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.
Cyanogen today announced the Cyanogen Platform SDK, a new tool meant to make developing for Cyanogen easier. Cyanogen describes the Platform SDK as an open-source tool that lets developers use existing APIs within CyanogenMod's framework or to create their own APIs for the greater community. Cyanogen believes approaching its platform from an SDK/API perspective will be less daunting than approaching the platform as a whole. The organization is offering an alpha-level SDK with an introductory API for the Quick Settings Tile. Cyanogen hopes developers will take a look and eventually contribute to its platform. Cyanogen is based on Google's Android operating system, but the organization has broken away from Google's version in favor of its own. Earlier this year Cyanogen partnered with Microsoft and will include Microsoft's productivity apps in its operating system. Cyanogen has lots of documentation ready for developers and looking forward to community submissions to the Cyanogen Platform SDK.
Spotify today introduced new features to its streaming music service on the desktop and on mobile devices. The biggest change involves how people discover music and create playlists. A feature called Spotify Now purports to know what listeners want to hear at different times of the day and can automatically generate playlists for different activities, such as commuting, working, and relaxing. The service is also adding video content, which will come from a variety of sources, such as Comedy Central, Vice, ESPN, NBC, Adult Swim, TED, and others. Much of the video content will focus on music and will be short-form clips rather than long shows or episodes. The company is also targeting runners with new music controls that make it easier to select and control playlists while exercising. Spotify is placing an emphasis on discovering the songs that match tempo to the runner's pace. Spotify uses on-device sensors to determine pace and can do so very quickly. The company thinks this can help runners improve their workouts. Spotify has apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. The new apps will reach consumers in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Sweden today, with other regions following over time.
Cricket Wireless recently added the ZTE Fanfare to its lineup of inexpensive handsets. The Fanfare has a 4.5-inch screen with 854 x 480 pixels. It is protected by Dragontail glass. The Fanfare is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor and comes with 1 GB of RAM and 4 GB of ROM. The Fanfare's main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and can capture 720p HD video, and the user-facing camera has a VGA sensor. A 2,000mAh battery keeps the Fanfare running. The device has Google's Android 4.4 KitKat on board. Walmart is selling the ZTE Fanfare for Cricket Wireless. It is priced at $69.88.
Google today announced that it is adding tweets to search results. Tweets will now appear alongside standard results when users search from Google.com, from the Google app on Android and iOS devices, or from any mobile browser. Google believes bringing tweets to search results is a good way for people to read about things as they unfold. Google put tweets in search results several years ago but eventually removed them. For now this feature is limited to English. Google said it plans to add more languages over time.
Instagram today made its Layout application available to the Android platform. Available to the iPhone since March, Layout makes it easier to assemble collages through custom layouts, easy access to photos containing people, and a handful of tools such as pinch-to-zoom and other effects. Layout also features a photo booth function that lets users take pictures on the spot and create instant collages in the moment. Layout for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Instagram also updated its main app for Android with a new feature called Structure. According to Instagram, Structure helps bring out details and textures in photos. This feature will reach the iPhone soon. Instagram for Android is also free to download from the Play Store.
Microsoft today released a preview version of Office for Android smartphones. The latest renditions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint closely match those available to the iPhone. Microsoft said it made a lot of improvements to the apps based on feedback for the Android tablet version of Office. The apps are designed to be finger friendly and support many of the same features found on the full desktop versions. Users can create, open, edit, and save files to OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box. Microsoft's Office apps for Android are free to download from the Play Store, but Microsoft is requiring people to join the Office for Android Community in order to access them.
MixRadio today made its customized radio service available to Android and iOS devices for the first time. Microsoft acquired MixRadio when it purchased Nokia's handset business, but later divested it to a messaging company called Line. Due to its relationship with Nokia and Microsoft, MixRadio has been exclusive to Windows Phones until today. The new Android and iOS apps, which are available from the Play Store and iTunes, include thousands of free, curated radio stations similar to how Pandora operates. The service lets users create and listen to personalized radio stations, and can be cached on devices for offline playback. The app is supported by ads, but MixRadio may launch an ad-free version later this year. It is available in 31 countries, including the U.S. In addition to announcing the new apps, MixRadio said it has partnered with HTC to provide music-related news stories for HTC's BlinkFeed application.
