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printed May 25, 2017
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Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.

by:  Google


Instagram's Direct Messages Now Support Landscape Video

Today, 11:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today updated its private messaging tool, making it easier to share certain types of videos. Moving forward, people sending permanent pictures or movies to friends won't have to crop them before sending. Instagram's Direct messaging function supports landscape video, so video will appear in its native format. Instagram also made it possible to share web links privately. Links can be previewed within the message thread, including the ability to select phone numbers and addresses embedded on those sites. Instagram said the landscape and portrait upload tool reaches the iPhone today and will hit Android devices soon. Both iPhones and Androids can share links via Direct starting immediately.


T-Mobile Digits Lets You Call or Text from a Phone, Tablet, PC

Today, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 10:49 AM

T-Mobile said it Digits service, first announced last year, will go live May 31. Digits allows customers to use the same phone number across multiple devices, or multiple numbers on a single device. The service operates over LTE and works with most connected devices, including phones, tablets, wearables, and computers. Digits relies on an app for Android and iOS devices, though T-Mobile says Digits is also built into the native dialer on certain Samsung phones (Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge +, S7, S7 edge, S8, S8+, Note 5) and the LG G5. T-Mobile customers sign in on whichever device is most convenient in order to access to their phone number, voicemail, text messages, and call history. The service allows a single smartphone to support up to five phone numbers without requiring additional SIM cards. Similarly, a single Digits number can be used across as many as five separate devices. T-Mobile has been beta testing the service since early this year and says the ability to send text messages from PCs is a favorite amongst early adopters. T-Mobile suggests Digits could be beneficial to business customers, as it would allow them to have their personal number and work number ring the same phone, negating the need to carry a second handset. It can serve families, too, allowing landline-based home phone numbers moved to T-Mobile to ring all devices on a family plan at the same time. Digits numbers can be assigned to run on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon phones through the Digits app. T-Mobile said every T-Mobile line will be upgraded to Digits on May 31 for free. A single Digits line can be used on customers' phones, tablets, and so on. New Digits lines added to an existing account (for example, a second number for one phone) cost $10 per month. For a limited time, customers who subscribe to the T-Mobile One Plus plan will be able to add a second Digits line at no extra cost. T-Mobile warns that Digits lines support 911 calls and texts, but reaching 911 via the main account line is best.


Google Photos Adds Archiving Tool to Hide Sensitive Pix

Yesterday, 3:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The latest version of Google Photos makes it possible to archive photos for safe, out-of-sight keeping. The tool was added to Google Photos 2.15 for Android devices, though it is not yet available to iOS devices or on the web. The archiving tool now appears within the navigation drawer on the left. A tutorial will walk people through the feature upon first use, after which archived photos can be accessed via the nav drawer. Archiving gives people a way to push photos out of their main feed without deleting them. The pictures are still readily accessible, though they will be out of view unless purposely sought out. The archiving function was first spotted by 9to5Google. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Consumer Cellular Picks Up the ZTE Avid 916 and Moto G5 Plus

Yesterday, 3:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumer Cellular recently added the ZTE Avid 916 and Motorola Moto G5 Plus to its roster of Android-based smartphones. The Avid 916 (pictured), a variant of the ZTE Grand / Champ, includes a 5.5-inch 720p display, 1.3 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor, and 8 GB of internal storage. The phone has an 8-megapixel main camera with 720p HD video capture and a 2-megapixel front camera. The phone includes Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, GPS, and LTE. It supports microSD memory cards up to 64 GB and ships with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. The phone costs $80. The Moto G5 Plus, which Motorola released earlier this year, is available for $200 or four payments of $50. It has a 5.2-inch full HD display, 12-megapiel camera, and runs Android 7.0 Nougat.


