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printed May 30, 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.

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Acer Says Liquid Zest Plus to Reach US In July

Friday, 10:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Acer recently revealed that the Liquid Zest Plus smartphone will go on sale in the U.S. for $199 beginning in July. Acer previewed the phone in April. It features a 5,000mAh battery with Quick Charge support that provides "days" of uptime. Other features include a 5.5-inch HD screen, MediaTek processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. The phone's main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with laser-assisted and phase detection autofocus. The 5-megapixel selfie camera has a wide angle of view. The phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

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Google Exonerated In Java API Case vs. Oracle

Thursday, 3:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A jury today decided that Google's use of 37 Java APIs constitutes "fair use" and does not infringe on Oracles copyrights. The decision caps a two-week trial that saw Oracle once again claim Google stole its Java code when first creating the Android operating system back in 2007 and 2008. Google has long held to the argument that Java — the underlying basis for Android — is free and open for anyone to use. Oracle came into ownership of the APIs in question when it purchased Sun Microsystems. The company first filed legal complaints against Google in 2010. The first trial in 2012 found that APIs couldn't be copyright, but that decision was later overturned in 2014. Today's decision will likely be appealed by Oracle, but puts the matter that much closer to rest.

Hyundai Makes Android Auto and CarPlay Available As a Do-It-Yourself Install

Thursday, 12:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Hyundai today made it possible for owners of select models to install Android Auto and CarPlay themselves. Hyundai owners will need to download the navigation system update from Hyundai's web site to a USB drive or SD card and then update the car manually. The company posted detailed directions to its web site to help walk customers through the update process. Hyundai says the download and install process can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the vehicle. Some of the models compatible with the upgrade are the 2015/16 Sonata and Genesis, 2016 Elantra and Tucson, and the 2017 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport. Android Auto and CarPlay both bring certain smartphone features to the dashboard, including access to navigation, phone and messaging, and music playback. Customers who want the update but aren't comfortable doing it themselves can have it performed at a Hyundai dealer for a fee.

ZTE Taps BMW to Help Design the Axon 7 Flagship

Thursday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 1:37 PM

ZTE today announced the Axon 7, its flagship smartphone for 2016. ZTE designed the phone with the help of BMW Group's Designworks studio. The Axon 7 has a unibody aluminum design and clean lines; it comes in gold and silver finishes. The device features a 5.5-inch quad HD display with 2.5D curved glass. The phone is powered by a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 820 processor with either 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM. The processor and 3,140mAh battery together support Quick Charge 3.0 and can deliver a 50% charge in 30 minutes. The main camera includes a 20-megapixel sensor from Samsung with optical and electronic image stabilization, sapphire lens, and an aperture of f/1.8. The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel camera. The phone can capture video up to 4K. Other standout features include dual AKM HiFi audio chipsets with Dolby Atmos software and stereo speakers, support for Google's Daydream virtual reality platform, support for memory cards, and a quick fingerprint sensor located on the back. The device adopts a USB Type-C connector. The Axon 7 ships with Android 6 Marshmallow and MiFavor 4.0 user interface, portions of which BMW's Designworks helped configure. The phone supports all U.S. LTE bands. It will be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile and launch, with Sprint and Verizon compatibility coming later in the year. The Axon 7 is sold with Axon Passport 2.0, ZTE's two-year warranty plan that protects consumers from busted screens and other damage. The Axon 7 goes on sale in China today, but will reach the U.S. soon. The phone is priced under $500 and will be sold directly to consumers via, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, ebay, and Newegg.