Samsung and Think Tank today introduced a beta app called Flow, which is meant to help people transition tasks from one Samsung device to another. It is similar in concept to Apple's Continuity feature for iOS and Mac hardware. Flow offers Samsung smartphone owners two distinct use-cases: transfer an activity or defer an activity. With transfer, people can work on a particular activity and then move it to another device and pick up right where they left off. For example, users can listen to clips on Soundcloud on their smartphone and then transfer the activity to their tablet without missing a beat. The deferring feature lets people defer an incoming activity request on one device if, for example, it's not the right device for that particular task. They can then pick up the activity on whichever other device they prefer when they're ready. According to Samsung, Flow supports existing applications through Android's share mechanism. Samsung expects to add more features, including notify, mirror, and divide, to Flow over time. For the moment, Flow is limited to the Galaxy S5, S6, and S6 Edge; Galaxy Alpha; Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge; and the Galaxy Tab S. The beta app is free to download from the Google Play Store.
LG today announced the G4c smartphone, a smaller and less-costly version of the G4 handset. The G4c has a 5.0-inch screen at 720p HD and runs a quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor at 1.4 GHz with 1 GB of RAM. The phone has an 8-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera; 2,450mAh battery; and a handful of radios, including LTE 4G, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS, and GLONASS. The LG G4c runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and includes LG software functions, such as Knock On, Knock Code, Quick Memo, and QSlide apps. LG said the G4c will reach key markets in the weeks ahead. LG also made the G4 Stylus more official. The G4 Stylus is being sold by carriers in the U.S. as the Stylo.
Asus today said it will sell its 2015 flagship smartphone, the Zenfone 2, in the U.S. beginning May 19. Asus first revealed the Zenfone 2 at CES in January. The device has a 5.5-inch full HD screen and relies on a 64-bit Intel processor. The Intel Atom Z3580 chip has four cores clocked at 2.3 GHz, and is paired with a 533 MHz GPU, and 4 GB of dual-channel RAM. The chip includes integrated Cat 4 LTE-Advanced with Carrier Aggregation for compatibility with today's fastest 4G networks. The Zenfone 2 also includes a 13-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.0, Toshiba sensor, Super HDR, and dual-tone LED flash. Asus says the fast-charging mode can power the 3,000mAh battery to 60% capacity in 39 minutes. The device runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Asus' ZenUI. It comes with a range of interchangeable rear covers, which Asus says consumers can use to personalize their handset. Asus is offering 100 GB of Google Drive storage to buyers of the device. The phone costs $299. (A slower version of the phone with 1.8 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM costs $199.) Asus plans to sell the device unlocked via Amazon.com, Newegg, Groupon, and B&H photo. It is compatible with AT&T's network.
Sprint today said its Direct 2 You home delivery and setup service is now available to all customers in Kansas City, Chicago, and Miami. Sprint initially launched the service in those markets in April, but it was limited to existing customers. The expansion now means any potential customer in Chicago, Dallas, and Miami can schedule a Sprint house call. Further, Sprint said it is expanding the service to New York City, San Francisco, and Denver in early June, with more markets to follow throughout the year. With Direct 2 You, a Sprint technician will bring the store experience directly to customers who purchase a new phone. Customers can still receive the same benefits as buying in stores, such as setting up the phone, transferring content from the old phone to the new one, and tutorials to ensure the customer understands how to use their new device. Techs will also be able to teach customers how to learn a new operating system if they're switching from an Android device to the iPhone or vice versa. Sprint's Direct 2 You service is offered free of charge.
