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Google Says Android Messages Now Fully Available On the Web

Today, 1:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today outlined some new functionalities headed to its Android Messages app. First, Messages users will be able to send and receive messages from their desktop PCs. Users will need to enable "Messages for web" in the mobile app. Once turned on, they'll be able to access stickers, emoji, and more from their PC. The Android Messages mobile app earns new support for GIFs, which are accessible from the composition bar. Google is adding its smart reply feature to Android Messages. This tool offers English-based, quick-response text/emoji suggestions. Google says more languages will be supported over time. Moving forward, Android Messages will bake in support for link previews. This way link recipients will be able to view an inline peek at linked info. Another new feature will provide people with instant copy access to one-time passwords received via text message. Android Messages on the web is rolling out today, with the rest of the features reaching the mobile app over the weeks ahead.

Google Says YouTube Music and YouTube Premium Now Available

Today, 10:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its new YouTube Music and YouTube Premium apps and services available in 17 countries. YouTube Music is the new music service that is built around streaming with revised recommendations, playlists, stations, search, new/trending videos, exclusives, and downloads for offline playback to paying subscribers. It's available as an app and on the web. YouTube Premium is the rebranded YouTube Red service. It offers an ad-free viewing experience on YouTube, as well as access to background play, originals, and downloads. YouTube Music costs $10 per month, while YouTube Premium, which includes YouTube Music, costs $12 per month. The two are available in Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as the U.S, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and South Korea.

Google Updates Datally with More Ways to Manage Data

Today, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a refresh to its Datally app that should help people take more control over their mobile data use. First up is guest mode. This lets people set a limit on how much data someone else is allowed to use when the phone is being lent. A new daily limit feature helps people control their data use over time by setting limits for each day. This feature will offer warnings before users breach their limits and will even let people block themselves from using their mobile data if they've exceeded their daily limit. Datally will take charge of unused apps' data use. The tool shows people the apps they aren't using and helps guide them through the process of uninstalling or disabling apps so the app can't consume data in the background. Last, Datally adds a wifi map that shows the location and quality of nearby wifi access points. The new Datally app is being made available today.

Gmail for iOS Intros Notifications for High-Priority Messages Only

Friday, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is rolling out a feature to its iOS Gmail app that will let people receive notifications only for messages deemed high priority. Google says the optional feature relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify messages that the recipient may want to read first. A new "High Priority Only" option appears in the Notifications drop-down in Gmail's settings. Users will need to select it if they wish to test the scaled-back notifications. The feature is already available to the latest Gmail app for iOS and will reach Gmail for Android devices soon.

Google Releases App Maker to Education and Small Business Customers

Thursday, 11:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 11:43 AM

Google today moved its App Maker tool out of beta and made the simple coding service available to educational institutions and small businesses. The idea, says Google, is to help schools and SMBs to create custom apps that work more directly for them. Beyond building the apps, schools and businesses that put App Maker to use will be able to deploy and manage those apps through simple controls. App Maker now supports Cloud SQL, OAuth, drag-and-drop templates, and G Suite integration. Schools and businesses interested in testing App Maker can reach out to Google directly.

Google Waffles On Android WearOS Power Management

Jun 11, 2018, 2:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has reversed course on some ideas it had for managing battery life on WearOS devices in Android P. The company's original intent was to limit certain background operations, particularly alarms and jobs, in order to conserve power. It appears as though developers felt too limited by the limits. "From the outset of the Wear OS by Google developer preview, battery life has been a major focus area," explained Google. "When we talked to the developer community, the update that attracted the most feedback was the disabling of alarms and jobs for background apps. After listening to developer feedback and reviewing the battery statistics, we are reversing this change." The company said the strict on/off settings got in the way of general usage and negatively changed how people used their wearables. Moving down the road, Google says it will let developers use the App Standby Buckets tool in Android P to manage background and foreground tasks to balance power needs. Google says developers won't need to reinstall the platform on their developer devices, as the changes are being made on the back end. Google hopes WearOS developers continue to provide feedback so it can refine the platform ahead of its eventual release.

