Google today said movies people own via the Google Play Store will automatically be upgraded to 4K at no extra cost. When Hollywood studios make their titles available in 4K, Google will upgrade previous purchases, even if those purchases were for originally SD or HD resolution. Google indicated that 4K movies will begin to cost less when purchased in the Play Store. The 4K content should be easier to watch on 4K TVs, according to Google, without additional hardware. It has updated the Play Movies & TV app for the majority of Sony's Bravia 4K TVs and Samsung's 4K Smart TVs, and Google is doing the same for LG. The app allows connected TVs to access the Play Movies service directly for streaming programs. Google will continue to make improvements to the app and bring 4K movies and TV shows to more devices over time.
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.
Epic Games today made its popular Fortnite game available without an invitation. The app has been available in beta since August, though an invite was required for access. Epic Games has dropped the need for an invitation and most anyone can download the game. Fortnite is not available in the Google Play Store. Instead, people interested in the game will need to go to Epic's web site to download an installer. The installer then puts the game on the phone. The game started as an exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and was later discovered to have a major security flaw in the installer (since patched). Fortnite is best played on high-end devices that have Android 8 Oreo installed. Some compatible phones include the Samsung Galaxy S7, S8, and S9 series; all Google Pixel phones; the LG G5, G6, G7, V20, and V30; the Asus ROG Phone and 5Z; the Essential Phone; the Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, Honor 10, and Honor Play; the OnePlus 5, 5T, and 6; the HTC 10, U Ultra, U11+, U12+; the Sony Xperia XZ1, XZ2, and XZ3 series; as well as a handful of others from Xiaomi, ZTE, Nokia, and Lenovo.
AT&T today announced that it plans to roll out mobile 5G service in parts of Houston, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, and San Antonio by the end of this year. The company previously announced plans to bring 5G to Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, and Waco this year. Early next year, the company's mobile 5G network will expand to parts of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. The company reached a milestone over this past weekend when it made its first 5G mobile data connection "in the wild" over millimeter wave frequencies, using a Qualcomm smartphone-form-factor test device and Ericsson 5G-NR tower equipment. The test, and AT&T's planned rollout, are compliant with the 3GPP Release 15 global 5G NR standard.
Sony’s latest flagship smartphone packs tons of features into its metal-and-glass body. It offers a 6-inch screen, Snapdragon 845 processor, 19-megapixel camera, and advanced audio capabilities. It boasts new camera software and Android 9 Pie. Here are our first impressions.
Sony today announced the Xperia XZ3, the company’s latest flagship phone. The device improves upon its predecessor, the XZ2, by amping up just about everything. The XZ3 has a metal-and-glass design with series 7000 aluminum forming the frame and Gorilla Glass 5 covering the rear. The 6-inch OLED screen has quad HD+ resolution with an aspect ratio of 18:9. Like many Sony flagships, the XZ3 is certified IP68 for protection from water and dust, and it features a fingerprint reader on the rear for security. Sony has updated its Motion Eye camera for the phone, with a 19-megapixel main camera with HDR, 4K video capture, super slow motion, and Google Lens. Sony says the camera software has been tweaked for easier use. The selfie camera has a 13-megapixel sensor at f/1.9 with bokeh / portrait capture and beauty mode. Picking up the phone and holding it horizontally will automatically turn on the camera. Sony increased the size of its S-Force Front Surround speakers to improve bass response. The phone supports high-resolution audio and includes Sony’s dynamic vibration system for refined haptic feedback. It is powered by a Snapdragon 845 and includes a fast-charging 3,330mAh battery. A tap of the right edge calls up a drawer with app shortcuts, similar to Samsung’s Edge screen. The Xperia XZ3 will ship with Android 9 Pie. It costs $900 and will be available from Amazon and Best Buy in October.
