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Google Rolls Out Google One, Its Upgraded Cloud Storage

Yesterday, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Google One generally available to anyone who wishes to use it. Google One is the company's new online storage service; it supplants Google Drive. All Google Drive users are being automatically upgraded to the new Google One, which offers tiers of storage at various price point. All users get 15 GB for free, while 100 GB costs $2 per month, 200 GB costs $3 per month, and 2 TB costs $10 per month. Google One also includes access to Google experts 24/7 to help with things such as file recovery. Other benefits include credits on Google Play and deals on hotels booked through Google Search. Google One can also be shared with family members, who will each be given access to their own storage under a single monthly bill. Google says it will expand Google One to more regions and add more features over time.

Google to Update Android Go with Pie for Performance

Yesterday, 12:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it plans to release a new version of Android Go based on the Android 9 Pie platform. The current version of Android Go, Google's slimmed-down variant of Android for low-cost devices, is based on Android 8 Oreo. Chiefly, the revised version of Android Go tackles performance. It will allow for faster device boot times and offers about 500 MB of additional on-device storage. It also introduces verified boot for additional security and a new dashboard for tracking and monitoring data consumption. Google has been busy updating the Android Go version of its core apps, as well. For example, Google Go now offers the ability to read web pages aloud and highlights each word as it goes. YouTube Go uses less data, Maps Go includes offline navigation, Files Go permits peer-to-peer file transfers, Assistant Go supports additional languages as well as more device actions, and Android Messages is 50% smaller and includes caller ID and spam detection. Google expects to release the Android Go Pie edition on new devices later this fall.

Motorola Commits to Updating Some Phones to Android 9 Pie

Yesterday, 11:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said it plans to update a handful of its phones to Android 9 Pie beginning later this fall. The phones on deck to receive the updated platform include the Moto Z3, Z3 Play, Z2 Force, Z2 Play, X4, G6 Plus, G6, and G6 Play. Motorola said the distribution of Pie will depend a bit on the carrier and country. Android 9 Pie was made available to Google's own Pixel phones earlier this month. Other phone makers that have committed to providing Pie include Essential, Sony, and OnePlus.

Google Voice for iOS Picks Up Small Update

Tuesday, 10:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has refreshed its Google Voice app for iPhones. The latest version of the app includes a new home screen icon and other visual tweaks to give it a clean look. The app also adds a contacts tab at the bottom of the screen, making it easier to reach phone numbers. Google incorporated Voice into its G Suite for business users earlier this year. The updated app for iPhones is free to download from the iTunes App Store. It's not clear when the Android version of Voice will see a similar update.

AP: Google Tracks Your Location Even When You Tell It Not To

Monday, 11:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google defies the wishes of mobile device users and tracks their whereabouts even after people turn location history off, reports the Associated Press. An investigation conducted by the Associated Press found that many Google apps and services on both Android and iOS devices continued to pinpoint users despite their wishes to the contrary. The AP says computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed its findings. Those who allow Google to track their location can see their daily movements plotted in a timeline that's visible on a map. Google allows people to pause location history so location data is not stored. While Google Maps may stop tracking users' locations, other apps including weather and search will still pinpoint users. The AP claims this issue impacts two billion people. "If you're going to allow users to turn off something called 'Location History,' then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off," said Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist. Google claims it is living up to its commitments. "There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people's experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services," said Google in a statement provided to the AP. "We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time." Google explains that tuning off "Location History" prevents the device from adding location to users' timelines, but the phone still captures and stores location data from other apps. Users wishing to more fully disengage tracking need to deactivate location in the "Web and App Activity" setting. Critics of Google's policy suggest it continues to track location to better target advertising, which is Google's main source of revenue.