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PayPal to Kill Off Its Windows Phone and BlackBerry Apps

May 25, 2016, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

PayPal today said it will sunset its Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Amazon Fire Phone apps on June 30. After that date, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Fire Phone users will not be able to login to or use the Paypal mobile app. PayPay says these users will be able to sign in to via the browser of their device and conduct transactions online. PayPal further said all Android and iOS users of its mobile app need to upgrade to version 6.0 between June 3 and June 30. Version 6.0 of the PayPal mobile app has a fresh design. PayPal said it gave more prominent placement to features its customers use most, such as send and request money, PayPal balance, and transaction history. PayPal is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Google's Speech-to-Text App Gains New Powers

May 24, 2016, 3:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Text-to-Speech app for Android devices and gave the tool a handful of new features. The app adds support for Bengali, Danish, English, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, and Mandarin. The 14 supported languages each has six voices, three mail and three female. Google says the voices can be processor intensive and are not available to all devices. The app also improves its voice for Indian English. Last, the speech app can read aloud any text that is highlighted on the screen. Google's Speech-to-Text app is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Maps to Host Ads In the Form of 'Promoted Pins'

May 24, 2016, 3:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it plans to place advertisements in Google Maps on mobile devices. The change is meant to help Google's business customers promote their own businesses to people who search through Google Maps. Google says advertisers can take advantage of location extensions to showcase their locations on maps as promoted pins. Google is experimenting with a variety of ad formats, and will relaunch local business pages so they are more appealing and include special offers and the ability to browse product inventory at any given store. The introduction of advertising will come to both the Android and iOS versions of Maps, but Google didn't say exactly when. The new advertising push is part of Google's attempt top shore up its core business.

Pebble Reveals Two New Watches and 3G Connected Button

May 24, 2016, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pebble today announced the Pebble 2 and Time 2 smartwatches, as well as the Core connected button. The two wearables target fitness users and include heart rate monitors for tracking workouts and monitoring sleep. Pebble recently updated its health tools, and the Pebble 2 and Time 2 are able to take advantage of the upgraded software. Both devices serve notifications, show the owner's schedule, control music, run some 13,000 apps, and perform simple tasks. Each has an e-paper display and is water resistant down to 30 meters. The Pebble 2 can run for seven days and costs $99, while the Time 2 can run for 10 days and costs $169. They work with Android an iOS smartphones. The Core is a 3G-enabled fob that Pebble says acts as a smartphone when on the go. The device has two buttons that can be programmed to do anything, such as start/stop streaming Spotify playlists. The Core has Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS radios, and can act as a relay to the internet for Pebble smartwatches. It can be paired with Bluetooth headsets and accept voice commands, serve as a hotspot, and sync with select fitness apps. The Core costs $99. All three devices are available for pre-order via Kickstarter. The Pebble 2 ships in September, the Time 2 ships in November, and the Core ships in early 2017.

ZTE Brings Dual-Camera Grand X Max 2 to Cricket

May 20, 2016, 1:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Grand X Max 2 for Cricket Wireless, an inexpensive handset that includes two rear cameras. The phone boasts a 6-inch full HD display protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The camera ensemble features 13- and 2-megapixel sensors on the back that ZTE says capture more detailed images. The camera boasts features such as bokeh, panorama, multiexposure, and manual modes. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor; both cameras can capture full HD video. The Grand X Max 2 is powered by a 1.5 GHz octa-core Snapdragon processor and ships with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. The phone adopts the USB Type-C connector and the 3,400mAh battery supports Quick Charge 2.0 for rapid charging. Other hardware features include LTE, GPS, memory card support, and standard headphone jack. ZTE loaded Google's Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system on the device, which includes a variety of Google and Cricket apps and services, such as Deezer and Dolby Audio. The ZTE Grand X Max 2 is available at Cricket stores starting today for $199.99.

Hands On with Android Wear 2.0

May 19, 2016, 2:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google released a developer preview of Android Wear 2.0. This new platform, which touts a wholly refreshed user interface, is the biggest update yet for Google smartwatches. Here is a quick look at this early version of Android Wear 2.0 on the Huawei Watch.

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Android Apps Headed to Google's Chromebooks

May 19, 2016, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Chrome operating system will soon have access to the Google Play Store and the Android apps therein. ChromeOS will support all Android phone and tablet apps, including games, productivity apps, and social networking. Android apps can run in three different window sizes in ChromeOS and users will be able to move the windows around and multitask as needed. Keyboard, mouse, and touch input will all work together within Android apps, and Android-based notifications will be pushed to Chromebooks as well as phones. Moreover, users will be able share files seamlessly between Chrome and Android devices through a new Files app. Google says developers can add admin-level network support to their Android apps for Chrome so businesses and schools can control options such as Bluetooth and WiFi. Android games should run very well on Chromebooks, according to Google. Google Play for Chrome will be available to developers on the Asus Chromebook Flip, Acer Chromebook R 11, and the Chromebook Pixel with a wider launch expected later this year. Google says it will add support for Android apps to more Chromebooks over time. ChromeOS is Google's light-weight, browser-based operating system that runs on inexpensive laptops.

