Google agreed to pay Samsung $8 billion over four years to make Google's search engine, voice assistant, and app store the default on Samsung phones, according to testimony presented the ongoing case of Epic Games vs. Google. Epic is suing Google claiming its Play Store is an unlawful monopoly.
Google has released a new version of the Android Runtime (ART), a core component that turns app code into lower-level code that can run directly on that specific device. The update contains new optimizations that reduce the resulting code size by about 9.3%. This means most apps now take up less space in both storage and RAM. On the average Android phone, this means a savings of about 50–100 MB in storage. Thanks to Google's modular design of the Android architecture, the ART update does not require a full OS update.
Google and a group of European mobile operators are petitioning the European Union to force Apple to open up its proprietary iMessage platform. The EU has a new Digital Markets law going into effect next year that seeks to regulate "gatekeeper" services of a certain size. Apple is arguing that iMessage falls outside the scope of the law due to the variety of alternative messaging options available. Google, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and others have written a letter arguing that iMessage qualifies as a "core platform service". The decision could hinge on whether iMessage is an important channel for businesses to communicate with their customers.
Visible first launched its eSIM-based, 15-day free trial with iPhones in January 2022. Starting today, it's available to Samsung Galaxy S- and Z-series phones going back to the S20 series, and Google phones starting with the Pixel 3 series.
Google is enhancing its Wallet app to better serve users who pay for public transit with their phone. In certain transit systems that accept "open loop" payments, (tapping a standard credit card at the turnstile, etc.,) the app will now break out those transactions separately with a detailed ride history. It will also show information about savings from time-based fare caps. Transits agencies will also be able to send direct updates, "so you have the latest information on service changes or delays. This new feature will begin rolling out later this year, initially available with Brighton and Hove Buses in the U.K, with plans to bring this feature to more cities next year."
Qualcomm has taken the wraps off its new flagship chip for phones: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. Unsurprisingly, AI is the emphasis among the new features and performance gains. One key new feature is the ability to run a generative AI large language model (LLM) (specifically, Meta's Llama 2) and integrate it with a voice assistant, all on-device. Google has only recently announced such a service — Google Assistant with Bard — albeit as an "early experiment" and presumably cloud-based. The ability to run such cutting-edge AI entirely on-device, enhancing privacy, is a first. The chip also supports multi-modal generative AI, supporting both input and output via voice, text, and photo. The 8 Gen 3 can generate images via stable diffusion in under one second, many times faster than before. Snapchat has already announced plans to use this feature. The Hexagon NPU AI cores are 98% faster than last year's. In the upgraded Sensing Hub, always-on AI performance has been improved up to 3.5x, and there are now dual ISPs, enabling always-on AI using both front and rear cameras. The upgraded AI capabilities enable features such as Photo Expansion ("zooming out" on an existing photo using generative AI) and Video Object Eraser. The Kryo CPU cores feature 30% better performance and 20% better power efficiency compared to last year's chip. Qualcomm has switched to a 1-5-2 arrangement of the CPU cores, with the prime core running at 3.3 GHz and five "performance" cores running at 3.2 GHz. On the GPU side, the company claims 25% better performance and 25% better power efficiency. The chip is also the first in mobile to support ray-tracing with Global Illumination in Unreal Engine 5.2. It also supports gaming at up to 240 Hz, and upscaling to 8K on external displays. The FastConnect 7800 subsystem supports Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.4 with LE Audio, and Qualcomm's new XPAN technology that lets earbuds connect over Wi-Fi, for better sound quality and/or extended range. Flagship Android devices powered by Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 are expected to be available in the coming weeks.
In the newest version of Google's Gboard keyboard software, when you choose a skin tone and/or gender expression for an emoji, that choice instantly becomes the default for all compatible emoji.
Qualcomm is working on a new Snapdragon Wear platform based on the open-source RISC-V architecture instead of Arm. The new chips are intended for smartwatches running Google's Wear OS and Google is working to get Wear OS running on the new RISC-V-based chips. The two companies announced that they plan to commercialize Wear OS wearables based on RISC-V globally, including the US. The planned timeline for commercialization was not revealed. The partnership "will help pave the way for more products within the ecosystem to take advantage" of non-Arm CPUs. Google announced in January that it plans to get Android running on RISC-V chips as a "tier 1" supported platform. Qualcomm invested in a new RISC-V joint venture in August.
