Phone Scoop

printed June 30, 2016
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Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.

by:  Google


Google Fit Tackles More Goals In Latest Update

Today, 10:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated the Google Fit application for Android and expanded its functionality to include a wider range of activities. The app gains more goal options and support for multiple goals, such as daily, weekly, and monthly goals for specific activities. The dashboard has been refreshed to display all the daily stats at once, and includes info on trends in your weight after logging new measurements. Last, Google Fit now allows people to (anonymously) compare their activity against other Fit users in the same area. For example, Fit might tell users that they are more active than 87% of the people in their town on a particular day. Google Fit is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Keep Sorts Notes By Topic

Today, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google Keep gained a useful tool in a recent update — the app can now categorize notes by topic. Keep will assign categories to topics such as web sites, recipes, or favorite places, and those topics will be searchable via keyword. The updated version of Google Keep is available to Android and iOS devices, as well as the web. Keep is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Samsung Intros Unlocked Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

Today, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 10:34 AM

Samsung today said U.S. consumers can buy unlocked variants of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. The devices are identical to those sold by carriers, but are unlocked and can be used on any GSM/CDMA network in the U.S. and abroad. The unlocked S7 and S7 Edge support LTE in Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 29, 30, and 41, making them highly compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Moreover, the devices ship without carrier apps and instead come with a clean build of Android 6.0 Marshmallow and Samsung's TouchWiz. The unlocked Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are available from Samsung.com, Amazon, Best Buy, Ebay, Sam's Club, and Target.com. The S7 costs $670 and the S7 Edge costs $770.


Blu R1 HD Revealed In Full

Yesterday, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today announced the Blu R1 HD, an inexpensive Android smartphone that will be sold unlocked starting July 12. The R1 HD boasts curved Gorilla Glass 3, a metal frame, and soft-touch paint job on the rear cover to give it a premium feel. The screen measures 5 inches with 720p HD resolution and the phone is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek 6735 processor with 8 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM. The R1 HD includes an 8-megapixel main camera with f/2.0 aperture and LED flash, while the selfie camera — which has an LED flash of its own — captures 5-megapixel images. The phone can record video up to 1080p HD. The Blu R1 HD runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and comes with support for two SIM cards and microSD cards up to 64 GB. The phone is sold unlocked and is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile (LTE in Bands 2, 4, 7, 17). The device costs $100, but will be sold exclusively by Amazon for $50 with ads and promotions appearing on the lock screen. A second variant includes 16 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM for $10 more.


Skype for Android Adds Arabic and Hebrew

Yesterday, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced version 7.05 for Android devices, which adds proper support for Arabic and Hebrew. Both languages are written right-to-left, not left-to-right like English or Spanish. Microsoft says Skype 7.05 offers a native right-to-left experience in the app for the first time. Rather than simply mirror its UI for Arabic and Hebrew, Skype recreated every transition animation and optimized its navigation tools to function normally with the two right-to-left languages. Skype 7.05 is free to download from the Google Play Store.


SanDisk Debuts Two 256 GB MicroSD Cards

Yesterday, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

SanDisk today announce two new high-capacity microSD memory cards for smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Both cards offer 256 GB of storage for photos, music, movies, and other content. The SanDisk Extreme microSDXC UHS-I card delivers transfer speeds of up to 100Mbps and write speeds up to 90Mbps for burst photo capture. SanDisk says the card can store up to 14 hours of 4K video. This card is meant more for professionals than consumers. SanDisk's Ultra microSDXC UHS-I card Premium Edition targets Android smartphones and tablets and is meant more for general capacity than raw speed. That said, transfer speeds reach as high as 95Mbps, which SanDisk claims is rapid enough to move up to 1,200 photos from a phone's built-in storage to the memory card in about one minute. The card can store up to 24 hours of full HD video. The Extreme microSDXC UHS-I will go on sale during the fourth quarter for $F200, while the Ultra microSDXC UHS-I will go on sale in August for $150.


Google's Cardboard-Based Expeditions Expand to All

Monday, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its Expeditions virtual reality application available to all Android devices. Expeditions lets people setup and participate in virtual tours of popular tourist spots, locations, and landmarks. At launch, the tool was limited to educational purposes. Today's expansion allows anyone and everyone to take virtual trips to more than 200 destinations with curated imagery and commentary. Google Expeditions is intended to work with the Google Cardboard VR viewer.


