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.
BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen today said its smartphone business needs to generate a profit in 2016, "Otherwise, I have to think twice about what I do there." Chen's comments offer more insight into BlackBerry's frame of mind regarding smartphones. Just last week, the company announced the Priv, a vertical slider that will run Android rather than BlackBerry's own platform. Chen said if the company can port all of BlackBerry's security features to the Android platform, then it may drop BlackBerry OS completely. Chen has previously warned the company might cease making smartphones. "If I can't make money on the phone, I will be out of that telephone handset business," remarked Chen in August. In July, the company said it would make no more than one or two smartphones per year. The Priv is expected to arrive before the end of 2015.
Samsung said a recent hack of subsidiary LoopPay did not impact Samsung Pay, its mobile payment service. Samsung purchased LoopPay in February to bolster its Samsung Pay product, which is able to use NFC and LoopPay's MST technology to make mobile purchases in retail stores. "Samsung Pay was not impacted and at no point was any personal payment information at risk," said Samsung in a statement. "This was an isolated incident that targeted the LoopPay office network, which is a physically separate network from Samsung Pay." Samsung Pay launched just a few weeks ago. It allows owners of the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5 to pay for goods and services at a wide range of businesses around the U.S. LoopPay's MST technology makes Samsung Pay much more widely available than Android Pay and Apple Pay, which are limited to terminals with NFC.
Google today revealed a powerful addition to Android 6.0 Marshmallow: built-in language translation. Google says that people who've installed the Google Translate app on their Marshmallow device will be able to translate between 90 languages directly from within any app that uses the Android selection tool. People can type one language, highlight the text, and then choose the translation tool to convert it to the language of their choice. Some of the apps compatible with this function include Gmail, Messaging, Hangouts, and other Google apps. This is only available to the newest version of Android and Google is offering it to developers so it may be added to more third-party apps.
Sony Mobile today named the first batch of devices it plans to update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The list includes the Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact, and Z5 Premium; the Xperia Z4 Tablet; the Xperia Z3+, Z3, Z3 Compact, and Z3 Tablet Compact; the Xperia Z2 and Z2 Tablet; and the Xperia M5, M4, C5, and C4. Sony said it hopes to distribute the system upgrade to these devices as quickly as possible, but had no specific details to share just yet.
Google today said it has begun distributing Android 6.0 Marshmallow to the Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 smartphones, as well as the Nexus 7 and Nexus 9 tablets, and the Nexus Player. The update, which will be pushed out in waves, is available as an over-the-air download. Google today also posted the factory images of Android 6.0 Marshmallow for Nexus devices to its web site. The factory images are for flashing manually onto the Nexus devices. The factory images are for knowledgable users who know how to side load the operating system from a PC; they are not meant for most consumers. The Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, which are available for pre-order and will ship later this month, will have Android 6.0 Marshmallow preinstalled. Android 6.0 adds revised permissions, Google Now On Tap, Nexus Imprint fingerprint security, and better battery management.
HTC says it is on board with the concept of monthly security updates, but admits the reality is a different story. Jason Makenzie, president of HTC America, said the company "will push for them, but unrealistic for anyone to say guaranteed every month." The comment came in response to question posed to Makenzie about HTC handset security. Earlier this year, Google announced plans to push monthly security updates to Android handsets in the wake of the Stagefright vulnerability. Samsung and LG quickly followed suit. In order for the updates to reach HTC handsets, HTC has to take the security patch from Google, build it into their platform for each handset, and then seek carrier approval for those updated platforms. The process takes months from start to finish, and, thanks to sagging sales, HTC phones likely have a lower priority within their carrier partner labs than those from Samsung and LG. HTC today reported a near 50% drop in revenue for the quarter on weak smartphone sales, and recorded a loss of $138 million.
BlackBerry today added a handful of new features to its cross-platform messaging service. All versions of BBM (Android, BlackBerry, iOS) earn the ability to send money to BBM contacts using PayPal. This feature had been in testing on BlackBerries, but is now available to all three smartphone platforms. All versions of the app also allow users to subscribe to the BBM Sticker Club, which BlackBerry says is a great way to build sticker collections. Android users, in particular, can re-order sticker packs and place their favorites in easy-to-reach positions. Android users can also customize the font size within the app, and make use of pinch-to-zoom. iOS devices have been given access to the Quick Reply function (iOS 9 only); the ability to send videos as attachments; and the ability to view, like, and comment on group pictures/events. Last, BBM now works on the Apple Watch, where it can be used to read messages as well as fire off quick replies. BBM is free to download from the Google Play Store, BlackBerry World, and iTunes App Store.
