Qualcomm has a new technology that aims to make it easier to connect different devices. Snapdragon Seamless is designed to enable a variety of scenarios, including peripheral sharing (your PC keyboard working with your tablet and phone), dragging files and even windows between different types of devices, and earbuds that intelligently switch devices based on audio source priority. Seamless is a "connection-less" protocol that relies on Bluetooth LE and other existing wireless technologies. The technology is designed to be cross-platform, working across Android, Windows, and other platforms. Committed partners include Microsoft, Google, Dell, Lenovo, and Honor. New multi-device features enabled by Snapdragon Seamless are set to arrive on global device platforms starting as early as this year. Snapdragon Seamless is built in to the company's newest chips, including the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for phones, S7 for earbuds, and Snapdragon X Elite for laptops.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5 and Galaxy Z Fold5 are now officially available. Samsung is offering some previously-unannounced free trials as extras when the phones are ordered from samsung.com. With either phone, get four months of YouTube Premium, four months of Microsoft 365 Basic, and two months of Adobe Lightroom. Like the wireless carriers, Samsung has its own trade-in deals that let customers save up to $600 on the Flip5 and up to $1,000 on the Fold5.
Samsung and Microsoft have launched a new technology called device attestation that allows companies and other organizations to confirm that a mobile device has not been compromised before it is allowed to access company resources, even with unmanaged personal devices. The companies claim that this solution is "the industry's first on-device, mobile hardware-backed device attestation solution that works equally well on both company and personally owned devices." The solution requires a Samsung Galaxy device and Microsoft Intune. It enhances security, helps organizations implement Zero Trust policies, and opens up new possibilities for BYOD (bring your own device) in the enterprise.
Microsoft has added its (in)famous new AI-powered Bing chatbot to several of its mobile apps. The service, previously only available on the web and desktop apps, acts like an intelligent search engine that you can have a complete conversation with. The Bing service is based on ChatGPT from OpenAI. On mobile, Microsoft's Bing app, Edge browser app, and the Skype app now include access to the chatbot in both Android and iOS versions. In Skype, the chatbot can even be added to a group conversation.
A new category of Bluetooth earbuds has popped up: buds that are certified by Microsoft to offer the best audio quality when used with its popular Teams video conferencing service. Most obviously, these buds come with a USB dongle that plugs into your PC. But they also have new levels of advanced features not found in any Bluetooth earbuds before. So what does certification mean? Is it a gimmick? Are these new "enterprise grade" earbuds just a play to drain expense accounts, or are the fancy features worth it for professionals who lead a lot of video meetings? We talked to Jabra and Poly to find out, and checked out their respective entries in this category (the Jabra Evolve2 and Poly Voyager Free 60+). Read on to find out what we learned, and our first impressions.
Apple, Google, and Microsoft today announced new enhancements to the FIDO standard, as well as a renewed commitment to encouraging the use of the FIDO standard on their respective platforms. FIDO allows easy login to devices, platforms, and apps using methods like a phone's fingerprint reader, for logins that are easier, faster, as well as more secure. The enhanced standard will allow users to automatically access their FIDO credentials "on many of their devices, even new ones, without having to reenroll every account." It will also "Enable users to use FIDO authentication on their mobile device to sign in to an app or website on a nearby device, regardless of the OS platform or browser they are running."
Microsoft is overhauling and renaming its apps that let you connect your Android phone to your computer and access many of your phone's functions and content from within Windows 11. The Your Phone app for Windows will now be called Phone Link. It also has a new, tabbed interface that put more focus on notifications. The companion app for Android is being renamed from Your Phone Companion to Link to Windows. Both apps will now share an identical icon as well. In addition to notifications, Phone Link also lets you access messages and photos, while your phone stays in your pocket, and even make phone calls. v
Google has confirmed that Android phone users with the Microsoft Teams app installed may not be able to call 911 in an emergency in certain situations. The issue occurs only when someone has the Teams app installed but is not signed in. It also does not happen with versions of Android older than version 10. Users who may be affected are urged to make sure they are, and remain, signed in to Teams. If not, Google says that uninstalling and reinstalling the app "will address the problem in the interim". Microsoft will be releasing an update to the Teams app soon to permanently fix the issue. Google will also address the issue in its next monthly Android security update in early January.
