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printed September 23, 2017
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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 Intros 'Zero-Touch' Android Enterprise Deployments

Thursday, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier for businesses to configure and deploy Android handsets to employees with a new tool called zero-touch enrollment. Google says zero-touch lets companies configure purchased devices and ship them directly to employees completely preconfigured with corporate policies and controls all in place. Users need only sign in to gain access to their work apps and data. The new zero-touch enrollment tool is available on handsets purchased from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Google is working with Samsung, Huawei, Sony, LG, HMD Global, BlackBerry, HTC, Motorola, Honeywell, Zebra, and Sonim to ensure a wide selection of devices support zero-touch. Google indicated the Huawei Mate 10 and Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact will be among the first devices to support zero-touch in the coming weeks. Businesses will be able to use a wide range of enterprise device management tools from the likes of BlackBerry, MobileIron, IBM, Suite, and VMware to configure zero-touch. Google encouraged businesses that are interested in zero-touch to contact their carriers directly.


Instagram Adds Face Filters to Live Video

Thursday, 12:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible for those broadcasting live video to play with face filters in real time. Broadcasters need only tap the face icon in the bottom right corner before or during their live stream to add filters. Instagram says users can play around with as many filters during their broadcast as they like. Live broadcasts can be shared to stories for replaying or discarded. The feature is rolling out worldwide to Instagram mobile for Android and iOS over the next several weeks.


Google to Buy HTC's Pixel Handset Team for $1.1 Billion

Wednesday, 9:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has agreed to purchase HTC's Pixel smartphone business, as well as acquire some employees and license intellectual property, for $1.1 billion in cash. HTC's Pixel engineers will be added to Google's existing hardware organization, where they will continue to work on the Pixel smartphone line. "In many ways, this agreement is a testament to the decade-long history of teamwork between HTC and Google," said Rick Osterloh, former Motorola executive and current senior vice president of Google's hardware business. "Together, we've achieved several mobile-industry firsts, including the first ever Android smartphone, the HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1; as well as the Nexus One in 2010, the Nexus 9 tablet in 2014, and the first Pixel smartphone just last year." Osterloh said Google will continue to focus on its core capabilities, creating hardware that takes advantage of Google's software. HTC will retain its actual smartphone business. In a statement, HTC said the company "will continue to have best-in-class engineering talent, which is currently working on the next flagship phone, following the successful launch of the HTC U11 earlier this year." HTC will also retain its Vive-branded virtual reality business and invest in next-generation technologies, such as the internet of things, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. The companies did not say when they expect the deal to close.


Google Brings the Moto X4 with Android One to Project Fi

Wednesday, 10:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Project Fi just scored its first non-Nexus / Pixel handset. The company added the Motorola Moto X4 to the selection of devices compatible with Project Fi, which is Google's low-cost MVNO. The Moto X4, announced earlier this year, joins the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, and Pixel XL in Project Fi's lineup. Perhaps more importantly, the Moto X4 will run the Android One variant of Android. This represents the first time an Android One device is being made available in the U.S. Android One is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for inexpensive devices. The idea is to provide a core Android experience that performs well no matter the hardware's possible limitations. It includes Google Assistant, Google Duo, Google Play Protect, and the latest updates to Android Oreo. In fact, Google committed to updating the Android One Moto X4 to (previously unannounced) Android P. The Moto X4 for Project Fi sports a stylish design with a metal frame and curved glass, plus a 16-megapixel selfie camera and dual rear cameras, with one wide-angle lens. It also has a 5.2-inch screen, Snapdragon 630 processor, memory card slot, water resistance, 3.5mm audio jack, and USB-C connector. It supports Motorola's TurboPower rapid charging. The Android One Moto x4 is priced at $399, and comes in black and blue. It is available pre-order on the Project Fi web site starting today. Google said it will accept trade-ins of older Nexus phones for those wishing to upgrade.