Google may have issued several patches to plug the security hole known as Stagefright, but the bug is back thanks to a newly-discovered vulnerability in MP3 and MP4 files. Zimperium Labs, which discovered the first version of Stagefright in April, says phones tricked into running specially crafted audio/video files can be taken over remotely. Zimperium suggests phones could be attacked by simply previewing the MP3 or MP4 files in a browser, which makes for a fairly easy way for hackers to gain access. The bug makes use of two vulnerabilities, one affecting Android 1.x - 4.x, and another affecting devices running Android 5.0 and up. The vulnerability can lead to remote code execution, which can then be used to commandeer the phone. Zimperium Labs has reported the issue to Google, which has already assigned a case number to the first vulnerability. Earlier this year, Google said it would begin issuing security patches outside of full system updates. Google hasn't said when it will offer a fix for this new bug.
The CTIA today announced that a number of member companies have agreed to take on additional measures to help prevent cellphone thefts. Following recommendations made by the FCC, wireless companies will make anti-theft tools available to all consumers that also respect consumer choice and privacy. All new phones made after July 2016 will "make readily available to the authorized user an option that allows the authorized user to enable or disable the anti-theft solution at any time that the smartphone is connected and is in the authorized user's possession." Beyond this baseline tool, consumers will have the option to use other, third-party solutions to locate, wipe, or reinstate their devices if they so wish. Companies that have agreed to this include Apple, Asurion; AT&T; BlackBerry; Google; HTC; Huawei; LG; Microsoft; Motorola; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; Verizon, and ZTE. In response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "CTIA members' ... enhanced voluntary commitment to adopt anti-theft features and educate consumers demonstrates their resolve in combatting it. I am hopeful that this new voluntary commitment will make a meaningful difference for consumer safety. As the enhanced commitment recognizes, these solutions work only if they are adopted widely. The FCC will remain vigilant in this area by pushing for further improvements to the theft-prevention toolbox, and also by monitoring closely whether the efforts of industry and others are producing meaningful results." Apple's iOS and Google's Android already contain features that let device owners find and protect their mobile devices. The FCC hopes allowing people to download and use the protective measure of their choice will help encourage consumers to make broader use of the tool.
Motorola today voiced its support for Android 6.0 Marshmallow in a blog post and outlined some of the changes headed to its devices. First and foremost, Motorola will update the following handsets to Android 6.0 Marshmallow: 2015 Moto X Pure Edition, Style, and Play; 2014 Moto X Pure Edition in US, Latin America, and Europe: Moto G 3rd edition, 2nd edition, and 2nd edition with LTE; Droid Turbo, Moto Maxx, and Moto Turbo; and the Google Nexus 6. Motorola said it is in no hurry to deliver Android 6.0, however, and will do so only when everything is fully prepared. When Marshmallow does arrive, it will drop several Motorola-specific features. For example, the "Do Not Disturb" most in Android 6.0 is similar in functionality to Motorola's Moto Assist app. As such, Motorola will remove Moto Assist from handsets being updated to Marshmallow. Similarly, Android 6.0 adds new backup, reset, and data-transfer functions, so Motorola will pull Motorola Migrate and Moto Connect from its Marshmallow phones. "Both of these products were valuable in their time but the world has moved on and they no longer add enough value to justify taking up space in your device," said Motorola. The company said it will have more news to share in the weeks ahead.
Google has made more content available to its Android TV product, including programs from CBS, HBO, and Showtime. The streaming television service has also gained access to Disney Movies Anywhere, EPIX, WWE, and UFC. The apps associated with these content providers are now available in the Android TV app store. In addition to the expanded content selection, Google has partnered with more companies to enlarge the Android TV ecosystem. For example, Hisense, TCL, and several other smart TV manufacturers have added Android TV to their offerings. Last, Google teamed up with set-top box makers Pace, Sagemcom, and Technicolor, all of which will allow cable TV providers to incorporate Android TV content into their services.
Asus and Microsoft has expanded the scale of an existing patent-licensing agreement between them and expect the change to benefit customers. The cross-licensing deal will allow Asus and Microsoft to use one another's technologies in their own products. Moreover, Asus said it will let the two work closer together on products down the road. Last, the deal will result in Microsoft's Office productivity suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) being preloaded on Asus Android smartphones and tablets. Samsung also preloads Office on some of its Android devices. Terms of the agreement between Asus and Microsoft were not disclosed.