Facebook Tweaks Trending News and Expands Fundraising

Yesterday, 2:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook updated several of its offerings today, including how it handles trending news and supports fundraising campaigns. Facebook says it has redesigned its trending news function with the goal of surfacing higher-quality content in the news box. Moving forward, clicking on a trending topic opens a new carousel with stories from a variety of publications that users can swipe through. "By making it easier to see what other news outlets are saying about each topic, we hope that people will feel more informed about the news in their region," said Facebook. News articles highlighted in the trending stories section are the most popular on Facebook concerning that specific topic. Popularity is determined by a number of factors. The new trending stories box is available on the web, but Facebook says it is only just beginning to test the new trending stories on Android and iOS mobile devices. Facebook hopes to expand the new trending stories to all mobile users soon. On the fundraising front, Facebook is expanding the ability to raise money to more organizations and groups. For example, personal fundraisers are now available to everyone in the U.S. over the age of 18, and are available in two new categories (community and sports.) Fundraisers are easy to create and share in order to take advantage of the community effect. Facebook says people can raise money for education, medical costs, pet medical costs, crisis relief, personal emergencies, funerals, sports, community, and nonprofits. Facebook says it is able to review all fundraisers and launch them within 24 hours. The platform supports payment processing, vetting, security, and fraud protection for a small fee.


Instagram Bows Location and Hashtag Search

Tuesday, 9:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it easier to find story content in its mobile app based on location or interests/topics. A new story ring now appears at the top of the explore section. Stories that have location stickers applied to them will be added to the ring so people can view myriad stories shared from around the world. Similarly, people can now mark their stories with hashtags, making them searchable to others. Instagram says these stories may be shared with a much larger audience via the explore tab, but users can opt to share their location or hashtagged stories only with followers (rather than everyone). The new searching tools will appear in Instagram 10.22 for Android and iOS, which is rolling out this week.


Snapchat Debuts Story Collaboration Tool

Tuesday, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today unveiled a new feature that makes it possible for many people to contribute to the same story. Snapchat calls the new tool custom stories. One person creates the story and then invites others to add their own snaps. The creator can limit the story so only those invited to contribute are allowed to see it. Further, the creator can geofence the story so only people in a specific location can see the story. Snapchat says stories will disappear after 24 hours if no one contributes to them. Snapchat's new collaborative stories are rolling out to Android and iOS devices in a fresh update to the mobile app.


LG X Venture Delivers Inexpensive, Rugged Performance

Monday, 9:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 9:57 AM

LG today announced the X venture, an affordable Android smartphone that can take a beating. The phone has an IP68 rating for protection against water and dust, and a mil-spec 810g rating for durability against drops, bumps, scrapes, and other abuse. The phone features a 5.2-inch full HD screen with glove mode. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. LG says the main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with a standard field of view, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens. The phone packs a massive 4,100mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 for all-day battery life. Other specs include barometer with outdoorsy software, as well as Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, FM radio, and NFC. The phone supports memory cards up to 2 TB and it charges via microUSB. The X venture runs Android 7 Nougat. AT&T plans to sell the LG X venture starting May 26, with support for its ePTT service, for $11 per month for 30 months, or about $330.


Small Company Takes Apple to Court Over Apple Pay Patents

Monday, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Universal Secure Registry, a small firm from Boston, has filed a patent complaint against Apple and Visa over the technology used to create Apple Pay. According to the lawsuit, Kenneth P. Weiss, CEO of Universal Secure Registry, holds 13 patents pertaining to the use of fingerprints and one-time tokens in order to authenticate secure financial transactions. Weiss pitched the technology extensively to Visa in 2010. Visa agreed to a 10-year nondisclosure agreement and even assigned engineers to understand how Universal Secure Registry's process worked. Visa never adopted the technology, but several years later worked with Apple, MasterCard, and American Express to create Apple Pay, which launched in 2014. Apple Pay relies on fingerprints and one-time tokens to facilitate iPhone-based mobile payments. Patent law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan — one that represented Samsung and its fight against Apple over Android patents — suggested Universal Secure Registry take Apple to court over the patented technology. Apple has not yet responded publicly to the lawsuit.


5 Most Important Things Google Announced At I/O

May 19, 2017, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google I/O, the search company's annual developer conference, is wrapping up after a whirlwind few days in Mountain View, Calif. Google hit attendees with a blitz of announcements centered around artificial intelligence, machine learning, and mobility. While much of what Google showed off is meant for its developer partners, plenty will reach consumers in the days, weeks, and months ahead — not only on Android devices, but iOS, the web, your car, your wrist, your headset, and more.

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Google Pushes Minor Update to Android O Beta

May 18, 2017, 7:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today distributed a bug-fixing update to the Android O beta. The small patch, weighing it at about 55 MB, is meant to smooth out some performance issues present in the initial build. People enrolled in the Android Beta program should see the fresh update hit their devices shortly. The Android O beta works on the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, and Nexus 5X.