Google Overhauls Snapseed Photo Editing App

Wednesday, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today revealed a refresh of Snapseed, its advanced photo-editing application. Snapseed 2.18 for Android and iOS features a brand new user interface that Google says speeds up the editing process. For example, Snapseed has moved the Looks tool, which consists of user-created filters, to the main screen for quicker access. Moreover, Snapseed gains 11 new preset filters that people can apply to their photos. The iOS version of Snapseed earns access to the Perspective tool, which lets editors adjust skewed lines of horizons or buildings. Snapseed 2.18 is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


HTC Halts Trading Shares Ahead of Major Announcement

Wednesday, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC will cease trading shares of its stock in anticipation of a significant announcement to be made tomorrow. The news was first revealed by the Taiwan Stock Exchange, which said "shares of HTC Corporation ... will be halted starting from Sept. 21, 2017 pending the release of material information." HTC confirmed the halt in share trading, but did not provide a reason behind the action. Earlier this month, Bloomberg suggested that Google might acquire HTC, or a portion thereof. It is possible that HTC plans to announce a takeover by Google during the announcement, which is being made town-hall style at its Taipei headquarters. The company's response to the Taiwan Stock Exchange alert read, "HTC does not comment on market rumor or speculation." HTC, once a dominant maker of Android handsets, has been fading for years in the face of competition from Samsung, LG, Huawei, ZTE, and others. The company's financial health has been in question many times due to weak sales. HTC never stopped making compelling smartphones, such as the One series, the U11, and Pixel devices for Google. Google may want to bring HTC's handset division under its wing for future Pixel smartphones.


LG V30 Launches In Korea This Week, North America Soon Thereafter

Tuesday, 8:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said it will begin shipping its V30 flagship handset to customers in South Korea this week. The phone will arrive in North America, Europe, and other markets "in the days and weeks to come." LG didn't provide an exact launch window for the U.S., and LG's U.S. carrier partners have yet to announce pricing plans for the high-end phone. The V30 is the latest to adopt LG's 18:9 FullVision display with a plastic OLED panel and Gorilla Glass 5 covering the quad HD+, 6-inch screen. The phone boasts a twin-camera design with wide-angle and standard view lenses, high-resolution audio capture, wireless charging, and support for Google Daydream VR. The V30 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and it runs Android 7 Nougat.


Apple Music for Android Updated to Match iOS 11

Tuesday, 3:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today updated its Apple Music application for the Android platform in order to ensure the experience is similar to that of the revised iOS version. Android device owners have access to the same iOS 11 Apple Music discovery feature that allows people to create public profiles and share playlists. The new music app also introduces support for voice search, which lets people say "OK Google" to find artists, albums, and songs. Apple Music gains a fresh widget that highlights music that was recently played, and a new tap-and-hold shortcut to quickly play Beats 1 Radio or start a new search. Apple Music is free to download from the Google Play Store, but the service requires a $10 monthly subscription.


ZTE Intros the $80 Tempo X for Boost Mobile

Tuesday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Tempo X, an entry-level Android smartphone for Boost Mobile. This affordable handset features a 5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution and a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of memory and 8 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. ZTE gave the device a 5-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel front camera. Other hardware features include a 2,200mAh battery, Bluetooth, GPS, FM radio, and of course LTE 4G. The device ships with Android 7.1 Nougat and costs $80. It is available from Boost Mobile online starting today.


Essential Says PH-1 to Get Oreo In Next Couple of Months

Monday, 6:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today indicated that its smartphone, the PH-1, will eventually receive the latest system update from Google. "Get your milk ready — #AndroidOreo is coming soon to Essential Phone. Watch for updates in the next couple months," said the company through its Twitter account. So far, Android 8 Oreo is only available to the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P handsets. Sony's Xperia XZ1 will ship with Oreo in several weeks. Motorola has committed to updating a slew of its mid-range and high-end phones to Oreo over the next few months. Other flagship makers, including Samsung and LG, have been less clear on when their high-end phones will see Oreo.


