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printed August 23, 2014
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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 Search Speaks More than One Language at a Time

Yesterday, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has improved the multilingual capabilities of its voice search feature. The latest version of Google Search allows users to speak up to five different languages without requiring that they change the settings each time. User need only tell Google Search the five languages they expect to use once, and voice search will be able to recognize them automatically when spoken. Android device owners can perform voice searches with more than 50 languages at present, and Google expects to add more over time. According to Google, users need to stick to one language per sentence in order for voice search to recognize and translate the language. Google Search for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Yahoo Adds More Magazines to Mobile App for Android

Thursday, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today made more content available to the Yahoo app for Android in the shape of digital magazines. The app now includes Yahoo Food, Tech, Travel, Movies, Beauty, and Health. The digital magazines use a visual storytelling style that Yahoo believes is more immersive. The app lets Android device owners access a wide range of content across Yahoo's properties. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Vine Adds Support for Videos Stored in Camera Roll

Wednesday, 11:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine today pushed out an update to its iOS application that should make it easier for people to share videos. To start, users can now upload older videos from the camera roll on their iPhone. Previously, videos had to be shot new within the Vine app. The app also adds a number of new editing functions, such as the ability to duplicate clips, lock focus of either front/rear cameras, and delete the last video captured. Other tools include a level, shooting grid, and support for the flash for shooting in the dark. Vine for iOS is available for free from the iTunes App Store. A similar update should be available to Android devices soon.


ZTE Offering Nubia 5S Mini LTE via Amazon for $280

Wednesday, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced it is bringing the Nubia 5S mini with LTE to the U.S. The 5S mini is a compact handset that's part of ZTE's premium line of Android smartphones. It has a 4.7-inch 720p HD IGZO display from Sharp, and it is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with an Adreno 305 GPU. The phone is equipped with a 13-megapixel main camera and a bevy of advanced controls for focus, light metering, and white balance. The five-element f/2.2 lens is protected by sapphire, and the camera has three shooting modes: Fun, Auto, and Pro. The 5S mini has a 5-megapixel user-facing camera, too, and can capture 720p HD video. Other hardware features include 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a memory card slot; Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and support for AT&T/T-Mobile LTE; and a 2,000mAh battery. ZTE is offering the Nubia 5S mini with LTE directly to consumers via Amazon, where the device costs $280 and ships unlocked. The phone is available for order today, and ships starting August 27.

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Google Offers Photo Sphere App to iPhone

Tuesday, 12:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today published a version of its Photo Sphere app for iOS. The app allows iPhone owners to stand in one spot and capture a 360-degree view of whatever is around them. Photo Spheres can be published to Google Maps or shared with various social networks. Before today, Photo Sphere was only available to Android smartphones (similar apps are already available to iPhones from other companies). Photo Sphere is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


HTC One Trades Android for Windows Phone

Tuesday, 9:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 9:32 AM

HTC today announced the One for Windows Phone, a variant of the One (M8) that swaps Google's mobile platform for Microsoft's. The One for Windows Phone runs the latest operating system from Microsoft and carries over a few HTC apps, such as Blinkfeed, the HTC duo-camera, SenseTV, Video Highlights, and BoomSound. The One for Windows Phone adopts some of the M8's motion gestures, such as double-tap to wake, but also loses a few. Apart from the operating system, the hardware is identical to the One (M8) with Android. It has the same 5-inch 1080p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, Ultra-pixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera, and premium aluminum design. The HTC One for Windows Phone is exclusive to Verizon Wireless. It is available online from VerizonWireless.com beginning today and reaches Verizon stores August 20 for $99 with a new contract or $30 with Verizon Edge.