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Android Pay to Support Payments via Google Assistant

May 18, 2017, 3:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week rolled out the Google Payment API, a new set of capabilities that will allow anyone to make in-app or online payments with any debit or credit card associated with their Google account. Google says this option will simplify the process for people to checkout and make purchases online, as it negates the need to fill out cumbersome purchasing forms. Moreover, the API will make it possible for people to send or receive payments via the Google Assistant. Whether the Assistant is accessed through a smartphone or Google Home, users can say, "Ok Google, send $10 for Jane for pizza" and Google will do exactly that. A separate payment tool for developers, called the Card Linked Offers API, smoothes over the process of supporting loyalty cards and programs. It gives developers a new channel for interacting with customers and rolling out targeted offers. From a consumer standpoint, it will be far easier to add loyalty cards to Android Pay once developers update their app with the Card Linked Offers API. Google expects these capabilities to roll out later this year.


Google Hopes New API Will Improve Android Wear Complications

May 18, 2017, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new version of its Complications API for developers in order to help them create better experiences for Android Wear. Complications are dynamic data sets that appear on watch faces, such as step counts, notifications, weather alerts, and similar. Specifically, the refreshed API can now auto-size text to fit in bounds defined by watch face makers and it includes a full rendering tool to handle style and layout factors for complications. The API adds more sample code that developers can cut-and-paste into their apps, as well as a new test suite for checking that watch faces can handle all the fields and complications together. The new Complications API is for Android Wear 2.0 and up. Google released the second-generation wearable platform earlier this year. Google also said it is offering developers a new Wear UI library for handling user interfaces. Notably, Google is killing off the card pattern and multi-directional UIs for Android Wear devices. This change will occur over time.


First Look: What's New In Android O

May 18, 2017, 2:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week released the first public beta of Android O, the next version of its core mobile platform. Android O has a handful of interesting new features, including picture-in-picture, notification dots, autofill for app logins, easy text selection, and much more. Android O may not be huge on hallmark additions to the platform, but it shows an excellent level of refinement from Google. We downloaded the Android O beta and took it for a quick spin. Here are our first impressions of this super early build of Android O.

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Chrome for Android to Support VR Browsing

May 18, 2017, 12:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it plans to bring full virtual reality support to its Chrome browser for Android handsets. With Chrome VR, people will be able to experience full web sites in virtual reality, watch web-based videos in virtual reality, and interact with web sites through their VR headset. Google suggests that Chrome VR can pair with augmented reality tools when, for example, shopping for furniture in order to help define whether or not things will fit in your house. A new version of Chromium is available to developers from GitHub so web writers can get started in creating VR experiences for the web. Google didn't say when it expects to offer a final version of Chrome VR to the general public.

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Google Updates Daydream to Version 2.0 Euphrates

May 18, 2017, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 18, 2017, 12:20 PM

Google today provided some insight on its Daydream virtual reality platform and says a new version of Daydream will soon make its debut. Daydream 2.0 Euphrates targets standalone VR headsets and is powered by Android O. The entire experience is handled in virtual reality. Daydream 2.0 updates the home experience for standalone headsets and smartphones. Euphrates includes a new dashboard that will appear on top of any app and lets people remain in VR even when checking settings, reading notifications, and multitasking. Euphrates also adds Google Cast support, allowing people to pick a destination and cast from Daydream to other devices such as television sets. Daydream 2.0 makes it possible to capture screenshots and then share them via social networks. Google said there are eight Daydream compatible handsets right now, and it expects that number to increase significantly by the end of the year thanks to new entries from LG, Motorola, Asus, and others. Google believes tens of millions of Daydream devices will be in the market by the end of the year.


Facebook Streamlines Messenger

May 18, 2017, 11:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today said it is simplifying the main screen of Facebook Messenger, returning the app's focus to messaging. Facebook has over the last year added numerous features to the messaging tool and the app's usability has suffered somewhat as a result. The app introduces tabs along the top for all the different actions and features, rather than cramming them in small slots on the home screen. The tabs will also show users which of their friends are available for conversations, as well as a dedicated place to host group conversations. The bottom bar now offers shortcuts for making calls, taking pictures, searching or people, playing games, and, later, exploring the forthcoming discover tab. Last, Messenger includes a red dot to help people see what's new. "These changes are designed to make Messenger simpler for you — to help you get to your contacts quickly, jump into your conversations where you left off, start new chats, and stay up to date," said Facebook's David Marcus. The new Messenger is hitting Android and iOS devices this week.


