Phone Scoop

printed April 29, 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


Blu R1 Plus Includes 5.5-Inch Screen, 4,000mAh Battery

Yesterday, 1:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu today announced the R1 Plus, an update to the R1 HD. The Plus builds on the R1 HD's foundation with a larger 5.5-inch 720p HD screen with curved edges and Gorilla Glass 3. The R1 Plus is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek 6737 processor with the Mali T720 GPU. It ships with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. Both the 13-megapixel main camera and the 5-megapixel front camera have flashes for low-light shooting. The selfie camera has an 84-degree wide field of view. The R1 Plus improves the battery capacity to 4,000mAh, which Blu says delivers more than a full day of use. This dual-SIM phone is being sold unlocked with support for the GSM/LTE networks of AT&T/Cricket, T-Mobile/MetroPCS, and others. The phone supports VoLTE and HD Voice when used on T-Mobile's network. Other specs include Bluetooth 4, GPS, WiFi, and an FM radio. The R1 Plus runs Android 6 Marshmallow, though Blu says an update to Android 7 Nougat is in the works. The Blu R1 Plus goes on sale via Amazon and BestBuy Saturday, April 29. The phone normally costs $160, but Blu is offering it for $110 during its first 24 hours of availability online.


Google to Let Anyone Build Assistant Into their Hardware

Thursday, 12:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released an SDK that developers can use to add the Google Assistant to all manner of different gadgets and devices. Assistant made its debut in the Allo messaging app, and later arrived on Pixel smartphones, Google Home, Android Wear smartwatches, and other hardware. These have the distinction of all being Google-made products. Thanks to the new SDK, developers, tinkerers, and device makers of all kinds will be able to bring Google Assistant to their gear, for example, Smart Mirrors. Google says this initial SDK is a preview and not everything will work. For example, it is still working to include features such as hotword support. Developers interested in Assistant should visit Google's developer web site.


GBoard for Android Adds Editing and Customization Tools

Thursday, 7:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

GBoard for Android gained a handful of helpful new features thanks to a fresh update from Google. The keyboard application now comes with a dedicated text editing mode that includes buttons for common actions such as copy, cut, and paste. Moreover, cursor control has been refined and is simpler to use. These tools can be reached by pressing the G button. Gboard now also allows users to resize the keyboard and reposition it on the screen for improved one-handed use. This can be particularly helpful on phones with large screens. Last, GBoard adds a significant number of new Indic languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, and Gujarati, complete with transliteration. Google says machine learning has helped it expand GBoard to a total of 185 languages, all with glide-typing support. GBoard for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Unlocked BlackBerry Keyone Goes On Sale May 31; Sprint Version Arrives This Summer

Thursday, 5:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced that the BlackBerry Keyone, a smartphone it developed with BlackBerry Mobile, will be available to U.S. buyers starting May 31. The handset includes a 4.5-inch touch display and full QWERTY keyboard. Other features include a Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megpixel camera, LTE, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Messenger. TCL plans to sell both the unlocked GSM and CDMA variants of the phone directly to consumers online for $549. The company noted that Sprint will sell the phone with service plans later this summer. TCL said more details about the Sprint version will be shared towards the end of May.


Google Assistant Can Help You Channel Your Inner Julia Child

Wednesday, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Google Home product with the ability to walk people through various recipes. Google Assistant can dictate step-by-step cooking instructions for more than 5 million recipes. Google says people need only pick a recipe from the Google Search app on their iOS or Android smartphone and hit the new "Send to Google Home" button to save the recipe to their Google Assistant. The recipe can be recalled anytime on the Google Home by using the "Ok Google, start cooking" command. Google Home will then guide people through the recipe until it is done. People will be able to ask questions about specific steps along the way, as well as listen to music, make measurement conversions, set timers, and more. Google said the new feature is being rolled out over the next few weeks. Google didn't say if the recipe tool will be available from Android smartphones that include Google Assistant.