Google’s Relationship with Huawei Under Question by US Gov

Jun 7, 2018, 5:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Several members of Congress are posing questions about the relationship between Google, Huawei, and other Chinese companies. Senator Mark Warner, a democrat who serves on the Senate Select Committie on Intelligence, has sent Google a letter with a request for information about its relationship with Huawei. Google confirmed that it received the query and said it “[looked] forward to answering these questions.” Warner sent a similar letter to Twitter. Mike Conaway, a republican congressman, indicated his office is making similar inquiries. Some in Congress see Huawei as a national security threat due to its ties with the Chinese government. Earlier this year, Huawei saw smartphone distribution deals with AT&T and Verizon evaporate after pressure from Congress. Later this summer the Senate Intelligence Committee expects to hear directly from Google executive Larry Page, as well as Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey over their relationships with Huawei and other Chinese firms. "The possibility of Chinese vendors with documented ties to the Chinese Communist Party having access to Facebook's private API (and potentially Alphabet's) — particularly as China develops tools to harness individual-level data for surveillance and social control — raises serious national security concerns," said a portion of Warner’s letter. Huawei denies that it represents any type of threat. It is the third-largest maker of phones in the world and uses Google’s Android operating system.

Google Slides Gains More Granular Controls

Jun 7, 2018, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated Google Slides and given app users more control over sizes and shapes. Google says people will now be able to set the exact size of objects on their slides using a specific numeric value or percentage scale. Objects can be moved around on slides with exact measurements, as well as rotated horizontally or vertically, or set at a precise rotation angle. Google says these changes are coming to the desktop and mobile versions of Google Slides. The updated app will roll out in the next few days.

Essential Pushes Android P Beta to the Essential Phone

Jun 7, 2018, 7:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products is matching Google’s Android P release schedule. Earlier this week Google released Android P Beta 2 to developers. Google made the update available to its own Pixel and Nexus phones. Less than a day later, Essential is also releasing the Android P developer preview to its own phone. “Android P is moving from Dev Preview to Beta on Essential Phone,” said the company on its Twitter account. “This update, rolling out now, includes the latest Android P code integration, improved adaptive brightness range, various stability fixes and June Security Patches.” People who own the Essential PH-1 can read more about the Android P beta on Essential’s web site.

Google Releases Android P Beta 2 with Final APIs

Jun 6, 2018, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 6, 2018, 3:51 PM

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.

Project Fi Gains Support for Kids Under Age 13 via Family Link

Jun 5, 2018, 11:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 5, 2018, 11:58 AM

Google today updated its Project Fi service in order to make it a better option for families. The service now allows parents to add children under the age of 13 to Project Fi group plans using the Family Link tool. Parents will be able to manage their children's data usage, such as set limits and add account alerts. Family Link lets parents set limits on app and device use, as well as manage content filters for Chrome, Search, and other Google services. Project Fi subscribers need only tap into the Family Link app to get started. Google recently expanded the number of devices available to Project Fi subscribers to include the new LG G7 ThinQ and LG V35 ThinQ.

Google to Slowly Move Everyone to the New Gmail

Jun 5, 2018, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is preparing to more broadly roll out its new Gmail design to users on the web and mobile devices. For the moment the new Gmail is opt-in, but that is going to change over the next few months. The new Gmail will become generally available to everyone starting in July, though people will still need to opt in. Google says people who don't opt in within eight weeks from general availability will be migrated automatically. Google will allow people to opt out of the new Gmail for up to 12 weeks after it reaches general availability, or through October. After October, all users will be migrated to the new Gmail. The new Gmail has a refreshed design with features like nudge, snooze, and scam notifications. It also helps people unsubscribe from newsletters and makes it easier to view attachments. The new Gmail is already available to Android and iOS devices should users care to upgrade.

Google Makes June Security Patches Available

Jun 5, 2018, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today detailed the June security patch for Android devices. The company says it discovered a number of vulnerabilities impacting the the Android runtime, framework, media framework, and system software. It also found component-level issues with hardware from LG, MediaTek, Nvidia, and Qualcomm. Most issues were given a severity rating of "high" and several were listed as "critical." Google says it informed its hardware partners about the issues about 30 days ago. Google does not believe any of the vulnerabilities have been exploited by hackers. Google is pushing two updates to its Nexus and Pixel phones, dated June 1 and June 5. It will be up to individual device makers to update their own hardware with the latest patches. Google will provide AOSP with the patches within 48 hours.