HTC Says U12+ and Other Phones to Get Android 9 Pie

Aug 10, 2018, 4:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC took to its Twitter account today to announce that a handful of its phones will eventually receive the Android 9 update. "We're pleased as pie to confirm updates to Android Pie for the HTC U12+, U11+, U11, and U11 life (Android One). Timeframes for roll-out will be announced in due course," said the company. Google released Android 9 Pie to the Pixel phones earlier this week. Essential has also distributed Pie to its phone. New versions of Android generally appear on older phones slowly. HTC didn't specify a date for the upgrade.

Google Assistant Now Reads Specific News Stories Upon Request

Aug 10, 2018, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has matched Google Assistant with the new Google News to make it easier for people to find the stories they want to hear. People with Android phones and Google Home products can ask to hear specific news stories by asking Assistant “What’s the latest on NASA?” and similar queries. On devices such as the new Lenovo Smart Display, Assistant will find relevant videos to show. On Google Home speakers and Android phones, Assistant will read out excerpts from preferred news sources. Google says this functionality is limited to the U.S. for now.

Google Lets Android and iOS Users Ditch Threaded Gmail Conversations

Aug 7, 2018, 11:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today is updating its Gmail mobile app for Android and iOS in order to bring feature parity with the web version. On the web, Gmail users can disable the threaded conversation view of emails. Now, this is possible on mobile devices. Google says users who’ve turned off conversation view on the web should automatically experience the same view on their mobile phone. Conversation view can also be toggled off manually via the settings menu. The Gmail mobile app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Android 9 P Stands for Pie, Rolling Out to Pixels Now

Aug 6, 2018, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 6, 2018, 12:37 PM

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.

Google Adds Spotify to Its Clock App for Custom Alarms

Jul 31, 2018, 9:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said is has added Spotify to the Google Clock app. This means people will be able to pick their favorite songs or playlists to wake them up. In order to get the feature working, people will need to download the latest version of the Spotify and Clock apps, and connect them on the phone. Once connected, people can browse their recently-played tunes, opt for a curated playlist, and set any of them as the alarm. When the musical alarm goes off, users can turn it off or keep on listening. The alarms are available to Spotify Free and Premium users. The feature is rolling out globally this week. Google didn't say if it will eventually allow subscribers to other music services, such as its own Google Play Music, to tap into their accounts for musical alarms.

Chrome for Android Now Supports Virtual Reality

Jul 30, 2018, 3:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Chrome browser is now accessible from several different virtual reality platforms. First, it is available via Google Daydream, Google's own VR platform for Android devices. People who own a compatible Android phone and Daydream headset can access Chrome. It is also available to the Lenovo Mirage Solo headset. Chrome is positioned on the homepage on these VR platforms. The VR version of Chrome supports incognito mode, saved bookmarks, and other standard browsing functions. It also adds cinema mode, which ensures the best experience when playing web video through a Daydream headset. Chrome is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Improves Calendar with ‘Propose New Time’ Function

Jul 30, 2018, 9:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it slightly easier to schedule meetings in Google Calendar. As invitations arrive, invitees can respond by clicking the usual “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” buttons, or select the new “propose a new time” option. In businesses where people are allowed to view one another’s calendars, they’ll be able to match up schedules for a time that works for everyone. Guests can then send the new proposed time back to the original sender with a message. Google says this feature is available across domains and with Microsoft Exchange. This feature is available on the web now, and will reach mobile devices August 13.

Google Updates Developer Policies and Bans More Apps

Jul 27, 2018, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has introduced a significant update to its Play Store Developer Policies and in so doing banned more categories of apps. For example, apps that mine cryptocurrencies on Android devices are no longer allowed. "The only cryptocurrency mining apps allowed are those that mine outside of the device, like cloud-based mining," said Google in the updated policies. Apps that copy other apps are now banned, as well. Google is specifically seeking to keep apps that steal the user interface or content from original apps out of the Play Store, as well as apps that are "created by an automated tool, wizard service, or based on templates." Google has put new safeguards in place to keep apps that "facilitate the sale of explosives, firearms, ammunition, or certain firearms accessories" from the Play Store. Apps that offer how-to instructions on creating bombs, guns, ammunition, and other weapons are prohibited. Last, apps that "appeal to children but contain adult themes" are no longer welcome in the Play Store. Google is banning apps that look to trick users by impersonating other people, companies, or businesses. The new policies went into effect immediately. Developers should ensure their apps meet the new criteria when submitting them to the Play Store.