Google Surfaces Library eBooks In Search

Monday, 6:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it possible for people to discover what ebooks are available from their local library directly in search results. Readers in the U.S. who search for books will be shown various ways to find, purchase, or borrow the book in question. For some, that means reading them via digital platforms, such as those from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play Books. Beginning today, the info card for books will now also reveal whether or not the book can be borrowed in electronic format from the searcher's public library. The tool is available in the mobile Google Search app on Android handsets.


Gmail to Convert Numbers, Addresses, and Contacts to Clickable Links

Monday, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its G Suite customers will soon be able to take advantage of active hyperlinks in Gmail and Inbox that simplify the process of sending emails or making calls. Both mobile apps will convert text, such as phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses, into interactive links. That means people who click a street address link in Gmail will be taken to Google Maps. Similarly, people who click an email address will automatically be asked if they want to compose an email using the address, and people who click a phone number will initiate a call request. Google says the interact hyperlink feature for contact information will reach all G Suite Gmail and Inbox users on Android, iOS, and the web in the next few days.


Asus Reveals the ZenFone V for Verizon

Sep 18, 2017, 9:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus recently unwrapped the ZenFone V, an Android smartphone that's exclusive to Verizon Wireless. The ZenFone V features a metal chassis with 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass on the front. The handset sports a 5.2-inch AMOLED display with full HD resolution. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor, Qualcomm's 2016 flagship chip, with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera has a 23-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash, an aperture of f/2.0, and phase detection autofocus. The front camera boast an 8-megapixel sensor with a GIF maker and aperture of f/2.0. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging, high-resolution audio, fingerprint reader, and USB-C. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat with Asus' ZenUI, and it comes in black. Pricing and availability have not yet been disclosed.


Essential Phone Now Compatible with Verizon's Network

Sep 18, 2017, 8:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products says its smartphone, the PH-1, is now fully able to run on Verizon Wireless's network. The company announced the news via its Twitter account. Essential didn't say what changed, or what it might have updated to make the phone work more properly on Verizon's network. The handset is already for sale unlocked and from Sprint. Verizon does not actually sell the phone. The PH-1 is a high-end Android handset with a bezel-less design. It supports magnetic modules that attach on the back via magnets. It costs $699.


Google Deletes Inactive Android Backups After 2 Months

Sep 15, 2017, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google will delete Android device backups that are left inactive for two months with little or no warning. The discovery was made by a Reddit user who left a Nexus 6P backup in his Google Drive Backup folder for more than two months, only to later find it had been deleted by Google automatically. Google Support documentation appears to confirm the behavior. "Your backup will remain as long as you use your device. If you don't use your device for 2 weeks, you may see an expiration date below your backup. Example: 'Expires in 54 days.'" The maximum limit for device backups appears to be 60 days, or two months. The short expiration date on device backups is odd, given how freely Google offers online storage to its users. Google has not addressed the discovery directly.


Motorola Commits to Updating High-End Phones to Android Oreo

Sep 14, 2017, 3:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said it will update a significant number of its smartphones to Android 8 Oreo. Those devices on deck for the latest version of Android include the 2016 Moto Z, Z Droid, Z Force Droid, Z Play, and Z Play Droid, as well as the 2017 Moto Z2 Play, Z2 Force Edition, X4, G5, G5 Plus, G5S, and G5S Plus. It appears that Motorola's E and C series devices will not be updated to Oreo. Motorola said that in addition to the core Oreo code and Google Play Protect, the updates should improve handset speed, battery life, multitasking, text selection, notifications, and autofill behaviors. The updates will arrive on a per handset basis beginning later this fall.