Google Makes New Google Cast SDK Available

Monday, 3:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today offered developers access to the Google Cast SDK version 3.0 for Android and iOS. Google first discussed changes to its casting platform at the I/O developer conference in May. Google Cast allows people to push content from smartphones, tablets, and laptops to other devices, such as television sets or media players. The revised Google Cast SDK is easier to use, more reliable, and quicker, says Google. Developers can make use of the SDK to add casting features to their own apps. The SDK is free for developers to access and use. Google believes the simplified SDK will convince more app writers to make content cast-able.


Twitter Wants You to Dress Up Images with Stickers

Monday, 9:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today said it is bringing stickers to its Android and iOS mobile apps. Twitter users can browse through Twitter's library of hundreds of accessory, emoji, and prop stickers to "make your photos more fun." Twitter says people can use multiple stickers on a single photo, as well as resize and rotate the stickers to better fit the image. Once images are adorned with stickers, the sticker's name will be added to the image as a searchable hashtag, allowing everyone to search for stickers to see how they've been used on various photos. Twitter is rolling out stickers to mobile devices and the web gradually over the next few weeks. Stickers have become popular in messaging and social networking apps, including Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.


Walmart Pay Now Available In 16 States

Jun 24, 2016, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart this week expanded the reach of its mobile payment service, Walmart Pay, to a total of 16 states. Walmart Pay was already available in Alabama. This week, the service went live in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Walmart Pay works with Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Walmart said it expects to complete its rollout by the end of summer. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own.


Nextbit Says OS Update to Tackle Battery Life In New Way

Jun 23, 2016, 10:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 23, 2016, 10:53 AM

Nextbit will bring the same thinking it used to create the Robin's dynamic storage functionality to the smartphone's battery in a future operating system update. "We can apply the same intelligence we've used for smart storage towards making your battery last significantly longer," said the company in a blog post. "We will launch a new version of Nextbit OS that gets to know your habits and optimizes functions at the system level to ensure you get the most screen time possible." Nextbit says its battery intelligence will work hand-in-hand with the existing power-saving tools in Android Marshmallow and the forthcoming features in Android N. The company didn't dive into specifics on how it will achieve battery gains, nor did to make any claims as to how much more battery life will be achieved through its technique. The operating system will be offered to members of the Nextibt Beta Program before it is released to all users in the fall. The Robin dynamically shifts photos, videos, and even apps from the phone to the cloud when needed to make room for new content.


Innovative Keyboard Case is Both Wireless and Battery-Free

Jun 22, 2016, 5:20 PM   by Rich Brome

One2Touch has a new keyboard case for Android phones called SlimType that uses NFC technology in a unique way to connect to a phone. Most keyboard cases have a battery or physical connector that adds bulk. The SlimType, however, draws power from the phone using NFC, and also uses NFC to communicate with the phone, eliminating the need for a Bluetooth radio. The standard SlimType model is no thicker than a typical leather flip case. The current model is optimized for the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7, but can work with some other Android phones with NFC. A larger model adds a rigid kickstand. An even larger non-case model provides a full-size keyboard. The standard model is available now from Amazon for $40. Read on for our hands-on impressions and more about the clever technology behind it.

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AT&T's Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Note 5 Earn Marshmallow

Jun 22, 2016, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today began distributing the Android 6.0 Marshmallow system update to the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5. The update includes the standard list of Marshmallow features, such as Now On Tap, Doze, and improved permissions. It also adds support for AT&T Video Calling. The update resolves bugs and security issues and smoothes out performance, as well. AT&T says the update is being pushed out over the air and should be downloaded via WiFi. It may take a few days to reach all users.


Google Reveals When Nexus Phones Will Cease Receiving Android Updates

Jun 22, 2016, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google revised its Nexus support page and provided more information on how long Nexus-branded phones will receive future software updates. Google says Nexus devices will get Android version updates (Lollipop, Marshmallow, etc.) for at least two years from when the device became available on the Google Store. The Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, for example, will receive Android system updates at least through September 2017, while the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 will receive updates through October 2016. Security patches will be pushed out for three years from the original availability date or for 18 months after the device is removed from the Google Play Store (whichever is longer). Major Android update arrive generally once per year, while security patches are pushed through one per month. Android version N is expected to arrive later this summer.