Passkeys — an easier and more secure alternative to passwords — took a big step forward this week as Google made them the default way to log in to a personal Google account. Passkeys let you log in to a service the same way you unlock your phone: with a fingerprint, face scan, or pin on your phone. Users can opt out, but will be encouraged to use passkeys with a new option described as "Skip password when possible" or "Simplify your sign-in". Other services adding support for passkeys include Uber and eBay, and soon, WhatsApp.
Google has finally released a proper Google Calendar app for its WearOS smartwatch platform. The app brings a detailed view of your upcoming events and tasks. Limited interactivity lets you RSVP to meetings and mark tasks completed. The app also brings with it two new Wear OS Tiles: "Next event" and "Next tasks". The app is available now from the Play Store.
Google has added two key new features to its existing Pixel Buds Pro: Bluetooth Super Wideband and Conversation Detection. Bluetooth Super Wideband offers wider bandwidth, covering a wider range of audio frequencies. This "doubles the bandwidth for voices, making you sound fuller, clearer and more natural than ever before." The feature currently only works with the new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Conversation Detection is an optional new feature that automatically pauses audio and enables Transparency Mode whenever you start speaking. Google has also improved Clear Calling with better AI for eliminating background noise. For gaming, Google has also reduced latency when paired with a Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro. Finally, Google is also introducing new color options to match the new Pixel 8 series: Bay (blue) and Porcelain (cream). The Pixel Buds Pro sell for $200.
Google has announced its Pixel 8 series flagship phones with many expected upgrades, but most of the headline-grabbing new features are exclusive to the larger, more expensive Pixel 8 Pro. In a major shift, Google is promising seven years of full OS updates and Feature Drops for the 8 series. Both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro sport Google's new Tensor G3 chip, which upgrades all aspects and supports twice as many machine learning (ML) models. Upgraded ML performance enables new features like Audio Magic Eraser, which sharply reduces unwanted background noise in already-captured videos. Another new ML feature is Best Take, which captures a series of photos of a group of people, then lets you combine them with each person's best take. Despite using the same Tensor G3 processor, the Pixel 8 Pro is capable of running more powerful "foundation" generative AI models on-device. At launch, this includes an upgraded Magic Eraser tool for photos. A Feature Drop due in December will add Zoom Enhance to create detail when zooming in on already-captured photos. That update will also bring Video Boost, a new HDR+ for video that combines on-device AI with cloud AI. Finally, the December update will also bring smarter suggested replies in the GBoard keyboard and text summaries of voice recordings in Recorder. The Pro model also has a remote temperature sensor, which Google is working to get FDA approval for health uses. The smaller Pixel 8 has a 6.2-inch FHD+ "Actua" OLED display with always-on and up to 120 Hz refresh. It also has a 4,575 mAh battery, 30W fast charging, fast wireless charging, 8 GB RAM, 128 or 256 GB storage, 50 megapixel main camera with OIS and laser focusing, 12 megapixel wide camera, USB 3.2, Wi-Fi 7, and Bluetooth 5.3. Some models support mmWave 5G. The Pixel 8 Pro steps up to a 6.7-inch "Super Actua" display with LPTO OLED technology for 1–120 Hz refresh, 1344 x 2992 resolution, and 2400 nits peak brightness. It also has a 5,050 mAh battery, ultra-wideband, and 12 GB of RAM. Storage options include 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB. The cameras include a 50 megapixel main camera, 48 megapixel wide camera, 48 megapixel 5x telephoto, and 10.5 megapixel front camera with auto-focus. The Pro also has exclusive Pro controls in the camera app, including a hi-res option, long exposures, and RAW output. The Pixel 8 will be available in Hazel (gray), Obsidian (black), or Rose starting at $699. The Pixel 8 Pro will be available in Obsidian (black), Porcelain (cream), or Bay (blue) starting at $999. Both are available for pre-order now, shipping October 12th.