Energizer Power Max P600S Has 2:1 Display, Huge Battery

Sep 12, 2017, 10:31 AM   by Rich Brome

French phone maker Avenir Telecom has licensed the Energizer brand for a range of large-battery phones, which it aims to bring to the U.S. by the end of the year. One model is the Energizer Power Max P600S, which has a tall-aspect-ratio display much like Samsung and LG's flagship phones this year, as well as LG's Q-series. Avenir hopes to sell the P600S starting at $330. The phone has a 4,500 mAh battery with fast charging over USB-C, as well as the ability to charge other devices. Its display has full-HD+ resolution, and it also features a fingerprint reader, dual rear cameras, a MediaTek P25 processor, 3 GB of RAM, a memory card slot, and Android 7.0. Its network support includes LTE 2/4/7/17, for basic support on AT&T's network. Its design has a metal frame, curved-edge glass on the front, and a rounded plastic back with a carbon-fiber design. A very early prototype was shown off at the MWC Americas event in San Francisco this week. (See photos.) The company also showed off two models with rugged bodies and large batteries: the Energizer HardCase H550S and HardCase Energy E520 LTE. Both are water-proof, shock-proof, and have 4,000 mAh batteries. Avenir is still looking for distribution and retail partners to bring these phones to the U.S. market.

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Microsoft Brings Adds-Ins to Outlook for Android

Sep 8, 2017, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Outlook email application for Android devices and gave the app the ability to support add-ins. Microsoft says add-ins let Outlook users do more with their email thanks to powers enabled by third-party applications. For example, adds-ins will negate the need to leave Outlook to perform certain tasks, such as translate text, insert GIFs, or save items for safekeeping. Some of the launch partners include Evernote, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Translator, Nimble, OnePlaceMail, Outlook Customer Manager, Smartsheet, and Trello. More are on the way. Microsoft says add-ins are available when reading or composing and replying to emails. Microsoft Outlook for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Add-ins were added to Outlook for iOS earlier this year. Microsoft said it will be bringing add-ins to Gmail customers on iOS and Android soon.


Google's Travel Apps Add Support for More Languages and Countries

Sep 7, 2017, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Even though the summer travel season has largely ended, Google this week expanded Google Trips, Google Flights, and Google Destinations to a more international audience thanks to new languages and availability. For example, Google Destinations is now available in 14 new languages, including Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Filipino, Hungarian, Indonesian, Japanese, Lithuanian, Malaysian, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovakian, and Slovenian. Google Flights is now searchable in 26 additional countries and languages across much of Europe. Last, Google Trips is now available on Android and iOS in six new languages, including French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese. Google hopes the expanded availability of these travel tools will help people plan their international trips. The mobile apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Google Details September's Android Security Patches

Sep 5, 2017, 1:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its monthly security patches available to select Android devices. September's patches plug a significant number of security holes that threaten most Android devices. Google found dozens of vulnerabilities, including a number of which classified as critical, or able to remotely execute code. Some of problems are related to specific hardware and the associated software drivers that control them, such as components from MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Broadcom. Other vulnerabilities impact the kernel, system, and media framework directly. Google is pushing two separate patches to cover these problems, one dated September 1 and the second dated September 5. Google said the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus Player, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P devices will receive the September security patches as part of the upgrade to Android 8 Oreo. Google has already posted factory images for download from its web site. Google's handsets will receive both patches in a single download. As far as Google is aware, none of these security holes have been exploited by hackers or other entities. Google has already given the patches to its device-maker partners. Phone manufacturers are responsible for updating their own smartphones with the patches.


Hands On with the FitBit Ionic

Sep 1, 2017, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FitBit hopes to take on Android Wear and the Apple Watch with its new Ionic smart wearable. This fitness tracker on steroids introduces many smartwatch features along with basics such as water resistance, GPS tracking, and music controls. The Ionic isn't cheap, however, and may not be smart enough considering the competitive prices of full-fledged smartwatches. Here are our first impressions of the FitBit Ionic.