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Sprint Formally Debuts Sharp Aquos Crystal

Tuesday, 9:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 1:41 PM

Sprint today announced the Sharp Aquos Crystal, a mid-range handset that it will sell later this year. The Sharp Aquos features a nearly bezel-less design, with narrow edges running along the top and sides of the phone. The screen measures 5 inches and offers 720p HD resolution. The device offers a handful of software features developed by Sharp, including Clip Now, which takes screen shots with a swipe and makes them easily sharable via link. Speaktoit Assistant is a natural language assistant that can perform a number of tasks, such as answer questions, open apps, place calls, and send texts. The device comes with Harman Kardon Clari-Fi and LiveStage audio technologies for improved music reproduction, and Direct Wave Receiver technology, which uses the display panel to create sound for phone calls. The device runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and includes the usual suite of Google services, in addition to OfficeSuite for editing Microsoft documents. Other hardware features include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The Aquos supports microSD cards up to 128GB. The camera captures 8-megapixel still images and 1080p HD video. It also has a 1.2-megapixel camera for selfies. The Aquos will cost $240 at full retail, or $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $10 with Sprint. Sprint subsidiaries Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will also sell the device at the price of $150. Virgin and Boost do not require contracts.


SoftBank and Sprint Working with Sharp on Edgeless Phone

Monday, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

SoftBank, which owns Sprint, today said it has chosen Sharp to supply it with low-cost smartphones. The handset deal with Sharp includes Sprint, which will also sell phones made by Sharp. The first such device is a handset called the Sharp Aquos Crystal, which the company revealed today. The Crystal features an edgeless design. SoftBank believes its combined scale with Sprint will allow it to sell the Sharp Aquos Crystal at a low cost. SoftBank's announcement coincides with a Sprint event scheduled for August 19. The event invite reads "Time to take the Edge Off," which could be a reference to the edgeless design of the Aquos Crystal. According to Sharp, the Crystal includes a 5-inch 720p HD screen, Snapdragon 400 processor, and runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Sharp has not sold handsets in the U.S. for several years.


HTC to Offer Zoe, Other Apps to All Android Phones

Aug 13, 2014, 7:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC is prepared to make a version of its Zoe application available in the Google Play Store. The app is intended for all Android devices, which will be able to shoot their own Zoes and share the creative video-making process with others. HTC's Zoe is a camera feature specific to a select few of its smartphones, such as the HTC One (both M7 and M8). The new app will allow Samsung, LG, and other Android devices to shoot video clips and pair them with themes and pictures to create 30-second masterpieces. The critical element of the new app is the ability to share Zoes online and contribute to them. For example, HTC envisions multiple people using Zoe to capture an event, such as a wedding, and then adding their own clips to a longer community video that provides for a more compete representation of the event. Zoe will reach the Play Store later this week. HTC is not stopping at Zoe, according to Re/Code. HTC plans to make other apps available to all Android devices. The company has already broken out some of its proprietary apps, such as the gallery and calendar, so they may be updated more frequently outside of full OS upgrades. HTC has assembled a team of 260 people, collectively called HTC Creative Labs, to work on its apps both for HTC and non-HTC phones. HTC didn't say which apps might arrive next.


Samsung Refreshes Its Design Language with Galaxy Alpha

Aug 13, 2014, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Galaxy Alpha, an Android smartphone that breaks ties with Samsung's plastic past and introduces metal. The Galaxy Alpha has a metallic frame forming the four outer edges of the device, which has a glass front and textured plastic back panel. At 6.7mm thick, the Alpha is one of Samsung's thinnest phones. The Alpha features a 4.7-inch 720p display and is powered by an octa-core processor (four 1.8GHz cores and four 1.3GHz cores). It includes 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, but does not support microSD cards. The Alpha has a 12-megapixel main camera and 2.1-megapixel user-facing camera along with a wide number of Samsung's camera tools, such as Shot & More, Selective Focus, and Beauty Face. It can shoot 4K (Ultra HD) video. Connectivity functions include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and NFC. The Alpha also offers Ultra Power Savings Mode, Download Booster, Quick Connect, and Private Mode, which can be secured with a fingerprint thanks to the fingerprint scanner built into the home button. Samsung said the Galaxy Alpha will ship beginning in September. It will be sold in a variety of colors. Samsung did not detail which markets will see the Alpha first.