Google Shows Off YouTube VR App for Daydream

May 19, 2016, 11:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced YouTube VR, a version of YouTube dedicated to virtual reality. It will be among the first apps to support Daydream, Google's new VR platform for Android devices. YouTube says the VR app will support voice search, browsing/discovery, and playlists. Google says all YouTube content — whether captured in 360-degree/3D or not — will be available via YouTube VR. Google is working with content creators and camera makers to ensure that plenty of 360-degree content is available when the app launches. Google expects YouTube VR to arrive with Daydream in the fall. It will only work with Android phones. Google didn't say if YouTube VR will be compatible with other VR headsets, such as Gear VR or Oculus.

Awareness API from Google to Power Contextually Aware Apps

May 19, 2016, 11:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Developers will soon be able to make their apps aware of their surroundings thanks to the new Awareness API. The API can support up to seven different signals at once, including time, location, places, beacons, headphones, activity, and weather, to deliver contextually aware information. Google says the API is able to process signals from these sources intelligently for accuracy and efficiency, and do so without chewing through battery life. "Your app can combine these context signals to make inferences about the user's current situation, and use this information to provide customized experiences. For example, suggesting a playlist when the user plugs in headphones and starts jogging," explained Google. WebOS, developed by Palm, was able to handle some contextually aware situations, such as recognizing when the user's location didn't match their calendar appointments. Developers can sign up for early access to the Awareness API. Google didn't say when the API will be made more widely available, nor how or when it will be added to Android handsets.

Bank of America ATMs to Support Android Pay

May 18, 2016, 7:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Bank of America today said it will add Android Pay support to some 5,000 ATMs around the country. Bank of America customers who have added their BofA debit card to the Android Pay app will be able to tap their NFC-equipped phone to compatible ATMs to withdraw cash and perform other account interactions. The company plans to start with 2,400 ATMs, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area, and eventually expand to 5,000. The idea is to allow BofA customers to access their account and cash without their actual debit card. Users will still need to enter their PIN code to earn access to their account. Bank of America tested the technology in Boston, Charlotte, New York, and San Franciso earlier this year.

Android N Lets Users Edit Quick Settings Panel

May 18, 2016, 3:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Android N will allow people to edit the arrangement of the Quick Settings panel. Phone manufacturers have permitted people to edit the Quick Settings panel for years, but now this feature will be available in the stock version of Android. People will be able to move the settings around however they wish. Moreover, Android N will remember the most-used Quick Settings tools and automatically place them in a separate bar across the top of the Quick Settings panel. Android N, with the improved Quick Settings panel, is expected to arrive later this summer.

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Google Play Services 9.0 Powers Video Capture, Beacons and Gaming

May 18, 2016, 3:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today outlined some of the new features in Google Play Services 9.0. Specifically, there are a handful of new APIs that will let developers add more functionality to their apps. For example, the Video Recording API will allow developers to add video recording the their own apps, as well as make those videos easy to share via YouTube or other apps. The updated Nearby API will let apps scan for nearby Bluetooth low energy beacons without additional permissions. This will give beacon owners (and the developers who wrote the apps for them) more leeway to send messages to Android devices as they roam near beacons. Play Services 9.0 makes changes to the Player Stats API, which lets developers gain more insight to gameplay, what actions gamers are likely to pursue, and whether or not they'll spend more money. In a related change, Play Services 9.0 makes improvements to how developers can integrate ads and ad campaigns into their apps. Google didn't say when Play Services will be distributed to end-user devices.

Google to Simplify Android Pay for Developers

May 18, 2016, 3:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has streamlined the developer tools needed to add Android Pay support to mobile apps and web sites. The company revised the APIs used by developers, who should now be able to enable Android Pay with just a few lines of code. Google hopes easing the process will convince more developers to adopt the burgeoning mobile payment service. Google recently expanded Android Pay to the UK, and plans to reach Australia and Singapore soon. Android Pay will soon add loyalty cards and promotions, as well.

