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Apple Rolls Out New iOS, WatchOS Beta Builds for Developers

Today, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 12.1 beta 5 and watchOS 5.1 beta 5 available to developers. These new betas further tweak the code and clean up bugs. One of the biggest additions to iOS 12.1 and watchOS 5.1 will be support for more emoji. Apple is planning to add some 70 new characters, based on Unicode 11, to its platform. These emoji will brings new representation for people with options for red hair, gray hair, curly hair, and no hair, as well as more food, animals, sports, and other items. The new OS is also expected to enable the eSIM on the new iPhone Xs and Xs Max, as well as include real-time depth control for portrait photos. Apple will likely provide a new public beta within several days. Apple hasn't said when it will release iOS 12.1 and watchOS 5.1 to the public, but it is kicking off sales of the iPhone Xr on October 26, and has a media event planned in New York for October 30. It's possible iOS 12.1's arrival will coincide with one of these events.


Google's GBoard App Gains Floating Keyboard

Today, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its GBoard keyboard application for Android devices and given people the freedom to move it around. Tapping on the ">" button in the conjures up a menu box with the option to unmoor the keyboard from the bottom of the screen. A small tab allows users to move the keyboard around as they wish. The keyboard can be resized, as well, allowing users to see more content on the screen as they type. All normal keyboard functions are available, such as glide typing and word prediction. The floating option is in the latest build of GBoard, which is free to download from the Google Play Store.

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Verizon Removes SIM Lock from Pixel 3 Phones

Friday, 4:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless has removed the SIM lock from the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. Some users had noticed the phone was locked before being activated on the network, something Verizon began doing earlier this year to deter theft. "At launch, there was an update related to an automatic overnight unlock on Pixel 3s, which also showed up on phones sold in Best Buy stores," explained Verizon to Droid-Life via email. "We have temporarily removed it from Pixel 3 and are assessing where it will be implemented in the future." This means all Pixel phones sold will be SIM unlocked and can be used on any network, not just Verizon's. Verizon is the only carrier officially selling the devices, though it is also available via Google's Project Fi MVNO.


Review: Samsung Galaxy A6 for Sprint

Friday, 3:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Galaxy A6 from Samsung finds a good spot in the middle of Sprint's lineup. This affordable Android phone features a metal chassis, a pair of capable 16-megapixel cameras, and Samsung's Infinity Display. It looks and acts like a flagship at half the cost. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.

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Google May Charge Android Device Makers Up to $40 for Apps

Friday, 3:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is prepared to charge its hardware partners a steep price for access to Google Apps. The company is prepared to tack on a fee ranging between $2.50 and $40 for each device, reports Reuters, with the average hovering around $20. Device size, screen resolution, and the country in which the device is sold are determining factors. Google says it is doing this to make up for revenue it will lose from de-bundling Google Search and Chrome from the apps it pre-installs on phones. The European Commission fined Google $5 billion for what it sees as anticompetitive behavior with its search and browser apps on mobile devices. The new fees will go into effect October 29. The EU hasn't responded publicly to Google's change in tack, and phone makers have not said how they'll recoup the costs.


Asus' ROG Phone Now Available for Preorder

Friday, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus has made its ROG gaming phone available to U.S. consumers. The device is available online from Asus, Amazon, and Microsoft. The 128 GB version costs $899 and the 512 GB version costs $1,099. The company says the phone will start to ship during the last week of October. The ROG Phone has a Snapdragon 845 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and an Adreno 630 GPU. Asus gave the phone a vented copper cooling panel in order to control thermals. The device includes a 6-inch, full HD+ AMOLED screen with a 90 Hz refresh rate, as well as a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, and a discrete imaging chip for HDR playback. Other features include 24-bit stereo speakers, DTS Headphone with 7.1 virtual surround, a 4,000mAh battery, and a 12-megapixel camera. Asus will make a number of accessories available for the phone, including a dock, case, and game controller, later this year.


