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.
Microsoft today announced several new mobile initiatives that pair its own Windows platform with Android and iOS devices. First is a new tool, tentatively called Your Phone, that connects Android and iOS devices with a Windows 10 PC in order to access text messages, photos, and notifications. People will be able to perform actions such as drag-and-drop photos from their phone directly to their PC. Microsoft said this will be available via the Windows Insider Program for testing in the near future. Microsoft has also updated its Microsoft Launcher app for Android devices, specifically with business customers in mind. Launcher will fall under full control of the IT department and will support business applications via Microsoft InTune. Businesses will be able to use the Launcher to control which apps are made available to employees. Last, the new Timeline tool helps people move their work flow from one device to another seamlessly. In other words, employees working in Word on their Android device will be able to pick up where they left off on a Windows 10 PC. Timeline will be available via the Microsoft Launcher on Android phones and through the Microsoft Edge browser on the iPhone and iPad. Microsoft said all these tools and features will be available in the near future.
Microsoft today said its Microsoft Translator application can now function when offline. End users will need to download free AI-powered packs for the language of their choice ahead of time. Once downloaded, the Translator is able to take advantage of Microsoft's neural translation technology without a network connection. The AI-powered offline language packs are available to Microsoft Translator for Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire devices. Beyond the end-user features, Microsoft is allowing developers to integrate online and offline AI-based text translations into their own apps. This would let, for example, camera applications translate text in real time even with the phone is offline. Developers can find the new tools on Microsoft's developer web site. Microsoft Translator is free to download from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store, and Amazon Appstore.
BlackBerry and Microsoft announced a new partnership that will see the two deliver mobile software and services to businesses customers. A new solution, called BlackBerry Bridge, lets business users access Microsoft mobile apps from within BackBerry Dynamics. This means corporate employees will have the same experience opening, editing, and saving Microsoft Office documents on any Android or iOS device. It gives mobile workers a secure way to access their files that are immediately backed up in Microsoft's cloud. Microsoft says the partnership also brings new powers to the IT department, which will better be able to secure company data and maintain privacy while remaining compliant with regulatory statutes. In order to make this work, the companies have integrated BlackBerry UEM Cloud, Workspaces, Dynamics, and AtHoc into the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Microsoft and BlackBerry didn't specify how quickly these new services will be available to their customers.
Microsoft has added the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ to its online store. The devices are pre-configured with Microsoft apps and services. "A Microsoft customization is applied to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ Microsoft Edition when the devices are unboxed and connected to WiFi," explained Microsoft. When users first boot the device, they will be prompted to download Microsoft apps such as Office, Outlook, OneDrive, Cortana, and Microsoft's launcher for Android. Other than the software, the specs and features of the S9 and S9+ are unchanged from other versions of the phone. When purchased from Microsoft, the S9 and S9+ are unlocked. The S9 costs $720 and the S9+ costs $840.
Microsoft recently released an updated version of Skype for Android meant for older smartphones. Specifically, this down-tuned variant of Skype is intended for Android devices running 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich to 5.1 Lollipop. Microsoft says Skype for these phones uses less memory and less storage, allowing the app to run faster while also improving audio and video quality even in challenging network conditions. Microsoft is rolling out this update worldwide over the next few weeks. Those who want to download the app immediately can do so via the Skype Insiders Program. Skype is free from the Google Play Store.
The current state of mobile device security patches is lacking, according to a new report issued today by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC studied how Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung support their devices over time. "Our report found significant differences in how the industry deploys security updates and that more needs to be done to make it easier for consumers to ensure their devices are secure," said Acting Director Tom Pahl. The agency notes that many devices are updated infrequently, if at all, and that manufacturers often fail to deliver on promises. It wants phone makers and carriers to improve the situation. The agency suggested each does a better job of explaining mobile device security to consumers (i.e., make it clear to them that the updates are important and worth installing). The FTC also recommended that phone makers consider issuing security patches as stand-alone updates, rather than bundled with general OS upgrades. The FTC noted that companies that make their own operating system, in this case, Apple and Google, are often better at providing timely updates for a longer period of time. The FTC is calling for members of the mobile industry to find a way to bring clarity to consumers and more rapid security updates.
Intel today announced a range of efforts in the 5G space, including its timeline for bringing new Intel-powered 5G devices to market. The company says it has been developing 5G technology for some now, including virtualized network functionality and software defined networks. It is relying on the 3GPP 5G NR spec and is working with vendors and partners to create an ecosystem of products to support 5G as it rolls out. One of the primary pieces of the 5G puzzle is Intel's recently announced Xeon D-2100 system-on-a-chip (SoC) processor. It can handle intensive compute and network workloads demanded by 5G at the network edge. Further, Intel has partnered with China's Unigroup Spreadtrum and will pair a Spreadtrum processor with its own XMM 8000 5G modem. Intel expects to see phones packing the combined Spreadtrum/Intel SoC during the second half of 2019. PCs with embedded 5G are on the horizon, too. PC makers Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft all plan to enable their mobile computers to support 5G connections with the Intel XMM 8060 modem. Intel and its partners will have some concepts on display at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress trade show. They also expect to bring these concepts to market during the second half of 2019.
Microsoft says devices running Windows Phone 7.5 and 8.0 have reached end-of-life status and will no longer be supported. Beginning February 20, Microsoft will turn off push notification services for Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8.0. This means devices running those platforms will no longer receive notifications, will not receive live tile updates, and will not be able to use Find My Phone to locate the device. Microsoft says Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile remain fully supported for the time being. Devices running Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8.0 were originally sold in the 2011 and 2012 timeframe.
Microsoft's garage team has released a new application that lets Android and iOS users easily transfer photos from their phone to their Windows 10 PC. Photos Companion works in coordination with the Microsoft Photos app on Windows 10 PCs. As long as the iPhone or Android device is on the same network as the PC, users can transfer photos and videos directly from the phone to the computer over WiFi. The app makes use of a QR code in Microsoft Photos on the PC that users scan with the Photos Companion app to initiate the transfer. Photos Companion is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.