Boost Adds LG Realm to Prepaid Lineup

Aug 12, 2014, 4:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 12, 2014, 5:20 PM

Boost Mobile today announced the LG Realm, an inexpensive Android handset, which is available contract-free beginning today for $80. The LG Realm, also sold as the Optimus Exceed 2, runs Android 4.4 KitKat and includes several LG features, such as Knock Code, QSlide apps, and QuickMemo. The Realm features a 4.5-inch display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3; a 1.2GHz dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of onboard storage; a 5-megapixel main camera with VGA front-facing camera; and a 2100mAh battery. The LG Realm is HD Voice-capable. The Realm is available from Boost's web site and select retailers.


HTC's Desire Range More Broadly Available in US

Aug 11, 2014, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today expanded the availability of the Desire 816 and Desire 610 in the U.S. First, Virgin Mobile has committed to selling the Desire 816, which will be available beginning August 12 for $299. The 816 is an inexpensive phablet, which features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, plastic shell, and BoomSound speakers. Virgin Mobile does not require contracts. Second, HTC is making the Desire 816 and Desire 610 available to U.S. consumers directly via its web site. The 610 has a 4.7-inch screen and BoomSound speakers. The 610 is also available from AT&T's GoPhone prepaid brand for $200. Both devices run the latest version of Android and HTC Sense 6.0.


Microsoft Debuts Entry-Level Nokia 130 Handset

Aug 11, 2014, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the Nokia 130, a simple, inexpensive handset meant for first-timers and emerging markets. The candybar-style phone runs the Series 30 platform and includes a 1.8-inch screen, stereo headphone jack, Bluetooth 3.0, and support for memory cards up to 32GB. According to Microsoft, the Nokia 130 supports both video and audio playback, and includes an FM radio. The phone has a flashlight, but no camera. The Nokia 130 will reach select markets this quarter. Pricing is expected to be about $25 and it will be sold in single- and dual-SIM variants. Microsoft Devices Group includes the handset division of Nokia, which Microsoft acquired earlier this year. Microsoft's Jo Harlow said though the company is killing off Nokia's Android/X devices, it still believes there is a good market opportunity for entry-level phones in addition to its Lumia Windows Phone devices.


HTC One (M8) to Add MirrorLink Support for Cars

Aug 11, 2014, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC and the Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that a forthcoming software update will make the One (M8) MirrorLink compatible. MirrorLink is a connectivity tool for pairing smartphones and cars. It works across smartphone platforms and car manufacturers, and, according to the CCC, is the only vendor-neutral standard available. With MirrorLink aboard, the One (M8) will be able to connect to select in-car infotainment systems,m allowing drivers to more safely access their phone's content when behind the wheel. It's unclear how many cars currently support MirrorLink, but the CCC hopes with HTC's support more will choose to support it. Apple and Google both recently announced their own connectivity solutions for cars, which are expected to appear in iOS 8 and Android Release L, respectively. HTC said it will add MirrorLink support to mode devices down the road.


Skype to End Support for Windows Phone 7 and Symbian

Aug 8, 2014, 9:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently indicated it will cease to support Skype on devices running Windows Phone 7 and Symbian. The company said it will retire the official Skype app for WP7, as well as any ancillary apps that support it over the next few weeks. "We want everyone to experience the best Skype has to offer – from enhanced quality to better reliability to improved security – and the newest version of Skype is the way to do that. So everyone can benefit from the latest improvements, we sometimes retire older versions of Skype across all platforms, including mobile devices," explained the company. Of Symbian, Microsoft said, "Symbian wasn't built for the cloud-connected world, so we are retiring the Skype for Symbian app and focusing on bringing the best possible experience to the most popular mobile platforms: Windows Phone, iOS, and Android." Symbian is Nokia's old smartphone operating system and was among the first to support Skype years ago.


AT&T Scores LG G Vista

Aug 8, 2014, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 8, 2014, 9:14 AM

AT&T today announced it will soon sell the LG G Vista, an inexpensive Android smartphone that offers a big-screen experience. The G Vista, which is already available from Verizon Wireless, has a 5.7-inch display with qHD (960 x 540) resolution. The volume and lock screen buttons are placed on the back of the device, similar to the G3. The G Vista is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. It includes an 8-megapixel main camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 1.3-megapixel user-facing camera. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, NFC and Isis for mobile payments, and a 3,200mAh battery. The LG G Vista runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The G Vista will cost $14.80 per month with AT&T Next 18, $17.75 per month with AT&T Next 12, $50 with a new two-year contract, or $355 at full retail. It will be available beginning August 22.