Nextbit's Robin smartphone won the financial support of more than 3,600 people who invested $1.36 million in the Kickstarter campaign. Nextbit said it received enough interest in the Robin to move forward with manufacturing. It has closed the Kickstarter campaign and is now working to bring the device to market, expected during the first quarter of 2016. According to Nextbit, most of the investment came from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, the U.K., and Singapore. The Robin is an Android phone that uses the cloud to manage on-board storage availability. It can seamlessly offload and reload content — including applications — when needed to free up space. It was designed by former HTC employees and costs $399. The phone will be available in GSM and CDMA variants, supporting the networks of AT&T and T-Mobile, and Sprint and Verizon.
Verizon today made its go90 mobile video service available to anyone who wants to use it. The service had been in only a handful of markets on a trial basis, but is now usable around the country. With go90, video content is supported by advertisements. The free programming comes from providers such as Comedy Central, Food Network, ESPN, Discovery Network, VH1, Maker Studios, Machinima, StyleHaul. Verizon says it has between 100 and 200 hours of exclusive content from online video services such as AwesomenessTV. Verizon hopes the service will score well with younger consumers. It is available to Verizon and non-Verizon customers alike, and is compatible with Android and iOS devices. The apps are free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.
LG today rolled out an updated version of its Watch Urbane that includes a cellular radio and the ability to make calls without a cellphone. The LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition runs Android Wear and is compatible with Android and iOS devices. The wearable features a 1.38-inch plastic OLED screen with 480 x 480 pixels. It is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and has 768MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. The phone boasts a beefy 570mAh battery to support its Bluetooth, WiFi, LTE, and 3G radios. The smartwatch includes a bevy of sensors as well, including a gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, barometer, and GPS. It will be sold in black, blue, white, and brown. Pricing and availability will be announced at a later date.
Google today said that Jibe Mobile is joining the company to help it push rich communication services (RCS) to more people around the world. Specifically, Google and Jibe will work with mobile operators, device makers, and other players in the Android ecosystem to expand support for RCS standards. RCS is a newer standard for messaging that offers a richer feature set than the aging SMS standard. Google believes increasing RCS adoption will improve mobile devices users' chatting experiences the world over. Google said it expects this type of collaboration will take time and cooperation to implement.
HTC executive Jason Makenzie today said the company plans to start updating its smartphones to Android 6.0 Marshmallow before the end of the year. The One M9 and One M8 will be first to see the update, which will begin to arrive in December. Other HTC handsets will see Marshmallow in 2016, include the One M9+, One E9 and E9+, the ME, M8, and E8 EYE, as well as the Desire 826, 820, and 816.
Google today announced two new Chromecast products meant to help improve the living room experience. The Chromecast 2 TV dongle uses HDMI to plug into television sets and includes dual-band 802.11ac WiFi for improved performance with the local wireless network. Google says the new Chromecast can sustain higher-quality video and audio with less buffering and pausing. Google also showed off a smaller product called Chromecast Audio. This product is specifically meant to help people cast music from their handset to in-home speakers. It connects via 3.5mm, RCA, or optical inputs. Moreover, the Chromecast app for Android and iOS has been fully redesigned to help people discover content much faster. For example, it shows what's on YouTube, Play Movies, Hulu, and live TV. The app knows to limit content recommendations based on the apps already installed on the handset in question. The app also boosts the ability to search for online content and supports phones as a gaming controller for select titles. The improved app will be rolling out to Android and iOS over the next few weeks. The new Chromecast 2 and Chromecast Audio are available beginning today for $35 each. Google is offering early adopters 90 days of free music from Google Play, a free trial of CBS All Access, a free Google Play movie rental, and a 3-month trial of Rhapsody.
Google today added some new features to its Google Photos product. The revised service focuses on improving how people share pictures and events. For example, people can merge photos taken by different devices into a single album, complete with credits for individual images. People can easily subscribe to specific albums, which will send notifications when new images/videos are added. Google Shared Albums will arrive later this year for Android, iOS, and the web. Google Photos also improved search functions with the ability to tag people. The tags power compound searches that include tags in addition to location and date information. Google believes these will help people find and share individual photos from their library much faster. The new search tool will reach Android devices this week, and iOS and the web later this year. Last, Google added Chromecast support to Google Photos. Google says this will make it much simpler to share phone-based photos on nearby Chromecast-equipped television sets. Rather than simply mirror the screen, it lets people control exactly which photo is pushed from the phone to the Chromecast. Chromecast for photos will reach Android devices this week, and iOS later this month.