Sony plans to begin updating a number of its mobile phones to Android 9 Pie beginning in November. The devices first on deck for the refreshed operating system from Google are Sony's flagships, the Xperia XZ2, XZ2 Premium, XZ2 Compact, Xperia XZ Premium, XZ1, and XZ1 Compact. Sony says the mid-range XA2, XA2 Ultra, and XA2 Plus devices will receive Android 9 in early 2019. Android 9 Pie introduces machine learning and more predictive behaviors to the OS, as well as a Digital Wellbeing suite meant to help people use their devices less. Pie is already available to the Google Pixel phones. Motorola also recently committed to updating some of its phones to Pie.
YouTube has begun to recognize what it calls Signature Devices, or phones that deliver the best-in-class experience for YouTube content. YouTube says these phones have the latest technology and provide optimal viewing. In order to qualify as a Signature Device, a phone must include features such as high dynamic range, 4K, 360 video, reliable DRM performance, and a high frame rate. YouTube says it has worked with select manufacturers to verify a handful of Signature Devices. They include the new Samsung Galaxy Note9, as well as the S8, S8+, Note8, S9, and S9+; the LG V30 and G7 ThinQ; the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium, XZ2, and XZ2 Compact; the HTC U12+; the Huawei Mate 10 Pro; the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S and Mi 8; the HMD Global Nokia 8 Sirocco; the OnePlus 6; and the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. People who own these devices don't need to do anything in order to enjoy a good YouTube experience. YouTube will add devices to the list over time.
Google today revealed that Android 9 will be called Pie and made the refreshed operating system available to its Pixel-branded phones. Android Pie makes use of artificial intelligence to anticipate user actions. For example, it includes adaptive battery and adaptive brightness. Toghether, these tweak the settings throughout the day to reduce power drain while making sure the user always has access to the phone’s full power. App Actions predict what users are likely to do next based on their context and displays that action on the phone. Android Pie introduces new navigational gestures that rely on swiping and flicking a small pill that appears at the bottom of the screen. The smart text selection tool now transports text more easily between apps, while the tweaked Quick Settings bar offers a better way to take and edit screenshots. The new dashboard is meant to help you use the phone less. It includes an app timer, wind down, and an improved do not disturb mode to make sure people spend time away from their phone without interruptions. These well-being tools are only available in beta. The new OS also includes a number of security improvements, such as a more secure way to handle biometrics. Google is distributing Android 9 Pie to the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL via over-the-air download. The OS will also reach select phones from Sony, Xiaomi, HMD Global, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, and Essential, as well as all qualifying Android One devices, later this fall. It is up to individual phone makers to provide the latest platform their their hardware.
Sony today announced the IMX586, a CMOS camera sensor for phones that packs 48 megapixels into a unit that measures 8mm. The pixels of this sensor have been shrunk to 0.8 μm, which is what allows so many of them to fit onto a single sensor. Typically, packing together such a large number of small pixels would generate noise and cause low-light performance to suffer. Sony says it is using a Quad Bayer color filter array, which means adjacent 2x2 pixels all capture the same color. This raises sensitivity in order to create brighter images with less noise. The IMX586 includes Sony's exposure control and signal processing to improve dynamic range by a factor of four. Sony says scenes that include bright and dark areas can be captured with minimal blowout or loss of detail. Moreover, the high pixel count allows for cleaner photos when using digital zoom. As for video, the IMX586 can capture 4K video at 90fps, 1080p video at 240fps, and 720p video at 480fps. The suggested price of the module is $27. Sony is sampling the IMX586 now and expects to commence production later this year.
Sony this week announced the Xperia XA2 Plus, a new mid-range phone with a tall 2:1 ratio display, hi-res audio, and 23-megapixel Sony Exmor RS for mobile camera with 4K video capture. The 6-inch display has Full HD+ resolution and is protected by Gorilla Glass 5. It also has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, large 3,580 mAh battery, rear fingerprint reader, fast charging, and an 8-megapixel wide-angle front camera. It will be available in Silver, Black, Gold and Green in late August.