Microsoft said it plans to take a more active role in making sure the existing base of Windows 10 smartphones has the latest code. The company is taking a page from Apple and will not rely on carriers to deliver operating system updates. Microsoft said, "We take our responsibility to keep Windows secure seriously. We [will] proactively update supported devices with necessary updates to address issues. And today, we're announcing this continuous update process applies to all Windows 10 devices, including phones." Microsoft confirmed to ZDNet that it will deliver security, performance, and feature updates to Windows 10 Mobile handsets itself, and the code will be pushed to all users simultaneously. The statement appears to apply to handsets that ship with Windows 10 Mobile, and not older devices. With Windows 8.1 and earlier, Microsoft relied on its carrier partners to approve and distribute system updates and it will continue to do so. As ZDNet points out, however, consumers with older handsets can join the Windows Insider program to maintain early access to new OS versions. Apple uses this same master distribution method for keeping its iOS devices up to date. Google still relies on its handset and carrier partners to update their individual devices to newer versions of Android.
AT&T's web site recently provided details about an unannounced handset from LG called the Escape 2. The Escape 2 has specs similar to the LG Spirit, which was announced earlier this year. The Escape 2 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with LG's user experience, including Knock On, Knock Code, Quick Memo, and QSlide apps, according to the user manual. The phone has a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. The Escape 2 boasts LG's rear-positioned button array and a slight curve to design. Other specs include a 4.7-inch HD display, front and rear cameras, and 2,100mAh battery. AT&T's web site did not say when the Escape 2 will go on sale, nor how much it might cost.
Google today said a bunch of mobile video apps have been updated with support for its Chromecast product. Android device owners can stream video from the CBS All Access, FOX NOW, FXNOW, HGTV, Pluto TV, and Haystack TV apps on their handset or tablet to their TV via Chromecast. Chromecast is a WiFi-enabled HDMI dongle that plugs directly into TV sets. Chromecast already supports on-demand video apps such as HBO Go, Netflix, and Showtime. The latest versions of these apps are free to download from the Play Store, but many require accounts with cable providers to access the content.
Microsoft today released an application for Windows Phone and Android handsets called Hyperlapse. The app can be used to stabilize shaky footage or to create fast-moving time-lapse videos. The app supports multiple playback speeds (between 1x and 32x) and can import existing video files from the phone's camera roll. Microsoft says the user interface takes only a few moments to master. The app is available to Windows Phones from the Windows Store, though the Android version is officially being labeled a beta. Microsoft also made Hyperlapse available to Windows PCs. There are a number of competing time-lapse apps in the market, including one from Instagram called Hyperlapse. Instagram's app is limited to the iPhone. Microsoft's Hyperlapse app is free.
Verizon Wireless today announced the LG Lancet, the first Windows Phone handset to support Verizon's Advanced Calling 1.0 service. Lancet owners will be able to make high-definition voice calls via Verizon's LTE network. The phone runs Windows 8.1, but carries over some features from LG's Android handsets, such as KnockOn for waking the phone and Quick Memo for capturing screen shots. The Lancet features a 4.5-inch screen, 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 8 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128 GB. The Lancet is a budget-friendly phone. The full retail price is $120, though Verizon is offering the phone for $5 per month with a Verizon Edge plan. The LG Lancet is available online starting today, and it will reach Verizon stores May 21.
Google today updated its Google Fit health and fitness tracking app with some much-needed features. For example, the app now estimates how far people have walked based on the number of steps they've taken (and several other factors, such as height and gender). The app now estimates the number of calories burned, as well, and makes it easier to look through fitness data history in days, weeks, and months. Last, Google created a new widget for Google Fit and a dedicated Android Wear watch face so users can more easily view their fitness data. Google Fit is free to download from the Play Store.
Boost Mobile today announced the immediate availability of the LG G Stylo. The G Stylo, also being sold by T-Mobile, features a 5.7-inch 720p HD display and a stylus. It also carries a 8-megapixel camera main camera, 5-megapixel user-facing camera, quad-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 410 processor with 1 GB RAM, and 8 GB of internal storage. The Stylo supports memory cards up to 32 GB and packs a 3,000mAh battery. The phone runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with LG's user interface, which includes Knock Code and QuickMemo. Boost Mobile is selling the phone for $199.99. Sprint Prepaid will also sell the device at $199.99 beginning June 7.