Google Tweaks Dev Tools for Smaller App Downloads, Longer Trials

Thursday, 12:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Play Store developer tools, giving app writers more latitude to build and test their apps. To start, the Android App Bundle should allow for downloads that are 8% smaller, and on-device packages that are 16% smaller. Google says it should be easier for developers to jump to Android Studio 3.2 (stable) for creating bundles, which now support larger app sizes. Developers can create apps up to 500 MB in size without needing expansion files. Google is taking another run at instant apps. The company increased the size limit of instant apps — which are apps that run even when not installed on a device — to 10 MB. This gives developers freedom to offer more of their app instantly. Further, Google has dropped the requirement that instant apps include a published app bundle. The new Android Studio 3.3 (beta) makes it possible for developers to create a range of app bundles and instant apps. Google says Google Play Instant is now available to premium titles, and as pre-registration campaigns so people can test-drive the games before release. Other changes include tools for retaining subscribers, more flexible subscription pricing, better metrics, and simpler app updates. Google says these tools will roll out piecemeal to developers over the next few months.


YouTube Connects the Dots Between Artists and Fans with Eventbrite Integration

Thursday, 12:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's YouTube today announced a new partnership with Eventbrite that's meant to help people find concert tickets. As people watch music videos or performances on artists' official YouTube channels, they'll see Eventbrite listings for live music performances throughout the U.S. below the video. Fans who tap the new "tickets" button in the app will be taken to show listings where they can purchase tickets. Google says this partnership doesn't cover all artists, nor all event venues, though it hopes to add more over time.


Google Maps Weaves In Better ETA Sharing

Thursday, 11:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made it easier for people to share their estimated time of arrival with others. Moving forward, people can tap the ^ button in Maps to begin sharing their trip progress, which can include their live location, route, and ETA. The update allows live ETA info to be pushed via Gmail, SMS, and third-party apps, such as Facebook Messenger, Line, and WhatsApp. Once the journey is complete, the user automatically stops sharing their location. Further, people can now share live driving, bicycling, and walking journeys. This new tool is in the latest version of Google Maps for Android and iOS.


Sony Lays Out Schedule for Android 9 Pie Updates

Thursday, 10:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today made it clear which phones will receive Android 9 Pie and when they'll receive it. The update has already reached the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact, and Pie ships on the new XZ3. Sony says Android 9 Pie will be available to the XZ Premium, XZ1, and XZ1 Compact starting October 26. The XZ2 Premium should get Pie November 7. These will be followed by the XA2, XA2 Ultra, and XA2 Plus on or about March 4. Android 9 Pie includes features such as Adaptive Battery, a new Ambient Display, and Digital Wellbeing for controlling phone use.


Spotify Premium Gains A More Personal Touch

Thursday, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Spotify is giving its paying subscribers a better app. The company has released an updated version of its mobile application for Android and iOS with streamlined navigation meant to help people find music faster. The app provides more recommendations on the home screen, adds more results to search, and surfaces favorites in users' libraries. Spotify says the search page has been overhauled with better browsing, calling out top genres, artists, albums, and podcasts. Last, the app adopts a tool called Endless Artist Radio, allowing people to search for a musician or song and then listen to an endless playlist of music by that artist. Spotify says these endless playlists are updated regularly and are downloadable for offline listening. Spotify Premium requires a $10-per-month subscription.


Chrome 70 Adopts New Design and Adds Fresh Features

Thursday, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is distributing Chrome 70 to Android devices via the Google Play Store. This new build of Google's browser introduces a number of changes and updates. To start, Chrome more thoroughly adopts Google's Material Design so it is cohesive across devices. Google redesigned the Chrome search widget to better match the onmibox. The app now includes a quick and easy way to find file downloads via the settings menu, and allows web sites to access the phone's fingerprint sensor for authentication purposes. Chrome for Android is free to download.


Essential Lops Off 30% of Employees In Another Regrouping

Oct 17, 2018, 2:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products has laid off 30% of its staff, reports Bloomberg, amidst a reorganizing effort that promises to deliver a "game changing consumer product." Several months ago, the Andy Rubin-run company cancelled plans to create a second version of the PH-1 Essential Phone, and also cancelled a home-focused product. Essential is now working on a smaller mobile device, but has not said when this new form factor might reach the market. The Essential Phone was one of the first to feature an all-screen face and notch.


