locations (U.S., Canada, Germany, Singapore, and the Netherlands), which should let people get around some region-based restrictions. The VPN includes a WiFi tester that can detect the strength of WiFi security. If the VPN determines the network isn't secure, it will recommend users connect through the VPN. The WiFi sniffer also checks to see if the network its public or private, if it's encrypted, how many other devices are using it, if the IP address/location are exposed, and whether or not others can see your device. Opera imagines the VPN will be useful to students and office workers who are restricted from accessing social networks or other types of web sites when using campus or office WiFi. Opera VPN is free to downloaded from the Google Play Store. Opera made the same VPN available to iOS devices earlier this year.


Lenovo to Preload Microsoft Apps on Android Phones

Aug 23, 2016, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo has agreed to install Microsoft's core productivity applications on some of its Android-based devices. The apps include Microsoft Office, OneDrive, and Skype. Lenovo said the productivity apps will reach millions of customers over the next few years. The agreement between Lenovo and Microsoft also includes a patent cross-licensing accord, allowing Lenovo to use Microsoft patents on its own devices, as well as those that carry the Motorola brand. Microsoft has patent-licensing agreements in place with most Android device makers. Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.


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