Google has announced Google Assistant with Bard, a new version of its voice assistant that integrates the company's Bard large language model generative AI technology, allowing it to act more like an intelligent assistant. Assistant with Bard takes both speech and visual input, can access your personal data, and can take action on your behalf. It is also conversational, allowing follow-up questions that consider the context of the whole conversation. Google previewed several examples, such as "catch me up on important emails this week" and "make me a grocery list for the weekend, heavy on snacks, with smoothies." It can also consider anything visual shown on your phone's screen, such as "create a cute social caption for this photo" or, viewing a photo you just snapped of a sign, "which way should I go?". Google says it will invite select users to test the feature soon, with select Pixel phone users able to access the feature in the coming months.
Google's new Pixel Watch 2 brings a long list of small upgrades to company's round smartwatch. These include more durable Gorilla Glass 5 cover glass, a new quad-core Qualcomm 5100 processor, better battery life (up to 24 hours with always-on display), faster charging, and new health sensors. The upgraded heart rate sensor is 40% more accurate. It can also now measure skin temperature and skin conductance (cEDA), in addition to oxygen saturation (SpO2). The recycled aluminum housing keeps the same round design and is compatible with bands for the original Pixel watch. The Wear OS 4.0 software gains Safety Check, where you set a timer to check in, and your emergency contacts are notified of your location if you fail to check in. On the LTE version, this feature will work over the cellular connection even if you haven't activated a cellular plan for the watch. Color options are Polished Silver (with Bay Blue or Porcelain band), Champagne Gold (with Hazel band), or Matte Black (with black band). The Wi-Fi version sells for $350 while the LTE version runs $400. It's available for pre-order today and ships October 12th.
Google has announced the Fitbit Charge 6, a fitness tracker watch with more smartwatch features than ever. It includes smarter features like YouTube Music, Google Maps with built-in GPS, and Google Wallet with NFC, yet costs $160, less than half the cost of a Pixel Watch. The Charge 6 has heart rate tracking that's 60% more accurate than previous Fitbits. It also performs sleep tracking and has a Daily Readiness Score, "a Premium feature that helps you understand your body’s readiness to tackle a tough workout or take a day to recover, with daily activity recommendations based on your score." It can also measure electrodermal activity and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2). The Charge 6 can connect to compatible gym equipment via Bluetooth, so your heart rate can be displayed on machines from NordicTrack, Peloton, Concept2, and Tonal. Pre-orders start today, with delivery this fall.
Google has posted an official page on its web site for the forthcoming Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, and Pixel Watch 2. The page includes a few photos plus a short video with a all-around views of both phones. Side-by-side shots show a significant size difference between the two. Few concrete details are provided, but Google promises that the phones will offer "the most advanced Pixel cameras yet, and Google AI to help you do more, even faster." Examples of Google AI include smart photo editing and live language translation. As for the Pixel Watch 2, Google promises "even more personalized help, safety features, and health insights." All three products are going to be announced October 4th, and could be available the same day.
Google has ended its Pixel Pass subscription bundle after just 22 months, even though the offering was advertised as including a new phone after two years. The news comes as Google prepares to announce a new lineup of Pixel phones (presumably the Pixel 8 series) on October 4th. The monthly fees paid so far did cover the cost of an initial Pixel phone, plus a bundle of cloud services. Google is also offering a $100 credit to affected customers. But those customers are losing access to special discounted rates for streaming music and other services. Google has a long history of killing off products more quickly than other companies.
A page on Google's own Store web site briefly featured an image clearly showing the company's next flagship phone. The photo was labeled "A person takes a call on a Pixel 8 Pro phone in Porcelain." That phone has yet to be announced. Google historically announces such phones in October. Leaks like this are common enough for Google that they may be intentional, to drum up interest ahead of the official announcement.
Google recently released a new version of Android Runtime (ART), a core software layer that all Android apps run on. The update "delivered real-world app start-up improvements of up to 30% on some devices." Starting with Android 12, Google was able to make ART a module separate from the rest of the Android OS. That means the new ART 13 update with faster startup times is available to all Android phones with Android 12 or later. Future ART updates — with performance and security updates, as well as new programming features for developers — will also be available to all Android 12+ phones. Google expects that ART 14 will further "improve performance while reducing code size".
Google has released the fifth and final beta version of Android 14. Although no specific date has been announced for the release of the final public version, the company says it is "only weeks away".