YotaPhone today made available a white version of the YotaPhone 2 handset. The white version of the phone, announced earlier this year, ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop and revised user interface elements for the e-ink display. Otherwise, it is identical to the black model. YotaPhone has also begun pushing Android 5.0 to the original YotaPhone 2 handset. The company said it may take up to two weeks for all users to see their device updated. YotaPhone plans to bring both the black and white versions of the YotaPhone 2 to the U.S. this summer through an Indiegogo campaign, but the details of which have yet to be revealed.
T-Mobile recently revealed it will soon sell the LG G Stylo and Leon handsets. The G Stylo features a 5.7-inch 720P HD display and includes a stylus. It also boasts a 13-megapixel camera, quad-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 410 processor with 2 GB RAM, and 16 GB internal storage. The Stylo also supports memory cards up to 128 GB and packs a 3,000mAh battery. The Leon, which LG announced earlier this year, has a 4.5-inch FWVGA display with a 5-megapixel main camera, a VGA user-facing camera, and a 1,900mAh battery. Both phones run Android 5.0 Lollipop and support T-Mobile's LTE 4G network. Pricing and availability are not yet certain. The news was first reported by TMoNews.
Motorola's Senior Director of Software Product Management, David Schuster, today said owners of the original Moto X should see Lollipop hit their devices in the next few weeks. Schuster said Motorola has faced challenges with its partners in getting the OS builds approved, but the company expects to start deploying in the U.S. and Latin America soon. Motorola earlier indicated the Moto X would jump from Android 4.4.4 KitKat directly to Android 5.1 Lollipop. Motorola will provide details about the exact timing closer to availability.
Google has added a feature to the Play Store that allows people to pre-register for applications. The first app offering pre-registration is a game from Glu called Terminator Genisys: Revolution. Consumers interested in the game can hit the registration button so they'll be alerted once the app becomes available. Users can unregister at any time.
Amazon has made Fire OS 4.6.1 available to the Fire Phone, which pushes the device up to Android 4.4 KitKat and makes a significant number of improvements. Fire OS 4.6.1 adds support for Bluetooth Low Energy and wireless printing; adds keyboard options and color choices for the calendar and lock screen; and makes improvements to the lock screen, notifications, messaging, and calling apps. The updates OS also adds new enterprise and accessibility features, and fixes dozens of bugs. Fire OS 4.6.1 is free to download and install.
Verizon Wireless today announced plans to install Lyft's mobile application on an unknown selection of its future Android handsets. Lyft serves as an alternate to traditional taxi services and is meant to help people find rides quickly and cheaply. The move will benefit Lyft drivers most, who will qualify for a discount on their Verizon Wireless service if they sign up via Lyft's driver reward program. Verizon didn't say which handsets will be preloaded with Lyft, nor did it say if its own customers will be able to delete the app. Network operators often preload third-party applications and services on handsets, which is sometimes referred to as bloatware.
Yahoo today announced a significant round of updates to its Flickr online photo service. To start, the online site has a new camera roll and improved search tools to make browsing through albums more enjoyable or locating specific moments much easier. The refreshed web site is joined by new desktop uploaders for finding and automatically uploading photos from Mac and Windows PCs to the service. Last, in order to make Flickr more consistent across platforms and devices, Yahoo updated the Android and iOS Flickr apps. The new mobile apps have improved photo uploaders, as well. Flickr users should enjoy the same experience no matter what device they choose to access the service. Flickr is free to use and offers 1 TB of online storage.
T-Mobile today said it would make the BlackBerry Classic smartphone available to customers beginning May 13. The Classic has been sold by other carriers for months. T-Mobile's decision to offer the phone marks a change of heart for the Uncarrier, which in the past actively campaigned to have its customers trade in their BlackBerries in favor of other smartphones. The Classic runs BlackBerry 10 and is a traditional bar-style phone with a square touch screen and physical QWERTY keyboard below it. It brings back the classic BlackBerry buttons, which means send/end buttons, a back button, menu button, and optical trackpad. The device supports both BB10 and Android apps. T-Mobile customers can pick up the Classic for $0 down followed by 24 payments of $18.33 per month. The full retail price is $439.92.