Searching Google for Events Will Now Generate Personal Recommendations

Jul 26, 2018, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its main search tool with a new emphasis on helping people locate nearby events. Moving forward, generic searches for things like "events near me" will result in a list of events from a variety of sources, as well as vital details about those events. Tapping any of the results brings up more information, such as location, time, ticket costs, and more. Included links should allow people to buy or reserve tickets right from their phone. Google says it is easy to save events and share them with others when collaborating on plans. When browsing local events, a new "For You" tab will appear with personalized recommendations as well as trending and popular events. Google says it will pull information not only from individual event web sites, but also meetup and concert listings to make these lists. Google says event holders can put new tools to use to ensure their events are discoverable via Google search. The new event-focused search results are available from the Google Search app on Android and iOS devices.

Alexa Cast Simplifies Playing Music from Phones to Alexa Devices

Jul 26, 2018, 9:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today revealed Alexa Cast, a new feature that simplifies the experience of interacting with Alexa-powered devices. Alexa Cast specifically targets the action of casting music from a mobile phone to an Alexa speaker. At launch, it is only compatible with Amazon's own Amazon Music app for controlling music playback. The feature works with all Alexa-enabled devices, including those made by Amazon and those made by third-party companies. The new feature is coming to the Amazon Music app for Android and iOS starting today, which will contain an icon for Alexa Cast on the Now Playing screen. What users see on the app will be in sync with what's playing through the speakers, so they can manage playback in real-time. Third-party apps cannot yet access the new Alexa Cast feature and Amazon hasn't said if or when Alexa Cast might reach more of its own apps.

Essential Phone Earns Final Android P Beta

Jul 25, 2018, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today said owners of the Essential Phone who are participating in the Android P beta can download the latest code. The news follows Google’s recent release of the near-final OS. In addition to Android P, the software update from Essential includes bug fixes and performance improvements. Details are available on Essential’s web site.

Android P Reaches Penultimate Build Before General Release

Jul 25, 2018, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released Android P beta version 4, what it calls the final preview of P before the operating system is fully released. Android P adds features for end users and developers alike. For example, it tackles notifications for messaging, adds image previews in notifications, and creates selectable auto-responses. A new API gives developers more power over devices with dual rear- or front-facing cameras. Android P brings with it support for "display cutouts" similar to the notch on the LG G7 or OnePlus 6. Android P makes significant improvements to indoor tracking and adopts a new version of the Neural Networks API for more AI-based operations. Android P makes multiple improvements to the autofill framework; introduces a unified fingerprint authentication dialog and high-assurance user confirmation for better security; makes it easier for developers to add accessibility features to their apps; and ensures that Android P devices will be better able to decode various image types. Android P is compatible with the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL handsets. Google expects the final version of Android P to be available later this summer. Google has still not named Android P.

Google Brings YouTube VR to Samsung’s Gear VR Headset

Jul 25, 2018, 12:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said YouTube VR is available on more platforms and devices. For example, owners of Samsung’s Galaxy S devices and the accompanying Samsung Gear VR headset can now download YouTube VR from the Oculus store and experience YouTube VR on their existing headset. A new “watch together” icon now appears in YouTube VR, allowing multiple people to enjoy and comment on VR clips at the same time. The communal space is supported by Google’s DayDream VR and Samsung’s Gear VR viewers. Last, Google says more creators are sharing content via YouTube VR, such as Olympic athletes and daredevils. Support for Samsung Gear and the new watch together feature are rolling out this week.