Google announced that it has finished rolling out end-to-end (E2E) encryption for group chats that take place over RCS using the Google Messages app, the default messaging app on most Android phones in the US. Google is also enabling RCS by default, unless a user has previously, explicitly turned it off. Google launched E2E encryption for one-on-one conversations in 2012, and started testing it for group chats at the end of last year.
A new industry standard for end-to-end (E2E) encrypted messaging with improved security was finalized this month. The new standard also provides excellent scalability for large group conversations, a challenge for some previous approaches. Google announced that it will adopt this new Message Layer Security (MLS) specification in its Google Messages app, the default messaging app on most Android phones. The company will also "support [MLS'] wide deployment across the industry by open sourcing our implementation in the Android codebase." The standard opens the door to making E2E encryption interoperable across different services and platforms, although it only addresses the encryption aspect, not the basic incompatibility of messaging platforms like RCS and iMessage. MLS was created by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The specification has been in the works since 2018 and was finally released as RFC 9420 earlier this month.
Google has released its June 2023 "Feature Drop" (a software update for Pixel devices that adds new features). Although most of the new features are small, there are a lot of them this month. Google can alert your designated emergency contacts when you're in trouble, including sharing your location with them. This can now be activated in three new ways: when your phone detects a car crash, by asking Google Assistant, or by asking Google Assistant for a safety check at a designated time (the alert is sent if you don't respond to the safety check). Cinematic wallpapers uses AI to turn your 2D photos into dynamic 3D wallpapers. The Recorder app new has enhanced speaker labels, enabling users to "export transcripts into Google Docs, generate speaker-labeled video clips and search for speakers within recordings". The camera app now lets you start a self-timer with a hand gesture. Adaptive Charging is now smart enough to learn your charging habits and "slowly charge to 100% one hour before it's expected to be unplugged", which can extend the lifespan of the phone's battery. Adaptive haptics will now "lower its vibration intensity when it detects that it's on a hard, flat surface like a desk or table". On the Pixel 7 Pro, macro mode is now available for video. The rest of the features are available for Pixel 6 and newer Pixel phones.
Google is updating its Wallet app to support more and new types of cards, bringing the app closer to a full replacement for physical keys and wallet. The app will now let you scan any physical barcode or QR code and turn it into a scannable card in Wallet. This feature can be used for things like a physical gym membership card, transit ticket, parking pass, or e-commerce returns. Google is also working to enable secure, protected health insurance cards in Wallet. The first partners to support this feature will be Humana in the US and National Insurance in the UK. Google is also introducing a new shortcut that makes it easier to save travel passes received via RCS in the Messages app. Finally, Maryland is now the latest US state to support a digital driver's license or state ID in Wallet. Google says digital IDs will soon be available for Arizona, Colorado, and Georgia.
Google is working with the major video conferencing providers to enable audio-only versions of their apps for Android Auto. The apps would simply let you join a previously scheduled meeting.
Google has dropped an update on Wear OS, its smartwatch platform, including new and enhanced apps coming this year. The company also outlined several key features coming in Wear OS 4. A major update to the Google Home app (rolling out today) will let you "check who rang your Nest doorbell right in your notifications, remotely unlock your door and more." Google will also introduce Gmail and Google Calendar for Wear OS. Gmail will let you reply to emails. Calendar will let you "check your schedule, view and RSVP to events, and update task statuses". Google also highlighted what popular third-party apps are introducing. WhatsApp is coming to Wear OS. Spotify and Peloton are also introducing new Tile widgets that make it easier and quicker to interact with those services. Finally, Google announced several key features coming in Wear OS 4, like backup and restore support. "And if you’re setting up a watch from your phone, any permissions you've granted on your phone will automatically carry over."
The top three US carriers will all sell both the Google Pixel 7a and Pixel Fold. All three will sell the Pixel 7a starting this afternoon. T-Mobile will sell it for the same price as Google ($500), while AT&T will charge $520 and Verizon will charge $540. The 7a comes in both mmWave and non-mmWave versions. The addition of mmWave 5G accounts for the price difference with Verizon. Although T-Mobile's version does not support mmWave, it will support three-carrier aggregation on the company's unique 5G SA network. AT&T's version does not support mmWave either, but does support mid-band 5G: band 77-C today and band 77-A (3.45 GHz) "enabled in a future software update". T-Mobile and AT&T say they will offer the Pixel Fold "soon" or "this summer" (respectively). Verizon is being much more specific, saying Pixel Fold pre-orders start June 20th, with full availability on June 27th. Verizon will offer the phone with the option of either 256 or 512 GB of storage.