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Google Brings Standalone Apps to Android Wear 1.0 Hardware

Sep 1, 2017, 6:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week updated some of its Play Store policies that will improve the availability of apps for older Android-based smartwatches. Specifically, Google has made multi-APK apps available to Android Wear 1.0 devices. Previously, multi-APK apps were only available to devices running Android Wear 2.0. Multi-APK apps include two downloads, one for the phone and another just for the watch. Android Wear 2.0 hardware can download just the watch app, freeing up space on their smartphone, and now so can Android Wear 1.0 hardware. Older Android smartwatches that have their own network connections will be able to run these standalone apps on their watch without having to install and run the app from their handset. This should eventually leader to a greater variety of more powerful apps available to older Android wearables. Google also plans to make changes in the way Android Wear apps are called out in the Play Store. Beginning in January, apps that support Wear notification enhancements but do not have a separate Wear app, and Wear apps that are bundled with mobile apps instead of using multi-APK, will no longer be eligible to be listed in the top charts in the Play Store for Android Wear. Google hopes this will lead to higher quality and more flexible apps for Android Wear devices.


YouTube TV Hits 12 More Markets

Sep 1, 2017, 4:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube TV has expanded once again to 12 new markets around the country. The additional cities of Cleveland, Denver, Greensboro, Harrisburg, Hartford, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and St. Louis make for a total of 41 markets. YouTube TV originally launched in just five markets in April. The service expanded by 14 markets just a few weeks ago, and YouTube says at least another five markets are on deck to launch in the near future. YouTube TV costs $35 per month, includes up to six personal accounts all with unlimited DVR recordings and access. The number of channels is still limited to about 50. YouTube TV is available on Android and iOS mobile devices, as well as via the Chrome browser on desktop PCs.


Hands On with the CAT S41 and S31

Sep 1, 2017, 2:19 AM   by Rich Brome and Eric M. Zeman

Cat's latest rugged smartphones are the S41 and the S31. These two handsets are tough hombres that can handle plenty of punishment thanks to their mil-spec 810G and IP68 ratings. With stock Android Nougat on board and advanced features such as wet-finger tracking and underwater photography, there's plenty to like about these chunky work phones. Here are our initial impressions.

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Hands On with the Garmin Vivoactive 3

Aug 31, 2017, 4:40 PM   by Rich Brome & Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 31, 2017, 4:48 PM

Garmin debuted several new wearables at IFA in Berlin this week, and the Vivoactive 3 is the most powerful among them. This smart-ish watch runs Garmin's proprietary software, rather than Android Wear, and specifically targets fitness-minded folk. It does include advanced features such as mobile payments, but you may be better of with a real smartwatch rather than this half-baked effort from Garmin.

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Hands On with the Sony Xperia XA1 Plus

Aug 31, 2017, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced the XA1 Plus, a handset that finds some middle ground between the XA1 and XA1 Ultra. It's a mid-range handset that leans heavily on Sony's tired design language. The price point is more attractive than the hardware itself. Here are our initial thoughts on Sony's latest Android smartphone.

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SanDisk Debuts 400 GB MicroSD Memory Card for Phones

Aug 31, 2017, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

SanDisk today introduced a microSD card with a capacity of 400 GB. It has more storage than any other mobile memory card, according to SanDisk. Any device capable of supporting 2 TB cards can handle the new option from SanDisk. The card is capable of containing more than 40 hours of full HD video and it features fast transfer speeds of up to 100 Mbps. The card meets the A1 App Performance Class spec, which means Android device owners can store and run large applications, such as games, from the card without worrying about performance. At the same time, SanDisk updated tis Memory Zone mobile app, which people can use to manage their device and memory card storage. The 400 GB SanDisk Ultra microSDXC UHS-I memory card is available online from SanDisk and Amazon.com for $250.


Latest Cat Phones Pack Humongous Batteries

Aug 31, 2017, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cat Phones today announced the S41 and S31 smartphones, updates to models from last year. Cat handsets are actually manufactured by Bullitt Group, which licenses the Cat brand. Like most Cat Phones, the S41 and S31 are fully ruggedized mil-spec 810G handsets and more or less impervious to damage from drops, shock, moisture, dust, altitude temperature extremes, and similar dangers. Each is rated IP68 for protection against water and dust. The phones include programmable PTT buttons and run Android 7 Nougat. Each handset has varying degrees of support for U.S. LTE bands, but for the most part they are compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile.