Sony Mobile today said that its high-end flagship phone, the XZ2 Premium, will go on sale in July for $999. The phone will be available for preorder from Amazon and Best Buy starting July 9, with retail availability expected July 30. The XZ2 Premium has a 5.8-inch 4K HDR display (16:9 aspect ratio) that Sony says is 30% brighter than its previous mobile 4K screen. The XZ2 Premium includes a new Motion Eye Dual camera that is capable of capturing ISO 51,200 for photos and ISO 12,800 during video — which means the XZ2 Premium delivers more detail in nighttime pictures. The camera supports selectable bokeh, 4K HDR video capture, and 960fps super slow motion in 1080p HD. The user-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with display-based flash. The XZ2 Premium includes S-Force Front Surround speakers and a Dynamic Vibration System so owners can "feel the action" in their hands. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 6 GB of RAM. The phone relies on a 3,540mAh battery with Qi wireless charging. Other features include NFC, USB-C, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD, 64 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 400 GB. The XZ2 Premium has a glass-and-metal design with Gorilla Glass 5 on front and back. It boasts IP68 for protection against splashes and spills. The phone will be bundled with Sony's Xperia Ear Duo headphones.
The 3GPP today ratified another piece of the 5G specification, termed the Standalone 5G New Radio, or SA 5G NR. This spec is for 5G networks that are developed on their own, apart from legacy or pre-existing networks. The Non-Standalone portion of the 5G spec was ratified late last year and covers 5G that hooks into existing LTE 4G systems. "The freeze of Standalone 5G NR radio specifications represents a major milestone in the quest of the wireless industry towards realizing the holistic 5G vision," said BalÃ¡zs BertÃ©nyi, chairman of 3GPP RAN. "5G NR Standalone systems not only dramatically increase the mobile broadband speeds and capacity, but also open the door for new industries beyond telecommunications that are looking to revolutionize their ecosystem through 5G." The SA 5G NR and the NSA 5G NR standards will together include the technology used by commercial entities, the air interface, and end users. The spec was approved by more than 600 delegates from the world's leading carrier, handset, and silicon vendors. Some participants included AT&T, DISH, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Kyocera, LG, MediaTek, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, SoftBank/Sprint, Sony, Verizon, Xiaomi, and ZTE. The 3GPP said the technical specifications for the ratified SA 5G NR will be published in the days ahead.
Google today said more phone makers now part of its Android Enterprise Recommended program. The Android Enterprise Recommended program, which was launched in February of this year, "establishes best practices and common requirements for devices and services, backed by a thorough testing process conducted by Google." In order to qualify, devices have to meet a number of specifications concerning their hardware, deployment, security updates, and user help programs. For example, devices approved must run at least Android 7 Nougat, and receive security updates no later than 90 days from their release from Google. A handful of new phones makers and devices are now recommended by Google, making for a total of 39 devices from nine device makers. New entries include the Sonim XP8; Sharp Aquos SH 10-K; Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact; Motorola Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Z3 Play; Huawei P20 and P20 Pro; BlackBerry KEY2; and HMD Global Nokia 3.1, 5.1, 6, 7 Plus, and 8 Sirocco. Several tablets have been certified for Android Enterprise Recommended, too, including the Huawei M5 8.4 and 10.8. Google says it will continue to update the list of devices recommended for business users as more phone makers commit to the requirements of the Android Enterprise Recommended program.
Sony this week said it putting its Xperia Home launcher, used on its mobile phones, into maintenance phase. The company said this means it won't add any new features to the launcher, though it will offer minor bug and security updates as warranted. The company is also closing the Xperia Home beta community, which will shut down in a few weeks. Along with the news, Sony released Xperia Home version 11.3.A.0.17, which focuses on resolving problems. For example, it corrects an issue that prevented widgets from updating, corrects wallpaper blurring, and improves search card visibility. The update also fixes a crash in photo search, and now better handles display size changes with respect to shortcut icons. Owners of Xperia-branded phones should expect to see the update hit their phones in the next few weeks, depending on device, carrier, and region.