Cricket to Sell LG Stylo 3 Starting May 19

May 18, 2017, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 19, 2017, 3:23 PM

Cricket Wireless today said it, too, will sell the LG Stylo 3 beginning May 19. A CDMA version is already available from Sprint and Boost, and a slightly higher-end Stylo 3 Plus is available from T-Mobile. The Stylo 3 has a 5.7-inch 720p HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, and fingerprint reader. The phone includes LG's stylus and dedicated pen software. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat. Cricket Wireless has priced the LG Stylo 3 at $170.

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Android O Adopts New Emoji Design

May 17, 2017, 7:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Android O replaces the squishy emoji blobs that have long been a part of Google's stock operating system with more traditional, circular emoji. Many of Google's handset partners include their own emoji on Android phones, but the clean version of Android that runs on Pixel and Nexus devices includes the blob-style emoji. Android O puts the basic design and shape of the emoji in line with what other companies offer. The redesigned emoji are included in the new Android O beta release that Google made available earlier today.

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Google Updates, Renames Android Device Manager

May 17, 2017, 5:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Android Device Manager application. The app has a fresh design and, more importantly, a new name. Moving forward the app is called Find My Device. As before, it's a tool to help people find, lock, or erase lost or stolen Android devices. Some of the new features include the ability to check the lost device's wifi and battery status, as well as view the last known location in the event the phone has lost power or been turned off. Find My Device is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Android O Beta Now Available

May 17, 2017, 3:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 17, 2017, 3:58 PM

Google today made the first public beta version of Android O available for download. The updated operating system is available to the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, and Pixel C, and the Nexus 6P, 5X, and Nexus Player. In order to access the beta, people will need to register via the Android.com web site. The beta is open to anyone. Some of the hallmark features of Android O include picture-in-picture, improved security, quick app loads, autofill, better power management, and more. Google warns that this initial public beta may not be stable enough for everyday use. Google expects to release the final version of Android O later this summer.


Android Go Targets Entry-Level Handsets

May 17, 2017, 1:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced Android Go, a lite version of Android meant for the most basic hardware in environments where mobile data is expensive. For example, it does things such as save mobile data in Chrome by default. It includes a new version of YouTube called YouTube Go. It compresses videos to cut down on data usage, but also allows people to download videos over wifi for offline viewing. The Google Play Store will soon include recommendations for "lite" versions of apps that are designed to run on low-cost devices. Android Go will target all devices with 1 GB of RAM or less, and each version of Android moving forward will include an Android Go release. Google expects to see the first Android Go devices reach the market later this year.

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Android O to Feature Picture-In-Picture and Improved Security

May 17, 2017, 1:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today provided more details about the next version of Android at its I/O developer conference. One of the biggest additions to the platform is picture-in-picture for mobile phones. It works with apps such as YouTube and video calls and allows people to minimize the video in a small window while opening and using other apps. Notification dots are a simpler way for people to manage incoming notifications. Another tool headed to Android O is called autofill. It works with most third-party applications and eases the process of filling login details. Another function improves text selection, Android O will automatically select phone numbers, addresses, and business names or titles with a single tap. TensorFlow Lite, a new developer tool, will let developers create more powerful applications for the latest hardware. Google is investing in what it calls vital tools in Android O. For example, Google is using machine learning to scan 50 billion apps every day to ensure they are secure. Google Play Protect will scan apps installed to devices automatically. Google improved app boot times for Android O. Google says the Pixel, for example, will load apps twice as fast with Android O. Wise limits put boundaries on app usage to free up memory and protect battery life. Play Console Dashboards, a tool for developers, will give app writers far more insight into their apps' performance, including crash reports, CPU usage, and power consumption. Last, Google added the Kotlin developer language to the Android platform. This lets developers rely on Kotlin rather than Android Studio to create their applications. Google said Android O will arrive for end users later this summer. Developers can download a beta build of Android O beginning today.