Google’s New Gmail Reaches General Availability

Jul 25, 2018, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its new Gmail design is generally available to everyone, following an early access program that launched in April. For the moment the new Gmail is still opt-in, but that is going to change over the next few months. Google says people and G Suite customers who don't opt in within eight weeks from now will be migrated automatically. Google will allow people to continue to opt out of the new Gmail for up to another 12 weeks, or through October. After October, all users will be migrated to the new Gmail. G Suite admins have several options for migrating their users to the new Gmail between now and October. 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 Now Highlighting Insecure Web Sites

Jul 24, 2018, 12:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is now calling out web sites that don’t use https for security. Google announced in February that Chrome 68 would begin highlighting insecure sites. Now that Chrome 68 is rolling out to all users, the web browser is proactively labelling web sites that don't make use of https encryption. The end goal is to encourage web developers to add https to their web sites, which will improve security for everyone. Https traffic is encrypted to protect against prying eyes, while http traffic is not encrypted. According to Google, over 76% of Chrome traffic on Android is now protected, while over 86% of Chrome traffic on Chrome OS is now protected. Fully 83 of the top 100 sites on the web use https by default. Google said it will adjust Chrome's user interface so users understand which sites are insecure and why they are insecure. Google says it has simplified its set-up guides to help web developers secure their sites with https.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft to Make It Easier to Port Data Between Services

Jul 20, 2018, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook and partners today announced the Data Transfer Project, an initiate with the goal of giving people more control over their data. The companies are working together to create an open source method that people can use to easily transfer their data from one service to another. For example, the tool would make it possible for a Google Photos uses to swap their image library to Microsoft OneDrive and any other provider. The Data Transfer Project hopes to do this in a way that is simple, secure, and supported by as many services as possible. While Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter are the first to lend support, the initiative is open to all companies. "If a user wants to switch to another product or service because they think it is better, they should be able to do so as easily as possible. This concept of allowing users to choose products and services based on choice, rather than being locked in, helps drive innovation and facilitates competition," said the companies in their white paper. The participants admit it is early days for the project and they haven't said when the DTP might be available to the public. Consumers often choose an ecosystem — Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, et al — when buying hardware. The DTP could make it simpler for people to change ecosystems when upgrading to new devices.

KaiOS Wins $22 Million Investment from Google

Jun 28, 2018, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

KaiOS says Google has agreed to invest $22 million in its light-weight mobile operating system. The investment from Google follows commitments made earlier this year by Google, Facebook, and Twitter to support the platform. "This funding will help us fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones, allowing us to connect the vast population that still cannot access the internet, especially in emerging markets," said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. KaiOS is already available on a number of low-cost phones, including Nokia's 8110 5G "banana" phone and the Doro Phone 7050. KaiOS says it is working with other manufacturers, including TCL, HMD Global, and Micromax, and that it has partnerships with carriers including AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Beyond the investment, Google plans to bring Google Assistant, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Search to KaiOS. Google said it is "excited to work with KaiOS to further improve access to information for feature phone users around the world."

Non-Premium YouTube Users Gain Picture-in-Picture

Jun 28, 2018, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made YouTube's picture-in-picture feature, previously reserved for YouTube Premium accounts, more widely available. Android users in the U.S. now have free access to picture-in-picture when using YouTube. People can exit YouTube when watching a video and the video will appear in a separate window while the user completes other tasks. Picture-in-picture requires Android 8 Oreo and the feature doesn't extend to music videos.

Google Calendar Gains Improved Out Of Office Controls

Jun 27, 2018, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is updating Google Calendar with new tools for those who use it for work. Google is making it easier for people to take control of their down time with new vacation notifications and work hour scheduling. Users can clearly mark when they'll be unavailable for meetings and other events using the out of office toggle. Google Calendar will automatically decline meeting invitations that coincide with time marked out of office. Users have more control over out of office messages, as well. Further, people can set their working hours to protect personal time from being infringed by work. For example, an office worker can schedule their daily hours from 8am to 6pm and Google Calendar will show that person as unavailable for meetings or events outside of that block. The tool lets people set customized work hours for each day separately, if they wish. These tools, part of Google's digital wellbeing initiative, are being rolled out to all users over the next few days.