Google today made Android P Beta 2 available to developers. Importantly, Google says this beta includes the final Android P APIs (level 28) and the official SDK, which means developers have what they need to customize their apps for the new features in Android P. Google says those who've already enrolled in the beta program will automatically get Android P Beta 2 over the next day or so. Android P includes features such as Adaptive Battery for smarter power consumption; App Actions, which rely on machine learning so apps are more engaging with users; Slices, which surface rich content in places like Google Search and Assistant; and new controls for notch-style displays. The beta so packs 157 new emoji. In addition to Google's own Pixel and Nexus phones, several other devices from OnePlus, Sony, and others will have access to the Android P Beta 2. Google expects to roll out the final version of Android P later this summer.
Netflix has granted three newer phones the ability to stream HDR video. The latest devices include the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, the Huawei P20 Pro, and the Sony Xperia XZ2. HDR content has more contrast than standard content, creating deeper blacks and brighter brights for a richer viewing experience. Other devices already able to access HDR playback on Netflix include the LG G6 and V30, Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ Premium, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Note 8, and the Razor Phone.
Sony fans can bring the Xperia XZ2 Compact to Verizon, according to the company. The XZ2 Compact has passed device certification at Verizon, which means it will function properly on Big Red's network. Verizon customers can buy the Xperia XZ2 Compact unlocked from Best Buy and bring it to their local Verizon store for BYOD activation. The XZ2 Compact may be small, but it has nearly all the features of the larger XZ2, including a Snapdragon 845 processor, 2:1 full-HD display, 19-megapixel camera, fingerprint reader, NFC, and memory card slot.
Google today released the first public beta of Android P. For the first time, Google is offering the beta to non-Google branded phones. While it is available to the Google Pixel phones, Android P Beta is also available today on the Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Nokia 7 Plus, Oppo R15 Pro, Vivo X21, OnePlus 6, and Essential PH”‘1. People interested in testing Android P will need to register with the Android beta program, which is free to do.
Google today made several changes to its Google Lens visual search tool. First and foremost, it is adding Google Lens directly to the camera app of Pixel phones. Several other phone makers, including LG, Motorola, Nokia, Xiaomi, Asus, and Sony, will add Lens to their camera apps in the near future. With Lens, Google is relying on machine learning to help power Google searches based on what the camera sees. Google is baking more searching and shopping tools to Lens, making it easy for people to discover where they can buy items such as clothing with a function called Style Match. A feature called real-time results provides instant search results as people move their camera over items. It scans text, images, and other data points to search things such as concert posters, books, and such. The results offer links to more information, videos, images, as well as the ability to make purchases. Google says this update will reach Google Lens on the Pixel in the next few weeks. Google's partner OEMs have not specified exactly when they'll update their own camera apps with Lens.
Sony Mobile said U.S. consumers can preorder its Xperia Ear Duo wireless headphones beginning today for $280. The wireless ear buds ship May 25. The Ear Duo are not traditional headphones and employ an open design that allows people to hear their surroundings and their music at the same time. The Xperia Ear Duo rely on a spatial acoustic conductor to push sound directly to the inner ear while leaving the ear canal open. Sound is generated by a unit that sits behind the owner's ear. Sony says the Xperia Ear Duo automatically adjust to environmental sounds to counter background noise. The Xperia Ear Duo support Bluetooth 4.2 are compatible with Android and iOS devices. Touch surfaces and voice commands allow owners to interact with Android Assistant and Siri. The headphones include a Daily Assist function on Android, which will read incoming notifications, offer calendar reminders, as well as listen for voice commands. Owners can nod or shake their head, respectively, to accept or reject incoming calls. The Ear Duo includes four microphones and beamforming to ensure proper noise reduction and voice capture. The headphones offer 4 hours of music listening or 2.5 hours of talk time per charge. The included charging case can recharge the Ear Duo up to three times for music and talk totals of 10 and 4 hours, respectively. The Xperia Ear Duo comes in black and gold and is available for preorder from Amazon.com.
