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.
Microsoft today said that it has expanded the scale of a patent cross-licensing agreement with Kyocera. Microsoft and Kyocera are now able to use a broader range of one another's technologies in a variety of products. The licensing agreement also resolves a patent infringement lawsuit filed earlier this year. Microsoft did not disclose the terms of the agreement. Microsoft holds a number of smartphone-related patents and most makers of Android smartphones pay Microsoft royalties to license those patents.
Turing Robotic Industries today said it will begin accepting preorders for the Turing Phone on July 31, which is about three weeks later than originally planned. The company will make 10,000 units available initially. The phone, sold unlocked, will cost $610 for 16 GB, $740 for 64 GB, and $870 for 128 GB. Turing said it will announce three different colors on July 22 and release an SDK for the phone in August. Turing did not say if it plans to stick to the original Aug. 10 shipping date. The Turing phone is molded from Liquidmorphium that the company claims provides greater tensile strength than either titanium or steel. The handset has a fingerprint sensor built into the side edge for security and uses a magnetic charger to negate the need for ports. Turing says the Android-based handset offers completely secure phone calls and messaging. The device features a 5.5-inch full HD display and it is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The device has a 3,000mAh battery and supports a range of LTE networks around the world.
Yahoo updated its Aviate Android launcher with a new feature called Smart Stream. As described by Yahoo, Smart Stream "assembles relevant information" and adjusts it throughout the day based on where the user is and what they're doing. The information is presented clearly on cards in a way that makes it easy to find nearby restaurants and other points of interest, as well as glance at sports scores and add a soundtrack to your day. Yahoo says Smart Stream becomes smarter and more personal as people use it. Users can fine-tune Smart Stream to surface specific cards through the Focus menu, which lets people set preferences. Smart Stream mimics the behavior of Google's Google Now feature. Aviate is free to download from the Play Store. It is compatible with devices running Android 4.1 and up.
Google has updated the Android and iOS YouTube apps with support for 60 frame-per-second video playback. The higher frame rate is already supported via desktop browsers. YouTube is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Facebook today said its Messenger-based, peer-to-peer mobile payment service is now available to everyone across the U.S. It was initially tested in New York City earlier this year. Messenger users need only add their MasterCard- or Visa-backed debit card to pay anyone else on Messenger. Money goes straight from the sender's checking account to the recipient's checking account. Sending money is free of transaction charges. Facebook says users can set up PINs to protect the service, and Apple device owners will be able to use TouchID to secure it. Sending money is possible from the Android, iOS, and web versions of Messenger.
Verizon Wireless said the Motorola Droid Turbo will be updated to Android 5.1 Lollipop beginning the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1. The update will be delivered in phases over a few weeks. Customers will be able to manually update their phones over the air if they wish. The update is free.
Boost Mobile today announced the LG Volt 2 and LG Tribute 2, updates to two of last year's big sellers for the prepaid carrier. Both devices share several hardware features, such as LG's signature rear-placed buttons, 1.2 GHz quad-core processors, LTE, Bluetooth, and WiFi. They also boast similar software, such as Android 5.1 Lollipop with LG's Knock Code, QuickMemo, and selfie camera tools.
- Volt 2: The second-generation Volt (pictured) improves the screen from a 4.7-inch qHD display to a 5-inch 720p display. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and the front camera has been improved from 1.3 megapixels to 5 megapixels. It has a 2,540mAh battery.
- Tribute 2: The less expensive of these two handsets keeps the screen at 4.5 inches, but improves resolution from 800 x 480 pixels to 854 x 480 pixels. The 5-megapixel main camera, VGA front camera, 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of ROM are carried over from last year's phone. It has a 1,900mAh battery.
Facebook has updated the photo uploader in its iOS app and given users the ability to make creative edits as they go. The new uploader lets people preview and apply filters by swiping left and right, easily add text, and plaster images with stickers from the Facebook sticker store. The feature is not yet widely available, but it has appeared for a number of users. The new editing tools aren't yet available in the Facebook app for Android and it's not clear when they might show up. They are accessible from a tray of tools positioned at the bottom of the photo uploader screen.
Microsoft recently updated its OneDrive app for Android devices. The revised app adds the ability to cast photos and videos from the app to a Chromecast-enabled TV. OneDrive is free to download from the Google Play Store.