  • Cat S41: The S41 is the more well-spec'd of the two handsets. It has as 5-inch full HD display with Gorilla Glass 5 and wet finger tracking. The S41 is powered by a 2.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash and PDAF, while the selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. Both cameras can operate when the phone is under water. The battery measures in at 5,000mAh and provides up to 44 days of standby time or 38 hours of talk time. The phone can be used to power up other devices. The S41 costs about $475 and will go on sale in Europe beginning August 31.
  • S31: This handset is slightly smaller than the S41 thanks to its 4.7-inch screen at 720p resolution with Gorilla Glass 3 and wet finger tracking. It relies on a quad-core 1.3 GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The S31 has a 4,000mAh battery. It goes on sale later this year for about $355.


GBoard for Android Gains Stickers and Bitmoji

Aug 31, 2017, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its GBoard mobile keyboard application for Android devices and added a handful of new, interactive features. Chiefly, the app gains support for stickers, which you can now slap into messages. Users will need to download sticker packs from the Play Store, which are then accessed by tapping the emoji key on the keyboard. Google says it worked with a handful of content partners, including Mickey Mouse, NBAmoji, Google Allo selfie stickers, Disney Princesses, Hello Kitty, Garfield, Power Rangers, and Star Wars, to ensure that free stickers are available. GBoard also adds support for Bitmoji, which needs to be installed separately in order to be accessed via GBoard. Gboard is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Xperia XA1 Plus Is An Affordable Sony Slab

Aug 31, 2017, 6:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced the Xperia XA1 Plus, an update to last year's XA1. This media-focused phone features a metal build with a 5.5-inch full HD display. It is powered by a MediaTek Helio P10 processor clocked at 2.3 GHz with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. Sony gave the XA1 Plus a 23-megapixel Exmor RS main camera with an f/2.0 aperture and Hybrid Autofocus. The lens has a wide-angle of view and supports HDR photo/video capture, video stabilization, and 5x zoom. The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel Exmor RS image sensor at f/2.0. It also includes HDR image capture, anti-shaking tools, and Sony's gesture shutter. Sony was sure to give the XA1 Plus its SmartAmp technology for wired headphones, as well as ClearAudio+ and stereo recording. The phone has a large 3,430mAh battery with Qnovo Adaptive Charging for better battery health, as well as Sony's Pump Express+ 2.0 for rapid power ups. The XA1 Plus ships with Android 7 Nougat and a bundle of Sony-branded apps and services. The phone supports the LTE networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. Sony says the Xperia XA1 Plus goes on sale October 20 for $380. It will be available unlocked online from Amazon.com.


Blu Vivo 8 Enters the Flagship Fray

Aug 30, 2017, 2:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu Products today announced the Vivo 8, the company's flagship smartphone. The handset is crafted from aluminum and has a 5.5-inch full HD display with curved edges. The phone is powered by an octa-core MediaTek Helio P10 processor clocked at 2 GHz with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The main rear camera has a 13-megapixel Sony IMX258 sensor with laser and phase detection autofocus, an LED flash, and an aperture of f/2.0. The main camera includes features such as adjustable bokeh, slow motion video capture, and face beautification. Blu expects Vivo 8 owners will be more interested in taking selfies, as the phone includes a 16-megapixel, wide-angle selfie cam with its own LED flash. The selfie cam includes features such as panorama mode, bright and soft flash bursts, group selfie mode, and face beautification software. The phone packs a large 4,010mAh battery and includes 18W rapid charging. The Vivo 8 supports the LTE networks of AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. Other specs include WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and a fingerprint scanner. It ships with Android 7 Nougat. The Blu Vivo 8 is available from Amazon for $299, though Blu is running a limited sale wherein the phone will cost $199 from August 31 to September 1. The Vivo 8 comes in black or gold.