Android Auto to Benefit from Android N Features

May 18, 2016, 2:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google offered a few details on what the future holds for Android Auto. The platform will be expanded thanks to Android N. To start, Android Auto will soon be available to Android devices — sans car. The phone-based app will be updated with the same user interface and functionality found on the in-dash experience, allowing people who drive older cars to enjoy the benefits of Android Auto even if their car doesn't support it. Some of the tools included are voice-enabled calling, media payback, messaging, and navigation. Android N brings support for AM/FM radios, HVAC controls, Bluetooth calling/media streaming, multi-channel audio, and digital instrument clusters. Google says more carmakers are selecting Android Auto as the base for their in-car systems. Moreover, Android Auto will soon gain connectivity independent of a phone thanks to Qualcomm's modular Snapdragon 820 Automotive Platform. The Android Auto platform will soon add Waze, hotwording, and support for apps and services directly from carmakers, including Honda and Hyundai.

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Android Instant Apps Let Apps Run Even When Not Installed

May 18, 2016, 1:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 18, 2016, 2:02 PM

Google today showed off what it calls Android Instant Apps. The idea here is to allow people to access content that's buried within apps that are not installed on their phone. For example, when people send a link to content that's contained within an app, the recipient will be able to click the link and view the content. Instant Apps will install only the bits of the app needed to run the requested content. Android Instant Apps are technically based on deep linking, explained Google, but still allow for most of the app's features to work even when the app is not on the phone. Google sees this as a way to convince more people to access or use content they might otherwise ignore because they don't have or use the specific app in question. Developers will need to configure their apps to perform instantly using Android Studio.

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Android Wear 2.0 Adds Standalone App Support

May 18, 2016, 1:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 18, 2016, 1:31 PM

Google today provided a preview of Android Wear 2.0, which it says was developed with end users in mind. Watch faces, for example, will be able to show data from other apps, such as fitness info. This leads to greater personal customization of watch faces. Messaging sees updates, too, thanks to better handwriting recognition, voice controls, and keyboards. Android Wear 2.0 will also enjoy expanded fitness tools, such as automatic activity recognition and easier music streaming. The platform brings with it support for standalone apps that don't require a nearby cellphone to function. Developers can download a preview of Android Wear 2.0 today, but the public release isn't expected until the fall.

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'Daydream' to Serve as VR Platform for Android

May 18, 2016, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced Daydream, a brand new platform for expanding virtual reality to more devices. The Daydream spec will be defined so hardware makers can make sure they create compatible phones. Android N will be able to tell if phones are Daydream ready based on the sensors, display, and processor within. Android N brings improvements to performance VR thanks to low latency (20ms) and the simplified system user interface. At the same time, Google created a blueprint for Daydream-compatible headsets. It will share the headset / controller blueprints with device makers. Google believes a secondary controller (like a small remote) will help the Daydream VR experience. Google expects Daydream-ready devices, including phones from Samsung, Alcatel, and Asus, to reach the market by fall.

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Google Talks Up Android N Performance and Security

May 18, 2016, 1:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 18, 2016, 1:12 PM

Google today provided an update to Android N at its I/O developer conference. The next-generation mobile operating system includes support for Vulkan to improve graphics performance for games, but it also improves the Android runtime to speed up daily use. For example, apps should install 75% faster while requiring 50% less code. On the security front, N introduces file-based encryption to better isolate and protect individual users. It also hardened the media framework to prevent attacks. Last, Android N offers seamless security updates that happen automatically in the background with no user action required. As for productivity, Google make improvements to the multitasking function. Moving forward, Android N will show only the most recent seven apps. Moreover, Android N moves the "clear all" tool to the top of the screen to prevent accidental closings. Android N uses two multi-window tools, one called multi-screen (two windows used side-by-side) and picture-in-picture to let video play while users perform other tasks. Google imagines the PIP feature will be used most on Android TV. Android N overhauls notifications, providing direct control over silencing certain types of notifications. The new platform adds Unicode 9.0 for an expanded set of emoji, including skin-tone variations. Last, Android N bakes in more direct support for virtual reality. Google is asking the public to help name Android N, and has set up a web site to take suggestions. Android N is available in beta form beginning today and should reach final release status later this summer.