BlackBerry today pushed out an update to the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of its BBM app and added several new features. The main new addition is a private chatting mode that strips conversations of names and profile pictures. Private conversations are also ephemeral and will disappear after a short while. The Private Chat tool is in the new Privacy and Control Subscription, which costs $0.99 per month. It also includes timed messages and timed pictures, and the ability to retract and edit messages and pictures. The Privacy and Control Subscription replaces the Timed and Retracted Messages Subscription. BlackBerry says existing subscribers will be transitioned over to the new service automatically. Other new functions include a new way to organize sticker collections and a "quote messages" tool for referencing previous messages. Last, the iOS version of BBM has updated font rendering. BBM is free to download from the Play Store, BlackBerry Store, and iTunes App Store.
AT&T's prepaid unit today added the ZTE Maven to its roster of inexpensive handsets. The Maven is a rebadged Overture 2, which is sold by AT&T's Cricket Wireless business. The Maven is an entry-level Android smartphone that it is selling for $59.99. The Maven features a 4.5-inch FWVGA display, 5-megapixel main camera, VGA user-facing camera, 8 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 32 GB. This handset also has a quad-core 1.2 GHz processor and a 2,100mAh battery. The Maven from ZTE runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and is compatible with AT&T's LTE 4G network.
Cricket Wireless has made the ZTE Sonata 2 available on its web site for $29.99. This inexpensive Android smartphone has a 4-inch WVGA screen protected by Dragontrail Glass and it is powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor. The ZTE Sonata 2 includes a 5-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera with a dedicated selfie app. The phone has 1 GB of memory and 4 GB of storage, and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. Connectivity options include 4G, Bluetooth, and WiFi. The phone has a 1,650mAh battery providing it with power and supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 1.0 for quicker charging. The Sonata 2 runs Android 4.4 KitKat.
An unnamed company is preparing to announce the "Axon Phone" July 14. A teaser web site provides some preliminary information about the handset, which runs Android. For example, the Axon Phone has a dual-lens camera that the company says assists with focus and allows owners to refocus images after they're taken. The phone can also record video at up to 4K resolution. Axon claims the phone has high-fidelity sound playback and high-quality audio recording thanks to two microphones and noise suppression techniques. Last, the Axon phone has a fast processor, 4 GB of memory, and a large battery. The phone will be sold in blue, gold, or silver. Axon said more details will be revealed next month; however, PCMag was able to dig up some details that shed new light on the Axon Phone. PCMag claims Axon is a "marketing scheme" cooked up by ZTE. ZTE branding and code is clearly seen in the Axon web site. Further, Axon's headquarters shares the same address with ZTE's U.S. headquarters. ZTE mostly sells low-cost handsets via prepaid carriers in the U.S., but has higher ambitions. The Axon Phone may be an attempt by the company to break into the U.S. market with different branding. ZTE hasn't commented on PCMag's assertions.
Microsoft today made Office Mobile fully available to everyone from the Google Play Store. The company released penultimate versions of the apps in May, but required interested users to join the Office for Android Community on Google+ in order to access them. Microsoft removed that requirement, which means anyone who wants Office can now download the suite of productivity apps. Office Mobile requires Android 4.4 and up, but is not compatible with Android M.
Instagram today revealed a new version of its mobile app that introduces two significant changes. First, Instagram has reimagined the "explore" function to better reflect trending stories, conversations, and news. The explore function will now highlight things happening in real time, such as popular events. Second, Instagram has improved the search function to make it easier for people to find images of specific places. Search is also better at sifting through individual people as well as hashtags. Instagram believes the two changes together will improve the ability of users to find new and engaging content. Instagram 7.0 for Android and for iOS is due out later today. The app is free to download.
Google today updated its Google Music product to include free, ad-supported radio stations. The streaming radio service is offered at no cost and has a number of pre-set stations and mixes. Google says many of its stations are hand-curated and developed by the team at Songza, which Google purchased last year. Customers who upgrade to the paid version will be able to save their playlists for offline playback, as well as save up to 50,000 songs in their own library. The paid version does not include ads and costs $10 per month. Google said its free radio service will reach the web today and Android and iOS devices through an app update in the coming days. Google's new music model mirrors that of other streaming services that provide ad-supported playback for free and premium features to paying customers.