Facebook Messenger App Sends Notifications to Android Wear

Aug 7, 2014, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook recently updated its Android mobile application and made it compatible with the Android Wear platform. Android Wear devices can now display incoming alerts from Facebook Messenger, and wearers can respond or Like the messages.


Skype Improves Photo Sharing for Windows Phone

Aug 6, 2014, 9:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today updated its mobile application for devices running Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1. The new version of Skype makes it possible to send photos to one or more contacts at a time, as well as receive photos from other Windows Phone and iOS devices. Photos shared to desktop or Android machines will instead send a link rather than the actual file. The app also makes it possible to see more chat view history; supports text mark-up (asterisks for bold, etc.); adds favorites to the chat view; and makes several performance improvements. Skype said it continues to work on its mobile app across platforms and hopes to share these features with them soon. Skype is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.


Sony Cuts PlayStation Mobile for Android

Aug 6, 2014, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today said it won't support PlayStation Mobile for Android moving forward. PlayStation Mobile gave select Sony Android handsets access to old PSOne titles in addition to those developed specifically for PS Mobile. According to Sony, PlayStation Certified devices running Android 4.4.2 and below will continue to be able to access the service. Devices running Android 4.4.3 and up will be able to access it, but may run into compatibility and performance issues. Devices running Android Release L (which is not yet available) won't be able to access PlayStation Mobile at all. Sony said it won't grant PlayStation Certified status to any more devices. Separately, Sony also announced plans to exit the e-reader market. It cited its inability to compete with devices such as the Amazon Kindle as playing a role in the decision.


T-Mobile and MetroPCS Score Waterproof Kyocera Hydro Life

Aug 4, 2014, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 4, 2014, 10:24 AM

T-Mobile and MetroPCS today announced the Kyocera Hydro Life, a new semi-rugged and waterproof Android smartphone. Like many of Kyocera's handsets, the Hydro Life is for customers who need a robust phone that can survive the trials and tribulations of an active lifestyle. It is certified to mil-spec 810G for protection against drops and shock, and IP57 for protection against dust and water damage (submersion in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes). The phone has an impact-resistant 4.5-inch qHD display that Kyocera says has a non-slip finish. The Hydro Life is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The phone includes a 5-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel selfie camera. The Hydro Life packs Kyocera's Smart Sonic receiver for improved phone call audio, as well as Kyocera's EcoMode and MaxiMZR tools for managing the 2,000mAh battery. The phone supports Wi-Fi and T-Mobile's Wi-Fi calling service, as well as Bluetooth 4.0, and T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. The Kyocera Hydro Life runs Android 4.3. It will be available to T-Mobile customers at Walmart stores beginning August 8 for $125. It will reach MetroPCS stores on August 29.


Sprint Expands Framily Wall to iPhone Customers

Aug 4, 2014, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said its iPhone customers now have access to the Sprint Framily Wall product. Sprint customers can use the Framily Wall to hold single and group chats, share videos and pictures, and collaborate through calendars. The basic service is free and includes 100MB of online storage. A premium version ups storage to 10GB and adds support for HD photos/videos for $3 per month. Sprint Framily Wall is already available to Android devices.


Microsoft Takes Samsung to Court for Abandoning Patent Agreement

Aug 1, 2014, 5:23 PM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today filed suit against Samsung for failing to comply with a 2011 agreement on Android patent royalties. Samsung had been paying Microsoft a certain amount for each Android phone sold, but has threatened to stop since Microsoft closed its acquisition of Nokia's device business.


Cricket to Sell ZTE Grand X

Aug 1, 2014, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today announced the pending availability of the ZTE Grand X, a large-screened Android smartphone. The Grand X features a 5-inch display with Gorilla Glass and a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm. The Grand X boasts two cameras. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 1-megapixel sensor. The phone has a 2,300mAh battery that supports QuickCharge 1.0 for faster charging. The Grand X, which runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, will be available beginning August 8. It will cost $100 after a $50 mail-in rebate.