LG G7 ThinQ Goes On Sale Today for $749

Jun 1, 2018, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sales of the LG G7 ThinQ phone kicked off in the U.S. today. The phone is being sold by Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Project Fi, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. It costs $749. T-Mobile is offering a BOGO deal on the phone at launch. Features of the G7 ThinQ include a 6.1-inch screen, Snapdragon 845 processor, dual rear cameras with portrait shooting and Google Lens, wireless charging, Boombox sound and quad DAC, and Android 8 Oreo.

Chrome 67 Can Access Device Sensors for Better Web Apps

May 31, 2018, 3:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is rolling out Chrome 67 for Android devices with several new features in tow. Most significantly, the refreshed browser puts new APIs to work. The Generic Sensor API gives web sites and web apps access to a mobile device accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer. Google says this will let developers create better games, fitness tracking, and augmented/virtual reality web apps. Chrome 67 also adds the WebXR Device API, in beta form, which it says enables the creation of virtual and augmented reality experiences on mobile devices and desktops. It will eventually lead to unified experiences across devices, such as phones, VR headsets, and desktop-based VR systems. Developers can find tools to access this API on GitHub. Last, Chrome 67 rearranges the tab switcher into a horizontal series of cards. Chrome 67 is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google's Project Fi to Sell the LG V35 ThinQ, G7 ThinQ, and Moto G6

May 30, 2018, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 30, 2018, 11:54 AM

Google is expanding the selection of phones available from its Project Fi MVNO. The company today said it will soon offer the LG V35 ThinQ, LG G7 ThinQ, and the Motorola Moto G6. The V35 will cot $899, the G7 will cost $749, and the G6 will cost $199. Aside from their ability to connect to Project Fi, these phones will mirror the features of unlocked and carriers variants. The Mot G6 is already available for preorder from Fi, and the G7 and V35 will arrive at some point next month. Before now, the selection was limited to Google's own Nexus and Pixel devices, as well as the Moto X4.

Google, PayPal Extend Mobile and Online Payment Partnership

May 24, 2018, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

PayPal today said it has deepened its relationship with Google and Google Pay in order to make it easier for people to make payments from their mobile devices and on the web. PayPal says people who add PayPal to any of Google's services will be able to pay across the entire Google ecosystem anywhere PayPal is offered as a payment option. For example, if a person adds PayPal to Google Pay, support for PayPal will be added to that person's other Google services, including Google Play and the Google Store, without additional logins. "PayPal and Google Pay share common goals of creating simple payment solutions across our platforms that enable people to shop more seamlessly," said PayPal. The two companies hope the new collaboration eases the pain points people often encounter when attempting to make mobile and online payments. The new Google Pay and PayPal integration will be live soon.

HTC U12+ Jumps to 2:1 Screen, Improves Edge Sense, Refines Speakers, Adds Sonic Zoom

May 23, 2018, 3:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today announced the U12+, its flagship handset for the year. The phone carries over the "liquid design" from last year's U11, but updates the color selection for the metal-and-glass chassis. The device is rated IP68 and can handle short dunks in water. HTC created new digital controls along the side edges to help seal up the chassis. The U12+ also improves the Edge Sense pressure-sensitive sides with new controls and actions. The U12+ sees HTC catching up to its competitors with a 2:1 aspect screen. The display measures 6 inches and offers quad HD+ resolution (2,880 by 1,440 pixels). The Super LCD 6 panel is protected by Gorilla Glass and supports HDR 10 video playback. Like most of today's flagship devices, the U12+ is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. The phone includes 6 GB of RAM and comes with either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. It supports microSD memory cards up to 2 TB. HTC made big changes to the camera. The U12+ features dual cameras on the rear and the front. On back, the main camera has a 12-megapixel, wide-angle sensor at f/1.75 and a secondary 16-megapixel telephoto sensor at f/2.6. HTC says the camera includes UltraSpeed Autofocus 2, which is a hybrid of phase detection and laser autofocus. The phone supports optical zoom up to 2x and digital zoom up to 10x. Other camera features include HDR, bokeh portraits, face detection, and pro mode with RAW capture. The front has two identical 8-megapixel cameras at f/2.0 with support for bokeh portraits, HDR, face unlock, live makeup, AR stickers, and panorama selfies. The video camera includes a feature called Sonic Zoom, which will tweak the microphones to focus more narrowly when users zoom in on a subject. It can capture 4K video and includes OIS, 360-degree 3D audio capture, slow-motion, and time-lapse. Like the U11, the U12+ includes both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, which can be called up via the Edge Sense gestures. HTC tweaked its BoomSound speaker system to deliver 30% more sound and a better balance between the top and bottom speakers. The phone ships with HTC's USonic headphones with active noise cancellation. Other specs include NFC, Bluetooth 5, USB-C, 3,500mAh battery with rapid charging, and dual-band WiFi. As for network support, the U12+ is being sold as a single global unit with wide support for LTE networks. It includes Cat 18 LTE with support for U.S. bands such as 29 for AT&T and 66 for T-Mobile. HTC says the phone is fully certified to run on Verizon's network. The U12+ will go on sale over the course of the next few weeks. Pricing will be in line with other flagship devices, says HTC.