Google today announced its first foldable phone, the Google Pixel Fold. The Pixel Fold features a 7.6-inch flexible inner display for a tablet-like experience when open. The concept is similar to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold series, as are the high-end specs. When closed, the 5.8-inch outer display offers OLED technology and FHD+ resolution. Both displays support up to 120 Hz refresh. Google claims that the Fold is the thinnest foldable on the market (when open), and has the best zoom camera (5x optical) of any foldable phone. Google also claims that its hinge mechanism is the most durable on the market, thanks to "multi-alloy steel construction" and a custom "dual-axis, quad-cam synchronized mechanism". Like Samsung's Z Flip series, the hinge is stable at any angle, allowing you to set the phone down and keep the camera pointed wherever you choose. A unique Dual Screen Interpreter Mode uses both displays to give two people real-time, two-way language translation. Corning Gorilla Glass Victus protects the outside and the phone offers IPx8 water resistance. The Pixel Fold is powered by Google's own Tensor G2 processor, paired with 12 GB LPDDR5 RAM and 512 GB UFS 3.1 storage. The battery is rated 4,821 mAh and the phone supports wired fast charging up to 30W (no charger is included) as well as wireless charging. The main camera is 48 megapixel with OIS, while the tele and wide camera are both 10.8 megapixel. Although Google claims the inner selfie camera is the best in a foldable, it is just 9.8 megapixel and fixed focus. The phone also includes mmWave 5G, UWB, Wi-Fi 6E, and stereo speakers. It will be available for $1,799 in either Obsidian or Porcelain. It ships "next month". Pre-orders start today and include a free Pixel Watch.
Google today announced the Pixel 7a, a more affordable model in the company's Pixel 7 series. At $499, it's $100 cheaper than the Pixel 7. However it's a big jump up from last year's Pixel 6a, which was only $349. The Pixel 7a is relatively compact with its 6.1-inch display, smaller than the Pixel 7. The display sports FHD+ resolution, OLED technology, and 90 Hz refresh. The 64-megapixel main camera is the best in an a-series phone yet thanks to a larger sensor. There's also a 13 megapixel wide-angle camera and 13 megapixel front camera. The 7a is powered by a Google Tensor G2 processor paired with 8 GB LPDDR5 RAM and 128 GB UFS 3.1 storage. It has a 4,385 mAh battery and an IP67 rating for dust and water. It will come in four colors: Sea (light blue), Charcoal, and Snow, plus Coral available exclusively from Google. Google promises 5 years of Pixel updates for the 7a. The Google Pixel 7a is available starting today.
Google today announced several new features of Android's wallpaper options and the Google Messages app. The Messages app gains Magic Compose, a new feature that uses AI to enhance your messages by rewriting them for you in the style of your choice. In Android, the wallpaper tools will expand this fall to includes Generative AI Wallpaper. This feature will let users create a completely original wallpaper image based on a structured text prompt. Sooner — next month — Pixel owners will gain access to Emoji Wallpaper and and Cinematic Wallpaper. Emoji Wallpaper lets Android users create unique, personalized wallpaper based on a user-chosen combination of several emoji and one of several patterns or colors. The wallpaper are also slightly interactive, responding to touch. Cinematic Wallpaper takes an existing photo and uses AI to make it a 3D image with a subject that moves independently from the background as you move the phone.
Google today revealed that WhatsApp will soon offer an app for the WearOS smartwatch platform. It will support both messaging and calls.
Google today announced Magic Editor, a new feature of Google Photos coming later this year that builds on Magic Eraser by letting users make more types of changes to photos. Users will be able to easily select subjects and move them around, with missing backgrounds and cut-off details automatically generated using AI. Lighting and skies can also be changed, using AI to make more dramatic changes than traditional editing could deliver.