Ultimate Ears Adds Google Now and Siri to UE Boom 2 Speaker

Jun 21, 2016, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ultimate Ears' high-end Bluetooth speakers now allow Android and iPhone owners to use voice prompts to control their music. Ultimate Ears is rolling out a firmware update for the UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom that adds Google Now and Siri support. The update must be installed via the Ultimate Ears mobile app. Once added, smartphone users can ask Google Now or Siri to play their favorite songs, albums, or playlists. According to Ultimate Ears, its speakers are simply acting as a microphone. Voice commands are based on those already supported by Google Now or Siri, which means people can address Google Now and Siri via the UE Boom 2 and Megaboom using any language those services support. Similarly, people can interact with any music apps Google Now and Siri support, such as Google Play Music, Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music. A quick press of the Bluetooth button on the speaker itself puts the speaker in listening mode, allowing people to use voice commands to change songs. Ultimate Ears says its mobile app does not need to be running on the associated phone in order to use the feature. The Ultimate Ears mobile app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. The UE Boom 2 costs $180 and the UE Megaboom costs $250.


Google Simplifies 2-Step Verification

Jun 21, 2016, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made it easier for people to setup and use two-step verification to protect their accounts. Google already allowed users to tap a Security Key or enter a verification code sent to their phone. Now, users can also approve a new security prompt that pops up on the screen. According to Google, users can select any of these three methods for two-step verification via their Google account settings online. Android users will need the latest version of Google Play Services on their device, and iOS users will need the Google Search app. As the name implies, two-step verification adds a second layer of security to account logins.


Boost and Virgin to Sell LG K3 for $80

Jun 17, 2016, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint's prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today announced plans to sell the LG K3 handset. The phone is available from both carriers' web sites today and will reach Boost Mobile stores next week. The phone runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and features a 4.5-inch screen, quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor clocked at 1.1 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and a 1,940mAh battery. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with flash, while the front camera has a VGA sensor and a selfie light. Both cameras include LG's shooting tools, such as Cheese Shutter and Gesture Shot. The LG K3 costs $79.99.


Google Calendar, Sheets, Now On Tap Gain New Tools

Jun 17, 2016, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated a slew of its mobile apps this week, adding new features to Google Calendar, Sheets, and Now On Tap for Android devices. To start, Google Calendar made it easy to see when you're free when scheduling a new event. Google Sheets makes it possible to automatically save spreadsheets locally for offline´╗┐ editing. Last, the beta version of Now On Tap gain adds a second row of icons that provide access to a number of Google actions, such as set a reminder, create calendar events, or navigate to/from work. Google Calendar and Google Sheets are free to download from the Google Play Store. Now On Tap version 6 is available to beta testers running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.


Verizon Picks Up Samsung's Galaxy J3

Jun 17, 2016, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 17, 2016, 9:14 AM

Verizon Wireless has added the Samsung Galaxy J3 to its lineup of inexpensive smartphones. The J3, which has been for sale from Boost Mobile and other carriers since early this year, has a 5-inch 720p screen, 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 16 GB (postpaid) or 8 GB (prepaid) of storage, 5-megapixel main camera with flash, 2-megapixel front camera, and 2,600mAh battery. Notably, Verizon's version of the phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Earlier versions of the phone shipped with Lollipop. The phone costs $168 at full retail, which breaks down to $7 per month for 24 months. Verizon is also offering the phone for $40 with a two-year contract, or for $110 when purchased from Verizon's prepaid service. The Samsung Galaxy J3 is available online starting today. It will reach Verizon's stores on June 23.


Walmart Kicks Off Walmart Pay Trial In Alabama

Jun 16, 2016, 2:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart today launched its mobile payment service, Walmart Pay, at 120 of its retail stores in Alabama. The service, announced late last year, works with Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Walmart initially expected to deploy the technology around the country by mid-year, but Alabama is the first statewide deployment so far. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own. CurrentC, another mobile payment app developed by the Merchant Customer Exchange, was recently cancelled. Apple and Google have both outlined plans to expand their mobile payment services to the web in the months ahead.