Microsoft and Amazon Let Cortana and Alexa Talk to One Another

Aug 30, 2017, 12:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft and Amazon today announced a new partnership that will allow Windows 10 users to access Alexa via Cortana, and Echo users to access Cortana via Alexa. The tie-up lets people use one personal assistant to open the other. For example, people who own Windows 10 PCs will be able to say "Hey Cortana, open Alexa" and then speak queries to Alexa through their PC. Conversely, people who own an Amazon Echo device will be able to say "Alexa, open Cortana" to set reminders, check appointments, and make other requests of Cortana. Microsoft says this capability is available to Windows 10 PCs first, but it will come to Android and iOS devices later this year.


Google Spreading Assistant to More Speakers and Smart Home Appliances

Aug 30, 2017, 12:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said the Google Assistant will soon be available across a wider variety of devices. Google Assistant, the voice-powered helper, is already available on Android smartphones and smartwatches, and the Google Home speaker. The Assistant is coming to a handful of third-party speakers from the likes of Anker, Mobvoi (pictured), and Panasonic. Just like Google Home, people who own any of these new speakers will be able to say "Hey, Google" to initiate any query. Google said each manufacturer will announce pricing and availability of their hardware separately. Google Assistant is also heading to smart appliances. For example, Google has partnered with LG which is adding Assistant to its washers, dryers, and vacuums. Google says Assistant will come to even more devices in the near future.


Samsung's Gear Sport Is a Dedicated Fitness Smartwatch

Aug 30, 2017, 11:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 30, 2017, 11:41 AM

Samsung today introduced the Gear Sport smartwatch. The watch includes a 1.2-inch OLED display and measures 42.9mm, which Samsung says should fit most people well. It is powered by a dual-core 1 GHz processor and includes 768 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage for music and other files. The device packs a 300mAh battery that Samsung says is good for about two days of use, though tracking workouts via GPS will cut down battery life. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.2, accelerometer, barometer, light sensor, and optical heart rate monitor. It can charge wirelessly and includes NFC for Samsung Pay mobile payments. The device runs Tizen OS 3.0 with some tweaks from Samsung. In particular, Samsung has refreshed its Health and Nutrition platform with more advanced calorie counting and workout tracking. The wearable can automatically track a wide variety of workouts and provide data such as step counts, distance traveled, floors climbed, and more. The Gear Sport includes Samsung's rotating bezel to manage the user interface. Two musical buttons along the side also help manage the UI. The device relies on standard 22mm bands and Samsung will provide a variety of straps in materials such as plastic, leather, and woven fabric. The Gear Sport is waterproof to 50 meters and can handle salt water swimming. It also meets mil-spec standards for protection from abuse, such as drops and shock. The Gear Sport is compatible with most Android handsets and even the Apple iPhone. Pricing and availability were not disclosed.


Instagram Adds More Options for Sharing Multiple Photos

Aug 29, 2017, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today said people can now share portrait or landscape photos when assembling posts with multiple shots. Before today, all the photos shared in a single post were restricted to the square format. Moving forward, people can put together packages of either portrait or landscape shots in their larger posts, though only one aspect ratio is supported within each group. Instagram says it has made some other changes to its mobile app over the last few weeks. For example, users can now edit tagged people after they’ve posted the photos. Moreover, iOS users can save posts as drafts. Instagram says these features are rolling out in version 12 of its mobile app for Android and iOS devices.


Google Says ARCore Will Push Augmented Reality to the Android Masses

Aug 29, 2017, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced ARCore, a software developer kit that will bring augmented reality to existing and future Android smartphones without the special hardware required by Project Tango. Google says it built ARCore on the foundation set by Project Tango, but has tweaked it in a way the will allow most devices to run AR apps and content. The platform works with Java/OpenGL, as well as the Unity and Unreal engines and focuses on three things: motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. Google says motion tracking will put the phone's camera to use to observe points in a room and determine the position of virtual objects as the user pans the phone around. ARCore's environmental understanding detects horizontal surfaces to ensure that objects placed on a floor or a table are positioned accurately. The light estimation feature will match the lighting of the AR object with the observed scene through the camera to give the objects a more natural and realistic look. The SDK for ARCore is being offered to developers as a preview and works today starting with the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8 (running Android 7 Nougat and up.) Google hopes to see ARCore running on 100 million devices from companies such as Samsung, Huawei, LG, and Asus by the time the preview ends. ARCore does not replace Project Tango, which is a more advanced version of augmented reality that requires specialized hardware. Project Tango handsets can also run ARCore content.