Google today said it will begin pushing Android 6.0 Marshmallow to Nexus devices during the week of Oct. 5. Existing handsets, such as the LG-made Nexus 5 and the Motorola Nexus 6, will be able to install the brand new operating system from Google. The Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P will ship with Android 6.0 on board. Android 6.0 Marshmallow brings a number of new features to the platform, including Google Now On Tap. Google's improved voice assistant is more aware of context when users make requests, and will automatically offer up certain types of information. Google Now is also accessible via voice command even when the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P are locked. Marshmallow adds fast scrolling and faster search, as well as new animations and new notification behaviors. Further, the app drawer will learn which apps people use throughout the day and offer suggestions each time they open the drawer. Android 6.0 introduces a new permission model, and allows people to remove more unwanted apps. Marshmallow was first detailed by Google in May. The company did not say exactly when it will be released.
Google today announced the Nexus 5X, a less-costly alternative to the Nexus 6P. Where the 6P is made by Huawei, the 5X is made by LG. Notable features include the Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor positioned on the back of the phone, which can be used to secure the phone and authenticate Android Pay purchases. The 5X also includes a USB Type-C port, the new connector for phones, tablets, and laptops. The Nexus 5X has a 5.2-inch full HD screen and is powered by a 1.8GHz Snapdragon 808 processor with 2GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of storage. The phone's main Sony camera sensor captures 12.3-megpaixel images and relies on laser-assisted focus. It has an aperture of f/2.0 and a dual-tone flash for more accurate color. The user-facing camera rates 5 megapixels and has an aperture of f/2.2. The Nexus 5X includes a 2,700mAh battery, a wide range of sensors, and comes in white, blue, or black. The Nexus 5X runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and will be sold directly from Google unlocked. The 16GB model costs $379 and the 32GB model costs $429. It is available for pre-order beginning today and will ship in mid-October.
Google today announced the Nexus 6P, one of two new Nexus-branded smartphones and the first ever to be made by Huawei. The Nexus 6P is a slim, upscale handset skinned in aluminum. The 6P has a fingerprint sensor on the back for security and Android Pay authentication called Nexus Imprint. The phone has a 5.7-inch quad HD screen and is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 processor with 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB of storage. The phone boasts a Sony 12.3-megapixel main camera with f/2.0 aperture and an 8-megapixel user-facing camera. Google says it improved the camera with burst mode and slow-motion video capture. Further, double-tapping the home button will launch the camera even when the phone is locked. The Nexus 6P has what Google calls the Android Sensor Hub, which includes activity and gesture recognition along with power management techniques to keep battery drain at a minimum. The 6P packs a large 3,450mAh battery, includes a USB Type-C port and charger, and offers stereo speakers on the front. The Nexus 6P runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and will be sold unlocked directly by Google. The phone costs $499 for 32GB, $549 for 64GB, and $649 for 128GB. Pre-orders start today and the Nexus 6P will ship in mid-October.
BlackBerry today posted some official images of the forthcoming Priv smartphone. The Priv is a vertical slider that runs Android. It offers a full QWERTY keyboard and can be managed by BlackBerry's enterprise software, making it a secure handset for business users. The images shared by BlackBerry clearly reveal a curved display, similar to that of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. BlackBerry will share more details about the phone in the weeks ahead.
Skype has updated its Android application with support for Android Wear, giving people the power to manage Skype messages and calls from their wrist. Skype will surface notifications on Android Wear devices, and can be used to respond to messages via dictation or pre-set text. Users can decline or accept incoming Skype calls from their wrist, but will need to conduct calls from their Android smartphone. Skype for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Samsung today indicated via the Google Play Store that it will discontinue its Milk Video app and service for Android smartphones. "While we remain committed to providing premium entertainment services, we have decided to end support for the Samsung Milk Video app as of November 20, 2015," said Samsung. The app debuted about a year ago and offered video content from select providers. People who've installed the app will not be able to use it to watch videos after Nov. 20. Samsung did not provide a reason for canceling the app. Milk Video was no preloaded on some of Samsung's most recent handsets, such as the Galaxy Note 5 or Galaxy S6 Edge+. Samsung's Milk Music application is still available to Android devices.