Microsoft today revealed the Surface Duo 2, an updated version of the company's Surface Duo concept that attempts to address the major criticisms of the initial version. The new model has a similar form factor but with larger 5.8-inch OLED displays that curve slightly at the hinge to show notification graphics when closed. The displays support HDR and adaptive refresh up to 90 Hz, and are protected by Corning's premium Gorilla Glass Victus. The improved chipset is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 with 5G — including mmWave and C-band — and 8 GB LPDDR5 RAM along with 128, 256, or 512 GB of storage. The upgraded camera system has 12 megapixel main and 2x tele cameras with OIS, plus a 16 megapixel wide-angle camera. It also has NFC, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.1. The Duo 2 has excellent support for all 4G and 5G networks in the US. The 4,449 mAh battery supports fast charging at up to 23 watts. The Duo 2 runs Android 11 and is compatible with all Android apps. It has a number of features to configure apps in multiple ways across the two screens for multi-tasking. It comes with a large array of Microsoft apps, including Office, Teams, Outlook, OneNote, OneDrive, and more. Available in Glacier or a new Obsidian color, Surface Duo 2 starts at $1,500 and is available for pre-order today. It ships October 21st.
A group of companies including Epic, Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce have teamed up as the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), working "to enable individuals vaccinated for COVID-19 to access their vaccination records in a secure, verifiable and privacy-preserving way." VCI is working on a system that would allow individuals to obtain an encrypted digital copy of their immunization credentials to store in a digital wallet on their smartphone. A verifiable record of vaccination status will be a critical element in enabling people to safely return to work, school, events, and travel. The interoperable digital format is based on the open SMART Health Cards specification, based on W3C Verifiable Credential and HL7 FHIR standards.
Microsoft has updated its Xbox Family Settings app to give parents the ability to remotely pause their kid's Xbox at any time, not just when predefined screen time expires. The update also brings the ability to review purchases that kids have requested, right in the app. Parents can also approve specific friend requests. The app already lets parents set screen time limits by day of week, enable age-based content filters, control and monitor online multi-player activity, monitor friend lists, and review activity reports. The app is available for both iOS and Android.
Both Google and Nvidia today announced that they are bringing their respective cloud-based game-streaming services to Apple's iOS in the form of a Safari web app, following similar announcements from Microsoft and Amazon. Nvidia GeForce Now is available in beta form today. The beta version of Google Stadia for iOS will be available "in the coming weeks". Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming (formerly Project xCloud) will come to iOS next year. Amazon's Luna was the first game-streaming service to launch on iOS as a web app. Apple has made life difficult for game-streaming services by effectively banning each service from offering a native iOS app to access the whole service. Apple's App Store rules require that each game be approved and offered separately, which is generally not how game-streaming services work. Those rules do not apply to web apps that run within the browser, however.
Microsoft is finally ready to launch the unique, dual-screen Surface Duo device it first revealed almost a year ago. The Android 10 device has two 5.6-inch OLED displays, joined by a narrow 360º hinge, which can work together as one 8.1-inch display. Microsoft has customized both the Android OS, and its suite of productivity apps for Android, to enable new dual-screen functionality. The Surface Duo will launch September 10th starting at $1399. It has excellent support for the 4G networks of AT&T and Verizon, and decent support for T-Mobile's 4G network, although it does not support band 71. It will be available unlocked as well as from AT&T. Key specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 128 or 256 GB of storage, Cat. 18 LTE, 3,577 mAh battery capacity, 18W fast charging, fingerprint reader, and USB-C 3.1 including video output to DisplayPort or HDMI. It has an 11 megapixel camera that supports 1080p video conferencing and 4K video capture. The 360º hinge lets the single camera face inward or outward. When open, the Surface Duo is just 4.8mm thick.
Microsoft's Project xCloud cloud-based game-streaming service will officially launch September 15th as a "cloud gaming" feature included with the new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription service. Game Pass Ultimate costs $15/month, with an intro price of $1 for the first month. In addition to cloud gaming, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate includes access to more than 100 high-quality games for console and PC; exclusive member discounts, deals, perks, and Xbox Live Gold. Cloud gaming will be available via the "Xbox Game Pass" app for Android. An iOS version is planned, but not yet available. Razer and other companies are developing new phone accessories designed to work with the service, including "different types of phone clips..., travel controllers..., and exclusive Xbox-branded controllers that split apart and attach to the side of your phone." The new cloud gaming service replaces the Project xCloud "preview", which will end September 11th. Microsoft also revealed that it will have related news to share at tomorrow's Samsung event, where the next Note-series phone is expected to be announced.
The next update to Windows 10 will include the ability to easily transfer files to and from newer Samsung phones over Wi-Fi. Microsoft and Samsung have been adding numerous such features in recent years. Just last month, Microsoft added the ability to copy-and-paste between Windows 10 and a Samsung phone. The features are enabled by Microsoft's Your Phone app for Windows 10, and Samsung's Link To Windows software for its Android phones. The apps have long enabled phone notifications and calls in Windows 10.