Verizon Scores the LG G Vista, a Budget Phablet

Jul 31, 2014, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today began selling the LG G Vista, an inexpensive Android smartphone that offers a big-screen experience. The G Vista has a 5.7-inch display with qHD (960 x 540) resolution. It is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The design of the phone strongly resembles that of the LG G3. For example, the volume and lock screen buttons are placed on the back of the device. The G Vista is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. It includes an 8-megapixel main camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 1.3-megapixel selfie camera. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, NFC and Isis for mobile payments, and a 3,200mAh battery. The G Vista carries over many of LG's proprietary apps and functions, such as KnockON and KnockCode, QSlide apps, QuickMemo, and Dual Window for multitasking. The LG G Vista runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and costs $100 with a new contract or $20 per month with Verizon Edge. It is available beginning today.


Kyocera Brigadier for Verizon Has Sapphire Screen

Jul 31, 2014, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today added the Kyocera Brigadier to its lineup. The Brigadier has the distinction of being one of the first phones to ship in the U.S. with a Sapphire display. Sapphire is more resistant than glass to breakage and scratching. The 4.5-inch HD display works with gloves, and offers wet finger tracking so it can be used when wet. The Brigadier is a rugged smartphone that can survive drops, vibration, and exposure to water and dust. It can sit in up to 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The device is powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The Brigadier features an 8-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.0, dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC and Isis for mobile payments, Qi wireless charging, EcoMode, and a 3,100mAh battery. The Kyocera Brigadier runs Android 4.4 KitKat. It costs $100 with a two-year contract or $20 per month with Verizon Edge. It is available starting today.


Google Makes More Android APIs Available to Developers

Jul 30, 2014, 9:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently released a new tool for developers who are writing apps for the Android platform. Google made the Google Play Developer Publishing API available to all developers, which will allow them to upload APKs to beta testing, staged rollouts, and production, as well as add publishing operations to their app processes. According to Google, the API should make it easier for developers to manage their in-app offerings and localize their in-app store's text and graphics. Google believes the API will help free up time developers might otherwise have spent managing their app releases so they can focus on their core mission instead. The Google Play Developer Publishing API is available from Google's developer portal.


T-Mobile Adds Samsung Galaxy Avant to Roster

Jul 30, 2014, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced the Samsung Galaxy Avant, which is a low-cost Android smartphone. The device features a 4.5-inch qHD screen, quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 1.5GB of RAM, 5-megapixel camera, and 16GB of storage with support for microSD cards up to 64GB. Other features include an FM radio, S Voice, NFC, Easy Mode, and Wi-Fi calling. The Samsung Galaxy Avant is available starting today for $216 or $0 down followed by 24 payments of $9 each.


Virgin Mobile Debuts Custom Plans

Jul 30, 2014, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 30, 2014, 8:11 AM

Virgin Mobile USA today announced a new plan that gives customers more flexibility in managing their account. Virgin Mobile Custom is based on the ItsOn platform, which was used by Zact Mobile, a Sprint-based MVNO. ItsOn is what gives customers the power to change the features of their plans any time they want or need to. Virgin Mobile Custom allows families to activate up to five lines on a single account starting at $6.98 per line. The Base plan includes 20 texts and 20 voice minutes per month. Customers can choose to add unlimited texting for $10 or unlimited voice for $18. The Unlimited talk and text plan costs $35 per month. Customers can also choose select add-ons, such as unlimited access to Facebook or music streaming, which can be added on a recurring or non-recurring basis. These plans can be adjusted at any time during the month, even daily, directly from the customer's device. Customers can add or subtract the amount of voice, text or data they use with real-time price adjustments so customers know exactly what they'll be spending. Virgin Mobile Custom will be available on three devices at launch, including the ZTE Emblem, the LG Pulse, and the LG Unify

  • ZTE Emblem: The ZTE Emblem is similar to the Savvy, which is being sold by TracFone. It has a 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz processor, and it runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. It costs $80
  • LG Pulse: The LG Pulse is a U.S. variant of the L70, which was announced earlier this year. It has a 4.5-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz processor, LG's QSlide and QuickMemo apps, and it runs Android 4.4 KitKat. It costs $100.
  • LG Unify: The LG Unify is a variant of the Optimus F3, which is already being sold by Virgin Mobile. It has a 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and LG's VuTalk and Q-Translator apps. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and costs $130.
The account holder can download the free Custom Control App from the Apple App store or Google Play Store to manage the devices and features of their various lines. Virgin Mobile Custom plans will be available beginning September 1.