General Motors today committed to adding Android Auto and CarPlay to even more of its cars and trucks. The company is already bringing the smartphone tech to its Chevy, Corvette, and Cadillac brands. General Motors' Buick-branded vehicles will also have Android Auto and CarPlay beginning with select 2016 models. The technology connects a smartphone through Buick's IntelliLink system so drivers can access navigation, text messaging, contact lists, and entertainment apps via the car's in-dash system. The first cars to support Android Auto and CarPlay will be the Buick Regal and LaCrosse.
Sony today made it possible for developers to test Android M on some of its Xperia-branded smartphones. Google released the Android M Developer Preview in May. According to Sony, devices listed as part of its Open Device program (read: unlocked) can install the preview. This is not a full operating system meant for consumers. The guide includes building an AOSP M Developer Preview and creating a test image for flashing into unlocked handsets. Doing so requires some know-how. Sony points out that the AOSP software will only work on devices with an unlocked boot loader, and it has a number of limitations, such as non-working modem and camera features. Some of the devices compatible with the Android M Developer Preview include the Xperia Z3/Z3 Compact, Z2, Z1, Z Ultra, T3, and T2 Ultra. Google does not plan to release a full version of Android M until the fall. Sony has committed to updating some of its handsets to Android M late in the year.
Twitter is testing new ways to surface content about locations and products that might interest users. First, it is experimenting with a feature called Place and Product pages. Twitter says these pages will feature images and video about places or products, including descriptions, web links, and purchasing options. The social network said it will display these details above tweets pertaining to that particular place or product. In addition to Product and Place pages, Twitter is testing other ways for users to connect with brands. It is letting a select bunch of "influencers" create collections of products and places they like and then share those collections with the broader public. The collections, mostly from celebrities, retailers, TV channels, and news organizations, can be accessed from the Twitter profile of whatever entity created the collection. Twitter is starting with a limited number of place and product pages and celebrity collections and will expand over time based on their success. Twitter said these changes will reach Twitter.com and the Android and iOS apps (via update) soon.
Google has made its Andriod clock application available via the Play Store as a stand-alone app. The app includes a home screen widget as well as alarm, stopwatch, timer, and world clock features. The app also connects to Android Wear for dismnissing alarms. Google Clock is free to download.
Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said the company will tackle the mobile phone industry again once its non-compete clause with Microsoft expires next year. Nokia no longer owns any manufacturing facilities and will not make its own phones. The company did something similar with an Android-based tablet it released in December. "We will look for suitable partners," said Suri in an interview with the German magazine Manager Magazin. "Microsoft makes mobile phones. We would simply design them and then make the brand name available to license." Microsoft bought Nokia's handset business in 2014 for $7.2 billion. Just this week, Microsoft reshuffled its executive deck and removed two former leaders from Nokia, Stephen Elop and Jo Harlow. Neither Elop nor Harlow has said what their next steps will be. Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and Lumia-branded handsets continue to struggle in the market against Apple's iOS and Google's Android. The company is releasing a new mobile operating system, Windows 10 Mobile, this fall. Suri did not say if Nokia will use Android, Windows Phone, or some other platform for its future devices.
Fairphone has released the first images and details of the Fairphone 2, its new handset due later this year. Fairphone's basic pitch is to prove that electronics can be made responsibly with conflict-free minerals and better treatment of those building the phones. The company first launched in 2013 and sold more than 60,000 units of the original Fairphone through 2014. The Fairphone 2 is modular, which means it should be easy to repair or replace parts. It has a 5-inch full HD display and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. Other features include a Snapdragon 801 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The Fairphone 2 has an 8-megapixel camera, 2,420mAh battery, microSD card slot, and supports two SIM cards. It has Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE. Fairphone will begin accepting pre-orders for the phone over the summer and expects to ship in the fall months. The price is approximately $590.
Google has launched a new bug bounty program hoping to stamp out problems in the Android code on the Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet. Eligible bugs include those in AOSP code, OEM code (libraries and drivers), the kernel, and the TrustZone OS and modules. Android will pay those who discover and disclose bugs anywhere from $500 to $8,000, depending on the severity of the bug and the completeness of the disclosure. For example, those who simply report a moderate bug will only receive $500. Those who discover a severe bug and offer Google CTS tests and patches may be eligible for the $8,000 reward. Google's goal is to make Android more secure for everyone.