Google Photos Picks Up New Slideshow Feature

Jun 16, 2016, 1:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier to view photo albums online and on Android handsets with a new slideshow tool. Photos users need only open an album, click a picture, and select "slideshow" from the dropdown menu to initiate a slideshow of all the photos in that particular album. Slideshows will playback automatically in the browser or on Android devices. Further, users can cast slideshows from a PC or Android phone to a nearby TV. Google Photos for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Opera Ad Blocker Now Available to Android, iOS, Windows

Jun 16, 2016, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera updated several of its mobile browsers today, bringing its ad blocking tool to Android, iOS, and Windows handsets. First, Opera refreshed its main Opera browser for Android. In addition to the ad blocker, Opera for Android also gains support for web push notifications and multi-window support. Further, the browser's core was upgraded to Chromium 50. Opera for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Opera also updated Opera Mini for iOS and Opera Mini for Windows phones (8.1 and 10). Both platforms gain access to Opera's ad blocker. For all devices, the ad blocker is not on by default; users will need to activate it in the settings. Opera Mini for iOS and Windows is available from the iTunes App Store and Windows Store, respectively.


LG Adds Four New Handsets to X Series

Jun 16, 2016, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced four new X-branded Android smartphones to fill out its mid-tier range of devices. Like the X cam and X screen announced earlier this year, each of the new X phones has a single, enhanced feature that defines the device. The X power has a 4,100mAh battery with rapid charging for power-hungry users, while the X style has a curved design and slim body. The X mach boasts an LTE Cat 9 cellular radio, a 1.8 GHz processor, and a quad HD screen, while the X max includes an over-sized display for consuming media. LG said more details about the new X series, including pricing and availability, will be shared on a market-by-market basis. The X power, X style, X mach, and X max will go on sale around the world soon.


T-Mobile and MetroPCS to Sell Samsung Galaxy On5

Jun 15, 2016, 12:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it and its prepaid brand MetroPCS will kick off sales of the Samsung Galaxy On5 later this month. The On5 is an inexpensive Android smartphone with a 5-inch 720p HD display, 5-megapixel main camera with LED flash, and 2-megapixel front camera. The On5 is powered by a quad-core Samsung Exynos processor, and the phone includes 1.5 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. A memory card slot lets users expand storage up to 128 GB. The phone runs Android 6 Marshmallow with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface, including East Home. Samsung gave the On5 a 2,600mAh battery. MetroPCS will sell the Galaxy On5 starting June 27 for $59 (after $70 rebate) and T-Mobile will sell the phone starting June 29 for $140, or $5.83 per month for 24 months.

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Google Releases 4th Dev Preview of Android N

Jun 15, 2016, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Android N Developer Preview 4 available to developers and beta testers. Google says devices that are enrolled in the beta program should be able to update to the newest preview right away. The N Developer Preview is available to the Nexus 6, 5X, 6P, 9, and Pixel C devices, as well as the Sony Xperia Z3. In addition to releasing the preview, Google also finalized the APIs for Android N. This means developers have the complete set of tools they need in order to create apps compatible with Android N. Developers will need to download the final SDK for Android N in order to access the finished APIs. Google says it will release Android N later this summer.


AT&T Brings WiFi Calling to Android Phones

Jun 15, 2016, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today launched WiFi Calling on Android. Starting with the LG G4, AT&T customers will be able to make/receive calls and send/receive text messages via WiFi. AT&T said customers with compatible phones will receive a notification once the feature is available to them. A small software update is required. AT&T said WiFi Calling is available to customers with postpaid accounts set-up for HD Voice service. The phone will automatically make calls via WiFi when it detects limited or no cell coverage. WiFi calls are billed based on the number being called, so AT&T customers can call U.S. numbers via WiFi free of charge when abroad. AT&T said it expects WiFi Calling to be available on more Android devices soon. WiFi Calling has been available to the iPhone since last year.


Facebook Messenger Brings SMS Back to Android App

Jun 14, 2016, 12:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today said Facebook Messenger users will once again be able to send SMS messages — as long as they're running Android. Essentially, Android users can set Messenger as the default SMS app, which will route all SMS messages and conversations through Messenger rather than any other SMS apps that may be installed on the device. Messenger used to support SMS, but Facebook removed the feature back in 2012. Facebook says Messenger doesn't send, upload, or store conversations on its servers. Moreover, it uses the standard SMS protocol and not cellular data to send SMS messages. Sending SMS via Messenger includes text, pictures, videos, and audio snippets, but content such as stickers, emoji, GIFs, and voice/video calls will require the use of Messenger's data functions. Facebook Messenger is free to download from the Google Play Store.