T-Mobile Debuts 3-Year Device Payment Plan

Oct 17, 2018, 11:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced new handset and service promotions that offer new phones for low monthly payments with one big catch: the equipment installment plan runs for 36 months. That means it will be three years before customers pay off their device, rather than the customary two years. The basics are these. Beginning October 19, customers can trade in an eligible phone for a new Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, Note9, LG G7, LG V40 ThinQ, and others for payments as low as $10 per month. T-Mobile hopes customers taking advantage of this promo will jump on the T-Mobile Essentials plan, which provides a family of four new phones with unlimited service for $40 per line per month, or $160 total. This breaks down to $30 per month per line for service and $10 per month for device payments. The actual device payment may be different. Customers who want the T-Mobile One plan will need to pay another $10 per month per line, or $50. This deal requires auto-pay. Eligible phone trade-ins will be credited to customer accounts monthly over a period of 36 months. The maximum trade-in value is $360 per device, but that will depend on the trade and its condition. T-Mobile didn't immediately list a set of devices eligible for trade-in. The trade can be applied to the purchase price of most phones LG sells, including the forthcoming iPhone Xr.


Spotify Releases Wear OS App for Smartwatches

Oct 17, 2018, 10:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Spotify today showed off a new way for people to manage their music. The company has developed a small app specifically for Wear OS devices. Once installed, people will be able to play, pause, or skip to the next track; instantly set tempo-matching songs for runs; connect to home speakers; as well as access and manage playlists. The wrist-born controls also make it possible to favorite tracks and rewind podcasts on the go without reaching for your phone. Spotify says its new Wear OS app will reach customers over the coming weeks. Separately, the company said Fossil has agreed to pre-load the Spotify app on several of its Wear OS smartwatches.


Apple Updates Privacy Site, Allows People to Download Data

Oct 17, 2018, 10:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has updated its privacy web site and given customers new tools to manage their personal information. Specifically, Apple has made it possible for owners of Apple devices to download and view all the data Apple has collected on them. This change is specific to Apple's U.S. customers. Apple's European customers have been able to access their data since May, when the GDPR privacy regulations went into effect. The latest versions of iOS and macOS include more privacy protections and provide people with more control over their information. Apple's updated web site also explains how user data is stored and transported, and what encryption and security protocols are employed in the process. Anyone can log in to their account to view their data.


RED Details 3D Content Strategy for Hydrogen One Phone

Oct 16, 2018, 7:01 PM   by Rich Brome

At an event in NYC today, RED CEO Jim Jannard revealed how owners of the company's forthcoming Hydrogen One phone will be able to access and share 3D content. The phone has stereoscopic 3D cameras on both sides, and a "holographic" display that displays 3D content without special glasses. The phone will come with HoloPix, an Instagram-like app for sharing 3D photos. The company is also working on a FaceTime-like app for real-time 3D video chat, which should launch shortly after the phone launches. The company's Hydrogen Network service will offer paid and free commercial movies and video. The catalog of 3D films will include 55 titles from Warner Brothers, including The Hobbit. AT&T customers will receive Ready Player One and a Fantastic Beasts movie for free. Established content creators can apply to create their own channel on Hydrogen Network with paid and/or free content. The Leia Loft is a separate service for 3D-compatible games and apps, paid and free. RED claims that developers can make their games compatible with the holographic display very easily. 3D photos taken with the Hydrogen One are saved as JPEG files with the 3D data in metadata, so that they automatically display as 2D photos on any 2D devices they're shared with. Pricing and launch date with AT&T and Verizon have yet to be finalized.

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Verizon to Credit Gulf-Area Customers with 3 Months Service

Oct 16, 2018, 4:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said that it will automatically credit its customers in areas impacted by Hurricane Michael for three months of service. The credit will be made for every line on both consumer and business accounts. While the company continues to make repairs to its damaged network, it has set up temporary cell sites for first responders in areas that have little or no service. Verizon said earlier that it has sustained massive damage to its fiber network, which carries traffic from its wireless network across the internet. The company has put up charging stations at some shelters and police/fire stations. Verizon customers can check the company's web site to follow the progress on repairs.

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