Panasonic recently made the Lumix Communication Camera CM1 available for purchase from its web site. The CM1 was first shown off at CES in January. The device is more camera than phone. It has a Leica lens and a 1-inch imaging sensor that captures 20 megapixels. The camera can shoot 15 frames per second and capture 4K video. The handset runs Android 4.4 KitKat and has a 4.7-inch full HD screen. It is powered by a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor and includes Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi, and LTE for connectivity. The CM1 is being sold as an unlocked GSM handset and is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. The Lumix CM1 costs $999.99.
Twitter today said it will begin playing videos, GIFs, and Vines embedded in tweets automatically on the web and in the Android and iOS mobile apps. Users can choose to have videos play automatically all the time, only when on WiFi, or only when tapped by the user. By default, video sound will be off. Users who want to hear the the sound in any given video need only tap the video, which will expand and begin to play sound. Videos can also auto-rotate if the phone is turned on its side. The new auto-playing video feature will reach the web and iOS app today, with the Android app to follow in the near future.
Google pushed out a minor update to Maps for Android devices this week and added several new features. Chief among the new powers is the ability for Maps to send a warning when the place users have chosen to navigate to (such as stores or restaurants) will be closed by the time they arrive. Further, when users perform searches for "my events," results will now also include locations for car rental reservations, flights, and hotels all culled from data in Gmail. The latest version of Maps also fixes some bugs. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Facebook today announced a new application called Moments. The app is meant to help people share photos privately with others -- even if they don't use Facebook. It lets multiple people combine their photos to create albums of shared events, such as weddings, graduations, or parties. The app uses location data and facial recognition software to determine which of the user's friends are in the photos, and then shares the collection with them privately. The recipient can choose to share their own photos with the first person to create a larger album of the event. Facebook says the app keeps all the photos synced and organized, and includes search functions for finding your friends' faces faster. Moments was conceived in Facebook's Creative Labs. It is being launched in the U.S. on Android and iOS today, with other regions to be added over time. Moments is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google today unveiled YouTube Gaming, a dedicated video service that will focus on gamers. The site will have its own search algorithms so results focus on games. It will feature landing pages for games, and allow uses to upload their gameplay (similar to Twitch, which was bought by Amazon earlier this year). Google said it will ensure it is easy to upload and broadcast gaming content, will reduce latency, and plans to allow for highlight clips and other features. YouTube Gaming will be available later this summer on the web and as Android and iOS apps.
Asustek Computer is thinking about buying competitor HTC, but it hasn't made a final decision just yet. The company has discussed the matter among its executives, according to CFO David Chang. "Our chairman has chatted about the topic internally," said Chang to Reuters. "Still, the chances of an actual takeover are not big as Asustek is a company that has depended on organic growth." Asus and HTC are both located in Taiwan. HTC has struggled in recent years. It once held a high spot among Android device makers, but stumbled badly. Earlier this week, HTC forecast a steep loss for the current quarter due to unexpectedly low sales of its flagship smartphone, the One M9. HTC's precarious position prompted acquisition talks. Asus has a more diverse product portfolio and a stronger balance sheet.
Google will not give up on its fledgling Android One platform, said Caesar Sengupta, vice president of product management. Android One is a project meant to bring very-low-cost Android handsets to emerging markets. Speaking to the Economic Times, Sengupta indicated the company has learned several lessons during the initial launch. To start, it ran into distribution problems and the initial batch of devices were hurt by low visibility. Further, Google's hardware partners have not provided system updates. Google admits it has shipped about 800,000 devices so far in a country of 1.25 billion. Sengupta insists its OEM partners have not given up, despite reports to the contrary. Handset makers in India release a staggering 1,200 new phones per year. Google is looking to add more features to the platform and expects a new round of devices to reach the market in the months ahead.
Most wireless carriers offer more than a dozen different Android smartphones and choosing the right one can be daunting. In response, Google has published a new web site with the aim of helping people pick their next phone. The site is essentially a questionnaire about how the person intends to use their handset. People can pick from options such as listening to music, social networking, or health and fitness. Once people have selected a few options, the site deep-dives into each selection seeking more in-depth answers. Finally, it asks users what carrier they prefer and makes a handful of picks. Google doesn't offer ratings or reviews on the handsets; it simply matches phones to people based on their preferred features. The site is aimed more at those seeking guidance for their first Android handset than it is for experienced consumers.