Google today increased the APK file size limit from 50MB to 100MB, which means developers will be able to create bigger, more complete apps available in a single download. Moving forward, users will only be warned when downloading apps that are larger than 100MB and still make use of Expansion Files (additional downloads not part of the main app install). Google says the improved 100MB APK limit eases restrictions on what can be installed via cellular networks, but large apps will still default to WiFi for over-the-air installs. Google said developers still need to keep in mind that larger apps take longer to download and longer to install, and that not all devices / wireless networks provide a good experience for large apps.
Samsung today made its mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, available to U.S. consumers. The service is compatible with only a few phones, including the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+, S6 Edge, and S6. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular support Samsung pay, but Verizon Wireless does not. Consumers can add their American Express, Bank of America, Citibank, or USBank MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card to the service, but it lacks support for Chase at launch. Samsung Pay differs from Apple Pay and Android Pay in one significant respect: it supports both NFC and MST transactions. MST, in particular, is more widely available than NFC and works with most regular credit card terminals used by retailers around the country. Samsung Pay is secured via fingerprint, and credit card information is tokenized so it is protected during transactions. Samsung will reward Note 5 and S6 Edge+ owners who activate Samsung Pay with a free wireless charger or a free wallet flip cover (through Oct. 11). Samsung Pay is free to set up and use.
Silent Circle today said its Blackphone 2 smartphone is now available for sale in the U.S. The handset, announced earlier this year, is a privacy-minded smartphone that offers security for business users. The phone features a 5.5-inch full HD screen; 64-bit octa-core processor with 3GB of RAM; 3,060mAh battery; microSDXC memory card support; QuickCharge 2.0; and PrivatOS. PrivatOS, an Android fork, includes Silent Spaces, Enterprise Space, and Personal Space to keep data cotainered and protected. The OS also supports traditional mobile device management tools. A service contract with Silent Circle, which provides encrypted calling, email, and messaging, is the only way to take full advantage of the security features. The Blackphone 2 costs $799.99.
T-Mobile said the Coolpad Rogue will soon join its lineup of inexpensive Android smartphones. The Rogue features a 4-inch WVGA screen, 1.1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 32GB. The main camera captures 2-megapixel images, while the user-facing camera is good for VGA selfies. The phone includes Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, and support for WiFi Calling, but without LTE it is limited to HSPA+ data speeds. The Coolpad Rogue goes on sale Sept. 30. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and will cost $49.99.
BlackBerry today said it will make a handset based on Google's Android operating system that also offers business users enterprise-class security features. "We are focused on making faster progress to achieve profitability in our handset business," said CEO John S. Chen. "I am confirming our plans to launch Priv, an Android device named after BlackBerry's heritage and core mission of protecting our customers' privacy. Priv combines the best of BlackBerry security and productivity with the expansive mobile application ecosystem available on the Android platform." BlackBerry said the phone will go on sale in stores and online by the end of the calendar year, and that more details will be made available in the coming weeks. At the same time, BlackBerry said it will continue to develop security and privacy updates for its own BlackBerry 10 platform, and expects to release 10.3.3 in March 2016. The news was shared as part of BlackBerry's quarterly earnings report, which showed the company lost $66 million on revenue of $490 million.
Google has updated the technology behind its voice-powered Google Now tool to boost performance. The company said it "built better neural network acoustic models using Connectionist Temporal Classification and sequence discriminative training techniques" that are more accurate and better able to discern individual voices in noisy environments. The updated tools require less computational power are also much faster. Google said it has made this technology available to the Google Search app for Android and iOS. Voice-based search and voice commands should demonstrate marked improvement.
Google may be facing an investigation into its business practices concerning the Android operating system, reports Bloomberg. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice have agreed to explore potential anticompetitive behavior on Google's part. Some companies have complained that Google uses Android to win online advertising placement by favoring it over that of its competitors. The investigation is in the early stages and may not lead to charges, according to Bloomberg's sources. Google did not immediately comment on the report. The government conducted a similar investigation into Google's search practices on Android last year. Google also faced claims that its app-bundling behaviors were anticompetitive. That matter has not yet been resolved.