Google Reveals Enterprise Features in Android P

May 22, 2018, 3:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today provided more information about business features baked into Android P. To start, Android P makes it easier for businesses to set up, manage, and keep separate work and personal profiles. For example, work apps now have a dedicated tab in the app launcher, allowing employees to easily access their work apps and data. Android P also makes it easy for shared devices to host multiple employee profiles. For example, a work tablet can support two or more employees’ work accounts. Users need only sign out at the end of their shift, hand the device over, and the other can sign in and instantly access all their data. The tool also makes it possible for people with a single device to easily turn off their work profile so they can focus on home life. The revised kiosk mode makes it possible to lock Android devices into running only a few dedicated apps. For example, a restaurant could create a kiosk that supports a mobile ordering app and a payment app while keeping internal device settings, such as network connectivity, safe from accidental or intentional changes. The kiosk can be customized however businesses wish. Last, Android P includes a number of new security functions. For example, IT admins can require different PINs for personal and work propfiles, and force security timeouts for either. Additional policies make it easier for businesses to ensure that work data is not shared from the work profile to the employee’s personal profile. Android P is currently in developer beta. It is expected to arrive in full later this year. Google is encouraging its business customers to take the new enterprise features for a spin.

Google's Revised YouTube Music Rolling Out Today

May 22, 2018, 11:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google said its wholly refreshed YouTube Music app and service are being made available starting today. The app has been rebuilt with a new recommendation engine with a home screen that dynamically adapts based on listening habits. The service includes thousands of playlists across most genres, moods, and activities. The app supports keyword- and lyric-based search to boost discovery. It packs music videos, official albums, remixes, live performances, and singles, along with the newest and trending videos. Paid members will be able to download a YouTube Music mixtape for offline, ad-free listening. The service costs $9.99 per month and is included in the new YouTube Premium service. Google is rolling the new app out in stages.

Twitter Changing Up Emoji to Improve Experience On Android Phones

May 22, 2018, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter is dropping support for native emojis from platform vendors such as Google and Samsung in its Android app and replacing them with Twemoji. At issue is compatibility with old devices. Phones running Android 7.x and below often have trouble displaying updated emoji and instead show generic characters instead of the intended graphic. Twitter is adopting Twemoji for its Android app, targeting devices running Android 4.x KitKat through 7.x Nougat. Android devices running Android 8 Oreo should not experience a change, as Oreo includes native support for the latest emoji. Twitter confirmed to Emojipedia that it has been testing the switch to Twemoji with select users since March and is now rolling it out for all users of the official Twitter app. The change also brings the Android app inline with what users see on Twitter.com.

Google Photos Adds Stars and Hearts to Mark Your Faves

May 22, 2018, 7:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is making Google Photos a little bit more personal. The company this week made it possible to mark your own photos with stars in order to signify them as favorites. Google Photos will collect all your starred photos in once place so you can easily browse through your favorite pix. Further, Google Photos now lets others offer feedback on shared photos. Moving forward, users can mark shared images with hearts to let the sender know they enjoyed the picture. The hearts tool works on individual photos as well as shared folders. The latest version of Google Photos is rolling out to Android and iOS devices over the days ahead.

Latest Version of Google Maps for iOS Lets You Customize Your Car

May 21, 2018, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

iPhone owners can now have some fun with Google Maps by selecting a new navigation icon. Maps historically relies on a blue navigation arrow to indicate the user's location and direction of travel. Tapping the arrow will bring up a menu that allows people to select a car, pickup, or SUV to customize the experience. Earlier this year, Google let Android users opt for a Mario-style car for driving directions. Google says the latest version of Google Maps for iOS, with optional car graphics, is free to download from the iTuns App Store.