Google Expands Voice Calling to Hangouts

Jul 25, 2014, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently made it possible to connect Google Voice phone calls through Hangouts on the web. When using Google Voice in a desktop browser, the phone tool now lists Hangouts as an option when making calls. Googler Alex Wiesen explained that it works even if the user isn't using Hangouts in Gmail, and it doesn't require a Google+ account. The change does not apply to either the Android or iOS mobile apps. Google Voice has been neglected of late and its future as a Google service is in question. This recent change marks another transitional step for the service, and expands the functionality of Google Hangouts.


Verizon Testing Unwanted App Removal on LG G3

Jul 25, 2014, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless is trialling a new policy on the LG G3 that allows owners to remove bloatware. Like many smartphones, the G3 ships with preloaded applications selected by Verizon. Device owners have no say in which apps are preloaded and may find them useless or uninteresting. Typically, preloaded apps cannot be removed from smartphones. That changes with the LG G3. According to Verizon, preloaded "applications can be completely and entirely uninstalled by the customer via the standard uninstall process." Customers need to use the built-in Android app manager to delete any unwanted apps. Deleting apps frees phones of clutter and clears valuable storage space. Verizon didn't say if it will expand the trial to other devices.

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Gmail for iOS Adds Drive File Sharing

Jul 24, 2014, 1:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out an update for its Gmail app for iOS devices. The update carries over a feature given to the Android app earlier this month: the ability to share files from Google Drive. iPhone and iPad owners can now insert documents from their Drive account into emails as they compose them on their device. The app makes it easy to save email attachments from Gmail to Drive, too. Gmail for iOS allows users to change their Gmail account picture, and those with multiple Gmail accounts can choose which signed-in accounts they want visible in the app. Gmail is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Chrome Beta for Android Adds Material Design

Jul 24, 2014, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today delivered a new beta version of its Chrome browser to the Android platform. The chief new feature of the updated app is broader support for Google account sign-in. According to Google, users who sign into the Chrome browser on their Android device will automatically be signed into all their other Google services, as well. The sign-in feature supports multiple accounts, and can sync the settings and bookmarks of those accounts, too. Chrome beta for Android also adds in some elements of Material Design, the new design language Google is using to define Android Release L, which is due later this year.


Google Adding Explore Function to Maps App

Jul 24, 2014, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes Android and iOS Maps users will take advantage of a new tool for exploring their surroundings. Google is adding a new button to Maps called Explore, which will tell people what's nearby. According to Google, the tool can be set to show what's as close as a 5-minute walk and what's as far as a 20-minute drive and everything in between. The Explore function doesn't just provide a list of nearby places, it is also contextually aware. For example, it will consider information such as the time of day and the weather so it doesn't send users to shops that are closed or to parks during a thunderstorm. The updated Maps app is being pushed out this week. It is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Skype for Android Makes Finding Friends Easier

Jul 23, 2014, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced version 5.0 for the Android platform and added one big feature: the ability to cross-integrate contacts between Skype and the phone. Skype 5.0 can scan the local phone address book for other registered Skype users and will then automatically add them to the Skype app's people list. Skype will also be able to sync the Skype address book with other Microsoft services to make sure it finds and adds all possible Skype users. Android users will be able to turn this feature off if they wish, or pick and choose which contacts are added to Skype. Users' actual phone number will not be shared as part of their public profile. Skype said similar features will soon appear in its apps for other platforms, such as iOS and Windows Phone.