Google Maps Improves Parking Spot Finder

Wednesday, 11:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has this week made good on previous promises to make it easier for people to locate their cars after parking them. Maps for Android and iOS is being updated with a dedicated "Save Your Parking" tool that lets people not only pinpoint the location of their car on a map, but add details such as floor level, section, or parking spot for large parking structures. Further, Maps users can set timers to coincide with parking meters complete with custom alerts before the meter runs out. Last, people will also be able to share their parking location with others in instances that require people to meet at a parked car. On iOS devices connected to cars via Bluetooth, Maps will automatically record the parking spot when the owner disconnects and walks away from the vehicle. Google Maps has offered rudimentary parking spot help for some time. These new features allow people to take more control and add details that Maps didn't previously offer. Google Maps for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


Chrome for Android Speaks More Languages

Tuesday, 3:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced several improvements headed to its Chrome browser for Android devices. Primarily, the newest version of Chrome is better at translating languages. Google says Chrome is gaining neural machine translation for nine more language pairs including to and from English for Indonesian and eight Indian languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu. Google says neural machine translation will improve how web sites in English read when translated to these languages. Chrome for Android is also improving the behavior of downloads and making it easier to manage the app's browsing history. Chrome for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Inexpensive ZTE Prestige 2 Hits Boost and Virgin Mobile

Tuesday, 9:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint's prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today launched the ZTE Prestige 2, an entry-level Android handset. The Prestige 2 has a 5-inch FWVGA display and it is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone has two 5-megapixel cameras, one on the front and one on the back. The main camera has a flash. Other specs include a 2,035mAh battery, memory card support, HD voice, roaming in Mexico, mobile hotspot, and LTE 4G. The phone costs $80, but Boost Mobile is selling it online for $52. Virgin Mobile is offering the ZTE Prestige 2 for $50. It runs Android 6 Marshmallow.


U.S. Cellular Lands the 6-Inch ZTE Blade Max 3

Tuesday, 9:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular recently added the ZTE Blade Max 3 to its roster of Android smartphones. The Max 3 is similar to the Max XL in that it has a 6-inch full HD display with 2.5D Gorilla Glass and huge 4,000mAh battery. The handset is powered by a 2 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. The Max 3 includes dual rear 13-megapixel cameras, with one that captures full color and one that captures black-and-white to assist with contrast and focus. The user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, high-fidelity audio, USB-C, memory card support, and GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi radios. The ZTE Blade Max 3 is available from U.S. Cellular's web site for $200.


ZTE Max XL Packs 6-Inch Full HD Screen for $130

Tuesday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Max XL, a big-screened Android smartphone headed to Boost Mobile. The Max XL's defining features are the 6-inch full HD display and massive 3,990mAh battery. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass. ZTE says the Max XL is also the first for Boost Mobile to include support for HPUE for better LTE speeds at the network edge. HPUE is a technology Boost Mobile parent company Sprint is working to deploy this year. The Max XL's main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The device runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat and includes a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. Other specs include an octa-core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, support for memory cards, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and FM radio. The ZTE MAX XL smartphone is available online today at Boost Mobile for $129.99.

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LG G6 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8: Buying Points to Consider

Monday, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Can't decide between the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8? It's a tough choice, to be sure. These appealing Android smartphones represent the best from LG and Samsung by breaking new ground in design and refining core features along the way. Here are how these two phones compare head-to-head on a handful of essential buying points.

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Sony's Mid-Range Xperia XA1 Goes On Sale May 1 for $300

Monday, 10:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced the XA1 will be available to purchase online starting May 1. Internet retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, BrandsMart, Fry’s, and others will offer the phone unlocked for $299.99. The XA1, announced earlier this year, has a 5-inch 720p screen and 2,300mAh battery. It is powered by a MediaTek octa-core Helio P20 processor with the Mali T880 GPU accompanied by 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The device supports microSD memory cards up to 256 GB. It has a 23-megapixel Exmor RS main camera with a 24mm lens and an aperture of f/2.0, and an 8-megapixel selfie cam. Other specs include USB-C, Qnovo adaptive charging, rapid charging, Cat 6 LTE, and Android 7 Nougat. It is being offered in white, black, pink, or gold.


Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Amp Prime 2 Available from Cricket

Apr 21, 2017, 9:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today added two new Samsung handsets to its list of devices. First, the Galaxy S8 is available for purchase from Cricket stores. Cricket is charging $699.99 for the handset, a $50 savings off list price, when the S8 is activated on a new line. Second, Cricket debuted the Galaxy Amp Prime 2 (pictured), a low-cost Android phone. The Amp Prime 2 features a 5-inch 720p HD screen with a 1.35 GHz quad-core processor and 16 GB of storage. The phone includes 5- and 2-megapixel cameras on the back and front respectively, and a 2,600 mAh battery. Other features include LTE, Bluetooth WiFi, and support for memory cards up to 256 GB. The Samsung Galaxy Amp Prime 2 runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $150.