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Google Photos Debuts Suggested Sharing, Photo Books

May 17, 2017, 12:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 17, 2017, 1:11 PM

Google today made it easier to share photos with others. The new suggested sharing tool relies on machine learning to recognize faces in photos and match them with known contacts. The app will automatically select the best shots from events/locations and offer personalized sharing suggestions to family and friends. The app can, for example, eliminate duplicates and select images that are in focus and then instantly push them to those in the photos. Google Photos can share albums and images with anyone, no Google Photos account required. Google Photos is adding a shared libraries feature, as well, allowing people to share and contribute to specific libraries. Photos added to shared libraries will instantly appear on all devices/accounts linked to the library. Last, Google added a tool called Photo Books to Google Photos, which lets people create photo albums that can then be printed in soft- or hard-covered albums. The tool can automatically pick the best shots among those selected, lay them out instantly, and then print and ship the album. Google said these features will reach Android, iOS, and the web in the coming weeks.


Google Dials Up Voice Calls for Google Home

May 17, 2017, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 17, 2017, 1:09 PM

Google today said its Google Home device can now make free voice calls to landline and mobile phones in the U.S. and Canada. There are no apps, set-up, or apps required. Google Home owners simply need to ask the Assistant to call anyone in their contact list. The tool is smart enough to discern between six users and their individual accounts by their sound of their voice. By default it will dial out from a private number, but users can configure it to display their own number for outgoing calls. Google Home is also adding support for Spotify for music streaming, and will soon support Bluetooth for streaming from any Android and iOS device. Home is gaining more compatibility with Chromecast, too, and can display information requests on connected TVs. These updates are expected to reach Google Home over the coming months.


Verizon Nixes LG Watch Sport

May 17, 2017, 11:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless has cancelled plans to sell the LG Watch Sport wearable. The device, announced earlier this year, was meant to reach Verizon's network this spring with LTE support. Verizon did not say why it chose to drop the device, though it is offering those who preordered the smartwatch $100 off other connected wearables. The Watch Sport is a circular, fitness-focused smartwatch that can track workouts and health data, such as distance covered and heart rate. It is still available from AT&T. Verizon is focusing on the Watch24 wearable, which is Verizon-branded smartwatch running Android Wear 2.0.


T-Mobile Kicks Off Sales of LG Stylo 3 Plus

May 17, 2017, 11:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today added the LG Stylo 3 Plus to its lineup of Android smartphones. The device is a minor update to last year's Stylo 3. For example, it improves the 5.7-inch display to full HD resolution and jumps from a MediaTek processor to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 with 3 GB RAM, 32 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 2 TB. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The phone has a fingerprint reader on the back and include NFC for Android Pay. The Stylo 3 Plus includes a pen stylus and LG's latest pen-based features. It runs Android 7 Nougat. T-Mobile is selling the phone for $225 at full retail or for $9 per month on an installment plan. The LG Stylo 3 Plus will reach MetroPCS stores in June.


BlackBerry Offering Privacy Shade Tool to All Hub+ Subscribers

May 15, 2017, 3:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today outlined several changes headed to its suite of Android applications, including the general availability of the Privacy Shade. The Privacy Shade was first made available only to BlackBerry-branded handsets, but will soon be available to any Android handset that relies on the BlackBerry Hub+ service. The Privacy Shade lets users adjust the transparency of the filter to suit their surroundings and activate it from the convenience key. Along with the wider availability, Privacy Shade users will also be able to re-size the window. Other new tools include Quick File for moving messages, Google Hangouts notifications, GroupWise mail server out-of-office messages, enhanced message previews when roaming, and the dark theme for the Hub widget. The updates will hit Hub+ in the Google Play Store in the days ahead.


Motorola Debuts the Entry-Level Moto C and Moto C Plus

May 15, 2017, 10:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 15, 2017, 11:35 AM

Motorola today unveiled two low-cost Android smartphones, the Moto C and Moto C Plus (pictured). Both phones are intended to serve as entry-level handsets for first time and/or cost-conscious buyers. Shared features include Android 7 Nougat, 3.5mm headset jacks, MediaTek 6737 processors, Bluetooth 4.2, and GPS. Some of the Moto C's specs include a 5-inch FWVGA display, 2,350mAh battery, LTE 4G, 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, 2-megapixel front camera with selfie flash, and a 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The C Plus has a larger 4,000mAh battery and higher-resolution 720p HD 5-inch screen. It also improves the main camera sensor to 8-megapixels with LED flash, but keeps the 2-megapixel selfie camera. The Moto C Plus includes a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and supports microSD memory cards. The devices will ship in Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific later this spring. Motorola said neither phone will be made available to U.S. buyers. The Moto C is priced at approximately $110 and the Moto C Plus is priced at about $130.