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CurrentC, an Apple Pay Competitor, Is Delayed

May 17, 2016, 9:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 17, 2016, 2:23 PM

MCX, the consortium of retailers including Walmart and Target, has postponed the national rollout of its mobile payment service, called CurrentC. MCX tested CurrentC in several markets and has decided to step back from the roll out for the time being. "Utilizing unique feedback from the marketplace and our Columbus pilot, MCX has made a decision to concentrate more heavily in the immediate term on other aspects of our business including working with financial institutions, like our partnership with Chase, to enable and scale mobile payment solutions," said CEO Brian Mooney in a statement provided to TechCrunch. The company plans to lay off some staff in the meantime. Walmart, Target, and other retailers have shied away from Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay as they worked to develop CurrentC. It's not clear if any of these retailers will adopt competing mobile payment services to fill the gap.

Fourth-Gen Moto G Comes In Three Varieties

May 17, 2016, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today announced the fourth-generation Moto G, which is a trio of handsets rather than a single phone. All three devices, which include the Moto G, Moto G Plus, and the Moto G Play, run Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and feature slimmer designs than previous generations. The phones share a variety of functions, such as support for LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, sensors, and micro USB. The first two phones both include 5.5-inch full HD screens, 1.5 GHz Snapdragon 617 processors with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage.

  • Moto G: The main model includes a 13-megapixel main camera with an aperture of f/2.0, dual-LED flash, and HDR. The front camera captures wide-angle, 5-megapixel images and boasts a display-based selfie flash. Both can capture full HD video. The Moto G ships with a 3000mAh battery and supports Quick Charge. Consumers can personalize the G via Moto Maker.
  • Moto G Plus: The G Plus carries over most features from the G. It chiefly steps up the main camera to 16 megapixels and allows for greater customization of RAM and storage. It also adds a fingerprint reader for security.
  • Moto G Play: The low-end model steps the display down to 5 inches at 720p HD, drops the processor to a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 410, lowers the main camera to 8 megapixels at f/2.2, and reduces the battery to 2800mAh. It supports rapid charging, but the charger is not included with the phone.
Motorola said that Moto G family will go on sale in select markets soon, including North America. The devices are sold unlocked with support for GSM-based carriers. Price points were not disclosed.

Google Debuts 'Spaces' App for Group Conversations

May 16, 2016, 10:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced a new app called Spaces, which is meant to facilitate group conversations around specific subjects. Google imagines the app could be helpful to book clubs, or to people planning trips, and so on. Chrome, YouTube, and Search are built into Spaces, so finding and adding content to conversation threads is a cinch. Google says threads are easy to follow, and because they are searchable it is easy to go back and find previous discussions, comments, or content. Spaces can be created with a single tap, and invitations can be sent via email, social network, or messaging. Google Spaces is available to all Gmail accounts today online, and for Android and iOS devices. The service is free to use.

AT&T's GoPhone Adds the LG Phoenix 2

May 13, 2016, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service recently made the LG Phoenix 2 available from its web site. This entry-level Android smartphone includes a 5-inch 720p HD screen and is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1.5 GB of RAM. The Phoenix 2 has an 8-megapixel main camera with LED flash, burst shot and gesture shot, and a 5-megapixel front camera. The phone has 16 GB of storage and supports memory cards up to 32 GB for additional storage. The Phoenix 2 ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and LG included some of its core software tools, such as KnockON, Knock Code, Quick Memo, and QSlide apps. It has a removable 2,125mAh battery and features LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and WiFi radios. The phone costs $99. GoPhone does not require contracts.

Evernote Works Better with Google Drive

May 12, 2016, 11:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has expanded Google Drive's support for Evernote, making it easier to share files between the two cloud services. Before today, Drive content shared to Evernote took the form of a link. Now, Drive content includes thumbnails and/or previews of the content so it can be seen from within Evernote. Evernote has added a Google Drive icon to its toolbar to facilitate jumping from one app to the other. Moreover, Google says any changes made to documents or images in Google Drive will be reflected in Evernote automatically. The new features are available to Evernote on the web and for Android. Google Drive and Evernote are both free to download from the Google Play Store.