Sony today announced the Xperia XZ2 Premium, a high-end Android phone that boasts some of the most advanced imaging features available in a mobile device. The XZ2 Premium has a 5.8-inch 4K HDR display (16:9 aspect ratio) that Sony says is 30% brighter than its previous mobile 4K screen. The phone relies on Sony's Bravia TV and X-Reality mobile technologies to help improve contrast and up-convert standard content to near HDR quality. The XZ2 Premium includes a new Motion Eye Dual camera from Sony, which puts two Exmor RS sensors to work: one 19-megapixel for full color capture and a second 12-megapixel for black-and-white capture with contrast info. Sony says the data from both sensors is combined by its AUBE fusion image signal processor to reduce noise. The Motion Eye Dual camera is capable of capturing ISO 51,200 for photos and ISO 12,800 during video — which means the XZ2 Premium is ultra sensitive to light and can deliver more detail in nighttime pictures. The camera supports selectable bokeh, 4K HDR video capture, and 960fps super slow motion in either 720p or 1080p HD. The user-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with display-based flash. In addition to the high-quality audio capture and on-display playback, the XZ2 Premium includes S-Force Front Surround speakers and a Dynamic Vibration System so owners can "feel the action" in their hands. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 6 GB of RAM and an X20 LTE modem for (theoretical) speeds up to 1.2 Gbps. The phone relies on a 3,540mAh battery with Sony's Stamina mode and Qnovo Adaptive charging, in addition to Qi wireless charging. Other features include NFC, USB-C, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD, 64 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 400 GB. The XZ2 Premium has a glass-and-metal design similar to the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact with Gorilla Glass 5 on front and back. It boasts IP68 for protection against splashes and spills. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium will go on sale later this summer with Android 8 Oreo. Pricing wasn't revealed. Sony said some features, such as Bokeh, will arrive during the third quarter via software update.
Security Research Labs says Android phone makers often miss security patches but still tell owners the phones are up-to-date. Researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell examined the code of some 1,200 phones from more than a dozen phone makers for every security patch released during 2017. They discovered phones from nearly all makers missed at least some patches. Phones from Google, Sony, and Samsung ranked fairly well, missing an average of just one patch. Phones from Xiaomi, Nokia, and OnePlus missed between one and three patches per update, while devices from HTC, Motorola, LG, and Huawei missed three to four, and phones from TCL (Alcatel) and ZTE often missed more than four patches per update. High-end devices with processors from Samsung or Qualcomm were more likely to updated properly, while low-cost devices with processors from MediaTek were less likely to be updated properly. Nohl and Lell say what's worse than the missed patches are the phone makers' claims to the contrary. "We find that there's a gap between patching claims and the actual patches installed on a device. It's small for some devices and pretty significant for others," said Nohl to Wired. "We found several vendors that didn’t install a single patch but changed the patch date forward by several months. That’s deliberate deception." The researchers claim this lulls consumers into a false sense of security, though they admit that hacking into Android phones through any of the missed patches is a difficult task at best. In response to the data, Google argued that not all the devices researched were Android certified, and that modern Android phones have other security measures in place to protect them. "Security updates are one of many layers used to protect Android devices and users," said Scott Roberts, Android product security lead at Google. "Built-in platform protections, such as application sandboxing, and security services, such as Google Play Protect, are just as important." Still, Google said it would work with Security Research Labs to investigate Nohl and Lell's findings.
Sony has indicated that its Xperia XZ2 and Xperia XZ2 Compact handsets will soon be available to U.S. consumers. The company lists both as "coming soon" on its U.S. web site, and U.S. retailers Amazon and B&H Photo Video also list the devices as arriving shortly. Best Buy will begin taking preorders for the phones on April 13, with shipments starting as soon as April 20. The in-store date for Best Buy brich-and-mortar retail locations is listed as May 6, with other retailers to follow May 20. The smaller XZ2 Compact (5-inch screen) will be priced at $649, while the larger XZ2 (5.7-inch screen) will be $799. The XZ2 and XZ2 Compact represents a change in direction for Sony as far as design is concerned. The devices adopt 2:1 screens and eliminate the bezels for which Sony handset have become known. Other features include 19-megapixel cameras, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processors, and IP68 protection against water and dust.