OnePlus 3 Boasts Unibody Design, 6 GB of RAM

Jun 14, 2016, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today announced its third-generation flagship smartphone, the OnePlus 3. The 3 features a sleek, unibody design milled from a single block of aluminum and it measures 7.3mm thick. OnePlus selected a 5.5-inch full HD AMOLED display with thin bezels and a dual-polarizing layer to help colors remain vivid under bright light. The phone has a 16-megapixel main camera with a variety of capture modes, such as Smart Capture, Auto HDR, and Dynamic De-noise, which OnePlus claims eliminates noise by merging several images. The camera also includes optical and electronic image stabilization, as well as RAW image capture. The 8-megapixel selfie camera features a Smile Capture function to help ease the process of snagging those self portraits. The OnePlus 3 is powered by a 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor with 6 GB of RAM. OnePlus says the ceramic fingerprint sensor can identify prints in 0.2 seconds. The phone adopts OnePlus' Dash Charge technology, which can give the 3,000mAh battery a 60% charge in 30 minutes. The OnePlus 3 runs OxygenOS, which is based on Android 6 Marshmallow. OxygenOS includes off-screen gestures and the ability to customize the hardware and software buttons used to control the user interface. The phone will be sold unlocked with support for a wide number of LTE networks around the world. The OnePlus 3 is available online starting today for $399 — no invitation required.

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Apple Retunes Apple Music

Jun 13, 2016, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced an entirely new version of Apple Music. Apple redesigned the app from the ground up to improve the user experience. It includes new navigation tools, bigger buttons, richer artwork, and more functional playback controls. Users will be able to find locally stored music much quicker, search for new artists, and share playlist with ease. Apple says Apple Radio will include more stations that are simpler to search through and listen to. The new Apple Music will be available to the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, and Android Devices at some point in the future.


Moto 360, LG G Watch Won't Get Android Wear 2.0

Jun 13, 2016, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola and LG have said their first-generation Android Wear smartwatches won't be updated to the newest version of the wearable platform from Google. Both companies recently shared the news via their official Twitter accounts. The two wearables were first announced in 2014 and were among the first wave of smartwatches to run Android Wear. Motorola and LG did update the wearables to Android Wear 1.2 in 2015, but it appears that's as far as they will go. Moreover, LG says it has discontinued the LG G Watch in favor of newer models. Android Wear 2.0 adds a number of features and requires fresh hardware for WiFi and cellular connectivity. Android Wear 2.0 is available to developers, but won't be released to the general public until later this year.


Facebook Users Can Now Comment On Posts with Videos

Jun 10, 2016, 10:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has made it possible for people to comment on posts, photos, or videos with videos of their own. Facebook says the idea was to "enable more engaging and immersive conversations." Comments now support videos, links, photos, stickers, and emoji. Videos can be used as replies to posts made by people, groups, company pages, and events. The video comment feature is available to web, Android, and iOS users worldwide.


Hands On with the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Project Tango Phone

Jun 9, 2016, 6:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo showed off what it claims is the first Project Tango smartphone, the Phab 2 Pro. This gigantic Android smartphone boasts four cameras to help it capture and create augmented and virtual reality content. Here are our initial impressions.

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Lenovo Shows Off the Phab 2 Pro Project Tango Phone

Jun 9, 2016, 12:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 9, 2016, 12:53 PM

Lenovo today announced the Phab 2 Pro, a smartphone aimed at helping people capture virtual and augmented reality content. It builds on the foundation set by the first Project Tango tablet, but is a smaller and more refined device. Lenovo designed the Phab 2 Pro in partnership with Google, which heads Project Tango. The device is a premium handset with an aluminum design, a 6.4-inch quad HD display, and a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone has four cameras: an 8-megapixel selfie camera, a 16-megapixel main camera, a depth camera, and a motion-tracking camera. Lenovo says these latter two are core to helping create virtual/augmented reality content. The phone includes Dolby Atmos sound and is able to capture audio with Dolby 5.1 for more immersive sound. The Phab 2 Pro includes a 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android and will be available in September at Best Buy stores for $499.

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Facebook Turns On Support for 360-Degree Photos

Jun 9, 2016, 12:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made it possible for people to upload and view 360-degree imagery. The tool includes support for panorama-style photos, as well as full 360-degree photos or photo spheres. Facebook says it will call out 360-degree images with a little compass icon, and users will be able to interact with them both on mobile devices as well as the web. People can view 360-degree photos through Samsung's Gear VR headset, as well. Facebook says a number of organizations, such as NASA, have prepared 360-degree photos that will be available on Facebook soon. Facebook plans to update its Android and iOS mobile apps in the next couple of days, which will include the ability to upload 360-degree photos. Facebook already supports 360-degree video.