Microsoft recently updated its OneDrive application for the Android platform with improved support for video content. OneDrive users can now stream videos stored online without leaving the OneDrive app. Other features added to the service include better tools for organizing and viewing photo albums, and the ability to open "share links" directly in the app. OneDrive for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google has updated Google Maps and now lets users access more personal information regarding their locations with a quick search. Google Maps culls more data from users' Gmail accounts and will automatically make event details available to Maps. Google says users who make a flight or dinner reservation, for example, will be able to find those locations on a map by using the "my events" tool. Maps already searches through users' calendar to automatically add event locations to Maps. The new search tool makes the events easier to find. Google Maps for Android is free to download from the Play Store.
U.S. Cellular today launched the LG Logos, a modified version of the LG Spirit that was announced earlier this year. The Logos runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with LG's user experience. It includes a 1.2 GHz quad-core processors with 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. The Logos boasts LG's rear-positioned button array and a slight curve to design, which LG says helps the device fit better in the hand. Other specs include a 4.7-inch HD display, 5-megapixel main camera (different from the Spirit's 8-megapixel shooter), 1-megapixel user-facing camera, and 2,100mAh battery. The U.S. Logos is on sale beginning today for $99. It can be paired with once of U.S. Cellular's Simple Connect Prepaid plans, which start at $45 for 1 GB of LTE 4G data.
Microsoft today said it has acquired digital pen technology from N-Trig. Microsoft has worked with the Israeli company for years, as N-Trig created the Surface Pen stylus for Microsoft's Surface tablets. "Digital pens have a ways to go to be as good as pen and paper on some dimensions, and we'll get there. But more importantly, adding the ability to capture and share the work you do with a digital pen opens up possibilities that traditional pen and paper just can't match," said Microsoft in a blog post. In the past, N-Trig created the DuoSense Pen for using with Android and Windows Phone smartphones. Terms of the technology deal with Microsoft were not disclosed.
Google has updated the main search application for Android devices and expanded its ability to use voice commands with other installed applications. For example, users can say things like, "Ok Google, Shazam this song," or "Ok Google, listen to NPR" and it will do exactly that. Google provided a guide on the new things the voice-enabled search app can handle and many of the functions are quite useful. Travelers can simply ask Google the status of their flight followed by what there is to do in their destination city. The search app can also control base functions of the phone, such as turn on/off the flashlight, or WiFi and Bluetooth radios. Power users can take advantage of the tool to search through their email for specific messages, or to find attachments/photos. The latest version of Google Search is free to download from the Play Store. Some apps will also need updates of their own to make these functions work. Google said these updated apps will appear in the Play Store over the next few days.
Meerkat today released a beta version of its live streaming app for Android devices. The company announced the pending arrival of the beta several weeks ago. Meerkat, which is already available for iOS, allows Twitter users to stream live video to their followers. Twitter's own Periscope app, also iOS only, does the same thing. Meerkat is free.
Sprint today announced a new partnership with Boingo that will give its customers free access to Boingo's WiFi hotspots in 35 U.S. airports. Sprint subscribers should be able to connect their WiFi-equipped handsets to Boingo's airport WiFi networks automatically and securely with no log-in required. Sprint says the WiFi connection is secure enough for business customers to use for accessing corporate VPNs. Sprint didn't say which airports are covered. Sprint today also announced the Sprint WiFi Connect, a consumer router that prioritizes Sprint's WiFi Calling service over any other traffic on that particular hotspot. Sprint says the Sprint WiFi Connect includes Smart Connect technology that dynamically manages 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands for optimal WiFi data performance. Sprint's WiFi Connect is available free of charge to qualified customers. WiFi Calling is available to most of Sprint's Android handsets as well as the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5, and 5s.