Sony's new flagship phones for 2018 pack all the bells and whistles into a curvy new glass design. Both phones include top-end features like a Snapdragon 845 processor, 2:1 ratio display, stereo speakers, HDR video capture and viewing, water resistance, and advanced cameras. The larger XZ2 sports an advanced haptic engine and fast wireless charging. The smaller XZ2 Compact continues to be one of the only truly small Android phones available with top-end specs. Here are our first impressions checking them out in person.
Sony today announced the Xperia XZ2 and Xperia XZ2 Compact smartphones, two devices that take on a brand new design aesthetic the company calls Ambient Flow. The phones feature a metal frame and deeply curved rear panels. The XZ2's rear panel is glass made by Corning, while the XZ2 Compact's rear panel is made from polycarbonate. The XZ2 has a 5.7-inch display in the 18:9 aspect ratio with full HD+ (2,160 by 1,080 pixels) resolution. The XZ2 Compact's screen shrinks down to 5 inches, but maintains the same resolution. The phones share nearly all specs other than size. Sony opted for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 premium processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phones rely on Sony's imaging sensor with embedded DRAM. The main camera captures 19-megapixel images at up to ISO 12,800 and can snag 4K video, or 960fps slow-motion video in full HD. The user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with Sony's 3D Creator software for mapping 3D scans of people's faces. Sony said it has improved the software, which now produces more details images. Sony gave the phones S-Force stereo speakers and the larger XZ2 has a Dynamic Vibration System haptic-driven subwoofer. The phones support Cat 18 LTE with 4x4 MIMO and 5-channel carrier aggregation for theoretical download speeds up to 1.2 Gbps. The XZ2 includes a 3,180mAh battery with wireless and rapid charging. Other specs include NFC, fingerprint reader, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, USB-C, and support for memory cards up to 400 GB. The phones will ship in the late spring unlocked with Android 8.0 Oreo. Pricing will be revealed at a later date.
Google today made ARCore 1.0 available to developers and the public, bringing augmented reality to some 100 million smartphones around the world. Handsets compatible with ARCore include Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; Samsung’s Galaxy S8, S8+, Note8, S7, and S7 edge; LGE’s V30 and V30+; Asus’s Zenfone AR; and OnePlus’s OnePlus 5. More devices from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Asus, Xiaomi, HMD/Nokia, ZTE, Sony Mobile, and Vivo will be compatible with ARCore later this year. The 1.0 release gives developers an updated set of tools to create virtual content. For example, it features improved environmental understanding that lets people put virtual objects on surfaces like posters, furniture, toy boxes, books, cans, and more. The refreshed Android Studio Beta supports ARCore in the Emulator, so developers can get to work right away. Some of the first brands to offer ARCore content include Porsche, FC Barcelona, and Sotheby's. Google says it is expanding the availability of the Google Lens Preview, which lets you take a picture and gather information about what's in the image. Google says Lens will hit all Google Photos English-language users over the coming weeks. Further, Google is going to add Google Lens to its Google Assistant on select Android flagship devices. Lens lets people create contacts from business cards, recognize plants and animals, and add events to their calendar by taking photos.
Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.