AT&T's HTC One M8 and M9 Get Marshmallow Today

May 12, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T will begin distributing Android 6.0 Marshmallow to its variants of the HTC One M8 and One M9. HTC's VP of Product, Mo Versi, shared the news via his Twitter account. The update brings the two phones inline with the software seen on the HTC 10. The update will be pushed out over the air, which should be downloaded via WiFi. AT&T customers who own the M8 or M9 can check for the update through the settings menu.

Google Calendar to Auto-Dial Conference Passcodes

May 11, 2016, 4:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google Calendar for Android devices will soon help people dial-in to conference calls with fewer steps and less frustration. When users dial the conference call number through the Calendar app, the app will automatically add the conference passcode to connect to the right call. Google says the passcode or meeting ID must be in the event location field or event notes field in order for it to properly recognize the code. Google Calendar for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Comments and Smart Suggestions Come to Google Photos

May 11, 2016, 3:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is making Google Photos more social for both Android and iOS devices. The latest version of the app adds commenting and smart suggestions to shared albums. People who join shared albums can comment on the photos therein, as well as comment the larger album as a whole. Comment threads can be created directly from the mobile app. Moreover, Photos now suggests which photos in users' libraries will fit with the images inside shared albums. Users will still have full control over what images are actually shared with others, but Photos will make selecting the right photos easier. These new features are rolling out now to Android, iOS, and the web. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Sunrise Calendar to Fold Into Outlook

May 11, 2016, 12:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft plans to discontinue the Sunrise calendar application it offers to the Android and iOS platforms. Microsoft acquired the team behind Sunrise last year. Sunrise will be removed from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store within a few days and will cease working entirely on August 31. The Sunrise team is now working to bring Sunrise's best features to the Outlook email/calendar app for Android and iOS.

Google Translate Gains 'Tap to Translate'

May 11, 2016, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Google Translate app for Android and iOS mobile devices with a handful of new features. A tool called Tap to Translate in the Android app makes it simpler to translate text on the go. Google says users can copy text in any app and view the translation in a pop-up box that appears without forcing users to switch apps. Google Translate for iOS now works offline thanks to the addition of offline mode. iOS Translate users will need to download language packs in order to see translations when offline. Google said it reduced the size of language packs by 90% to about 25MB each. Last, both the Android and iOS versions of Google Translate can now instantly translate Chinese via the Word Lens function. Word Lens makes use of the camera, which people aim at text (menus, signs) they want to see translated. Chinese is the 29th language added to Word Lens. Google Translate for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.

Instagram Redesigns Mobile Apps

May 11, 2016, 9:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today revealed a new look for its Android and iOS mobile apps. The updated appearance includes new app icons for the main Instagram app, as well as Instagram's ancillary apps, Layout, Boomerang, and Hyperlapse. Inside the app, Instagram toned down the chrome and adopted a black and white design. Instagram has been testing the new design for several weeks. "The simpler design puts more focus on your photos and videos without changing how you navigate the app," explained Instagram in a blog post. The updated series of apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Republic Wireless Partners with GSM Carrier, Adds GSM Phones

May 11, 2016, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless today said it has partnered with a new GSM-based carrier to help increase its service availability around the U.S. Republic launched as a WiFi-first service in 2011, and partnered with Sprint so customers could make calls, send messages, and surf the web when away from WiFi. Republic's new carrier partner is likely T-Mobile, though Republic Wireless did not say so directly. Republic will work with both Sprint and T-Mobile moving forward. With the new GSM partnership in place, Republic is set to expand its selection of devices to include some newer, top-tier Android phones. Beginning in July, Republic will offer the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, S6, and J3, the Google Nexus 6P and 5X, and the Motorola Moto X Pure Edition — all of which run Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Republic said financing will be available for each handset. Customers will be able to bring their own GSM-based device if they so wish. Last, Republic said it is prepared to roll out new service plans. One such plan costs $20 per month and includes unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB of LTE. Republic will share more details about its new service plans in the weeks ahead.