Google Home Now Lets You Control Play Movies Via Voice

May 18, 2018, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

As promised, Google has added voice control support to its own video service, Google Play Movies & TV, to Google Home. People who own Google Home products can now speak voice commands to access movies and television shows purchased or rented through the Google Play Store and have that content play on Chromecast-connected television sets. Google says people won't have to change any settings or reconfigure their device to access this feature, as it has been added automatically on the backend. Google Home has for some time allowed people to use voice commands to access Netflix and other third-party streaming video content. The tool lets people start movies and shows, fast-forward, rewind, pause, and more.

Google Play Music to Remain As-Is for the Time Being

May 17, 2018, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today relaunched its premium video and music services, but says its existing Google Play Music service will remain unmolested. "If you use Google Play Music, nothing will change — you’ll still be able to access all of your purchased music, uploads and playlists in Google Play Music just like always," explained Google. Google Play Music carries its own $9.99 per month subscription fee. That fee has historically also included access to YouTube Red and YT Music. The same will be true of Google's new premium services. "If you are a subscriber to Google Play Music, good news, you get a YouTube Music Premium membership as part of your subscription each month," said Google. Existing customers can keep their current pricing. New YouTube Premium subscribers will pay $11.99 per month. This bundles together access to YouTube Premium and YouTube Music. Those who only care about music can subscribe to just YouTube Music for $9.99 per month. The ad-free version of Google Play Music, with support for offline downloads, also costs $9.99 per month. Google hasn't clarified if legacy Google Play Music subscribers will be grandfathered-in to the new YouTube Premium service.

Google's Redesigned Google News App Reaches iPhones

May 16, 2018, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's overhauled version of Google News is now available to iPhones and iPads via the iTunes App Store. The new version of the app uses machine learning to personalize the experience for each user. The app contains four main tabs along the bottom that take users to their recommended stories, top headlines, favorite sources, and subscriptions. In addition to offering personalized recommendations, the new Google News offers links to multiple accounts of the same story to offer perspective and help further comprehension. Google News is free to download from the App Store. Google hasn't said when the app will reach Android devices.

Google Updates Pixel Buds with New Tap Actions

May 15, 2018, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has begun rolling out an update to its Pixel Bud wireless headphones that adds new gestures. With the update installed, a triple tap on the right earbud will manually turn the Pixel Buds on or off. Users can now customize what happens with a double tap. Previously, a double tap would cycle through incoming notifications. Now, users can opt to have the double tap gesture skip forward through music tracks instead. Last, Google is making it easier for people to switch from one audio source to another. Google says the update is available now and should reach all users by next week.

Commerce Department May Relax ZTE's Punishment as Trump Defends Stance

May 14, 2018, 4:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, said his department is open to changing its ban impacting ZTE. The agency has forbid U.S. companies from selling hardware or software to ZTE for a period of seven years after the company was caught lying about an earlier settlement agreement. "ZTE did do some inappropriate things. They’ve admitted to that," said Ross speaking at a National Press Club event. "The question is: Are there alternative remedies to the one that we had originally put forward? And that’s the area we will be exploring very, very promptly." Ross didn't suggest how the Commerce Department might walk back its ban, which has effectively strangled ZTE's smartphone business. At the same time, President Donald Trump found himself defending his wish to help the company get back on its feet. "ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies," said Trump via Twitter. ZTE's main U.S. supplier is Qualcomm, which sells the company processors and cellular modems. ZTE also licenses the Android operating system from Google. "This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi [Jinping]." noted Trump. ZTE's 75,000 workers have been mostly idle since the ban was announced. Trump tweeted over the weekend that he wanted to help them get back to work. The Commerce Department insists its ban is just punishment for illegal behavior and not related to the on-going trade talks between the U.S. and China.

Google Revamps Storage Options Under 'Google One' Name

May 14, 2018, 1:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today relaunched its online, cloud-based storage service as Google One. Along with the new name, Google One includes new storage tiers and pricing. Moving forward, all Google account holders continue to receive 15 GB of storage for free. Those who need more can opt for the 100 GB plan for $1.99 per month, 200 GB for $2.99, 2 TB for $9.99, 10 TB for $99.99, 20 TB for $199.99, or 30 TB for $299.99 per month. Google is allowing users to share storage allotments with up to five family members. Moreover, Google One will provide people with 24/7 access to Google Experts for help with Google's consumer-level products and services. Google says existing paid Google Drive subscribers will be upgraded to Google One automatically over the next few months. Everyone else will be able to access the new Google One later this year.