Google is expanding the list of phones supported by its Stadia game-streaming service on February 20th. Initially supported only on its own Pixel phones, Stadia will support Samsung flagship Galaxy S and Note series phones (S8 and newer), as well as gaming phones from Razer and Asus (ROG Phone and ROG Phone II). For a controller, gamers can either connect a Stadia controller via USB, or third-party controllers via Bluetooth. Stadia competes with Microsoft's xCloud and Nvidia's GeForce Now. Like those other game-streaming services, Stadia runs full console-quality games on powerful servers in the cloud, streaming video of the rendered graphics to the user's device. Such services benefit from the higher data rates and lower latency of 5G networks. Forthcoming 5G SA networks will further reduce latency and improve data rates.
Samsung this week revealed the Galaxy XCover Pro, a new Android 10 phone "optimized for a variety of industries including retail, healthcare, logistics and manufacturing". It's just slightly larger than the Galaxy S10+, but with a rugged body military-rated for drops up to 1.5 meters, and rated IP68 for dust and water. Its flat screen measures 6.2-inches, sports full-HD+ resolution, and works with gloves and wet fingers. It has a 4,050 mAh removable battery that support 15W fast charging and charging docks with pogo pins. It also has a 25 megapixel main camera, 13 megapixel front camera, NFC, fingerprint reader on the side, and two programmable shortcut buttons. One of the buttons has be used for the PTT (walkie-talkie) feature of Microsoft Teams. It's powered by a Samsung Exynos chip paired with 4 GB of RAM. It has 64 GB of storage built-in and supports memory cards up to 512 GB. It will work on Verizon's network in the US and be available in the first half of 2020 for $500.
Microsoft has released a public preview of its new, completely revamped Office app for Android and iOS. A single Office app replaces the previously separate Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps. It also includes the previously-announced features that let users take a photo of a document to create an editable Word document, and use the camera to import table data directly into Excel. It includes dedicated sections for non-Office documents: PDF, Media, and Notes. An Actions panel makes it easy to transfer files between phone and computer, or with nearby phones. It also includes shortcuts to create PDFs and add signatures to them. Anyone can try out the public preview, but it requires extra steps of enrolling in the testing program, a process that requires joining a group for Android, or using TestFlight for iOS.
Google today announced that its Stadia game-streaming service will launch on November 19th. Separately, Microsoft has formally launched a public preview of its xCloud game streaming service, starting with Android.
The Microsoft Surface Duo is a unique dual-screen device running Android that functions as a foldable tablet and mini version of the company's just-announced Surface Neo. Its dual 5.6-inch displays are joined by a 360-degree hinge that lets it fold with the displays facing either in or out. When folded, it's far wider than most phones, making it a slightly distinct category of device. It can run two apps side-by-side, use the second display as a keyboard, or function like one unified tablet. It won't be available until fall 2020.
Microsoft's new Surface Earbuds are true wireless Bluetooth earbuds that promise 24-hour battery life. The buds integrate with Spotify and Microsoft Office. Touch controls on the outside can control Spotify music, or a PowerPoint presentation. They also include voice dictation and translation features. For example, they can add real-time captions of what you're saying to a live PowerPoint presentation, and translate those captions into any one of 60 languages. Surface Earbuds will sell for $250 and be available this fall.
Microsoft SMS Organizer is an alternative SMS app for Android that includes a configurable spam filter and several smart sorting and filtering features. The app was launched in India last year, but xda-developers discovered that it has now become available in the US, UK, and Australia as well. The app uses machine learning to automatically sort incoming SMS messages into categories such as promotional, transactional and personal. Promotional messages are considered spam; they won't trigger a notification and can be deleted automatically after a configurable amount of time. The apps also detects and helps organize info received by text about travel, tickets, and bills. The app can also backup and restore messages from Google Drive. The app is available now, for free, from the Google Play Store.
The Skype app for iOS and Android now supports screen-sharing in video calls. Microsoft announced the launch of the feature this week, after making it available to beta testers a few weeks ago. The feature lets you share whatever is on your phone's screen, including other apps, with the person on the other end of the video call. Skype also tweaked its video call interface with a new design and the ability to hide all controls during a call.
Microsoft is working on a new Minecraft game for phones that uses AR to overlay Minecraft as a persistent, massively multiplayer game over the whole planet. Players will be able to build with Minecraft blocks anywhere in public. Players will be able to see avatars of other players and collaborate. Adventure challenges will pop up in the game, with rewards like treasure and rare blocks. Microsoft says it will kick off a closed beta of Minecraft Earth this summer on iOS and Android. Microsoft is also starting with select locations before eventually expanding the game to be truly global.