BlackBerry is considering whether or not to make a smartphone based on Google's Android platform rather than its own operating system, reports Reuters. Citing sources familiar with BlackBerry's plans, Reuters says the company is working on a slider handset that would have a touch screen and a slide-out physical keyboard for typing. It would arrive in the fall. One possible impetus behind the idea is to convince businesses that BlackBerry's BES12 device management software can effectively control Android handsets in addition to iPhones and BlackBerries. BlackBerry has focused efforts on becoming a software services company rather than a hardware company, but it still sells a line of BlackBerry smartphones. The devices have not sshipped in significant numbers. "We don't comment on rumors and speculation," said BlackBerry to Reuters, "but we remain committed to the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which provides security and productivity benefits that are unmatched." The Android handset would be sold alongside BlackBerry's existing lineup. Reuters sources said if BlackBerry chooses to make an Android handset it would probably include patented BlackBerry features, such as security software. BlackBerry already works with Android. It created a version of its BBM messaging application for Android, and BlackBerry 10 handsets can run select Android applications.
Google today rolled out an update to its Slides app for mobile devices that makes it more compatible with TVs. First, the Android version gains support for Chromecast. This means Android users can push presentations from their device to a Chromecast-enabled TV. Second, the iOS version of Slides gains support for AirPlay, which works with the Apple TV. The idea is to make it easier to use Google Slides for presentations. Google Slides is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.
ROK Mobile today re-launched in the U.S. as a service available to anyone. The MVNO first got off the ground in July 2014, but required an invitation. ROK says anyone in the U.S. can now join its service. What sets ROK Mobile apart is that it bundles wireless and music streaming services together for $49.99 per month. For that, users get 5GB of LTE 4G, unlimited calling and messaging, and unlimited access to ROK's 20 million tracks. The music service lets users create radio stations, personalize playlists, explore music based on moods and preferences, and streaming is ad-free. The company claims to offer a cost advantage over competing music services such as Spotify and Rdio because the cost is bundled into the wireless plan. For now, users will need to supply their own Sprint or T-Mobile compatible handset. The service works on Android and iOS through ROK's application. ROK Mobile said it will have news regarding its own handset offering in the near future.
Google pushed out a small update to its Gmail app for Android devices. The latest version now supports OAuth for Yahoo and Outlook email accounts. OAuth is an open standard for account authorization.
Google hopes the public will help it make Google Voice better. The company this week has asked people to fill out a survey on how they use the service and how it does or does not meet their needs. Google said any feedback it receives can be used to improve Google Voice and prioritize its features. The survey will take about 10 minutes. Google Voice has languished in recent years. The service, available to Android and iOS devices, lets users pick their own phone number and make calls and send messages from most any phone.
The FCC today approved the Alcatel One Touch Conquest for Boost Mobile. FCC documents show an Android phone with a colorful design, tri-band LTE, Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, a camera with flash, and a front camera. Slots on the side accept a memory card and the SIM card. The battery does not appear to be removable. The phone would be Alcatel's second phone for a Sprint brand, and first smartphone. Alcatel has made significant inroads into the U.S. market in recent years, mostly with T-Mobile.
Microsoft today improved login security for its Android and iOS Outlook email applications. Moving forward, Outlook will use something called Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL)-based authentication for Exchange Online mailboxes in Office 365. Microsoft says this replaces the basic authentication method previously used. The change also brings OAuth support to Office 365 accounts and alters the technical handshake Microsoft's apps use to verify account holders as they move between them. Though the improved security is mostly meant to help companies better manage their employee email and productivity access, everyone who uses Office 365 will have a more secure login. Microsoft said all Office 365 users will be prompted to re-enter their login credentials over the next week. This will trigger the new ADAL sign in and convert accounts from basic authentication to OAuth. The Outlook apps themselves do not need to be updated.
Google recently provided an update to its Maps app for iOS that adds the ability to send places from Maps on a desktop to an iPhone. The feature, which has been available to Android phones for several months, requires iPhone owners to enable notifications for Maps. In addition to sending places from desktop to mobile, the update also lets iOS users edit business hours and view photos of their saved places. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Instagram has redesigned its mobile and desktop web sites, placing a greater emphasis on the photos. Images are now much larger on the site, which will display users' image feed when they sign in with their account. The design does away with the out-dated motifs of the outgoing site and has a more modern, minimalist appearance. People can scan for hashtags as well as perform searches. Instagram is owned by Facebook and has mobile photo-sharing apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.