Google today said most Android devices should be updated to Play Services version 8.1. The latest build of Play Services helps developers build new capabilities into their apps. For example, app invites let developers expand their user base by letting people extend app invites to other Android and even iOS users. Play Services 8.1 brings with it Ambient Mode Maps, which lets a low-power version of Android Maps run on Android Wear devices. The Google Nearby function lets Android devices see and interact with one another in developer-defined ways. The new Play Services also a refreshed API governing Play Games Player Stats for experiences tailored for different level players. Most importantly, Play Service 8.1 heralds the arrival of Android 6.0 Marshmallow and the way 6.0 handles app permissions. Developers can download the latest Android SDK from Google, which includes all the new and changed APIs. End users don't need to do anything to update their devices; Play Services 8.1 should already be automatically installed.
Microsoft's Garage lab has churned out another productivity-minded application, this time for the iPhone. Invite is an iOS-first app that purports to simplify the process of inviting others to meetings. The process is straight-forward. The organizer picks a time that works for him or her and then invites potential attendees through their email address. Attendees will get an email (or a notification if they have Invite installed) and can respond with times that work for them. Once all invitees have responded, the organizer can pick the time that works for the largest group of potential attendees and set the meeting time. After the meeting time is set, it is added to respondents' calendars. Microsoft says Invite will work best for those with Office 365 subscriptions, but it also functions with Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo mail. The app will be available to the iPhone first, followed by Android and Windows Phone.
Nextbit today released the final set of specs for the CDMA variant of its Robin smartphone. The details reveal that the device is compatible with Sprint's CDMA network in addition to Verizon's. The Robin supports CDMA in the 800MHz and 1900MHz bands, in addition to quad-band GSM, HSPA, and LTE. The CDMA version supports LTE in bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 13, 20, 25, 26, and 41. The device, which is based on Android and syncs apps and files seamlessly with the cloud, isn't expected to ship until the first quarter of 2016.
Pebble today announced the Pebble Time Round, a round variation of its stainless steel smartwatch. The Pebble Time Round runs the latest operating system, with features such as Timeline and third-party apps, and is compatible with Android (4.3) and iOS (8.0) smartphones. The color e-paper display has an LED backlight and always stays on. The Time Round can charge quickly, and the battery lasts for two days. It will be sold in five different styles, with a mix of 14mm or 20mm straps. The first batch of straps will be made of leather, but Pebble plans to sell stainless steel straps before too long. All straps will feature quick-release pins for easy switching. The watch is splash resistant, has a microphone for voice replies, and tactile buttons for easy use. The Pebble Time Round is available to pre-order to day for $249, but shipping times are listed at 6 to 8 weeks.
Facebook today began publishing 360-degree videos in users' Newsfeeds. The immersive videos are available from a handful of content providers to start and the selection should expand over time. According to Facebook, users on the web can pan around 360-degree videos using their mouse. On mobile devices, people can use their finger to push the camera around, or move the phone itself to view different sections of the video. Facebook said it will bring the 360-degree video to its Android application first, followed by iOS in a few months.
Google today updated its Gmail app for Android devices and added several spam-fighting tools. First, users can now block specific email addresses with just a few clicks. Email from blocked senders goes straight to the spam folder. Senders can be unblocked if warranted. Moreover, Gmail users can easily unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters. The updated app is rolling out to Android users over the next few days. Gmail is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Starbucks has expanded the availability of its mobile ordering feature to all 7,400 company-owned stores around the U.S. Starbucks also made the feature available to Android devices for the first time. With Mobile Order & Pay, customers can order and pay for food and drinks from Starbucks on their smartphone. The service supports customizing drinks with special ingredients. The app automatically selects the nearest Starbucks store, though people can select their preferred store if they wish. Mobile ordering has been available in select markets since late last year and has been spreading to more stores slowly. Today's expansion marks the end of the full rollout, nearly three months ahead of schedule. Starbucks says stores that support Mobile Order & Pay have shorter lines, faster service, and more efficient operations. The Starbucks app is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Google has revised the Google Wallet app for the iPhone to put it in line with the re-imagined Wallet app that now appears on Android devices. The Google Wallet app is now a simple tool for managing the Google Wallet Card and making payments to individuals. Recipients need only have an email address to receive money, and funds can be transferred via debit card, bank account, or Google Wallet balance. Google Wallet for iOS no longer supports loyalty cards, gift cards, or Google Offers, which have been ported to Android Pay. (Android Pay has replaced Google Wallet on Android devices for making tap-and-go mobile payments.) Google Wallet for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.