Google has pushed out an update to its Messenger application for Android devices and in so doing added a few new features. Messenger now has its own desktop widget for viewing conversations from Android home screen panels. The app adds support for animated GIFs to spice up conversations, as well as a handful of new quick replies for speedier responses. The update also resolves some performance issues. Messenger is Google's newest SMS/MMS application for Android devices. It is free to download from the Play Store.
Google has expanded the reach of the Chrome Dev channel to its Android mobile operating system. The Chrome Dev channel is not meant for general use by consumers; rather, it is intended for web developers seeking to test their sites against future versions of the Chrome browser. Consumers interested in testing pre-release versions of Chrome should stick to the Chrome Beta program, which lets people try new features before they are released to everyone. The Chrome Dev channel is already available to the Windows, Mac, Linux, and ChromeOS platforms. Google warns that Chrome Dev is "rocky at times" and installs in addition to the current public version of Chrome. Google pushes updates to the Chrome Dev channel at least once a week to resolve bugs and performance issues. At the end of the day, Google hopes bringing the Chrome Dev channel to Android will eventually result in a better mobile web experience for all users.
Microsoft today said Windows 10 devices will be able to run Android applications. According to Microsoft, developers will be able to reuse Java and C++ code to run Android apps in an Android subsystem on Windows 10 devices. Further, Microsoft said Windows 10 will support iOS and Objective C, so developers can port iOS apps to Windows 10 easily thanks to new tools in Visual Studio. Adding support for Android apps and making it possible for developers to port iOS apps to the Windows 10 platform will help Microsoft close the app gap it faces with competing platforms. BlackBerry has a similar idea in place on its BlackBerry 10 devices, which can run Android apps. Windows 10 isn't expected to arrive until later this year.
T-Mobile today said the Alcatel OneTouch Pop Astro is available online and in stores for $149. T-Mobile customers can pay full price for the phone, or break the price down to 24 monthly payments of $6.24. The phone has a 4.5-inch qHD display and it is powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core MediaTek processor with 1 GB of RAM and 4 GB of storage. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a VGA sensor. The phone has a 2,000mAh battery and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. Alcatel says the Pop Astro supports VoLTE and T-Mobile's WiFi calling feature. The Pop Astro runs Android 4.4 KitKat.
Delivering on a promise it made several weeks ago, Google today expanded the number of third-party apps able to create cards within the Google Now search function. Apps can now surface just-in-time information in Google Now across a range of topics. For example, ABC News and Feedly cards can offer breaking news alerts; Eat24 can ping users to impending food deliveries; and fitness apps such as Adidas and Jawbone can deliver fitness goal details and nudge those not moving enough throughout the day. Android smartphone owners will need to update to the latest version of the Search app to gain the expanded compatibility with third-party apps.
Google today announced Play Services 7.3, an update to the core functions of the Android platform. Play Services 7.3 will bring new features to Android devices thanks to an expanded range of tools being made available to developers. First, the update adds the recently-announced Android Wear features to third-party apps. A new Wear API for developers will eventually let people connect more than a single Android Wear device to their smartphone. The API makes it possible for developers to improve two-way data shared between Wear devices and smartphones, as well. Play Services makes changes to the Google Fit API, too. For example, apps will now be able to collect sensor data like current location and speed, store that activity data in Google Fit's open platform, and aggregate it into a single, digestible view for consumers. Fit also gains the ability to collect granular nutrition data, such as users' fat, protein, and cholesterol intake in order to help people adjust their diets to match their fitness goals. Google updated the Location API in a way that will improve battery life even when GPS functions are being used. Last, Google tweaked the way apps access Play Services APIs, which should make apps run better even when certain API calls aren't available. Google released the Play Services 7.3 SDK to developers today, but didn't say when it will begin pushing the update to end-user devices.
Verizon Wireless today said owners of the Samsung Galaxy S4 can expect to see their devices updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop in the next few days. The over-the-air update is free to install.