Google today said the Google Assistant is prepared to grow in a number of significant ways. First, the voice-activated tool is picking up some new languages. Google says Assistant will speak Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai on Android phones and iPhones in the next few months, with more languages on the way. Google expects Assistant to understand as many as 30 languages by the end of the year. Further, Google Assistant will be able to understand multiple languages at a time, meaning people can speak both English and German to their Assistant without changing settings. This feature will first be available between English, French, and German, with other languages to follow. Google also noted that it is working more directly from carriers and phone makers to improve Assistant. For example, LG, Sony, and Xiaomi are all prepared to rollout device-specific commands and features based on Google Assistant. Moreover, carriers Sprint, Koodo, Telus, and Vodafone are developing integrations with Assistant. Between the phone makers and carriers, Google expects Assistant to support individual device features, customer service queries, and more. Last, Google Assistant is adding two new tools to help people manage their day. Routines let people issue one command and set off a chain of actions. For example, say "Hey Google, I’m home" and the Assistant on Google Home or phone can turn on the lights, share any home reminders, play your favorite music, and more. Location-based reminders have now expanded to Google Home speakers. People can tell Assistant on their speaker to set reminders for specific locations, such as to get milk when at the store, and the alert will popup when appropriate. Google expects to bring even more features to Assistant throughout the year.
Google today announced the Android Enterprise Recommended program and an initial batch of handsets that meet the qualifications. Google says the Android Enterprise Recommended program “establishes best practices and common requirements for devices and services, backed by a thorough testing process conducted by Google.” In order to qualify, devices have to meet a number of specifications concerning their hardware, deployment, security updates, and user help programs. For example, devices approved must run at least Android 7 Nougat, and receive security updates no later than 90 days from their release from Google. Further, device makers must commit to offering security patches to unlocked devices for a minimum of three years. Some of the initial devices that meet the requirements — and are thus recommended for business users — include the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; the BlackBerry KEYone and Motion; the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro; the LG V30 and G6; the Motorola X4 and Z2 ; the Nokia 8; and the Sony Xperia XZ1, XZ Premium, XA2, and XA2 Ultra. Google says it will update the requirements with each new Android platform release to “raise the bar to ensure we are delivering the best experience for our enterprise customers.”
Sony today said it plans to make changes to its corporate leadership later this year. Current President and CEO Kazuo Hirai, largely seen as responsible for turning around the company's fortunes, will stand down from his leadership role on April 1. He will transition to the Chairman of Sony's board of directors. "I have stated that my mission is to ensure Sony continues to be a company that provides customers with kando — to move them emotionally — and inspires and fulfills their curiosity," said Hirai. "To this end, I have dedicated myself to transforming the company and enhancing its profitability, and am very proud that now." Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony's current CFO, will assume Hirai's responsibilities as President and CEO on April 1. The bulk of Sony's fortunes come from its PlayStation business. Sony continues to make mobile devices, most recently the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra. Sony may announce more phones at the forthcoming Mobile Word Congress trade show alter this month. Sony reported profits of $3.2 billion for its fiscal third quarter, its highest earnings ever during that period.
CES is the world's big consumer tech show. Every year we head out to Vegas to check out everything in person. We honor the standouts with our Best of CES awards. This year, five products really caught our eye.
Sony debuted several new smartphones at CES this week in Las Vegas, including the Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra, and L2. The XA2 and XA2 Ultra share nearly every feature other than screen size and battery capacity. Here is an early look at the latest from Sony.
Qualcomm today said a number of leading handset makers have adopted its radio frequency front-end. Some of the OEMs include Google, HTC, LG, Samsung and Sony Mobile. This means these smartphone manufacturers will rely on Qualcomm's hardware to ensure their devices can talk to wireless networks. This is particularly important for T-Mobile, as the RF front end provides comprehensive 600 MHz band (B71) support. T-Mobile is deploying LTE on its 600 MHz spectrum now and plans to use it for 5G service down the road. The RF front end includes a modem-to-antenna system using the new QPM26xx series gallium arsenide-based power amplifier module. The module contains duplexers, envelope tracker, antenna tuners, antenna switches, and discrete and integrated filter modules. Qualcomm says its RF front end supports features such as Gigabit LTE, 4x4 MIMO and LTE Advanced today, and will evolve to handle 5G technologies in 2019.