Audi and Volvo to Adopt Android Auto

May 15, 2017, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said carmakers Audi and Volvo plan to build Android Auto into their next generation of cars. The companies already offer limited support for the platform in select cars. Moving forward, all their vehicles will include Android Auto. "That means your [future Audi or Volvo's] built-in infotainment system could allow you to control your air conditioning, sunroof, and windows, find the nearest restaurant with Google Maps, listen to Spotify or NPR, or just ask your Google Assistant for help — even when you leave your phone behind," said Google. Android Auto, Google's in-dash navigation, communications, and entertainment software, is already available to some 300 car models worldwide in addition to after-market stereo systems. Other auto brands that support Android Auto include Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, GMC, Honda, Jeep, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Subaru. Android Auto is also available from the Google Play Store as a stand-alone app.


Google Says 'Project Treble' To End Device Update Woes

May 12, 2017, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced Project Treble, which it hopes will solve the pain of updating smartphones to the latest version of Android. As it stands today, the process is multifaceted and includes a number of moving players, including Google, silicon makers, manufacturers, and carrier partners. The complexity of all the pieces translates into lots of time and money for the ecosystem to test, certify, and release new system builds for existing phones. Project Treble, which will work with Android O and subsequent versions of Android, rearranges how the operating system is configured at a base level in order to simplify the process. "The core concept is to separate the vendor implementation — the device-specific, lower-level software written in large part by the silicon manufacturers — from the Android OS Framework. This is achieved by the introduction of a new vendor interface between the Android OS framework and the vendor implementation. The new vendor interface is validated by a Vendor Test Suite, analogous to the CTS, to ensure forward compatibility of the vendor implementation." Put more plainly, device makers will be able to update their devices to newer versions of Android underneath their custom UI without disturbing it, and without requiring help from silicon manufacturers. Google says some aspects of Project Treble are already included in the Developer Preview of O running on Pixel phones. The company plans to work with its silicon and device partners to ensure a smooth transition to the new architecture for future phones. Google expects to release full details of Project Treble with the launch of Android O later this summer.


Sony's Xperia L1 Available from Amazon for $200

May 12, 2017, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony recently made the Xperia L1, an inexpensive Android smartphone, available unlocked through Amazon.com. The phone was first announced in March. The L1 features a 5.5-inch 720p HD display and is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor; both have an aperture of f/2.2. Other specs include support for memory cards, dual SIM cards, 2,620mAh battery with Qnovo adaptive charging, USB-C, Bluetooth, WiFi, and Cat 4 LTE. The Xperia L1 runs Android 7 Nougat. It's available in black, white, or pink.


Google's Allo App Turns Your Selfies Into Custom Stickers

May 11, 2017, 3:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new feature for its Allo messaging app that will take your self portraits and convert them into personalized sticker packs. Google says it is relying on neural networks to perform the behind-the-scenes magic. The company has a lengthy blog post explaining how it all works. The illustrated stickers will be unique to each user and can be personalized further with a handful of tools being tossed into the app. Google says it is debuting a single style of "sarcastic" stickers today, with more sticker pack styles to follow over time. Personalized selfie stickers are available to Allo for Android starting today. The app is free to download from the Play Store. Google says the stickers will reach the iOS version of Allo before too long.


Verizon's Wear24 Android Wear Watch Now Available

May 11, 2017, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said its Wear24 Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch is available online and in stores. Verizon announced the device earlier this year. The Wear24 costs $349 at full retail, or $299 with a two-year agreement. The Wear24 is compatible with Verizon's LTE network and can share a phone number with smartphones for seamless messaging and calls. The smartwatch has a 1.39-inch display with 360 by 360 pixels, NFC with support for Android Pay, a 450mAh battery, and a rating of IP67 for water resistance up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water. Android Wear 2.0 includes advanced messaging tools, an on-device app store, and the Google Assistant. Verizon subscribers can add the Wear24 watch to their existing service plan for $5 per month or as a stand-alone device on Verizon's $10 Single Device Plan. For a limited time, Verizon will provide a $100 Visa gift card to those who trade in any old Android Wear smartwatch.