Gmail's 'Nudge' Feature Is Now Rolling Out

May 14, 2018, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google said its artificial assistant-powered "nudge" tool is going live for most Gmail users today. The tool is meant to remind people to respond to emails that may have fallen through the cracks. Gmail "will now 'nudge' users to reply to emails they may have missed and to follow up on emails for which they haven’t received a response," explained Google. The tool is being turned on by default, though it can be toggled off in Gmail's settings. Google says this feature should reach all users within a few days.

Google Adds 'Take a Break' Timer to YouTube

May 11, 2018, 3:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is pushing an update to YouTube today that gives people the opportunity to schedule breaks. The reminder can be set to automatically pause video after you've watched for 15, 30, 60, 90, or 180 minutes. Video will remain paused until the reminder is dismissed. The feature is buried in the settings menu and must be turned on manually. The take a break reminder reaches YouTube just days after Google added similar tools to Android itself. Android P will include wellness features that remind people to put their phones down. The new YouTube app with take a break is available to Android devices.

Google's AI-Powered Duplex Will Identify Itself as a Bot

May 11, 2018, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google surprised everyone earlier this week when it demonstrated Duplex, an AI-assisted bot that can hold nearly human-sounding conversations. Google envisions Duplex as the ultimate assistant, an automated tool to use for mundane tasks such as calling to schedule a dinner reservation or hair appointment. In the demonstration on stage, the bot did not identify itself as such and this caused some to suggest Google hadn't thought the product through thoroughly. What was striking about the demonstration is that the bot included human-esque speech, such as the word "um" when making decisions on the phone. Some believe Duplex could easily fool those on the receiving end of calls that they were speaking to a real person. "We understand and value the discussion around Google Duplex — as we've said from the beginning, transparency in the technology is important," said a Google spokeswoman in a statement provided to CNET. "We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we'll make sure the system is appropriately identified. What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product." Google didn't spell out exactly how Duplex will identify itself to callees.

Xiaomi Dips Its Toe In US Market with Smart Home Products

May 11, 2018, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi today said it will sell a handful of products in the U.S. in what marks an important step for the company. The three products in question, the Mi Bedside Lamp, Mi LED Smart Bulb, and Mi Smart Plug, are all powered by Google's smart home platform. All three can be controlled through voice commands via the Google Assistant on Google Home products. The move should give the company more visibility with U.S. consumers. In 2017, the company sold an Android TV product, and later a 360-degree camera, through Amazon. These are the first products with more direct support for Google and its core platform. Xiaomi expects the three smart home products to reach stores later this month. In March, Xiaomi said it intends to launch phones in the U.S. market as soon as this year, though it has made similar statement in the past.

Volvo, Kenwood Rev Up Android Auto with New Integrations

May 9, 2018, 5:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Support for Google's Android Auto expanded this week thanks to new efforts taken by Volvo and Kenwood. Volvo plans to adopt Android Auto within its infotainment center. This means people will be able to use Android Auto in select Volvo cars without a nearby Android phone. Volvo demonstrated this in its new XC40 sport utility vehicle. Google said Volvo is already working to bring support for Google Assistant and the Play Store to its in-dash system. Further, Kenwood has adopted support for wireless Android Auto in its 2018 range of head units. This means people who own Android phones will be able to connect their phone to Kenwood's latest receivers without requiring a cable. In addition to these new partnerships, Google has improved the way Android Auto behaves in cars. New visual templates ensure that media apps are easier to understand and interact with from the driver's seat. Google says a new search tool lets media apps send their results directly to the dashboard when connected via Android Auto, which allows drivers to discover tracks through their dashboard rather than their phone. Last, Android Auto gains support for group messaging and RCS. Using the Google Assistant, drivers can communicate with a group of friends while keeping their hands on the wheel. Google says these new changes are available to carmakers and app developers and will reach end users over time.