Skype Says App Headed to Amazon's Fire Phone

Jul 22, 2014, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today said it is preparing a version of its mobile communications application for Amazon's Fire Phone. The Fire Phone runs FireOS, a forked version of Android. The Skype app will launch alongside the phone when it goes on sale. Skype said it designed the app with the Fire Phone's user interface in mind, including a widget for the Fire carousel, and it will offer an experience that feels natural to Fire Phone owners. Skype said its 3D icon and notification badge make use of the Fire Phone's Dynamic Perspective technology, which provides a 3D-like experience through the use of four user-facing cameras. AT&T will begin selling the Fire Phone later this month.


Amazon Makes Mobile Wallet App Available

Jul 22, 2014, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon recently released a mobile wallet application for Android-based smartphones. The app, which Amazon has labeled a beta, lets people store gift cards, loyalty cards, and membership cards, which can be scanned or typed directly into the app. Amazon touts the app as a way to reduce clutter in wallets and purses. The wallet can reveal bar codes for scanning at a number of different merchants to make gift card-based payments. The wallet app does not connect to a bank account or credit card, however, and cannot be used to make tap-and-go payments via NFC. The app is free to download from the Amazon Appstore and the Google Play Store. Amazon did not immediately say if a similar app will be available to its own Fire Phone.


Xiaomi Reveals Mi4 Flagship Smartphone

Jul 22, 2014, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi today announced the Mi4, an Android-powered smartphone that offers high-end specs for a low price point. The Mi4 uses a blend of steel, glass and plastic in its design and has a 5-inch full HD display with narrow bezels. The Mi4 includes a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM, and it comes in 16GB/64GB variants. The main camera captures 13 megapixels with an aperture of f/1.8 and 4K video. The user-facing camera captures 8 megapixels and also has an aperture of f/1.8. The Mi4 includes a 3,080mAh battery and swappable rear covers for personalization. The Mi4 is one of the first Xiaomi phones to support worldwide LTE bands, and it includes an IR blaster for controlling home theater equipment. The Mi4 costs approximately $320 for the 16GB version.


Facebook Rolling Out 'Save' Feature

Jul 21, 2014, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced a new feature that will allow users to save content for later viewing. The tool can be used to earmark links, places, movies, TV, and music. Facebook Save is headed to the web, as well as Android and iOS apps. Users will be able to save content on one platform and view it on another. Saved items will only be visible to the account holder unless they choose to share it with others. Facebook said it will periodically remind users about their saved content if it sits unread. Facebook Save is being rolled out slowly to all users over the next few days.


GoTenna Links Phones When Network Disappears

Jul 18, 2014, 9:40 AM   by Rich Brome

A new phone accessory allows users to create their own long-range wireless network between two or more phones. The goTenna is a six-inch wand that pairs with a phone via Bluetooth LE. goTennas connect to each other at 151-154 MHz, a frequency low enough to reach up to 50 miles with the 2-watt radio in the goTenna (but more typically, 3-10 miles.) Communication is limited to text messaging and location sharing, via the included app, which is available for both iOS and Android. Messages can be sent an individual, a group, or broadcast to all goTenna users in range. All messages are encrypted. The device is intended for people traveling in remote areas where mobile networks may be unavailable, such as hikers or camping families. The device is dust-tight, water-resistant, and has an integrated nylon strap. It is also useful for large events where the mobile network may become overloaded, such as concerts, festivals, and sports matches. The devices will retail for $300/pair in the fall, but can currently be pre-ordered for half-off, or $150/pair.


Microsoft Downsizes, Kills off Nokia X

Jul 17, 2014, 7:49 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced a sweeping company-wide re-organization that includes major changes to the mobile device business acquired from Nokia. Of Microsoft's 18,000 layoffs today, 12,500 are within the former Nokia units. Microsoft will combine the smartphone and feature phone units, with the feature phone operations continuing "for maximum efficiency with a smaller team." Nokia's Android-based Nokia X lineup will be abandoned. Select future models will be reworked to run Windows Phone to address new low price points for Lumia. Existing Nokia X phones will be supported, but the software will not appear in any new phones. The company will focus primarily on Windows-Phone-powered Lumia phones, and tablets. In an open email to employees, Stephen Elop explained that "the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia. Whereas the hardware business of phones within Nokia was an end unto itself, within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy."


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