Google Home Now Recognizes Individual Voices

Apr 20, 2017, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it possible for up to six people to get personalized results from its Google Home product. Using the refreshed Google Home mobile app, Home owners can train the device to recognize individual voices for everyone in your house. Google says it is able to do this through the use of neural networks. Once properly trained, people will be able to ask Google Home for their daily schedule, preferred news, commute details, and personal playlists. The functionality requires the latest Home app from Google on each associated account. This feature will start rolling out today for Google Home users in the U.S., but will expand to the U.K. in the coming months. Google Home is a $129 in-home connected speaker that relies on the same Google Assistant app found on Android handsets.


Microsoft Will Help You Ditch Passwords

Apr 19, 2017, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has a new tool for Android and iOS device owners to use when signing into Microsoft accounts. The phone sign-in functionality relies on the Microsoft Authenticator. People can add their Microsoft account to either the Android or iOS version of the Microsoft Authenticator mobile app. Then, when signing into a new Microsoft app, people will only have to put in their username. The Authenticator will pop up a notification on users' phones that, once approved, unlocks access to the new app. "This process is easier than standard two-step verification and significantly more secure than only a password, which can be forgotten, phished, or compromised," said Microsoft in a blog post. Microsoft Authenticator is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Instagram for Android Gains Offline Mode

Apr 19, 2017, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram has made it possible for Android device owners to enjoy the app in a limited way even when offline. Speaking at Facebook's F8 developer conference, Instagram staff explained that many users access the app from areas with poor internet connections. Adding support for offline access will allow these people to enjoy the app when connections aren't available. According to TechCrunch, the app will store previously loaded portions of the user's feed locally on the device, including the Explore tab. People will be able to view, like, comment, and share photos, as well as unfollow users and perform other actions that will take hold once the device reconnects to the network. Instagram targeted Android for this mode given the platform's wide global popularity. It is still "exploring" whether or not it will offer offline functionality to iOS devices.


Google Earth VR Gains Search Tool

Apr 18, 2017, 3:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Along with the new Google Earth mobile app for Android devices and Chrome desktop browsers, Google today updated Google Earth VR for Android. Moving forward, people can type addresses or locations in Google Earth VR and they'll be whisked away to any location on the globe. The tool also gains 27 new locations for detailed exploring, such as mountains, glaciers, and castles. Google Earth VR is available to Android handsets for free.


Snapchat Adds 3D Lenses

Apr 18, 2017, 3:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today introduced a new way to use its Lenses feature in a way that the company says is more interactive. When using the rear camera, Snapchatters can discover new Lenses that can "paint the word around you with new 3D experiences." These new Lenses include sticker-like animations that float and move around people within Snapchat images. The 3D Lenses are available in an update to the Android and iOS mobile Snapchat app. Snapchat is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Huawei Watch 2 Hits Stores Today

Apr 18, 2017, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today made its new smartwatch, the Watch 2, available from various online retailers for $300. The device runs Android Wear 2.0 from Google and includes GPS, a heart rate monitor, NFC, 420 mAh battery, and a 1.2-inch AMOLED display. The Watch 2 is rated IP68 for water resistance. Huawei says the standard model can be purchased from Best Buy, Target, Jet, Walmart, B&H, and others. The company expects to bring the Watch 2 Classic to the U.S. later this year for $369. Huawei has no plans to bring the LTE variant of the Watch 2 to the U.S. right now.


Android Pay and PayPal Now Play Nice

Apr 18, 2017, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Android Pay service is now compatible with PayPal. The companies today announced that Android Pay users can opt to use their PayPal account as a source of funds when making tap-and-go payments at retail stores or on the web. PayPal via Android Pay will stand in for a debit or credit card. People will be able to link their accounts from either app. Android Pay and PayPal will gain this functionality through an update to their respective mobile apps in the coming weeks. Google recently added in-app Android Pay compatibility with several mobile banking apps. The moves are meant to help coax more people to use Google's mobile payment service.


Google Wholly Revamps Google Earth for Desktop and Mobile

Apr 18, 2017, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released a brand new version of Google Earth that it has spent two years crafting. This revised Google Earth is all about giving people more ways to view things thanks to changing perspectives, new zooming behaviors, and, of course, plenty of ways to share. Google Earth now includes Voyager, a tool for exploring and taking guided tours on the planet's most famous locations. For example, Natural Treasures from BBC Earth will take you to caves, jungles, and more, while the refreshed "I’m feeling lucky" search button will randomly select an interesting spot and tell you everything. Maps includes a wider variety of Knowledge Cards that provide details about places around the globe. Google Earth gains more 3D content, as well, allowing people to swoop through the Grand Canyon or check out European castles from every angle. The new Google Earth is available on the web in Google's Chrome browser as well as a new dedicated mobile app for Android devices. Google says it will bring the new Google Earth to iOS and more browsers in the future.