Google's Lookout App to Help Visually Impaired Learn About Surroundings

May 9, 2018, 1:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes its new app, called Lookout, will assist the blind and visually impaired as they navigate through their environment. Google says the app is intended to work when the owner's phone is worn around their neck in a lanyard with the camera facing outwards. It operates in four modes: home, work and play, scan, or experimental. Lookout will deliver information via audible cues as people move around. For example, when in home mode the app will offer notifications concerning where the couch, table, or dishwasher is in relation to the person. The work and play mode will provide details about escalators, stairwells, and other in-office navigation points. The app relies on machine learning to identify objects and relay that information to the user. Google says the app will be available to Android devices later this year.

Google Drops New Dev Preview of Wear OS with Better Battery Management

May 9, 2018, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today offered developers a new build of Wear OS for select Android smartwatches. The update chiefly installs the Actions on Google feature that Google announced earlier this month, but it also introduces more power-related enhancements and a dedicated battery saver mode. Google added support for Actions on Wear OS so developers can surface dialog boxes and adopt new ways to display dynamic content. Google Assistant on Wear OS now supports visual cards, follow-on suggestions, and text to speech. The new enhanced battery saver mode will automatically display a power-efficient watch face and turn off services such as the radios, touch screen, and tilt-to-wake. Owners can get the time by pressing the side button, while a long press will wake the watch back to full power mode. Developers can use new tools to ensure their apps don't interrupt enhanced battery saver mode. The new Wear OS offers developers new ways to limit background and foreground services. Health and fitness apps, for example, often need to run in the background while occasionally offering foreground services, such as alarms. The latest Wear OS helps developers find the proper balance. Google nixed one feature from the platform, and that was the behavior that turned off the WiFi radio when Bluetooth was disconnected. Google rolled this feature back after listening to developer feedback from the first Wear OS preview. Google says this developer preview includes updated Android Emulator images and a downloadable system image for the Huawei Watch 2 or Huawei Watch 2 Classic. This preview release is intended for developers only and not for daily or consumer use. It is only available via manual download and flash.

Google's Tour Creator Lets Anyone Create VR Expeditions

May 9, 2018, 11:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced Tour Creator, a tool that allows people to create and share their real-world experiences via virtual reality. Google explains that to make a VR tour people can use their own 360-degree photos and supplement them with imagery from Google Street View. It is easy enough that anyone can put Tour Creator to use. “The technology gets out of the way and enables students to focus on crafting fantastic visual stories,” explains Charlie Reisinger, a school Technology Director in Pennsylvania. People can publish their tours to Poly, which is Google's library of 3D content. Others will be able to view tours shared to Poly via web browser or Google Cardboard. Later this year, Google will allow people to publish their tours in Google Exhibitions. Tour Creator is free to use.

Qualcomm Says Some Snapdragons Are Ready for Android P

May 9, 2018, 10:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm said it has been working with Google to ensure that its latest mobile chips will function properly with Android P. The effort falls under the purview of Project Treble, Google's effort to help device makers update their hardware with new builds of Android on a faster schedule. Qualcomm says it has been able to optimize its software on the Snapdragon 845, 660, and 630 Mobile Platforms. Phones that rely on those processors will fully support Android P when the platform launches later this year.

Google to Let Developers Add Google Photos to Their Apps

May 8, 2018, 6:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced the Google Photos Partner Program and the Google Photos Library API, which together will allow third-party app and device makers to add Google Photos to their own apps and services. The idea is to make it easier for people to access their Google Photos from myriad devices, not just their phone or computer. Google says developers can use the REST API to let users connect, upload, and share photos from within their app. It will allow people to find photos based on subject, location, description, as well as take actions such as organize albums, add titles, and transfer photos to and/or collaborate with others. Thanks to machine learning, end users will be able to use smart filters within third-party apps to fine-tine searches. Google says features like thumbnails and cross-platform deep links are fully supported. The Google Photos Library API is being offered as a developer preview so third-party app writers can begin testing Google Photos Library in their own apps.

Hands On with Android P

May 8, 2018, 6:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google made the first public beta of Android P available today and it packs a ton of new and useful features. Android users will soon be able to take advantage of spiffy swiping gestures, screenshot editing tools, advanced battery life tools, improved do not disturb mode, a more powerful Google Assistant, and more. The beta is free to download for some phones, but it isn't for everyone. Here is a first look at Google's latest version of Android on the Google Pixel 2 XL.

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