Google has released the first official images of its new foldable phone and confirmed that it will be called the Pixel Fold. The company also promises to release more details about the device during the keynotes at its Google I/O event next week, starting May 10th. The new images show a device similar to the Samsung Galaxy Fold series, with a large vertical outer display on one side and a larger, flexible landscape display on the inside. Also visible are three rear cameras, an inner camera, and a smooth metallic hinge. The long-rumored device was first confirmed via an FCC approval published on Monday. That confirmed several radio-related features, such as UWB, wireless charging, mmWave 5G, and Wi-Fi 6E.
Apple and Google have announced a new industry standard that will enable cross-platform alerts when people are potentially being tracked without their consent using any popular Bluetooth location-tracking device, regardless of manufacturer. For example, this would allow someone to receive an alert on their Android phone when an unknown Apple AirTag seems to be following them, or the same for an Apple iPhone and a Samsung SmartTag. Current anti-stalker features are either siloed in one company's ecosystem or require the manual download and use of a special app. This new standard will eventually come baked right into both iOS and Android. Besides Apple and Google, "Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee have expressed support for the draft specification, which offers best practices and instructions for manufacturers, should they choose to build these capabilities into their products." Today marks the start of a three-month comment period on the draft standard. The companies plan to finalize the standard by the end of 2023 and implement it "in future versions" of iOS and Android.
A new device approval appearing on the FCC's web site appears to confirm the rumor that Google has its own foldable phone coming out soon. Among the information available are diagrams showing "open" and "closed" configurations. The crude drawings show a device that appears similar to the Samsung Z Fold series, as rumored. The approval also confirms that the device will be high-end and feature-rich, with features like UWB, wireless charging, mmWave 5G, and Wi-Fi 6E. The company is holding its annual Google I/O developer conference next week, starting May 10th. The day-one keynote event often includes major announcements. Given the timing of this FCC approval, it seems likely Google will announce this foldable device at that event next week.
Google is rolling out a new pop-up prompt in Android that will appear immediately after certain app crashes, prompting the user to update to a more stable version of that app. Google will use the analytics it collects through the Play Store to determine which versions of apps are more crash-prone and which are more stable. When a crash occurs and a more stable version is available, the prompt will appear.
Google today announced a number of changes to its Google Fi wireless service, now known as Google Fi Wireless. All plans now "include, at no extra cost, full connectivity for compatible smartwatches like the Pixel Watch and Samsung watches". The company also now offers a free seven-day trial via eSIM. As with recent free trial offers from other carriers, its requires a phone that can activate a second line via eSIM, allowing the user to keep their existing line during the trial. By default, Google will automatically start paid service at the end of the trial, but users can cancel at any time. Google is also now offering new customers (or new lines on a family plan) a free phone worth up to $449 via 24 monthly bill credits. This covers the cost of a Google Pixel 6a, Samsung A14 5G, or moto g power (2022), for example. Google has also updated the Fi Android app to let parents control a list of contacts that their kids are allowed to communicate with. Finally, the pricing of the Simply Unlimited plans has been tweaked slightly, to now be a flat $80/month total for 2–4 users. This is effectively only a change for families of three, which previously paid $75/month.
Google has released the first public beta version of Android 14. Previous beta versions were intended only for developers. This version of Android 14 only includes a handful of minor changes visible to users, compared to Android 13. One is a smarter share-sheet, with new, faster options to share content with other people and devices. The "back" gesture has also been tweaked with a new visual interface. Most other changes are "behind the scenes" changes for developers. Google sometimes keeps new Android features hidden until it can announce them at an event like its annual I/O conference. Users wishing to try out Android 14 Beta 1 (on a non-critical device) can now enroll a recent Pixel phone in the beta program to access the software.
Google is updating its Maps app on iOS and Android to add better navigation within US national parks, particularly for hiking trails. Instead of just showing trailheads with pins, the entire path of a trail will now be shown. The app will also now "surface helpful details from the Maps community like what type of trail it is, its difficulty, and whether it's better for running, walking, or cycling." Google will also make it easier to download offline maps for specific parks, since cell service can be spotty within many. Other improvements include a visual overview of top attractions, and better directions to trails, including cycling directions. The updates are rolling out this month for the US, and Google will expand these features "around the world in the coming months."