Sony Mobile today unveiled the Xperia XA2 and Xperia XA2 Ultra handsets, dramatically improved sequels to last year's phones. The XA2 and XA2 Ultra (pictured) have metal frames, new aluminum back panels, and 2.5D curved glass on front that Sony says is more refined than the previous generation. The full HD panels measure 5.2 inches on the XA2 and 6 inches on the XA2 Ultra. Fingerprint readers adorn the rear panel of the handsets. Both phones move from the Snapdragon 400 series to the Snapdragon 630 processor with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The devices share the same 23-megapixel Sony Exmor RS image sensor with hybrid autofocus, SteadyShot stabilization, and ISO speeds up to 12,800 for low-light photography. They have an all-new 8-megapixel camera on front that includes a 120-degree field of view and SteadyShot for cleaner self videos. The larger XA2 Ultra packs a second user-facing camera with a 16-megapxiel sensor, optical image stabilization, and display-based flash. Both phones gain bigger batteries when compared to last year's handsets. The XA2 has a 3,300mAh power cell and the XA2 Ultra improves even more to 3,580mAh. The batteries include Stamina Mode and Qnovo for adaptive charging. Other features include Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX, GPS, WiFi, NFC, USB-C, and memory card slot (up to 256 GB). The phones run Android 8 Oreo. Sony says the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra will go on sale in late January. Pricing wasn't disclosed.
Sony Mobile today announced the Xperia L2, an affordable Android smartphone that makes some significant upgrades compared to its predecessor. To start, the phone has a metal frame and glass front. The L2 includes a 5.5-inch 720p display and it is powered by a 1.5 GHz quad-core MediaTek processor with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The phone now packs a rear-mounted fingerprint reader — a must-have in today's market — and a larger 3,300mAh battery with Stamina Mode. The main camera boasts a 13-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a 120-degree, wide-angle, 8-megapixel sensor. Other features include Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX, GPS, WiFi, NFC, USB-C, and memory card slot. It runs Android 7.1 Nougat. Sony says the Xperia L2 will reach the U.S. in black, gold, and pink in late January. Pricing wasn't disclosed.
Sony has begun updating its Xperia XZ Premium smartphone with Android 8 Oreo. Android 8 includes a handful of new features for smartphones, including notification dots, better app management, and picture-in-picture. Sony is taking things a step further. Sony is giving the XZ Premium one of the best features of the new XZ1 and XZ1 Compact handsets, the 3D Creator tool. With 3D Creator, people can create 3D scans of real-world objects such as faces, heads, and food. The update also gives the XZ Premium predictive (smile) capture, autofocus burst, improved sound quality, and app shortcuts. Sony says the update is being pushed out in phases.
Jolla, developer of the Sailfish operating system, today said the platform is now available to owners of Sony Xperia X devices. Jolla first announced this effort in February. Jolla put Sony's Open Device program to work in order to make this happen. The Sailfish-enabled Xperia X is meant to serve mostly as a developer platform, though Jolla says the platform will also be available to fans. The Xperia X is a modern handset that's more powerful than the aging Jolla C device, allowing developers and enthusiasts to make use of newer technology in their projects. People interested in Sailfish will need their own Xperia X handset. Jolla is offering Sailfish as a download across the EU for 50 Euro. Developers and fans alike will be responsible for installing the OS on their hardware. Jolla was formed by former Nokia employees who resurrected bits and pieces of the defunct Moblin and Maemo Linux platforms.
Netflix recently added the Samsung Galaxy Note8, Sony Xperia XZ1, and the LG V30 to the short list of those able to play back high-definition video in HDR. High-dynamic range content offers better contrast than standard content. The only other handsets capable of supporting Netflix HDR are the LG G6 and Xperia XZ Premium, which have the needed HDR displays. In order to view HDR content on these handsets, owners have to subscribe to the $12 premium Netflix plan (streaming on four screens and ultra HD resolution). They'll also have to ensure the latest version of the app is installed on their phone, and select "high definition" for video playback quality.
Sony today announced the XA1 Plus, a handset that finds some middle ground between the XA1 and XA1 Ultra. It's a mid-range handset that leans heavily on Sony's tired design language. The price point is more attractive than the hardware itself. Here are our initial thoughts on Sony's latest Android smartphone.