A preview version of Windows extends notifications from your Android phone to your Windows desktop. Notifications on the phone are mirrored as Windows notifications in real time, and notifications dismissed in Windows are also dismissed on the phone. The feature is a new part of Windows' Your Phone app, which also lets users sync photos and messages, and can mirror the whole phone interface in a window within Windows.
Google Lookout is a free app that uses AI to identify things it sees through the phone's camera and describe it to a visually-impaired user. The company announced this week that the app is available now for English speakers in the US with a Google Pixel phone. The app has three modes: Explore, for exploring new spaces and dealing with typical office, home, and cooking tasks; Shopping, which reads bar codes, prices, and physical currency; and Quick Read, which reads text from mail, signs, and labels. The app is designed to be used with the phone held in hand, or hung on a neck lanyard. Microsoft already offers a similar app called Seeing AI, and recently updated it to include haptic feedback.
Excel for phones now lets users import table data directly into spreadsheets from a photo taken with the phone's camera. Microsoft announced the feature last September. It's rolling out now for the Android version of the app, "with iOS support coming soon". The feature lets users take a new photo from within the app, or import an image already on the phone. They can then crop to the table, then review the import for errors in a split-screen mode.
Microsoft will end support for its Windows 10 Mobile smartphone OS on December 10 2019, and is encouraging people still using Windows 10 Mobile phones to switch to Android or iOS phones. Microsoft is now focusing on those platforms and offers a suite of its own apps for both platforms. After December 10th, Microsoft will no longer offer free security updates for any version of Windows Mobile, making the continued use of Windows phones a security risk. The cutoff for the Lumia 640 and 640 XL phones is sooner: June 11th. "After the end of support, automatic or manual creation of new device backups for settings and some applications will continue for 3 months, ending March 10, 2020. Some services including photo uploads and restoring a device from an existing device backup may continue to work for up to another 12 months from end of support."
Microsoft today revealed a wholly redesigned version of Outlook Mobile for iOS devices. Not only did Microsoft give the app a fresh coat of paint, it tweaked many of the tap and swipe actions to help speed up and simplify users' daily routines. For example, when users swipe left or right on an email they'll see changes in color and shape, as well as experience haptic feedback to make it more obvious what action is taking place. Microsoft has animated the calendar icon, which now fans forward or backward as people scroll their agenda, and the app now calls out calendar conflicts more visually. Microsoft has changed the color of the app, which is a bolder shade of blue across the inbox and calendar. Microsoft says this helps people visually identify apps faster as they swipe through the iOS app picker. Microsoft has embraced the native font and typography of iOS, giving the app a look that's more in line with those from Apple. Other changes impact the mechanics of the app, such as the Focused Inbox toggle and message list filtering, which now help people focus on content and account details. The app continues to support multiple accounts, and will now call them out visually with personalized avatars. These are meant to instantly alert the user as to which account they have accessed. Similarly, Outlook adds new avatars for contacts to aid in visibility. The new Microsoft Outlook Mobile for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Microsoft today dropped a rebuilt version of Cortana for iOS devices. Cortana is similar to Siri in that it can perform actions based on voice requests. Microsoft says the new Cortana is less robotic and more conversational. This helps interactions feel more natural. The app can be used to set up and manage Cortana devices, listen to music and podcasts on the go, and stay on top of tasks, reminders, and to-dos. Cortana for iOS also integrates with other Microsoft services more tightly, such as Skype and Teams, email and calendar. Cortana is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
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.
Microsoft today said its SwiftKey keyboard application for Android devices can provide real-time translations between more than 60 languages as users compose their message. This is made possible by the introduction of Microsoft Translator, which uses artificial intelligence to predict words and phrases as people type. "We wanted to make it really easy for users to be able to translate as they type and to be able to translate incoming messages," said Colleen Hall, senior product manager for SwiftKey, in a blog post. Microsoft believes the real-time translation feature will be helpful when people message friends, family, or colleagues who speak different languages. By integrating the tool directly into the keyboard, people no longer need to leave the messaging app when they want to translate languages. Moreover, the app will remember users' preferences for language pairs so people don't have to scan the entire list each time. Microsoft says the translation feature can work when offline as long as the Microsoft Translator app and accompanying language packs are also installed on the device. SwiftKey for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Microsoft today said that it will soon cease accepting new apps for Windows Phone 8.x or 8/8.1. Microsoft will stop taking in new Windows Phone 8.x and 8/8.1 apps on October 31 of this year. Microsoft will stop pushing updates to apps for Windows Phone 8.x starting July 1, 2019, and will stop pushing updates to apps for Windows Phone 8/8.1 on July 1, 2023. Microsoft asks developers to consider updating to the Windows 10 platform. "We encourage you to explore how you can port your existing app to the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) where you can create a single Windows 10 app package that your customers can install onto all device families." Windows Phone 8 has been discontinued for some time. Microsoft has also stopped making new Windows Mobile 10 phones. Some of these devices remain in use, however, and are still receiving support from Microsoft.
