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Google Tweaks Dev Tools for Smaller App Downloads, Longer Trials

Yesterday, 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

Yesterday, 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.

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Google Maps Weaves In Better ETA Sharing

Yesterday, 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

Yesterday, 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

Yesterday, 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

Yesterday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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.


FCC Says Carriers' Efforts to Repair Hurricane-Damaged Cell Sites 'Completely Unacceptable'

Tuesday, 4:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai lowered the boom on the nation's wireless network operators and their collective lack of progress in bringing wireless service back to the areas impacted by Hurricane Michael. "Even though efforts to restore communications services have been going well in most of the areas affected by Hurricane Michael, the slow progress in restoring wireless service in areas close to where the hurricane made landfall is completely unacceptable," said Pai in a statement. The agency has been in constant contact with the carriers. "I’m concerned that [the carriers'] actions on the ground aren’t matching the urgency that we have conveyed during those conversations." Pai is asking the carriers to waive the bills of Floridians in the affected area for the month of October. Pai is also asking the carriers to let customers change wireless companies without penalty. Florida Governor Rick Scott has called on carriers to take these same actions. Each of the major carriers has offered free calling and messaging in the affected areas, as well as waived data overages. Finally, Pai wants the carriers to be more transparent about where and how quickly they will restore service. Pai has asked Homeland Security to investigate the matter.


Google to Charge Phone Makers to Use Google Apps in EU

Tuesday, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is appealing the European Commission's recent decision against Android. The EU sees the mobile platform's dominance as anti-competitive and fined Google $5 billion. Google believes Android has spurred competition and created a rich and flourishing ecosystem. However, Google has also developed a plan to comply with the EU's decision. Moving forward, Android device makers that want to install the Google Play Store and Google apps on phones and tablets in the EU will also be able allowed to build non-compatible, or forked, variants. Device makers can license the Google mobile application suite separately from Google Search and Google Chrome, which will now have their own licensing agreement. Google says it will offer new agreements to its partners that choose to pre-install Search and Chrome. Competing search and browser apps may also be pre-installed. "Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets" that are shipped to the EU, said the company. Google will use the licensing fees to make up for lost revenue due to the decrease in Search and Chrome pre-installs. The change goes into effect October 29.


Google Adds EV Charging Stations to Maps

Tuesday, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said people can now search for and locate electronic vehicle charging stations in Google Maps. In addition to displaying the closest stations, Maps will provide information about the business where the charger is located, the types of ports that are available, how many ports there are, and charging speeds. Google says it offers crowd-sourced information, too, such as photos, ratings, and reviews of the charging stations. Google will supply links to additional details about the charger. Globally, Google Maps will locate Tesla and Chargepoint chargers, and in the U.S. it will also locate SemaConnect, EVgo, and Blink chargers. Android and iOS users can download the new version of Maps with EV charging locations today. Google says the same information will be available on desktop PCs in the coming weeks.


Huawei Mate 20 Series Gains an X and a Porsche Design

Tuesday, 10:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today unveiled two devices apart from the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro. First up, the Mate 20 X is a massive slab with a 7.2-inch screen and a 5,000mAh battery. Huawei is pitching the phone as a gaming device. It relies on a graphene film and vapor chamber to keep the Kirin 980 CPU/GPU cool, which translates to faster speeds for longer periods of time. The phone includes the same 40-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera that's found on the Mate 20 Pro. It supports pen-based input and has an IP53 rating for protection against minor splashes. The Mate 20 X will retail for €899 and goes on sale October 26. The Mate 20 Porsche Design RS (pictured) features a custom-designed chassis that was inspired by Porsche's racing legacy. It has a glass racing stripe on the rear panel that's surrounded by leather. The phone has a more round shape than that of the other Mate 20 phones, but shares all the specs with the Mate 20 Pro. The Mate 20 Porsche Design RS will start at €1,649 and goes on sale in November.


Boost Mobile Lights Up the Coolpad Illumina

Tuesday, 9:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 12:10 PM

Boost Mobile today announced the Coolpad Illumina, an affordable Android phone that runs the lightweight Android Go platform. Android Go is designed for low-spec'd devices and includes simplified versions of core apps such as Gmail, YouTube, and Maps. The Illumina has a 5-inch screen and it is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. A 5-megapixel camera graces the rear and a 2-megapixel camera faces the user. Other features include a 2,150mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Boost Mobile is selling the Coolpad Illumina for $40 after an instant $40 credit.


Huawei Watch GT Drops Wear OS for Huawei's Own Platform

Tuesday, 9:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 9:37 AM

Huawei today announced the Watch GT, a smartwatch that has a traditional appearance and focuses on fitness. Huawei says the Watch GT is designed for "urban explorers" and can track a wide range of activities. The device can automatically track running, swimming, cycling, cross fit, hiking, and walking. The device has a round, 1.39-inch AMOLED screen that's surrounded by a ceramic-coated bezel and stainless steel chassis. The wearable features excellent battery life. It relies on a dual-chip system so it can separate low- and high-power tasks. Huawei says it relies on AI to understand what the wearer is doing and it will automatically switch to power-saving mode when it can. As a result, the device supports up to two weeks of battery life with the heart rate monitor on and tracking 90 minutes of activity per week. With heart rate and GPS off, the wearable can offer the time, messages, and calls for up to 30 days. With continuous exercising, and the GPS/heart rate monitor active, the battery lasts about 22 hours. The device features a six-sensor heart rate monitor to record the most accurate measurements. The UI is not based on Google's Android Wear OS, as Huawei's older watches are. Instead, it favors a Wear OS-like UI that Huawei developed itself. The Classic version costs €249 and the Sport version costs €199. They will be available later this month.

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