Cricket Wireless to Sell the ZTE Blade X Max On May 12 for $150

May 11, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today added the ZTE Blade X Max to its roster of inexpensive Android smartphones, marking the debut of ZTE's Blade line with the prepaid carrier. The Blade X Max has a 6-inch full HD display and it is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash, panorama, HDR, time-lapse, and manual controls, and the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with screen-based selfie flash. Other features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, 3,400mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0, FM radio with Dolby Audio, USB-C, and support for microSD memory cards. The phone runs Android 7.1 Nougat. The ZTE Blade X Max reaches Cricket Stores May 12 for $150, though ZTE says new activations can score the phone for just $99.

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Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Goes On Sale for $329

May 9, 2017, 3:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus today made the ZenFone 3 Zoom available from its web site for $329. The phone was first announced in January. The device relies on two cameras much like the iPhone 7 Plus to create a zooming effect. Both the standard and 25mm and 59mm lenses have 12-megapixel Sony IMX362 sensors. The main lens has an aperture of f/1.7. Other camera features include portrait mode, OIS, laser focusing, PDAF, RAW support, and a dedicated color sensor for improved white balance. The phone's user-facing camera has a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 sensor with a 140-degree panorama mode. The 3 Zoom includes a 5,000 mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices via USB-C. Specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 5.5-in full-HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, fingerprint sensor, memory card slot, and 3.5mm audio jack. It ships with Android 6 Marshmallow, but Asus indicated that Android 7 will reach the phone via update soon. The ZenFone 3 Zoom supports GSM/LTE networks, including AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone is sold unlocked.


Snapchat Adds Magic Eraser and Limitless Snaps

May 9, 2017, 12:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today announced changes headed to its mobile apps that it hopes will entice people to enjoy the ephemeral messaging service. First, Snapchat added a magic eraser to the creative toolset. The eraser allows people to delete items from their photos before sharing. This can be used to create a fun effect, or to hide sensitive content. A new looping tool lets people set their videos to loop for as long as someone cares to view the video. Once that person moves on to the next Snap, the looping video will vanish. Last, and perhaps most significantly, Snapchat is now letting people set the time limit on Snaps (photos and videos) to infinity. "We’ve all felt the frustration of not being able to fully enjoy a Snap — even after replaying it — and we wanted to give you the option of allowing the recipient to enjoy your Snap as long as they’d like. After your friend finishes viewing the Snap and taps to close it, it will delete as usual," explained the company in a blog post. The new features will be available in the Android and iOS Snapchat apps in the days ahead.


Google Tweaks Chrome's Offline Browsing Tools

May 8, 2017, 12:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Chrome for Android devices and made it simpler to download, find, and read offline content. Users can now long press any link or article suggestion to download the article to a new tab for offline access. Further, a "download page later" tools allows people to target web sites for download even while they offline. As soon as the device reconnects to the network, these pages will automatically download to the browser for later access. Last, a new tag reveals which articles and content has been saved to the device versus that which is live on the network. The latest version of Chrome for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Says Android O Beta Coming Soon

May 8, 2017, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently indicated via its Android Beta Program web site that a beta version of Android O will soon be available. Google released a preview version of Android O for developers earlier this year, though it is not stable enough for everyday use. The forthcoming build will be more stable for public beta testing ahead of Android O's full release. Google is expected to make this first beta build of Android O available as an over-the-air download later this month, coinciding with its I/O developer conference scheduled for May 17-19. The primary consumer-facing function of Android O is a picture-in-picture viewer for Android phones (this feature is already available to Android tablets). Most Android O tweaks favor developers, such as the new background limiter, notification channels, adaptive icons, and more. Google also indicated that the beta program for Android 7 Nougat is now concluded. All devices that are enrolled in the Android 7 Nougat beta program have been updated to the latest version of Android and will receive no more beta builds.


Nougat Reaches Smattering of AT&T's Galaxy S6 Variants

May 5, 2017, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T this week began distributing Android 7 Nougat to the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, and S6 Active. Along with the new version of Android, the update introduces Samsung Cloud, Samsung Pass, and a wide range of bug fixes and performance improvements. According to AT&T, the update will remove the AT&T Address Book and MobiTV apps, while it brings the security patch level up to April 1, 2017. The new operating system is rolling out to these phones already. AT&T updated the Galaxy S6 edge+ to Nougat earlier this year.


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