Microsoft has updated its launcher for Android phones. Version 4.12 of the app adds full support for Android 8 Oreo, while it also removes support for older Android platforms, 4.0.x and 4.1. With Oreo, the app adds folder and app icon gestures for swiping to interact with apps. Other changes include more control over the last row of the dock, and alphabetical sorting of apps within folders. Further, parents can turn on web filters via the Family card. Improvements to the user interface include animation adjustments, blur effects, and app badges in the app drawer. The Microsoft launcher is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today made it slightly easier to schedule meetings in Google Calendar. As invitations arrive, invitees can respond by clicking the usual “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” buttons, or select the new “propose a new time” option. In businesses where people are allowed to view one another’s calendars, they’ll be able to match up schedules for a time that works for everyone. Guests can then send the new proposed time back to the original sender with a message. Google says this feature is available across domains and with Microsoft Exchange. This feature is available on the web now, and will reach mobile devices August 13.
Facebook and partners today announced the Data Transfer Project, an initiate with the goal of giving people more control over their data. The companies are working together to create an open source method that people can use to easily transfer their data from one service to another. For example, the tool would make it possible for a Google Photos uses to swap their image library to Microsoft OneDrive and any other provider. The Data Transfer Project hopes to do this in a way that is simple, secure, and supported by as many services as possible. While Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter are the first to lend support, the initiative is open to all companies. "If a user wants to switch to another product or service because they think it is better, they should be able to do so as easily as possible. This concept of allowing users to choose products and services based on choice, rather than being locked in, helps drive innovation and facilitates competition," said the companies in their white paper. The participants admit it is early days for the project and they haven't said when the DTP might be available to the public. Consumers often choose an ecosystem — Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, et al — when buying hardware. The DTP could make it simpler for people to change ecosystems when upgrading to new devices.
Microsoft this week rolled out an update to its Bing search engine that lets people perform searches based on things they see in the real world. The visual search function works similarly to Google Lens. Bing users can take a snapshot of a landmark, or plant, or animal and then search based on the image. Microsoft says it will identify the object and provide information about it along with links to learn more. Microsoft says the app also allows people to shop from image searches if they wish. The new visual search function is available within the Bing search app on Android and iOS, as well as via the Edge browser on Android. Visual search will reach the Edge browser on iOS in the weeks ahead.
New emoji are coming to a phone near you, eventually. Unicode 11.0, which was finalized in February, will be released on June 5, according to Emojipedia. Some of the new options will let men and women emoji select from various hair styles (including red-haired and bald), while new hero and villain styles support new gender and skin tone options. There are new colors available for leg, foot, bone, and tooth emoji; new animals such as badgers, swans, peacocks, and llamas; new food such as mangos, leafy greens, and moon cakes; and many new places, activities, games, objects, and symbols. Support for Unicode 11.0 will be gradual. For example, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft are expected to adopt Unicode 11.0 between June and August, while Google and Apple likely won't add Unicode 11.0 to Android and iOS, respectively, until September or October. Phone makers such as Samsung may not adopt Unicode 11.0 until January or February of next year.
Microsoft says Android and iOS users of its Groove Music mobile apps will soon need to find another way to listen to their tunes. "We're notifying customers that on December 1, 2018, the Groove Music iOS and Android apps will also be retired and, effective June 1, are no longer available for download," said Microsoft in a statement provided to The Verge. Though Microsoft retired the Groove Music streaming service last year, it kept the app up and running so people could access their music. Microsoft indicated that users' music files stored in OneDrive will still be accessible, but not via the Groove Music app.
Microsoft today introduced new tools for parents that can help them manage their kids' use of mobile devices. The Microsoft Launcher for Android phones now includes location history so parents can see their children's last known location with a time stamp. The Launcher also gains the ability to let parents view app activity. Parents can see which apps are accessed at what time and for how long they are used. The Microsoft Edge browser for Android devices now gives parents the ability to allow or block web sites. Parents will have to set up a family group in order to control these tools. Microsoft says parents can also check usage on Windows 10 PCs and Xbox One consoles. The updates to Microsoft Launcher and the Edge browser will begin rolling out today.