Google Home Now Speaks Spanish

Jun 26, 2018, 11:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Google Home products with new support for the Spanish language. The Assistant on Google Home can now help Spanish speakers find music, query the weather, or control smart houses using their preferred language. Google says users will need to select Spanish as the default language via the Google Home app on their smartphone. Spanish is supported on the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max speakers. Google says the Home and Mini speakers are both now available in Spanish in Mexico and Spain.

Google's More Personalized Maps Now Rolling Out

Jun 26, 2018, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is now pushing an update to Google Maps that introduces its Google Assistant-powered recommendations. The updated version of Maps, announced last month, is more accurate and helpful. A new tab called For You provides information about local neighborhoods. It offers suggestions for activities, tools for finding restaurants, and other recommendations through a new feature called Your Match. A third tool helps people plan group outings. A long press on place cards saves them to a shareable message thread where people can view places and vote on where to go. The new Maps has a new focus on small businesses and helps people keep tabs on what their local stores are doing, what their hours are, and when sales are available. Maps adds a computer vision (visual positioning system, or VPS) feature that uses the camera to help pinpoint location on a map with proper orientation based on the photo. Last, Maps taps into the power of Google Lens to provide information cards based what the camera sees. The new Google Maps is reaching Android devices now.

Google Speeds Up File Sharing in Files Go

Jun 25, 2018, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced an update to its peer-to-peer sharing app, File Go, and says the new version is dramatically improved. To start, the sharing tool is easier to find and use because it is called out in a dedicated tab. The tab itself has a smoother interface and works on all devices running Android 5 and up. Files Go should be much faster at connecting to nearby devices for transferring files. Google says improved connection techniques allow devices to start talking to one another within five seconds. The app taps into WiFi Direct in the 5 GHz band to push files from one phone to another up to four times faster than before. Last, the app is more secure, as all file transfers are encrypted. Files Go is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Makes Talking to Google Assistant Less Awkward

Jun 21, 2018, 10:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today began rolling out Continued Conversation, an update to Google Assistant that should make the tool easier to interact with. With Continued Conversation enabled, people will be able to have more natural, back-and-forth conversations with Assistant without repeating the "Hey Google" command each time. This is an optional feature, according to Google, and must be turned on manually through the Google Assistant app. Google says people will still need to say "Hey Google" to initiate a conversation, but they can then make follow-up requests, add items to shopping lists, set timers and reminders, and more without constantly repeating the catchphrase. The Assistant will continue to listen until it is sure the user has stopped interacting with it. The Continued Conversation function is first reaching the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max products. Google didn't say if or when the feature might reach phones or other Assistant-enabled devices.

Google Simplifies Account Security and Control

Jun 21, 2018, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved the design of its Google Account tool in order to make it easier for people to manage their account details, security, and privacy. The revised function provides summaries of personal information, devices with account access, payment methods, purchases, subscriptions, and contacts. A search function lets people easily find particular settings, such as how to change a password. It boasts a new support section with FAQs and other how-tos. Privacy controls are now managed in a single place that Google says has been tested by end users. It offers insight into account activity, and the refreshed Privacy Checkup helps people review their privacy settings and improve them if needed. For example, Google will offer prominent notices if it detects there's something amiss, and will suggest people remove old devices or unused apps from their account. The new Google Account dashboard is available to Android devices now, and will be available on the web and iOS devices later this year.

Google Says Android Messages Now Fully Available On the Web

Jun 18, 2018, 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

Jun 18, 2018, 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

Jun 18, 2018, 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

Jun 15, 2018, 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

Jun 14, 2018, 11:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 14, 2018, 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.

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