Google Finds Space for More Parking Features In Google Maps

Aug 29, 2017, 6:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today expanded the availability of Google Maps' parking tools. To start, the existing "how difficult is it to park" feature is accessible to 25 new cities outside the U.S. People planning trips need only tap the parking icon to see how easy or hard it might be to find a spot. The new cities include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cologne, Dusseldorf, London, Madrid, Milan, Montreal, Moscow, Paris, Prague, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Sao Paulo, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Toronto, Valencia, Vancouver, and others. Google Maps for Android gains a new feature that Google says will help U.S.-based users locate a place to put their car. A new "find parking" icon on the directions card will bring up a list of parking garages and lots near the final destination. Users can then tap the garage or lot and navigate directly to it. Maps will even serve up walking directions to get people from the parking lot to their intended destination. The expanded reach of the basic parking difficulty tool is being made available worldwide to users of Maps for Android and iOS today, while the find parking tool is reaching U.S. users of Maps for Android. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store or iTunes App Store.


FitBit's Ionic Smartwatch Can Make Mobile Payments

Aug 28, 2017, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 1, 2017, 6:49 AM

FitBit today announced the Ionic, its long-awaited smartwatch. The wearable primarily targets fitness buffs, but it includes a number of features similar to smart devices from Apple, Samsung, and others. To start, the Iconic come in three colors and features a touch screen protected by Gorilla Glass 3. It includes GPS and Bluetooth 4.0 radios, as well as an optical heart rate monitor, accelerometer, altimeter, and light sensor. The Ionic boasts four days of battery life under regular use, or 10 hours while tracking GPS workouts. The chassis is water resistant to 50 meters, making it waterproof for swims and other workouts wherein it might encounter water. According to FitBit, the mobile app (for Android and iOS) and Ionic work together to track and sync workouts, heart rate, and other data throughout the month. The watch can help manage music playback via Bluetooth controls. The wearable has access to FitBit's app store, which includes offerings from Strava, Pandora, and Starbucks. More importantly, the new FitBit Pay service allows Ionic owners to make NFC-based, on-the-go mobile payments with their Visa, Mastercard, or Amex credit card. Other features include customizable watch faces, call and message notifications, rapid charging, and sleep tracking. The Ionic costs $300 and ships in three to four weeks.


Google Details Final Release of Android 8.0 Oreo

Aug 21, 2017, 3:37 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced the final release of Android 8.0, and also named this version "Oreo". Members of the Android Beta program will receive an update to the final version today. Nexus and Pixel users will receive the update "rolling out in phases over the next several weeks". Google has been working with all of its partners to enable updates for other phones. In the coming weeks and months, other manufacturers will roll out the update to many recent phones. By the end of the year, phones from Essential, Huawei, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sharp and Sony will have Android 8.0 Oreo. The update includes some minor new features, such as picture-in-picture and improved auto-fill, plus many important improvements for developers and overall performance.


Android 8.0 Will be Named "Oreo"

Aug 21, 2017, 1:51 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 21, 2017, 1:55 PM

Google today announced that "Oreo" will be the full name of Android version 8. Google has made a tradition of giving each major version of the OS an official nickname, in alphabetical order. The previous three versions were named Lollipop, Marshmallow, and Nougat. Before that was KitKat, the last time a trademarked brand name was used. Android 8.0 "Oreo" was announced earlier this year and has been available in beta since May. It's expected to be available to the public soon.


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