Instagram Debuts Private Collections

Apr 17, 2017, 1:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made saving groups of photos more appealing through a new collections tool. Until today, users could only bookmark favorite photos for later. Now, Instagram makes it possible to create and name new collections of bookmarked posts that are batched together. This applies to both new and existing posts. Instagram says people can cultivate as many collections as they wish, which can be used to tag and manage types and/or styles of photos, as well as the contributions of select people or groups. Collections will remain private to the person who created them. The new collections feature is rolling out to the Android and iOS versions os Instagram over the next week. Instagram is free to download.


Verizon-Branded Wear24 Smartwatch Streets May 11

Apr 17, 2017, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said its Wear24 Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch will go on sale May 11. Verizon announced the device earlier this year, but did not have availability details at the time. The Wear24 costs $349, but Verizon will cut $50 from the price for those willing to sign two-year agreements. 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. The Wear24 also includes 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 plan for $5 per month. Otherwise, the Wear24 requires Verizon's $10 Single Device Plan, which provides unlimited talk and text, and up to 1 GB of LTE data per month.


HTC Cuts Price of U Ultra to $599

Apr 17, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today kicked off a week-long sale that sees some of the best-ever prices for its handsets. Notably, the new HTC U Ultra has been knocked from $749 down to $599, a significant cut for the smartphone. The U Ultra is an all-glass Android phone from HTC that boasts top specs. HTC also slashed the price of the A9 from $499 to $199, the HTC 10 from $699 to $499, and the Bolt from $600 to $450. The sale prices are good through April 23. HTC sells its phones unlocked via its U.S. web site.


Google's Family Link App Reaches iOS Devices

Apr 14, 2017, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today expanded the availability of its Family Link application to iOS devices. Family Link is a service that lets parents set up and monitor their children's Android smartphones. Parents can use the app to create Google accounts for kids younger than age 13, which are linked to the parent's Google account. Parents can then approve and block apps from the Google Play Store, control screen time with daily limits, and remotely lock or prevent devices from being used at night. Google is offering Family Link through an early access program. Parents interested in testing it can request an invitation directly from Google. Though parents can now use Family Link from an iPhone, the child's handset still needs to run Android 7 Nougat and up. Family Link for iOS is available from the iTunes App Store.


LG Harmony Springs Into Cricket's Lineup

Apr 14, 2017, 11:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 14, 2017, 11:46 AM

Cricket Wireless recently added the LG Harmony to its roster of inexpensive Android handsets. The phone, which is a down-spec'd variant of the K20, has a 5.3-inch 720p display and it is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone boasts an 8-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel front camera. It can record full HD video. Other features include a removable 2,800mAh battery, microSD memory card slot, and Android 7 Nougat. It includes LG software features such as KnockOn, Knock Code and Gesture Shot. The phone is available in stores and online today. The LG Harmony costs $99 when activated with a new rate plan. Cricket does not require contracts.


Google Photos Can Sort of Fix Your Shaky Videos

Apr 14, 2017, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The latest version of Google Photos for Android devices includes a new video stabilization tool. Google's software goes beyond what the individual phone's own hardware and software do to improve videos. Using the Google Photos in-app editing function, people can apply the stabilization technique to their video clips at any time. The app automatically saves a new, stabilized copy of the clip and maintains the original clip in its pure form. The results are slightly cropped when compared to the original. Google Photos for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Instagram Ups Its Sticker Game

Apr 13, 2017, 10:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out new sticker tools meant to help people be more creative in their posts and stories. First up is the ability to turn your selfie into its own sticker. Instagram says the latest version of its mobile app lets people capture mini selfies, apply frames, and use the framed selfie as a sticker on posts. The selfie sticker can be resized, moved around, and enhanced with other tools. Selfie stickers can also be pinned to videos, including those shot with Boomerang. The new Instagram adds four more geostickers so people in Chicago, London, Madrid, and Tokyo can dress up their posts with artwork and themes related to those cities. Geostickers are interactive, so people who watch a story can tap the sticker to see the location page. Last, Instagram is making it easier to find stickers thanks to a new shortcut. The tool will pop up users' most recently used stickers for quick access. The new version of Instagram is available for Android and iOS devices.