Pebble Expands Its Wearables' Features with Fresh Firmware

May 10, 2016, 2:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pebble today improved its smartwatch platform with more health and fitness features. The expanded toolset is being made available through a firmware update for the Pebble Time-series watches as well as the accompanying Pebble app for Android and iOS smartphones. Pebble firmware version 3.12 lets Time watch owners see interactive charts of their step and sleep activity in a new Health section on the watch itself. Pebble Health can automatically detect runs or long walks, and develop notifications and timeline pins once the activity is completed. The new firmware adds a Smart Alarm, which Pebble says wakes people up when it detects light sleep patterns within 30 minutes of the alarm's scheduled time. These same features and tools have been added to the Android and iOS Pebble apps. The iPhone Pebble app also installs the ability for Pebble owners to send text replies to incoming messages or missed calls (this feature is already available to Android-based Pebble owners). The Pebble mobile app version 3.12 is available for free from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Google News to Highlight Local Sources

May 10, 2016, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Google News product across all platforms with improved visibility of locally-sourced stories. The local source tag in Google News highlights local news outlets that have covered large, national news stories. Part of the idea behind tagging such stories is to provide more credit to local news teams that may have uncovered or broken stories that are later picked up by larger media outlets. Google says local stories will be visible in the expanded story box online, and in the Android and iOS Google News & Weather apps. Google News is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

BlackBerry Names New Device Chief

May 9, 2016, 9:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said Ralph Pini will serve as the company's new Chief Operating Officer and General Manager for Devices. That puts Pini in charge of BlackBerry's smartphones. Pino takes over for Ron Louks, who recently left the company. Pini's priorities, according to BlackBerry, are to support customers using BlackBerry 10 handsets but also increase the selection of Android smartphones. The company believes it can rely on its security tools to increase the appeal of its smartphones over competitive devices. "BlackBerry is uniquely positioned to elevate Android as a more viable, hardened option to meet the demands of government and enterprise customers who need the highest levels of security. The bottom line, I want to give enterprise decision-makers everything they need," said Pini. Pini, who previously helped design the Motorola RAZR, reports to BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen.

Verizon Prepaid Selling Samsung Galaxy J3 for $110

May 6, 2016, 8:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today made the Samsung Galaxy J3 available to its prepaid customers. The phone, which has been available from Boost Mobile since earlier this year, features a 5-inch HD screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 2,600mAh battery, and 8 GB of storage with support for memory cards up to 128 GB. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. The phone costs $110. Verizon Prepaid doesn't require contracts.

Netflix Adds Cell Data Controls to Android, iOS Apps

May 5, 2016, 12:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Netflix has given users of its Android and iOS mobile apps control over how much cellular data the apps use. Netflix subscribers can opt to stream video only over WiFi, or at varying degrees of quality to limit data consumption. For example, the "low" setting says it offers about 4 hours of viewing per 1 GB of mobile data, while the "medium" setting cuts that to 2 hours of viewing, and the "high" setting cuts that further to 1 hour of viewing per 1 GB. An unlimited options is available, too, but Netflix strongly recommends subscribers select that option only if they're on unlimited data plans. By default, the app is set to "auto," which delivers around 3 hours of viewing per 1 GB. Netflix recently came under fire after AT&T and Verizon discovered the service was throttling the speeds of its customers, and not the customers of Sprint and T-Mobile. Netflix is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, but the service costs $10 per month and up.

Google Adds Q&A Feature to Slides for Android and iOS

May 4, 2016, 4:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced an update for its Slides presentation tool that adds the ability for presenters to easily field questions from attendees/viewers. Slides now include a link within presentations that viewers can click on to submit questions for the presenter. All viewers can see and vote on the submitted questions to help the presenter prioritize which to answer. Viewers can submit questions anonymously, or with their names attached. Slides also now allows people to present slides through a Hangout from an iPhone or iPad, or push the presentation to nearby screens using Chromecast or AirPlay. Last, the web version of Slides gains a new laser pointer. Slides for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.

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