Google Debuts 'Nearby' to Alerts Android Users to What's Close

Jun 9, 2016, 11:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced Nearby, a way for Android devices to show people relevant apps, web sites, and other information based on location. It takes the idea of the physical web, which displayed web sites of nearby businesses, a step further. For example, Android owners who walk into a CVS may be prompted to print their photos while in the store, or people visiting The Broad in Los Angeles may be prompted to download the audio tour. Nearby might also suggest users set up Google Cast or Android Wear devices when in range. In order to take advantage of Nearby, people will need to have location and Bluetooth enabled, as it relies on Bluetooth beacons. The suggestions will be delivered via push notifications that can be acted upon or ignored. Google said developers need to add Nearby to their beacons/locations before people will begin to see them.


Verizon Taking Preorders for LG K8 V Starting June 9

Jun 8, 2016, 2:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it will begin accepting preorders for the LG K8 V on June 9. This affordable Android smartphone has a 5-inch 720p HD screen and is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 16 GB of storage. The K8 V has an 8-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera with selfie light. It packs a 2,125mAh battery, supports Verizon's HD Voice service, and can roam internationally. The LG K8 V runs Android Marshmallow and will cost $144 when it goes in sale June 16.


Alcatel Says Idol 3 Gets Android Marshmallow Today

Jun 8, 2016, 12:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel's Idol 3 smartphone should begin receiving Android 6.0 Marshmallow starting today. The company shared the news via its official Twitter account. The Idol 3 was Alcatel's 2015 flagship Android smartphone. It was initially sold directly to consumers unlocked, but was eventually picked up by Cricket Wireless. For now, Alcatel says only the unlocked variant will receive Marshmallow. The system update includes a number of new features, such as Now On Tap, Doze, and advanced permissions. Alcatel announced the Idol 4 back in February, but has yet to say when its 2016 flagship phone will go on sale.


Latest Pebble System Update Improves Health and Weather

Jun 8, 2016, 7:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pebble has tweaked the performance of its health app and introduced a brand new weather app in a system update for Pebble smartwatches. Pebble OS version 3.13 takes steps to improve the accuracy of Pebble Health, which now accounts for movements during sleep and prevents them from being logged as steps. The fitness graphs available in Pebble Health now include clearer messages, and the app adds support for 24-hour military time. Pebble says its new Weather application is powered by The Weather Channel, and the info can be called up on-demand whenever needed. It supplies the current temperature and conditions, the high and low temps for the day, and the following day's forecast. Last, the updated Pebble software adds a fire emoji. Pebble says Android and iPhone owners need to update their smartphone app to version 3.13, which will then install the new firmware on the smartwatch itself. The Pebble app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


MCX to Discontinue CurrentC On June 28

Jun 7, 2016, 6:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Merchant Customer Exchange said that its CurrentC mobile payment service will be shut down in its current form later this month. "We will be concluding our beta on June 28, 2016," said the MCX web site. "Please stay tuned for new information on CurrentC as our future plans evolve." CurrentC is a mobile payment service created by a collection of retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy, Dunkin Donuts, Kmart, Old Navy, Kohl's, Lowes, and others. It was meant to compete with Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. The service was initially beta tested in Columbus, Ohio. Last month, MCX delayed the national rollout of CurrentC and said it planned to evaluate its future. Now, according to the MCX web site, the organization said it has "not yet determined the future timing of CurrentC, but we will keep you posted." None of the retailers that supported CurrentC have announced plans to support the other mobile payment services being used by today's smartphone owners.


Snapchat Shakes Up 'Stories' and 'Discover' Sections

Jun 7, 2016, 4:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today began rolling out a new version of its mobile application for Android and iOS devices. The latest build of the social-minded app gives an entirely new look to the Stories and Discover sections, allowing users to see what's new before tapping thanks to newly-added photos and headlines. The general idea is to give content created by publishers more visibility within the app. As such, when people complete viewing publisher content in the Discover section, a quick swipe allows them to subscribe for updates that will appear below friends' Stories. Last, tapping the navigation buttons at the bottom of the app allows users to jump between screens more easily. Snapchat is free to download from iTunes and the Google Play Store.


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