Several Banks Add Android Pay to Their Own Apps

Apr 12, 2017, 1:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has partnered with a small number of financial institutions in order to ease the process of signing up for Android Pay. Several banks, including Bank of America, Bank of New Zealand, Discover, mBank, and USAA, now let customers add debit/credit cards directly to Android Pay from within the mobile banking app. Typically, cards are managed in the Android Pay app itself. After completing the setup process, customers of these banks will be able to use the tap-to-pay functionality of Android Pay at millions of stores and on millions of web sites. Some of the apps support Android Pay even if the Android Pay app itself is not installed on the phone. People can also manage bank card choices, such as setting defaults, as well as manage card security by deactivating cards from their phone. Android Pay is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google's banking partners plan to update their mobile apps with support for Android Pay in the weeks ahead.


Google Brings Web-based VR to Cardboard

Apr 12, 2017, 1:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today expanded the availability of web-based virtual reality content to Google Cardboard. Google first brought WebVR to Chrome for Daydream-compatible devices earlier this year. Now, most any Android handset can access virtual reality content through the Chrome browser with Google Cardboard. People who don't have Daydream or Cardboard viewers handy can use their mouse or finger to pan around 3D content directly in the browser. In addition to expanding web-based virtual reality to Cardboard, Google launched WebVR Experiments, a showcase of the experiences developers are building for browser-based virtual reality. There, people can take a look at and sample WebVR projects, apps, and games.


Chrome Gains 'Scroll Anchoring' To Keep Web Sites In Place

Apr 11, 2017, 12:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes the latest addition to its Chrome browser will make reading web sites less frustrating. The tool, called scroll anchoring, will prevent web sites from bouncing users up and down the screen. As Google explains, "annoying page jumps typically happen when the web site inserts an image or other content above the visible area, pushing down what’s on the screen." The result is often grating, as it forces people to navigate back to where they were on the screen to continue reading or viewing. "Scroll anchoring locks the content you’re currently looking at to the screen, keeping you in the same spot so you can keep reading," says Google. Google suggests web developers check out the technical details on its developer web site. Google didn't specify exactly which version of Chrome carries the new feature. Chrome is free to download from the Google Play Store and is preinstalled on most Android handsets.


Facebook Messenger Adds Group Payments

Apr 11, 2017, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made it possible to pay groups of people within Messenger. The app has supporter peer-to-peer payments since 2015, but they were limited to single people. The latest version of Messenger makes is possible to send funds to a group of people. Facebook suggests the tool will be helpful when groups need to split a restaurant check or share the costs of gifts. The tool, found under the "more features" menu, makes it possible to pay an entire group or just several members of a group. Payments can be spread out evenly, or customized based on the situation at hand. The function even supports annotations, allowing users to tag the payment so they know why it was made. Messenger users will need to have a debit card associated with their account to send money. The new Messenger for Android is rolling out over the next few days. Facebook didn't say when group payments will reach the iOS version of Messenger. Group payments are only available in the U.S. for now.


Instagram Simplifies Disappearing Message Behavior

Apr 11, 2017, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out a new style for sharing ephemeral messages with others. Disappearing photos and videos are still shared via the Direct messaging tool, but moving forward they are included within ongoing threaded conversations between people or groups, rather than pulled out separately. Instagram features a new blue camera icon in the Direct messaging feature for capturing disappearing photos or videos. The blue camera icon is also available within individual message threads. An arrow button lets people select the friends or groups with whom they'd like to share, and a new function lets users keep track of who's viewed disappearing messages. Instagram has retooled notifications, too, so disappearing messages will be called out thanks to new blue highlighting. Disappearing messages can be replayed once, and the sender will be notified if the message is played twice and/or captured via screenshot. The new Direct messaging feature is rolling out to Instagram for Android and iOS devices this week.


Sprint Lists Samsung Galaxy J7 Perx for $264

Apr 10, 2017, 11:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint recently added the Samsung Galaxy J7 Perx to its lineup of inexpensive Android handset. The Perx appears to be a minor refresh of last year's J7. It carries over the 5.5-inch 720p HD display, but upgrades to a Snapdragon 625 processor and a 3,300mAh battery. The phone features an 8-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. It loses the J7's NFC radio, but includes an FM radio. Other specs include 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 256 GB; and Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and support for Sprint's LTE Plus network. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is capable of VoLTE and WiFi calling. The phone costs $264 at full retail or $11 per month for 24 months. The Samsung Galaxy J7 Perx is available from Sprint's web site. The FCC has recently approved variants of this phone for all four major carriers, though it has yet to appear elsewhere.


ZTE Quartz Is An Affordable Android Watch

Apr 10, 2017, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Quartz, the company's first Android Wear smartwatch. The Quartz offers core tools for a modern wearable, including Android Wear 2.0, LTE connectivity for standalone calls and messaging, and an IP67 rating for protection against liquids and dirt. The watch features a 1.4-inch AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 3 and it is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 2100 platform. It includes a 500mAh battery, Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi. The Quartz also offers interchangeable wrist bands. The ZTE Quartz costs $199 and is compatible with T-Mobile's network. It will be available on TMobile.com beginning Friday, April 14 and in select T-Mobile stores beginning Friday, April 21.


LG Smartwatches On Deck for Android Wear 2.0

Apr 10, 2017, 7:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG indicated via its Google+ page that it intends to update a handful of its oldest smartwatches to Android Wear 2.0. First up are the G Watch R and Watch Urbane, which should receive the new operating system this week. The Watch Urbane 2nd Ed. will see Android Wear 2.0 in early May. The new operating system has been wholly rethought by Google. It includes significant usability tweaks, and core features such as messaging and Google Assistant. In February, LG launched some of the first new watches to ship with the revised platform aboard, the Watch Sport and Watch Style. The G Watch R was one of the very first Android-based smartwatches to reach the market.


Twitter Lite is an Efficient New Web App

Apr 6, 2017, 7:46 AM   by Rich Brome

Twitter today launched Twitter Lite, an new version of its mobile web site that acts like a full mobile app but is designed for markets with slow and/or expensive data service. The web app uses the latest features of Google Chrome for Android to offer app-like features, such as push notifications, an offline mode, and a home screen icon. Twitter Lite takes up less than 1 MB on a device, and it has a data-saver mode that provides a rough preview of photos and videos — plus size information — so users can manually choose which media to download and view. It is designed with developing markets in mind, but is available to everyone now at mobile.twitter.com.


YouTube TV Goes Live In Several Markets

Apr 5, 2017, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube today launched its YouTube TV service in five major U.S. markets: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. YouTube TV gives cord cutters a way to watch live television online. As of today's launch, YouTube TV offers more than 40 television networks, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, USA, FX, Disney Channel, Sprout, E! and Bravo. YouTube TV plans to add AMC, BBC America, IFC, Sundance TV, WE tv, and BBC World News soon. Showtime is available for an extra monthly fee. The monthly service is accessible from mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, and PCs, and Android and iOS device users can cast YouTube TV shows to their Chromecast-equipped TV. YouTube TV includes a cloud-based DVR with unlimited storage for saving and accessing shows from practically anywhere. Google allows people to store recordings for free for up to nine months. Each YouTube TV subscription includes up to six individual accounts for personalized recommendations and DVR recording. YouTube TV costs $35 per month and doesn't require any contracts or commitments.


Huawei's Honor 8 Pro Packs Top Specs

Apr 5, 2017, 7:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today announced the Honor 8 Pro, a flagship handset for its Honor brand. The phone has specs similar to the Huawei P10, but it is much larger thanks to a 5.7-inch quad HD display and 4,000mAh battery. The phone is powered by Huawei's octa-core Kirin 960 processor with 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and a Mali GPU. Like many of Huawei's recent handsets, the Honor 8 Pro includes two cameras on the rear, each rated at 12 megapixels, one that captures full color and one that captures monochrome. Special shooting modes include slow-motion, time-lapse, panorama, full manual, aperture, and more. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and some of these same modes. The Honor 8 Pro runs Android 7 Nougat with EMUI 5.1. The phone includes Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi, but LTE support is limited to Bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 38, and 40, making it only partially compatible with some U.S. LTE networks. The phone supports rapid charging and memory cards up to 128 GB. The Honor 8 Pro comes in blue, black, or gold for about $585. It will ship with a Cardboard-style VR viewer. Huawei said the phone will be made available in Europe beginning today.

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Apple Retunes Apple Music for Android Devices

Apr 4, 2017, 2:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released Apple Music 2.0 for Android handsets and the app introduces a number of features found on the iOS version. To start, Apple Music for Android drops all elements of Google's Material Design in favor of Apple's app design language. The Android app user interface now mirrors that of the iOS version. In-app navigation is simplified thanks to four major sections, called Library, For You, Browse, and Radio. These make it easier for people to move through the app to find their own music or new tunes recommended by Apple. Apple Music 2.0 for Android also adds on-screen song lyrics and larger album art. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store, but the service costs $10 per month.


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